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War Stories

Nighthawk and the Twin 60's

by Fred W. Reese

Can two M60 machine guns be mounted together and fire as one from a UH-1? Fred gave it a shot.

twin60's I do not remember the dates, as the entire year in Country, seemed like just one continuous dream to me, until it was over and I was back in the World. I remember events and times of the year, more than anything, so I will recount this memory the best I can after having lived it nearly fifty years ago!

I was asked to recount my Nighthawk experiences and how the twin sixties, in a picture of me, came about. Those would be the sixties in a picture taken of me in my seat, with them hanging from a bungee cord.

I know there are those out there that say that twin sixties never existed in the 3/4 or 4th Cav. At least the dismounted variety of twin sixties. Well, I'm here to tell you that they did exist, for a very short time, and I am the one that designed and built them!

It actually started at Chu Chi. Major Tom Hamilton was our CO. We had been flying steady Night Hawk missions on the rivers and tributaries, trying to stop the steady flow of weapons and ammunition that were being floated down the rivers from the north.

Prior to these missions, several of us gunners and crew chiefs were flown out to free fire zones to test our prowess on accuracy with free hand sixties. George Aguilar and I were on board 390 and CPT Haggar was our AC.The only thing I was ever told was that it was a testing mission to see how effective a sixty could be at various altitudes.

We flew circles around bomb craters at three different altitudes, as I recall, putting as many rounds into the crater full of water, as possible, until told to hold fire. I did this routine twice within a few days of each other, as did Donnie Price, on 494. Occasionally, Donnie and I flew together on his ship, 494. Just depended on whether I was up on my ship of record, 390, with George. I was lucky in the respect that I was not only the Senior Aircraft Armament technician, I was also the company armorer and a full time gunner! I counted myself as lucky, as I never did any kind of guard duty or KP! I was too busy with my other jobs and no one to take my place on any of them.

Back to the Night Hawk. One day, I was called to Operations and told that they were going to put a Night Hawk ship together and why. I was asked to be the gunner on that ship, because my shooting accuracy was good at all three altitudes and even with the movements, I could stay on target without taking off the rotor or separating the skid. I accepted without hesitation! I was informed that 494 would be the Night Hawk ship, with removable arc lights on the gun mounts on both sides.

There was a lieutenant, but, I cannot remember his name, that would operate the light on my side, and Donnie Price would be the Crew Chief. I had flown with Donnie several times prior to this, but, this job would bring us pretty close as buddies go! George was my Crew Chief on 390, which was my assigned ship, and that would not change!

In the weeks to come, we flew many missions in total darkness, which I can attest, that's one of the scariest things I had done up to that point! Flying just above the trees with no lighting other than the red instrument clusters on the bulkhead, was not my idea of fun! Necessary, however, to maintain cover. We were essentially, flying as a LOH would fly, only in a bus! It was extremely effective in not only finding the boats, but also troop movements! That is what brought about the twin sixties!

By this time, we were in transition to become F Troop, 4th Cav. We were assigned to Camp Frenzel-Jones and had just finished the move into our new home, when I was called into operations again. This time, to find out if I could build a set of twin sixties, that would double the fire power on the Night Hawk missions. He felt that too many bad guys were getting away on the troop movements, and jumping ship when we would sink a Sampan.

The only specs I was given was that it had to be easy to assemble and disassemble and be done with what we had available in my arms room or the motor pool. Figuring that our normal firing range was approximately one thousand feet, I would set the two sixties to cross fire at one thousand feet.

A few days later, it was done, assembled and ready to test fire. This was accomplished with two sections of angle iron a bit of welding and some bolts. Easy to build, fast to assemble or to remove. One piece across the front sights, being held in place with a washer and a bolt through the sight on each gun. On piece of angle iron across where I had removed the carrying handles. I had to leave the bipods in place due to the need for forward weight. The immediate drawback would be if a barrel fouled. It could not be changed in flight. But, due to the usage being limited and only on Night Hawk flights, this was acceptable. So, without much hesitation, the test flight was scheduled for that afternoon.

Donnie and I went up, with Captain Haggar and someone else as pilot. We got into position in a free fire zone and I opened up with one, then the other, then both at the same time! It was absolutely great! That is until they came into time with each other! That is the point that my 120 pound frame found the back of the seat and the transmission wall! Donnie thought he could control them because he was almost fifty pounds heavier than I. He did, but only to a point. Once they came into time with each other, the climb at the barrel ends was very hard to hold down. The problem was, that they needed more weight at the ends. That was not going to happen, as we had to carry those things to and from the flight line on each mission. Then what do you do if you go down while on mission? So, being that both Donnie and I were black and blue all through our chests and shoulders, the C/O scrapped the project!

The remainder of my Night Hawk missions, were completed with the use of my single sixty, as it was during day time missions. Our body counts and mission successes were respectable by anyone's standards!
Sp5 Fred W. Reese, D Troop 3/4 Cav, F Troop, 4th Cav 70-71