This story is based on memories about WO1 William Mitton who was KIA May 6, 1970 and is from a novel.
Brian Mitten was an eighteen-year-old man. He arrived in country before his nineteenth birthday. His mother had signed a waiver so he could join the Army at the age of seventeen. He was so mature for his age he quickly passed through basic and advanced individual training. He was accepted into flight school right after his eighteenth birthday. Flight school was nine months. After thirty days leave he came straight to Vietnam. Because of his age and young appearance everyone called him "The Kid."
He was far from a kid. They immediately accepted him into the second platoon of slicks. His pilot technique and knowledge of the area improved dramatically over the first month. Brian was doing what he always wanted to do, be a pilot. He was very meticulous in his appearance and how he prepared himself to fly. Detailed pre-flight, every safety item was in the right place. He wore his chicken plate religiously. He wore sunglasses and used the clear visor in the helmet to protect his eyes and face from plexiglass cuts if rounds should penetrate the windshield or the side windows. He always wore his collar up to protect the neck area for the same reason. The kid was a good safe pilot. Some of his precautions wore off on the older pilots, because it made good sense.
Brian was in country less than ninety days when they made him Pilot in Command (PIC). A PIC could be given his own helicopter, but routinely he flew it with other more experienced pilots on multiple ship missions. Everyone knew once he gained more area experience they would appoint him an Aircraft Commander.
The kid was PIC for another flight into Cambodia supporting the Special Forces. Curt was the gunteam lead. The same country border briefing was given. All the "mission impossible" papers were handed out and signed. It was a one gunteam and four slick mission. They were inserting ARVN soldiers supported by the Special Forces on a reconnaissance mission. One pass was all it would take.
It would be a routine flight. There was no rocket preparation of the landing zone. Curt maintained a profile beside the formation of helicopters as they started into the landing zone. He maintained his separation, stayed at altitude, and started the daisy chain ready for any emergency. His wingman, Miller, dropped back to provide continuous support once Curt broke from station at about 1500ft. The flight was in. The soldiers disembarked and the slicks were lifting off. Curt turned back toward the LZ to provide them support. Chalk three, the "Kids" helicopter lurched forward and dove low out of the formation, then recovered.
"Taking fire. Took rounds in the ship. Mitton's hit." The call was coming from the "Kids" copilot.
Curt couldn't fire. The LZ had "friendlies" in it now.
"Anybody else take hits? Over." Curt checked.
"Lead, negative. Chalk Two, negative. Chalk four, negative."
"Sidekick 1 this is chalk three, I guess we're the only one that took a hit. It must have been a sniper!"
Curt responded. "Go ahead and break formation. Get "The Kid" to the hospital pad at Bam Me Thout."
"No need, Sidekick 1. Crewchief said he=s dead."
The news over the radio was chilling. No one talked. "The Kid" was flying in the left seat. Only one round had struck him. It penetrated his left eye entering his brain, killing him instantly. He was flying at the time and he had slumped forward over the cyclic. The seat harness had kept him in the seat. The copilot was able to recover the helicopter and get it back. They landed at the airfield, and took "The Kids" body off the helicopter (they didn't land at the hospital pad because that was for emergencies, "The Kid" was beyond help). Curt watched as they placed his body on the stretcher. It was an eery sight. "The Kid" looked like he was asleep. There was very little blood on his face, and not another mark on his body. He died as neat and meticulous as he had lived. He was so good, to die so young. "The Kid" had just turned nineteen.
Bob "Bake" Baker
Sidekick 1 Pilot
Apr69 - Apr70