10:49 | The Air Force rescue crews flying the big helicopters known as the Jolly Green Giants began to get respect among the pilots of other services because they excelled at retrieving downed airmen. Pilot Dave Oliver was on one such mission, which was going badly, when the commander asked if was he willing to go in without waiting for backup. The situation was dire for the men on the ground so the answer was affirmative. He would be awarded the Silver Star for this action.
Keywords : Dave Oliver helicopter pilot Vietnam A Shau Valley Golden Triangle rescue Sikorsky HH-3 (Jolly Green Giant) fog of war Jungle Penetrator Silver Star para jumper (PJ)
College graduate Dave Oliver couldn't get hired because the employers knew he might get drafted. Rather than fight it, he went to enlist and asked the recruiter what pays the most money in the military. Flying airplanes, came the answer. He'd never even been in an airplane, but he decided that was what he was going to do.
He didn't have the "hands" for flying jets, but Dave Oliver found that he had the right skills to fly a helicopter. It was a different kind of flying, which required both hands and feet for control. He became a rescue and recovery pilot, based first in North Carolina and then in the Philippines.
The first daily chore for helicopter pilot Dave Oliver was to fly the perimeter of Clark AFB to see where the Filipinos had stolen sections of the fence. His main job was to fly for the survival school, which was using the amazing talents of the local Negritos as an aggressor force. He also had to ferry hot headed generals to and from the golf course.
Dave Oliver thought he was going to die right then and there before he even had a chance to pilot a helicopter. It was the unluckiest of arrival dates in Vietnam, the night the infamous Tet Offensive began. When he emerged from the bunker, he was sent to Da Nang, where his job was rescue and recovery.
When helicopter pilot Dave Oliver ordered paint from Sears for his room, the supply sergeant set the naive newcomer straight. We can get whatever you need. His main job flying out of Da Nang was rescuing personnel on the ground, but there were other things to do, like bringing nurses to the party.
Rescue and recovery pilot Dave Oliver would often have to orbit off the coast of North Vietnam, waiting for a possible call during air strikes. His observations of these operations led him to question the intelligence and motivation of those leading the war effort.
Air rescue pilot Dave Oliver recalls a mission which could have easily been fatal due to a shoulder fired rocket. On another, he had to land in North Vietnam and break out the M-16 to engage in a little ground combat.
In Vietnam, helicopter pilot Dave Oliver and his roommate suspected that the mama-san who was cleaning their room was relieving them of some of their cash. They weren't wrong.
The war was getting hotter, but Dave Oliver's Vietnam tour was over and he headed to a plum post in Hawaii. The rescue and recovery pilot spent the next seven years there retrieving satellite film canisters, among other things. He finished up his Air Force career in the Philippines, where he'd served at the beginning.
Helicopter pilot Dave Oliver was decorated in Vietnam but some things he heard from higher ups while there, and that he heard in documentaries later on, convinced him that the leadership had been badly flawed.
For Dave Oliver, it was a great career in the Air Force. He encourages everyone to spend some time serving their country. When he took his first trip to Washington after the War, he did not anticipate the emotional experience that visiting the Vietnam Memorial would be. Then he saw a friend's name.
Medic Roger Lutz was young and idealistic. He enthusiastically participated in many Medical Civilian Action Programs, or MEDCAPS, while he was in Vietnam. He really enjoyed treating the villagers, more than he did treating the scammers trying to get sent to the rear with a self-inflicted injury.
It wasn't any ragtag Viet Cong, it was a battalion of NVA that was assaulting the artillery battery where Sammy Davis was stationed in the Mekong Delta. After an RPG hit his gun, he regained consciousness and found his position nearly overrun. After firing every round he had, he saw a wounded American on the other side of the river. He knew what he had to do and his actions brought him consideration for the nation's highest military honor, the Medal of Honor.
When you're under fire, you drop to the ground. When you're the medic and someone is shot, you have to crawl on the ground to the wounded man, hence the term "Lizard." Roger Lutz describes the job of a Lizard in Vietnam, when he was doing exactly that.
It was the most intense action he saw during the war. Mike Morris describes the hour long battle with an NVA unit that made an unusual frontal assault. When daylight came, it was a grim scene, with hundreds of enemy dead.
When someone at work made a comment that America had lost the Vietnam War, Roye Wilson was shocked. Our soldiers never lost a battle there. The politicians decided they would leave and they did. To him, it was an honorable enterprise and the only right course at the time and it is his belief that it contributed to the fall of Soviet communism.
