The Day I Shot My Gunner

Logbook entry for Sgt. Dean "Kahuna" Cohoon
17 Mar 68 (66-4, XD805442, 1R9, Remarks REC FIRE)

During the siege of Khe Sanh, a VC was hiding in a cave or tunnel at the base of hill 881 South.  Every time we sent a flight of CH-46s to this hill, he would fire one round with considerable accuracy.  We started calling him "One Shot Charlie" or as the Grunts on the hill called him "Luke the Gook".  He even got his name in print, "The End of the Line, The Siege of Khe Sanh" by Robert Pisor.

We Tried various methods to knock him out include stingers (M-60s) on the tail ramp of our birds and Huey's escorting us to the hill with their guns rattling.

On one such flight I had my M-14 stuck out the "hell hole" next to the external load hook.  I sprayed the area as we made our approach then pulled the rifle up and dropped it on the floor next to me so I could release the hook when the external load touched the ground.

When the rifle hit the floor my left gunner, Cpl. Larry Igl, started jumping up and down holding his foot.  Pandemonium broke out in the plane.  The pilot was yelling in the intercom that his radios and some of his instruments went dead and the co-pilot was trying to figure out what was going on in the back of the helicopter.  The pilot asked me what was going on.  I was evaluating the situation in the cabin and with a breaking voice said, "I shot my gunner.  I shot Cpl. Igl."  With a touch of panic in his voice he asked, "What did you do that for?"  (I think he was concerned I would continue shooting crew members)  I was so shook up at the thought of shooting my own gunner that I couldn't even answer him.

Upon our return to Phu Bai, we put steel rods through the heel of the boot and the floor to calculate the trajectory of the round.  This proved that the round came through the upper left corner of the open hatch in the back of the plane, not my rifle that landed on the floor to my right.   As the pilot flared for the approach to the hill, "One Shot Charlie" had struck again.

Cpl. Igl's heel was badly bruised and he needed a new pair of boots.  The round continued through the floor, through a structural major frame and into the main wire bundle at the base of the console.  The "Sparkies" worked all night to repair the wire bundle.  When we fired up the auxiliary power unit (APU) for an electrical power test, everything worked, but not with the proper switch.  The ramp went down when the FM radio was selected and the hoist went down when the ramp switch was flipped.  They stayed with it and the plane was ready for the first launch the next morning.

I was fortunate to be with the best group of men I've ever know.  But, understandably, no one wanted to fly guns with me for about a week, in case I started shooting crew members again.

Crew of YK-20

Capt. Phillip R. Hemming Pilot
Capt. Earl R. Moore Copilot
Sgt. H. Dean Cohoon Crew Chief
Cpl. William O. Roberts Gunner
Cpl. Lawrence A. Igl Gunner

Submitted by::
    H. Dean "Kahuna" Cohoon,  Sgt. USMC

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