A SCARF TALE
The Storyteller is unknown at this time.
Transcribed and edited by Don Callison,
Copyright 1998. All rights reserved.
One of the additional duties gun crews had was nighttime mortar standby. We had 2 Cobras parked on the ramp near the runway. They were "combat cocked" and ready to scramble at a moment's notice in the event of a mortar attack on our base or to respond to any outlying firebase that might need gun support during the night. We had a little tent to sleep in and it was set up near where the Cobras were parked.
I think I was flying with Nutting that night but I don't remember who was in the other Cobra. It was about midnight. The four of us were all sitting out there on our bunks just BS'ing. Pretty soon, as usual at Dong Tam, the mortars started coming in. So we hop out of our beds and we're running like hell out to the Cobras. As I started to climb up into the back seat I made it about half way in and something caught me around the neck. I couldn't figure out what the hell had a hold of me. I'm half sitting and half on my tiptoes hanging there strangling. Nutting is already in strapped into the front seat and he's shouting, "Come on! Come on! They're coming down the runway"! I heard him and "them"; I yelled back, " I'm trying! I'm trying"!
I groped around behind me and found out that I'd gotten my Cav Scarf caught on the inside canopy door handle. How I did it I'll never know. I was hooked on that thing and I was pulling on it and I couldn't get the damned thing loose. I was damn near choking myself. I tugged, twisted and pulled in every direction but I couldn't get loose. It was kind of like when you're in a panic situation and you just start yanking on everything.
The other Cobra was already started and headed down the runway and I hadn't even turned the blades yet. I kept yanking on the Scarf. I finally had to get my knife out and cut the damned thing off. I just didn't know how it was hooked and holding me. I finally got in the cockpit, didn't strap in, just started cranking it up. The mortar rounds were getting closer. I didn't even wait for the rotor rpm to come up. I'm trying to race the explosions of the mortars coming toward us. I grabbed a hand full of collective pitch. We were just dragging the ship down the runway, bouncing along, catching it on stuff on the runway. The rotor blades were practically coned up in the air trying to get some lift. I was pulling in max power. We couldn't get the damned thing going fast enough to fly. Finally the mortar bursts just walked right on by us. We were still dragging along there on the runway trying to get the damned thing going.
Finally I slowed it to complete stop,
lowered the pitch and got the rotor rpm up and flew the damned thing out
of there. The attack was over by the time we got airborne.