4:26 | The dangers were many. Sappers could sneak in and blow up your helicopters. Your own illumination rounds could kill you. The most dangerous missions for the Huey pilots were the LRRP missions, inserting and extracting long range reconnaissance patrols. Pilot Larry Washington remembers them well.
Keywords : Larry Washington helicopter (chopper) pilot Vietnam sapper North Vietnamese Army (NVA) illumination round long range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP) landing zone (LZ) Jungle Penetrator rappel
Larry Washington was in high school and kept hearing about a helicopter pilot training course. Then, when he sat in the Army recruiter's office, he saw a brochure about the same thing. I want to do this, he told the recruiter and he proceeded to pass all the tests and secure a slot in pilot training.
Huey pilot Larry Washington arrived in Vietnam in his winter greens because he had departed from a very cold New Jersey. It was amusing when the veteran pilots in the O-club speculated on how long the greenhorns would last. He was assigned to a cavalry outfit in the Central Highlands, where the terrain was challenging for a pilot.
It was his first combat mission. Rookie Huey pilot Larry Washington watched the captain land the ship on a tricky hilltop and then, on the next sortie, he had to do it. That was the day he really learned to fly in Vietnam.
The warrant officers had their own officers club. They had to, after a brouhaha at the main base. Huey pilot Larry Washington recalls the rowdy volleyball games and the hooch ladies who could never get his laundry right.
His last day in combat was memorable. On his first flight of the day, Huey pilot Larry Washington snagged a tree on a gun mount. On the second, he struggled to control the aircraft when several issues arose at the landing zone. He performed a beautiful maneuver to recover but the rest of the day did not improve. All he could do was keep in mind that it was his last day.
Larry Washington was only 19 years old but he flew into combat in Vietnam. He had a good rapport with his crew chief, who was older. They were convinced they had a lucky aircraft and took loving care of it.
He had read about the Kent State protests but the news from back home didn't distract Huey pilot Larry Washington from the job at hand. It wasn't about politics, you fought for the others on the crew. He reflects on the fate of a friend on a different crew, whose passing had an effect on him years later.
"We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" was something of an anthem to those veterans who were in Vietnam. Huey pilot Larry Washington remember that tune and a few others.
He had a decent experience returning from Vietnam. First, Huey pilot Larry Washington managed to meet a fellow pilot he wanted to see before he left, then he had an uneventful journey without protestors. He stayed on as an Army pilot for a while, which helped him decompress from his combat experience.
For Larry Washington, Vietnam is very hard to sort out in his mind. He knows we did not "lose" the war, like so many in the media try to tell you, but he also knows that the stated reasons for a war may not be the true ones. For him, it was the price he paid to succeed in life.
Don Rohde decided to re-enlist. The Navy Corpsman really had his eyes opened in Vietnam and civilian life just wasn't working out for him. He and his pregnant wife headed for Camp Lejeune, where no one knew it yet, but there was something wrong with the water. (Caution: strong language)
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.
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. As difficult as this experience was, it was nothing compared to the Tet Offensive. New wounded were 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/.)
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.
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.
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.
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 turns out you can see a lot at night. Fighter pilot Joe Richardson was apprehensive about night missions over Vietnam but the tracers and the missiles were unmistakable. He had to learn how to out maneuver the surface-to-air missiles, which wasn't easy but it was doable.
When it gets close to time to go home, for some reason, the danger increases. Some died during their last few days, but Vic Grahn made it back from Vietnam and didn't even get the rude greeting so many did when they returned. He became a flight instructor and nursed a bitterness towards the powers that be who abandoned the war when we had it won.
Fighter pilot Joe Richardson was laying chaff for a B-52 run over North Vietnam when the SAM's started to fly. That was bad but the worst was yet to come. As his squadron turned and headed for home, the bombers were headed the opposite direction. A head on collision would be disastrous. (Caution: strong language)
What should future generations remember about the war in Vietnam? For Vic Grahn, it's all about those who fought the war being abandoned by their own leadership and the general public. What song takes him back? The answer is surprising though totally logical.
