TINS - B57
Wayne R. "Crash" Coe
(Blackhawk 54



Last night, I spent about two hours on the telephone with Jimmy Ballard.

Jimmy and I used to fly quite often together. Jimmy Ballard is one hell of a crew chief and has a set of balls like the Jolly Green Giant.

This net has allowed me to find many of the men I used to work with, and every one of them seems just the same as he was in 1967. 

Jimmy has a favorite pilot, Joe Burns, the very guy that used to love to chew my ass over any little infractions of 'the rules.' Of course at age 19, I thought the rulebook was just a waste of time.

I am having lunch tomorrow at Major Joe Burns's house, and for the first time in 30 years we are going to talk about our tour with the 187th Assault Helicopter Company.

The last time I talked to Joe Burns in 1968, he was chewing my ass.

I hope he has mellowed.


Medevac with Jimmy Ballard

0300 Tay Ninh base camp, Viet Nam.

The tempo of the outgoing artillery has picked up dramatically.

It sounds to me lying in my bunk that all of the artillery batteries are shooting TOT at once.  In the dim recesses of my sleep addled brain I know the men in the field are stepping in shit.  Even half asleep I know what will happen next, and I pull on my pants and lace up my boots, only to fall over on my cot and go back to sleep half dressed in the heat and humidity of my GP medium tent shared with five other Warrant Officer Pilots.

When the orderly pulls the tent flap back it brings me instantly awake, it is time to go flying.

At the same time in Maintenance Jimmy Ballard and John Carter are working on one of the company aircraft in for a 100-hour check.  Jimmy met the aircraft when it came in from a day of courier work at 1500.  Major Stewart wanted the aircraft ready for work at 0600 and Jimmy and his crew put the finishing safety wire on the aircraft, getting ready for the tech inspection.  Working all night was the norm for the RoadRunner Maintenance men, and a 12-hour shift was nothing for Jimmy and John.

Our Operations tent was alive with activity when I walked in the door.  I threw my helmet and flack vest on the counter and signed for the SOI and the survival radio.   Major Burns had a map spread out with the Landing Zone marked and all the ground frequencies penciled in for me.  "We have a medevac for you tonight, but are having trouble getting a crew together.  Your regular crew is too intoxicated to fly according to the runner. Go ahead and use my aircraft and crew tonight."  Said Major Burns.  A generous offer that would save some time in getting airborne.   Warrant Officer Kirk Nivens was just opening the door as I was heading out for the revetment.  I grabbed him still half asleep and steered him
towards the Helicopter.

Major Burns had already sent for Carter and Ballard, and as Kirk and I started the run for the helicopter we could see our crew running for it at the same time, each carrying their flying gear and a M-60 machine gun.

Blades untied, M-60's getting mounted, Kirk is going down the checklist, while I wait for electrical power to turn on the radios.  The second I have power I call Tay Ninh tower for takeoff instructions, and before Kirk can get enough rotor RPM to fly I am cleared for takeoff.

We fly under the artillery barrage and as we get a little altitude Paris Radar starts vectoring us to our target, while keeping us clear of the artillery rounds in the air.

Our wounded Grunts are in a Landing Zone right on the bank of a river.  From the map it looks like this one is going to be easy.

From 1500 feet the river stands out against the dark of the trees like a ribbon of silver.   I call the ground commander and get a long count to home in on, but it is unnecessary as the tracers and parachute flares are clearly marking the battle.  As we get closer the flash of the explosions are clearly visible and concussions of the artillery rounds shake the aircraft. 

I call to have the artillery lifted, and after the last rounds splash we made our approach to the hot Landing Zone.  "Get on the controls with me Kirk, you know the drill.   You guys in back ready to go?" I hear two rogers over the intercom.

We came in over the river, clearing the trees growing next to the river.  I turned on the landing and searchlight.  I was expecting to see a small rice paddy, but instead I see stumps and fallen trees.  We terminated at a high hover while every fucking dink in the province took a shot at us.

