Alpha Company, 2/8th Cavalry, circa 1965
Alpha Company, 2/8th Cavalry, circa 1965
Bell UH-1 Huey at work, 1970
“The minigun ships, on the other hand, carried fourteen rockets, and two, 7.62mm, six-barrel minigun, machine guns. These are truly awesome weapons. The machine guns were electrically operated from a sighting system in the copilot seat. The aircraft commander (AC) could, however, take control of these guns if he deemed fit. An electronic, piper or bullseye was in the sights and the copilot moved this piper to line up on his target. The sights came down on a mechanical arm from their stowed position when the copilot released them. As he moved the piper, the guns followed. We generally set these guns to fire at a rate of 2,400 rounds per minute. That meant the ship could put out 80 rounds per second. These guns had a maximum capability of firing 6,000 rounds per minute but that rate was reserved for the faster fixed wing fighter jets. At our fire rate of 2,400 rounds per minute at the speed of 120 knots, a good operator could put a bullet in every square foot on the ground. You don’t need any more coverage than that. More would waste ammunition and decrease your available time at a combat station. Try to imagine what it would sound like if you were to make the single blast of a 308 high powered rifle a continuous sound. Let me tell you, it is a deafening roar when the miniguns kick in. They get hot quickly, so they are set up to fire no more than three second bursts, and then automatically kick off for three seconds, to keep the barrels from melting down.”
– Guts ‘N Gunships: What it was Really Like to Fly Combat Helicopters in Vietnam by Mark Garrison, page 114
“Sniffer missions were comprised of having a machine in the cargo compartment behind the pilots that would measure ammonia levels in the air. There were generally two guys on board, who operated the ammonia sensing equipment, besides the four man crew. Since congregations of humans gave off a lot of ammonia as a result of their metabolism, the army figured this would be a good way to find groups of enemy troops. The only drawback was that congregations of monkeys also gave off a lot of ammonia. It was Standard Operating Procedure for a Sniffer flight to be flown at fifty feet, just above the tops of the trees, at fifty knots airspeed. In other words, it was dangerous as hell. During the flight, the ammonia machine operators would say “mark!” into the intercom radio and the crew chief or door gunner would throw out a smoke grenade, marking the area. Immediately a gunship fire team would roll in on the smoke-marked area and blow the absolute crap out of it. I always suspected a lot of monkeys were needlessly massacred.”
– Guts ‘N Gunships: What it was Really Like to Fly Combat Helicopters in Vietnam by Mark Garrison, page 104
“So many things can go wrong with a helicopter we made our own definition of a helicopter in Vietnam. It went like this: hel•i•cop•ter [hel-i-kop-ter,] noun 1. a collection of one hundred thousand complicated parts, flying in loose formation, built by the lowest bidder.”
– Guts ‘N Gunships: What it was Really Like to Fly Combat Helicopters in Vietnam by Mark Garrison, page 91
“The slick aircraft in our company was the UH1H model that was powered by a Lycoming, turbofan jet engine that generated 1,500 horsepower called a T-13. Its rotor blades had a chord (width) of 21 inches and were rather long. They were attached to a hub that fit over the main mast as part of a semi-rigid rotor head system. This meant that they were adequately capable of handling positive G loads, but not negative G loads. This is a way of saying that you didn’t dare get the aircraft on its back, or you would probably blade chop the tail boom off, lose your center of gravity(CG) and fall out of the sky like a homesick brickbat. That’s generally something you didn’t want to do. The payload of the aircraft (how much weight it could carry) was about 4,000 pounds, which translates into ten to twelve troops including the crew, and a full load of JP 4 jet fuel that weighed 1,600 lbs. The aircraft had a loaded cruise speed of eighty knots, but unloaded it would usually cruise at over 100 knots and still maintain its altitude. The gunship pilots however flew a UH1C model, commonly known as a Charlie model that was equipped with a Lycoming turbofan jet engine that produced 1100 horsepower called a T-11. It had what is known as a 540 rotor system with a 27-inch chord of the blades, built more for speed and maneuverability. These aircraft took a lot of precision flying just to safely get them off the ground when they were loaded with rockets, ammunition, and a full 1,600 lbs of JP 4 jet fuel, because they were often underpowered. The gun pilots often complained about their lack of power. I might add, I would find out in a couple of months just why they were complaining. The slick pilots had their hands full also. Getting in and out of tight landing zones with a full load, and a bunch of people shooting at you, took incredible concentration, nerves of steel, and awesome flying ability.”
– Guts ‘N Gunships: What it was Really Like to Fly Combat Helicopters in Vietnam by Mark Garrison, page 71
From the source:
Dustoffs, parked, and waiting.
MedEvac helicopters, downhill from (former, apparently) 71st Evacuation Hospital in Pleiku, sometime in 1971. The 71st was a large hospital earlier in the war, but by the time I arrived in Nam it was a small operation and we signal folks lived in what had once been hospital wards. Since the place was still busy enough to support an air ambulance operation, these Hueys lived on the complex.
The red crosses painted on these birds weren’t magic shields. They’d land on the battle field, often while the battle raged, and face the dangers which had summoned them in the first place. Perhaps a mile from the hospital, a motor pool had become final home to the twisted and bullet-scarred hulk of a dustoff chopper whose crew had taken heavy fire during a rescue attempt.
Brave men. Dangerous work.
Camera: Minolta SR-T 101.
Dustoff crew member with a CAR-15, 45th Medical Company (Air Ambulance), 1968.
US Army Bell UH-1 Huey
Bomb craters full of water as viewed from a helicopter.