- A.N. Other
- Naval Aviation, Post WWII
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 2018 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
By CDR Ian (Max) Speedy, DSC, RANR
With the passing of the years, we tend to forget just how defining the Vietnam War was in so many aspects. It was the first air mobility war using helicopters, the first time soldiers were taken into and out of battle by helicopters, obviating the ownership of ground between base and battle front, and the first war that could be watched with the evening TV news.
The key to air mobility is the helicopter. There has been no conflict since Vietnam where the helicopter in one role or another has not played an important and very impressive part: Iraq and Afghanistan for the US and Timor for the Australians are good examples. However in the early 1960s the US Air Force and US Army were in a bureaucratic war: the Air Force demanding ownership of all aircraft and the Army certain the USAF could not provide adequate support for its ground troops. At this time the US Army was experiencing a critical shortage of pilots but strengths would only rise to 12,800 by mid-1968 against a need for nearly 21,500.
At the working level in South Vietnam, Army and Air Force officers hammered out practical methods of solving their day-to-day problems and coordinating their efforts. The Chiefs of the US Army and Air Force eventually signed an agreement to be implemented in January 1967 that transferred the Army’s fixed wing Caribou to the Air Force and Army retained its helicopters. As an aside to this agreement the Caribou 135th became the 135th Aviation Company in April 1967 at Fort Hood, Texas and deployed to Vung Tau on 1 October 1967 with its UH-1 helicopters, becoming the 135th Assault Helicopter Company (AHC), the Experimental Military Unit (EMU) of the US Army and the Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam (RANHFV).
The RAN had a long-standing requirement to provide a carrier task group for the SEATO annual combined exercise and this meant HMAS Melbourneand the Carrier Air Group, consisting of the frontline squadrons 816 and 817, were fully committed. The training squadrons 723, 724 and 725 were all actively engaged in meeting the fleet’s support requirements along with the scheduled air and maintenance training programs. In December 1966 a request from the United States Government for pilots and aviation specialists to supplement its own forces in the Republic of South Vietnam was added to these tasks.1
Enter the Fleet Air Arm
The RAN gave some consideration to commissioning an additional air squadron, 852 Naval Air Squadron with UH-1 helicopters, to operate ashore in support of the Australian Task Force (ATF). This action would result in the RAN holding utility type helicopters well in excess of the required inventory at the conclusion of the conflict and so no further action was taken.2
In a Chief of Naval Staff brief, quite a number of seemingly secondary considerations were raised as major inter-Service issues. Paragraph 10 noted that…the proposed deployment to Vietnam should take place as soon as possible as the Fleet Air Arm needs a raison d’être to maintain morale.
At a later lengthy discussion possible RAAF objections were raised to a helicopter flight: they would not be an identifiable Australian force, would not be engaged in Australian operations, could not be administered, and, very importantly, the RAAF would not see it as a naval job. The brief fortunately noted the FAA’s considerable involvement in Konfrontasi,that they were versatile pilots, and that the RAAF flew with the USAF Liberators in World War II. Lastly, RAN aircrew feel that they are not wanted in the Vietnam theatre and consequently are suffering from an inferiority complex. It is imperative that a worthy role be given to the [FAA] if morale is to be preserved.
The conclusion to the brief was that, amongst other things, the RAAF will raise objections that are not valid.
Initially an RAAF proposal had been formulated to request the United States to provide an additional four helicopters, to be flown and maintained by Australians in support of the ATF. The US had rejected similar requests by Thailand and could not see a way clear to agree to the Australian option.3The RAAF had also identified an immediate need in 9 SQN for additional qualified helicopter pilots for active service operations during 1967-69. To meet this unexpected demand the RAN agreed it could lend Navy helicopter pilots to the RAAF for operations with 9 SQN until its own (RAAF) training pipeline had been expanded. Eight pilots served with 9 SQN from May 1968 – April 1969 with some of them serving for various lengths of time with the 135th AHC.
The US Army logistic train to Vietnam was very long and this made the provision of additional helicopter crews and maintainers for another assault helicopter company for operations in South Vietnam difficult. The Australian Defence Department suggested the shortfall could be met in part by the RAN providing trained helicopter aircrew and maintainers to the US Army. This proposal was accepted by the US and that is how the RAN Helicopter Flight Vietnam was born. The scheme of complement for the flight resembled that of a small naval air squadron and seems to be based on the four helicopters the US might have provided had the original RAAF request for assistance succeeded. It had pilots, observers, aircrew men, maintenance sailors, a cook, steward, photographer, writer, and finally a sick-berth attendant – about 46 souls in all.
