The Snake
Wayne R. "Crash" Coe
Blackhawk 54


I was a helicopter pilot for the 187th Assault Helicopter Company, in Tay Ninh, 1967, and we were supporting everything from the Special Forces to the Arvn units. This is a story that is really about my crew chief, SP4 Green.  Green was from West Virginia.

I hate hot Landing Zones, when the formation starts to take fire and the gunships respond, the chaos is unimaginable.  Smoke, fire, tracers everywhere, my 25th Infantry, Manchu troops, were in for it today.

A green oasis surrounded by towering trees, long grass flattened by my rotor wash, Green has been shooting up the tree line, but just as I get our D model on the ground he yells over the intercom, "keep her on the ground" and jumps out.  In only a few seconds he is half in and half out of the helicopter and he nods for me to pickup, and up we go with the rest of the formation, trailing a 10 foot long King Cobra, held firmly by Green.  I knew Green was crazy, after all, he was my gunner, and that
was proof enough.  We had landed on a Cobra pinning it down so it was easy for green to capture it.  I am sure green was suprised with the size of the snake, most of it was in a hole in the ground when he grabbed it.

Green and the Crew chief wrestled the snake into the aircraft and proceeded to safety wire the mouth shut.  They did a  fancy  wiring job on this beautiful Cobra and put it in a fifty cal ammo box, right under Greens seat.

I must admit that I am not too fond of snakes, but this one was absolutely beautiful, and huge.  When Green would open the square top of the ammo box, that snake would come out of there like a shot from a gun, hood open, hissing, totally awesome sight.   Green would let out about five or six feet of snake out of the box and then hold on to it and it would look totally cool, and very convincing.

"Just what are you going to do with that snake," I ask? Looking over my shoulder at his smiling face.  His response was classic Green, "I'll get the goddamn dinks off the chopper faster than anyone in the flight!"  I now under stood the true genius of this flying warrior from West Virginia.

When we inserted troops into a hot Landing Zone, the American troops would jump off the plane before it hit the ground, running hard.  The Vietnamese troops would not get off the helicopter, and it was fairly standard to be mobbed when we went in for medevac missions to some Arvn units.  Some units like the Arvn Rangers with the red scarves were American trained and good as any one out there, but, they were the
exception not the rule.

Green and I had already had problems with the Arvn troops, you could see the hate in their eyes as we would head for the landing zone.  In one hot Landing Zone in the parrots beak area, Green had thrown several Arvn troops off of the helicopter and one of them had turned around and shot a M-79 right at me, hitting the sliding armor panel on the side of my seat making a huge dent, slamming into my arm, almost knocking me out of my harness.   The projectile had not armed, it was  spinning around on the floor, right beside my collective pitch control.  I grabbed the hot
grenade burning my fingers through the gloves, and threw it out the open window it had came in, and pulled pitch as Green killed him with his M-60.  My left arm turned black and blue from the shoulder to the wrist, and looked horrible, and felt worse, but healed fine.  After all, I was only nineteen.  One other night medevac we landed at the hospital with 26 Arvn troops, only a few of them wounded.  I still am amazed that my helicopter would fly with people hanging on the skids and each other, several fell off along the way making the approach easier.

It was our first operation with Arvn troops since acquiring the Cobra.  I told Green "keep that snake in its box unless they start sticking to the helicopter," Green nodded and flashed me a peace sign.

Artillery, fast movers, smoke ships, (we were using the Smoky Baron) and our very own Rat Pack on guns, what a sound.  Smoke and fire, tracers everywhere, I could see the troops were scared, and on short final they were grabbing anything they could hold on to including, the seat I was sitting in.  They were crawling between the seats in front, and trying to get under the seats in back.  Chicken shit bastards.

My helicopter is still fifteen feet in the air and I have picked my landing spot when the helicopter starts to swing from side to side.  I look over my shoulder and the helicopter is raining Arvn troops, Green has his snake out, one hand on the M-60, one on the snake.  As I come to a hover, I can see the helicopters around me having trouble getting their ARVN troops off, and the flight pulls pitch, with Arvn troops on
many of the helicopters.

We had that snake for a long time.  Finally the snake was so weak from all the troop entertaining he had done, he could hardly spring out of the ammo box anymore.  Green and I took the snake far out in the jungle, cut its safety wire away and let him go.

Green bought another Cobra at one of the markets, but it was a little one, it was not much of a show, and was almost more trouble than it was worth.

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


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