This story comes from Bill Newton, class of
67. It might remind a lot of people what their first days were
like. After I had read this, I asked Bill if he knew who the pilots
were. He said, “no, but he was sure they remembered the flight”
(and the cherry crew chief.) They might also get some satisfaction
in knowing that Bill next joined the army where they made him a
Dateline: USS Okinawa, Mid-June 1967
I was sitting in the door of my 34, YL 49,
pretending to be invisible, when S/Sgt (Coffee Cup) Haines
approached. Oh shit, here it comes. Haines said, "Newton, you've
been in the squadron for awhile and flown some missions. Do you
think you can handle Crew Chief?" I'd flown a couple dozen missions
as gunner with Al Graber and Don Poindexter. I'd passed my written
NATOPS. Yeah, sure, I was salty. I wore my 38 down by my knee with
all five rounds chambered (the only ammo I was ever able to secure
"Yes, Sergeant Haines, I think I'm ready." But
I didn't understand the request coming from Coffee Cup since S/SGT
Yarger is my section leader. "This is only for this one mission,
Newton," Haines replied. "Are you ready?" "Yes, Cof… Sergeant
I preflighted YL thirty-something and signed
the log book. Soon after the pilots arrived, the bird was ready to
We lifted off the Oki Boat without incident.
This was somewhat unusual as I was shaking so badly that a test
pilot would have downed the bird for a 4 per vibration. Somehow in
my fog of terror, I remembered to tell the pilot, "All set below."
My gunner was Robbie Robinson, a decent kid who had the mystical
talent of chewing bubble gum while drinking beer.
Our 1st mission was a chow resupply to the
Rockpile. It went okay except I skulled a FNG with a case of C-rats
that he was attempting to catch. This guy was so new, I could smell
mothballs from 30 feet above him. Didn't even have his home state
Mark-a-Lotted on his flak jacket. If I'd known his name, I would
have written his mother a letter.
The second mission was a routine medevac from a
field hospital. Routine my ass! This poor bastard was not much
more than a living torso. He was so bad, they sent a hospital
corpsman with him to make sure we didn't dump him at sea. I
finally came to the conclusion that war isn't fair. Until this
time, I'd made a study of KIA's. Almost all of them wore wedding
rings. This poor bastard had no place to put one.
The third mission of the day was the real
shaker of my newborn career as a crew chief. Our "routine" medevac
safely aboard the Sanctuary, we were off again. This time to the
heavy jungle canopy west of Quang Tri. About 5 minutes from the PZ
I learned that this was to be a hoist op. No problemo. I'd read my
Natops and knew all the words. Mark, steady, left, right, up, down,
you're settling. I scanned the unfamiliar bird for the remote hoist
control and commo switch. They were . . . Apart! Everybody taped
them together so that you could control the hoist, steady the cable
and most importantly, talk to the pilot.
Three minutes to the PZ. TOOLBOX!!! Needless
to say, I broke several nails prying open what I thought was a
toolbox . . . Just ammo. No electricians tape. No strings. No
pliers. No vice grips. No blade tape. No mamma, no papa, no Uncle
Sam. I'm screwed.
“Clip Clop 2-1. 2 minutes to zone. Pop A
Smoke.” "Be advised the zone is hot!” This mamma's baby boy is not
ready for this yet. From the pilot, "Gunner, the enemy will be to
your front. Stay on your gun." Now that seems to be a reasonable
order. Little did the pilot know that his 18-year-old crew chief
could not accomplish his mission without his gunner's help. His
scared-shitless crew chief was not about to tell him.
Somehow through my stupidness, I remembered to
start spooling out cable before we got to the zone. That was pretty
smart. What was pretty dumb was that I spooled out about 30 feet
too much. This sounds like a pretty bad day, doesn't it?
Approaching the PZ, it really didn't look too
bad. I knew we had a few pilots in the squadron that could widen
this with their UH34D weed eaters. Not this guy.
"Newton, you ready on the hoist?" "Roger," I
said sheepishly. This is going to be a bleeping disaster. I
dropped the sling (the jungle penatrator was somewhere safely aboard
the Oki) with its extra 30 feet of cable. I contemplated jumping to
my death, but I knew I'd need another 30 feet of fall to do the job
Up the cable came. Do any of you have any idea
of what slow is? Well, here we go. After what seemed like an hour,
came the time to announce, "Mark." Only, I forgot. The plane
started drifting right and the grunt staff sergeant who was being
‘evaced’ for what looked like severe poison ivy was about to add a
few lines to his BDA. I let go of the cable to tell the pilot to
correct to the left and raise up. When I let go, the cable started
gyrating so violently that I was afraid we were going to pitch our
The hand went back to the cable and the pilot
remained uninformed. After dragging the sergeant about 200 meters
through jungle canopy and turning a routine medevac into a priority
medevac, I noted the sergeant was still armed. I also noted the
pilots were still armed. I also noted that since this began, I
still had failed to communicate with either pilot.
Five more feet, I can see the blood flowing
caused by the collisions with the branches. Should I jump now or
get him inside the bird? When I got the sergeant inside the plane
and the sling off of him, he broke out in the most gigantic grin. A
grin that lives with me to this day. He's not going to kill me!!!
"Medevac aboard," I squeaked. "Thanks for
keeping me informed, Newton!" the pilot replied. Never in the
history of the Newton Family has the name been spit with such venom.
Note:This story was originally published as Special Edition
#2 in July 2001 and again in The UAMF History Newsletter, Vol. 2,