Friday, June 3, 2011

Vietnam -- Killing in our business and business is good

Time Magazine didn't ever directly associate that saying with the 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Field Artillery, but I did. And I made sure that was brought along with me when I wanted to create a new slogan, "Tank killing is our business and,  someday, business will be good."

I think we all have quotes or creative little jewels that makes us laugh.

Sometimes, we didn't know why all we knew is that it made us feel good.about continuing on. Some of these have become novelty items. Like the complaint department "take a number" that would pull the pin from a defused grenade.

Another piece of comic art showed three characters laughing hysterically with, "You want what, you want it when and you want it how?

Some of us artists were also put to work creating unit patches, adding artwork to interiors of buildings such as our headquarters building, and producing creative signs.

Sometimes, too, some of the artwork was added to the bottoms of the helicopters. A yellow middle index finger was on the bottom of one. Part of our NVA art appreciation week.

Imagine a war without a single prank and that would have to be atomic. Sending a new mechanic out looking for a bolt extender has got to be a classic.

Then there's journalist who has no business killing anything except his own creatively going down in a blaze of glory.

TIME MAGAZINE -- killing is out business and business is good

AT Khe Sanh, the distinctive pump and whir of hundreds of helicopter rotor blades began at 7 a.m., even before the morning fog started to lift. Drowsy pilots walked out to their UH-1 Hueys and malevolent-looking OH-6 Cobra gunships, checked out the oil levels, the instruments and the control linkages, and then strolled back to their tactical operations centers. The call to combat came as it has almost every day since the Laotian operation began, well before midmorning. At the heavily sandbagged T.O.C. of the 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery, 101st Airborne Division, blond, mustachioed Warrant Officer Fred Hayden, 27, set down his cup of tea and sprinted out onto the oil-soaked pad. Zipped into his brown flame-resistant flight suit, he had already scrambled into the front seat of his Cobra by the time Copilot Ronald Lee Walters, 22, clambered into the rear. Within two minutes the Cobra was bound for Fire Base Ranger on a hilltop eight miles inside Laos, where South Vietnamese troops were trying to fight off a North Vietnamese attack.
Walters dipped the Cobra's nose and rolled out to the northwest. A set of scrambled alphabet letters came in over the T.O.C. radio, and Hayden pulled out his "Whiz Wheel" decoder to decipher the grid coordinates of his mission. As their chopper raced over the bomb-pocked Laotian countryside, a second Cobra pulled up alongside. Twenty minutes later, the Cobras arrived over a scene of total chaos. As Hayden and Walters carved circles in the sky several thousand feet above the fire-scarred hilltop, they watched errant rockets from choppers already on the scene blazing into friendly and enemy positions alike. Other ships, including Medevac Hueys, milled around the Ranger landing zone but were unable to penetrate the murderous curtain of fire.
The pilots pushed the Cobra into a steep dive. Before they pulled up—at about 500 ft.—Walters had fired two pairs of 2.75-in. rockets into enemy positions. Diving again, Hayden let go with his 7.62-mm. minigun against a pocket of North Vietnamese caught in the open near the perimeter wire. Terrified, the Communists scattered back into the tree line, leaving 15 bodies on the ground. There was another strike, then another and another, until Hayden had expended his entire 2,500-lb. load of ordnance. By noontime, he was back at Khe Sanh to refuel, rearm and wait for the next assignment.
Hayden was lucky at Ranger, where, as he puts it, "nobody knew what was going on.'' In the week-long battle for the hilltop fire base, a number of U.S. helicopters were shot down, and more than a few of those that wobbled back to Khe Sanh were thoroughly shot up. Since the Laotian operation began on Feb. 8, the loss rate of U.S. helicopters —normally about one per 16,000 sorties —has quadrupled. So far during the Laos operation, Communist gunners have knocked out no fewer than 61 helicopters, about 10% of the fleet originally committed to Lam Son 719. More than 160 other birds have been brought down but later hauled back to their bases by other choppers. A total of 31 U.S. crewmen have been killed, 44 wounded, and ten listed as missing.
I think you can appreciate, now, why I said what I did about civilian writers. Here's the glaring mistakes
  1. There is no OH-6 Cobra. It is an AH-1G Cobra.The 4th Battalion, 77th Aerial Field Artillery goes out in a section and the section includes two Cobras
  2. Assuming the two AH-1G Cobras were carrying 2,500 pounds worth of Ordnance, the total weight -- dry and empty that is usable is 3790 pounds. Meaning, 1,290 pounds of fuel was the maximum the helicopter could carry. The max is 259 gallons. Burning 115 gallons of fuel per hour, the maximum time is 2 hours. 12 noon - 8am = 4 hours.
  3. The pilots carried a CEOI.  Each page represented a day. You slid down to the specific decoding row and  deciphered based on that.

1 comment:

Jim Parks said...

Too bad the scribbler didn't get a chance to fact check the piece with a knowledgeable source. He wrote a sparkling piece of copy that told the story very well. The rate of loss of choppers was staggering. The strategy was not working due to tactical difficulties and logistical impossibilities impossible to overcome. I think your suggestions would have improved the narrative immensely. In fact, it did. I thoroughly enjoyed the piece as a result of your critique. And if no one else has mentioned it, I, for one, am very pleased that you made it home alive, Soldier. I thank you for your service, and I applaud your candor. - The Legendary Jim Parks