Phillip “Mike” Askew Charlie Trooper 1967 to 1968

Posted on February 25, 2011

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Just a note to my brothers,
I remember when it was a sin to talk about anything that happened in Vietnam, for many years I wouldn’t even talk to my wife because she like many others didn’t understand our feelings about the war.  After leaving the Army in 1970 I had a difficult time finding a good job.  Every time I filled out an application and stated I was a Vietnam Vet I would never receive an interview.  Finally, I rejoined the Army just so I could support my family.  I found out that talking about Vietnam in the army was not excepted any better than in civilian life.  As the years past it didn’t get any better and I was on active duty through 1982.
I encourage others in this group to share your memories with all of us.  It’s a healthy thing to do and it keeps the fires burning..  We all fought in Vietnam together, even if we weren’t there at the same time.  We all share a brotherhood that most people don’t understand and we should share our memories as well.
I’m looking forward to reading about your time in country.
My first two days At Two Bits and my first day in combat
Four of us new guys arrived at North Two Bits late in the afternoon of August 12, 1967. I’m not sure of the exact day, but the 12th is close enough.  A few of you out there in computer land will remember this period of time due to loosing some of our best men in the Son Ra Valley.
As our flight approached Two Bits from An Khe we could see Charlie Troops helicopters sitting in their bunkers while a few men roamed around the LZ going about their daily business.  Upon arriving the four of us were lined up in front of Staff Sergeant Jackson “Red Mikes” tent where he gave us our long-awaited in-briefing and assigned us each to a platoon.  Foley, Virgin, Beekman and I were assigned to Red Platoon.  Sergeant Jackson told Foley and I to go eat dinner then draw our flight helmets and M-60s (machine gun) from supply and report to the flight line where a helicopter would take us out over the South China Sea and let us practice firing our weapons.
We would be on the first flight out to the Son Re Valley the next morning.  This was a shock to both of us, we didn’t realize that we would be in combat so soon. After the excitement of flying out over the sea, we arrived back at Two Bits and were escorted by Red Mike to our new living quarters, a small two-man tent with lots of holes for ventilation.  There were two duffel bags setting outside the tent and as we approached the opening Sergeant Jackson told us that those were the bags of two crew members who had been KIA a few days before.
That first night Foley and I lay in our bunks neither of us could sleep.  We kept thinking about those four crew members who had died just a few days earlier.  We could feel the bombs from and arc light (the dropping of many bombs at one time) shaking the ground and lighting up the sky to the west and we could hear machine-gun firing off in the distance. The slapping sound of rotor blades filled the air as helicopters flew overhead and in the distance was the roar of a mini-gun spitting out fire and death. I couldn’t help but wonder what my first day of combat was going to be like.
That evening as we lay listening to the sounds of war we talked about our fears and feeling.  I wondered just what the hell I’d gotten myself into.  Just a few months earlier I was cruising down main street in my home town with nothing to worry about but tomorrows date with my girl friend.  Now, tomorrow I would be flying into a valley where strangers would be trying to take my life.  This was definitely a strange feeling.  Some time after midnight we faded off into a restless sleep not knowing what the next day would bring.
Just before daylight the pilot pulled pitch and our helicopter gunship raised off of Two Bits and set a heading for the Son Re Valley.  Arriving in the Son Re we began to fly low and slow along the east end of the valley, we approached a large out cropping of jungle and at the base of the outcropping was the remains of the helicopter that had crashed the week before.  About the time that the pilot starting explaining what had happened, a 51 caliber machine-gun opened up on us.  Large golf ball sized tracers were just missing the left side of our gunship.  The pilot was yelling at the peter pilot to beak right while the CE and I were returning fire with our 60’s.  Our return fire seemed to suppress the enemy machine-gun just long enough for us to get out of range and call for arty fire.  The one thing I noticed immediately was that the rest of the crew were relatively calm while my butt was making a very good impression on the seat.  Most of the rest of the day was none-eventful, “until the return flight back to Two Bits that evening”.
We were headed back toward Two Bits just as the sun was about to set when our C Model helicopter began to have a hydraulic failure.  The pilot was having trouble with the cyclic stick which had become very hard to move and control.  The CE removed the inspection plate to the servo where he observed hydraulic fluid spewing from a broken line.  Because of the difficulty in hovering, The pilot had to call ahead to let the command center know that he would have to skid land the helicopter on a runway.
By this time I, (the new guy gunner) was beside myself.  I had survived my first day of combat only to crash and burn as the pilot attempted to land the helicopter. Approaching the runway the CE and I tightened our seat belts and prepared for a rough landing.  There were a couple of guys standing by a fire truck watching as we made our approach.  The pilot struggled with the cyclic to keep the helicopter in straight flight as we dropped in for the skid landing.  At about five feet from touch down I closed my eyes and held on to the seat with all my strength.  The pilot was as cool as a cucumber.  The helicopter hit the tarmac, bounced once and began to slide to a stop.
My first day of combat was over.  From that day forward I never once thought that I would make it home alive, I decided that I would most likely crash and burn somewhere on some mission.  I never did think I would be shot outright.
Damn, I glad I was wrong!!!
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Posted in: Mike Askew