My first day as a helicopter pilot in
Vietnam, probably January 10, 1969:
I was assigned as Peter Pilot to one of the most experienced
Aircraft Commanders. Everything was going just like flight school;
quick briefing, we marked our maps, wrote down frequencies, preflight the
aircraft. Just like flight school. [Son ... there's no such thang
as'a stupid question!]
Crank up the birds, pick up the grunts, take off in formation, head
for the Landing Zone, the LZ.
On final approach, the Aircraft Commander took the controls and
said, "Stay on the controls with me, but I will do the flying,
"OK, you've got it." ("Just like flight
school." I think to myself.)
Some noise and smoke in the LZ; we dropped off the grunts.
Neat! Just like flight school. Just like I expected.
After the formation was back at cruising altitude I asked the
Aircraft Commander about the one thing that I hadn't seen in flight
"What were those little green bugs?"
"What little green
"When we were on final, and down there in the LZ---there were little
"... Are you kidding me?"
"No, there were a whole lot of little
and they were going REAL fast."
"You MUST be kidding me."
"... No, they were THERE---real fast and real
"Those were tracers."
But ... they were coming TOWARDS us!"
"Yes, they were coming towards us!"
"Do you mean ...
... they were SHOOTING at us?"
"Yes, they were 'shooting' at us." (smugly)
"... Oh ..."
... said I, the humble newbie.
While we were refueling, the crewchief said on the intercom,
"Sir, I think we better shut down to see how much damage we
have; some of those little green bugsbit us back here."
It was many months before I stopped getting teased: "Hey Jim, see any
little greenbugs today ... ?"
Welcome Home, Polecat 356
Polecat's Home Page
Jim: When I read your above story, Little Green Bugs, it
reminded me of the first time I experienced those same little green bugs.
I arrived as a FNG in Tay Ninh attached to the 196th Lt Inf that was at a
well established base camp. I thought I had it made when I actually saw TV
antennas on top of many bunkers.
Our sleeping quarters had about a three to
four foot layer of sandbags around the bottom with screen up to the steel
and sandbagged roof. I wondered why the top bunks were available and
quickly grabbed one since it caught what ever breeze was available.
I was laying on my bunk one night when all
of a sudden those green bugs were flashing through our hooch leaving
little holes in the screen, coming and going. Someone jerked me off the
bunk and I suddenly realized what those green bugs were.
I had been attached to a mortar platoon and
as we huddled behind the safety of the sandbags, someone opened the
swinging door and the air was full of "little green bugs". There
was no way that we would get a fire mission since we had to travel
about 40 feet to our gun position and THEY surely wouldn't want us
endangered---Wrong!---Ring, ring, ring! on our crank telephone ... FIRE
I couldn't believe that we were supposed to
get through all those little green bugs until someone told me to just hold
my breath, pray and run as fast as I could which I did and unbelievably we
all made it through without getting "stung" by those little
As soon as we returned fire, the little
green bugs were gone as fast as they had appeared. This was my first time
to experience these little green bugs and unfortunately wasn't the last
time I was to see them through the end of my tour. The only difference was
that I, like yourself, had become a little wiser.
Take care, Bro. Great story that brought
back somewhat humorous memories of what was a dangerous situation.