114th Aviation Company Association

The Door Gunner

You've likely seen the written version of this poem, but I, for one, have never seen it combined with this YouTube slide presentation.

Ken has told me a couple of times about the stories that I told when I first returned home from Vietnam. I told him recently, I don't think about what I did there very often and what I remember is very hazy at this point in my life. But, I just received this video from another pilot and it did bring back a lot memories flying in Vietnam and the turmoil and trauma that went with it. As some of you know, I spent a year flying a helicopter in Vietnam. I saw a lot of combat, received two very minor wounds, but had crew members severely wounded and one person on the aircraft killed during my time there. Like many of the guys that I flew with, I had many close calls. A number of times I had people tell me that I had no right to be alive. The round that hit the engine should have knocked it out, or the round through the wind screen only missed you by a fraction of an inch, before hitting someone in the back of the aircraft. When your 22 and 23 years old, you don't think much about those near misses. You shake it off and move on. Later it leaves you wondering why you survived and what it all means. I can only say that I was one of the fortunate few, learned to be a good pilot and was fortunate to have a good crew. There were always four of us on board, two pilots, the crew chief and the door gunner. The crew chief and the door gunner were always manning the guns and talking to us about what was happening beside, behind and below us. Our job was to get into and out of those sometimes hot, but almost always difficult LZs. When the guys on the ground called for help, we went, regardless of the conditions and the amount of fire coming in. We always tried. It was our job and we were trained to be smart, but not hesitant. The two guys on the guns were our protection and while their two M-60s didn't provide a lot of fire power, they did instill confidence that we were more than a target. We knew that we also had a little sting and the guys in the back were not afraid to take on a target. The door gunners were all volunteers. They had to have served at least 9 months on the ground, in a line unit, prior to applying for the job. They also knew that it required them to extend their tours by at least six more months. It took a special person to take on that job and everyday was an adventure. In our unit and probably in most, they helped the crew chief maintain the aircraft and when we were back at base camp, also pulled guard duty every other night. Sometimes it was all they could do to stay awake, but they always did. They were often bitching about the chicken shit Army and the people who were not sharing the load, but they were always ready to go. They were invaluable to our success and our coming home alive. If they didn't respect you, they would refuse to fly with you and they didn't tolerate pilots that wouldn't put their lives on the line to help their friends on the ground. They didn't necessarily look like the warriors you see in the movies, but had seen combat up close on the ground and were keenly aware of what we needed to do to help those that fought there. They were typically unafraid and wouldn't hesitate to jump off the aircraft to help carry a wounded soldier on board. Once there, they became the nurse that took care of those wounded warriors until we got them back to the hospital. Most were 18 or 19 years old! You all must watch and listen to this. It is compelling. It is always amazing to come across something so compelling that it can bring back history.  


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Created by Terry A. Dell, White Knight Crewchief 69-70' Republic of Vietnam 
in association with members of the 114th Assault Helicopter Company
 who served May 1963 to February 1972.

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