Coast Guard Aviator
1st Tour Sep 1967- Sep 1968
2nd Tour Sep 1970- Sep 1971
I Enlisted In The Army For The Warrant Officer Flight Program On 29 July 1966. With Basic Training At Fort Polk, Louisiana And Flight Training At Fort Wolters, Texas And Fort Rucker, Alabama. I Graduated With Flight Class Lxvii – 131 29 August 1967.
I Reported To Fort Lewis, Washington On 24 September 1967 For Shipment To Vietnam. I In Processed At Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam And Was Assigned To The First Cavalry Division At An Khe. After In Processing I Was Assigned To Charlie Company The 227th Aviation Battalion. The Company Was Located On Gude Island Off The Coast Of Chu Lia. It Was Not A Bad Assignment At First. We Lived In Tents On The Beach And Went Swimming In The Ocean As Time Permitted. We Had To Go Through One Typhoon, Which Made Life A Little Interesting. The Island Was Overrun On The Night Of 30 October 1967. We Only Had Minor Injuries To Both Personnel And Aircraft. The Unit Was Moved To Ky Ha Army Heliport At Chu Lia In Early November. At Chu Lia We Had Wooden Barracks, And Officers Club And A Px.
The Mission Of Charlie Company 227th Was To Support The 3rd Brigade Of The 1st Cavalry Division. The Area Of Operation Was The Que Son Valley Flying Out Of Lz Baldy And Lz Ross. The Que Son Valley Was Located Southwest Of Da Nang. We Flew The Typical Missions Of An Assault Helicopter Company. Air Assault, Resupply, Tactical Emergency Flare Missions, Command And Control, And Other Missions As Required. A Command And Control Mission Is Where You Would Take The Commander Or One Of His Staff Up To Watch The Operations Of His Subordinates And Be Able To Communicate And Provide Instructions. While Flying The Command And Control Mission In Late November 1967 The War Became Very Personal, As Our Aircraft Was Shot Down. That Was The First Three Hits Of The 26 I Would Take This Tour. I Never Liked Flying Command-And-Control Missions After That, Although I Did Fly A Few More.
SOUTH MISSOURI CHAPTER OF THE VIETNAM HELICOPTER PILOTS ASSOCIATION
South Missouri Chapter of VHPA
Photos & BIO submitted by
Harold P. Clark
South Missouri Chapter of VHPA
Air Force Aviator
The First Week Of February 1968, We Moved North To Camp Evans, Which Was Located Between Quang Tri And Hue. Our Move And The Tet Offensive Had The Same Scheduled Start. So We Ended Our Move And Went Straight Into The Battle For Hue.
Because Of The Tet Offensive, Weather And Logistical Problems It Was Almost A Month Before Our Company Was All Back Together At Camp Evans. Upon Arrival We Set Up Our Tents, Laid Out A Defensive Perimeter And Helicopter Landing Area And Went Back To Flying Combat Missions The Next Day. Camp Evans Was A Marine Firebase That Overnight Became Headquarters Of The 1st Air Cavalry Division And Supporting Elements. On Arrival Our Company Ended Up On The Outside Of The Perimeter. The Only Thing Between Us And The Enemy Were A Few Foxholes. The Company Was Back To Living In Tents, And Stayed In Tents The Remainder Of My Tour.
After Tet Offensive, Our The Mission Was The Relief Of The Siege At Khe Sahn Which Was Operation Pegasus. Flying 10 To 12 Hours A Day Was Normal During This Operation. The Thing That Sticks With Me To This Day Was The Landscape. The Area Around Khe Sahn Combat Base Looked More Like The Moons Surface Than The Vietnam Countryside.
After The Relief Of Khe Sahn, We Went Back To Find Normal Missions For The 3rd Brigade. This Was A Nice Break After Tet Offensive And Khe Sahn. The Bright Did Not Last Long. The Bulk Of The 1st Air Cavalry Division Made An Incursion Into The A Shau Valley. Operation Delaware Lasted From 19 April 1968 To 17 May 1968 And We Were Flying From The Coast Over The Mountains To The Valley On A Daily Basis. With The Monsoon Season Along The Coast, We Flew A Lot Of Instrument Time Climbing To Altitude To Get Over The Mountains And Then Returned Back To Camp Evans. The Weather In The Valley Was Always Clear And Sunny. We Would Start Out At Sea Level And Climb Up To Between 10 And 12,000 Feet To Get To Clear Skies For Our Flight Over The Mountains.
After The A Shau Valley, We Once Again Returned To Our Normal Missions. We Picked Up The Additional Responsibility Of Supporting The 3rd Regiment Of The 1st Arvn Division. Working With The 3rd Regiment And Their Australian Advisors Was Not A Bad Mission. In The Middle Of All This Activity I Made Aircraft Commander On 11 March 1968 Eventually Working Up To Flight Leader.
Another Task Was To Provide Support To The Special Forces Units Of Ccn North. The Units Operated Along The Laotian Border And The Western Portion Of The Dmz. We Flew Out Of Phu Bai And Khe Sahn, After Khe Sahn Closed We Operated Out Of Their New Base West Of Quang Tri.
