War Stories 6

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Just a Normal Seven-Hour Day

By Eldon Ideus

A mission request for aerial medical evacuation of an unknown number of wounded in action (WIA) casualties from the element of C1/8 Cavalry (CAV), was received by Medical- Evacuation (Med-Evac) Alpha during mid-afternoon.

Medevac aircraft #370, with a crew consisting of the aircraft commander, Eldon Ideus, pilot Warrant Officer Larry Hatch, medic SP5 Van Camp, crew chief SP4 Eck, and door gunner SP4 Leuche was dispatched to the area. En route, we contacted the C1/12 CAV, who informed us there was no enemy contact at the time, and the last enemy fire came from north of their position. The ground unit ignited a smoke grenade which the Med-Evac aircraft pilots identified the color of the smoke and then proceeded to the area to evacuate four (4) WIA casualties. While on the ground, a sergeant came to the aircraft and further informed the aircraft commander of the enemy situation and asked him to contact A1/12 CAV on lift-off because they had another mission request. After the four casualties were aboard, they departed and contacted A1/12 CAV, who requested the evacuation of two seriously wounded soldiers. Medevac aircraft #370 flew across the Suei Cay Valley toward their position and spotted the small landing zone (LZ). The aircraft commander informed the ground unit the LZ was too small for his aircraft to land with the present load of personnel on board and would call another Medevac for the mission. The ground unit told him the wounded were in severe condition and couldn't wait long. They also asked him to try the evacuation now rather than wait for another Medevac aircraft. The aircraft commander decided he would attempt to evacuate the two casualties. The ground unit reported sporadic enemy gunfire in the LZ, but no fire was reported at present.

The aircraft commander hovered his aircraft over the area and descended vertically through 40-feet high palm trees and landed in the LZ. The aircraft's medic jumped out and loaded the two casualties with the assistance of one of the ground troops. The aircraft's door gunner and crew chief were poised to provide suppressive fire from their door mounted .30 caliber machine guns if required. The aircraft came under enemy fire just as the last wounded soldier was loaded. The aircraft commander was hovering the aircraft vertically out of the LZ when the medic informed him the ground troops who had assisted in loading the wounded were taking enemy fire and were wounded themselves. The aircraft commander contacted Medevac #577 and informed them of the situation.

Returning to LZ Hammond, the wounded were transferred to Alpha Company clearing station. Medevac #370 departed LZ Hammond in response to another mission request for the evacuation of two Viet Cong (VC) from a unit near the coast. En route to the location, Medevac #577 heard a Mayday call for an aircraft shot down and needing assistance. The aircraft commander canceled the evacuation for the two VC and headed for the location of the downed aircraft. En route, he contacted Alpha Company at LZ Hammond to send another Medevac aircraft to assist. Medevac #370 arrived at the location, landed, and loaded four downed aircraft crew plus the five wounded they had on-board. Medevac #791, who was en route, was informed that everyone from the downed aircraft had were safe. But their assistance was required to evacuate wounded from A1/12 and C1/12 CAV. They were also informed to be aware of the enemy gunfire #370 had encountered earlier. Medevac #370 returned to LZ Hammond and offloaded their wounded. The aircraft was refueled and departed for the Suei Cay Valley. En route, they received a radio call from Medevac #791 stating they had received heavy automatic weapons fire while attempting to pick-up wounded from C1/12 CAV, and two of their crew members were wounded. Medevac #370 contacted C1/12 CAV and asked what their present situation was. They were informed they were receiving heavy automatic weapons fire, and there were at least eight wounded troops for evacuation. The aircraft commander decided to request gunship support before attempting the evacuation. Learning that no gunship support was available, the aircraft commander informed his crew and asked if they were ready to make the evacuation without gunship support, and they responded, "Sir, we're with you, let's go."

