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ARVN - Army of the Republic of Vietnam

My last tour in Vietnam was as an airmobile advisor to the VNAF in II Corps at Pleiku while assigned to Air Force Advisory Team 6. I found the VNAF helicopter squadrons were much criticized by the US military services, in particular, the Army. Some of the criticism was deserved, most was not.

Typical of the VNAF helicopter criticism was that which came to my attention in September 1972. The ranger border camp at Duc Co had been besieged by a reinforced two battalion NVA force for about three weeks and was in desperate need of 105mm howitzer ammunition resupply. VNAF CH-47s supported by VNAF gunships attempted to sling load munitions into the camp, but reported heavy enemy small arms and anti-aircraft fire on approach to the camp. The U.S. Army colonel advisor summoned me to his office for a berating. He told me the VNAF pilots were simply "chicken" and that there was not any consequential enemy fire. I told the colonel that if he allowed his captain horseholder to accompany me, we would ride aboard the next CH-47 resupply mission to Duc Co. About a mile out from the camp, the gunships reported that we were receiving fire, but we took no hits. At about a half mile out we started to take small arms and receive 12.7mm machine gun hits with so many pings that only the 12.7mm machine-gun hits could be counted. The door-gunner took a hit in the thigh and fell onto the troop seats to be attended to by the U.S. Army ranger captain while the flight engineer sprayed his CO2 fire extinguisher into the many 12.7mm bullet holes to extinguish the electrical system fires. I took over the door gun and poured fire on the enemy troops less than 100 feet below us on short final. I recall that I could clearly see their faces and see them shooting at us while I was shooting at them. The zapping of rounds past my ears was fierce and the pinging of rounds hitting the Chinook was constant. After punching off our ammo load into the camp, the pilots wanted to make a forced landing into the mine fields surrounding the camp, but I yelled for them to climb and get out of the area. I knew we would be goners if we went down in an open mine field and preferred to take my chances in the jungle. At any rate, we made it back to Pleiku Air Base and landed on the runway. The area below the Chinook quickly became flooded with JP-4 leaking from the shot up bird. That Chinook never flew again. My last words to the Army captain were "You tell your colonel about this and if I EVER hear him say again that the VNAF pilots are 'chicken' I will take it personal." The colonel later called me to apologize. - courtesy of David A. Measels

Image courtesy of David A. Measels

Image courtesy of David A. Measels

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