Courtesy of Gregg Seigart
One of my many memorable flights with Howard (Howie) Ford was on a C & C mission for the 28th Regiment. He was AC but I was getting a little "left seat" stick time on this particular day. I donít remember who the CE and gunner were (my apologies). We were flying northwest of Tuy Hoa. We had picked up six or seven top brass types and were transporting them to a little ROK outpost on top of a small hill. I think three or four were ROK generals and the rest were colonals. The outpost had higher mountains on one side probably 400 or 500 yards away to the base. The brass requested we circle the outpost a couple times so they could observe "whatever" before we landed. Unbeknownst to us there was a sniper in the mountains that managed to put several rounds up into the transmission as we flew over. When we landed we didnít realize we had been hit or even shot at. Fortunately I got smarter as I was "in country" longer. As each of our passengers exited the aircraft I heard a loud pop. I thought they must be dropping the seat belts on the floor of the aircraft but it was a little too loud for that. I accused the gunner of smacking the floor with the seat belt buckle but he said it wasnít him. At some point the CE came forward and told Howie to cut the engine because there was oil pouring out of the bottom of the aircraft. We killed the engine and Howie got out to take a look while I held the controls (blades still turning). Howie proceeds to peel off his shirt and exposes his white T-shirt for all the world to see.
Howie, the CE and gunner all take turns disappearing under the aircraft and I still hear popping noises. I figure this is not good; the transmission must be awfully hot. Soon the aforementioned threesome vanish while I sit there fat, dumb and happy, holding the controls. I finally locate them about 50 feet away peering out of a foxhole in the perimeter trench of the landing pad. Now I figure the transmission must be coming unglued because they have vacated the area. They had finally realized we were taking fire but neglected to mention it to me. Well, the rotor is still turning but if the transmission is coming apart I figure "screw the controls", Iím bugging out too. As I am exiting the aircraft I see a metal fragment scooting across the ground near my foot, going from the front of the aircraft toward the back. After a nano second of reflection on the direction of travel of the metal fragment I realized the transmission was not the problem, there was an even bigger problem in them thar hills (told you I got smarter as I was "in country" longer). I proceed to make all haste across the landing pad to join the three amigos in the foxhole. We must have been on the limits of the sniperís effective range.
The Koreans stood around pointing and laughing at us, not believing that we were being shot at. A couple of minutes passed before one of them got shot and they started taking things seriously. We didnít realize that our security foxhole was adjacent to a foxhole for an 81mm (82mm, 88mm) BIG mortar. That is, we didnít realize it until they cut loose with that bad boy. I thought we were all dead. Since this seemed to be turning into a full fledged war we decided it would be best if somebody else in the 48th knew of our situation so we went looking for a means of communicating with the rest of the world. The outpost had a radio but we couldnít raise anyone on it. We were told something about not being permitted to use the landline for at least an hour. After all the shooting died down Howie decided he should try the radio in the aircraft. In a very nonchalant manner he walks out to the aircraft and climbs into the left seat. He flips on the battery and turns on a radio. He proceeds to unplug my helmet and lay it aside, reaches across to retrieve his helmet, puts it on and plugs it in to the como line. The CE, gunner and yours truly are watching all this from the security of the foxhole. Howie must have thought the sniper was gone by now but we werenít so sure. About the time the radio gets warmed up and Howie starts to call for help the sniper starts taking target practice again. In one fluid motion Howie is exiting the aircraft and ejecting the flight helmet from his head. That thing rolled clear off the landing pad. I remember this in slow motion. Howie has one foot on the toe of the skid and the other in mid air as he is heading for the foxhole. A bullet caught his following foot causing it to cross behind his leading foot and made him trip coming off the skid. We see him falling and he yells out "IíM HIT". At that point my eyes locked in on the red hole in the front of Howieís T-shirt. The three of us are just about to come out of the foxhole to go pull Howie in but heís still running towards us, albeit at a 45-degree angle with the ground. I keep expecting to see volumes of blood develop around the hole in his T-shirt but nada. He dives over us into the foxhole and lands spread eagle on his back against the other side screaming "IíM HIT, IíM HIT". To which we respond in unison, "WHERE, WHERE". "MY FOOT, MY FOOT" comes the reply. We about rip his foot off trying to find signs of a bullet wound. What we finally locate is a small flap of leather peeled off the back of the heel of his boot. The round grazed the back of his boot but didnít even penetrate the full thickness of the leather. Needless to say, three of us were rolling in the foxhole with laughter. Howie failed to see the humor in it. The red hole in the T-shirt was nothing more than Howieís flushed red skin showing through the hole that had been there all along.
Just another day of flying.
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