To not give the enemy his exact location or his intentions, the aircraft commander decided not to have the ground unit use smoke for LZ location/identification but instead make a high speed, low-level pass for visual identification of the LZ. Since the approximate location was known, another low pass was made, and the American ground unit was located. While making another pass, the ground unit informed Medevac #370 that they had flown directly over the enemy position, and that enemy fire was coming from the east and north of their location. The aircraft commander flew at treetop level, making his approach to the LZ. Once on the ground, the medic jumped out of the aircraft with three litters and ran towards the wounded soldiers. While the wounded were being loaded on the aircraft, the door gunner informed the aircraft commander he had observed an enemy position but couldn't fire because of friendly ground troops in the line of fire. Shortly after this observation, the door gunner reported incoming enemy fire hitting the ground towards and near the aircraft. Just as the next wounded soldier was being loaded on-board, the aircraft commander decided to depart the LZ. Then to return and evacuate the remaining wounded after dropping off the patients at LZ Hammond. As the aircraft was departing, the door gunner saw the enemy position on the ground and placed suppressive machine gun fire on the enemy. Medevac #370 contacted Medevac #916, which had was dispatched from LZ Golf Course to help and informed them of the current situation and that the ground unit still had wounded soldiers for evacuation.

Medevac #370 returned to the Suei Cay Valley and orbited the valley but was unable to make contact with the ground forces. The aircraft commander was able to contact C1/12 CAV and asked them to contact A1/12 CAV ground unit and have them contact Medevac #916 on Medevac radiofrequency. Medevac #370 then returned to C1/12 CAV's position just as darkness was setting in. As the aircraft landed, the medic once again jumped out of the aircraft and ran towards the wounded troops while the ground unit provided suppressive gunfire. The wounded were loaded in the aircraft without receiving any enemy gunfire. As the aircraft was departing the LZ, they received a Medevac evacuation request from C1/8 CAV of an unknown number of causalities. Since Medevac #370 already had an aircraft full of patients, the aircraft commander informed the ground unit he would return right after dropping off the wounded at LZ Hammond.

While crossing the pass en route to the Suei Cay Valley, Medevac #370 was spotted by the C1/8 CAV, who informed the aircraft commander that the last enemy fire received was about 100 meters to the north of their position. They informed Medevac #370 they would use a flashlight rather than a ground flare to mark their location due to the proximity of the enemy. They would turn on the flashlight after they had vectored the aircraft on final approach to the LZ. The first attempt was unsuccessful, and the ground unit informed the aircraft commander the aircraft had passed over their position. They were told they were directly over the enemy ground trenches and to break to the right immediately to avoid enemy fire. Just as the aircraft turned right, it came under heavy enemy gunfire but were able to fly out of harm's way. The second approach to the LZ was successful. Once on the ground, the medic quickly loaded the causalities while the ground unit provided suppressive fire. The ground unit informed the aircraft commander to turn 180 degrees and depart in the direction the aircraft approached the LZ to avoid the enemy's gunfire. While returning to LZ Hammond to offload the wounded, B1/12 CAV requested an evacuation of eight wounded causalities.

After re-fueling, Medevac #370 immediately returned to the Suei Cay Valley and contacted the B1/12 CAV ground unit. The ground unit said they would identify their location with two flashlights, one red and one white. Spotting the LZ, Medevac #370 began their approach to landing, but the ground unit radioed "Medevac, get out of here, we're under heavy enemy fire." Breaking off the approach, the aircraft received heavy automatic weapons fire. Still, they were able to gain altitude and orbit the area waiting for the suppression of enemy fire. While orbiting the area, Medevac #370 was contacted by C1/8 CAV unit that they needed additional causalities evacuated. The aircraft commander informed C1/8 CAV unit he would make the B1/12 CAV unit evacuation first and then return for their evacuation. After suppressing the enemy's fire, B1/12 CAV unit again requested the evacuation of their causalities. A successful evacuation was made on the second attempt.

