CDT Ops Vietnam CPOCD T Ey Pt. 7

 

CDT Ops Vietnam CPOCD T. Ey Pt 7

 

The highlight of my stay with them was a hands on flight in the front seat of a Huey Cobra helicopter gunship, a very formidable weapons platform indeed. Its arsenal included 2.75 inch rockets with high explosives heads, white phosphorus heads and Fleshette heads, a 7.62mm mini gun with a rate of fire of 6,000 rounds a minute, and a belt fed 40mm grenade launcher. The Air Cav unit's aircraft inventory consisted of 6 Iroquois (Hueys), 6 Cobra gunships (Snakes) and 6 Hughes 500s (Loachs ). As the VC could never resist the temptation to fire at a chopper flying overhead, the Loachs were paired with the Cobras for "First and last light missions". With only the pilot aboard, the Loach would be flown at treetop level over Charlie country in an attempt to draw fire, usually successfully. At the first sign of hostile fire, the pilot would toss a smoke grenade out the door and "di di" at best speed while radioing to the Cobra above "taking fire (colour) smoke". The Cobra, hovering at 2000 feet or so, would immediately enter a maneuver where it rolled onto its side, dropped the nose to almost the vertical and began a steep powered descent at about 200 knots towards the position marked by the coloured smoke, with mini gun blazing and belching rockets from its stubby wing pods and grenades from its belt fed launcher. Nothing could survive this intense Blitzkrieg. Charlie never seemed to catch on to the set-up and continued to take the bait. The downside was that it was extremely hazardous flying for the Loach pilots. They often said that if they managed to survive that type of flying for six months, their chances of surviving Vietnam and getting home were "looking good". The maneuverability of the Loach was demonstrated to us when seated next to the pilot, with doors removed, Narra and I spent an evening playing fox and hounds with several other Air Cav choppers through the gullies of nearby sandhills - an ideal way to relieve the tension of flying for your life every day of the week. Sadly, only a few days after we left the unit to return to Da Nang, we were advised that their C.O. was killed when the chopper he was flying took a direct hit on the pilot's position from an RPG . Before we left, Narra had presented him with a pair of Australian 'Seal' boots.

 


The barge that blew in Da Nang harbour just after our arrival (the one mentioned in this story)

 

Occasionally our calls for assistance were closer to home. Directly across the road from our hootch was the local Navy lock-up known as 'Correctional Custody'. They once asked for our help after a disgruntled ex-inmate had returned to toss a hand grenade through the front door. Luckily for them, it had dud-fired. A simple 'pick up and carry away'.

 

Our old Kaiser Jeep had a rough time of it. To my knowledge it was the only vehicle in Vietnam to ever be shot at from within. Larry Digney and a U.S. Navy EOD Adviser, PO3 Rick Watkins were once driving through the town of Quang Tri on their way north to Cua Viet when Digger and Rick's sawn off M2 Carbine had a little accidental target practice with the door of the Kaiser. Needless to say, Digger was right on target. By the time the story filtered back to Da Nang, Digger had supposedly rampaged through the main street of Quang Tri shooting at the local civilian population with a Soviet AK47 assault rifle. Jake was not at all impressed. Digger did in fact have a captured AK47 which he had meticulously restored to mint condition. Unfortunately he was not able to bring it home due to Australian Customs regulations forbidding the importation of automatic weapons.

 

A more serious incident occurred when Digger's Colt .45 handgun disappeared from the hootch. At the time we had two or three South Vietnamese Navy EOD personnel staying with us. One of these 'gentlemen' was later arrested in downtown Da Nang after he had shot a Vietnamese civilian during an argument. The weapon he had used was traced by serial number and found to be Digger's missing .45. This same weapon had a second chance at notoriety when after a night of steady boozing at the nearby Special Forces camp, Digger and WO Gerry Dunn had a slight altercation over an overweight and particularly loud German female entertainer who was performing at the camp's Club. She announced in a very guttural German accent that she was from Australia and when Gerry Dunn, who obviously fancied her, invited her over to our table, the trouble began. Digger was feeling a little belligerent and when she repeated that she was from Australia, Digger said in a loud clear voice, "Pig's arse". This obviously did not help Gerry's perceived chances of a romantic evening with the lady so he ordered Digger to leave the premises forthwith. Digger replied by saying "Piss off", so they immediately invited each other outside to discuss their difference of opinion. As we all left the premises our sidearms were returned to us and during the ensuing argument that developed, Digger decided that his Colt 45 'Peacemaker' was the best way to resolve their differences. Fortunately I was close enough to prevent him from carrying out his intent and common sense finally prevailed before anyone was hurt in the looming showdown. Gerry, having lost the opportunity for a romantic interlude with the fat Kraut entertainer, made a beeline back to our hootch where he made demands to a very sleepy Jake that severe and immediate disciplinary action be taken against Able Seaman Digney. As I was the main witness, Jake had me recount my unbiased view of the evening's events. Obviously my recollection of the incident favoured my mate Digger and not the obnoxious WO, so I became a permanent addition to Gerry's 'arsehole's list'. Digger didn't get off quite Scott free and spent quite a bit of time on stoppage of grog from that point on.

