Concerning the RATS that at times infested our hooches, I think the larger
ones were reserved for the enlisted billets. I say this because I have had
the privilege to stare one in the eye at close range and I mean close range!
I was half asleep one rainy nite on my broken cot and deflated air mattress
when I felt something brush my cheek of my head) thinking it was a bug I
just swatted at it and immediately had the eye opening experience of four
clawed feet trotting across my shoulder and stopping at approximately my
solorplexus. At that point my baby blues locked on to the largest most
demonic set of black eyes imaginable. Not caring about the dreaded rabies
shots I backed handed the creature to the floor and grabbed my .38 and drew
The demon rat looked up at me with an annoyed expression, turned and calmly
walked out the door. I didn't fire for fear of hitting the other sleeping
gunners who were also fully armed. I have had a fear and hatred of RATS ever
since, certainly more than the RATS have of me.
Naval ships: My first landing on one was at night during a
That was scary. The deck was visible one second, then invisible the next.
We made it on fine, and acted like it was no big thing so that the swabbies
couldn't see how shaken we were.
One other naval landing is memorable. Once I had to go to Da Nang to pick
up some guy off a Navy vessel. When I made radio contact for clearance to
land, the response was something like "Roger. Clear to Land, Port to
Starboard, 45 degrees". I radioed back, "Which way do you want me to land on
your damn boat?" The controller responded "Be advised, this is a SHIP not a
boat", to which I responded, "Be advised, I'm in the Army, not the Navy.
Which way do I land!" It kind of killed the conversation, and we all made
one fingered gestures when we finally departed.
Thanks for the great stories! When you recalled the high jacking
incidence at the Round Table, it reminded me of my first Project Delta
As I had related before, I had only been an AC for a few short weeks,
with very little time under fire, when I had to go to Mai Loc as the
replacement AC for Gene Miller. The loss of Gene and his entire crew weighed
heavily on everyone, and there was no way that I was replacing such a revered
officer. I was just another pilot to fill the roster.
Anyway, Project Delta was still pretty much of a mystery to me at the
time. The Lancers had only been in on his assignment for a few days, and
already we had heard some frightening war stories about it through the
grapevine. To be honest; I was kinda' scared to go into this assignment,
especially since I was so inexperienced.
I landed at Mai Loc and went into the operations tent. Everyone was
still very subdued because of Miller. I was given a very short briefing
about the AO where we were operating. I was told that since I was so new, I
would be the "chase bird". This meant that most likely I would just get to
watch how the hole bird made an insertion or extraction of a squad. The hole
bird would have a hoist so that the packs could be brought up out of the
elephant grass west of Khe Sanh. They left out a couple of pretty important
details in my briefing, though.
For all Project Delta missions, the C&C, the hole bird, and the chase
bird would fly in a delta formation at about 4500 ft AGL. As the LZ or PZ
was identified, the hole bird would do a high overhead approach to the pick
up spot. No smoke was to be used--only panels in a precise formation for
each group of personnel to be picked up.
Well ,what was to be my day of orientation and briefing was suddenly
ended by a siren. Man, I really got a chill because of how everyone became
so animated. (My stomach still reels when I hear a siren). I was told to
join the other two aircraft as the chase bird and to take off. We would get
the coordinates and sitrep enroute. When I got to my aircraft, the hoist had
been put on my bird! I protested that I had not done a high overhead since
flight school and that I had no idea what to do on such a mission, and that
someone else who had already been there could fly my aircraft ,or they could
just put the damn hoist somewhere else.
My protests did no good, and now I was to be the Hole bird. The only
concession to me was to give me Kieth Boyd as my right seat. He had been
there for all five of the previous days of Project Delta.
As we flew west over the mountain range, we were told over the KY28
scrambled frequency, that a team was under heavy contact and were attempting
to escape an estimated company size unit of NVA. I cut a couple of button
holes right then.
We flew over the abandoned base of Khe Sanh and continued on west toward
Laos. Finally, from almost directly overhead, we saw the panels. I had to
trust the C&C that this was indeed the correct alignment. He responded
affirmatively, but added, "If there are six instead of five, kill them all".
I made the high overhead as best I could and the C&C directed me to the
PZ. We came to a hover in what must have been 25 feet of elephant grass. As
I focused on the horizon to maintain a stable hover, I could see the edge of
what I later learned was an old French prison that had once housed Ho Chi
Minh. To my left was the river separating Laos from South Vietnam.
It was kind of loud and chaotic as a ladder rather than the hoist was
lowered. The team climbed aboard amidst quite a bit of ground fire.
Finally, I heard the CE shout something. I guess he said "We're up" but
with all the noise and confusion, it was not a clear intercom transmission.
