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Vietnam APH-4 Flight Helmet

Article about: by f100zardoz great photo...it looks hot there!! Were you there during tet? Got in-country right at the end of Tet, the oil storage tanks outside Siagon were still burning when I made my fir

  1. #41
    f100zardoz
    ?

    Default Re: Vietnam APH-4 Flight Helmet

    Quote by hawk3370 View Post
    f100zardoz,

    YES all of the above.

    If you will bear with me I will regurgitate a couple events. Will probably bore you to tears but here goes:

    Weather:
    I had some maintenance done on my aircraft and went out on a test flight to check it out. My co-pilot was a very experienced CWO3 and between the two of us we had over 3500 hours flight time. In those days most helicopter pilots had Tactical Instrument Tickets only which gave you just enough knowledge to get yourself killed if you flew into weather.

    During the monsoon season we had a squall line of rain come through every day around 10 AM and again at 3 PM almost like clockwork and it lasted about two hours. One of these squall lines had just passed through when we took off. After confirming that the repairs were fine we decided to go out and check out the A-Shau Valley, we hadn't been out there for a couple weeks. We made a couple passes up the valley looking for targets of opportunity and finding nothing to waste our ammo on we decided to return to Phu Bai.

    When we climbed out of the valley we saw a solid wall of rain coming our way. We flew into it and found zero visibility. Not wanting to attempt a ADF or GCA at Phu Bai we turned around back into the valley and proceeded to follow the river that runs from the valley to the coast. The rain was so thick that you couldn't see more than about 50 meters ahead so we hovered down the river with both canopys open, my co-pilot watching the left side of the river bank and I the right. We were moving at about 25 knots, 5 feet above the river. At one point we rounded a bend in the river and on my side of the river bank I noticed a bunch of tents made from ponchos and a couple soldiers moving around. One of them was about 100 feet away and stood there staring dircetly at me. We startled him as much as he scared the heck out of me. My co-pilot keyed up the intercom and said "were those NVA", I replied "YEP". We were gone down the river before they could react so we got away with that one. We made it all the way down the river to the coast then followed the coast back up to Phu Bai. To this day I hate intrument flight and avoid it whenever possible.

    Bored yet? Well hang in there its not over yet.

    Under Fire:

    We were supporting Special Forces out of the CCN Launch Site at Marble Mountan just south of Da Nang. I was in command of a light fire team of AH-1G Cobras. We had inserted the team into a valley about 20 miles inside Laos earlier that day and were standing by at Marble Mountain in the event they got into trouble. Their mission was to watch the road that ran through the valley which was suppose to be a major infiltration route.

    We were awakened abut 2 AM and informed that the team had been compromised and needed fire support. I knew the team leader from my enlisted service with 10th SFG, and knew him to be very calm under stress and would have not requested us unless he was in real trouble. As soon as we reached altitude I contacted him and asked the situation. I could hear a heavy volumn of small arms fire in the background and he only said two things. He said "Winchester" and then a word that sent chills up my spine, "Prairie Fire", he repeated this three times then the radio went dead. Winchester was the code word for we are out of ammo and Prairie Fire was the code word for we are about to be over run.

