We were flying somewhere in the Tay Ninh area of operation, out near the parrots beak not far from Cambodia border. When we received an urgent radio request from the 1st Air Cavalry Division for assistance they were in need of a rescue helicopter because one of their troopers had fallen of a rope ladder while being inserted into the jungle from a Chinook Helicopter. The pilots determined that we were close enough to respond to their request. In-route to the location myself and the door gunner suited up with our body armor, flak jackets and checked our M60 machine guns to make sure they were in good
working order. This would be a potentially dangerous mission. There would be no additional helicopter support on site. In other words we could end up being sitting ducks if the VC were in the area. The only support we would have is the troops on the ground. And all this was going to take place above Triple Canopy Jungle.|
The adrenaline is pumping. A million thoughts are going through your mind while you are flying to where you're "going to work". Is there enemy waiting for you, what's the terrain going to be like, is all the equipment going to work properly? We arrived on site and spotted the yellow smoke, which identified the location we were looking for (tally-ho-lemon smoke). We quickly do a visual recon of the area where we were going to have to perform the extraction of the wounded grunt (infantryman).
Radio contact was established with the infantrymen on the ground. The personnel on the ground were visible in a clearing maybe 6 feet in diameter 200 foot down through the jungle canopy. My gunner Rick was in his position on the right side of huey to provide suppressive fire if needed. I put my machine gun under the seat on the floor out of the way. This left the crew chief side of the huey unprotected. The pilots hover into position as I am extending the boom of the rescue hoist. After some adjustments by the pilots to get the aircraft into the right position to allow accurate placement of the jungle penetrator into the clearing 200 feet below. I lowered the cable at high speed hitting the target the first time without having to have the pilots reposition the huey.
As his comrades on the ground placed the vest on the injured grunt we were notified by radio that he was unconscious. We were given the "thumbs up" signal, which was my cue to pull him up. As the cable tightened and he was approaching lifting off the ground I keyed my microphone and informed the pilots "breaking ground" which gave them notice to compensate for the additional weight on the left side of the helicopter. We were now committed to the rescue! I kicked on the high speed up button on my hoist control with my right hand and my left hand on the cable to detect for frays, which could jam the hoist. As the injured man got to within 4 feet of the huey's skids. My glove on the cable was almost ripped off my hand. A rescuer's nightmare had begun, a cable malfunction had occurred. I immediately stopped the hoist and looked at the cable; all that was left was four strands of the cable. My mind at this point went into overdrive it was decision time. Ok what to do?
Options #1 Fly off to safety no good! Hoping the cable didn't break dropping the injured 200 feet to his death. Option #2 activates the cable cut switch! NO same result only now I would be responsible for his death. Option #3 Go out and see if I could grab him and lift him into chopper. I keyed my microphone announcing to the rest of the crew "going out".
I disconnected my mike cord and safety harness and started out the door of the huey, Rick my door gunner saw what I was attempting to do, He put his weapon down and came over to help me. Now we have no weapons in position to fire back if we are shot at. I climbed out on the skid and lowered myself to where I was now straddling the skid. Then locked my legs together under the skid for support. I then held on to the seat leg while I lowered myself as far as I could reach in an attempt to grab the vest of the wounded grunt. Not enough reach! Rick lies on the floor of the helicopter and extends his hand to me which allowed me to reach even further down and now I am almost hanging upside down from the skid. I now have enough reach to grab the grunts vest. If Rick or myself loses our grip both the grunt and myself are going to fall to our death! As the combined weight of the two of us would definitely cause the cable to snap. I am holding on to the grunt and maybe even my breath. I am using ever ounce of strength I have just to make sure I hold on to the injured man. Now Rick is starting to pull both of us up using my right arm. The pain in my arms is excruciating feel like a piece of rope being use in a "tug-of-war". It has taken what seemed like an eternity but I am finally pulled up to where I am now straddling the skid again at least I have the skid under me for support. Using only my left arm I'm able to pull the grunt up to where Rick can assist me in finally pulling the unconscious grunt into the helicopter. After we got him into the huey he's now sprawled on the floor in an unconscious heap but alive. Rick pulls him into the center of the huey so I can get back in to the helicopter also. I'm exhausted, sweaty and Rick again grabs my hand to help me get back in. Using my last burst of strength I am finally back into the safety of our aerial platform. I collapse in exhaustion on the floor! We are all safe now.
