1stLt. Jerry "Weasel" White
It was around mid June of 1970. The weather was monotonous, a climate that encouraged flying with the ball just a little bit out and the window open to create a cooling breeze. Things in the squadron were normal. We worked hard, flew as often as possible to relieve the boredom and the heat, and rejected any attempt to instill military discipline outside of actual flying. It was the kind of environment where a character named Weasel could thrive. To call Weasel unique is a classic understatement. LtCol. Scaglione went several months wondering who Lt. Jerry White was because he had never met him, and was surprised to learn that it was Weasel, who he knew well. He was irreverent, irascible, salty, and maybe the best pure "stick" I ever flew with. During "all pilots meetings" or strike briefings, Weasel could usually be found reclining on a stretcher at the back of the ready room with his cover over his eyes. Nobody disturbed him and he was alert, he just appeared comatose. We all accepted the fact that this was Weasel being Weasel.
On the day I recall, we were flying recon out of LZ 401. Weasel was lead and I was flying chase. I don't recall who the co-pilots were. At the recon briefing, we agreed to "flip flop" teams. I would put in the first team and Weasel the second, and so on. Just before the briefing was completed, the recon briefer presented Weasel with a little surprise. A well known movie actor was in country doing a little research for his next film which apparently involved recon. He had obtained authorization to fly with the team Weasel was inserting, although he wouldn't disembark. He was presented to Weasel in tones of appropriate awe. There he was; dressed like a tree with green paint and all. Weasel was neither awed nor amused. He was offended at the audacity of the man; that he should be allowed to "play at war", to trivialize the situation while the recon guys actually put it on the line. Weasel asked directly why he wouldn't be joining the team on the ground if he really wanted to do research. This meeting was not going well, and Weasel had no intention of letting it go. As he ambled ( Weasel didn't walk, he kind of stroll-shuffled ) out of the briefing, something in his manner warned me that this was not going to be an ordinary day.
The first insert went smoothly as I dropped a team into one of the regular zones behind Charlie Ridge. The radio was silent as I fell into trail behind Weasel and we headed for his zone in Elephant Valley. As we neared the zone, he asked the gun birds to check out a zone about a click away and he would wait for their aerial recon. As they departed, Weasel began his approach "sans guns" . It was a long, slow straight-in. It dawned on me that Weasel was "trolling". Sure enough, at about 500' and 50 knots, Weasel began taking fire from his six o'clock. I didn't know if he saw it so I called him on the fox mike. "Dash one, you are taking fire from your six" Dead silence except for the expletives from the gun birds who had been sent on a wild goose chase. As he neared the zone the level of fire increased, and still no response on his radio. My imagination was at warp speed. I was convinced he had his radio's shot out and he would soon be shot down. I began planning my approach to rescue the crew. I shouted into the radio "Weasel, wave off, you are taking fire". He didn't answer, but both his 50's opened up on the surrounding area. Tracers filled the air in every direction, most of them originating from Weasels guns. Fun for him, terrifying for me. Weasel sat in the zone with the ramp up and the recon team aboard and exchanged volleys of fire. About the time the gun birds got back to the scene, Weasel came on the air. "Well, I guess our movie star war hero has seen enough combat for today." The disdain in his voice said it all. When we got back to LZ 401, the recon team had to help the movie star off of the helicopter; his legs were too wobbly to work and I swear his green paint had melted and run down his face. It was not the exit of a hero.
Weasel didn't say a word, but his grin told it all.
I loved flying with Weasel; chase or lead, it didn't matter. He was one of a kind; the stuff of legends.
Bruce "Sweet Bruce" Jensen, former 1stLt. USMCR
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