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War Stories

Unplanned Rocket Attacks Retaliation

Charlie Johnson- early 1968

Here is a story that, if memory serves , is mostly correct. If anyone recalls it please add your recollection to the story. We'll get this one to Short Round and Rick Arthur if our combined brain cells recall enough of the event to make it mostly real. Charlie


I recall a bright sunny day (but not the dry season) in early 1968 after many days and nights of getting our rest and sleep cycles screwed up by incoming rockets that, in the middle of one of those events my pea-sized RLO brain decided "That's enough, damn it." So I announced to the world that I was going to take one of our trusty steeds (HOG gunship), go find the SOB that was shooting those damn rockets at us and kill them all.
We immediately had lots of volunteers to help us go do that. The final count was five gunships I think, maybe six.
We also had non-crewmembers volunteering (more like whining and begging to go as I recall) to fly as door gunners. One in particular that I clearly recall was Troop 1st Sgt Walsh. My door gunner was very unhappy that he wasn't going to go with us but I thought it might be a good thing is the 1st Sgt managed to shoot up some bad guys on this flight and had fond memories thereafter of the intelligent and handsome gunship crew chiefs and door gunners who, I always thought, should spend more time working on our helicopters and less time on KP and other unwanted activities that 1st Sgts liked to assign to Spec 5s and buck Sgts.
So off we go, with rockets still coming in, the rockets generally coming from the northwest and the gaggle of gunships heading generally toward the northwest and the area from which most of the rockets were coming. Somebody got on the artillery freq and tried to get some information on where the current batch of rockets had been before they wound up at Cu Chi. Details are fuzzy but after a short period of time (15 or 20 minutes or so I think) looking for the bad guys, some of us low and some of us flying cover up higher, a machine gun shooting those bullets with the funny looking green tracer rounds stitched my aircraft along the right side. After much shooting and shouting I noticed red lights in the instrument panel coming on. I immediately realized that I wasn't as smart as I thought I was about 20 minutes before but I did recall that if you see green tracers coming at you, then see red lights in the dash immediately thereafter, bad things were probably going to happen.
As I headed back to Cu Chi, followed by one or more of the other gunships, we started losing cyclic control as we got closer to Cu Chi. It was apparent that we had been hit in the hydraulic controls systems and should very soon try to get the helicopter on the ground - on purpose - rather than waiting for it to come down on it's own. With both pilots on the controls and getting more difficult to move the cyclic and with Cu Chi getting real close we had to decide whether we should make another of those unplanned, off-airport, landings or try to get it to the Corral. With visions of us rolling that overloaded HOG into the revetment area and spreading bullets, 2.75" rockets and burning jet fuel all over the Troop Commander's helicopters and or hootches and maintenance buildings, we put it down just outside the wire off the perimeter somewhat close to where the old Troop area was before we moved in late '67.
We shut down the engine, got out of the helicopter and set up a 'kinda sorta' perimeter in the ankle deep water and waited for Maintenance to come and get us, which they eventually did. No one was hurt, no rolling ball of burning UH-1C in the Corral, etc.
I did notice that 1st Sgt Walsh was not happy though. He had not killed any bad guys but he had gotten to shoot a few M60 rounds when we were doing our water bug dance trying to evade the green tracers on the right side of the ship. He was the right side door gunner when those green tracers came toward us. Needless to say, our little adventure did not endear the gunship crew members to the 1st Sgt's heart as I had anticipated. I don't recall any retaliation against the gunship crews, but I don't remember getting any Christmas cards from him either.
By the way. One little thing that could have effected the outcome of this story was that this little revenge flight was done on our own initiative, not as a mission assigned by the Troop Commander or Operations.
D - U - M - B!

From Bill Mosenthal -

Charlie - I cannot add much of anything to your story as I was probably winging my way east on a flying stretcher at the time you are referring to. Nonetheless, it is funny you mention old Walsh. Not too many days before the time of your story he realized he was getting short and had nothing to show the folks back home in terms of combat experience, awards, or even good pictures, so he asked me if he could come out with the rifles on a mission. I wasn't wildly enthusiastic, but Tom was willing to do it so I said fine if he would give me a copy of the pictures he took since I didn't have much to take home either.

That afternoon he showed up on the airfield with helmet strapped on, flak vest zipped to his chin, new web gear, an M-16 and two 35 mm cameras around his neck. Tom took us out west of Cu Chi in some of the wettest, muckiest terrain you can imagine. Walsh was happier than a pig in slop. He took all kinds of pictures of us and had us take just as many of him. They actually remain some of the best field pictures I have. Bruce has a number of them.

He was probably a little disappointed we didn't take any fire, and he didn't get a chance to shoot his new rifle. He probably figured next a flight in a C model would be just the thing. I'm glad you gave him some excitement. I wonder if he went on any other missions or just called it a career. ....Bill M.

Charlie Johnson: I believe that was our 1st Sgt's last adventure. He was not happy getting down in that swampy, smelly water wondering if there were any mines where we landed and wondering if the bad guys might be coming for us. The Aero Rifles got out there right away, by the way. Probably the shortest aircraft recovery flight they ever had to go on. But, probably not the shortest distance to combat. That might have been on the perimeter at the Cu Chi gate in early Feb '68. I think Dale Dow was on the job by the time this story unfolded. Charlie Johnson Dec 2011