26 December 2005

Young, Dumb, and full of......Hope.



Not the best photograph, I know. But what a bunch of happy, idealistic guys!
(Click to enlarge.)

Your humble host, and frequent commenter "Ole Prairie Dog" are both in that picture.

Look closely and you can see some of the Officers are wearing wings on their caps, an indication they had soloed the aircraft we were using for training, the Hughes TH-55 "Mattel Messerschmidt".

















(Photo lifted from the website of CW2 James N. Post. Thanks James!)

The fact that many in the photo are not yet wearing wings indicates it was taken early in our training at Ft. Wolters, TX., probably February of 1968.

My research indicates about 40,000 helicopter pilots served in Viet Nam.
2,202 lost their lives there........that number is just the pilots.......I don't have solid numbers for crewmembers, but I've seen a figure of 1103 killed in the UH-1 (Huey) alone.

Most of the faces you see were in their early 20's.
Some had wives.
Some had wives and kids.

I had just turned 21. We all knew our chances of going to Viet Nam upon completion of Flight School was about 99.9%. Some of our classmates had already had a tour in RVN in another capacity........one of our mates was a Green Beret! Those guys had a clue about what their future would hold.......the rest of us were paying attention to our training, enjoying the camaraderie, and doing what young, healthy, focused young men normally did.
Most of us were anxious about the war, but I cannot remember anyone being depressed about it. We simply tried to pack as much life as possible into our remaining months Stateside.

How odd to look back at this photo and realize at this time I was younger than my son, who is now 22 and still in school.
Just a year after this grouping, the majority of these men would have a third of their tour in Viet Nam completed.
One would be dead.

We all are a product of everything that has gone before in our lives.
Certainly my life has been a product of the training I received in '68.
What course would my life have taken if I had not learned to hover?

We loaded tremendous responsibility on our young people then.
We still do.
Thank God there are still men and women willing to shoulder that burden......
We must always keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

If you have any interest, there is a wealth of information about helicopters and the crews that flew them at the
Viet Nam Helicopter Pilots Association website:

http://www.vhpa.org

This is the patch designating my unit, B Company, 123rd Aviation Battalion:

6 comments:

THIRDWAVEDAVE said...

Are those wings I see on your hat?

Greybeard said...

Sshhhhhhh!
You'll hurt Ole Prairie Dog's feelings!

PT said...

I think I recognize one of those kids!! :)

I've also been to Ft Wolters a few times. It's changed a lot in recent years. The City bought it and now rents it to the Army!
Also there is a prison (I think it's for white-collar criminals) very close to the barracks. We could watch them watch TV, get sodas from the machine, exercise, play football. Sheesh!!

Our accommodations weren't that cushy but I thought it was great. We always seemed to go there in the Fall so sleeping with the windows open, a cool breeze and soft "country" sounds all around,,,, best sleep in the world.

That is also where I became a certified HumVee driver, school bus driver and operator of a godzilla like fork-lift! Sort of looked like S. Weaver in that Alien show,,,

How is it you went to Ft Wolters instead of Ft Rucker? Just get lucky?

Greybeard said...

Some history of Ft. Wolters here:

http://www.fwcvhpa.org/fw/fw.htm

In '68, all helicopter students started Primary Flight Training at Ft. Wolters, flying either the Hughes TH-55, or the Hiller OH-23 Raven.
If my experience was normal, we got 50 hours of initial training, then another 60 or so doing things like formation flying, confined area and pinnacle operations.

After four months at Ft. Wolters, most of our classmates went to Ft. Rucker, (Mother Rucker, to all Army Aviators.)
Greybeard, Ole Prairie Dog, and another roommate all requested further training at the newly opened facility at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, where we got another 100 hours of training in Hueys.......transition, Instrument, and more special operations training.

I'm surprised to hear there is still any military activity at all there. I stopped for fuel at the airport at Mineral Wells (Miserable Gulch), a couple years ago, and the only indication I could see that the Army had been there was a memorial to Army Aviators in the Airport terminal.

Obviously, there are many memories there.....some of which I intend to blog about later.

oleprairiedog said...

Yes, I was almost the last person in our class to solo, but I'm still better looking, luckier, and like my liquor staight.

Dave said...

I just watched a "Weaponolgy" episode on vertical flight. Provides a good history, and spent most of the show on enhancements made during the Vietnam War. At one point they did mention casualties...sorry I don't recall the number, just to damn many. Survive-ability became the top requirement from that experience, which are highlighted in the Blackhawk. You would like the show...

http://military.discovery.com/tvlistings/episode.jsp?episode=6&cpi=120188&gid=0&channel=MIL