9:47 | He considered it a day at the office, but on that day, helicopter pilot Roger Cox helped save an infantry platoon's bacon, landed in the middle of a fire fight in an attempted rescue, exhausted all his ammo trying to keep the men on the ground safe, and got shot down just for good measure.
Keywords : Roger Cox helicopter pilot Vietnam ambush B40 rocket Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) murder badge
Growing up as a Mormon in Utah, Roger Cox had a conservative outlook during the turbulent politics of the Sixties. He very much wanted to fly, and when the other services insisted on a college degree for flight school, he enlisted in the Army, which had a program for anyone who had the necessary talents.
Roger Cox was woefully unaware of the wider world when he was plunked down in Vietnam as a wide eyed nineteen year old. Why was there a swastika on that building? Why the strange reaction from one of the workers on the base when he met her on the street?
The air cavalry attached to the armored cavalry had the job of supporting the ground unit. When Roger Cox got to Vietnam, he became a Cobra gunship pilot. Each Cobra was paired with a smaller scout helicopter in a hunter-killer team. After a couple of months, he switched to scout pilot, which had some advantages that appealed to him.
Due to his religion, Roger Cox did not drink, smoke or swear. This caused some teasing from his fellow pilots in Vietnam, but he hung around while they drank, absorbing their advice and experiences. He realized he had the necessary skill set and became very good at dominating a fight with the enemy on the ground.
Visual reconnaissance was one type of mission that scout helicopter pilot Roger Cox flew in Vietnam. When you found some enemy on the ground, you struck first and hard. His other job was to support the infantry platoon of his cavalry unit. When they got into trouble, he went to bail them out.
When helicopter pilot Roger Cox responded to a call for help from an infantry platoon caught in an ambush, he first tried to get the layout of the battlefield. Where are the good guys? Where are the bad guys? Then he went to work.
Helicopter pilot Roger Cox tells the story of his first shoot down, a "good" shoot down. It was good in the sense that he was able to make it to a safe place to land. On another occasion, he came to the aid of another pilot who's shoot down wasn't so good.
Roger Cox wasn't flying that day, but another helicopter pilot from his unit ran into an ambush when he popped over a hill and the enemy on the ground were waiting for him. He was shot up pretty good, but managed to make it back to base where Cox got him to smile about it.
He was immediately recognized as a good scout pilot. Roger Cox started his second year in Vietnam with a new air cavalry unit and he carried on with the tactics he learned in his first year. You have to dominate the fight.
The call went out, infantry platoon in an ambush. Helicopter pilot Roger Cox responded and, during the fight, a Medevac pilot made the unusual decision to go in for the evacuation while the area was still hot. Cox covered him and kept up the fight, even after exhausting all his ammunition, an act which did not go unnoticed.
When the pilots were gathered at the bar, they could not help but laugh at something that happened that day. A platoon leader on the ground was under attack and could not get out any words except expletives.
Helicopter pilot Roger Cox was used to dominating the enemy on the ground, but he tells the story of a time when he knew he was beaten and retreated.
One example of LTC Gene O'Grady's leadership was his response to an incident of errant artillery fire. Bill Crossley remembers that O'Grady made him use a briefcase to look more professional as he arrived to assess the situation. Then he agreed to use the trashcan as a file for some awful paperwork.
When an officer wouldn't let up with the belligerent questions following his grueling, amazing and involuntary debut as a mortar gunner, Bob Atkinson finally just walked away. His actions earned him the respect of his group and he was made squad leader, Part 3 of 3.
Inspired by his father's service, Bob Ballagh excelled at West Point. When he graduated, he found out that due to a short-lived policy, he wouldn't be going to officer's basic training in his field of artillery. Fortunately, in his first deployment to Germany, he encountered a commander who made sure he received the training.
During the evacuation of Vietnamese civilian refugees, a baby died on the USS Kirk despite the best efforts of the corpsman. Captain Paul Jacobs gave the baby a formal military burial at sea. Years later, he got a phone call from that baby's sister.
Why did he join the Navy? Because he got a brown envelope from the Army. Paul Jacobs was already an engineer out of Maine Maritime Academy, so he was commissioned and made Chief Engineer on his first ship, at only twenty one years old. He saw action off the coast of Vietnam on several ships providing support and Naval gunfire.
After a massive relief operation at Khe Sanh, Bob Ballagh was put in command of an artillery battery and right away began dealing with fallout from poor leadership. Two batteries were airlifted to the same spot and the battalion commander failed to deal with it.
Marshall Carter's unit was moving across a big cemetery. Suddenly, the ground gave way and he knew immediately he was falling into a punji pit. Not only were there punji stakes, there was a grenade with a trip wire. The Viet Cong were masters at adapting to American tactics. After steel shanks were added to American boots, the punji traps were made with a sideways closing motion.
When Lowe decided to show up to the Provost Marshal Office to join the Marine Corps, the staff sergeant there gave him a healthy dose of what he should expect as a Marine. Lowe was not intimidated and went on to become a well learned officer candidate.
Among the spoils of Hill 875, Banasau discovers the gruesome remains of the enemy. After witnessing the loss of so many GIs, he feels only satisfaction at the sight of NVA corpses. Nonetheless, a shell-shocked prisoner is mercifully evacuated from the smoldering wreckage.
During Operation Lam Son, Lowe notified Captain Haugen that the slope of the rocks indicated they should take a different path because there was a higher chance of them finding water that way, and so the men continued toward the Quang Tri River. All of a sudden, they came upon a weigh station packed with Viet Cong.
The North Vietnamese had lured the Americans into a trap by attacking a Special Forces camp and setting up an ambush. Col. Hal Moore's air mobile unit was in a fight for its life and Jim Lawrence could hear it in the distance. His unit was called in for support and, after two days of fighting they were told to move out on foot. Part 1 of 5.
After four years of ROTC and even more years of hearing his father and uncle argue over who had it worse in World War II, Larry Jordan secured an appointment to West Point. He was one of only nineteen minority cadets when he entered in 1964. After a thirty five year career, he retired as a Lt. General.
To keep his artillery fire base from being mortared, Bob Ballagh relied on intelligence and pre-planning. Plotting all possible firing sites for the enemy allowed for a very fast response, sometimes even before the offending shell landed.
Kenneth Moorefield remembers two incidents from his time as an advisor to a South Vietnamese unit that gave him a sense of the complexities of that war and its effect on the people. It was a struggle that divided families and provoked deep animosity.
If it had not been for a police line, wounded veteran Armand Chapeau would have been showered with blood and worse by protestors when he disembarked in California. Undeterred by them or his injury, he returned to active duty.
Jim Lawrence could only watch as A-1E Skyraiders turned the tide at the battle of Landing Zone Albany. He'd been shot in the head and couldn't move his legs. After evacuation, the first doctor he saw had a bedside manner that was lacking. Part 5 of 5.
Marshall Carter's battalion commander, Van D. Bell, taught him two valuable lessons which helped make him a successful rifle company commander: aggressiveness and use of supporting arms. Those lessons helped him a lot but nothing could help higher level decision makers who did not realize that Ho Chi Minh was Vietnam's George Washington.