Part 2

During my time in ban Me Thout,  The Aviation company located by us on the runway needed an Artillery Liaison officer for a week or so.  I assume the guy assigned there was to go on R&R or something like that.  I basically had my Sergeant drive me over to that headquarters and I reported in. There was a liaison NCO assigned and we basically split the day into two shifts of 12 hours and I hardly ever saw him.  My job there was to contact the area Field Artillery Headquarters and let them know if we needed to fire our rockets or machine guns in an area.  We maintained a map with the friendly positions located on it and did a lot of waiting for things to happen.  If it got hot and heavy, we would both be in their Aerial Operations area and it was a good gig.  They had a mess section, plenty of hot coffee all night and every once in a while a chance to sneak a ride on the evening rocket sweep around the nearby area.  I took the night shift so I would be viable in the early evening right after dinner.

One night, we got a call from a LRRP team that they had been on the move trying to get away from a North Vietnamese Army unit that had spotted them.  They were getting pretty tired and running low on ammunition.  We alerted a gun section and the slick platoon for possible duty for an extraction.  Both teams were up and ready to fly in no time.  I think the crew chiefs on call were sleeping in their birds.  We sent them out and we soon had the team on the ground located.  They had a good place to be extracted and the gunships got between them and the enemy.     For some reason, one of the LRRP team members thought he saw a machine gun set up near them and started firing at that location.  In the confusion of all that, one of the team members told the Crew Chief that they were all on board.  Not so much...  The guy that had been firing his M-16 ran towards the helicopter and jumped on the skid as it took off.  The LRRP team chief did a quick count and said they had one still on the ground.  The crew chief looked out his side of the helicopter just in time to see the guy fall off and into the jungle.  There was just no way they could go back and look for him.  They returned to base for the evening and a debriefing.  Early the next day we took out a fresh team and they found the body.  The only good thing was that one of the local tigers hadn't found him and decided to eat his fill.

A couple of days later, we were given the mission to see if we could find a C-47 Air Force aircraft that was overdue.  We divided up the flight plan and flew up and down that corridor for a couple of days.  The area was triple canopy jungle and finally on the third day one of the crew chiefs spotted a hole in the canopy on the side of a hill.  That bird came back in, refueled and picked up a ground team to repel in tot eh hole and see what was down there.  There on the side of the hill was that airplane full of soldiers returning from R&R in one hell of a mess.  The good news was that the trees tore off the wings and the main part of the plane didn't burn.  The bad part was that it struck the hill going about 250 MPH.  The cabin was intact but that caused more problems than it solved.  The passengers were sitting in aluminum seats down the side of the aircraft and all that aluminum and webbing and bodies were pushed forward in the cabin and then the bodies were stiff.  It was a giant gig saw puzzle that just the smell would gag a maggot.   The only solution was to send in some engineers and with a giant saw cut the cabin in to two pieces.  With that done, they were mostly able to get the pile into a sling and bring it over to the run way we were on.  The Forth Division graves registration unit had the duty of separating the bodies and identifying who was who.   For some reason the Aviation Commander would not me go out and help.  I didn't understand, but he would not even let me fly over the area.
One neat guy I met there in that unit was a young Captain that was grounded by his commander.  he had crash landed three of the light Observation Helicopters (LOH's) and his commander would not let him go out again.  In two of the three crashes, he had been shot down and rolled the bird in.  On the third crash, something in the hydraulics had burst and he barely made it to the ground safely and had the bird not had an egg shape the crash probably would have killed him and his gunner both.  As it was, the hot hydraulic fluid burned them both and the gunner had been sent to Japan for burns.  The young Captain was not as badly burned and even though he was on light duty he worked the night shift with me.  We played Cribbage and swapped war stories during most of the night.  Things would slow way down at night. 

Except for one night the Special Forces camp nearby decided they had some kind of movement in their perimeter.  They had a 3/4 ton truck with a mini gun mounted in the back.  They went over to their perimeter and opened that baby up.  I will promise you that if you had to chose between not attacking them and getting the way of that buzz saw of bullets, you would stop and come back later.  It was a thing of beauty,  The mini gun would fire red tracers for each 4th or 5th round.  When fired at night, the red tracer rounds would look like a red line of death.  It would fire so fast, that you could not hear each round fired.  It made a whine/whirl/roaring sound that just made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.  Whatever it was that set off the sensors there on the ground went away.  Probably monkeys.

I was released from my temporary duty about in time to go on R&R and meet Barbara in Hawaii.  It was great time to get the hell out of Dodge and renew our friendship.  I am not sure if we had really been married long enough to call it love but it has lasted some 44 years years now so there had to be something there.



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