I enjoyed flying with Bill Sperb on medevacs. He cared about people and went beyond what was expected to help those who were wounded or dying. I flew with him whenever I could. He was a bright spot in a world of shit. Once we were flying medevac on YK-22, with Grimey Mike Velleux as crew chief, and were called to pick up wounded. I don't remembered who piloted or who flew starboard gunner. We arrived at the location and had to hover over triple canopy, then use the wench and jungle penetrator, to retrieve them. I only remember there being one grunt, who had multiple wounds, and seemed to me to be KIA by the time we got him on board, if not before. Nevertheless, Bill began giving CPR and I tried to stop the blood coming from his chest wounds every time Bill compressed his chest. He continued on and on trying to resuscitate until I stopped him. You could see the hurt and frustration in Bill when he realized he could do nothing more. He made every effort to save that Marine.
I found out Bill was flying on April 14th, which I believe was shortly after he'd returned from special leave. Normally I would've flown with him but April 14, 1969 was my 21st birthday. I joked with him about my superstition of having your tombstone reveal you were born and died on the same date, so I declined to accompany him or fly at all that day, which included the subsequent recovery mission (talk about residual guilt!).
The events of what occurred that day is written in the Squadron history. Cpl Gendron, who, in my mind, took my place on the port side of YK-5 was killed and Bill died of his wounds on the way back to the hospital. I celebrated my 21st birthday that night by crawling into a bunker and crying. Needless to say, each of my "happy birthdays" since that date have been tempered by grieving over the remembrance of a friend lost and the guilt of my good fortune. Click here for YK-5 Desroyed on Charlie Ridge
When flying, I preferred the port side. It seemed to be at the time it was a position of responsibility because it was the sole protection and fire power on that side. I also tried to fly with Mike Velleux in YK-22 since it was a lucky bird and I liked flying with Grimey - he was crazy and very good.
Grimey Mike Velleux is on the left of the photo and I am on the right. Check out the Purple Fox patch! I still have it.
Click for larger image.
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