This was my Vietnam.
Helicopters above the rice paddies reflecting an early morning sunrise as their cluster nears a hot landing zone, the face of a soldier being transported into harm’s way and rockets pounding into Vietcong strongholds, all captured in the best of my personal photography literally accomplished on the fly.
In 1967, I joined countless other young pilots fresh out of Army flight school, filling the cockpits of fragile flying machines over Southeast Asia and confronted with the
hostilities of combat. It was the first helicopter war. A twenty year old Aviation Warrant Officer, I was assigned to the 114th Assault Helicopter Company at Vinh Long, deep in the Mekong River Delta, and eventually became accepted as a member of the celebrated Cobra Gunship Platoon.
Gunship helicopters were specially outfitted with improved rotor systems, rapid fire machine guns, grenade launchers and rockets. Their pilots and door gunners were
a special breed. They enjoyed a reputation among friends and foe alike, of being fearless gunslingers, who flew with a chip on their shoulders, begging for a fight so they could inflict casualties.
I spent nearly half of my 550 hours of time in the air in Vietnam with this kick-ass group of skilled veterans. There were daily encounters with a tenacious enemy, whose
gunfire we attracted by dangerous low level treetop flying. Bullets often ripped into my aircraft, and on two occasions, I was wounded. The second time was serious
enough that I was sent back to the world to heal.
These photos push the clock back over 40 years, showing the scenes I recall from my tour of duty which included the historic Tet Offensive. The emotions they inspire
are varied and sometimes in conflict. Views of the fertile Delta seen from the air seem to be taken in a peaceful beautiful place, while others, like the image of a forward section of a fuselage missing its tail being airlifted back to the bone yard, drive home the reality of what happened there.
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