Đà Nẵng, South Vietnam ...

Đà Nẵng - Chopper down!

by: Don Poss, WS LM-01
© 1965


In July 1965, I was in-country for a few weeks as an Air Policeman (yes, they were then gender specific) at Đà Nẵng Air Base, Vietnam. A Huey had reportedly auto rotated into a double-canopied forest about twelve miles, two light-years and a stone age, northwest of Đà Nẵng Air Base. Sarge grabbed a half-dozen of us from our tents to pull security at the crash site until it could be recovered. It was too hot to sleep anyway. "Don't worry ... you'll be back in time to pull your shift."

An Air Force chopper dropped us off in a stream about a mile from the crash site. Crossing the slow-waters, we immediately entered heavy woods, by late afternoon, we had covered about a mile. The terrain was not particularly rough, but the tangle brush and scrub was dense. The light filtering from above had a cast of multi-hued greens and sickly yellows.

We soon encountered debris on the ground but no wreckage. A shaft of white-light glared down like a spot light through the well-shaft ripped in the canopy by the dead-chopper. The broken fuselage was still up in the trees, clutched by a claw of knarled branches. Gapping up from the forest floor was like what the eye of a tornado must appear like from within.

At almost that moment, a chopper hovered high above, its rotors whipping the upper canopy into a frenzy. It began raining C-Rations as we were radioed that a heavy chopper couldn't make it out until next morning. After an hour of swearing about lost rations and on general principles, we became curious about the bird snared above.

Being your basic young-no-brainers, another guy and I decided to climb the fifty or sixty feet up to it. After all, what harm could it do? Besides, no one would find out. Turned out not even to be a U.S. Chopper, but an ARVN bird. The cockpit was shattered, and a harpsichord of wires had sliced the dead copilot like a spoiled package of cheese. The pilot and crew were missing.

Two boring days later, we were relieved by some ARVN grunts (Charlie had better things to do). The chopper was still snug in the trees. Never found out about the missing crew, or why the ARVN didn't handle the whole thing from the beginning. We returned to base lighter in weight, heavier in soul, and as the Sarge said--in time to fortify (fill sandbags). Another day at Đà Nẵng Air Base, South Vietnam.

Animated Helicopters.

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