I would like to start this off with, My birthday is this Wednesday, the November 22nd, 2023. I will be 72 Years Old. I was born on 'Thanksgiving Day', on a Thursday in 1951. President John F. Kennedy was Assassinated on My 12th Birthday in 1963, I was in Junior High School. The 'Family Joke' was , Marlin was born out of the Turkey. Mom started it.
Now, Onto the Gunship!!
YOU!!!! The Maintenance Sargent swiftly walks up and is seriously in My Face!
I had just finished morning mess, and was walking onto the Hanger area where we repaired and Maintained the Hueys and Cobras. The 16th Cav had Convoyed up to Can-Tho airbase, from Soc-Trang, a few weeks earlier. All Equipment, and Personnel had been Moved up there.
In My face, I get..."Go to the Cobra, take off the The High Pressure Hose for the Flight Controls, the Hose in the 'Tower'!" "Hurry! A ship is waiting to take you out to the AO, we have a Cobra Shot Down." "GET MOVING!!"
The Tower is the Top Pylon that the Main Rotor Shaft protrudes from. There are Hydraulic Actuators there that Move the 'Swash Plate', and eventually the Pitch in the Rotor Blades. Flight Controls.
I look to the Left of the field, sitting 50 feet away is a Loach (the chopper that looks like a Egg), facing towards leaving the area, and at FULL High Speed, 'ground-idle', Rotor Rotation...waiting for Me!!
I'am Running full speed, I get to one of the two Cobras in the Maintenance Hanger in time to see a team of two mechanics , just finishing removing Both the High Pressure Hose AND the Return Hose...just Incase the Pilots described the Wrong Hose. The High Pressure Hose is the smallest diameter (Less Area to with-stand the Pressure), the Return Hose is the Larger Diameter, for Increased Flow back to the Tank.
I am Immediately Handed 2 Large AN 'Blue and Red', Hoses, 7 Big, Heavy Open Ended Wrenches, and 1 Orange/Red, 3 Gallon can of Hydraulic Fluid! With My arms full, I run to the waiting Chopper. The Pilot motions me, to sit in the Right Rear Seat. A square bench seat of Round tubing, covered with OD green Nylon sheet for a Bottom. Here's the 'Kicker'...NO SEAT BELT! In an instant I have to Innovate! I put the two Hoses Down My shirt and INTO my waistband, I lay the 7 wrenches Across on the seat and sit on them. The 3 Gallon Can of Fluid, I HOLD Between My Knees!! With Both Hands I hold onto the Tubing of the seat, for My Dear Life! We Take off with Great Speed, FULL Speed. The Cobra had taken a small arms Bullet through the Pressure Hose, and it could not be allowed to remain in the AO for any longer. With Weapons and Radios.
This Loach Pilot was an expert! At about 15 feet off the ground, I swear to the Lord, we were 'Bobbing and Weaving' at 90 Degrees, Left and Right, then Left and Right. through the Banana Palms, Elefant ears and such. Still Hanging on for dear life! At 1 Kilometer out from the base, we get to our destination and set down. 60 feet from the downed Cobra, sitting upright on it's Skids. A Mirical I Lost Nothing!! I was greeted by one of the Pilots, he grabbed the One Pressure hose and all of the wrenches, and ran back to his ship, where the two of them had already opened the tower for repairs. I was Ordered to remain at the Running at Ground Idle, Loach, Standing, as the Pilots Insisted on performing the Replacement themselves!!
The second of the two Cobras was Circling Overhead as Protection and as a Deterrent to any remaining VC or Sniper. We were in Danger of being Shot at, we were 'Sitting Ducks'.
The 2 Pilots, working together at the Tower, were Marvelous Mechanics! Very Fast! No sooner did they get the Hose Replaced, than Yelling back at Me, they ask this Crewchief..."How Tight do You Put these Hose Connections??" Knowing that On My Word, One brave pilot was going to fly this ship back to base. Just one Pilot would be 'sacrificed' if I was wrong. I reverted back to My training. My reply was "SNUG, Plus One Flat!". (you may not move it all of One Flat, but in trying to get there, one will achieve a Proper Torque). The Pilots' reply was, my favorite..." Snug Plus One Flat...You Better be Right Mister! You Better be Right!!" 'I'am Right' (I thought Confidently).
After retrieving the Can of Hydraulic fluid, putting all of it in the reservoir, Cranking up the Engine, Checking for Leaks, after closing the tower, the Pilot, checking the Gauges and flight control movements, gives us a 'Thumbs-Up'. The co-pilot, tosses the can, joins us at the loach, with the 7 wrenches, and we are All Off back to Base! Don't Forget about that Other Cobra Circling Overhead!!
I never heard back from those Pilots. For My actions, they recommended Me for the 'Bronze Star', which I never received. That's OK with Me. The Rewards I get from the knowledge of Saving a Million Dollar Helicopter, as well as Lives saved from the recovery of the weaponry, consisting of Full Rocket Pods, Grenade Launcer, 20MM Vulcan Cannon, as well as the 3 Radios, will live with Me, Forever!
I pray to GOD, these Pilots were NOT the same who were killed in a Cobra Mid-Air Collision with a 'Air America' single engine 'fixed wing', a few months in the future. That's a future Chapter. (Cobra Gunship Collision and Inverted. A Photo)
Next Chapter 6 'Night Parachute Flairs, a Prized Parachute?'