60. White Cloud By Dale Toler
I was the first RLO replacement when I arrived at the 134th. History has shown it was a unique and very great AHC. Very few units had the diverse and widespread missions we flew. Even though we stayed
basedat Phu Heip, most of us had some great times at Ahn Khe; and got to tour much of the country. I had missions as far north as I Corp with some jarheads and south almost to Saigon with the US Secretary of Agriculture. You all remember Laos and Cambodia. As Walter Chrobak so correctly stated, we had majestic support from our crews and maintenance. They were the truly hard working heroes that kept us pilots enjoying the great view from the seats up front.
There are lots of great stories when we look back, most with a lot of humor now. I must admit that we seemed to be having a good time back then, despite the seriousness of our mission.
Yes, Nagel and Bittner tried to chase down the VC we found planting ammunition. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Nagel claimed the rights, as he was in the left seat that day. After they left the ship, our wing was going crazy, as we forgot to tell him what was going on. They raced some 200 yards and would have caught the guy, we really wanted a prisoner, but he jumped on a motorcycle he had hidden earlier and drove off. I had taken off from where we originally landed and was providing cover for our crew in pursuit of the bad guy. After landing to pick them up, we still wanted to chase the guy, when we realized I had to take off again out of a confined area LZ. You may remember C models with full armaments don't actually hover. It was really, I mean really, tight. We continued the chase until he got to the main road and picked up his girlfriend. We let them go.
One of the funny stories happened near Kung Song. A company of the 173rd was pinned down from a horseshoe shaped ridgeline. There was a 12.7 at each end, with a lot of NVA in the middle. We made several passes on the 12.7's getting them to let up on the Airborne troops. There was the standard box of grenades between the CP and myself, and with the passes breaking over the top of the ridge; we decided to drop some WP on the clumps of NVA on the ridge top. As the ship broke left, on my side, I tossed out two WP's and watched a great airburst as one of the grenades was hit with rounds from the CE's M-60. A large chunk of burning phosphorus flew through the open side window, past my eyes and out the right side, again through the open window. Both of us in the front and the CE all said bad words.
The door gunner on the right was a FNG and missed most of the action. We made the next passes, tossing regular grenades as we were out of WP, or so we thought. The door gunner had continued throwing grenades on each pass. There were some billows of white smoke, but we thought it was leftover from the WP's of earlier passes. Suddenly the FM cracked and the grunts were screaming the NVA had gassed them. About that time the CP and I got a huge cloud of white smoke, tear gas, as we passed over the ridge. Again we all said bad words.I turned around to see if the guys in the back were OK and behold, the gunner has a tear gas grenade in his hand, ready to throw.I told him to toss it and NOT pick up any more. We made a few more passes, expended and then returned to rearm. The teargas had cleared out when we returned to the ridgeline to finish the NVA. New rule, no more WP to be carried in the grenade box.
What made the story stay so clear was more than the white hot flame that passed inches from my nose. Stateside, as a troop commander in the 6th Cav, I was recounting the story to one of my NCO's. Turned out he was in the 173rd and on the ground for the encounter. He recounted that we had wiped out the two 12.7's on the first two passes. They also saw the airbursts of WP, thinking it was really cool. Moreover, they really did believe the NVA had gassed them. Few of them had gas masks with them, and after the event, had to add them to the gear they were humping for the next month. Oh, buy the way; we did get a lot of NVA.
Time spend in the 134th was too short for me, as I took over as CO of HHC of the 268th. I had a transmission and another engine failure in country. No scratches. Nagel attracted bullets, I attracted mechanical challenges.
After completing my Army servitude and some other fun stuff, I transferred to the Air Force, attended AF Flight School and became a fighter pilot. That was also fun flying.
Time has ravaged names and faces. Many of the events are clear, deeply etched in sight and sounds, and will remain a legacy of knowing good men doing great things. It is with supreme sadness that I saw David Bittner has departed. All crew members of the 134th owed him some debt at one time or another. There was no greater Crew Chief, no better shot than Bittner. Those who were so very privileged to sit in his ship know his incredible contribution to every single engagement.
Again, all of us who were honored to be able to fly in the 134th are forever indebted to the fine hard working and dedicated men who worked on and maintained our machines. You were the true backbone of the unit.
|Last modified: Saturday March 18th, 2023|