The first contingent deployed to South Vietnam in two stages during October 1967 under the Officer in Command (OIC) Lieutenant Commander Neil Ralph RAN who left for Vung Tau with the first half and was followed a week later by Lieutenant Commander Pat Vickers with the remainder of the group, the first of a number of homes for the US Army’s 135th AHC. The length of a tour of duty was set at twelve months.
There was no end date established for operations in Vietnam and no indication that the conflict was ever going to draw to a conclusion. So in May and June 1968, replacement personnel joined 723 SQN at Nowra for pre-deployment training. This second contingent went to the Army’s Battle Efficiency Course at the Jungle Training Centre, Canungra, for three weeks of running, jumping, swimming, and muddy misery. Lieutenant Commander Graham Rohrsheim was its OIC. The third contingent served under Lieutenant Commander David Farthing 1969-70 and the fourth and last contingent under Lieutenant Commander Winston James served until June 1971 when the Australian government ended its support for the South Vietnam conflict. In all, 196 Fleet Air Arm personnel served with great distinction in the RANHFV.
A fifth contingent had been planned and its members nominated to replace the fourth group in October 1971. The group was of course stood down when Australia’s withdrawal was announced and the last operational day of the RANHFV was 8 June 1970.
Each contingent OIC had a directive by way of a letter assigning him the powers of punishment equivalent to that of the CO of HMAS Penguin, the administrative base for any navy personnel deployed overseas, and included inter alia:
Responsibilities: Should you be allocated a task, which, in your opinion, is contrary to the provisions of this Directive, endangers the national interests of Australia, or is likely to imperil unduly your Flightyou are to report the situation to COMAFV, having first informed the Commanding Officer of the Aviation Company to which you are attached of your intention. You are to establish safeguards to ensure your aircraft and personnel do not violate the territory, waters or airspace of countries bordering on South Vietnam, nor to take part in operations near the Cambodian border. (Author’s emphasis)
In practice the OIC’s directive was impossible to follow. Some of us would be flying as co-pilot with an American in command of the aircraft; just as often Aussies were in command of an American aircraft with US crew but you were one aircraft in a group of 15. Even though I frequently flew as the leader of the ten ‘Slicks’4or as the air mission commander, there was no way we Aussies could abort a mission just because we were ‘imperilled’. With a US or South Vietnamese battalion commander in the back of the C&C (Command and Control) aircraft directing operations – in fact commanding that his troops be put into a specific place – no pilot had the authority to refuse to obey. There was frequent discussion and generally, relationships were excellent between the US or South Vietnamese back seat commanders and us as air mission commanders in the front responsible for our aircrews. It didn’t stop the hot LZs we got into but we had a common cause.
You rarely knew if an LZ was going to get hot, mostly that happened when you got there. So, in the final analysis, all of us, Aussies and Americans alike, ignored the Chief of Navy directive and the US/RAN agreement.
The US and Australian agreement for the RANHFV with the 135th AHC included a number of novel, if not unique, criteria. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 9 November, 1967. One unique aspect was that the Australian OIC was to be the Executive Officer of the 135th under the US Army Major CO; when the Major went on leave, the Aussie XO took command. The rest of the Australians were integrated rank for rank within the company’s structure and became, in time, air mission commanders, platoon leaders, operations officers, gunship light fire team leaders and maintenance team leaders with the authority each of those positions held in the US Army’s structure. Working within an American culture far from our country and navy, in a very short time we became, to all intents and purposes, soldiers and apart from our beards and accents, frequently could not be identified as other than US Army.
Rules of Engagement
In February 1963 the US Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) had authorized an amendment to the rules of engagement for the US Army helicopters in Vietnam to allow them to engage clearly identified Viet Cong forces considered to be a threat to the safety of the aircraft and their passengers. JCS stated that the ROE for armed Army helicopters had been erroneously interpreted to mean that the helicopter must wait to be fired upon before initiating return fire. For the Navy aircrew, CNS’s directive to the OICs was that we conformed to the US rules. Specific Australian ROE, to be forwarded at some later date, never appeared.
