5:31 | Normally, a door gunner would not fly his last month in country, but Steve Long finagled his way into the air. In his other job in the avionics shop, he had a run-in with the new officer in charge. He got a little satisfaction the night after he got his orders home.
Keywords : Steve Long Vietnam door gunner Butterbar efficiency tools Aviation Electrical Systems Technician avionics drunk bicycle (bike)
He was an indifferent student until an assistant principle suggested he get involved with the International Relations Club. He saw something in Steve Long and challenged him to do more.
He was real good at baseball, but not so good at sociology. He gave college a go, but it just didn't work out, so Steve Young enlisted in the Marines. This led to a good news, bad news situation with his father.
Steve Long was on a bus headed to Marine boot camp when he encountered his first DI, barking orders. He thought he was getting a plum job while marching, but road guard turned out to be not so good. He did enjoy meeting recruits from a wide variety of backgrounds, which was new to him.
Basic training was physically and mentally demanding, so tough that it was too much for one recruit. Steve Long recalls how that incident was used for more enlightenment from the DI.
The DI had drilled the young Marines well, and on the eve of their graduation from boot camp, he had a sobering prediction to make. Steve Long's response was one of bravado and then he was off to infantry school.
Marine Steve Long was at his first post as an avionics technician when he told his officer that he wanted to go to Vietnam. They needed him there, and tried to placate him with some specialty schools, but when he returned, he asked again.
Marine Steve Long was visiting family before he shipped out to Vietnam. His grandmother introduced him to a friend, who had a son in the Marine Corps. When he found out who it was, he could hardly believe it.
It started 45 minutes out from Da Nang with a sobering announcement from the pilot. Then there was the oven-like climate, the surprise machine gun fire, the ribbing from the old-timers. Steve Long was definitely in Vietnam.
He was learning the ropes at the Marble Mountain helicopter base. Avionics technician Steve Long had to pivot to Hueys because he'd trained on different aircraft. There were other duties, like working in the officers mess, which turned out to be a great deal. The cook liked him so much, he got a parting gift.
It was hot in Vietnam, so avionics technician Steve Long took off his shirt before he climbed into an access hatch. He felt someone pulling on his leg and yelled something not altogether complimentary. Then he realized who it was.
Steve Long had settled into the routine at Marble Mountain. The helicopters were kept flying and he was getting kind of salty. One day his friend told him that Bob Hope was doing a show in Da Nang. You want to go?
Only results mattered to the night crew at Marble Mountain. Marine avionics technician Steve Long led the crew and they set records for keeping the helicopter systems working. One day, an NCO told him an aircraft was down waiting on a part. That didn't sound right.
He maintained the avionics on the Hueys, but Steve Long also flew as a gunner when he could to get that sweet extra $60 a month. The missions were varied, covering other aircraft or supporting troops on the ground. He began to get skeptical when the powers that be decided to limit the munitions they were allowed to carry.
A Huey gunner's gear included a ceramic plate vest and an M-79 grenade launcher. The first for the air and the second for the ground, if you wound up there. Steve Long recalls the "sniffer" missions, where you flew low and fast to pick up enemy formations with air sampling equipment.
A door gunner got to know which pilots were the best. One thing was sure, remembers Steve Long, you don't want to fly with the C.O. while he's getting in his flight time. In between the action, he saw some great scenery from the air. He flew in a Huey, often in coordination with Cobras and F-4 Phantoms.
Steve Long was on the ground overnight at An Hoa when the base came under mortar fire. He recalls the selfless action of his hosts there, who protected the visiting Huey crew as best they could. He lost a good friend in another incident, made more tragic by the unusual circumstances.
Steve Long enjoyed his company in the avionics shop and in his hooch as well. There was one new arrival who announced that he was in love. When the others found out with whom, the teasing was unmerciful.
There was a little trick the crew chiefs would play on the door gunners to see if they were doing their check list. Steve Long recalls the time this led to a salvo of rockets being fired at some fish. In their off hours, he and his hooch mates "acquired" various amenities for their billet.