A second Medevac aircraft, #866, had been dispatched from LZ Golf Course to assist because Medevac #916 had taken enemy gunfire hits while evacuating causalities from A1/12 CAV unit and had to abort their mission. Medevac #370 informed Medevac # 866 that B1/12 CAV unit was under heavy enemy gunfire at present and was still requesting a Medevac evacuation. Both Medevac #370 and #866 flew to the Suei Cay Valley and contacted C1/12 CAV and were informed they were still under heavy enemy fire. They were requested to orbit the area and wait. The Medevac aircraft orbited the area for about 30 minutes when the ground unit informed them, they were receiving sporadic enemy gunfire and that they would provide suppressive fire with M-79 grenade launchers if they wanted to attempt an evacuation. Medevac #370 aircraft commander told the ground unit he would make the first evacuation and make a fast approach since he knew the terrain and #866 would follow. As Medevac #370 turned on final approach, the ground unit started their suppressive fire. The aircraft landed, and the medic quickly loaded six causalities. Throughout the evacuation, the ground unit continued providing suppressive ground fire. As Medevac #370 departed the LZ, Medevac #866 flew in and made a successful evacuation. As Medevac #370 was flying out of the Suei Cay Valley, a Medevac request was received from B1/12 CAV unit. Medevac #370 informed the unit that Medevac #866 was picking up causalities from B1/2 CAV and had room for some of their causalities and that he would return for the remainder.

After unloading the causalities and refueling at LZ Hammond, Medevac # 370 once again returned to the Suei Cay Valley and contacted B1/8 CAV, who informed him that the LZ was secure and there were two wounded and one killed in action (KIA) to evacuate.
The causalities were evacuated without incident, and Medevac #370 returned to LZ Hammond.

The flight crew of Medevac #370 logged 7.6 flight hours evacuating thirty causalities, the four-man crew of downed Medevac #577 and its five wounded passengers, one KIA, one Vietnamese, and one Viet Cong (VC).

This happened to be the first day in combat for pilot Warrant Officer Larry Hatch.


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Legend of the Grey Ghost

by Larry Hatch, MAJ USA (RET)

Larry HatchI received a Purple Heart medal for wounds received on April 8, 1967. The Department of Defense (DOD) generated the telegram below. Somehow DOD got the information wrong. I was completely unaware of this until late one evening about 2005 I got a call from Gary Roush representing the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association asking me all these questions about my first tour in Vietnam. When he was sure he was talking to the correct person, he asked me if I was aware that my name is engraved on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, panel 17E, line 122, in Washington DC as killed in action on April 8, 1967. It was an interesting telephone conversation. He said I was one of 25 individuals identified whose names are erroneously engraved on the Wall. Ever since the kids call me the grey ghost. All the information in the telegram was correct except for my home city was not listed, and the State was Minnesota instead of Oregon, and of course, I was not killed in action. So, if you are ever at the Wall, look me up and say hello.


Information on KIA HATCH LARRY G KIA
Status: Died from an incident on 04/08/67.
Home City: *, Minnesota
Service: component of the U.S. Army.
Major organization: 1st Cavalry Division
Service: U.S. Army.
The Wall location: Panel 17E-Line 122
Service number: W3154603
Country: South Vietnam
MOS: 3139
Compliment cause: weapons
Length of service: *
Casualty type: Hostile - killed
Male U.S. citizen
Race: unknown or not reported
Religion: unknown or not reported
The following information secondary, but may help in explaining this incident.
Category of casualty as defined by the Army: battle dead Category of personnel:
Active duty Army Military class: warrant officer

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The Case of the Naked Medevac Crew

by Kevin T Raftery

Kevin RafertyAfter flying to the South China sea for some open water extraction training, we headed back to the "Vinh" for refueling. Since we had gotten very wet during our amphibious assaults on the beach, we crew members decided to doff our over-heated Nomex, as catching a cold was against Army regulations. Being the medic onboard, I concluded this action was imperative to the health of the crew.

There we were cruising along while sitting naked in our "combat issued" lawn chairs when passing in the other direction was a slick helicopter with their doors closed. We gave that chopper a wave and a salute with everything we had available.

Upon arriving at POL, we discovered the other aircraft had pulled a "u-weee" and followed us. There we were, wearing our finest birthday outfits when that slick's door slid open, and there were three or four Donut Dollies and some high-ranking individuals with stars on their lapels. Some newbie REMF 2LT told us to get combat-ready (put our clothes on) and get rid of our "combat" lawn chairs. The 2nd Louie was even more shocked when he noticed the pilots, looking like Chip n' Dale dancers after their dancing gyrations.

I'm not sure what happened to the pilots, but we had to fly clothed and no chairs from that point on.

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