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War Stories

Violating the Primary LOH Rule - Sep 69

by Gary Jones


On 12 September 1969, I volunteered to take the last light mission for my platoon leader, “Buddha” Tom Sinclair, who had been flying all day, and his crew hadn’t had a chance to eat

Also, last light was a good time for body count. I think Bob Forringer and I were tied for highest body count that month, and this was my time to get ahead.

Gunner/CE We, myself, my CE (crew chief), Steve Snoddy, and my gunner, Rocky Rhodes, were working an area south of Cu Chi, south of the highway. I think it was Highway 1, running out east to Trang Bang. In an open rice paddy with a small stream and one large, dead tree, we saw a naked guy trying to pretend he was part of the tree. I think he had been taking a bath in the stream. We opened fire on him, and Steve threw a grenade as we flew over the tree, wounding him, so he began crawling around the tree.

Then, I violated the primary LOH pilot rule, of never staying in one place too long. As I flew around the tree for about the third time, with my skids barely above the rice paddy, one of the guy’s buddies jumped up, probably out of a spider hole, stuck an AK47 in the the door, and pulled the trigger. I didn’t see him and neither did my CE, and I don’t think he actually stuck the gun in the door, but the guy was really close and that’s what it felt like when the round hit me.

Most of the burst went by, but one bullet hit me in the leg, bounced off my off my chickenplate, through my right bicep, before exiting out the bubble over my head. I guess I was lucky it didn’t bounce the other way, off my chickenplate, into my head. Anyway, it blew me off the controls, and Steve, my CE, yelled at Rocky, my gunner, to take the controls.

Rocky grabbed the sawed off broomstick handle we had as a cyclic for the gunners, so they had room to operate their M-60. He pulled a hand full of pitch, and away we went. The higher we climbed the better target we became, and by this time the rest of the NVA company had come up out of their holes, and feeling they had nothing left to lose, started hosing us down pretty good. It looked like the 4th of July with all the tracers coming at us. Steve later said that Rocky was pulling back so hard on the modified cyclic that it looked like we might loop, inverted. I grabbed the controls and put us back in the rice paddy a couple of hundred meters from where we had first been hit.

Steve and Rocky jumped out with their M-60s and started shooting while the Cobra was making runs overhead trying to keep us from getting killed. The rounds impacting in the rice paddy from the fire behind us where we had been shot, made it look like it was raining all around us.

There was blood, mine, all over the cockpit, but I didn’t seem to have any broken bones and I knew if we stayed there we were either going to be dead meat, or POWs, neither of which really appealed to me at the time. So I got Steve and Rocky back in the LOH and we started to low level out to the west. The Cobra said it looked like we were leaking fuel, but we had been belly deep in the flooded rice paddy and water was draining out of the bottom of the LOH, but I didn’t know that at the time.

BeaudionI was starting to go into shock, and was saying really stupid things on the radio. I saw a dirt road ahead, and slid the LOH in on it; the best, unnecessary, running landing I ever made. I shut down the aircraft just as a Little Bear C&C slick was landing, probably called in by the Cobra. I walked, stupid macho shit, to the slick and got in the back. The Sergeant Major, sitting there handed me a gauze bandage from the first aid kit; like what am I supposed to do with this? I met the pilot of that Huey Jerry Beaudoin, at a VHPA reunion.

Off we went to 12th Evac; I was operated on there and then was medivaced, in a few days to Camp Zama, Japan for more surgery, and eventually back home. I ended up at the San Diego Naval Hospital for unbelievably good food and really painful physical therapy.

After convalescent leave at home, in Redlands California, I was assigned to Fritzche AAF, Ft. Ord, California, where I spent the rest of my active duty “career” until 31 March 1971.

Gary Jones
Centaur 14

see also "Discussion: The Dawn Patrol" and Broomstick Flying