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War Stories

My Second Tour - Russ Miller

Enlisted man first tour; 1LT for second tour as a Centaur Cobra Pilot

(Credit to Mike Sloniker for collecting this story for the VHPA)

by Walter R. "Russ" Miller, Jr.

My first experience, of my second tour, in RVN was being told by some General who briefed us at the reception station "that he had no idea what we were doing there, the war was over and he had told D.C. he didn’t need anymore pilots." Well if that had been true I wouldn’t be writing today.

I was assigned to F Trp 4th Cav station in Lie Khe(Centaurs). We provided support to the ARVN Airborne and flew VR (Visual Recon) into Cambodia. I remember a lot of hot days staging out of Tay Ninh City Airfield and drinking cokes from zip lock bags because the locals wouldn’t trust us with the bottles. (Bottles, worth lots of money.)
miller1 In January we relocated to Long Binh and continued the same missions but felt a lot safer. Within a short time I was made a Cobra A/C but because of the big influx of pilots, Maj John Spencer made me the Blues Platoon Leader because of my branch (Infantry). About the same time word came down, not to get any Americans killed on the ground so we were only inserted a couple of times, the rest of the time was guard duty and airfield alert. My platoon was moved north to Phu Bai in a CH47 (terrible experience for a Cobra Jock). I remained the Blues Platoon leader until April 28th. CPT Hannie (Cobra Plt Ldr) came in and told me we had just lost Martindale and Haines and that we needed to replace the lost Cobra at Quang Tri. So off came the fatigues, on went the nomex and the fun began.

On May 2nd while staging out of Camp Evans we were sent on a mission to extract some American advisors, downed FAC pilots and wounded RVN Marines north of Evans along the highway. We took 2 snakes and 2 slicks. Cpt Dan Tyner was Cobra lead and CWO William Jessie was slick lead (I can’t remember who was flying the other slick, it could have been WO Rose). We left the little birds at Evans.) As I remember we started taking fire as soon as we arrived. We started normal one snake in followed by the second, at this time we were still flying at 1500 feet (That would soon change).

miller2I remember Jessie calling pulling pitch and starting out of the PZ, I was inbound as he started to turn left all of a sudden he exploded right beside me. I think I asked my front seat what the hell was that. I continued my break to come around and cover Tyner and heard the second slick reporting taking fire and that he was going down. I couldn’t talk to Tyner because he was in the Cobra with the 20mm and every time he fired it, he lost commo. (He loved the damn thing.)

The second huey was able to fly across the highway toward the beach before he put it down. Tyner and I continued to fire for the downed crew. My front seat kept seeing the NVA coming out of a tree line toward the down bird every time we turned, so we started making slow passes and firing one pair and just a few duper rounds on each pass. I still couldn’t talk to Tyler so I went to guard and called for help

Luckily one of our little birds was goofing around at Evans. I think it was CPT Fred Ledfors, who came to the rescue. When he arrived I was out of ammo, ideas and about 30 minute into a 20 minute light. Because he came alone he had to shuttle the downed crew to the beach.

Finally we got back to Evans and out of nowhere this General appeared and asked if we should go back for Jessie and Petrilla. One of the hardest and most painful decisions I ever made in my 27 years service was to tell that General, NO. Jessie, Petrilla and the others were not recovered until July.

On May 28th while conducting a VR NW of Camp Evans is the day the 51 cal ate my lunch and my CAV HAT. The next day I left for R&R so I missed the shoot out involving McQuade and F/8 Cav.

July 11th was a full day, I didn’t realize until today that I had received two DFC’s on the 11th. The first was for actions in the morning while covering the Vietnamese Marine Corps (VNMC) insertions and the second was for the extraction of the down USMC CH-53 cres that night.

To me the morning was just another day of doing what we had been doing, but there were a lot more of us. After all the circling off shore I can still visualize the beach coming closer and closer and the smoke from the bombardment, naval fire, Blue Max and all the damn helicopters. As we crossed the beach and the first giant sand dune we were taking fire from every treeline. I can remember how safe (falsely secure) I felt behind my chicken plate. (Being young had a lot to do with it and that "it won’t happen to me attitude".)

That evening is a blur. I remember being scrambled to Twin Steeples and holding there. I don’t remember who was my Cobra lead (probably Tyner). When we started in for the extraction we went in with 2 little birds, 2 snakes and a chase slick (At least one other full team stayed at Twin Steeples. I can't remember who said later they knew where we were the whole time because of the tracers. Maybe Mick or O’Connel).

The PZ was Hot-Hot. I don’t know why or how I ended up hovering in the PZ. Maybe I got target fixation or just the shear shock of all the 23’s, 37’s, 51’s and the kitchen sinks. I remember my front seat shooting the hell out of the mini gun (Hell we may have been shooting ourselves. Pappy tried to kill me once). I’m sure we were only in the PZ a few seconds but it seemed like hours. The next day a U.S. Marine General named Miller came and gave us all awards. The little bird guys were the real heroes.


After this the remainder of my tour consisted of VR’s and trying to stay alive.

The only other action I can remember but can’t remember when it happened was when we were scrambled because the RVN Marines were being overrun on the beach. I remember going up the beach and Marines running south throwing away there equipment. As got further up tanks were driving around shooting small C&C groups. But that’s all I remember.

That’s it guys. It was REAL and it was GREAT but it wasn’t REAL GREAT!!!!!!!!! I have been wrestling with this for a lot of years but Mike Sloniker was right when he said we have to write this down so it won’t be forgotten. I think today was the first time I ever read my four DFC citations (They have been in the attic long enough). We have to make an effort this year to bring F Troop to Washington.

Too My Friends,