7:53 | His first Vietnam tour was like a romantic adventure, a young man off doing macho stuff. When he left for his second tour, he had a wife and a child, so it was quite different. This time he was a helicopter pilot and a captain, although he deferred to lower ranking pilots who were more experienced. Now he would really learn to fly by picking up on and perfecting the things they can't teach you in flight school.
Keywords : Mike Waugh Vietnam helicopter pilot McChord Air Force Base Cam Ranh Bay Long Binh check ride
His father was career Army, sent to Saigon in 1954 as part of the initial effort to aid the South Vietnamese after the French withdrew. Mike Waugh noticed as the war heated up all through his college years and when he took an ROTC commission after graduation, he knew he would be going. He got his first choice of assignments, the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell.
Mike Waugh came into Vietnam as a replacement, like so many others. Assigned to an artillery battery as a forward observer, he was immediately sent to assist a MIKE Strike Force, which was Special Forces and Montagnard militia. The enemy never materialized and he learned how the elite troops overcame boredom in the field.
On his thirty day foray into the field with the Special Forces, Mike Waugh thought he would be in a hot area, but it was quiet. The Montagnards on the operation supplemented the C-rations with some delicious food and, when they returned to Pleiku, he was invited to dinner with their commander.
Mike Waugh rotated through nearly every job for a Lieutenant in the artillery unit. At one point, his battery was split and he took three guns to a a nearby spot called LZ Pony. Halfway through his tour, he was moved to battalion headquarters, where he was responsible for the firing of many batteries.
He did not experience anything negative on his return from his first tour of Vietnam. In fact, when he went to see his fiance, every home on the street had an American flag out for him. Unfortunately, his next assignment was not to his liking, so he applied for flight school, which had always been a desire.
The hardest part of helicopter flight school is learning how to hover. Mike Waugh finally mastered it when his instructor uttered an expletive. After his training, he had to take a non-flying assignment as he waited for a likely return to Vietnam. It was good duty because he got to participate in the testing of new technology.
When he returned to Vietnam, helicopter pilot Mike Waugh was working solely with South Vietnamese troops. On one operation, he flew over an enemy force that was poised to ambush truck traffic and his helicopter was hit. He had to put it down, but it was in a safe area. He realized that everyone was looking at him funny and, once he got his helmet off, he found out why.
Mike Waugh's unit stood down while he was in Vietnam and the personnel were dispersed across the country, although the American presence was shrinking quickly. For his last mission, he had to fly a stripped down aircraft to a transhipment point, a mission that, oddly, he considered his most dangerous.
He surprised his wife after returning from his second Vietnam tour, but then his dog surprised him. Mike Waugh had planned to make the Army a career, but it didn't work out, so he was worried about what he would do. He mailed out resumes and got one reply.
It was the defining moment of his life. Mike Waugh was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and he has some insightful observations on the way the war was fought, the reasons it was fought that way, and the legacy it holds today.
McMahon becomes part of the Combined Action Program (CAP), working with Vietnamese militia to protect villages from Viet Cong thugs. On one occasion, the village is spared from enemy attack by an army artillery unit acting without orders. He and the villagers develop a bond that would last for decades.
With great difficulty, Sardo Sanchez recounts critical events that prove both devastating and fortunate. After taking the life of a VC soldier, he is hit by a sniper and told he may never walk again. In a state of shock, he narrowly avoids a fatal miscalculation.
Under heavy fire, choppers attempt to evacuate wounded GIs from Kontum. After one fatal crash, a dustoff chopper manages to lift Ernest Banasau to safety. Years later, Banasau meets the pilot who saved him, and learns how close he came to meeting a tragic fate. Part 2 of 2
He made Buck Sergeant about the time he figured out that he and his buddies were basically fighting for each other and for no other reason. They were taking a large bunker complex and when two others were under fire, he went out to get them. After the fight was over, he was disturbed to learn what his superiors intended to do about the enemy base.
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.
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.
Growing up in Philadelphia to single mother, James Holmes was raised to work hard during his entire upbringing. Being an athlete all of high school, he decided to join the Army at age 17, trained and shipped off to Germany.
Dealing with the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army, they had to adapt to combating the many tactics of the enemy forces. The guerilla tactics of the VC in addition to the well-trained and equipped NVA was a great danger to American forces in Vietnam.
James Holmes remembers one particular hairy encounter from Vietnam that they managed to get out of with minimal casualties. On the final day, the NVA attempted a final push to get out of the village and the company had to push back on the attack.
Paul Hart remembers his time in flight training at Fort Rucker before his deployment to Vietnam. After landing in Bien Hoa and getting processed, he was sent to the 1st Cavalry Division which was based out of An Khe. Paul was assigned to support the men on the ground as they patrolled the hills and valleys of Vietnam.
Paul Hart remembers growing up with some military influence in his family when he got his notice to report for a physical. He remembers not really knowing much about the conflict in Vietnam during the time of his joining.
James Holmes remembers shipping off to Vietnam just before his 21st birthday. Since he had 4 years military experience, his leadership was essential to the success of their unit while stationed over there.
Returning home from Vietnam, James Holmes and other Vietnam vets had a lot to get used to about civilian life. James took great strides to take care of himself after his time and the service, and he reflects on the Vietnam conflict and the miscommunication between Washington D.C. and the men on the ground.
In 1967, General Westmoreland called for more troops in Vietnam, which President Johnson later approved. Grady Birdsong and his battalion were called into Hue City in 1968 to run support on the canal areas near the citadel.
Paul Hart remembers two of his good friends from flight school, Ralph and Wylie. Helicopter pilots had a high risk of injury and death, but even decades later, Paul remembers these men and what happened to them both during and after Vietnam.
Returning home, Grady Birdsong remembers not telling people he was a veteran and having to watch the war be lost on national TV. Being treated with disrespect after all he had been through was a very upsetting thing to have to go through.