On one of our
insertions by chopper, there was a tragedy that happened concerning
a dog handler and his dog. We were told that morning that there
would only be three choppers available to insert the entire company.
First platoon was selected to be inserted first. It was going to
take two trips just to get 1st platoon on the ground. So it was
going to take a lot of sorties to get the entire company on the
ground. I was on the lead chopper to land in our LZ. It was a small
hill, just big enough to land two choppers at once. When the
choppers landed, we jumped off and moved out to secure the LZ. It
was a cold LZ and we were all very happy.
The choppers left and
we waited for the next group to arrive. I could see off in the
distance the choppers coming. I ran up onto the hill to guide them
in. I used the hand signals we all had been taught and used a
hundred times. The lead chopper took my signals perfectly and
touched down. Our guys jumped off and ran off the hill. Someone else
helped land the other chopper with a perfect landing. As soon as the
two choppers deposited their load and flew away. It left room for
the third chopper to land. He also touched down with no problem and
then flew away.
After a while we
could hear the choppers returning. I ran back to the top of the hill
expecting the same procedure. The lead chopper took my signal and
touched down. The second chopper did the same, but for some unknown
reason the third chopper thought he could squeeze in on this small
hill. When he did, his rotor blades touched the blades of the lead
chopper I had just helped touch down. All of a sudden there was the
sound of metal hitting metal. Helicopter blades started breaking and
pieces started flying everywhere. The lead chopper crashed over onto
its side, and pieces came flying right by me. I don't know how they
missed me, but they did.
The second chopper
somehow managed to lift off and get away. All of a sudden there were
more explosions and the lead chopper caught fire. The third chopper
lifted over onto its side. Our guys were being thrown everywhere. I
just knew they were all dead and right in front of my eyes. I ran to
the lead chopper and could see the pilot and the co-pilot slumped
over in their seats. They looked like they were dead. I started
pulling on the door to try and get to the pilot. It was stuck but
finally it gave way and opened. I wasn't familiar with his harness
straps and was having a hard time getting them loose. I finally got
the straps lose and pulled him out. By this time there were others
who gave me a hand. The pilot and co-pilot were both dead. I don't
remember exactly what happened to the others in the third chopper.
After we had gotten
everyone else to safety is when we noticed the dog handler's German
Shepherd just going crazy. We looked over and lying on the ground
dead was the dog handler. Something had cut the top of his head
completely off. We tried to get to him but the dog would not let us.
He kept grabbing his handler's shirt trying to drag him away. The
poor dog just kept howling and moaning with such a pitiful sound. He
ran over and laid across his handler's body and licked his face. We
all knew there was a human body lying there dead. We all had tears
in our eyes because of the dog. The dog knew his handler was dead,
but kept trying to protect him. Of all the things I saw in Vietnam
that was one of the saddest sights I had ever seen.