18 April 1970, John Bullock

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18 April 1970, John Bullock

Postby Niner Alpha » Mon Apr 12, 2010 4:19 pm

18 apr 1970

This was my first insertion by chopper, I believe.

Bob McCoy and I came into the platoon on the same day and shortly after, he was made a machine gunner and I was his assistant. My additional duties were to carry extra belts of M60 ammo, but poor Bob also had to carry additional ammo and the M60 as well. I never envied the machine gunner or the radioman for their heavier loads, as well as being obvious first targets. Seems particularly unfair all around, if you think about it.

On this particular occasion, I loaded on the chopper near the first, so sat somewhere to the middle of the load. I don’t remember if I had ever ridden a chopper before, so I was probably excited about that as well. Any transportation not involving walking to the destination is considered exciting to a grunt.

By the time the choppers went into the drop, darkness had descended, and there wasn’t much distinct to see below. At some point our chopper began to hover, and those nearest the door began dropping out into the night.

Now here is an interesting piece of information about a helicopter. As each man drops from the craft, it becomes a little lighter, and so it begins to rise a little. I suppose the pilot is adjusting some lever or other to compensate as best he can and to keep the chopper hovering at the same altitude. I also suppose that this is not an exact science, but requires a feather touch and a little feel for the thing.

I was last out of the chopper, and it was on a definite rise. The ground was falling away, and I had to make the instant decision to do it now, or wait to see if the chopper was ever to lower again. It was a bit higher than I would normally care to jump from, but never having done this before, I wasn’t sure of the exact procedure here. So, I jumped. It was probably stupid to jump, but one tends to do some pretty stupid things, trying not to look silly.

The good news is that I was not hurt in the least when I landed. Below us was the Plain of Reeds, a really swampy part of the Plain of Reeds. With mud up to the knees, and water at least to the waist, your fall will be cushioned.

The other thing I learned this day was to try to keep your balance going out the chopper door and land on your feet. Doing a belly flop in waist deep water and mud tends to throw an unwelcome splash in all directions. It also tends to get you and all of your equipment wet and muddy as hell. Non-waterproof watches also tend to stop. [It was a least a month before I got the watch replaced. I bought a great Seiko for under $20, from a mysterious little Vietnamese gentlemen. I kept very accurate time for one or two days before the hour hand fell off. ]

Despite my unfortunate experience at swamp diving, poor Bob McCoy fared worse. Through this gumbo, Bob with the weight of the M60 and the extra ammo would sink with every step. He moved not just forward, but sort of diagonally downward as well. Eventually, Bob was beyond moving. Slowly, without any particular stress in his voice, he said, “Help me, I can’t move.”

This happened repeatedly for the duration of our walk. Some gathered around Bob, grabbed his M60, ammo, other detriments, while another group would pull him to about our level. Then he would be saddled with his former burden, so he could again begin another slow descent downward. This went on for an hour or more until we finally found some dry land on which to spend the night.

The C&C chopper was out that night, Colonel Gearin commanding. Rumor had it he miscalculated the drop point, which then took us some time through this muck to reach. I can still imagine him shaking his head, as the C&C moved off into the night. He probably was pretty disappointed in himself right about then. No doubt, when he got back to Ben Luc, he punished himself by not going over to the officer’s club a having a little nightcap, but went straight off to bed.

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