DAK TO MEMORIES 



  FOR MANY OF US IN THE 92AHC, DAK TO WAS A VERY EXCITING TIME DURING OUR TOUR IN VIETNAM. ACTUALLY WE WERE INVOLVED IN WHAT MIGHT BE CALLED THE "SECOND" BATTLE FOR DAK TO AND ALTHOUGH I DON'T REMEMBER ANY ONE IN OUR UNIT BEING KILLED OR INJURED WE DID HAVE AN AIRCRAFT CRASH DURING ONE OF THE MANY COMBAT ASSAULTS FLOWN DURING THIS PERIOD. DAK TO AS I RECALL IS LOCATED ABOUT 60 MILES NORTH OF PLEKIU. THE TERRAIN IN THIS AREA IS VERY MOUNTAINOUS AND DURING THE RAINY SEASON FLYING IN THIS REGION COULD BE VERY DANGEROUS TO SAY THE LEAST. NAVIGATION PROVED VERY DIFFICULT WHEN RAIN OF FOG RESTRICTED VISIBILITY TO LESS THAN A MILE. MIXING PILOT INEXPERIENCE WITH THESE METEROLIGICAL CONDITIONS COULD BE AND SOMETIMES WAS A DEADLY BREW. MANY OF US WHO FLEW THE OLD "HUEY" WILL NEVER FORGET HOW SCARED WE FELT WHEN WERE FORCED TO ENCOUNTER BAD WEATHER WHILE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH THE MISSION. WE MAY NOT HAVE SHOWN IT BUT BELIEVE ME I WAS SCARED "SH--LESS" MANY TIMES ESPECIALLY AT NIGHT. THERE WAS AN OLD SAYING IN VIETNAM THAT ALTHOUGH "WE" RULED THE DAY "VICTOR CHARLIE" CERTAINLY RULED THE NIGHT.
  NIGHT FLYING IN VIETNAM WAS ALWAYS SCARY TO ME. STILL GIVES ME THE
"WILLIES" WHEN I THINK ABOUT THAT. ONE NIGHT WHILE THE 92AHC WAS OPERATING OUT OF DAK TO I WAS ASSIGNED MEDEVAC STANDBY. WE HAD FLOWN "ASH AND TRASH" ALL DAY AND MOST OF OUR UNIT HAD ACTUALLY DEPARTED AND HEADED BACK TO OUR HOME BASE AT DONG BA THIN ON THE COAST. I REMEMBER KIND OF FEELING LEFT BEHIND BUT I ALSO KNEW THAT IF EVERYTHING WENT AS PLANNED WE WOULD LEAVE THE NEXT DAY. BACK TO HOME BASE WITH MAIL, AN OFFICERS CLUB, AND HOT SHOWERS. "THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT"!
  IT WAS VERY DARK WITH A LOW OVERCAST AND SEVERAL 175 MM HOWITZER WERE FIRING "H&I" FIRE BACK IN THE MOUNTAINS. REAL SPOOKY AND THE TEMPERATURE MUST HAVE BEEN IN THE LOW 60'S. BELIEVE ME IT COULD GET VERY COLD OVER THERE ESPECIALLY UP IN THE MOUNTAINS. IT WAS ALSO IMPOSSIBLE TO REMAIN DRY AND THAT JUST COTRIBUTED TO OUR DISCOMFORT. AROUND 10 PM WE BEDDED DOWN IN A BUNKER AND TRIED TO GET COMFORTABLE IN OUR DAMP SLEEPING BAGS. I THINK IT WAS ABOUT 2:30 AM WHEN SOMEONE SHOOK ME AWAKE AND SAID TO GET THE CREW READY TO LAUNCH FOR A MEDIVAC. BELIEVE ME I THINK EVEN OLD JOHN WAYNE WOULD HAVE BEEN A LITTLE NERVOUS BUT I "AINT NO JOHN WAYNE". I WAS SCARED! THE CREW CHIEF AND GUNNER WENT OUT TO THE AC TO GET THE SHIP READY WHILE ME AND MY COPILOT WENT TO OPERATIONS TO GET THE BRIEFING. WE WERE TOLD A PLATOON OF INFANTRY HAD BEEN ATTACKED AND SEVERAL WOUNDED NEEDED TO BE EXTRACTED. THEY WERE ALSO