I guess I could write about getting "shot down" or "shot up" or saving peoples lives or other acts of bravery, exhibition of flying skills, or sheer adrenaline pumping in a young man's body. But I'm not, I'll save those for others to tell.
No, I am going to tell you how a young naive 21 year old green copilot fresh from the States got an official welcome to Vietnam, Phu Bai style. And it wasn't from Hanoi Hanna.
There I was minding my own business, having a beer or two at the Phu Bai O'Club. Naturally I had hung my trusty .45 up on the hook, so I was unarmed and definitely unaware of what was about to take place.
Hoping to hear and learn from the "older" more experienced pilots congregating around, my ears were like giant radar stations, trying to hear and learn whatever I could but not wanting to be too obvious. As I sat back enjoying a cold beer with several of my fellow squadron "new guys", I began to notice the club filling up with plenty of "seasoned" pilots.
Now I enjoy an occasional bet or a chance to throw the bones, but what I began to hear was amazing. There was definitely an argument brewing and big time wagering taking place, over what, I wasn't quite sure, but one of the "old guys" started to ask us "new guys" how much we weighed. Apparently bets were being made as to whether or not a team of two "old guys" could pick up several of us "new guys", huddled tightly together, off the floor. Sounded amazing, but who was I to argue when asked by an "old guy" to participate.
As I huddled on the floor holding on to my fellow "new guy" buddy, holding on to his "new guy" buddy. etc., I didn't notice all the pitchers of beer in the hands of all the old guys surrounding us. As the betting got more intense and cheering grew louder, I actually thought that these two guys were going to be able to pick us all up. I was even thinking about betting some of my own money on them. But, to my surprise, as I was clinging for all I was worth and the countdown hit three, I've never seen so much beer coming down on me in my life - along with a cheer from the "old guys", "WELCOME TO VIETNAM."
"Does this mean I'm officially here?"
Bill indicates he is positive that those "old guys" which guiled him into such a situation must have been UH-34 "Dog Drivers" since such childish actions could not possibly have been undertaken by CH-46 "Phrog Drivers!"
Editorial note: It is not known when this ritual was first initiated but, the Webmaster can attest to the fact that it was still practiced as of late September 1969. And, your Webmaster can attest to the fact that they were CH-46 pilots.
Reproduced with permission of Bill Ring as published in USMC/Vietnam Helicopter & Aircrew", 1996 by Turner Publishing Company, Paducah, Ky.
Bill Ring's History Index