His first experience with Vietnamese civilians was quite embarrassing. As time went on, Steve Long began to feel sorry for them, especially the children. The craters he saw while aloft in the Huey were a reminder of the awful firepower being used.
Returning from Vietnam was not traumatic for Steve Long. No protestors and a loving family to meet him. He had a year to go on his enlistment and, by luck, he got a good post. He declined all entreaties to stay in the Marines, not the least of which was their final pitch.
Steve Long's time as an avionics technician in the Marines influenced his post Vietnam career in a very positive way. He finished his basic college courses in New York and then went to Georgia Tech for the engineering degree.
Newly minted electrical engineer Steve Long embarked on his post-Vietnam career as a draftsman. That did not last long. He lucked into a role managing the introduction of computer aided design, known as CAD, into the engineering and architectural workplace.
It took a while for Vietnam veteran Steve Long to process the experience in his mind, but after a while, he began to get involved with organizations and reunions, which he learned to appreciate dearly.
Steve Long hopes that we learned from the Vietnam experience, but he isn't so sure, with the ambivalence of the more recent wars. He does know one thing, please get rid of that Nancy Sinatra song.
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.
Originally from East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Bert Johnson was raised by parents who were both in medical units in the second world war. They urged him to go to West Point to get his college education, but instead he wound up going to Case Western Reserve for a year. After that he was accepted into Harvard, but got drafted after a semester. He was sworn into the Army and went to Fort Dix, New Jersey for basic training.
When he got to Vietnam, Saunders landed in Tan Son Nhut in Saigon. He was placed in a replacement depot for a few days until the Army had somewhere to put him. He talks about the men he flew over with, and what kind of jobs awaited him when he arrived in country.
Growing up with polio could have meant Bill Knowlton would’ve been unlikely to ever serve in the military, but in his favor he was able to join the Army after he got fed up working on Wall Street. Being placed in Airborne really gave him a love for the Army so he decided to take on more responsibility and go to Officer Candidate School.
Saunders remembers assault missions he went on in helicopters, and what weekly life was like out in the jungles of Vietnam. He describes it as vivid memory bursts of combat followed by weeks at a time of nothing. Because of this, he can only remember the instances of combat and not much about what he did in his downtime.
When he came back to the states, protests against the Vietnam War by students was at an all time high. Because of this, he and many others kept their service a secret while attending college. After some time he attended law school and got through it mostly without anyone finding out he was in the service. He gives advice to future generations as well as nods to people who made an impact on him while he was in the military.
Coming out of Officer Candidate School, Bill Knowlton would be assigned to the Special Forces which had already done a lot of work in Vietnam. In fact, some members had already done multiple tours there, and he recalls the tragic story of one who was trying to go back to support his comrades. After another long stint of training, he’d get his orders to Vietnam.
After he came home, Saunders made an effort to reconnect with his old war buddies and they reconnected at the 50th anniversary of the formation of the Army Airborne in 1990. He remembers people who were an inspiration to him during his time in the Army, and makes meaningful reflections on his past.
Before he went to Vietnam, Johnson went to Ranger school. He talks about the preparations he made for Vietnam and his flight trip over in October 1968. Once there for a little while he was assigned to a helicopter unit. He describes his first experiences in the new country and what it was like on a daily basis.
When Bill Knowlton arrived in Vietnam, he found himself under fire in no time. His assignment was to assist the locals in developing and defending their livestock and agriculture from the Viet Cong, He remembers calling for support during one firefight and seeing something he’d never seen before.
Once the battle of LZ Carolyn settled down, Johnson went to go fire a few rounds at the enemy and accidentally wound up injuring himself very badly in the head. When he was taken to the doctor who was going to operate on him, he was still conscious and so had to sign release forms. He had a nice interaction with the doctor, who he found out also went to Harvard. Once his tour was over, he went back to Harvard in September of 1969.
