Preserving The Oral HistorIES of Combat Veterans


Aaron Watkins | 179th Assault Helicopter Company - Army

6:11   |   When he got there, the smell of Vietnam hit him hard. On his first day, a rocket attack hit the air base where he landed and he injured himself running into the bunker. Then, Aaron Watkins flew his first mission, which turned into an epic.

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Keywords   :     Aaron Watkins    helicopter    pilot    Vietnam    Bien Hoa    smell    rocket    Flight Surgeon    Pleiku    mortar    105 mm    hydraulic    Bell AH-1 Cobra    Boeing

Videos ( 8 )
  • Aaron Watkins  |  Vietnam  |  179th Assault Helicopter Company  |  6:09

    He was from Memphis and he went to Tuskegee University determined to fly. Aaron Watkins was already familiar with military life through ROTC and he suggested a flight program for the Army cadets to go with the Air Force program. The chief instructor was one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

  • Aaron Watkins  |  Vietnam  |  179th Assault Helicopter Company  |  7:28

    After graduating from Tuskegee University and ROTC, Aaron Watkins reported to Signal Corp school, then what he anxious for, flight school. At a meet and greet, the chief instructor walked up to him and said something that unnerved him. That made him even more determined and he was recognized by his peers as someone special.

  • Aaron Watkins  |  Vietnam  |  179th Assault Helicopter Company  |  5:32

    Since by then he'd learned to fly, advanced training came easy to helicopter pilot Aaron Watkins. As he neared the end of the training, he married his high school sweetheart and was chosen for Chinook school. This was almost unheard of at his level of experience. His friends said that thing is a bigger target, no thanks. He said it's faster, let me at it.

  • Aaron Watkins  |  Vietnam  |  179th Assault Helicopter Company  |  4:59

    Chinook pilot Aaron Watkins recalls some of the nerve wracking action on his missions in Vietnam, including getting shot at on the ground. That was a bad feeling because you're just there. You can't maneuver. He also reveals a very effective tactic, screaming in right above the trees.

  • Aaron Watkins  |  Vietnam  |  179th Assault Helicopter Company  |  4:18

    When you came to Vietnam as a Chinook pilot, you started as a co-pilot. Aaron Watkins moved on to Aircraft Commander and Platoon Leader, taking on more responsibility. He recalls a mission with a rookie partner which resulted in an update to their procedures after they almost crashed.

  • Aaron Watkins  |  Vietnam  |  179th Assault Helicopter Company  |  5:10

    As a Chinook pilot, Aaron Watkins had some of the best living quarters in Vietnam. The pilots had their own club and chow, but he had to learn to like rice, which he did. Some of his missions involved transporting Vietnamese civilians and on one of these, he found out just how much weight his aircraft could lift.

  • Aaron Watkins  |  Vietnam  |  179th Assault Helicopter Company  |  3:49

    He did not use a countdown on his calendar, but Aaron Watkins was very aware of his departure date. He refused to visit a friend in Saigon and hunkered down and waited for his plane. At Seattle he was disturbed at the angry protests, but he was happy. He'd made it. On a whim, he applied for computer school and got the assignment

  • Aaron Watkins  |  Vietnam  |  179th Assault Helicopter Company  |  4:55

    Chinook pilot Aaron Watkins reflects on the lessons of Vietnam and his own service there. His education and training at Tuskegee University gave him direction and purpose and he traveled with some of the original Tuskegee Airmen in retirement. He is encouraged by the improved treatment of today's veterans and he has some insightful words for those with a big dream

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