Saber Article Index

2016 Jul-Aug

MEDEVAC 15th Med\15th FSB
Mike Bodnar
307B N Main Copperas Cove, TX 76522
1704 254-542-1961

No commo received so from the Website some reminiscences by new 15th MED Assn. president Larry Hatch: "First Two UH-1H Aircraft Assigned to 15th Med Bn," By MAJ Larry G. Hatch (USA Ret) WO Call Sign: Mercy 11: "WO Arthur Martin and I were flown to Vung Tau to take delivery of the first two new UH-1H helicopters; an improvement over the D model’s L-11 engine versus the much more powerful L-13 engine. We both had a crew chief along to assist and fill the other front pilot’s seat.

"While flying the two aircraft in trail formation up the coast line towards home base, the helicopter I was flying lost all of its hydraulic fluid and the hydraulic warning light came on. Beings you can’t hover the aircraft with the hydraulics out, they teach running landings in flight school to deal with these situations. So, when I was adjacent to Cam Ranh Bay Air Base, I radioed the Army Airfield next to the base for permission to make an emergency running landing. I made a shallow, twelve degree approach, keeping my airspeed up until touching the aircraft’s skids down on the very first part of the PSP runway. I had to get the crew chief to help put downward pressure on the collective stick to help take pitch out of the rotor blades and slow us down.

"As it was, the helicopter slid down three-fourths of the runway before stopping. I made a picture-perfect, flight school, text book landing. The major in charge of the airfield came running out and chewed me up one side and down the other for landing at 'his' airfield. Well, excuse me. Mr. Martin let him have both barrels. "We left the broken helicopter there and flew home in the other one. Mr. Martin flew back the next day with maintenance personnel and fixed the helicopter. When the helicopter was being built, a mechanic crimped one of the hydraulic line fittings so bad that it leaked at the fitting. The leak wasn’t found after the helicopter was first test flown back in the United States. My forty-five minute flight was all it took to pump out all of the hydraulic fluid.

"Unbeknownst to me, Mr. Martin had saved the crimped hydraulic fitting and had it made into a plaque that I was given when I departed Vietnam in December 1967. That plaque is hanging on the wall in my den."

"An Lo Valley Ambush" By MAJ Larry G. Hatch (USA Ret) WO Call Sign: Mercy 11: "CPT Eldon Ideus and I (WO Larry Hatch) were making a MEDEVAC pickup in the An Lo Valley outside of LZ English. While I was flying downwind, I couldn't help but think how beautiful the elephant grass looked; it was like a golf course fairway lined on both side by palm trees.

"I made my final approach to an infantry soldier standing waist high in the grass holding a smoke flare. I was flaring the helicopter for landing, when at fifteen feet all hell broke loose. The VC had set up an ambush and we were taking automatic weapons fire from the palm trees as well as the ground.

"I immediately broke off the approach, pulling pitch enough to maintain RPM at 6,000 (which had bled off from 6,600 RPM) while simultaneously applying forward cyclic to gain airspeed. With the RPM low warning light blaring and flashing, and trying to stay at fifteen feet without hitting the ground, I finally built up enough airspeed and RPM to get away from the gun fire.

"A bullet had gone through the left door and through CPT Ideus' right foot. Another bullet went through the open cargo area, hit the metal plate on the back top of my armored seat which holds the seat belt web in place, bent it up sending shrapnel into my neck and then ricocheting off to hit the aircraft's side panel behind the door. I radioed ahead to LZ English telling them we didn't make the pick up but we had wounded on board and a wounded helicopter.

"Our wounds were attended to and CPT Ideus was medevaced back to the United States. I sure was going to miss old 'Magnet Ass Ideus,' as I called him, for every time we flew together we got the hell shot out of the aircraft.

"Our Maintenance Officer, WO Arthur Martin, and TI SP6 Clyde Moore, counted one hundred and twenty-seven bullet holes through the aircraft (exit holes were not counted). We were lucky that day. MAJ Goodman told me that I needed to relax and get away from the action so I was sent up North along the coast line in support of the Marines. The very first mission proved to be no better than the last bullet riddled mission in the An Lo Valley. But, that's another war story to read about on our Website. {Next, below}

"Coast Mission" By MAJ Larry G. Hatch (USA Ret) WO Call Sign: Mercy 11: "Right after the mission on 8 April 1967 where both CPT Eldon Ideus and I were wounded, I was sent up North along the coast-line in support of some Marine Corps operations to give me a break from the action. Well, I flew out of the frying pan into the fire. I was in deep doo doo on my very first mission.

"The pick up was right on the coast-line of the South China Sea. The only vegetation between the rice paddies and the sea was these patches of twenty foot high willows among other smaller trees.

"The unit on the ground popped a smoke grenade; I identified the color of smoke and was making an approach to the LZ when fifteen feet off the ground all hell broke loose. I wasn’t flying at the controls because I was breaking in a new pilot so I was looking out my pilot’s left door window looking at the mud flats and water on the ground when I found myself staring down a rifle barrel. "A Viet Cong (VC) dressed in all black (common dress), bare footed, squatted down on the mud bank, was pointing his rifle at me. He fired and the round went between my feet, hit the cyclic stick, severed wiring, which resulted in my side of the cockpit filling up with smoke.

"At the same time, we were taking automatic weapons fire and I was telling my co-pilot on my radio headset to 'Get the hell out of here.' Well, you are in your most vulnerable position when you are slowing the aircraft’s descent for landing and you pull up the collective to get airborne. The helicopter’s rotor blade RPM immediately starts to bleed off.

"I guess it was my instructor pilot’s instinct but I had taken over the controls, held the RPM bleed off to 6000 RPM (down from 6600 RPM) and was able to start moving forward as the rotor blades were chopping up those willows like a lawn mower. At least we weren’t crash landing.

"It seemed like we flew through those willows forever until we flew out of them, turned right towards the rice paddies with the helicopter’s skids about five feet off the ground as I was trying to gain airspeed and slowly lowering the collect to gain RPM. As you can probably determine, that combination of forward cyclic stick to gain airspeed and downward collective to gain rotor RPM without hitting the ground was tricky. To top things off, I was trying to see through a cloud of smoke from burning wire, RPM warning indicator bleeping constantly and whatever else was going on to keep the aircraft flying. "Can you imagine a Vietnamese rice farmer, standing up, pushing his dugout canoe along the rice paddy using a long pole to push him and I’m flying straight at him; true story. I’ll bet he filled his pants before he bailed out into the paddy. I didn’t hit the pole or the farmer but I didn’t alter my flight path; I figured I was the one with the emergency and besides, I had the right-of-way (come to think of it, maybe not). I still laugh thinking about it (the farmer, not the mission).

"After two harrowing missions within three days of each other, they sent me on R&R to Hawaii on August 19, 1967. I wanted to go to Australia and see those beautiful ladies they kept show casing in the 'Stars & Stripes' newspaper but, Hawaii was better than nothing."

Always remembering our 1st Cav troops on duty around the world; over and out.

Mike Bodnar C 2\7 '69
MEDEVAC 1-7\70

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