Ron Schuh served two tours in the skies over Southeast Asia and he has some pointed words of advice for our political leaders. He says we learned from our lessons in Vietnam for a while, but we have slipped back into a strategic dysfunction. He remembers a mission briefing which exposed a major shortcoming, the training for combat.
When his tour was ending, the Special Forces camp was being transitioned to be operated by the RFPFs. While they were doing training in the field, a MAC-V group came to be pinned down and Bill Knowlton recalls taking a group of men to pull them out, for which he was awarded the Silver Star.
Tom Seybold is originally from Stony Brook on Long Island, New York. Although his father died when he was five, his mother took on the role of single parent. He never actually graduated from high school, and instead went straight to basic training when he was old enough. He had orders to go to Fort Bragg to be in the 82nd Airborne, but quickly transferred to Fort Wolters. After that he had orders to join the 582nd Aviation Company in France, and was then sent near Soc Trang Vietnam for the war.
While over in Vietnam, unfortunately Bert Johnson was one of the many that fell victim to Malaria, supposedly from a mosquito bite. Luckily, he was able to recover and survive the rest of his tour. On one mission he was told to recover two bodies, and in addition he remembers his first time finding dead. He was also there for the battle of LZ Carolyn.
On his second tour in Vietnam, Bill Knowlton was sent to the 3rd Battalion, where he was tasked with cleaning out ambush sites. He was promoted to Company Commander where he visited his platoons and taught them how to fight.
Saunders remembers a few significant close calls, one of which was when he and a few other men were undercover in an enemy base camp spying on some North Vietnamese. A group of NVA walked right past them and they were lucky that they never made a sound the entire time.
Johnson explains more experiences from his time in Vietnam, such as the interactions he had with protecting Vietnamese civilians living in a local village, creating and setting booby traps, and interaction with wildlife. While in foxholes, some men killed a wild boar and tried to cook it in their foxhole and failed.
Bill Knowlton was sent to the Battle of Whiskey Mountain on the outskirts of Phan Thiet. The fighting was extremely close due to the heavy bamboo, and quickly he lost his platoon and squad leaders. He recalls the extreme consequences of this battle, which earned him his second Silver Star.
Another close call that Saunders talks about is the time he was sleeping on a mine, and another time where one of the helicopters went down. He had a few interactions with the wildlife there and worked indirectly with ARVN troops. There were a few humorous stories too, one of which happened during an ambush. (Caution: Some strong content.)
F-4 pilot Ron Schuh recounts two missions from his first tour in Vietnam, one of which earned him a Silver Star. In that one, his job was to mark targets with smoke and he went back repeatedly in the face of fierce ground fire. In the other, he decided to stage a surprise strafing run on a Pathet Lao ping pong game.
Stephen Saunders is originally from Brodhead Wisconsin, and his father was part of the effort in the Pacific in the Army during World War II. Saunders wanted to be a paratrooper, and so he signed up for the Army and went to Fort Knox for basic training, and then to Fort Benning for jump school.
Bill Knowlton tell the story of a close friend of his, Terry Weaver, who was paralyzed by a flechette round during battle. That didn’t stop him from living a great life after the war.
The officers club at Udorn was a lively place and even led to the writing of a book, remembers F-4 pilot Ron Schuh. His first stop back home after his first tour was Chicago in the dead of winter, quite a change from the tropics. The hot climate made the pilots dislike a new flame retardant flight suit, until it kept someone from getting seriously injured.
Bill Knowlton got a new assignment after working on Revolutionary Development. Sent to Detachment A4, he’d end up joining a group that would fight in the Battle of Nui Coto. The Composition Force made up of Vietnamese and other mercenary groups of Southeast Asia would go up against entrenched NVA and VC soldiers.
It was an intense three day search and rescue operation. A downed American pilot survived by crawling into a river bank, remembers F-4 pilot Ron Schuh. His own missions carried a high risk of being shot down. He describes one in which the radio was crackling with three emergency situations, all happening at the same time.