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War Stories

The Grenade (Stickem Up)

T.J. Lange - 19 Dec 67

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It was my ships turn to fly perimeter patrol. My pilots were Eastes and Halliday. I don’t remember the gunner I had that day. The date was 19 Dec 1967 and as we were flying on the north side of Cu Chi base camp, one of the pilots saw someone where they shouldn’t be. One of the pilots radioed back to Operations to see if an element of our 35 unit (Infantry) was available to come out and check IDs. They were not able to send them out, so I asked the pilots if I could do it. Gun ships normally don’t land outside a secure area, but they said OK. We flew back to the spot we’d seen a person and hovered over the area. I grabbed the closest M-16 which was Halliday’s weapon. I thought It be a 2–3 foot drop to the ground. Wrong! As I jumped out, I found a 6 – 8 foot drop, and landed like a sack of potatoes. Thank God the ground was wet and soft – I didn’t get hurt, just felt stupid.

I got up and spotted the guy. I motioned for him to raise his hands and as he brought his arms around from behind, he threw a grenade at me. It landed about 3 feet to the left of me. I realized and said to myself: “OH SHIT! GET DOWN!” Just as I kicked my feet out from under me the grenade went off. I landed face first into the wet mud and rice. All this time my ship was above me at a hover. I got up and tried to shoot the, now, VC and the weapon wouldn’t fire. Apparently, Halliday hadn’t cleaned the thing in 6 months.

The VC started to run away when I heard the right side mini-gun go off. I had never heard mini-guns firing from outside the ship. Wow! Loud and scary! I saw the ground in front of me starting to be torn apart. The pilot took the little tornado to the VC’s feet and then up. The body just disappeared. One minute there was a running body (man) and the next nothing but steam in the air. I couldn’t believe my eyes – it just disappeared!!

Then the ship started to fly away. Hell! They think I’m dead and they’re setting up to do gun runs. I ran in the opposite direction to avoid getting hit. There was a mound in the corner of the rice paddy and I molded myself to it. Some times gun runs get sloppy and I didn’t want to be any part of it. They made 2 or 3 passes expending everything they had. When they came down for a look to see what damage had been done I knew this was my chance to get up and try to get their attention. I ran towards them at full speed, got them to see I was still around. They came down lower and I dove into the ship. I hooked up my helmet and said “Get the hell out of here.” Pat Eastes in the right seat noticed most of our gauges were out and decided to get back to Cu Chi before the ship decided it didn’t want to fly anymore. We made it back to Cu Chi rearm point. As I was refueling my baby and noticing many holes I felt my back and butt start to itch.
By now normal feelings were returning to my body. I went to one of the pilots – I think it was Halliday in the left seat – and pulled my shirt over my head to see if I had ants on my back. He said I was full of holes and bleeding. At this time both pilots got out of their seats they too had been hit. All three of us walked across the street to the first aid station and they took care of us. We then went back to the ship as the gunner finished refueling. We then went to re-arm the ship and took her home. We later found out a 35 unit had gone to the area and found 5 bodies, bloody clothing and weapons. These VC were setting up to hit us that night with mortars.

NOTE: TJ also told this story at the Tucson Reunion and again later in a Home Video.