From this point on I remember little, it could have been the adrenaline, or the blood rushing into my head while I was upside down or the nature of his wounds. I can't remember flying to a small LZ (landing zone) where a Medevac helicopter was waiting for us to take the injured to a hospital. The flight back to Bien Hoa our home base is also a hidden memory. The first thing I remember after the rescue was back on the flight line standing at attention being "chewed out" by the Aircraft Commander for putting the four of us in the huey in a dangerous position when I went out the door. My response to the Captain was "I DID WHAT WAS NEEDED TO BE DONE" SIR. Nothing was ever mentioned about it again. He knew I was right. I never found out what happened to the guy we rescued or what his name was or if he lived. But we got him out. Tomorrow is another day with more new challenges waiting to be conquered.
Gary E. Allison
The other day I took my brother to the hospital for some tests and a possible foot amputation.|
I had to wheel him into the crowded hospital admission room in a wheel chair. I parked him at the admission desk as instructed and prepared myself for a long wait.
As I looked around I noticed this old gentleman across the rather large room. He was bent over a lady in a wheel chair. It looked as though he was having trouble locking the wheels. Finally he stood upright or partially so, behind his wife. As he did I noticed the old tattered field jacket he had on, and the black hat with the words "United States Army Retired" embroidered on it. I also noticed his stooped shoulders and tired looking eyes. As always when I see military or former military personnel, I make it a habit to try to chat with them. I was especially drawn to this gentleman. I felt as if he was special.
When I walked up to him and stuck out my hand to shake his I asked him; "Is there anything I can help you with old soldier"? As he turned to take my hand his eyes glanced up to my hat, and the C.I.B. and MASTER WINGS that I always wear on my hat. When he did, an amazing thing seem to happen, his eyes came alive, his stooped shoulders straightened and he reached up and adjusted his hat. I watched as his mind wandered back in time to years long past. When he spoke he said; "I too have the C.I.B. and WINGS. I thought to myself, life may have been hard on this old warrior, but it has not beaten him. (Yet) Him and I stood and talked for a few minutes about other times and other places, long in our past. His wife spoke up and said," Earl has four purple hearts", Earl looked down at his wife of many years and said to her, mama we don't need to talk about medals. That was a long time ago. When the old solider said that, I knew God had blessed me this day. I had been allowed to spend time with a true hero. As I turned and walked away from him I heard his wife ask; "Earl how did that man know you?"
I heard Earl say; "We were in the same outfit mama, we are brothers." When I walked out of the hospital I caught myself adjusting my hat, and sticking my chest out a little farther than usual. Thank you Earl, for calling me your brother and thank you for making me even more aware those heroes come in all ages, sizes. colors and from all walks of life. I appreciate the heroes I served with. May I never forget them, and may I never pass up the opportunity to acknowledge the heroes I meet along the way.
"ABOVE THE REST"
As we disembarked the plane and headed for the terminal. WE passed a group that was going to get on the plane that we had just flown in on. This was going too be their freedom bird carrying them away from Nam headed for the land of big PX'S. We were all light skinned and they being much darker somewhere near burnt toast. Looking into their faces you saw tanned skin indicating they had spent lots of time outside in da sun. But there were the wrinkles indicating worry and it gave them the appearance of being exposed to death. But yet they had survived or had they? There was a look of a much older and wiser person that I but we were in the same age group. There was that look of I have survived but will you? What had they seen too give them this look. It was between a blank stare and them looking thru you it was plumb eerie looking into their faces. I wondered what they saw where had they been when they got it?|
Would I have this look when it was time for me to go home? Questions that would be answered quicker than I would want. Now I look back and that look was the 1000 yard stare, you have faced death and survived, my dad told me its seeing the white elephant and being able to tell about it, he being a WW II Vet. I often wondered what he went through and now I have a better idea.