OLD BASTARD "D"
Here is a story, funny in a way because of the way it turned out...could have been a disaster, but I guess someone was looking out for me in my younger days.
The time frame I cannot really remember. It was after Aug 68 because I had been transferred to platoon leader of the 1st Airlift Platoon, callsign was Stallion16. It was right after Major Miller relinquished command of the company over to Major Claude Ivy so I am thinking late October, early November 68.
Leading up to...
As members of the first airlift platoon will recall, when I became the platoon leader Stallion16, they either hated me or loved me and that feeling was prevalent even with my Warrant Officers. But we always functioned very well as a platoon as I recall. We did have a lot Esprit de Corps.
I think back, and I recall one of the platoon members, Aircraft Commander Tony Catalano wanted to paint AMF on the bottomside of his helicopter. Me being the typical RLO (Real Live Officer) asked the stupid question of what was AMF..well, the reply was...it was a saying to the grunts that we delivered into the LZs and other places. It stood for Adios Mother and you can imagine what the F stood for. I thought about it and said OK, do it. I figured what the hell, worst they can do is say I used poor judgement, and make us paint over it so I said, go ahead and do it. About a week or two later we had a mission (at Bao Loc with TaskForce South) to pickup a rifle company at a designated LZ and move them to another area in the AO. We did, and as we were taking off from the insertion (not hot) the Company Commander from the 503rd Infantry (Airborne) called me on the FM radio and asked what the AMF was on "ALL" of the Platoon Aircraft undersides was? I was caught off guard and looked to my co-pilot and he just smiled and said nothing, the crew did the same...so as platoon leader I called the Co back and told him ADIOS MOTHER and the remainder. Immediately my platoon pilots on VHF began to do their usual BS talk but this time they said Old 16 does have a sense a humor. When we got back to Bao Loc I think I called all the crewchiefs aside and chewed them out for doing what they did....I was not aware that approving one was free gratis for ALL to do. Funny how something as silly as that builds morale.
The Incident with Major Ivy as the New Company Commander...
The first airlift platoon had for whatever reasons, the ONLY D Model Huey. It was as we called it, the bastard aircraft, no one in the platoon wanted to fly her. She suffered all sorts of ailments as most D Models did, but mostly she was grossly underpowered with that pitiful L11 engine. When I took over as platoon leader I noticed that the Old D Model was not flown much except for Ash and Trash Missions and for combat assaults she was always Tail end Charlie, that was about to change. I told the CE that the Old Bastard D would be my aircraft as Platoon Leader and instead of Tail End Charlie the ILLEGITIMATE aircraft would be the leader of the pack. I have always championed the "underdog". This also caused much bickering with the warrant officers who had to follow me into the LZs.
Now for the incident...
Major Ivy took over the 92d with all the honor and glory that most commanders bring with them on their arrival. Other than him being a Major and the NEW Company Commander, he was still the FNG. So on this faithful day at Bao Loc Paul Jerimaisson the operations officer for the 92d at the time received a call that a recon element was about to become surrounded by a larger force and they needed to be extracted. It was a single ship extraction as the Recon Team only had 5 to 7 men to be extracted. Paul called me and said that the New Company Commander (Ivy) would be flying with me as peter pilot because he wanted to see the AO and how I did things as a platoon leader. So off we took from Bao Loc to retrieve the Recon Team before they became members of the body bag collection agency. The flight to the area was uneventful. I arrived and at a distance called and asked for smoke. Smoke was popped and identified and we started a steep approach to an area that Paul Jerimaisson had not told me about in the mission briefing. The Recon Team was on a mountain side, which meant a landing with one skid on the ground and one off. The 5 to 7 men had to be the BIGGEST 5 to 7 men in the 1st Battalion 503rd Infantry and they had on top of their own weight half of their battalions allocated basic load of ammunition and other stuff, I have never seen infantrymen packed down as these guys were. And I was flying MY AIRCRAFT the Old Bastard D Model. After making the approach with some sniper fire incoming we touched down in a TIGHT one ship LZ with a one skid on ground and one off. And if ever an LZ was TIGHT this one was, trees and bushes all around. As each Recon member got on we would loose Rotor RPM. Major Ivy was flying and I could see the sweat beading on his face and his flight gloves were soaked, mine were not too dry either. As the last member got on the RPM was falling fast way below the 6600. I told Ivy to get off of the controls and call off the rotor RPM to me and pray a little. I did a typical Cowboy maneuver that I learned from CaptainVern Myers flying the C-Model Huey Gunships. Keeping the rotor blades level push down on the collective and as your rotor blade RPM builds back to 6600 JERK the collective up to make the aircraft leap upwards. I did this, the aircraft went straight up just above the treetops and I then lowered the collective as we flew thru the treetops and down the mountainside trying to build rotor RPM backup. The Rotor RPM was stable around 5800 to 5900 and the audio for low RPM was ringing in our headsets. I told Ivy to pull the GD circuit breaker and keep his f.....hands off of the controls while I was flying and in those words. Well, we made it back to Bao Loc. Ivy was white as a ghost and I think I had to change my underwear. It scared the hell out of me and I think the crew did a little praying that day also. When we got back to Bao Loc the CE did an inspection of the aircraft and found that the stader vanes were sticking as I recall (and I may be incorrect). We took a few sniper rounds in the fuselage but no great damage that duck tape could not fix. We had main rotor damage from hitting tree limbs and some tailrotor damage from same and the belly of the aircraft had tree limb scrapes. But all came home. Ivy said to me in private. "Captain, I am your superior officer, do not think for one minute that you can talk to me the way you did today and get away with it. This incident will not go unnoticed." He was right. The infantry people wrote up awards for the crew and myself which Ivy was part of. But I learned years later that when the awards came over for sign off they were disapproved at the 92d level, I would assume it was payback for the way I had talked to Ivy during the course of the extraction. But that was TJ as all of the members of the 92d and especially the first platoon will remember. I usually said what I pleased, rank be damned. That same attitude kept me from making LTC later in my career. But what the hell, I have my way and they have theirs.
Sidekick Section Leader & Stallion Platoon Leader
Nov67 - Oct68