05 November 2005

Monsoon Season in Viet Nam

Imagine it raining as hard as you have ever seen it rain.
Then think of rain that hard for over a month, non-stop.

I was based 40 miles South of Da Nang. I could see the highest mountains in South Viet Nam from the front door of my hooch, and the South China Sea from the back door......
Except in late January-Early February, when the rain came down in bucketloads, limiting visibility, and negating any chance to aviate.

Since we couldn't fly, I had been up the hill to visit with a flight school buddy, Deane, who was attached as an OH-6 scout/forward observer Pilot with our Division Artillery, (DivArty).

We always dreamed about what we were going to do when we made it back to "the world" at the end of our tour.
During this visit we made plans to go to the Base Exchange the next day to get information on buying a new car through the PX system, so we could have new wheels waiting on us when we returned home.

I was on "Standby" the next day. It was still raining cats and dogs, so there was little chance of flying at all, but I had to remain in the company area just in case the weather cleared and someone needed gunship support.

And then the call came in......."could we go fly?"
Absolutely not!
The ceiling was about 400 feet, and visibility was less than two miles......
Impossible weather in any case, much less near the most rugged terrain in the country!

But 30 minutes later the phone rang again........
"how 'bout now?"
Then we made the mistake of asking.........
"What's goin' on?"

"Some scout ship is down along highway one, and they want us to go have a look."

So the team got together for a conference........
"if we hover down the highway we can at least check a mile or so on either side of the road, and surely no bad guys would be out in this weather to take a shot at two
UH1-C's hovering at 100 feet, right?"

So out we went.......cranked, lifted, and started slowly down the main highway going North/South the length of the country, in weather that kept sea gulls on the ground!

Fifteen minutes into the flight we got the call from Operations: "Mission canceled, the aircraft has been found. Return to base."

Relief.
We hovered slowly back home, shut down and I made my way back to my hooch to get ready to go meet Deane to go to the PX.

On the way to operations I overheard a conversation between two pilots in front of their hooches.........and I thought I heard Deane's last name mentioned.
I stopped and asked, "What did you say?"

"******..........The guy you were searching for.......his last name was ******"
"And how is he?"
"He's dead."

It was like a sucker punch in the forehead.
"No, that's not possible.
I was just going up to meet him!"
But it was possible.

A DivArty forward observer and his radio man were stranded at Duc Pho, 40 miles South of us on Hwy 1. Deane was asked to fly down and return them to our base. He agreed to do the same thing we had decided.....follow the highway low and slow, pick them up, and return.

Deane made it to Duc Pho, and started hovering back North.
But the visibility got too bad to follow the highway. Deane had two choices.....go East to the coast and follow it North, or go West until the weather improved and then cut back East......back to the highway.

Going West also put him near the hills, and into "Charlie Country".
I don't know what his reasoning was, but he went West.

They found the aircraft upright, intact, but on fire.
All three men were out of the aircraft, stripped to the waist, in the kneeling position, shot, execution style, in the back of the head.
Deane's OH-6 had either been shot down, or forced down by weather in exactly the wrong place.

Do you ever recover from something like this?
I think of Deane and his young widow more than you can imagine.
I was 21.
He was 22 or 23.

Now there are other youngsters facing these kinds of perils.
I thank God for them and pray for them every day.
I hope you do also.

2 comments:

THIRDWAVEDAVE said...

Powerful post. That's all I can say.

GG said...

:::silent post:::

::: Slow, Heartfelt Salute:::