I love mornings in Vietnam, cool and still, well except for the 155's shooting H&I. Harassment and Interdiction, turned into Landing Zone prep. Today we were having a combat assault with the 25th Infantry providing the Grunts. Manchu troops, tough and gritty, seasoned veterans of the air war. They would charge out of the helicopter and kick Viet Cong ass where ever they could find them. They always had a smile for the pilots, we gave them the ride of their lives, delivering them directly to the fury of combat. Nothing can compare with the chaos of combat, and the combat assault was the worst. Helicopters filling the sky, gun ships shooting up the tree line. Tracers flying everywhere. Smoke and fire, explosions, napalm, combat assaults were terrifying to be a part of.
Major Bauman ordered all of his helicopter pilots to take the dreaded Malaria pill on Tuesdays. The large Orange horse pills were certainly produced by the lowest bidder, and they gave me diarrhea of epic proportions. I slept under the mosquito net I was issued, I hated the pills. I refused to take them. Major Bauman was not used to having Warrant Officers say no to him. Under supervision from the CO himself I took the Malaria pill. Then out to my helicopter for a day of combat assaults in one of the hottest areas around, the Parrots Beak.
I was chalk two, and had WO Steve Hartman as my pilot. The Blackhawks flew in formation to the pickup zone, landed, and shut down to wait for the signal from the Command and Control to load the troops.
The crew broke out the C-rations and we proceeded to kill some time, while the LZ was being prepped. I grabbed a peaches and pound cake and started in with my P-38. Steve looked at me with a smirk, and said "if you eat anything on Tuesday after the Malaria pill, it will just squirt out when you least expect it, I always wait to eat till I am out of the helicopter." I laughed and opened another couple of cans, devouring them on the spot.
The Rat Pack did not like the activity in the landing zone, so more artillery was pumped in, and Major Bauman called in the Air Force fast movers for some heavy drops to break up the tunnels and bunkers.
More time passed while I stretched out in the sun waiting for the signal to crank up the helicopters and load the grunts.
I was sound asleep when I heard the starter for the turbine start to wind up. I put on my all of my survival gear, chicken plate, flack jacket, survival radios, helmet and sun glasses, and climbed into the Left Seat. We load the Grunts and the formation departs for the Landing Zone.
About the time we reach altitude, my insides start to explode. C & C sends us for anther circle while the Rat Pack delivers a last pass.
I am sweating like a pig from the pain now, and my insides are growing exponentially, I feel like I could possibly explode. My mind has forgotten about the combat assault, I can not fly formation, it is all I can do to keep from filling the seat. I find some toilet paper from a C-ration box, the aftermath of my breakfast.
The formation is on final approach and it is going to be a hot one, we can all see the tracers coming up at us.
I rip off my chicken board, flack vest, and survival equipment, slide back the panel by the window, take off my seat harness, and unbutton my pants. Just as the helicopter touches down, I jump out of my seat hang my ass out over the skids and jettison my load.
With all the shooting going on around us, Steve screams at me to get in the helicopter, but the rotor wash has looped my pants over the step on the end of the skids and my toilet paper has already gone through the blades several times, creating a small white snow storm in the tropics.
Steve is pulling pitch, my pants are stuck on the skids, I rip them off, use them as toilet paper and throw them overboard, and climb in the cockpit now several hundred feet in the air. We were chalk two, most of the flight had witnessed my problem, I knew they would be howling when we got back to Tay Ninh.
I never realized how much the wind whipped around in the cockpit, until I flew with no pants. We landed in the PZ and I started looking. Boots, shirt, no pants, cool outfit. Luck was with me and one of the Grunts had an extra pair of jungle fatigue pants, and was glad to help out by donating them to cover my bare butt. I must have looked pretty funny, walking around looking for something to wear, the Grunts were laughing so much they could hardly stand up.
I learned my lesson, I never took another Malaria pill the entire tour, came close a couple of times, but always managed to slip by.
©1997 Wayne R. "Crash" Coe - Blackhawk 54
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