Monthly Archives: July 2009

McGuire Rig


Extraction Method

The ‘McGuire rig’ was used quite frequently to extract soldiers from the jungle when no suitable pick-up zone was available.

What we did was tie our rappelling rope around our chest, then snap a d-ring on the rope. As our chopper was hovering above the jungle at tree top level, the crew dropped two or three one-hundred foot ropes down to us. These ropes had a loop at each end and were securely tied to the floor of the Huey. We snapped the end of the rope to our d-ring and were lifted out of the jungle then flown to the nearest LZ (Landing Zone)…

Photo courtesy of Dave Roger (right)

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Down Bird


Quick Reaction Force (QRF)

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As a member of the Blue team, our primary duty was to scout for the enemy on the ground after our reconnaissance helicopters found signs of enemy movement.

All too often a Scout bird would get shot down. In that event, the Blues would scramble down to the helipad and board our Hueys and head out to the crash site.

The crash site was usually marked by smoke rising above the jungle, as most of the birds crash and burn upon impact. Our pilot would hover the Huey above the trees close to the downed aircraft as we rappelled one at a time to the ground through the dense vegetation. We always carried rappelling equipment with us as standard equipment, which consisted of leather gloves, rope and d-ring.

Fortunately, with our vast air support, the NVA and Viet Cong usually stayed out of sight until we were gone. Unfortunately, we mostly brought back depressing and disheartening body bags…
Down Bird in Cambodia Audio (May 6, 1970)

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Songs of the Vietnam Era


When your Vietnam tour was complete, you flew to Oakland Army Base in the San Francisco Area to process out…

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First Taste of Combat


Anxious moments

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Every morning in April 1970, our Lift birds would crank up at the helipad in Phuoc Vinh. Fifteen or so of us Blues would board (five or six per bird) and fly to Firebase Buttons, which was about a half hour flight to the northwest of Phuoc Vinh. At Buttons, we sat and waited for word of our next mission, whether it be a recon or quick reaction mission for a downed helicopter. My radio was always tuned into the same frequency as our two Scout birds buzzing around the jungle at tree top level looking for enemy activity.

LRRPs173rdAbn1967One morning a call came over the radio that a group of Lurps (U.S. Army LRRP / Rangers) in the area made contact with the enemy and needed reinforcements. Lurps were heavily armed long-range reconnaissance teams that patrol deep in enemy-held territory. Our choppers cranked up, and we were on our way.

I had never before had to deal with those emotions. This was the real thing and not a drill. This is what all that training was for and why a certain amount of brainwashing was necessary for this type of duty. Turning back was not an option.

The guy next to me on the chopper was a seasoned combat veteran, and he knew I was a FNG, so he gave me a quick briefing as what to do. His instructions were to take my M-16 off the safe position and flip it to ‘rock-n-roll’ (the automatic position) and start firing into the jungle as soon as my feet hit the ground, if not sooner.

Each Huey (chopper) had a crew chief and door gunner on board, one on each side of the bird. Both these guys were equipped with M-60 machine guns, and they both opened up as we approached the LZ (Landing Zone). That was known as ‘coming in hot’.

I jumped off the bird and along with the other Blues, started firing frantically into the jungle. I’m not sure if we were receiving enemy fire because all of us had opened up at the same time and all hell broke loose.

That’s when I felt a hot stinging sensation in my upper back. I swung my right hand around and pulled a hot piece of shrapnel out of my left shoulder. A fellow Blue not far from me took some shrapnel in his stomach about the same time he fired his M-79 grenade launcher and hit a nearby tree. There’s a good chance; that’s where the shrapnel came from.

It wasn’t long after that all was silent, and we hooked up with the Lurps. They had the upper hand in that firefight as they came out without a scratch. Two or three unfriendlies made the ultimate sacrifice for their cause.

That was the first time I saw ‘Charlie’. Their lifeless bodies were laying there in front of me, stripped of their clothing and any possessions they had with them. The Lurps took everything from them to have as souveniers​.

I then took my Kodak 126 Instamatic Camera out of my pocket and took a picture of one of the bullet-riddled bodies on the ground and later mailed it to a friend back in the ‘World’. To this day, it still bothers me why I did that…

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The Blues in the Air


Liftoff

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It seems a bit dangerous, but we never thought anything of it. Riding on choppers with our legs dangling over the side was very common.

When being inserted on a recon mission, the Huey pilots had good reasons for not wanting to stick around too long, so we had to exit the bird as quickly as possible…

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I Wore it for Good Luck


Immaculate Conception Medal

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When I left for Vietnam, my mother gave me an Immaculate Conception Medal. She said it would help keep me safe, so I wore it around my neck for a short while, until I decided it was just too shiny. I then slipped it into my wallet for the rest of my tour.

