Mission Duty : Night.
I have just came out of a briefing for a night pick-up; it was for a strip about 30 minutes north, I had dropped a marine off there last week.
I still have the GPS position logged in my system, But I'm sure "briefing" will have given me enough paper work in my flight folder to complete the duty. Which is a bit of a giggle really? as these pick-ups are done in complete darkness, so no reading gets done!
The instrument panel is just lit with a dull red glow, which I turn off. On a good dark night, its brighter outside, and that's the way I like it. I also find it better without the moon! as it shines in your face just like the sun effecting your vision.
I had spent many thousands of hours, flying low level over bush country spraying crops and pest, before I was recruited to Vietnam. (that's another story) The main difference here was that the strips could be a trap waiting? Cables strung across the runway, plus mines and troops.
It was dangerous but I believed necessary, plus the pay was good and I always enjoyed a good pay cheque.
The Plan was:
My marine on the ground, knew he had to show himself to me quickly? After I landed and before I rolled on to the pick up point. We had found a stainless steel shaving mirror, reflected just fine, I preferred to use it. didn't get broken!
If the reflection wasn't there or I didn't see it my landing became a violent full power, wheels up departure! If it was there, I'd slow the engines and completed the landing, turning at the pick-up point, facing back the way I came. Then I would quickly count to ten with my hand gun in my hand. If he didn't show I was powered up and gone.
The last time I dropped my marine off, he was dressed like a tree, and just melted into the bush and was gone.
These young marines were Intelligence Gathering Specialist, brave men and a credit to the marine corps.
Now my mission was to recover him.
I moved my aircraft down to the take-off point, I was just sitting there waiting for my eyes to adjust to the dark. I was scheduled for-take off 35 minutes after full dark as the time drew near I started my engines and completed my take-off checks by feel. Take-off permission was given by the turning off of the runway lights, my night vision came into full effect I turned onto the runway and departed.
It was a clear dark night, visibility was good. I had left my undercarriage down, one less thing to worry about; on a short hop like this?
A couple of miles out I set myself up for landing, with the use of the GPS I let down to about 20 feet over the tree,slowed to about 80 knts as I approached the end of the strip, I engaged the electric flaps
by the time I was over the strip I was doing 55 knts, in a decent straight on to the ground. I thought I saw a glint of the mirror so I continued to the pick-up point, as I turned back down the strip and prepared for take-off, My marine didn't come out of the trees! Oh Shit! I opened the side window and pointed my hand gun towards the trees, pushing on full power at he same time, I noticed a man moving towards me from the trees I gave him 3 shots into his body! Well? in his direction? Anyway he wasn't dressed like a tree.
I didn't see or hear any return fire, I just got the hell out of there, getting airborne I stayed low, until I was well clear, then I got on the radio and called base saying "Strip compromised I have not completed my task.
I was instructed to return to base after over-flying a couple of friendly villages, to see if they were displaying ground signs, indicating ever thing was OK, which it was.
Back at base I went into briefing and gave them a full account of my nights adventure, saying" I thought I had mistakenly identified the mirror."
A couple of days later my marine was picked up by a gun-ship helicopter, He reported to briefing, that he had signalled me just as the VC turned up and had heard my shots and noisy take-off, He believed I had hit the VC and that was why I got no return fire. He just melted back into the bush!
one, two, three, four. I respect the Marine corp.