The practice came down to this. Depending on the area we were operating in we would use suppressive fire without first taking enemy fire – the Nipa palm edges of most Delta LZs was a case in point, jungle clearings another. These places were pretty well always booby-trapped and the NVA (North Vietnamese Army) and VC (Viet Cong – Charley) could pop out of their bunkers and spider holes in seconds. The expenditure of 7.62 mm M60 rounds was phenomenal. We carried thousands of rounds per gun when 15 to 20 LZs was normal every day – each Slick’s M60 could use 500 rounds per insertion. Fuel and munitions were available at hundreds of places across the country and we refuelled and rearmed at wherever was closest on a ‘take what you need’ basis with no questions and no paper-work ever.
The US forces had quite specific rules on the Cambodian airspace and these were noted in the RANHFV OIC’s directive. Whilst the border areas were explicitly stated as no-go zones, the interdiction by US forces of the Ho Chi Minh Trail that ran the full length of North and South Vietnam went on day and night well inside the Cambodian and Laotian territories. We regularly operated within the buffer zone of the Cambodian border and on a few occasions in 1969, we crossed it. A line on a paper map did not translate to a line on the ground.
However in May 1970 the 3rd Contingent OIC was directed that his personnel were not to be involved if the US were to openly invade Cambodia. The result was that the 135th AHC had to be taken out of the operation because all but one of the Command and Control pilots and all of the Slick Lead Pilots5were Australian personnel. As a consequence, there were not enough qualified US crews to make up the 135th’s fifteen mission aircraft, much to the annoyance of Aussies and US alike. The 135th was assigned to the Mekong Delta instead.
When the 135th AHC became operational in Vung Tau, it operated mostly with the Australian Army – SAS and infantry insertions in Phuoc Tuy Province.6As 1967 wore on, the 135th was increasingly tasked to support South Vietnamese (ARVN) and US troops away from the Australians and frequently so far north that the decision was eventually made to relocate the company from Vung Tau to Blackhorse base some distance north of Nui Dat. The move took place on 1 January 1968. From then on, the 135th became even more engaged in the Mekong Delta, in the far west to the Seven Mountains on the Cambodian border, and south into the sanctuaries of the NVA in the U Minh forest and around Ben Tré. The 135th AHC moved successively to Bear Cat, east of Saigon, in December 1968 and then in September 1969 to Dong Tam in the heart of the Mekong Delta where the RANHFV and the 135th AHC remained until departing for home in June 1971.
Getting the Bloody Job Done
During the four years of the RANHFV, the 135th AHC missions were conducted across the length and breadth of III and IV Corps Tactical Zones (CTZ) and into the jungles and mountains of II CTZ as well as the streets and lanes of Saigon city during the Tet Offensive of February 1968. The 135th AHC was on standby in February 1969 to assist in the evacuation of the US Embassy in Saigon should it have been required.
Each flying day began at 0430 with aircrew at their allocated aircraft for pre-flight inspections. Every day the standard mission for the 135th and all other assault companies was much the same. Every task required ten Slicks, four gunships, and the command and control aircraft fitted out with its extra radios for the battalion staff in the back seat directing their troops on the ground. All we really had to know was where the first pick-up of the day was to be, everything after that was ‘Getting the bloody job done!’ the 135th AHC refrain.7
The aircraft was always flown with a crew of four: two pilots in case one was shot. The crew chief, a Specialist Class 4 of Leading Seaman equivalent rank performed the aircraft’s first line maintenance and then flew everywhere the aircraft went, manning one of its M60s. The gunner maintained the two M60 machine guns and about 3,000 rounds per gun or whatever he could fit into the biggest boxes he could find.
All LZ insertions were company sized elements of 100 men, American or ARVN. At one stage the 135th was down to 17 out of its establishment of 31 aircraft but the maintainers worked miracles (under dreadful working conditions) and the 15 mission aircraft were always available. Such was the demand and the response; if the aircraft could be started, we flew it.
If, as happened frequently, the operation was across the country to the Cambodian border area, a transit of some 200 miles from our Blackhorse or Bear Cat base, a spare aircraft had to be included. If lucky, it would have a quiet day waiting at some POL (Petrol, Oil, Lubricants) spot near the day’s operations.
