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War Stories

HOG crew rescued by tiny Vietnamese girl

by Jerell E. "Jerry" Jarvis


We were assigned to do dawn patrol this one day. We flew out from base camp while the morning mist was still lingering over the flooded rice paddies. We reached out terminus point and headed back to Cu Chi without anything unusual being sited or happening. The air was clear, and the sun was warm. It was the kind of milk-run mission that made being a crew chief a little bit more pleasant.

At about 2-3 clicks from Cu Chi, the AC came over the intercom to me and said; “The collective feels extremely heavy, what do you think?” I responded; “might be a good idea to set her down and allow me to climb up the mast to check her out”! Since we were in a relatively safe area this was the prudent thing to do, as there’s no such thing as a “minor failure” when it comes to the main rotor controls.

He gently set her down on a small patch of dry ground surrounded by flooded rice patties. Highway 1 was a few hundred meters to our right and there was several water buffalos grazing about 20-30 meters away. It was an almost pastoral looking scene.

I climbed up to the mast and checked the Jesus Nut’s slip marks and the friction collar slip marks. I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary and reported this to our AC. He radioed in to base our situation and requested further instructions.

Base camp responded that the maintenance officer (CPT Blair) was flying out on Stable Boy, and would give it an inspection as well, and we were to stay put. In the mean time, my door gunner and I proceeded to dismount our door guns, and take up positions on either side of the ship. I could see that we were in a (more or less) secure area, so I wasn’t too concerned about our security, but just to play it safe we took up the defensive positions any way.

The Water Buffalos that I had seen while setting down, were on my side of the ship. After a few minutes, several of them started to meander toward the ship.

Now I’ve seen thousands of these animals from the air, and never had given them much thought. But now that I was on the ground and looking at them eye ball to eye ball, and they seemed absolutely huge. Keep in mind that this was the very first time that I had set foot on the ground outside of the base camp perimeter since arriving in RVN.

WaterBuffaloWell,…… here I am, a city boy, going nose to nose with a couple of these seemingly menacingly huge beasts. I kept getting more and more nervous as they casually wondered toward us closer and closer. I kept imagining that maybe I was about to get trampled to death, or gored by one of their really big horns…..or something.

I stood up with my M-60 at the ready, all the while thinking to myself; “am I supposed to shoot them or what”? I was really getting nervous. At about this time a tiny little Vietnamese girl came running up, from out of nowhere, and started to shout at me in Vietnamese. She had this incredibly determined look in her eyes with a furled brow and the overall demeanor of a drill sergeant from my basic training days.

She kept waving her little finger at me in a scolding manner all the while jabbering away in Vietnamese. I had no idea what it was that she was saying, but….. her demeanor and fearless bearing effectively conveyed the message that she was thoroughly pissed off at me, and I better not hurt one of her animals.

At this point the herd of Water Buffalo had walked up behind her to within 10 feet or so. When she had finished thoroughly chewing me out and intimidating me, she spun around and lunged at the lead animal and gave it a smart whack on the nose with a little stick she had in her hand. The animal let out a brief grunting sound and then just turned around and slowly walked away with the others following behind. She was so tiny, that she had to stretch upward in order to reach the buffalos nose. She followed behind them while giving me an occasional scowling glance over her shoulder.

(CPT Blair landed a few minutes later and after checking the rotor head out, gave us the OK to fly the remaining distance to base camp.)

Now picture this, here sat a well armed HOG Gun Ship with enough fire power to wipe out a tree line in a single pass, and manned by four big strong armed Americans, and this tiny little girl, weighing no more then 40 pounds, had to rescue us from those big bad Water Buffalos.

In the years since the war, I’ve occasionally reminisced about this incident, and have had to chuckle to myself over it.

War is never pretty, but it can be a little humorous at times.