"I can't see where to go, there is no one marking the Landing Zone.  Any one see where we need to go?"  Jimmy Ballard sees the Grunt with his rifle over his head out the left side of the helicopter.  "Left, come left is the command from the crew chief."  There he is, I can see him in the smoke and dark and put my searchlight on him.  "I don't see any where to set down,"  As I brought the UH-1D to a hover right in front of the guide on.  "We got stumps and trees on the left" from Jimmy, "looks bad on the right" from John.   The Grunts know we can't land and start handing up the wounded to the hovering helicopter while we blew dust and branches everywhere.  While John watched my tail rotor, Jimmy climbed out on the skids to help drag the wounded into the cargo bay. Jimmy is a small man 5 feet 7 inches and maybe 120 pounds dripping wet, but he muscles the wounded men into the back like they did not weigh anything.

Pop, pop, pop, in my earphones, fuck, we are getting hit. I can't see the tracers with the lights on and the rotor wash kicking up so much debris.

It takes an eternity to load the men one at a time.  I am sweating so profusely it is running in my eyes and burning but I can't take the time out to wipe them.  Kirk is on the controls so lightly I can see his hands  but cannot feel him.

"How are we doing back there?"  My voice creeping up a few octaves over the intercom "One more Sir, and we have them all."  Was the reply.  The aircraft was getting harder to handle as the weight increased.  My eyes in the back were continually up dating me on my position, keeping me from sticking the tail rotor into something solid.

As Jimmy dragged the last man into the cargo bay, I added power and started to head for the river but we did not have enough horse power to jump the trees with all the wounded grunts in back, and had to hover back and take another run at it.

We hit translational lift and cleared the trees by the river with inches to spare. Kirk had doused the lights as soon as we made the run at the trees and we were flying blacked out down the river pulling all the horsepower we could produce. Medevac flying is a race against time, lives are saved or lost in minutes.  I pull as much power as the engine would produce and fly low level so as to not waste time going up and down.

Jimmy and John were doing their best to stop the bleeding, giving first aid to the severely wounded men.  One of the men with a head wound started thrashing around and for a moment it looked like he might kick one of the other men out of the open door.   Jimmy had him in a vice grip hold restraining him for the rest of the ride to the hospital.

We crossed Tay Ninh low level in the dark.  I had already been on the radio to the 45th MUST hospital, and I knew they would be waiting on the pad for us.

I cut across the active low level and had my helicopter on the ground as fast as I could.   The nurses and orderlies had the men off the chopper in seconds.  It took four orderlies to take the thrashing head wound patient off the helicopter; Jimmy had been holding him down by himself. 

The flood lights on the Hospital Pad would help us find the bullet holes in the aircraft, and we shut down to have a look.  When Jimmy came forward to pull my seat armor back, I got a look at him in the light; he was covered with blood from his feet to the top of his helmet.  When I got out to look the chopper over, the first thing I noticed was the blood dripping out of the open cargo bay.  The rotor wash had covered the inside of the helicopter with blood and it had dried to a dark brown red color.

We found the bullet holes, and they had hit nothing vital, so we cranked up and flew back to Maintenance, ordering a water truck to help clean out the mess while hovering over.

Jimmy started hosing out the cargo bay with the two inch water hose.   I got all my maps, guns, and paper work out of the helicopter, and asked if I could help with the cleanup.  Offering to hold the hose while Jimmy and John washed the blood from their equipment.  One thing led to another and once the water fight got started we started throwing red mud and then wet clothes at each other, blowing off a little steam after our brush with death.

Kirk Nivens headed for the showers, but I still had to turn in the SOI and survival radio.

Dripping wet and stripped to the waist I was hesitant to enter the inner sanctum also known as Operations.  This was real RLO territory.  Major Burns was a by the book officer and I knew I was in for some verbal abuse.   I peeked in the door, and did not see Major Burns.  I quickly put my SOI and radio on the counter and made a break for the door, but before I could put my hand on the doorknob, the deep voice of Major Burns stopped me in my tracks.  "Where are you going without signing in your radios, Mr. Coe?"  I turned around with a sheepish grin, expecting an ass chewing for being out of uniform, the water fight, putting holes
in his aircraft or one of several dozen things I knew I was guilty of.  "I heard it was a tight LZ and you still got seven wounded out, good work Mr. Coe."  I nearly floated out the door.

I looked at my watch while walking back to my tent, 0430, great, I would have time for a cold shower and a nap before having to crank up and fly a combat assault with first platoon at 0630.

Wayne R. "Crash" Coe
Blackhawk 54
187th Assault Helicopter Company 67-8


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