Yeah, Rambo. But look, 21 years old, no belly, full head of hair....Oh, how nice! At this time I was flying gunner for Major General John H. Hay, Jr., the commanding general of the 1st Infantry Division. It's hard to see in this photo, but I kept my back body plate of armor on my seat. I never wanted to get shot in the ass. As far as my back side goes, I was protected by the metal guts of the chopper and the chest of the gunner on the other side.
A pilot (of course). This is Major Donald Gieseke. See that sliding plate of armor by his arm? That's about all the pilots had for protection.
Business end of an M60 machine gun. The gunner's well in this shot looks a mess. Probably when I was flying one of the brigade commanders - their ships weren't as "plush" as the generals. On the rear panel you can see the ring and hook and part of the monkey harness that kept me from falling out. You can also see part of the armored vest that I would ware.
A Colt 1911 45 caliber. Most pilots and many gunners carried one. When we landed in the bush I would carry it.
OK, you can tell I was sucking in my gut here.
I can't believe how thin I look here. Several times my mother sent me a special chocolate milk mix to help put weight on.... It didn't work....
In flight. Top Gun! We generally flew anywhere from tree top level to 1,000 feet.
I'm just trying to be cute here....
Another...."friend of mine"....actually, she was a waitress at a little restaurant (for lack of a better term) at Lai Khe base camp.
My fearless crew chief, Randy Nead (one of many crew chiefs I had during my tour). This was an earlier helicopter- the longhorn insignia was colored white (idiots). Later, the insignia on all Longhorns were colored black. I was on several longhorn choppers over the many months.
This is the M60D 7.62mm machine gun. Commonly used on Huey helicopters- a modification of the same gun the infantry used. It fired 550 rounds/minute. This "D" model had spade grips and bullseye gun site (useless in flight). Some barrels had bipod legs- some didn't. Bipod legs were a good idea if you crashed-landed and needed a weapon. I didn't use the barrel with legs while in flight (too much drag), but kept a spare barrel which did have them. A pintle gun mount was used on the Hueys I flew on.
OK, there's a story behind this. Bringing in our crashed chopper. Yup, we crashed - right after take-off. This is the next day. After putting this mess down on the ground they tore the tail off - I guess because it was hanging on so weakly.
Here you can see the tear in the tail. OK, keep reading.
We weren't shot down- it was dirt and dust that blinded the pilot and crystalized dust that accumulated in the engine and it reduced its power. This was just after taking off from an infantry perimeter. It was low altitude and two men jumped out. One was crushed by the chopper and died shortly later. The other man had the meat on his leg sliced down to the bone by the blade. You don't want to jump! Ride the storm! This happened March 17, 1967.
Hey, a little bondo and she'll be as good as new.
Another view of our crashed Huey. What a damn mess! It was shortly after takeoff and we weren't that high. When I realized we were going to crash - and on my side - I locked my machine gun in the 6 o'clock position and sat back as far as I could. When we crashed the ground was so close to my face I could have kissed it. Holy shit!
His name was John Aust. He was a maintenance chief for a small bubble observation chopper, I believe it's called the H13. Later, He managed to get transferred to the Longhorn Hueys as a crew chief/door gunner. He's the soldier that got his leg sliced down to the bone when we crashed.
Lai Khe air strip and the Longhorn helipad. I wouldn't call it a heliport because there were no facilities there. We pissed on the trees.
Another view of Lai Khe and the helipad in the background. I remember walking this path a lot of times (it stuck in my mind because of the triangle the roads formed).
This is what Lai Khe air strip is suppose to look today. I doubt if even this exists anymore. If you look on Google Earth, everything looks gone and all developed.
C-130. Loud SOBs. I flew in one just once in the infantry.
I don't know where.
I don't know where.
The base was huge. The center road shown below is the infamous Highway 13.
Bob Hope Show Lai Khe 1967.
Bob Hope Show 1967.
Bob Hope Show 1967. Notice the red clay stain on the helmets of these infantrymen.
Bob Hope Show 1967. Are you there? I'm somewhere in that crowd.
Bob Hope Show 1967.
Bob Hope Show 1967. After the show, we flew Bob Hope in the Longhorn chopper to another airfield.
I had no life in the infantry. We referred to the United States as "the world". I did buy a small cheap camera to take to the field, but roles of film got lost or destroyed because of the elements, and then my camera broke. Nothing lasted in the bush. I didn't even slightly enjoy things until I got into aviation. Yeah, war is hell and all that shit, but in aviation I was able to sleep in a hooch or at least in a full-sized tent with bunk beds, eat actual hot food and every now and then I was able to go to town and make new "friends" at a local bar.
When I flew with MG John Hay I often ate the same food he did. Frequently I would sneak into the general's mess tent (literally crawled under barb wire) where his cooks were preparing steaks and other goodies, and they fed me right there in the "kitchen". Yes, I gained a little clout being the gerneral's gunner.
PHOTO GROUP ONE
She looks a lot like "Suzie". Good ol' Suzie. We became very close "friends"....
2.7 million men served in Vietnam during the official Vietnam era of August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975. And yet, according to the 2000 census, 13.8 million claimed to have served there!
That's a lot of wannabes....