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.
After the column was devastated by an NVA ambush, wounded Americans were scattered in the darkness. After his captain heard one such group calling for help on the radio, Freddie Owens joined a patrol to find them, guided by a gunshot every few minutes. Once there, medic Daniel Torres volunteered to stay with those who couldn't move and protected them through the night with medicine and a machine gun.
They were hunkered down after fierce fighting when the call came from "Ghost 4-6." It was a group of wounded men who had pulled themselves together after the ill fated march to LZ Albany and were lost in the dark. George Forrest sent a patrol to find them, and in an incredible act of bravery, medic Daniel Torres stayed through the night with them and saved many men. Captain Forrest still had to write a gut-wrenching letter to the mother of a missing soldier. Part 3 of 4.
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.
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.
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.
Jack Martin had no close personal relationships with Vietnamese civilians during his tour, but the children who gathered whenever he stopped his jeep were friendly and curious. They were interested in a physical trait that Americans had that none of them shared. He also hosted the occasional USO visitor, including Tarzan, who refused a helmet.
The Marines did what they could to help villagers with sanitation and health needs, but Michael Marshall could feel the chilly distance between them. His company commander was Captain Jerome Cooper, who held an important distinction.
As a battalion commander, Army engineer Jack Martin had a host of problems. From whether there were enough personnel to get the job done to keeping wayward enlisted men from abusing the Vietnamese civilians. Then there was the grim task of writing condolence letters.
He was used to discipline, so Marine boot camp wasn't so bad for Michael Marshall. When the drill instructor asked if anyone was unhappy and wanted to go to the Army, he thought surely no one would step forward.
Army engineer Jack Martin was offered his choice of assignments. It could be Korea or Vietnam and he hated cold weather so much, he chose Vietnam. His first assignment was at a desk in Long Binh, but his career got a boost when he was offered command of a battalion. He jumped at the chance and faced a host of challenging situations.
What was it like moving through thick jungle? Michael Marshall answers that question and more as he recalls his time in Vietnam. He loved his M14 rifle, but he wasn't too crazy about the C-rations and the old grenades.
Mike Law remembers some of the mechanics behind the explosives they used in Vietnam. Learning the intricacies of the aircrafts and detonatives they used was essential. The connections he made during his time in the service are still with him today.
With not much time left in country, Mike Law remembers being apprehensive about flying with the fear of getting shot down right before he went home. Seeing old friends that he served with was always nostalgic and brought back good memories.
When he stepped off the plane in Da Nang, Michael Marshall knew this was not a place you wanted to be. It was hot and there was a strange smell. Within days, he was with his Marine unit at An Hoa, providing security for bridge building engineers. It did not take long before he saw death.
His first assignment as a new platoon leader was to guard the base at Tan Son Nhut. This gave Greg Camp a chance to get to know his men. On his first foray into the field at night, he was positive he heard somebody crawling up to his position. All night long.
Mike Law remembers finishing school with plenty of flying time where he felt like he began to get proficient at flying. Operating his aircraft in Vietnam was always difficult with the NVA constantly shifting and having to learn their changing routes.
It was early in the battle when Michael Marshall pointed to the machine gunner to show him where to set up his weapon. An enemy round tore into his arm and he was knocked to the ground. The rapid response of his buddies and the evacuation team was outstanding. Back home, his employer before the war continued the good work.
Mike Law remembers some of his more memorable kills over the jungles of Vietnam and some of the funny events that can come from that. Building camaraderie overtime was very easy as the guys got used to serving next to one another.
Grady Birdsong remembers one of the funny moments during training. At Fort Pendleton, he went to basic electronics school and was passed despite not passing the class. Arriving in Vietnam, the humidity stuck with him as being one of the hardest parts about transitioning into lifer there.
Off the coast of Hue City, Grady Birdsong and his battalion set up to siege the beach, but fortunately nothing ended up happening. Once they got to a temporary basecamp, they began to prepare for a more legitimate field of defense.