Sunday, February 1, 2015

FAREWELL TO AN OLD FRIEND

Earlier this week a favored few of the 'old and bold' including Don McIver (Immediate Past President, RNZRSA and 2ic of 4RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Bn in Vietnam); Robin Klitscher (Past President, RNZRSA and decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross for his gallantry as a pilot in Vietnam flying Iroquois helicopters with 9 Sqn RAAF and Bob 'Bukit' Hill (Vice President, RNZRSA and a member of Victor 2 Company, 2RAR/NZ (ANZAC) Bn in Vietnam) were treated to a final ride in one of 3 Squadron's last remaining UH-ID Iroquois (aka Huey) helicopters soon to be retired from duty after fifty years operational service.


The 'Huey' will be remembered by all those who served in Vietnam (and in other conflicts) with affection.   The distinctive whup, whup, whup of the rotor blades is a sound never forgotten ... flying into an unsecured LZ and having the two side-door machine gunners open up spraying the area with a mix of ball and tracer and you don't know whether it's a 'hot' landing or whatever; that certainly tended to concentrate the mind ... much better when they came to extract you ... that ride back to Nui Dat base at 3,000 feet and you sitting on the floor, dirty, tired, with your feet hanging out of the door and the cool air blowing in your face ... magic.

I recall with huge respect the skill and daring of the helicopter pilots in Vietnam and one particular incident which saw a the pilot of a Dustoff medevac Huey attempt to cut his way down to us through the jungle canopy using the main rotor blades as giant scythes.   Not recommended (especially when replacements blades cost tens of thousands of dollars);  he got to within thirty feet of the ground with bits of trees flying around like in a hurricane when his tail rotor struck something solid and broke off and the Huey crashed on top of us narrowly missing the causalities waiting to be lifted out ... a brand new machine on its first mission in theater and a virtual write-off and only because the pilot was determined to break all the rules in an attempt to get our casualties back to the nearest medical facility.

Everyone will have their own special memories of the Huey.   Going, gone, but never forgotten.    

 

4 comments:

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy said...

I had to ride in one during my Cadet Forces commissioning course in 2005. Complaints that I first rode in one in 1967, spent much of 1969 being ferried around in a hostile environment and that why would I want to ride in an aircraft that had been in service longer than I had and look at the state of my body, were to no avail. I have successfully avoided being carted about in C130 Hercules - the air trooping from Auckland to Alice Springs for 9 hours then Alice to Singapore for another 9 hours is something todays soldiers would go to the union about!

The Veteran said...

Lucky you re C130 travel. That was my mode of tpt to Singapore for my first tour. The brown bag lunches were a meal to remember slightly akin to (but worse) than the fare served up NZ Rail in its heyday ... and the seating!!!!!!!!!!!

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy said...

Ah Vet, you and I travelled at the same time, same mode [air trooping]. My flight overnighted at Alice. Flight back overnighted at Perth. I also did Singapore/Vung Tau in Nov 68. Then there was the dreadful B170 trips from Nui Dat back to Singapore. Interesting that on RTNZ in Nov 69 we landed at Whenuapai at around 2200. The two coffins on board were unloaded unceremoniously by forklift - none of that americanized singing, dancing and cauterwauling that goes on now!

The Veteran said...

Hmmmm ... never had too much trouble with the Vietnam - Singapore leg. It was the other way round that was somewhat more subdued.