The three companions were flying down to Webb Air Force Base to check it out. Joe Richardson was piloting the Beechcraft and while they were all going to be at flight school there, this was just a little pleasure trip. It nearly ended in disaster.
Joe Richardson was three years into the Air Force Academy when he decided to quit. He didn't care that he would be exposed to the draft. When he brought recruiters into the Explorer group he was mentoring, he was so impressed with the film the Air Force recruiter showed, he joined up.
There were no real anti-aircraft guns per se down in IV Corps. Vic Grahn took a lot of small arms fire and the occasional 20mm on his missions, which were often in support of troops in contact (TIC). He flew the A-37, a small highly maneuverable aircraft and that maneuverability came in handy when he was up in III Corps where the trees are bigger.
A-37 pilot Vic Grahn and his buddy Jack Beam were working a target with napalm when a bullet came through his windsceen and exited the cockpit through a side window. There was no other damage to his plane so he returned to the attack. Then Jack's plane took a hit as well but he, too, pressed on. You would think that the brass would like that but they didn't.
Just as he was finishing flight school, Joe Richardson contracted Valley Fever, a respiratory illness connected to fungus in the soil in that part of Texas. It set him back because it took a while for the doctors to figure out what he had. He recovered and continued in his training as a fighter pilot. Finally, he was headed to Southeast Asia.
He was a military man from day one. Vic Grahn's father had served in World War II aboard the USS Hornet and, when he came of age, he decided on the Air Force. A new war beckoned from Southeast Asia and he didn't want to miss out. With a commission out of ROTC in hand, he began his pilot training.
When Joe Richardson's squadron was working with some Navy pilots over the A Shau Valley, one of them made a mistake which caused some of their bombs to detonate prematurely. Two of his fellow pilots had to bail out. One of them was located fairly quickly but the fate of the other was unknown for a while.
It was strange. Vietnam was a bit of a culture shock for Vic Grahn but he got over it. He was flying the A-37, a small jet aircraft designed for close air support to troops in contact (TIC). His base at Bien Hoa was the target of frequent rocket attacks which may or may not have disturbed the poker game.
There was a Green Beret on the ground. He had just escaped from the North Vietnamese and fighter pilot Joe Richardson was tasked with laying down a smokescreen to aid in his escape. Years later, he ran into a man who's story seemed to line up with his. Was this the guy?
The Corpsman in Vietnam really saw the most difficult parts of war. Don Rohde will never forget the first Marine who died in his arms nor will he forget the first life he took, considering who she was and what she was doing. The Marines weren't arbitrary in their actions but if they took fire from a village, that village would burn.
His father had been wounded on Tulagi, so he never got to be the Marine aviator he intended to be, but he did teach his son to fly. Joe Richardson soloed at fifteen and went on to become a fighter pilot.
Don Rohde went into one tunnel, just to say he did it. They were everywhere and the VC would just disappear into them. He was a Corpsman attached to a Marine company and he took no gruff from a doctor who didn't appreciate his field emergency work.
Before he got to Thailand, fighter pilot Joe Richardson went through survival school in the Philippines as well as a little extra-curricular activity. When he did get to the air base at Ubon, he ran into a buddy who was in a squadron known as the Night Owls. Oh, I don't want to fly at night. Too bad.
It took a long time, but Don Rohde finally attended a reunion of his comrades from Vietnam. Men with common suffering at the hands of the powers that be who messed up that war. It was so bad that they don't teach about it very much in school. (Caution:strong language)
He had a suitcase in each hand when an anti-war protestor called him a baby killer and spit in his face. By the time Joe Richardson collected himself, the man had run off. Welcome home. He tried to stay in the Air Force but the downsizing eventually caught up with him and he went to work for the industry that had built the aircraft he flew. (Caution: strong language)