LOW ON AMMO SO WE WERE TO BRING THAT WITH US AS WE ATTEMPTED TO MAKE THE MEDIVAC. WE HURRIED TO THE SHIP AND GOT AIRBORNE AND HEADED WEST OUT OF DAK TO AIRPORT. IT WAS ABSOLUTELY PITCH DARK,WITH THE CEILING JUST BELOW THE MOUNTAIN TOPS ON OUR LEFT AND RIGHT. I WAS FLYING WITH A YOUNG WARRANT BY THE NAME OF HORNSBY WHO WAS A GOOD PILOT AND COULD REALLY THINK ON HIS FEET. WE MADE CONTACT WITH THE UNIT AND WERE TOLD WE WOULD HAVE TO MAKE THE APPROACH "BLACKED OUT" BECAUSE "CHARLIE" WAS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE HILL OF THE RIDGE AND STILL SHOOTING. WE BEGAN CIRCLING THE AREA WHERE WE THOUGHT THE UNIT WAS LOCATED BUT NO VISUAL CONTACT COULD BE MADE. THEY COULD HEAR US BUT NOT SEE THE AC AND TO MAKE MATTERS WORSE IT BEGAN TO DRIZZLE. THAT'S WHEN THINGS STARTED TO GET "DICEY". THE "PUCKER FACTOR" BEGAN TO CLIMB AND I STARTED TO REALLY WORRY. WE HAD GOTTEN SOME WHAT DISORIENTED AND I WASN'T SURE WE COULD EVEN FIND OUR WAY BACK TO THE AIRPORT. LOT'S OF THINGS WERE GOING THROUGH MY MIND WHEN WE GOT A RADIO CALL FROM A MEDEVAC PILOT WHO WAS AIRBORNE AND SAID HE THOUGHT HE COULD FIND THE LANDING ZONE. HONESTLY I DIDN'T THINK HE STOOD A CHANCE IN "HELL" BUT I SAID "OK". I ASKED HIM WHAT WE SHOULD DO ABOUT THE AMMO THAT WAS NEEDED AND HE SAID MAYBE WE COULD LAND AT THE BASE OF THE OLD FRENCH FORT AND TRANSFER IT TO HIS AC. WOW! GREAT IDEA BUT WHERE WAS THAT FORT? WHILE WE CIRCLED IN THE DARK, STILL NOT SURE WHERE WE WERE, THE UNIT NEAR THE FORT WAS CONTACTED AND COORDINATION WAS MADE. THEY AGREED TO DRIVE A JEEP TO THE BASE OF THE MOUNTAIN AND LIGHT THE LANDING AREA. SHORTLY THEREAFTER WE MADE VISUAL CONTACT WITH THE JEEP AND LANDED NEARBY. THE MEDIVAC CREW LANDED AND AFTER THE AMMO WAS TRANSFERRED THEY TOOK OFF TO ATTEMPT TO ACCOMPLISH THE MISSION. WE DEPARTED AND RETURNED TO BASE TO WAIT FURTHER ORDERS. WHEW! I REMEMBER HOW GOOD THE LIGHTS OF DAK TO LOOKED AS WE APPROACHED FROM THE WEST. I ALSO WONDERED IF THE BRAVE MEDIVAC PILOTS WERE ABLE TO FIND THE UNIT AND MAKE THE MEDIVAC.
  THE NEXT DAY WE HEARD THE MEDIVAC HAD BEEN SUCESSFUL. LATER THAT DAY WE LANDED AT THE SAME LOCATION TO PICK UP SOME CAPTURED WEAPONS AND I STILL CAN'T BELIEVE HOW THAT PILOT LANDED IN THE DARK AT THAT SPOT. IT WAS SURROUNDED BY TALL TREES, WITH STUMPS IN THE L.Z., SO THAT HE HAD TO HOVER DURING THE "PICK UP" AND "DROP OFF". AT NIGHT , WITH NO LIGHTS? SOUNDS UNBELIEVABLE BUT THOSE "MEDIVAC" GUYS DID A LOT OF THINGS LIKE THAT. I'M GLAD HE CAME ALONG BECAUSE I PROBABLY WOULD HAVE CRASHED TRYING THE SAME THING. THAT PILOT WHO EVER HE WAS CERTAINLY DESERVES A MEDAL! HE PROBABLY SAVED MY LIFE.