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War Stories

Accidental Centaur - 1971

Kenneth Wiegand

On my last day as a Little Bear, my CO (Major John McCurdy) informed me that I was selected to fly the Division Commander, MG Hollis and his aide, around to visit the remaining 25 ID units in the field. It was his “farewell tour.” I was assigned an H-model and a rookie, first-tour captain to fly as my copilot, no crew. (I wish I could remember the copilots’s name because we got along great!) I don’t recall where the aircraft came from, just flying it all over the AO and doing exactly what the aide wanted us to do.

After a few days of flying with no real base of operations or “home,” we picked up the general at Cu Chi and were told to fly some where and then on to Hotel 3 in Saigon. After landing on the H3 VIP pad, the general thanked us for the rides and he and his aide began to trot off. The aide didn’t jump on the skid toe to give me further instructions as he always did, so I had to flag him down by getting a bystander’s attention (we were at flight idle and I didn’t want to leave the aircraft). The aide jumped on the skid toe and I asked him what he wanted us to do. I remember his words like it happened this morning, “We don’t need you anymore. Go find a home.” My mumbled response was, “Are you shitin me?!!” I mean, “Find a home?!”

My copilot and I sat there for a moment to process his instructions. I rattled off all the places we could go with an understanding the aircraft needed maintenance and we needed a place to call home. Then it became clear to me. Our destination would be Vung Tau! We would land near the Army maintenance facility, explain our situation and then head for the beach! After all, like the old saying went: What is the worst the Army could do to us, send us to Vietnam?!

We departed H3 with big smiles on our faces and proceeded toward Highway 1 which would deliver us to sandy beaches, resorts and cold beer. As we flew over Camp Frenzel Jones, our engine chip light came on. We noticed Hueys and Cobras parked below and I thought we could have someone check out our chip sensor. I landed and we were greeted by a few maintenance types who summoned the unit maintenance officer. Who should appear? CPT Larry Welch, maintenance officer. As I recall, I was actually happy to see someone I knew and he was happy to see – not me, but the aircraft we were flying. I explained our situation and I believe he went off to speak with the CO. Upon his return he welcomed us to the Centaurs! Of course, I was disappointed having the aircraft confiscated and having my plan to watch the surf roll in fade from my mind. On the other hand, it was good to have found a familiar face and a new home. Larry may have his own version of this story, but that’s how I remember it.