08 June 2004, 12:13DigitalDan
Off topic but still a small game
Like the old melody says, "Down collective, pedal right, hope I am alive tonight..."(to the tune of Bye Bye blackbird)........
I always had that thought whilst plying my trade as one of Nixon's Hired Guns. Always wondered who coined that phrase too, since it was the flippin' Dim's that got us all in a wad in Nam.
Anyway, When I flew Scouts with the various Cav units across the minor length and breadth of S. Viet Nam, we flew as hunter-killer teams, which is another misnomer because the Cobra Guns did the killing for the most part, I was just bait. Those sick bastards in their air conditioned Snakes would joke about reeling Scouts up every once in awhile to see if they'd had any nibbles...
I was out in the A Shau Valley one day, only a few klicks from Hamburger Hill(Dong Ap Bia) with a heavy pink team, or two Cobras(Red) and myself in an OH-6A(white), doing a visual recon east of THE HILL, and south of Tiger Mountain, a flat top massife that always appeared ominous to me, and one that I never flew over once in 2.5 years. Boogie Men lived there!
We flew out at altitude and once in the general area I made a brief look-see for obvious signs of the enemy, like flak, or formations doing close order drill, then hummed my opening line as I started descent in a typically erratic spiral. No, not a Death Spiral, an erratic spiral. Yes, they look alike, that's the idea.
The Dead Man Zone for small arms fire against choppers lies between 100' and 1500' AGL, the less time spent there the better.
As the rolling hills rushed up I added power, rolled back to the left, and began ferreting out the small game. Low, slow, cock-eyed out of trim, three shades hotter than Hades, and the smell of green. It was my world. My crewman, a Spec. 4 serving as an armed observer sat beside me in the left seat, M16 laying across his lap, red smoke grenade in his hand that was to be tossed in the event we took fire. That was a highly likely prospect out in the Valley.
Over the river and thru the dale to Uncle Ho's Hoards we flew!
Up a hill, negative G push to keep the altitude down, transmission pressure light glowing red as it always did when the oil floated in the casing during those manuevers. Turn left, turn right, up the hill!
They were all covered with scattered scrubby trees and lots of elephant grass, which can reach 12' in height and is a wonderful world for hiding things from people like me. Things like 12.7mm guns for one. Whoops! there goes one out the right side, well, not a gun, but the pit they build for them with the little bunker on one side. Freshly dug I might add.
The little vermin are sneaky bastards I give them that. They found out early on that a flight of two Cobras could pretty much tap dance all over one of their 12.7mm positions
and never even worry about it. Soooo, they started grouping them in twos and threes. "Okay', sez I, 'hey Mr. Gunfighter, there's a .50 pit 5 o,clock and 100 meters or so, fresh.' In our way, we called that gathering intell back then.
Problem was that never did they deploy just one in the A Shau Valley. They had stuff they were proud of, and liked to take pot shots at interlopers. So, if one was on 'Hill A", there was likely to be another on "Hill B". Usually within a couple of hundred meters, terrain permitting, and also at the same elevation. This tactic permits "Mutually supportive fire", and changes the equation greatly in regards to the Cobras. It takes 3 Snakes to deal with 2 guns. I had two Snakes.
Low stayed, slow was out the window. 80-100 knots(that's faster than a buzzard) now, down the hill, up the hill, and about 250 meters away there lies a freshly dug pit for another 12.7mm. Entrenching tool still laying on the bottom of the pit. Whoops again, call the lead Snake and babble about stock picks, real estate, and cat hunting for a few seconds while I think "Whoa" to my trusty steed and get it turned around for another quick pass back to Hill A. Much to my chagrin as I fly over Hill B, the entrenching tool is gone, and I reported that before telling them that there was now a tripod set up at Hill A, in Pit A, and my stuff is getting decidedly weak. Yes, Cobras can duke it out with .50's, the LOH cannot, and .50's will chew a new anal orifice in a chopper...chop chop!
As I went over the position I broke left toward Tiger Mountain and the guns rolled in on Hill A. A tactically awkward situation for me as they were my cover and life line, yet the gun had to be hammered, pure and simple. I knew full well that Hill B probably was set up or very close to it, I was pinned between the Snake's GT line and the mountain, the only path out being over Hill B. Yuckee-poo.
The good news was that I had a brand new, never been fired GE Mini-gun hangin' on the left side, and a full load of ammo. I was also below their line of sight for the moment. Any attempt to climb to altitude would have put me in their sights sure as sunrise and voided any advantage I held at the moment. To paraphrase the old indian saying, It was a good day to wet your pants.
I had long since learned that the best defense is truly a good offense, and since I was in the Cav, and certifiably insane since I'd volunteered for this crap, I did the only thing I could do. Charge!
