I wasn't flying lead that day. I usually did, but they command performanced every bird and every pilot into the air that day, even the staff guys. Capt. BJ outranked me, so they made him lead. They told me to fly #2 and be ready to take over in case something happened. Once we were airborne, Jim Ozbun and I had an increasingly bad feeling about the entire situation. BJ was very inexperienced in flying lead and instead of a normal combat approach, he slowed way down and ended up almost hovering into the LZ. There were a few bamboo shoots sticking up, and he could have set it down at least fifteen feet lower, but he didn't. He came to a full hover at about twenty feet, yelling into the mike that he couldn't land. All my spacing time was being eaten up fast and I was having to slow down way too much. When it was obvious that he was blocking me from landing, we decided to go around. About the time I was pulling pitch to go around, we took fire and in we went. So, I had to steer the thing under him while it was sinking like a rock, trying to get into the only clear spot, ironically the one he was hovering directly over. I was able to land flat on the skids, pointing uphill, then had to kick right pedal to get it going downhill or we would have flipped over sideways. After cutting a lot of bamboo and slicing a few inches off the top of the cockpit, everyone was OK. "Nice landing" said our huge grunt Master Sergeant. We looked up and there was BJ still hovering, looking nervous and straight ahead, and not having a clue what just happened to us right below him. I could see him yelling into the mike. He thought he was stuck in no man's land: not enough power to take off and bamboo too high to land. Actually, if he had looked down, he would have seen that we had just cut him a nice new clearing. One of his grunts onboard his chopper said "to hell with sitting here like a duck, I'm bailing out". So he jumped. Twenty feet and a broken leg later, we had one more guy on the ground with us. As the Master Sergeant said when we retrieved the guy, "that's the breaks of the day, son". BJ, now about 225 pounds lighter, thought his prayers were answered as his slick miraculously began to take off by itself.
"HOW NOT TO CUT BAMBOO" By Bill Graves - Stallion/Sidekick Section Leader - 11/67 - 8/68
6/2/68 - Stallion 66-17097 An aircraft incident report was not reported for this date. A/C Bill Graves, Co-Pilot Jim Ozbun, Crew Chief Dave Harmon, Doorgunner (Stallion 66-16505 Crew Chief) Dave Cline. Page 3, 4th Infantry Divison, After Action Report, "Operations Matthews" dtd 20 June 1968 refers to this incident. AAR The aircraft was recovered and shipped back to CONUS for repair.
These photos were taken by Don Murphy who was flying the number 3 ship in the flight. I was flying the number 4 ship and when I saw these photos I had a flashback of seeing the bamboo flying up into the air! At the time, I thought that the #1 & #2 ships had experienced a mid-air in the LZ.
Jim Koch Stallion505
Nov 22, 09 - Dave Cline found the web page and made contact. He remembers being taught in UH-1 Maintenance School that if the transmission of a Huey broke free in a crash, it would probably cause the advancing blade to slice through the upper right of the fuselage. He was serving as doorgunner on the right hand side and instinctively ducked when the ship impacted. Sure enough, that's exactly what the blade did. Dave suffered no injuries!