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.
It was a novel method of lighting his position for the helicopter pilots that involved heat tabs and ration cans. Beirne Lovely explains this and then discusses the relative accuracy of two popular Vietnam War movies and his luck in avoiding the psychological effects of the war suffered by so many.
Dennis Haines had seen dead soldiers on stretchers but it was totally different with his friend Jack Kirchner. Dennis had been right there with him in the line of fire. He learned it was best not to be too close to your wartime comrades.
Rody Conway knew that it was a waste of time to be in the infantry and not go into combat, so he pushed to get sent to Vietnam. First was a six-week course on what to expect, like the fact that “friend” and “shoot” was the same word in Vietnamese.
The war changed him for the better, says George Forrest, though it took a while to realize that family was more important than chasing a military career. A visit to Vietnam decades after the conflict made him wonder if it had been worth it. He does know two things, he would have liked a free ticket to a Packers game and he wishes the war was remembered for more than alleged atrocities and stoned troops.
To Ernest Washington, Marine Corps basic training was "12 weeks of football practice." But it became much more serious when the civil rights upheaval of the time spilled over into the military. The beauty of it was the understanding which came from striving together as Marines.
Tired of the dying and killing, reporter Joe Galloway went back to Tokyo to cover Asia for UPI, but he would find himself going back to Vietnam three more times to document the dark descent into chaos.
As an advisor in Vietnam, Bill Hanna faced an unusual obstacle, the cultural phenomenon known as "saving face." This led to some perplexing situations as he tried to school the Vietnamese in running a modern Air Force.
As he flew into Vietnam for the first time, reporter Joe Galloway watched a Buddhist monk dragged off the plane and arrested. That caught his attention, as did the rubber stamp customs process, but what really woke him up was what happened when he was immediately put onto a helicopter and taken into the field.
Being trained in unconventional warfare, Ted Cummings and his division learned about going behind enemy lines and causing massive disruptions in their ongoing processes. In special forces, the key was to train so that there was a fully developed team effort so that the company never had to rely on a single person.
Paul Jacobs took command of the USS Kirk late in 1974. Its deployment was rushed in order to provide humanitarian relief as the war effort crumbled in Vietnam in April of 1975 and people began to flee. Enlisting a tanker to clear the way into Saigon, they began to take on helicopters, pushing them over the side after offloading the people.
Three of Captain Marshall Carter's men who were on a fateful raid with him, went to the battalion commander to tell him what Captain Carter had done during the operation. That conversation worked out well for him, much better than the conversation he had years later with a reporter from WGBH.
As if getting shot in the head wasn’t enough, Dennis Haines had many complications on his road to recovery, including a serious infection. He was amused, however, by the process of molding the plastic plate to cover the missing part of his skull.
When he got to Vietnam, John Craven's buddies were sent south to different units and he was sent north to the 101st Airborne. "I ain't jumping out of no airplane," was his response, but in Vietnam, airborne meant air mobile, deploying by helicopter. After a while, he got the urge to ask to be assigned as a radio operator.
When you set an eighteen year old kid down in a jungle and give him "half the power of the Lord to carry on his hip," it becomes a real concern to restrain him. According to Captain Marshall Carter, once they see their buddies blown away in front of them, they want to shoot anything that moves.
The new concept of mobile troops using helicopters was used extensively in Vietnam. Col. Walt Russell was aboard one when he felt an odd sensation. Reaching up, he felt where a sniper round had blown a hole in his head “the size of a cigarette pack.”
First he had to jump off the Amtrac in a frenzy with extra ammo and full gear on his back. That busted up his knee. The vehicle was repaired and under way again, when he was hit with incoming and knocked off the vehicle in flames. Still, Bob Atkinson wasn't sure he was really hurt.
After a break for grad school, Marshall Carter returned for a second Vietnam tour but this time he was an adviser to the South Vietnamese Marines. He speaks highly of them but says that Gen. Westmoreland's neglect of South Vietnamese forces contributed to their eventual defeat.
Joe Galloway was discouraged with college and was on his way to enlist when he drove by the daily newspaper's building, decided to stop, and asked for a job. Thus began a long career which would take him far from home.