Following a harrowing first day of combat, Tom Buchan was surprised to find hot food flown in and cots to sleep on. He managed to finally get himself on a tank crew through sheer will and intelligence. It was the day he helped out one of the APC crews, though, that earned him recognition.
It was hard to find the enemy. Charlie would disappear into his holes and only come out once the Marines of Mike company had left. Richard Jackson's men tried probing the ground with sharp sticks, but they broke too easily. What they needed was steel. Thus was born the "Mike Spike." Part 1 of 2.
There was incoming fire all the time, recalls medic Roger Lutz, whose unit was fighting its way toward Khe Sanh where Marines were besieged. He was way too close to a B-52 strike and then he was cut off from all resupply for days during this hard fought battle. Part 2 of 3.
While he was beginning his shift as the night duty officer, Lawson Magruder would marvel at the wrecked helicopters brought back to base. The brigade had moved and tactics had not been adjusted for the fact that there were anti-aircraft batteries up near the DMZ. He relates the story of LT Dick Anshus and a downed pilot who were captured.
The Air Force rescue crews flying the big helicopters known as the Jolly Green Giants began to get respect among the pilots of other services because they excelled at retrieving downed airmen. Pilot Dave Oliver was on one such mission, which was going badly, when the commander asked if was he willing to go in without waiting for backup. The situation was dire for the men on the ground so the answer was affirmative. He would be awarded the Silver Star for this action.
At the end of his Vietnam tour, medic Roger Lutz extended it because he just couldn't leave his guys. When he did get home, he found that no one wanted to talk about the war or recognize and honor those who fought it. It was different when he volunteered for Desert Storm.
It could be tough getting resupplied in the field in Vietnam. Medic Marvin Cole nearly had a Chinook land on top of him in the fog. He and his medical platoon performed missions treating civilians in their villages and he relates a chilling story of a child used by the enemy to attack one of these operations.
Platoon leader Bill Pearson sent out a squad to set up a night ambush and when they made contact, it was with a much larger VC force. With the rest of the platoon, he set out to find them and bring them back. When he located the besieged squad, the battle became intense and they were in danger of being wiped out. In a desperation move, he called in artillery on his own position.
Finally, they were in Khe Sanh. As his unit arrived to relieve the besieged Marine base, Roger Lutz remembers getting apples from the ARVN troops after having no resupply for days. After clearing the area of enemy, the next destination for the air mobile was the A Shau Valley. Part 3 of 3.
His company command at the Cua Viet River was just the way Richard Jackson liked it. He was given free reign to take care of his area. He describes the tactics he used to fight the enemy and recalls one memorable fight in which his men and an NVA unit charged at each other in darkness.
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.
Just as his company was getting involved in some heavy action in the Iron Triangle, medic Roger Lutz was transferred to the battalion aid station. He had been in the field for eleven months, the promised six month rotation never happened for him. After he left, his company was nearly wiped out when they inadvertently landed right in the middle of an NVA stronghold.
One night, while Laurie was eating dinner, the USS Sanctuary got a call about a plane crash. She vividly remembers the patients coming aboard, and the aftermath of this incident, including one boy who was MIA. However, as difficult as this experience was, this was nothing compared to the Tet Offensive. They had new wounded coming in constantly, and trying to care for all of them at once was emotionally exhausting. (Interview conducted at, and with the assistance of, the Military Heritage Museum- https://freedomisntfree.org/.)
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 7th Cavalry was constantly in the field. You slept on the ground and kept on the move. Medic Roger Lutz recalls treating the wounded as the unit moved to support operations in Hue during the Tet Offensive.
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. His action during this time earned him the Navy Cross.
It was at LZ Pepper that a Chinook crashed right on top of medic Roger Lutz. He was fine but there were others who were seriously injured. Shortly after this, he had a hard time dealing with the death of a soldier who fell prey to a Bouncing Betty.
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.
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.
When medic Roger Lutz arrived in Vietnam, he was assigned to the 7th Cavalry, which he found out later was George Armstrong Custer's old unit. He was first based at Phan Thiet, where the action was light, then the unit moved to the Ia Drang Valley.
When your time until rotation is short, you get a lot more cautious. Lucio Lopez remembers when his time in Vietnam was almost up and he went to visit a wounded friend in the hospital. That Marine was bitter about getting hit so close to leaving. (Caution: coarse language.)
Roger Lutz was having a good life in northern California when he was drafted. Cars and girls gave way to training, which turned out to be OK, thanks to lasting friendships he made there. The young medic then shipped out from San Francisco, headed to Vietnam.