Monthly Archives: August 2009

My War Trophy

Chicom Type 53 Carbine

Numerous NVA weapon caches were uncovered by US troops in Cambodia.
The Chinese made Type 53 carbine in the picture above is similar to the one I had confiscated.

I managed to get it registered as a war trophy, and hand-carried it back to the ‘World’ when my tour was complete. I recall the strange looks I got as I carried it through Los Angeles International Airport.

A few years later I was short on cash and sold it to an antique dealer for $35…


Filed under Vietnam War

Cambodia Incursion

The darkest day of my Vietnam Tour was May 6, 1970 in Cambodia


The sky was filled with birds as 1st Air Cav Skytroopers launched the attack.

I knew something was up when we were instructed to board our choppers extra early for our daily flight northward. We normally flew to Firebase Buttons and waited for a mission, but this day proved to be different. Our birds continued north and landed at Bu Dop, which was one kilometer (1000 meters) from the Cambodia border.
When we landed, we were briefed on our mission of the day and why the men of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry of the 1st Air Cav Division had congregated on the airstrip. At 7:30 AM an assault into Cambodia was scheduled and our Blue platoon would be QRF (Quick Reaction Force) for down birds. Our Scout birds and Cobras (Pink Team) would lead the way followed by Charlie Company, 2/7th, inserted by the vast number of choppers lined up on the airstrip.

I was the Blues radio guy that day and a down bird rescue mission was almost immediate. Our two Hueys cranked and we were on our way. One of our Scout birds got shot down as the invasion began.

Army news reporter (PFC Scott Long) was at Bu Dop that morning to cover the invasion. He managed to jump on the same bird as our platoon leader Lt. Michael La Chance, myself and five other Blues. He recorded the action as it happened on a cassette player while seven of us Blues rappelled down into the jungle.

WO Dave Farrell was the A/C (Aircraft Commander) of our bird. This was only his second mission as an A/C and did a great job positioning his ship in a high hover while we rappelled.

Our other Huey with Blues on board beat us to the down bird site and crashed as they made their approach. It wasn’t clear if they got shot down or simply lost power. Now we had an additional down bird on this mission. Our chopper hovered above the down Huey (which did not burn on impact) while seven of us rappelled down to rescue our fellow Blues. CPT Rhett Lewis (one of the Huey pilots) and three Blues were injured in the crash and medevaced out.

This is when there was a turn of events. Our Medic decided conditions were too dangerous to continue and wanted all of us extracted without completing our mission.

It was then decided which Blues would continue on with Lt. La Chance. I had no choice because I was the radio guy. Five of us made our way to the burning Loach which was about 30 meters away, but seemed much farther due to the thickness of the jungle undergrowth. When we arrived, we discovered the pilot and crew chief had died in the crash.

We radioed for a Medevac chopper and when it arrived the crew lowered two body bags down to us. After placing the bodies into the bags, they were lifted up to the chopper hovering above us. We were constantly watching for enemy movement as we knew the unfriendlies had to be in the area.

Our mission was complete except for getting ourselves out. The only way we could be extracted was by the McGuire rig. There were five of us and three men per trip was the max, so that meant Lt. La Chance and I would be taken out last. We radioed for a Lift bird (Huey) equipped with McGuire rigging ropes on board to extract us.
When they arrived, three ropes attached to floor of the hovering chopper were dropped down to us. Three Blues attached themselves to the ropes and were lifted away to the nearest friendly LZ. That left Lt. La Chance and I all alone waiting for our chopper to return. Each minute seemed like an hour as we stood back to back watching for enemy movement with thoughts of Charlie closing in. My worst fear was the two of us occupying a room at the Hanoi Hilton (POW).

The jungle got very quiet with an occasional bamboo stick falling to the ground. My imagination ran wild and I opened up with my M-16 on nothing more than suspicious sounds. That surely gave our position away.
Then suddenly that all familiar chopper sound could be heard, in the distance. Our Huey made its approach and hovered above us. They dropped two ropes down, and we attached them to our rappelling ropes, we had tied around our chest. We were then flown through the air (McGuire rig style) to a safe LZ.

To this day whenever I hear a chopper in the distance, I have flashbacks of that memorable day in Cambodia.

There is much more to this story than the Blues efforts to rescue the men that were shot down.
Crew Chief/Gunner Gary McKiddy performed an act of ‘heroism’ that cost him his life. He was killed that day along with the pilot, WO1 Tommy Whiddon when the helicopter they were in was shot down. Gary was either thrown or jumped free of the crash upon impact with the ground. Although the chopper was burning, Gary risked his own life when he returned to the chopper and retrieved the copilot, Jim Skaggs, and carried him to safety. Gary again returned to the chopper, even though it was burning out of control and ammo from inside of the chopper was “cooking off”, in an attempt to rescue the pilot, WO1 Tommy Leon Whiddon. As Gary entered the chopper and positioned himself to retrieve the pilot, the fuel cells exploded and killed both men. When the rescue team arrived, Gary was found stretched across the seat that he had just removed Skaggs from, laying across Whiddon with one arm behind him. The transmission had fallen across Gary’s back pinning him in. The military tells us that this happened after the explosion, and he was already dead when this occurred.

