MUSTANG – LET’S WATCH THE LANGUAGE
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It was August, 1968. I had been in country for 17 months and was getting short. In just a month I would be getting on the Freedom Bird and heading home. I had extended my tour after flying slicks for 10 months and was assigned to the Mustang Gun Platoon just in time for the start of the Tet Offensive.
In March, 1967 I had been wounded in the Battle of Soui Tre when we landed in a mined LZ and our aircraft was blown up by a command detonated mine. After getting back on flight status I was approached by Lt. John Edwards a Section Leader in the Mustang Gun Platoon. Lt. Edwards asked me if I wanted to transfer to the gun platoon. He told me that, “Charlie threw everything he had at you and you walked away, and it is now your turn to get even.” I gave the offer serious consideration for a few days, but finally decided to stay in the 2nd Lift Slick Platoon. I wanted to really learn how to fly before transferring to the gun platoon. I never got asked again. I didn’t know it then but the Mustangs had a rule, “We Only Ask You Once.” When I volunteered to extend one of the conditions was that I would transfer to the gun platoon. I was a senior AC and one of the Company Standardization Pilots and knew the III Corps area like the back of my hand. The Mustangs were happy to have me join them.
I had always remembered what Lt. Edwards said to me that night in the Officer’s Club and I had done my best over the last seven months to get even with Charlie but the score was not yet settled.
We were supporting an ARVN unit out of Duc Hoa trying to locate the VC that had attacked a local village the night before. The slicks had moved the company of ARVN’s to several locations during the day but Charlie was being an elusive foe. The grunts had moved into the last village for the day’s operation. My fire team was reckoning out front of the troops but had found nothing. As we cleared the village on the south end we came across open rice paddies with numerous spider holes. It was late afternoon and the sun was casting a dark shadow into the holes, so it was hard to see if there was anyone in the holes. I flew over the holes for about 15 minutes, when all of a sudden I spotted a suspected VC in one of the holes. I guess he had gotten a little nervous with me flying over the area and he decided to take a peek at me. As he turned his head to look up I could clearly see his face. I contacted the ground unit and got permission to fire. There were so many spider holes that it took about 5 more minutes for my door gunner to finally zero in on the right hole. The door gunner put a large burst of M60 machine gun fire directly into the hole and all of a sudden there was an explosion in the hole and this VC is blown out of hole about 15 feet into the air. It looked like he was being shot from a cannon. As his body twisted in the air it was clear that his torso had become separated from his lower body. I can only guess, but I think he may have had a satchel charge around his waist and the machine gun fire set it off. Needless to say, my door gunner went nuts. It was coolest thing he had ever seen.
We continued to search the remaining spider holes but didn’t spot any other VC. As I turned back towards the village I spotted two suspected VC hurriedly walking through the rice paddy toward some of the huts. As I flew low over them I noticed that one of them had a rifle slung over his shoulder with the barrel pointed down. The second VC was carrying a sandbag that appeared to have ammunition in the bag. As I turned directly above them they both started running. The VC with the rifle was headed in the direction of a nearby hooch. The second VC ran off to the left. I had been flying at about 50 feet, so I pulled aft cyclic and some pitch to gain a little altitude. I told my crew chief he had the one with the sandbag but the one with the rifle was mine. As I lined my aircraft up for a shot at the VC, I dropped my rocket sight. The VC was now running at full speed in the direction of a hooch that was 50 feet in front of him. I put my sight on the doorway of the hooch and waited a few seconds. I hoped my timing would be right. The VC was now 10 feet from the hooch and I punched off one rocket. The rocket and the VC got to the doorway at the same time. I couldn’t believe it. I hit him right in the back with the rocket. Scratch one VC and one hooch. Seventeen months in Nam and I had never lost my cool on the radio, but I had never made a direct hit on a VC with a rocket. I called my wingman, who was flying cover overhead and said, “Did you see that, I hit the son-of-a-bitch right in the back with a fucking rocket!” In the excitement I didn’t realize it, but I was on the company UHF channel. The next transmission I heard was from Top Tiger 6, who was flying the CC ship, who said, “Roger Mustang, but let’s watch the language on the radio.” I responded back, “Roger that 6, but you should have seen it, I hit the son-of-a-bitch right in the back with a fucking rocket!” My transmission was followed by a bunch of “clicks” on the radio. Apparently several people had heard my transmission and were applauding in their own way. It brought a smile to my face. The second VC was no match for my crew chief who brought him down with one long burst of machine gun fire.
As Lt. Edwards had once told me, it was now my time to get even. Not only had I gotten even, but I was way ahead in the ball game, and for me it was the bottom of the ninth, because I would be headed home in a few weeks.
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