In mid-1968 I was involved in an incident in my UH-1H Huey while flying Command & Control for "Rock Six", the Commander of Task Force Cleland.
We had departed Phan Thiet and were flying to Bao Loc or Dalat. The Full-Colonel was the only passenger. Somewhere north of Phan Thiet we saw a F-100 Fighter break through the low overcast that day. Suddenly, the canopy blew off and the pilot ejected. The aircraft continued to dive and exploded on impact with the ground. What a beautiful sight as the napalm burned! Being the only aircraft in the vicinity, other than his wingman, we circled his parachute and followed him down. As we descended, we made radio contact with his wingman and told him that we would pick his lead up.
After he landed and disconnected his parachute, we hovered over his position as low as we could without hitting the trees. We could only get down to about 10 feet above the ground. We had no rope on board so I directed my crewchief, doorgunner, and the Colonel to fasten all the rear seat belts together. They then fastened one end to one of the cargo tie-down rings on the floor and lowered the rest to the pilot on the ground. He was unable to grasp the end, so my crewchief climbed down the belts and fastened the end hook to the pilot's harness. I then lifted them both up and flew to a small open hilltop nearby and landed where we were able to get them on board the aircraft. We then flew to Phan Rang AFB and dropped the pilot off. He thanked us and disappeared. We never knew his name, although I do remember that he was a Captain. Apparently he had a flameout and was unable to restart.
Over the years I have forgotten the names of my co-pilot and gunner that day. I think I remember who my crew chief was, but am not sure. I had forgotten the Colonel's name, but his callsign "Rock Six" never went away.
November 11, 2002
For the last 4 years I have attempted to find at least one of the other
participants. A couple of days ago, I was browsing the 3/506th Inf Bn web site to find information on Task Force South. On their message board I found a message signed by "Rock Six"! I left a reply to his message and someone sent me his e-mail address.
Yesterday I sent an e-mail to MG (Ret) John Cleland. Later in the day, I received a reply. He was indeed "Rock Six" and the Colonel on board my aircraft that day! He provided me more details about the mission and what we had accomplished. He said that he believed that my crew chief deserved a DFC for his heroic actions that day. He is more than willing to write it up if I can locate him.
We have just begun dialog about the times that I flew his C&C bird.
A Most Amazing Veteran's Day!