On 20 May 1968, The Nva Rocketed Camp Evans And Hit The Ammo Dump And Part Of The Fuel Storage Area. The Explosions Went All Night. When Morning Came, I Found Out All I Had Were The Close On My Back And My 38 Caliber Pistol. The Company Lost 10 Tents And All But One Of Our Helicopters. The Worst Part Is That I Lost My Real Dad That I Had Gotten Through Some Trading, So It Was Back To Sleeping On A Cot. It Was A Long Time Before Everything Was Back To Normal. Most Of Us Were Hiding In Our Bunkers, So With Good Luck We Had No Serious Injuries.
The Company Started Doing Night Hunter Missions, That We Called Hound And Hair. It Was On One Of These Missions That I Got Shot Down For The Second Time. It Is No Fun Sitting In A Rice Paddy At 1 O’clock In The Morning Waiting For Someone To Come Pick You Up.
I Finished My Tour On 24 September 1968 And Was Reassigned To The 69th Aviation Company At Fort Bragg North Carolina. I Moved On To The 182nd Aviation Company Which Was Being Activated. I Made Aircraft Commander On 8 January 1969 And Became Assistant Operations Officer On 12 June 1969 The 1/82 Was General Support For The 3rd Army And We Flew All Over The Eastern United States And Even Sent Aircraft And Cruised To Bangladesh.
I Accepted A Commission To First Lieutenant On 17 February 1970. On My Way Back To My Second Tour In Vietnam, I Attended Cobra Transition At Hunter Army Airfield In Georgia. I Reported To Travis Afb For Shipment On 22 September 1970.
My Second Tour Was With Delta Company 158th Aviation Battalion Of The 101st Airborne Division. I Was Back At Camp Evans Once Again. It Took Me Two Years To Move 300 Yards. At The Least This Time At Camp Evans We Were In Sea Huts And Had An Air-Conditioned Ready Room And Club. Delta Company Was An Attack Helicopter Company Equipped With 12 Ah 1g Cobra Helicopters. Our Primary Mission Was To Provide Escort To The Aircraft Of The Battalion’s Three Lift Companies. Additionally, We Flew In Support Of The 3rd Brigade 101st Airborne Division At Camp Evans And The 5th Mechanized Infantry Brigade At Quang Tri. A Fire Team, Two Cobras, And A Lift Platoon Of Hueys Would Spend A Week At Quang Tri Then Rotate Back To Their Home Unit. When Flying For The 5th Mechanized Infantry, We Would Do Sniffer Missions Several Days A Week. The Sniffer Would Detect Human Occupation In The Jungle By Detecting The Ammonia Put Off By The People On The Ground. When A Hotspot Was Detected Artillery Or Airstrikes Would Be Called In. The Biggest Fear On These Missions Was Little Losing Site Of The Sniffer Bird, Which Was Flying 20 To 30 Feet Above The Trees.
The Only Major Operation We Were Involved In Was Lam Son 719. This Was An Operation To Insert Arvn Units Into Laos Along The Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Unit Operated Out Of Lz Stud And Khe Sahn, Similar Places From My First Tour.
During Lam Son We Were Allowed To Use Flechette Rockets For The First Time. I Also Saw An Enemy Tank For The Second Time. I Had Previously Seen An Nva Tank Trying To Hide From Us In The A Shau Valley In 1968, He Was A Distance Away And Moving Fast So I Could Not Get Close Enough To Shoot At Him. Flying In The Same Area As The Tank, I Encountered A Radar Guided Antiaircraft Gun, Thankfully The First And Last Time.
I Am Not Sure Of The Dates, But I Spent Three Weeks As The Acting Commander Of The 3rd Brigades Aviation Section. It was an interesting assignment, different from what I was doing. I got to go on several flights in and 0H 6x on the nightly mortar patrol. Flying low and slow looking for the enemy was not my thing. I had to attend the Brigade Commanders briefing each day. Seeing the big picture of what was going on in the brigade area and an overview of all of ichor was a real eye-opener I was seeing the war from a totally different perspective.
The closest I came to seeing Bob Hope was flying mortar and rocket patrol west of Phu Bai in Dec 1970, dawn to dusk. That was one of those very long days, we only landed long enough to hot refuel and back into the air. It was dark by the time we returned to Camp Evans.
I made aircraft Cmdr. on 27 December 1970. I was appointed as operations officer on 19 April 1971. As operations officer I did not get to fly as much, but I did pick up a lot of the additional duties.
While flying attack helicopters I missed the contact with those we supported. Flying Hueys you would be able to interact with those you work with. An example is on Christmas day 1967 we were invited for coffee at an infantry company located in field locations, with the engine still running we had coffee and chatted with the personnel of the infantry unit. They gave us a small tree that they had decorated for Christmas. In addition to our own troops there were Vietnamese military and civilians, Australians, mountainyards, Koreans, American civilians and some US Marines.
My first introduction to the press corps was when I went out to a night defensive position to drop off the morning resupply and there stood a female reporter waiting for a ride on our return trip. Our relationship with the press corps was off and on. On one not so good occasion there was a TV cameraman that kept getting in the way during the extraction of a hot LZ. I wanted to land on top of him more than once so he would learn to stay out of the way on the LZ. Flying attack helicopters all your communication was over the radio.
I finished my second tour and returned home on 15 September 1971.