    We arrived over the valley and I could see no tracers or signs of a fire fight. I attempted to contact the team with negative results. I contacted base and they instructed us to return refuel and prepare to return at first light. I instructed my wing man to head back and that I was going to make a run down the valley floor to see if I could see a strobe or some sign of the team. I would then catch up with him and become his wingman. He rogered and I saw him head towards base as I decended into the valley. I put my lights on flast bright so I didn't make such a good target, being on flash meant that they only came on about every 15 seconds and then immediately went out, and started my run up the valley about a 100 feet over the road. When we approached the last known position of the team the tree line on both sides of the valley erupted in muzzel flashes and tracers. I initiated an steep climb in an attempt to get above the range of the small arms fire. I could hear the bullets hitting the aircraft, but I had no caution lights on so I figured we were going to be ok. As I approached 2000 feet I thought to myself thank god we will be out of range and a few feet. At that time a round came up through the floor of the aircraft and hit me in the chin, the round lodging under my tongue. That knocked the crap out of me, but we were still climbing and things were looking better. I asked my co-pilot if he was alright and he replied that he had been hit in the arm. We were out of small arms range and I could see the lights of Da Nang on the horizon. I told him we would head straight for the hospital. It was at that time there was a large explosion about 200 meters to our front and second later I detected another flash to my left rear. I knew immediately that we had been bracketed by a 37mm AA Gun and before I could react the third round that I knew was coming exploded outside the left side of the aircraft. It blew out my canopy and shredded most of my instrument panel. A large chunk of shapnel hit the side of my seat and another hit me on the side of the helmet splitting my helmet open and knocking the visor off. Smaller pieces of shapnel hit my leg and left arm. I dove the aircraft doing S turns to get out of his sight and proceeded on our heading to Da Nang.

    When I thought we were clear of the AA Gun I climbed back to altitude and attempted to call my wing man and inform him of our situation. Negative results on VHF, FM, or UHF. the explosion had taken out our radios so we could not talk outside the aircraft. But we were still flying or so I thought and it looked like we would make it to the hospital. The wind coming through the missing canopy was keeping me awake but I really felt like heck. We had a terrific 1 to1 lateral vibration (like when your washing machine is out of balance) A few minutes later my nav lights flashed and to my surprise I saw a tree go by, I thought I was still at 2000 feet but with no instruments and being pitch black I really had no reference. I instinctively pulled the nose up and pulled full pitch, the vibration practically threw me out of the aircraft and within seconds we impacted into a rice paddy. We hit hard, I mean really hard driving my seat into the floor and shearing the transmission from the engine which caused the engine to take off reaching extremely high RPMs. Fearing it was going to explode I reach down and cut off the main fuel killing the engine. I still was afraid of fire and pulled myself over the edge of the aircraft and dropped into the rice paddy. I immediately begin to burn especially in my wounds. I then realized that I was floating in a hundred gallons of JP-4 Jet Fuel that had flooded the rice paddy when we impacted and the fuel cell burst. I tried to stand up but couldn't, didn't know it at the time but my back was fractured in two places. I pulled myself over the rice paddy dyke into clear water. I stuck my flight glove into my open wound under my chin then realized the glove was also soaked in JP-4 so out it cam. I couldn't help my co-pilot who was in extreme pain and still setting in the front seat, due to the broken back. I was going into shock and couldn't remember how to use my URC-10 emergency radio. I finally pulled the antenna which turns it on and I attempted to put out a May Day. After several tries I had a reply from some airforce pilot who asked me where we were, I couldn't remember where I was and I just said "somewhere in Vietnam" they thought I was messing around and told me to stay off the radio. I thought this is great down in a rice paddy can't talk to anyone were going to die. We laid out there for about an hour until it started getting light and a CAV Loach flew by saw the wreckage and landed. They called for a Med-Evac and within 30 min were in the hospital at Da Nang. My co-pilot was shipped out to Japan later that day paralyzed from the waist down. I laid around the hospital for two weeks and then returned to Phu Bai where I was grounded for about a month before being cleared to fly. I flew one more mission and then came home. I found out later that what brought us down was a piece of shapnel cut a pitch change link which eventually broke in half causing me to have full pitch in one blade and flat pitch in the other, thats what was causing the 1 to 1 lateral vibration

    Attached is a picture of that magnificant aircraft that took such a beating and still brought us back. Notice the slash in the side of the aircraft and up to the armor panel on the side of my seat from a large piece of shapnel, probably the same piece that took out my helmet.
    Hi Terry, would or did you ever think of writing or having someone write a book about your whirly bird adventures? . If your account above is anything to go by you could have a Chickenhawk for the new decade in your head. It could prove a to be a nice little earner for yourself. Especialy in the times we live in when that subject is very current. I would buy for sure!!! attached is myself beside a cobra in Hawaii.....
    Click to enlarge the picture Click to enlarge the picture Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #42
    f100zardoz
    ?