Gary was awarded the Silver Star for his action, however there is a bill pending in Congress that if approved will provide for Gary to receive the Medal of Honor for his actions; the bill is HR 369. Gary had flown more than 650 combat missions and was awarded 37 medals during his 6 months in Nam.

In August of 1999, the First Air Cavalry Division dedicated a barracks at Fort Hood, Texas, in honor of Gary Lee McKiddy. Inside of the 400 person building there is a day room that displays pictures of Gary from the time he was a baby until soon before his death, as well as a trophy case with all of Gary’s medals in it. A beautiful plaque on the outside of the building tells the story of his heroism.

Down Bird Audio (May 6, 1970)


Filed under Vietnam War

Kent State Massacre

Students at Kent State Protest U.S. Troop Movement into Cambodia

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Nixon Announces Invasion of Cambodia

C Troop 1/9th Led the Way

President Richard M. Nixon authorized the incursion of U.S. Military forces (accompanied by Republic of South Vietnam forces) into Cambodia in order to disrupt the supply lines of the Vietcong and to destroy their bases in Cambodia being used to support operations in South Vietnam. The incursion, which began May 1st, 1970 and lasted until the end of June, had limited tactical success but aroused strong opposition among anti-Vietnam War groups in the United States and led to several large demonstrations…

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Down Bird Mission Gone Bad

‘Friendly Fire’


Once again, one of our Scout birds got shot down, and the Blues were called to either rescue or recover the crew.

It was a typical rappel mission as there was no place near the crash site to land our choppers. I was Blue India (the guy with the radio) so I was one of the first of six Blues to rappel down into the jungle. The details of this mission are still foggy to me, but I do recall receiving sniper fire

We always had one if not two Cobra helicopter gunships circling high above us in the event, we needed extra firepower. These Cobras (Snakes) were equipped with mini-gun and rockets and were very much feared by the enemy.

Lt. Michael La Chance (Blue) was our platoon leader. decided it was time for some help from above; we had no idea how many unfriendlies we were dealing with. La Chance grabbed my radio and called for one of our cobra pilots to make a gun-run in tight to our position as possible. We popped a smoke grenade to guide him in.

Suddenly, bamboo was flying everywhere with explosions all around us. It sounded like a sewing machine on steroids, and the whole jungle began to rip apart. My first thought was Charlie was throwing some big stuff at us. I then looked up and saw our Cobra directly above pulling out of a gun-run, and realized what happened. The smoke that marked our position must had drifted too close to our position and the pilot came in right on top of us with mini-gun and rockets.

A few of our guys were injured by that incident but nothing serious. I lucked out again with only the crap scared out of me along with the rest of the Blues. After all, I was a FNG and just twenty years old, half way around the world in a strange land.

The Cobra pilot (WO 1 Myron R. Lamont) was grounded for a short while because of that incident. In fact, he was beating the bush with us on our next recon mission and made a comment on how thick the jungle was when on the ground…


WO1 Myron R. Lamont


Filed under Vietnam War

Daisy Cutter Bomb

Used to Blast Helicopter Landing Zones


Blues are waiting for lift birds to be extracted. The mission was to secure the area for combat engineers to clear the trees and underbrush for future grunt company LZ.

During the Vietnam War, the USAF used 10,000-lb. M121 bombs left over from World War II, to blast Helicopter Landing Zones (HLZ) in the dense undergrowth.


Filed under Vietnam War

USO Show in Phuoc Vinh

Miss America

We were treated with a USO Show in one of the helicopter hangers in Phuoc Vinh. It was about an hour show, then they were off to entertain troops at another firebase.

These entertainers and others like them were always subject to a surprise mortar attack. They put their lives on the line to entertain our troops in war zones, and are much appreciated!

The USO (United Service Organizations) is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the troops by providing morale, welfare and recreation-type services to our men and women in uniform. The original intent of Congress – and enduring style of USO delivery – is to represent the American people by extending a touch of home to the military. The USO currently operates more than 135 centers worldwide, including ten mobile canteens located in the continental United States and overseas. Overseas centers are located in Germany, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Qatar, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Guam and Kuwait. Service members and their families visit USO centers more than 6.9 million times each year.

The USO is the way the American public supports the troops…


1970 Miss America (Pam Eldrid) with her six runners-up





Filed under Vietnam War