From then on, with up to dozens of company lifts in the day, every pick up and landing zone was always in the lap of the gods. You never knew if the first or any insertion was going to be hot, except perhaps in the notorious Ben Tré area where we always counted on a contested arrival. Once the first troops were on the ground a seemingly quiet LZ could erupt with dozens of the enemy standing up out of small spider holes and launching a blistering attack with AK-47s, RPGs and, if we stumbled into a larger formation as sometimes occurred, 30 or 50 mm machine guns.8We were then committed to a tough day not only reinforcing the troops already on the ground but also to rescue downed aircrew, MEDEVACs and finally to bring them home, late at night out of a hot withdrawal.
A four to five hour flying day was easy and probably only had three companies of a battalion (three lifts) inserted and withdrawn later. Eight to ten hours were not uncommon and could be the one battalion moved a number of times before going home or one company in contact and with others being inserted in blocking positions (easy) or into a hot LZ (hard). The long days were the worst – up to twelve and fourteen hours always meant a day of enemy contact, troops invariably killed and wounded and aircraft hit if not shot down.9 These days always seemed to involve our own casualties.
Combat assault flying days were programmed for five, six or seven days depending on the general tenor of operations and then for a rest, the company would be assigned to Direct Combat Support, known better as Pigs and Riceor Hash and Trash.10All ten Slicksand often four gunships would be tasked to a variety of small units in remote spots needing resupply of ammunition, personnel or equipment for an outpost under attack. The gunships would usually be in reserve against another company needing back-up. All these missions were fraught with danger and could be more dangerous than a standard combat assault day.
Ready Reaction Force (RRF) was another duty. This involved a normal day’s flying operations but instead of returning to our home base (Blackhorse or Bear Cat), we would go to places like Tay Ninh or Cu Chi in the north of III Corps near the border, to be ready for the night insertion of a relief force if a beleaguered out-post had been overrun.
Practice not Theory
Fortunately most flying was by day but our days stretched into night combat assaults making the flying that much more difficult.11As everything the Slicks did was in formation, being led to a touchdown in a dark clearing with no lights and virtually no ground references took some getting used to. It was no easier as the Slickleader with nine other aircraft nervously following your every move. The option of going around for another go was never countenanced – it had to be first time every time and made the flight leader’s role crucial.
In the close and hectic confines of a hot LZ, thumping into the ground was a comparatively minor hazard when the summer dust swirled up and obscured all vision. For all the risks, some amazing work was done at night, such as on 20 December 1967 when a late afternoon hot insertion finally led to the troops being extracted with the flight under constant fire for over four hours from midnight into the early morning. Only two aircraft were hit but there were many troop casualties.12
Combat damage was mainly small arms fire and most pilots made the most professional landings when shot down.13We flew at 1,500 feet when we could so as to stay clear of AK-47 fire but that did not always work.14Heavier calibre weapons were different. The RPGs or 50 mm fire would take you down with one hit, the resultant collision with the ground being largely a question of how much damage had been done to the controls or pilots.15Our aircraft was simple compared to today’s well armoured counterparts but provided the bullets did not mash up in the rotating machinery the Huey could take some incredible punishment and still keep flying.16
It was not always lots of hits and no casualties. The final roll of honour for the 135th AHC was 35 killed and far too many injured for an accurate count (over 100). Five RANHFV members were killed (of eight in all the RAN) and at least 22 wounded (two thirds of our 50 aircrew regularly flying!). In the 135th AHC in 1968/69, 13 were killed and 25 wounded (two RANHFV KIA and five WIA), a casualty every ten days or so more or less.
The case of Leading Aircrewman Noel Shipp and his gunship crew is the best known in the Second Contingent and also nowadays to many of the Australian public following the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal report into unresolved recognition for past acts of gallantry and valour. Shipp and his gunship crew were defending a hot landing zone when they were shot down and all four, three Americans and Shipp were killed. Shipp was proposed to the Tribunal for consideration of a posthumous Victoria Cross which in the event was not agreed. However, his name and gallantry that day, hanging out of his doomed aircraft and firing all the way to the ground, will be remembered at the RAN Recruit School, HMAS Cerberus, with one of the divisions there being named in his honour.