    Default Re: Vietnam APH-4 Flight Helmet

    Quote by hawk3370 View Post
    Michael,
    My wife's family are from Ireland. If you like vietnam pilot stories get the book "Life on the Line" by Phillip Chinnery. He is a british author and put out a book with stories from the pilots, Army, Airforce and Navy/Marines. There is a very short chapter in his book on a couple of my experience during the war.
    Terry
    just ordered it..i look forward the read.....

  3. #43

    Default Re: Vietnam APH-4 Flight Helmet

    Hi,
    I just found the pictures that I made at the US ARMY AVIATION MUSEUM in Fort Rucker last November...the museum is very beautiful and it deserve an entire thread about!!
    The first picure is about the "evolution of the flight helmets", the second is a battledamage helmet...and the others are for you Terry!!
    IMO the Cobra is one of the most beautiful helicopter ever built...just after the Chinook
    The last is a picture of myself with my beauty

    Davide
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  4. #44

    Default Re: Vietnam APH-4 Flight Helmet

    Quote by drago1983 View Post
    Hi,
    I just found the pictures that I made at the US ARMY AVIATION MUSEUM in Fort Rucker last November...the museum is very beautiful and it deserve an entire thread about!!
    The first picure is about the "evolution of the flight helmets", the second is a battledamage helmet...and the others are for you Terry!!
    IMO the Cobra is one of the most beautiful helicopter ever built...just after the Chinook
    The last is a picture of myself with my beauty

    Davide
    Davide,
    Thanks much, I need to get back down to rucker, its only an hour and a half away. The Cobra was abeautiful aircraft but each and every model from the OH-13 to the Apache are unique and beautiful in their own way. I recall the C-Mod Huey with its 900 Shaft HP engine was really underpowered and had to be nursed through the sky to keep it flying but I loved it and was actually disappointed when they sent me to Cobra tran, that is until I flew it for the first time then the love affair was in full bloom. About the Chinook, I noticed in Vietnam that they make a beautiful mushroom cloud then they impact after taking fire. I always marveled at how those huge lumbering beast looked so graceful once they got off the ground. Very nice aircraft. Your door gun almost looks like a German MG-42, what is it?

    Terry

  5. #45

    Default Re: Vietnam APH-4 Flight Helmet

    Quote by f100zardoz View Post
    Hi Terry, would or did you ever think of writing or having someone write a book about your whirly bird adventures? . If your account above is anything to go by you could have a Chickenhawk for the new decade in your head. It could prove a to be a nice little earner for yourself. Especialy in the times we live in when that subject is very current. I would buy for sure!!! attached is myself beside a cobra in Hawaii.....
    f100zardoz,
    I gave it some thought, a recently as a couple months ago, however I wanted it to be about the unit and the exploits of the other members of the organization. But there is a lot of legal issues when doing that, and I have no idea how to contact the members of the unit to get permission to use their names or adventures. And for doing one about my exploits, still mulling it around.

    Check out the web site "LZ of the 240th" it is a magnificant site dedicated to the 240th AHC in Vietnam. It was my first tour and in my opinion one of the best aviation companies during the war. We spent most of our time supporting Special Forces operations flying into and along the Cambodian border. After arriving in country I was awaiting orders at Long Binh Replacement Depot. I ran into some pilots that were processing out to return stateside. Setting around the club I asked them what was the best unit and they said "what ever you do don't go to the 240th, Its a suicide company" I asked what to you mean and they said that due to its mission they have a lot of losses. That very next day orders came through and I saw my name WO1 Terry Morris 214th Combat Aviation Bn, I was somewhat releived. When I got to the 214th I was called into the BN Co's office and he said that the 240th AHC needs gunship pilots and you went through the gunship portion of flight school, so welcome aboard. Turned out to be the best assignment I could have imagined. Lots of action and mixing it up with "Charlie". My first, second and third purple hearts came out of that tour.