 

One wet, dark and miserable night during the typhoon season, Blue and I decided to make a spontaneous social call to the U.S. Army EOD detachment in downtown Da Nang. When it came time to leave in the early hours of the morning, we discovered that it was just as wet and miserable inside our Dodge Power wagon as it was outside. Some enterprising local had decided that he had a better use for our windscreen than we did. It wasn't a complete loss as he had left the can opener which had used to remove the windscreen, on the dashboard. On returning to our hootch, we found 'Murphy's Law' had struck yet again. As always happened when the weather was at its worst, VC Sapper swimmers had been spotted at the Deep Water ammunition piers and Digger and Narra had been diving for most of the night by the time we returned. Needless to say, Blue and I spent what was left of that long night searching ship's hulls and anchor cables for explosive devices. I believe 32 hulls was the final count. A sobering experience for both of us. As we had overlooked informing Jake as to our intended whereabouts that evening, our social life was severely restricted for the following two weeks.

 

Even though an after dark curfew applied to all US servicemen in Da Nang, there still existed the odd hotel, bar and dance hall which stayed open for civilians and ARVN soldiers. As EOD personnel, we were authorized by the US Command to be anywhere at anytime, provided we were 'on the job'. To ensure that American troops complied with the curfew, their Military Police regularly patrolled the streets and less than desirable spots of Da Nang. We were often pulled over by these clowns, not surprising as we were Caucasian, wore US Cammies and drove US Jeeps. The fact that we were Australians was usually enough to totally confuse them, but to save any argument we always carried a few dummy rocket heads in the vehicle. Once we had told them it was live ordnance they couldn't get away fast enough. One night Speed, Narra, Blue and I were leaving a hotel/bar and as we walked towards our Jeep in the parking compound, we spotted several 'White Mice' hassling a young girl. She was quite obviously distraught and very frightened. Being Aussies, we decided to go to the aid of the damsel in distress. When we asked the police what was going on, they told us in very threatening and impolite terms that it was police business and we should leave before we were in trouble as well. We knew that it was common for these mongrels to arrest young girls off the street on some ridiculous charge, take them back to the police station and gang-rape them. We quietly backed off and headed for our vehicle from where we watched one of them force the girl onto the back of his motorcycle and take off, heading for the station. His mates remained, presumably to round up a few more young girls. With the lights of our vehicle switched off, we tucked in about 50 metres behind the motorcycle and followed until we were well clear of the hotel area. Speed was driving and once we reached a deserted street, he accelerated past the bike cutting it off and forcing it into the gutter. We stopped right alongside and the policeman began screaming obscenities at us. Thinking he could bluff us, he reached for his .38 handgun, but before it cleared his holster he was staring down the barrels of four cocked Colt .45s, all of which had 'one up the spout' and were aimed directly at a spot between his eyes. I believe his bowels let go at that point, as with some justification, it dawned on him that he was not long for the world of the living if he moved so much as a hair. I have no doubt in my mind that at the slightest move on his part, four 45s would have barked as one. We told the young lady to get into the Jeep and suggested to the police officer that he 'di di mau' . Needless to say he took off like a cut snake. As we were quite close to the US Army EOD compound, we stopped in for a beer and left the girl in their able care. We were to discover later that our damsel in distress was a member of the 'oldest profession in the world'. After we departed, she had offered her services to the blokes at Army EOD. I don't believe they were even offered a discount. We had a bit of a chuckle about it, but we still felt we had done the right thing.

 

On another occasion we were drinking in an area known as 'Red Beach' where there were several houses of ill-repute as well as a few small bars. Our Jeep was parked outside one of these and it obviously attracted the attention of some passing US Military Police. As quick as a flash, Speed was outside and went straight on the offensive. He asked the officer in charge what the hell did he think he was doing there. Didn't he "know that booby traps have been reported in this area". Speed told the young officer that he was in charge of a delicate clearance operation and he (the MP) had better get his men and vehicles clear of the area "now!!". Thrown by the Aussie accent as well as Speed's confident air of authority and unfamiliar rank badges, the MP officer stuttered and stammered, apologized profusely while addressing Speed as "sir", saluted smartly and ordered his men to evacuate the area post haste. We finished our beers and thought it might be a wise decision for us to leave before the young officer recovered sufficiently to check our story. Several weeks later Digger was back in the same area with a Yank mate and had consumed enough 'Dutch courage' to attempt the same con. Being a little under the weather and only 21 years of age, his line of bullshit fell on disbelieving ears. Later