The Final Tally
With at least 100 American soldiers being killed in a ‘good’ week and up to 600 in a ‘bad’ one, and eventually more than 58,000 deaths the final call for America, it is no wonder the public wanted to stop the war.
The Huey has become the iconic symbol of the Vietnam War. According to the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots’ Association, of the 7,013 Hueys that went to Vietnam, nearly half (3,305) were destroyed and with them 2,177 aircrew killed. Half the aircraft and two thirds of their crews were casualties – not good statistics yet we loved the aircraft and were proud to have flown it in the most intense of environments. We were face to face with our enemy on many an occasion, taking hits, being shot down, having the closest of shaves and regular ‘there but for the grace of God’ moments and still flying the next day to do it all again.
For reasons that are too tortuous to go into here, the RANHFV started off well behind the rest in terms of access to medal recommendations in Vietnam. Our ‘quotas’ began with having only half of our flying hours tallied and then one third of those hours counted for any medal considerations. The first cut we presumed was to be on the basis that we were only to be co-pilots in American aircraft yet we all became air mission commanders, Slick and Gunship Leaders while the maintenance personnel became the skills’ leaders in every trade. The second cut was on a World War II premise that only one third of our flying was in combat yet every time we went outside the camp perimeter, we were in a combat situation.
While only the aircrew were expected to go into danger, the rest of our personnel did so as well. They flew out into the field to effect repairs to our aircraft if it would allow that aircraft to keep flying on the day’s mission rather than getting a Chinook to lift it home. These same people mounted guard duties on the perimeter each night, they drove stores convoys and on more than a few occasions were ambushed and fought their way out. Photographers who had only ever taken happy snaps were manning the M60s and flying on combat assaults. The Sick Berth Attendants (Medics) performed amazingly in trauma wards for impossibly long periods during the Tet offensives of 1968 and 1969. Our cooks had the best chow halls throughout the Battalion for months on end.
It has been said in places that the RANHFV was the most awarded unit of the RAN. On one count that might well be. When 18 MIDs were awarded to other people ‘…cheerfully carrying out their duties’ and similar words while not in combat danger, then an MID or other award for the most daring of rescues (under conditions which some equated to gallantry of the highest order) which were recommended and substantively approved and then later dismissed is worse than inequitable.
Against this background, some members of the RANHFV canvassed Navy in 2011 and eventually politicians for a Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal hearing which was finally held in October 2017. Not to seek personal entitlements but for a general recognition that the RANHFV had performed extraordinarily well. The Tribunal recommended and the Governor-General on 1 June 2018 signed his approval of the RAN’s second Unit Citation for Gallantry since World War II.
UNIT CITATION FOR GALLANTRY
For acts of extraordinary gallantry in action in South Vietnam from October 1967 to June 1971.
The Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam, as part of the Experimental Military Unit of the United States Army 135th Assault Helicopter Company, exhibited exceptional and extraordinary gallantry whilst engaged in offensive operations continuously throughout its four-year deployment. This exceptional gallantry was enabled by the efforts of the entire Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam.
The Flight was a unique unit and every member, regardless of mustering or category, either performed their duties with demonstrable gallantry or were used in roles for which they were not trained and still performed bravely. The administrative and maintenance staff were required to assist in the provision of base security in addition to their normal duties and almost all of the support personnel regularly volunteered to act as aircrew employed as door-gunners and Crew Chiefs. This was in addition to the extremely long maintenance hours required to support the tempo of operations conducted by the Flight. Over the course of the operations in Vietnam, the Flight accumulated a formidable record of operational flight hours and citations for individual gallantry. This has set it apart from other operational units.
While exposed to hostile fire and at great personal risk, aircrew flew on average 50 per cent more operational hours per month than other Australian aircrew in comparable roles with other units. Aircrew were constantly engaged by the enemy, faced the danger of booby-trapped landing zones and frequently found themselves fired upon by friendly forces. The personnel who flew with the Flight arguably saw the most intense combat of any Royal Australian Navy personnel in the war. Despite the fact that none of the personnel had previous operational service and none had been under fire, they were courageous in battle, exhibited exceptional and extraordinary gallantry and did so with great skill and heroic dedication in executing a mission far removed from those for which they had been trained. Over the period of the Flight’s operations in South Vietnam, five members of the unit died and 22 were wounded in action.