    Terry

    Terry

  6. #46
    f100zardoz
    ?

    Default Re: Vietnam APH-4 Flight Helmet

    Quote by hawk3370 View Post
    f100zardoz,
    I gave it some thought, a recently as a couple months ago, however I wanted it to be about the unit and the exploits of the other members of the organization. But there is a lot of legal issues when doing that, and I have no idea how to contact the members of the unit to get permission to use their names or adventures. And for doing one about my exploits, still mulling it around.

    Check out the web site "LZ of the 240th" it is a magnificant site dedicated to the 240th AHC in Vietnam. It was my first tour and in my opinion one of the best aviation companies during the war. We spent most of our time supporting Special Forces operations flying into and along the Cambodian border. After arriving in country I was awaiting orders at Long Binh Replacement Depot. I ran into some pilots that were processing out to return stateside. Setting around the club I asked them what was the best unit and they said "what ever you do don't go to the 240th, Its a suicide company" I asked what to you mean and they said that due to its mission they have a lot of losses. That very next day orders came through and I saw my name WO1 Terry Morris 214th Combat Aviation Bn, I was somewhat releived. When I got to the 214th I was called into the BN Co's office and he said that the 240th AHC needs gunship pilots and you went through the gunship portion of flight school, so welcome aboard. Turned out to be the best assignment I could have imagined. Lots of action and mixing it up with "Charlie". My first, second and third purple hearts came out of that tour.

    Terry

    Terry
    Hi Terry,

    'suicide company' that's some reputation. You mustn't have know what to think!

    Writing a book, legal issues, red tape, it's hard to get things done in this over complicated world..

    Could you tell the difference when you were in action with the NVA as opposed to the VC & how would you rate their professionalism/tactics/qualities as soldiers? I am really interested in your thoughts on this. Thanks Mick.

  7. #47

    Default Re: Vietnam APH-4 Flight Helmet

    Quote by f100zardoz View Post
    Hi Terry,

    'suicide company' that's some reputation. You mustn't have know what to think!

    Writing a book, legal issues, red tape, it's hard to get things done in this over complicated world..

    Could you tell the difference when you were in action with the NVA as opposed to the VC & how would you rate their professionalism/tactics/qualities as soldiers? I am really interested in your thoughts on this. Thanks Mick.

    The VC were nothing more than thugs and gangsters. I suspect that is why many were executed after the NVA took over in 1975. The NVA on the other hand were professional soldiers who for the most part were well trained and dedicated. In my first tour in the delta we were up against the VC more so than the NVA. I found that after a battle we would always find marijuana on the bodies. Seemed that the VC were actually issued marijuana on a daily basis to bolster courage I suspect. I have the utmost respect for the NVA soldier in his fighting abilities. It took about 9 months for an NVA soldier to come from North Vietnam to the delta, they suffered tremendously on the trip down, being bombed daily along the trail, ambushed, living on rice and putting up with the insects, snakes etc. By the time they arrived they were hardened soldiers and proved to be a worthy advisary. I recall one incident in 1968 near the Cambodian border we had a run in with a platoon size element of NVA. When the battle was over a check of papers found on the body of one soldier indicated that the NVA Lieutenant was only 15 years old but already leading men into battle.

    Terry

  8. #48
    f100zardoz
    ?

