"Shot in the Wrist"
By Mike Strom
I think the details started before the flight out of Laos. You all have to understand that I came to the 48th from the 1st Air Cav in the Delta where, at that time, except for one night, we had a sprinkling of tracers every now and then coming out or going into an LZ. All during this time I was informed by the "Stars and Stripes" as to what was happening "up north".
Needless to say, when my name was drawn out of a hat to join all of you my balls turned to Jello. I was prepared to help win the war though. When I got to the 48th, I sat for at least a week and watched and heard every night what the rest of the guys were going through. Being all grown up at 21, all I wanted to do was to join the forces and be a part of it. Finally, I got my first mission sheet to fly with Smack in a CA. I didn't know it was his first mission as AC and didn't much care. We flew to Khe Sahn and since we never took a round I thought this was German Chocolate Cake. At departure time, I got a little cramp in the gut and had to latrine for 25 minutes.
The hardest time was the 30 minutes into the LZ listening to the 3 radios with all of the screaming, and M-60"s blasting away and "takin fire!!", I'm hit!!" and C and C saying "everybody's taking fire - Off the radios"!!!
I thought "what a prick, these guys need to say these things!" Anyway, latrine time was out of the question and we headed in. I don't remember taking any fire going in but Smack could tell that we were. I was just glad to get on the ground, until the ARVN's started mobbing the cargo compartment. The CE told Smack to unass the AO and we started out with over 50 lbs of torque. At tree height level it sounded to me like 16 popcorn poppers going off and just as fast Smack's left arm flew towards me and he yelled "Jesus, I'm hit!" I remember getting hit in the face with all kinds of fast moving "stuff" that stung like crazy. I realized what had happened and said (just like in flight school) "I have it". Smack didn't respond "you have it" for some reason but I had it anyway. Now what the hell was I to do with it? I didn't have the foggiest notion of where to fly. "Away" sounded wonderful and it was all I could think of. I tried like hell to get my bearings but, between watching Steve, the instruments, and all of the commotion in the air, I was not getting to help fast enough. Over the years, I think that has bothered me more than anything else. And I mean serious bother. Thank God I got to talk to Steve recently because he said "we made it". Anyway, it was obvious that Steve was bleeding to death so I had to get on the radio and call for help. Thumper must have heard Smack on the radio because he was right there and told me to look for smoke. I found him right away and gently had an orgasm when I knew he knew where the hell to take us. He led me to an area near Khe Sanh and tranported Steve to the hospital. It was only then that I realized that there were 2 dead ARVN's in the cargo compartment, one which we pulled out onto the dust. The CE proceeded to eat his lunch while I sat in my seat and shed a few. We had taken at least 14 hits, one of which nearly severed the push/pull rod of the cyclic controls under the cargo floor. Only 1/2 inch of flimsy metal remained on the rod. Somehow we got back to Dong Ha later that day but the ship stayed and was never flown again to my knowledge. It was a day I'll never forget, but after talking to Steve, it's a much better experience.
Time for a sip of Macnaughtons.
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