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War Stories

Gary Drennan and the Tracers

"Sam" Dooling


Gary Drennan was my regular door gunner when I flew Scouts (he transferred from the LURPS to do something safer – he was actually on the team that had been attacked and from which my infamous medevac with a Cobra adventure came). He was an unusual draftee – he had graduated from college and was a schoolteacher when he was invited to join the party.

My LOH aircraft “Luv Bug” was equipped with the minigun on a swivel as pictured in Gary’s My Page photo. Gary, as door gunner occupied the left seat and on my aircraft and his position had a M-60 machine gun (lots of the Scouts would use a M-16 for the left door position, but since I only weighed about 130 lbs in those days, I figured a little more weight to get the extra fire power was OK).

We were working at the Aussie base (Nui Dat) as a Hunter-Killer team supporting an operation for the Aussies. The Aussies Huey’s had side-by-side twin M-60 machine guns on their slicks (each door gunner position) and they used solid tracer ammunition in them (all tracers, not the normal US one tracer in every five rounds).

We (in the wisdom of the young and foolish) thought it would be really cool to load up our minigun with all tracer ammo – what a light show that would make! We loaded up, and completed the mission without ever firing a shot. We were released early and the Cobra headed home, but (I don’t recall the reason, but I’m sure it was a good one); we headed to Vung Tau for the afternoon.

We headed home to Cu Chi in the early evening, flying low level (of course). We were just passing Ben Cat (I think) flying over rolling hills and double-canopied jungle when my Crew Chief called out “People of an indigenous nature acting suspiciously” (to be politically correct). We came around in a circle to check them out and low and behold, there were 3 or 4 NVA in full uniform filling up a bunch of canteens in a creek.

Not bothering to process the implications of what 3 or 4 NVA with a bunch of canteens might represent, I told the Crew Chief to light them up with the mini-gun (remember back to loading the minigun with all tracers?). Well – those of you familiar with mini-guns know that they had special ammunition with stronger links that regular M60 ammo, so as you might expect, the minigun went brap (about 20 rounds) and jammed.

The response to this was that the entire ridgeline above the stream opened up with about 20 automatic weapons. Being the true hero I was, I turned tail to the light show and ran. I remember looking over at Gary and noticing he was not firing back – and his eyes looked like two gigantic round white orbs, so I very calmly asking him whether he was going to shoot back?

He did start shooting back, but by then we were over the next ridgeline and headed in Ben Cat to land and check our aircraft for damage (and maybe change our underwear). The Ben Cat tower was very impressed with our activities – they had seen the fusillade of green tracers off of the end of their runway and wondered what all the commotion was.

After checking the aircraft (amazingly no holes), we took off to altitude (by now it was full dark) and made our way back to Cu Chi.

A few days later, I had the day off and Gary ended up flying with Rocky Reed and Joe Ramey on their ill fated mission – Gary was injured badly enough (back injury I believe) to be sent home.