HA(L)-3 Mission


UPDATED: 28 Dec 04

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Note:  This story speaks of the grim realities of war.  It should not be read by young children without an adults permission. [The Webmaster]




Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron Three, HA(L)3, SEAWOLVES, The U S Navy’s only armed Helo Gunship Squadron to ever fly in combat and the most decorated naval aviation unit in history. Our part of the war was fought up close and personal, just off the deck. The following narrative happened one night in early 1970 staging out of the Rach Gia short strip, Western coast of the Republic of Vietnam. I was an Aviation Electricians Mate (E6) flying as the right Door gunner/crew chief on Detachment eights two helo Gunship Fire team. We had been scrambled twice earlier in the day, and as our logo KILLING WAS OUR BUSINESS AND BUSINESS WAS DAMN GOOD held true as we had kicked some ass on the bad guys transiting south along the coast from Cambodia. We again scrambled about 9 pm this night for an ARVN compound with American advisors under attack. The target area was fifteen minutes south of Rach Gia inland just off the Gulf of Thailand coast. The compound was under a heavy enemy mortar barrage and automatic weapons fire. We could tell that it was going to be hot by the excited sound of the advisors voice on the radio. When we arrived on the scene, the mortar barrage was still going on, and the Viet Cong were over running the east end of the compound. We could see the flash of the mortar tubes as we rolled in under intense enemy fire, firing rockets and Miniguns with both door guns blazing. After several low level attacks we silenced the tubes and were told that the friendlies had pulled back to the west end of the compound and to put our fire into the east end where the enemy were. We attacked several more times taking heavy fire and hits in both Gunships  but finally  after decimating the enemy in the compound and in the wire surrounding  the outpost, the fire became sporadic as Charlie pulled back, allowing  the VNs to take back the compound. The American advisor told us that the VNs had their families living with them in the compound and several family members had been critically wounded and needed to be Medivaced now or they wouldn't make it. We were light now that we had expended all of our rockets and most of our ammo for our Door guns. So our Fire Team Leader decided both Gunships could go down and get the wounded as we had done Medivacs many times before. I really disliked these Medivacs for they were always bloody and traumatic. Both Gunships landed outside the west end of the compound where it was secure except for several enemy tracer rounds going overhead. We knew Charlie would be working his way around to where we  had landed so we had to get out of there fast. As the wounded family members were being brought out for loading we started taking heavy fire from the tree line to my right side. I have my left door gunner bring his M 60 machine gun to my side and we both take the enemy gunners under fire out the right door as did the gunners on the trail bird. The critical wounded family members were brought out and loaded on our birds in the left door. In my aircraft we had three adult women and one little girl, the other bird had several wounded also loaded up. As we're trying to get airborne many of the VN soldiers were trying to get in the bird with us and others were hanging onto the skids, they were terrified and wanted out of there. My left gunner jumped back to his door and we grabbed our personal weapons, M16s,and used them as clubs to knock the ARVN troops  out of the helo and off the skids . One of the American advisors (Green Beret) is on my side and is yelling SHOOT THE #%&*# OFF IF YOU HAVE TO as he's jerking them away. Our old Army cast off B model Hueys are really straining to get in the air and as we come into a hover to get the airborne I smash the last ones hanging on the skids in the head with the butt of my 16 .They only fall a few feet to the ground and I grab my M 60 again and start shooting the tree line as we come out of there under heavy fire taking more hits in the bird. When we cleared the area and headed to Binh Thuy with the wounded for medical attention, I then tried to see if we could help them. They were all sitting on the deck of the bird behind the Pilots seats facing us. There were two women by the left door and the left gunner was helping them, In front of me was this wounded mother with a young girl in her lap. The mother had her right hand blown off and had a bad head wound, both had been wrapped with dirty cloth, the little girl had a soaked bloody bandage on her chest. The woman   gave me the child with her good arm before she passed out and slumped over against my legs. I took the little girl and held her in my arms on my lap, her mother regained consciousness, started wailing and rocking back and forth in extreme pain. The little girl’s eyes were open looking up at me with blood foaming at her mouth. She was not making a sound, I lifted the cloth to see how bad she was hit and she had a sucking chest wound. I knew she wasn't going to make it, and as the blood flowed out onto my lap I thought of my two daughters and how horrible this would be to have this happen to them. A few minutes later the little girl closed her eyes, stopped breathing and was gone with out a sound. I pulled her to me and with tears running down my face I thought what a waste of this little girls life, who that afternoon was probably laughing and playing with her friends and who had never harmed any one in her short time on earth. But in combat sometimes the innocent suffer the most. When we landed at the Army Surgical unit the wounded were off loaded and the little girl was taken from my arms. We then flew to Navy Binh Thuy, checked the battle damage, rearmed ,refueled and flew back to Rach Gia and put in more strikes to save the compound, rearmed/refueled to await more scrambles to go back out again.. Even today when I see young children playing I think of that little girl in Vietnam, and pray that my now grown daughter Stephanie and my little eight year old girl Lauren nor any other child will ever have to go through that.     WAR IS HELL.


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