5:11 | Dick Dyer was in college ROTC when he was offered the chance to learn to fly. The program was geared to a private pilot license but the instructor was a a World War II flying ace. This gave him an advantage when he was commissioned and sent to flight school to learn to fly helicopters.
Keywords : Dick Dyer Ann Arbor MI Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) pilot Western Michigan University flight training instructor check ride Field Artillery Fort Sill 28th Field Artillery Regiment 175 mm gun Fort Wolters Hiller OH-23 Raven Hughes TH-55 Osage helicopter
After his initial aviation training, Dick Dyer was sent to Fort Rucker, where he learned to pilot Hueys, the Bell UH-1 helicopter used by the Army. He knew he was slated for Vietnam and he was prepared for that. What he was not prepared for was his father's reaction.
Dick Dyer and Jim Thorne were in flight school together and they both were deployed to Vietnam with the 145th Aviation Battalion flying Hueys. There was a great need for pilots and every one of them practically had a helicopter strapped on.
He received ground fire on his first combat mission. Dick Dyer was co-pilot in a Huey and he saw tracers for the first time which was a little unnerving. He felt sorry for the villagers caught in the battle, as he watched gunships blast away at the Viet Cong. Later, he noticed the pilot had let the engine RPM get much lower than he had been taught was safe. This was the beginning of a valuable lesson.
It was a forward element for purposes of quick reaction. Dick Dyer was part of a deployment of a few helicopters to a nearby rubber plantation without any additional security. That didn't last long. They went back to Bien Hoa air base, where the pilots and crew lived off base in an interesting arrangement.
In Vietnam, helicopter pilot Dick Dyer was reminded of what he was taught in ROTC, that you can't get too close to the enlisted men and non-commissioned officers. When he wasn't flying, he corresponded with his wife and family and even a few random citizens who got his name from the paper back home.
Helicopter pilot Dick Dyer was sent to pickup supplies from a ship in the Mekong Delta, but when he approached, the call sign and frequency he was given for contact elicited no reply. Circling the ship, he saw other helicopters land and take off so he went on in. Then he got an earful.
Asked to describe what happened on the mission when he was shot down, Dick Dyer has to ask, "Which one?" During the first incident, he had to land immediately, but everyone was OK. The second time, people were shot, but the aircraft was able to limp home.
During the Tet Offensive of 1968, Dick Dyer and other helicopter pilots and crew, manned the berms with their personal weapons as the night lit up with fire of all kinds. The next day, there was a rush to transport many troops to new positions to respond to the widespread attacks.
The call went out. There was a unit in trouble and they needed casualties evacuated. Huey pilot Dick Dyer responded, but as he was taking off with the wounded, there was a loud boom. He settled back on the ground and then he heard from his crew chief. This helicopter wasn't going anywhere.
When he returned from his first tour in Vietnam, The Beatles' Hey Jude welcomed him home. Nobody else did. After a couple of years stateside, Dick Dyer returned to the embattled country, this time north of Da Nang. He felt that the command structure there was always putting him in a bad situation.
What was Operation Lam Son 719 like? To helicopter pilot Dick Dyer, it was a "gaggle." There were so many aircraft flying at once, it seemed to him like hundreds. A recurring problem on these big troop movements was overloading caused by eager soldiers. On occasion, the pilots were tasked with transporting reporters.
The veterans today have it easier than Dick Dyer did when he returned from Vietnam. The mood is supportive, and when he wears his Vietnam Veteran hat, he gets a little of the love he missed back in the day. He is very proud of the role that helicopter pilots like himself played in the war.
As Marine Captain Ron Christmas fought to regain the city of Hue, he found the enemy adept at concealment and surprise. Every soldier in a spider hole was armed with a rifle and a RPG launcher. He also encountered a nun with an AK-47. His action during this time earned him the Navy Cross.
After some intense time in-country, Bob Averill and his battalion got the chance to take a brief leave to the beach for some recovery time. Following his time on Hill 174, Averill was reassigned to command a Combined Action Company, taking him away from Hotel Company and into a new area of operations.
The RPG that severed Joe McDonald’s foot didn’t kill him. The machine gun fire that hit him as he still tried to help others didn’t kill him. The grenade taped to his hand might have killed him if the VC had found his hiding place.
In a letter home, Tommy Clack expressed his worry that something bad was going to happen and it did when his unit engaged the NVA near the Cambodian border. He saw the enemy soldier stand and fire the RPG that changed his life forever.
Albert Watson discuses the differences in tactics between operating in the delta and operating in the jungle. Encounters with wildlife were constant, from giant centipedes to elephants. Eventually, Watson was made Executive Officer where he had the headache of issuing constantly changing scrip.
The airliner was full of young soldiers and Marines, who left the cold of Spokane for the heat and humidity of Vietnam. Albert Watson was assigned to the 199th Light Infantry Brigade, a unit specifically designed for the asymmetric war in Vietnam. Most of his time was spent in the flat delta, where you could see for miles. When they were sent north on an operation, the visibility in the jungle was more like five feet.
After Khe Sanh, Bob Averill and his division shipped down to Cam Lo, where they faced ample NVA fire. Here, he had to take the lead on throwing a grenade into the enemy bunker, leading to a close call as he quickly retreated away from the blast.
There were booby traps galore in the Mekong Delta where platoon leader Albert Watson served most of his tour. His unit managed to avoid any injuries from them until they were sent north into the jungle, where they were tougher to spot. The men had to be crossed trained because of the constant rotation of troops. You had to be able to step into another role to cover for someone who was no longer there.
There was a new Brigadier General and Albert Watson was assigned to him as an aide. General William R. Bond was quite a character with a distinguished career, including escaping from German activity and rolling into Berlin with the Russians. He liked to be in the field with his men and that proved to be his undoing.
Coming home from Vietnam was not pleasant for Albert Watkins. His mother was there at the airport to meet him as he was cursed and spit on by protestors. His parents got harassing phone calls at their home. He felt he had done what was right and he made the Army a career, which helped him get over the divided situation in the country.
Newly commissioned out of ROTC, Albert Watson got to know Fort Benning really well. After his basic course, he went through Ranger school and Airborne school. At his first assignment, a very capable sergeant taught him how to be a platoon leader.
When getting the orders to join his Combined Action Platoon, Doc Groulx thought through the idea of helping his wounded soldiers make it home alive and decided it was worth it. Making relationships with the Vietnamese people was essential to their success as a group.
There are certain memories and sensations that bring Bob Averill back to the Vietnam War and, though they were hard times, he has some memories that he won't forget. Thinking back on the war, he would like future generations to remember the sacrifices that were made by everyone involved.