On This Early Morning, Sept 23rd 1968

Discussion in 'Not Sure Where it Goes' started by Thomas Stillhere, Sep 22, 2022 at 7:05 PM.

  1. Thomas Stillhere

    Thomas Stillhere Very Well-Known Member
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    Just after sun up our light fire team, two ships of 4 men each went into our designated target area to get in 30 feet altitude and kill anyone hiding or moving about. We had 30 minutes to work a very large area which was mostly underwater due to overnight monsoon rains. There were a lot of small hooch-es nested on all sides of the wide open area for the LZ. Normally in dry weather you could fire up a hooch with a good burst of minigun fire. It was so wet the tracers had no effect. We tried white phosphorus Grenades but soon as they hit the water they were useless and died out due to lack of air. We saw no one nor received any fire so by this time the First flights were coming into the LZ so both our ships flew to the entry point of the troop ships and made a hard left turn to get one ship on each side of the flight to give the most protection possible. We were on the left side of the flight and Peter Miller's ship was on the right.

    This particular morning Peter was flying as instructor teaching the right seat of his aircraft how to fly fire team lead. Had he not been in the left seat he would not have been killed this morning, if you believe in providence.

    His was flying trail covering us as we worked the area before the troop ships arrived. It was uneventful until the troops ships lifted out and started their exit straight on into a large tree line directly in front of them. By the time they were almost at the tree line my ship and Peter had caught the lead out of the LZ, at the very end I was watching over to my right as usual and Peter was one helicopter width to my immediate right, his ship nosed over and the right seat grabbed the stick and pulled up saving himself and crew from certain death. He called out that Peter had been shot and he was heading for the MASH at Can Tho. I heard no gunfire and saw nothing so I can't say with certainty which direction it came from. It was a painful flight of about 15 minutes before we made it to the MASH unit.

    The medical unit was a small hospital and had little to no landing pad but somehow we both made it into the pad flying low over a tall wire fence. Directly on the other side of the road was the POW camp and as we came in very low and slow I looked down and saw prisoners skinning fresh carrots on a long wooden table.

    We sat down very gently so as to not cause a large dust storm with medical staff running around Peters ship trying to see if anyone else was hurt. My pilots stayed in our aircraft and also my crew chief. I got out and walked over to see if the other 3 were alright and we all started to un arm their aircraft and loaded the ammo into our aircraft. The surgeons carried Peter on a stretcher out in front of his aircraft and sat him down on the PSP pad. He had been killed instantly and never knew what happened, taking one round from an AK-47 burst of 3. The round that killed him had entered the quarter glass frame and hit him in his right collar bone area due to bouncing off his chest armor and changing direction. Exactly why most of we gunners and crew chiefs never wore chest armor or the back armor, it was always placed under our seat. All the chest plates were good for was to ping pong a round a couple times. So I stooped over and touched his face and tried to pick his arms up off the ground and place them over his body, they wouldn't stay and kept falling over to his side so I finally placed his hand under his side. That's the last time I saw Peter and his right seat Ron Swanson was taking it very hard.

    Their ship had taken 3 rounds and one had bounced off the right side feed motor for the minigun then entering their fuel cell. So there was fuel leaking out and it was not safe enough to get out of the MASH and moved to Soc Trang our home base, that was 40 miles distance. We lifted out of the MASH and flew two miles down the road to our battalion headquarters then landed by the side of the runway. We contacted our base and ask them what they would like us to do. They kept us on hold until all the chiefs in charge finally called us 30 minutes later and just simply said come home.

    i never forget my friends and there were others that died while I was in the two companies I served. It is the only thing I can do to honor them. We live in a terrible world that has never ever lived in peace and today is no different. There is nothing to be learned from that morning, we will continue to be what we are I suppose.

    I put photos taken by crewmen of the troop ships that morning in an album, and it looks very deceiving with such a beautiful sky. Just a side note, two enemy were killed which did the shooting.

    Album
    https://ibb.co/album/bHRC9q
     
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  2. Beth Gallagher

    Beth Gallagher Veteran Member
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    Thomas, how old were you during your tour of Vietnam?
     
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  3. Thomas Stillhere

    Thomas Stillhere Very Well-Known Member
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    I arrived at 19 and left at 21
     
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  4. Mary Stetler

    Mary Stetler Very Well-Known Member
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    Tom, I remember reading Kennedy's PT 109 as a youth and could not put it down. Your writing is amazing. Maybe you should write a book so the young people of today can know there is a reason we are angry.
     
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