8:10 | 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.
Keywords : Roger Cox helicopter pilot Vietnam visual reconnaissance (VR) Bell AH-1 Cobra Hughes OH-6 Cayuse (Loach) smoke grenade scout pilot ambush detachment left in contact (DLIC) bunker bunker buster
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.
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.
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.
During an air assault into an area with a bunker complex, a common sense rule of landing zones was ignored. You don't keep using the same one over and over. Bob Clark was in charge of the last platoon out and this mistake cost them.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
College wasn't going that well for Thomas Gipson, so he knew the draft would eventually come for him and he would end up in Vietnam. When he found out that you could be a helicopter pilot in the Army without a college degree, he knew that was the path for him.
Bob Clark was a third generation soldier. His father served for thirty one years and was highly decorated, so soldiering was in the younger Clark's blood as he went off to ROTC at Texas Tech. It was a fairly conservative campus, but the war in Vietnam was inflaming opinions everywhere. He knew he would be going there as soon as he received his commission.
It was long hours and long days for Thomas Gipson in Vietnam. He gives an overview of his tour, describing the different types of missions and some of the misadventures. The amount of flying time was closely monitored to make sure the pilots didn't crack, but it was still exhausting.
He got married shortly before he went to Vietnam and once he got there, Bob Clark had very few options for communication back home. The new lieutenant wrote letters, of course, and there was a system in the rear which allowed you to make phone calls over short wave radio, but he was almost always in the bush.
The first combat mission for helicopter pilot Thomas Gipson was memorable. He saw an NVA soldier stand up and fire right at him and then wanted to forget what he saw our bulldozers doing after the fight. He was still in the right seat as a co-pilot, trying to get used to this new, dangerous world.
Jack Swickard recalls an unnamed fellow pilot who had one of the civilian women who worked around the base chasing after him. He came up with a novel method to get rid of her, one which developed into some trouble at the officers club. (Caution: adult subject matter.)
When he got to Vietnam, newly minted lieutenant Bob Clark was assigned to the 8th Cavalry which was heavily involved in the new air assault concept. He was fortunate to have good NCO's in his platoon and to have a company commander who imparted some advice that stuck with him for the rest of his career.
It wasn't a hooch in Bien Hoa, it was a nice villa. Helicopter pilot Jack Swickard was amazed to find his billet was so luxurious. He had not been there long when he got an unexpected lesson in firearm safety right there in his room. On his first mission, he was puzzled at the strange behavior of the aircraft commander, who was slapping himself in the face.
Bob Clark's first contact with the enemy in Vietnam was memorable. His platoon found a bunker complex they'd been looking for and soon a firefight began. When it was over, a search for intel in the pockets of the dead revealed a photograph of the family of an NVA soldier. That provoked a little soul searching.
LTC Ron and COL Judie Richtsmeier (retired) share a concern for the future of America. For the two Vietnam veterans, it is a troubling time in the nation. But, perhaps, it can survive it's trouble as their love has survived after beginning in the middle of a war.
When Bob Clark finally got to talk to his wife from Vietnam, it was to tell her he was coming home. The tour was over. He was treated royally in an airport bar when he landed and lovingly when he got home to his wife. He had none of the negative treatment many vets were receiving, not until years later in a McDonald's.
He arrived in the central highlands in the aftermath of the Battle of LZ X-Ray. As he began to fly combat missions, helicopter gunship pilot Ron Richtsmeier gained a lot of respect for the men of the 1st Cav.
He was a helicopter pilot who had crashed. She was a nurse who took care of him. They had grown close during his healing, but it was time for him to go home. When the goodbye was underwhelming for her, Judie made sure to stay in touch with Ron until the deal was sealed and they became the Richtsmeiers.