The extraordinary gallantry, dedication to duty and astonishing record of the Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam conducting tasks far removed from the expectations of Naval service, has forever set it apart from other units. The extraordinary acts of gallantry and heroism consistently displayed by the personnel, combined with their loyal devotion to duty were in keeping with the finest traditions of the Royal Australian Navy and the Australian Defence Force.
Max Speedy was the 2iC of the 2nd Contingent (1968/69). As a co-pilot for two months under a US Army Warrant Officer getting combat experience he then became 1st Platoon Leader (UH1-H troop lift helicopters) and flight leader of the 10 Slicks, ending his tour as Operations Officer and Air Mission Commander of the Slicksand Gunships. He flew 1,250 combat hours, was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross, two Vietnam Crosses of Gallantry, and a dozen US Air Medals. He flew most of the helicopters types in Vietnam at the time.
- 1. Information Paper for Cabinet, Request For Helicopter Pilots For Vietnam, Copy 2, May 1967, signed Allen Fairhall, Minister for Defence, National Archives, Canberra.
2 Navy Office File 79/201/3, 6 June, 1967, signed by DNAP, Capt H.E. Bailey DSC RAN.
3 CNS Brief by DNAP 9 May, 1967:
- COS Minute 40/1967 recommended that eight RAN pilots and supporting personnel be made available to fly helicopters provided by the US in South Vietnam, and envisages this force would be incorporated in No. 9 SQN, RAAF. The only costs expected would be those arising from daily pay and allowances.
- AJSS Washington indicated that the US could not accept the above terms as they had already refused a similar Philippines request and did not want to give the impression that they were forming a White Man’s Club in the operational area…
4 UH-1 helicopters tasked and configured for troop transport were often called ‘Slicks’ due to an absence of weapon pods
5 Jeffrey Gray, Up Top, The Royal Australian Navy and Southeast Asian Conflicts 1955 – 1972, Allen and Unwin, St Leonards, 1998, p 267
6 Including support of the Coral and Balmoral Fire Support Bases.
7 In the Seven Mountains area on the Cambodian Border on 27 January 1969 and near night-fall, the author in the lead was asked by the Battalion Commander if we could get the remainder of his 1300 troops changed over. It had already been a long day but the (tired) reply was that ‘We would get the bloody job done!’ which we did with nearly 12 hours flying to do so. This became the well-loved motto of the 135th AHC.
8 8 February, 18 May, 23 October, and 23 December in 1968 and 2 February and 31 May in 1969 to name a few.
9 While there were troops to be moved, we kept flying, hot refuelling (not shutting down) as necessary and then back to the fray. My longest day was nearly 14 hours of flying, the first seven hours and last six or so were done without shutting down and this was not an isolated experience; all of us had these days.
10 The only days the war seemed to stop officially were Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and the Apollo Landing on 21 July 1969. There were still lots of aircraft movements on these non-combat days.
11 Of my 1,250 hours flying that year, 85 hours were night combat assaults, more than enough!
12 Ray Jones and Neil Ralph, The First HFV.In: Max Speedy and Bob Ray, Eds, A Bloody Job Well Done: The History of the Royal Australian Navy Helicopter Flight Vietnam, 1967 – 1971, Canberra, 2008, p 30. ISBN 978-0-646-50060-7
13 Almost every one of the 32 RANHFV pilots was shot down at least once, along with all of our US Army crew members. One of the US Warrant Officers was downed three times before his 21st birthday.
14 Lieutenant Commander P.J. Vickers was killed on 22 February 1968 when a round deflected off his rudder pedal while flying at this ‘safe’ height.
15 On 8 August 1968, Lieutenant Tony Casadio, Petty Officer O.C. Phillips and their American co-pilot and crew chief were all killed when an RPG hit their gunship while flying low. With no options, they landed in a bomb crater with a force too great to survive.
16 As Lieutenant Bruce Crawford DSC can attest (one amongst many): on 8 February 1968, his aircraft took 25 hits and kept flying. On 8 May, 1968, six aircraft were shot down in the one LZ and 125 troops were killed or injured. The EMU Shootof 23 October 1968 near Ben Tré, saw three Slicks and two gunships downed and reinforcements called in.