Falcon Logo used Courtesy of Jim Bowers, 77th FA Assn.
Source:Pictures/Personal accounts..Dusty Lowe, Crash Coe, and Doc David Warden. Thanks, guys!
Also...the view From the Air...Courtesy of Wayne "Crash" Coe, Blackhawk 54, and his friend and often "Partner in crime" Doctor/Fight Surgeon David Warden who flew for us from mission first...All Night! Thanks Crash! Thanks Doc! Thanks Dusty! For all you did to save our tails!
When we are all "Up to our asses in Alligators!" (borrowed from Chuck Boyle)..We think about what we are doing. Later, it is good to get a perspective about what went on around us. So, I will be including Dusty's story with gratitude, and and there are several Infantry versions of this story that show the bigger picture, that I will obtain permission to use from Gary Krek, the 22nd Webmaster or the authors. Knowing what the Infantry, both inside burt and just outside, and aviation were doing to come to our relief medevac/ammo/gun barrels is definitely informative.
This is a post I made this morning to the Helicopter Net and I thought that many of you were there so I am cross posting this for you to read. It would be great to hear from any of you guys that were there for the New Years festivities. It has been a long time, but I can clearly see in my minds eye the fountain of tracers marking FSB Burt.
Every December 31 I get an early call from David Warden. This morning was not different.
"Are you ready to fly into Fire Support Base Burt and get a load of wounded?" are the first words out of his mouth this morning. "Not with out my favorite co-pilot." Was my immediate answer to the man I had flown through hell and back with so many times. After 33 years of being best friends he stirs my emotions with his soft southern drawl.
David Warden had a stroke and had to stop practicing medicine in Kaysville Utah, so he bought a house down the street and is on the Ninth of January moving to Hudson, Florida for the winters.
[December 31, 1967]
[The Battle for Fire Support Base Burt.]
I loved the view from the top of Nui Ba Dinh. You could see the lights from the far away cites. And I loved the challenge of a perfect pinnacle landing in the early evening just as the sun drops below the horizon. It was my last stop; I could go back to Tay Ninh for the New Year's festivities at the club. It was amazing how fast they could get the cases of Champaign off my helicopter.
Tonight would be great fun, Captain David R. Warden our Group Flight Surgeon, would be on the courier from Cu Chi, and would be staying in the guest quarters, I loved flying with Doc and we had flown a lot of missions together. Doc is the greatest storyteller of all time, and tonight I would get a double dose, staying up late for New Years stand down.
I was the last bird in that night and after fueling and a quick stop at the arming pits for some linked 7.62 for the M-60's, I put my D-model in the revetments, and started the hike to the operations tent, walking right past the mortar watch ships, WO Bill Britt saying something is cooking down at fire support base Burt, and they were on alert. Bill Britt, Frenchie Gibeault, what a team.
I find Doc and we start cooking a steak, out on the grill set up behind the Officer's club. I liked it when the army made an attempt during the holidays. Almost anything was better than C-rations. The party had started before Doc and I got there and seemed to be in full swing by the time we sat down to eat our steak. WO Jim Conde could get anything and these steaks were proof. I looked up to Jim, a Special Forces type that went to flight school, he could speak the local language and he knew people in low places, if you know what I mean.
The party was a success, we watched a movie, heard and told some great stories (all true of course) and I headed off for bed, wishing the tent had cooled down enough to be able to sleep in. I walked over with Doc to find him a Cot in the tent we kept for visiting crews, and on my way back was stopped by the on duty orderly.
"Mr. Coe find your Doctor friend and get to operations now." I thought, what kind of silly bullshit is being pulled now by one of my more than slightly inebriated flying buddies. So rather than wake up the Doc, I walked over to the Operations tent and a very serious Major Bauman looks up and says "where is your Flight Surgeon?" Well, I started to speak and he cut me off, "get him now, and get back here as fast as you can, your crew has been sent for, hurry."
Doc was still awake, he jumped in his boots and grabbed his gear and out the tent flap in one move. For a huge airborne ranger, Doc moves so well, the word would be graceful, if not applying to 250 pounds of raw muscle and brains. My flying gear is in my tent and we both double time over to it and double time to the operations tent.
Major Bauman looked very unhappy, he was gruff when he was happy, and he looked sinister tonight. "Men I have a bad job for you two tonight. Mr. Coe you are my only sober pilot, and Captain Warden, I have to send you as the Co-pilot, I have no one else to send." I looked at Doc and he smiled at me. I knew he was up to it what ever it was; I think the word is fearless. "The medevac choppers from the 45th are having problems getting in to Fire Support Burt. Our boys need ammo and medevac, I am sending a fire team to cover you in and out, and it looks bad up there."
Major Bauman's Jeep took us to the revetment and my crew had the bird untied and ready to rock and roll, we were airborne in minutes. First stopping by the ammo bunkers and taking a full load of ordnance. As my heavy helicopter staggered for some altitude, I noticed just how black it could be in Vietnam, and started to fly on my instruments, tuning my radios to the Ground FM, the FAC on VHF and my company UHF. "Blackhawk 54 inbound with a load of ordnance, where do you want it, over." No response. We must be too far out for them to hear us, and I pulled a little more pitch and grabbed some more altitude to help with the radio.
