War Stories 5

Enjoy the stories in this section. Some of them may even have been true!! Have a favorite war story you've been relating over the years? Well sit down and shoot us a draft of it. Don't worry, we'll do our best to correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling before we publish it. to us and we'll publish them for all to enjoy.

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The Medevac Standby and the LAW

By Ron (HUEY) Huether

Occupations such as air crewmembers, firefighters, and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) crews have hours and hours of boredom punctuated with a few minutes of stark terror. So, it was with my 23-years of flying air ambulance helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

Medevac 2 (Baby Huey)
Medevac 2 (Baby Huey)

My assignment during the 1st Cavalry Division's incursion into Cambodia in 1970 was to sit just inside Vietnam next to an Army of Vietnam (ARVN) compound at Tin Yon. Having we "non-snake eaters" stationed just inside Vietnam afforded President Nixon at least partial truth to his statements that the United States had no ground troops in Cambodia.

And so, it was that as the sun rose to its apex, my crew became ever increasingly bored. The first break in the boredom was when my crew chief challenged me to a game of Knock the Tree Over. We both had M-79 grenade launchers with sawed-off stocks and forward sights making the weapon one huge handgun with a two-and-a-half-inch diameter barrel capable of firing grenade size bullets way, way out there.

We picked out a lone tree with a northerly slouch some thousand feet away, sat on the left side of my medevac aircraft and began taking alternating turns at lobbing a round downrange at our, obviously Viet Cong, tree. After a dozen attempts (or so), one of us won, and the poor tree went crashing into the dusty soil of the great Republic we had pledged to protect.

ARVN compound at Tin Yon.
ARVN compound at Tin Yon.

Another hour passes when my medic comes running toward the aircraft in a greatly excited state announcing he found a cache of ammunition that was stuffed down a hole in the dirt not more than 500 feet from our air ambulance helicopter. As the crew ran off with him to this hole (not one of us ever considered the idea it might all be booby-trapped), I stayed behind to "hold down the fort" and add some dignity to an otherwise dusty afternoon medevac standby.

Shortly, my crew chief, medic, door gunner, and copilot come back with arms full of every conceivable ammunition used by the United States soldier. There were M-16 rifle bullets, M-60 machine gun linked ammunition, some M-79 grenade launcher rounds, and…and TWO Light Anti-tank Weapons (LAW).

Now, for you peace-loving folks, or you air force warriors that have never gotten dusted with rotor wash every day, the LAW is the updated version of the World War II bazooka. The LAW is constructed of fiberglass, lightweight, collapsible, and meant to be fired only once and discarded. Ah, but there was a problem with our newly found booty of anti-tank weapons - they were caked in mud and dirt.

M-79 Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW)

Having seen many John Wayne movies where the bad guy gets the drop on the Duke only to try and dispatch of our hero with a muddy six-shooter that blows up in his hand, none of us were brave enough to extend the LAW to the firing position and pull the trigger. Besides, we were medics and didn't know how to do it anyway.

Over comes the crew chief with the exceptionally bright idea that we put the two LAWs downrange by a poor blown-up tree and shoot at them with our M-60 machine gun until they explode. Of course, we'd take turns and the winner would be the air ambulance crewmember making the "kill" shot.

And so it was, that hot afternoon on the Cambodian border, that the crew of Medevac 2 started taking turns shooting at two pieces of weaponry designed with such destructive force that they could (each) knock out a tank. After much backslapping and kidding about who was the worst marksman, our door gunner climbs into the "hell hole" seat on the left side. Now comfortably sitting in a slightly more than half-million-dollar, 1st Cavalry Division air ambulance helicopter and commences to fire with such accuracy that we all stood in awe…for the first 15 seconds.

You see, it was at that moment that one of our gunner's machine gun rounds ignited the motor of one of the LAWs, and the damned thing started shooting across the dirt like an air-filled balloon let loose. As we stood, frozen in place, the LAW round skittered across the ground away from us and the aircraft. Of course, that only lasted about five seconds (a lifetime if you were there) when it hit a dirt clod and turned on a straight course toward our beloved Huey helicopter ambulance…AND us!

As if rehearsed previously, my whole crew yelled in unison, "RUN!!" In those tenths of seconds that flash through your mind just before meeting your Creator, I could only think of how I was going to explain the loss of a half-million-dollar air ambulance to my commander. But the Creator was in a jovial mood that day and made the anti-tank round hit another dirt clod just before impacting our helicopter. The dirt clod diverted the high explosive round toward a tree line where another Vietnamese tree unhesitatingly gave its life in a valiant effort at saving me from a court-martial.


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Some Thoughts About LTC Turner

By Randy Brewer

On July 24th, we received a call for a hoist mission. My ship was MEDEVAC 458, and Art Jacobs was Aircraft Commander (A/C). On the first attempt to get the patient, our helicopter was severely shot up. We returned, got another aircraft, returned to the location, and were shot up again. I was crew chief on the first two aircraft.”

“The third ship had its assigned crew chief, returned to the pick-up location, and was shot down. We had no more aircraft. Platoon Leader MAJ Dorris Goodman got a ship out of maintenance for a one-time flight - he was A/C, CWO Magin was co-pilot, I was crew chief, can’t remember the gunner.”

COL Turner
COL Turner

As we lifted off, I felt the ship rock, looked up and there sat LTC Turner. I (a lonely SP5) said, ‘Colonel, you can’t go on this one, we may not come back.’ He replied, ‘I am TOO going!’ Goodman lifted off, saying we had no time to argue. We still had radio contact with the downed aircraft. I saw yellow smoke at 9:00 o’clock, which was confirmed. Goodman began to set up his approach, and I noticed Turner was unarmed. I knew Jacobs was injured, and Turner would have to leave the aircraft. We had no idea where or how many NVA were in the area. I gave him my unauthorized Colt .45 & two magazines, and then I unwrapped my precious M-79 from my field jacket (court-martial offense - but I wasn’t about to send my CO out unarmed) loaded it with a canister round, showed him the safety, gave him three more rounds. Goodman came in like the proverbial bat out of hell, flared and landed. LTC Turner ran for CWO Jacobs, who was shot in the arm, grabbed him under one arm and brought him back to the ship, the rest of the crew came running with guns, ammo, and radios, and we di-di-mao’d the AO post haste. LTC Turner unloaded the M-79 and returned it, and my .45, with a grin and a ‘Thank you.’ Never said another word about it. The downed aircraft had to be destroyed by artillery and napalm.

Helicopter 458 was so badly shot up it was sent back to the states, and I got a ‘new’ rebuilt ‘H’ model; MEDEVAC 578. Since I was getting ‘short,’ it was decided to keep 578 at Evans for VIP missions, so I had the privilege of flying with our new CO quite a bit. What a great guy- 180 degrees better than the last CO. When we went somewhere on a VIP mission, he gave the pilots money for lunch for them and the crew too. He treated us so well we found it hard to believe after the CO before. I took quite a few photos of him- enclosing what I consider the best. 578 eventually had to be sent to LZ Jane, and I went with it until my last two days in-country. I’ll never forget the courage, honor, and compassion LTC Turner had for ‘his’ men. He was indeed a man among men.

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