Not only can choppers do what planes do, they can do more. And less. A lot of less. Their advantage is that you can literally drag your skids through the grass and even at a leisurely 120 knots you go by pretty quick to a ground based observation. We were almost up to that speed when Hill B reared up a couple of hundred feet above us, a saddle on either side that blocked low level egress. I used one of those "little less" tricks, called a cyclic climb, or simply pulling back on the stick to trade speed for altitude. Zoom Zoom! The Mini-gun on the LOH was flexible in elevation only, azimuth controlled with the foot pedals, and in the circumstance I'd fully depressed it as I expected to be looking at them through the chin bubble when they came into view. Further, I planed to go negative over the top and hopefully keep the gun on target until nearly overhead at which point I woud dive once again for the safety of lower elevations. Up the hill! Time for one of those famous "time standing still" moments.
The gunner was waiting, his azimuth about 20* off to my left, the other varmint was crouched low with an ammo can at the ready. He fired as he began to swing the gun, and as I replied. Couple of points on this: 1) The 12.7 has a cyclic rate of fire in the range of 500-700 rounds per minute, it also has a huge hour glass shaped muzzle flash, visable even on bright sunny days. One in five rounds is a tracer, and if anyone asks what they look like, just give 'em your best steely eyed stare and say "basketballs". Big round red basketballs. Every time one goes by you hear a deep sonic crack, then you get 4 more audibels before the next light show. It is REALLY impressive.
Tracers don't seem to move really fast when they are heading right at you BTW. At least not until they go past, ZIP-CRACK! They do not go "whoosh" or "whiz" like in the movies. 2) Mini-guns in US Army versions, have a selective fire rate of 2000 or 4000 RPM. At that time they were noted for jamming often when fired at 2000rpm, so that mode was seldom used. Both rates had a 3 second burst limiter, meaning that you got to shoot for 3 seconds, then your water hose shut down. Again, 1 in 5 was a tracer, crackety-crack, I'm sure it looked impressive from the wrong end too, but I never saw that. Efective range was touted at 1100 meters, mostly because the splash of bullets was visable at that range. Up close they churn the earth, creating a rooster tail effect of earth as the rounds sought their target, usually a serpentine path of mauled dirt, trees, cats, whatever got in it's way. Inside of 100 yards it is impossible to shoot somebody less that 6 times with one that is on low rate fire. God, what a beast!
My first rounds impacted about 20 yards low and left, a bit of back pressure on the stick, a bit of right pedal, and the dirt dragon began it's journey to the pit. Range at this point was about 80 meters. It was the OK Corral. High Noon. I was Matt Dillon, they were the guys in black. And only because the sound of my chopper had distorted in the hills and they didn't know precisely where I was going to show up, my vomit of lead got to them about 1/2 second before theirs got to us. I was able to hold on target for most of the remaining 2 seconds of burst, flew on over them and down the hill as planned.
Though I seldom reconned a .50 position that had been engaged by Snakes, I knew for certain the condition of this one. I went back, did one u-turn overflight then ran back down the hill, built up speed and then climbed out to higher altitude. The gun was mangled almost beyond recognition, and that was enough for me. Enough was enough. Neither of us could hardly talk for about 5 minutes afterward, and when I finally told the team lead I got a bad case of the shakes. Back at the club that night I got a really bad headache with a 6 hour delay fuse. Best thing I know of to cure a hangover is adrenaline. Down collective, pedal right, hope I am alive tonight...
19 June 2004, 13:51RicinYakima
I just read your post and thought that I should tell you what a mini-gun brust looks like from the ground, "I'm Alive!". I had Cobras come in at 50 meters on a well defined area, like a tree line, or main patty dike, 150 meters at night in single canopy jungle.
You can see the tracers at the begining of the burst until the first bullets hit the ground. Then it is just raining green vegetation, billowing red dust, or water raining up! At night it is just a bright stream of red flowing out into a cone of fire.
But it is the sound that I will never forget. The "ripping" is louder than the tips of the blades. If you are in the water you can feel the pressure on you skin from the bullet impacts. With morters and 105's you can feel the concusions, with 155's it will push you up off the ground, and "Arc-light" strikes will make you bounce up and down off the ground.
Two Cobras working the area means that you will be alive for at least another hour! The mini-guns chew up overhead cover on bunkers and turn anyone without it into mush. I love them!
Ric in Yakima, 31st Combat Engineers (Airmobile) III Corps
19 June 2004, 16:00DigitalDan
Dave, I considered the life under the jungle canopy but not for long. I have this thing about booby traps you see.
I believe it was in "Catch 22" that Yossarian professed that he "got small" when the Germans were shooting at him. If not that book, well, I read it somewhere before I went west the first time. I developed that art to a degree previously unknown.
I was thinking of bailing out one day but I didn't have a chute, and then my feet got tangled up in the nylon mesh that covered our seats.
A proctologist would have needed grease and a 5# hammer to start a tour, no joke.
Ricin, better you than me to have that perspective. My hat is off to you bud, thanks for dropping in!