I was busy flying, I could hear the gunships on Victor and I could hear fast movers on Uniform, no grunts on Fox Mike. Doc keys his mike, "good night, look at the fire fight going on out there." In the inky darkness was the fountain of horror, a full fledged fire fight, tracers coming in, tracers going out, explosions, fire, it looked like a real mess down there. Bullets ricocheting at every angle, I knew our mech. men were fighting for their lives down there, and they would be needing our ammo and medevac now. I ask the FAC for the ground frequency and he gave it to me.
"Ground control Blackhawk 54 over." I could hear the din of battle behind a voice on the radio. "Blackhawk 54 we are under heavy attack and are requesting you stand by, say again ordnance on board," "Roger Ground, I have 105 Beehive, fifty cal and a Doctor." After a moment of silence ground comes back on the radio "it is too hot to land now, but we urgently need your load." I don't hear the Rat Pack, so I call the Stinger gunships, "Stinger lead, Blackhawk 54, over," "Stinger go ahead" "I have 105 beehive and a Doctor on board can you get us in?" "If you want to go in there we will escort you in, what is you location?" "Blackhawk 54 is South East 5 miles out." "Roger Blackhawk come to the south end of Burt, we will pick you up and escort you in, but there is a lot of fire down there so make it a fast approach." We fly south of Burt and I can see the gunships coming out to get us. I start the 120 Knot approach, at first going past the gun cover, but then as I start to flair they are by my side, mini guns roaring, low level insanity. I can't see a fucking thing with all the smoke and flares competing with the tracers. I see a lone trooper standing with his arms over his head, guiding me in, exposing himself. The bravery of the men on the ground chokes me up. I am guided to a spot with wounded men, Doc is out of his seat on the ground, doing the much-needed triage, so we can take the worst hit out and hope to save them. Men come from the dark and take the Ammo off, the volume of fire in the perimeter is intense, I am taking hits, it will only be a matter of time and this helicopter will never fly again, Doc has his load and is back in the right seat, I call coming out, and look up to see a pair of gunships covering my ass coming out. We are low level in the dark with a load of men, all severely wounded, Doc says "I had better get busy," and jumps over the console and starts taking care of the men. I fly directly to the 12th Evac pad in Cu Chi. I call "Golden Umpire, Blackhawk 54, inbound with eight wounded about 10 minutes out." The calm voice of Bill Giles on the radio comes back "late night 54, you are our only chopper land on pad one." Nice to hear a familiar voice on the radio. I wondered if he ever slept, he was always there when I needed him. He will expedite the unloading of our wounded. Best Pad Man in Vietnam.
Cu Chi tower clears me direct to the Medevac Pad and I come in hot flaring sideways to clear the tail boom, and I am almost down and on jumps Big Bill Giles and he takes charge. Bill strips off the loaded weapons and explosive devices, gently lifting the men on to stretchers waiting by the open door. Bill does his work like a mad man, but every move is practiced. Bam, Bill hits me on top of my helmet to tell me he is jumping off and I can pull pitch. Total time on the pad maybe two minutes, but probably less.
We lift to a high hover and ask tower for permission to go to the ammo bunkers, and they clear us direct. The ammo lumpers know what is going on and have our load waiting, we watch them put it on in the aircraft, then a quick call to the tower and we are staggering into the air again. We have enough fuel, and I would like to be light going in, to help with the control of the aircraft down low behind the perimeter of Burt.
Doc and I start to hear the radios first, things are bad, looks like one of the gunships is down, in the dark. Shit. I see the fast movers laying down Napalm, lights things up, kind of pretty, and deadly at the same time. I cannot see Burt yet, but the fire works were spectacular coming from a concentrated spot on the horizon. As we get nearer we call the ground and ask for status, they wave us off, too hot. Fuck, now fuel was a problem. It took a few minutes to find a gun team; they had one down, and were pissed off big time. I think they would have escorted me into hell if I had asked. They called the fire and I made the approach, we turned this one around in seconds, not one mistake, in and out. I called Big Bill and Doc went to work in the back.
Doc and I flew all night, and in the morning we landed by the shotdown gunship so Captain David Royal Warden Jr. MS could perform his duties as a flight surgeon and issue a cause of Death for the crew. The men in the gunship had been burned very badly by the fire, I know it was a shock to Doc, his whole demeanor changed. Fight all night and then in the morning perform autopsies on the man who had been covering your ass all night, is a tough one.
Doc and I flew into Burt numerous times, but what we really remember is the aviators we lost, not the men we saved.
Wayne R. "Crash" Coe
187th Assault Helicopter Company 1967-8
[January 1, 1968] I was one of the pilots hauling ammo in and wounded out of Fire Support Base Burt. It was a long night. One thing stands out in my memory bright and clear about that night. Was a Buck Sergeant directing traffic with two hand held flares. As I would come screaming in through the dark and smoke, with gun cover on each side, I could see very little except for the tracers going both ways. He would stand up tall and brave with a flare in each hand and while every God Damn Dink in the fucking world would try and hit him with automatic fire, he would calmly direct me to the nearly invisible pad, drag off the ammo and load the wounded. We were turning it around fast and he never failed to catch my attention coming in fast through the smoke and dark. I could have never gotten on the ground in the seconds required with out him risking his life for every helicopter approach. We were blind with out him.
The picture above is I believe, Cbtry, Gun 3, who were on the southwest across the road from Dusty and Gun 1. Both as the map shows, were in the 2/22 (M) sector of defense.
Just below is a shot of Dusty and gun 1 crew on the tail of their piece.
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