I glanced sideways and almost shit right there. The people we had picked up
were obviously Asian. They were dressed in hardcore NVA uniforms, complete
with AK 47's and pith helmets. I thought "My God! We've picked up the bad
My first thought was to take the aircraft into a cliff just across the
river, because there was no way that I was going to go to no Hanoi Hilton
like this. But then, Kieth must have noticed my hyperventilation and
explained to me that these were Chinese mercenaries. When they were
inserted, they wore ARVN uniforms which were stripped off once they were on
the ground. Their missions were to mix and mingle with the NVA to gather
intelligence. Obviously, it didn't always work. I just would have
appreciated being told what to expect when I made the pickup.
After the stress of losing a crew of Lancers the day before, my fright at
this totally unexpected group of packs really provided comic relief. It
still isn't quite as humorous to me as it was to the rest of the guys. I can
still hear Eddie Hester's comments, and like always, Felisberto would key
his mike so that you could hear him laugh. Sometimes, it didn't take much
for us to find something to laugh almost to the point of tears. I guess it
was a way of dealing with stress.
Stupid story, I guess, But I finally did learn how to do overhead
Once on a logging mission out of Quang Tri, I got a rather
message from someone in the 5th Mech. They wanted me to pick up a few packs
and to take them to an unknown location. I was really a little uncomfortable
about their evasiveness when I questioned them about where we were going.
After making the pickup, we were to fly low and slow along one of the
small rivers that honeycombed that area between Quang Tri and the ocean.
Finally, I got the guy in back to tell me that he drove and APC and that
while following one of the roads, he had come up behind a group of Vietnamese
peasants driving a water buffalo and some ducks across a bridge.
Being impatient, the APC driver decided to go around the bridge and just
"wade" through the stream. Well, the stream was actually about 25 feet deep,
and his vehicle died in the middle. It had happened late in the day, and the
driver wasn't exactly sure just where it was. He was most afraid that
someone in his command would find out about it and have his butt. I don't
know how he had gotten back to the pick up area where we found him and his
From the air, I guess everything looked alike to him, and he just could
not tell where his drowned vehicle was. Finally, I spotted an antennae
sticking up from the middle of a stream. Much to his disappointment, I told
him that there was no way that we could lift that vehicle out with a Huey.
I don't know what happened to him after that. The last time I saw that
group, they were still standing around staring at the antennae, scratching
I remember that day fairly well. It was one of those ash
and trash days
when the Lancers were tasked to do a lot of single ship missions. I rather
enjoyed flying as a group though. Anyway, at the end of the day we were
all in the club telling the days war stories. One of the pilots stated that
his crew flew some USO people all over I CORP and even went up to the "Z".
The pilot said at the end of the mission the USO V.I.P. asked if he would
like to pose in a picture together. The pilot said, "Whatever turns you
on...it's your film" (or words to that effect). We asked who the V.I.P. was
and the pilot said, "hell...I don't know. But I have this picture in my
pocket." He produced the picture (which he had not even looked at himself)
and it was a picture of the pilot with George Peppard. On the photo was
George's autograph and "The Blue Max". We were all impressed and teased the
pilot about not knowing who his important V.I.P. was until after-the-fact.
Sometimes I simply was a driver of a flying green truck and the
concerned with cargo, destinations and fuel.
Sometimes we were just as heroic as Audie Murphy or John Wayne.
Often now, I find it difficult to believe that I actually did any of it.
Sometimes I dream pleasant dreams. Sometimes in my dreams I run and run
from some monster of torment that I never see and can never get away
Sometimes I look at my medals and I am proud.
Sometimes I look at them and simply think of them as political.
Sometimes I think they were automatic.
Sometimes I hide them in a drawer.
Twice I have destroyed them.
Sometimes I think these are just the medals of an average pilot.
Sometimes I know there was nothing such as average.
When I think of all we did, I know there weren't enough medals to
recognize all that we did. A commendment from you is greater than any
Sometimes I think I was a coward.
Sometimes I think I was a hero.
Sometimes I think I was superhuman.
Sometimes I am ashamed.
Sometimes I am angry.
Sometimes I dream of returning to the young us over there.
Sometimes I can't grasp that we were there.
Sometimes I shift from anger, to shame, to pride, to disbelief or to the
overwhelming reality of so many near death experiences.
Sometimes I look at the names on the wall and I envy them.
Sometimes they mean nothing.
Sometimes I read the names and know many of their bodies my ship
I went to The Wall and found the space my name may have been.
I went there and unburdened. My heart was hard and it took several
trips, but I finally made the connection. It was torment and relief.
Sometimes I just sit here and my brain flails and thrashes like many
emotions in a blender. Sometimes one emotion is in clear focus.
Sometimes all of my emotions are turned off. Sometimes anger is all I
Always I remember you guys.
We did different things that were the same.
We remember events not names.
Sometimes we remember names and not events.
I remember we were dedicated with our lives for all of us to survive..
Always I remember we were special.
Always I remember my life changed forever when I was with you.
Sometimes I wish we were together again. Sometimes I don't want to talk
How can any other life situation exceed those times; those events.
Sometimes I cannot believe we actually were there and did what we did.
Inevitably, I know we were and we did.
The pictures are exciting and haunting. They are real. We were there.
Sometimes I want to keep rambling, but for now I will stop.