    Default Re: Vietnam APH-4 Flight Helmet

    Quote by hawk3370 View Post
    The VC were nothing more than thugs and gangsters. I suspect that is why many were executed after the NVA took over in 1975. The NVA on the other hand were professional soldiers who for the most part were well trained and dedicated. In my first tour in the delta we were up against the VC more so than the NVA. I found that after a battle we would always find marijuana on the bodies. Seemed that the VC were actually issued marijuana on a daily basis to bolster courage I suspect. I have the utmost respect for the NVA soldier in his fighting abilities. It took about 9 months for an NVA soldier to come from North Vietnam to the delta, they suffered tremendously on the trip down, being bombed daily along the trail, ambushed, living on rice and putting up with the insects, snakes etc. By the time they arrived they were hardened soldiers and proved to be a worthy advisary. I recall one incident in 1968 near the Cambodian border we had a run in with a platoon size element of NVA. When the battle was over a check of papers found on the body of one soldier indicated that the NVA Lieutenant was only 15 years old but already leading men into battle.

    Terry
    It's strange that the best of men on both sides who have so much in common and more often than not share a mutual respect end up fighting each other to the death when they should be in a bar exchanging stories.

    Did you use the T.O.W. at all as i know it was later in the war. Flying near Laos & Cambodia did you ever encounter any large caliber aaa? I'm not sure if radar guided aaa was used outside North Vietnam. I'd imagine some areas of the Ho Chi Minh trail had some pretty heavy ordinance.

    I hope I am not driving you mad with all these questions, but to me it's fasinating being able to ask someone like yourself who was acctualy there. Thanks Michael.
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  9. #49

    Default Re: Vietnam APH-4 Flight Helmet

    Terry,

    All who have an interest in this thread will suck you dry of your stories I hope you don't get tired of us. This is great!

    rgds, Ty

  10. #50

    Default Re: Vietnam APH-4 Flight Helmet

    Quote by f100zardoz View Post
    It's strange that the best of men on both sides who have so much in common and more often than not share a mutual respect end up fighting each other to the death when they should be in a bar exchanging stories.

    Did you use the T.O.W. at all as i know it was later in the war. Flying near Laos & Cambodia did you ever encounter any large caliber aaa? I'm not sure if radar guided aaa was used outside North Vietnam. I'd imagine some areas of the Ho Chi Minh trail had some pretty heavy ordinance.

    I hope I am not driving you mad with all these questions, but to me it's fasinating being able to ask someone like yourself who was acctualy there. Thanks Michael.
    Michael,
    The T.O.W. came along around 1975 in VN when the NVA brought tanks across the border. We didn't have them in 71-72. I spent a good bit of time in Cambodia in 68-69 and the biggest thing we encountered over there was the .52 Cal. My second tour found me flying deep into Laos during Lam Son 719 and on the many SF missions thereafter. We encountered 23mm, 37mm, 57mm, and 100mm AA weapons in Laos. I suspect the 57 and 100 mm were radar controlled, I know they brought a lot of our ships down. For me the main killer was the AK-47 and RPG, but I always flew the low bird on our hunter killer missions and not at altitude where the big guns played. A favorite tactic of the NVA was to have everyone in the unit just point their weapons straight up when they heard you coming and open fire, hoping you would flight right through it. This seemed to work rather well in that by the time you saw the tracers you were in fact in the middle of the fire storm and your only recourse was to haul butt and try to get out of it as quickly as possible. More often than not you might get hit once or twice and it would not cause any significant damage. On other occasions they might get lucky. I came back from Cambodia on fine day with over 90 holes in my aircraft, none of which struck a vital component or crew member, twas a lucky day.

    The NVA gunners on the big guns along the Ho Chi Minh Trail seemed to have their sights set for "fast movers" (F-4's), as a result when we came putting along at 140 knots they would open up and the air burst would pop up out in front of us because they were leading us to much. Our 20mm had better range than their 23mm and when we would see the group of airburst we would just stay outside their burst pattern and look for the smoke in the jungle. Then lay waste to it with out 20mm. The only problem after a short period they learned what we were doing and started deploying their guns in triangles of 3 guns so they had you from several directions.

    Its been a long time since anyone has asked questions about VN and other than telling "War Stories" with the old timers when we have our gatherings there doesn't seem to be an interest, so I don't mind at all.

    Terry

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