I gave what was left of it to my daughter Jill a few years back to keep. It was almost worn down flat from being in my wallet that long…

 

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Blue India


New Guy got the radio


I was a FNG (f**king new guy) so they put a radio on my back. My call sign was Blue India.

As a RTO (radio telephone operator) I was the only communication between us Blues on the ground and our choppers in the air. It only made sense that the RTO was a prime target in a firefight, so that’s probably why the radio was given to a FNG. I found out a little later that the Blues radio guy (Blue-India) was killed in an ambush in September of 1969.

The most common radio used was the PRC-25. The PRC-25 ran on battery power, and the battery only lasted for one day of continuous use, so I always carried a spare. The PRC-25 had two large knobs, which changed the frequency. The frequency had to be changed often to insure that enemies could not pick up transmissions.

I also carried smoke grenades. The smoke grenade released clouds of colored smoke to help mark location for gun ships and Huey Pilots.

The first time I rappelled from a chopper with a radio on my back, I flipped upside down from being a bit top heavy. After a few more rappelling missions, I finally figured it out…

Tom Criser served in Vietnam from February 1969 through March 1970. He also carried the radio (Blue India) while with the Blues.

Pat Bieneman (Blue India, 1968-69)

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Rocket and Mortar Attacks


Bunkers Constructed with Sandbags

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Charlie Troop 1/9th hooches

Staff Sgt Dave Roger

One of the most helpless feelings I experienced in Vietnam is when our firebase was being mortared (incoming) and hoping the next rocket wouldn’t be a direct hit. It almost seemed safer on a recon mission in the middle of the jungle.

An incoming round exploding is a noise forever embedded in your brain and for years to come you could be affected by similar sounds.

When I first arrived in Phuoc Vinh mortar attacks were quite frequent. It seemed like we got hit at least three times a day, and Charlie had our Company Area zeroed in.

Usually, a siren would blow to indicate an incoming mortar attack. When it sounded you scrambled to the nearest bunker for protection. The siren would sound again to indicate the attack had ended and all was clear to exit from your bunker. That’s when you had to be careful because Charlie could also hear the siren, and he would lob a few more in.

One morning a bunch of us Blues were standing down at the helipad waiting for our choppers to arrive to fly us out for a recon mission. Charlie started shelling the helipad area and a mortar landed within six feet of where we were standing. There was a row of barrels filled with sand between us and where the mortar landed. That was a close one to say the least!

Then there was the night Charlie threw some big stuff at us (Sept. 12th 1970). The sound of 122mm rockets slamming down in the area around the hooch where I was sleeping woke me up within seconds. I rolled out of bed to the floor and low crawled as fast as I could to the nearest bunker.3987246444_95167a4f3d_m
When the attack seemed to be over, we came out of the bunker to access the damage. Our hooch did not take a direct hit, but a Red platoon hooch across the road did and was on fire. I then went back to check my AO ( sleeping area). I would not be writing this now if I wouldn’t have woken when I did. My pillow got peppered with shrapnel holes along with an Iowa State flag that was hanging on the wall above my bed…

Remains of Red platoon hooch
Photo by Nathan D. Shaffer (Charlie Troop Scouts, 1969-70)

The hole in the ground between the boots is the results of a small VC mortar round.

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Chinese 60 mm mortar rounds captured by 1st Cav Quan Loi May 69
Photo by Jim Beck

Radar unit on the wooden tower was used to pinpoint the origin of incoming rounds for retaliation purposes. (Two above Photos by Chris Bussells, 31st HHC)

Newly built Charlie Troop hooches before sandbags

Two above photos by Jordan Green (Charlie Troop Maintenance, 1969-70)

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Apocalypse Now


In 1979 the Movie “Apocalypse Now” was released, featuring 1st Squadron 9th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division.

In the summer of 1979 while grocery shopping in my home town of Carroll, Iowa this Life magazine caught my eye. I bought it and hurried home, so I could read about the movie “Apocalypse Now” which was to be released August 15th of that year.

I made a two hour trip to Omaha when it started showing in some of the larger Midwest movie theaters. Watching it stirred up vivid memories of my thirteen months in Vietnam with Charlie Troop 1/9th

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The Blue Annihilators


huey in the bush

Sgt. Gregory Lee Peffer (center on the ground) KIA January 22, 1971

The areo rifle platoon, the Blues, complements the aerial reconnaissance capabilities of the Pink team by providing ground reconnaissance. Transported by Huey slicks, the Blues can be quickly inserted to check the spottings of the aerial observer, assess the damage inflicted by Cobra or B-52 strikes and pursue enemy elements. Generally only a patrol-size element will be inserted initially, then the rest of the platoon.

We were in choppers almost every day looking for the enemy or going out after down birds (crashed choppers or airplanes). We were the ones first on the ground of a crash and responsible for putting the mostly burned bodies into body bags…

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