Huey taking off from fire base with troops, headed to an LZ in the jungle.
As my squad readied weapons and gear we were given final instructions by our squad leader, Sgt Dunn. He told us that our squad would be one of the first ones to be dropped at the LZ, which the buzz was about it being “HOT”. Sgt Dunn checked and made sure we had enough ammo, and that every man had ammo for Raines’ M-60. He told us that we were to have our weapons at the ready and be prepared to return fire as the helicopters descended onto the LZ. We were instructed to dismount from the helicopter quickly and move into position at the edge of the LZ to the right of any men already on the ground. He stressed how important it was to return fire and secure the LZ as quickly as possible. We knew we had to stay low to the ground and move to cover on perimeter of the LZ.
It wasn’t too long after we had been given our final instructions before we heard the rythmic thumping of the approaching Huey’s. Everybody saddled up and checked their weapons one last time to make sure they were ready to “rock and roll”. As each chopper touched down we loaded up and were airborne. The helicopters trailed one after the other towards the LZ. We sat in silent contemplation, myself thinking about what lay ahead for us. The thought crossed my mind that our helicopter could get shoot down before we had a chance to unload, or maybe we would get shot up while we were still on board, or pinned down on the ground by hostile fire. I wonder about who might get hit and hoped that one of them wasn’t me. I looked around at my friends as we rode high above the jungle, the cool wind buffeting us. I could tell the were ready to go with their weapons at the ready and I some how felt better.
As we approached the LZ we were given the command to lock and load. We readied our weapons and prepared to hit the ground running. Our helicopter was one of the first to drop into the LZ. I could see the ground rushing up toward us as our Huey made a quick descent into the clearing. The clearing was big enough for a number of helicopters to drop their troops at once. As the chopper ahead of us picked his spot to drop in our pilot picked a spot to the right rear of it. I could see that the LZ was overgrown with brush and the wash of the helicopters blades was blowing it out and down in a circle. I expcepted our helicopter to touch down, but the pilot stopped his descent about ten feet from the ground. I looked down at the swirling brush and thought to myself, “There is no way I’m going to jump that far, the pilot needs to get closer to the ground.” The I heard the door gunner yelling for us to hurry up and jump, that they wanted to get the hell out of there. I hesitated another second or so and then with my feet on the skid I jumped to the ground. I knew that with all the weight on my back the I needed to drop and roll. I hit the ground and rolled over onto the right side of my pack. Amazingly I didn’t break anything. The rest of my squad was soon on the ground and moving to the perimeter of the clearing.
There wasn’t any enemy fire and all the helicopters made it in and out without incident. Once we knew the area was clear we moved out toward our objective somewhere in the jungle. Needless to say we were on high alert, wondering where the enemy could be and why they didn’t show at the LZ.
Maybe next time we won’t be so lucky.
I believe, Trautmann, Dunn, Schmitz, Crabtree, Crutts, Raines, Winder and Brown were all a part of this story.