"J. D. Bell, Tale #2"
It would not be fair to tell just one story about 1stLt. J. D. Bell. And J. D. if you ever read these stories, you know that I love you man….but you can't have my Bud Lite.
Well, let's see, where did I leave off…oh yes,
we had been out on a night medevac in the Que Sons. Ok, well when
you think about his gunshot style and his romantic flirting with danger,
you become a real fan of J. D. Bell. But it would have been much
easier for me to have been a fan from back on the ground than in the cockpit
So, is born J.D. Tale #2. There we were on a recon extract flight of two. 1stLt. Richard J. “Ding Dong” Bell was the HAC in the lead 46. I can't remember who the co-pilot was. J. D. Bell was HAC in the chase 46, and I was J. D.'s every faithful copilot that day. We were flying with guns from Comprise that day. Mike Hammer, I believe was HAC in the lead bird and Greg Deusing was HAC in the chase bird.
Now, my memory is not as sharp as it used to be, and I can't find my log book just now, so I am relying on foggy memory, but I believe we were on standby for recon extract that day. We got the call and launched. There was a team in trouble. It seems in my foggy memory we were on the south side of Charlie Ridge somewhere, but it doesn't matter, it all looked the same from up where I was at.
Ding Dong was setting up for the approach to the designated pick up spot (I can't bring myself to call it an actual LZ because it was more like a wide spot on a trail.) The lead Huey was talking to the recon team on the ground and they were in a fire fight and humping it to the pickup point. We could hear the automatic fire in the background and the huffing and puffing voice on the radio. The Huey was trying to ascertain the exact whereabouts of the team in relation to the enemy. This was difficult to say the least in a running fire fight. Hell they were everywhere. Once the team was near the pickup point the Hueys started laying down fire on both sides of the trail with rockets and machine guns. Ding Dong started a tight spiral which was more of a violent autorotation than an approach. J. D. was watching every move of all the players. He had been a Huey pilot before coming to the Purple Foxes, and some things don't change. He was concerned for the lead 46 and the fact that this zone was beginning to heat up.
As Ding Dong flared on his final to touchdown the trees around the trail lit up as if someone had thrown out thousands of firecrackers. All hell was breaking loose. This was no mere fire fight, the team had stumbled into an NVA unit of unknown size. At least it was unknown to us at the start. We were fast learning that it was considerable in size just by the amount of muzzle flashes were were observing in the trees. The Hueys continued to lay down fire, and Ding Dong pulled out of the zone before setting down. The amount of incoming fire was just too intense. He asked for more zone prep from the Hueys. Now J. D. was beginning to revert back to gun ship pilot right before my eyes. The Hueys were chattering away and talking about being low on rockets and ammo and J. D. was chompin at the bit to get into the melee.
Ding Dong set up for another run at it. The lead Huey was in and pulled off calling “out of rockets”, the chase Huey was in and called “out of rockets” they both laid down machine gun fire. J. D was on the air now. “Get those guns out of the way, I am rolling in.” Excuse me, beg your pardon, sir…did you say rolling in? J. D. instructed the 50 cal door gunners on our 46 to place their guns full forward and down and don't move them. He would tell them when to fire and he wanted long bursts when he did. (Normally the 50’s would shoot short bursts to keep the barrels from becoming too hot and jamming the gun.) Ding Dong was in the zone now and we were about 50 meters off his 6’ O'clock position and timing our run right on his pull out of the zone. We would be right on his tail with guns blazing. As I looked out to the side of our helo I saw the chase Hue right with us. I can't say for sure but I thing Greg Deusing was smiling. They were out of ammo but they had their M16’ hanging out the windows and were shooting. I heard J. D. yell "fire" to our gunners. Now if you have never sat in the cockpit of a 46 when the 50 fired, you will not be able to comprehend what I am saying. Suffice I to say that it was a bit of a wake-up call even though I was semi prepared for it. We were in trail with the lead 46 coming out of the zone now with one Huey by our side. Every gun available was laying down fire. We were taking a lot of fire from the ground.
I figured we were all going to buy the farm that day. But miraculously, we cleared the treetops, made a gentle climbing turn to the Northeast and headed for friendlier areas. I believe there were a lot of words exchanged between J. D. and Mike Hammer that day, but I was not privy to them, so I won't speculate. For me, all's well that turns out well and we all went home to Marble Mountain in one piece that day.
I will always be indebted to the gun ship pilots that we were on missions with. I figure we all got up out of the bunk every morning and planned on doing the best we could given the circumstances. I don't think anyone of us every woke up and said ‘I think I will just go out and see how much I can cluster up this day.” So, each of us had our own special way of doing things. J. D.'s way will always be for me the most colorful way. You could be sure when J. D. was there, it was going to be special.
And just for the record….NO, J. D. I DON'T WANT TO FLY WITH YOU ANYMORE. There are too few flights and so many others who need the opportunity to experience your special ways.
I telephoned J. D. a few years ago. He now lives in New Orleans where he still flies helicopters. I hadn't spoken to him in 25 years. When the telephone was answered I said, "Is this J. D.?" "Yea, how you doing", he answered. "I am fine, do you know who this is", I said. He then replied, "Yeah I recognize your voice, do you want to go flying with me?"
Pat "Swift Chuck" Kenny, former Lieutenant USMCR)
Back Browser or Home