by Bob Kilpatrick
This remembrance is posted with permission from the author Bob Kilpatrick who served with the 119th Aviation in 1968-69. The incident of the man hit by the chopper blade happened at our 2/35th firebase in March 1969 . Anyone who knows who the soldier was he speaks who helped the injured man please let me know. We who were there in March 1969 know we owe Bob and all the soldiers of the 119th aviation a debt of gratitude. March 1969 was one of the bloodiest months for the Cacti.
Plei Trap Remembered
I remember my helicopter full of grunts, day-after-day, and dropping
into smokey LZs with the ground on fire all over.
I remember backing out of LZs with loads of WIAs because of arty
crossing on our exit route.
I remember, in one lift, pulling 13 (yes, thirteen) semi-naked grunts
who had been running all night out of a hover-hole deep in the Plei Trap.
I remember piling dead 4th Division troopers into our ship, and being
soaked in gore getting to the med pad at Kontum.
I remember being diverted to a Battalion firebase to pick up a guy who
had walked into a helicopter rotor. I remember the black trooper, going
home, who squatted with his heels out the open door of my helicopter
to help me keep that man alive to Kontum. One of the most courageous
things I have ever seen.
I remember load after load of wounded. Doing whatever I could think
of to keep them alive to the med pad. I remember some of the ones who
did not get there alive, and I know I have forgotten others.
I remember being mortared out of one Bn firebase when we had 1200
pounds of C4 on board. Took one of the pad guys with us. He was
pissed when we brought him back.
I remember guarding those red mailbags with my life, and always
reserving my left breast pocket, carefully buttoned, for letters
handed to me by the firebase pad guys, coming out of the valley.
I remember handing the letters to that great guy with the red
handlebar mustache who ran the the log pad at Mary Lou. He knew as
much about calculating safe loads for helicopters as we did.
I remember scared cherries sitting on piles of Cs and ammo and water
and wire on their first ride into the Plei Trap.
I remember a night Tac-E ammo resupply, agreeing with the pilots that
we would certainly be shot down if we attempted to get into the lz,
and all of us just preparing to spend the night there with the
grunts. We got in and out without a scratch.
I remember when our pal Shifty was killed on the first day, the
second ship into LZ Swinger.
I remember the poor, crying soldier who wanted us to take his dead
friend when there were already more wounded than we could carry. He
came around on us with his rifle and I decided to let him shoot me; I
knew I couldn't shoot him.
I remember the unique odor of every remote LZ; burnt trees, grass,
gunpowder, the dead, sweat, shit, gas, diesel, willie pete, smoke, fear.
I remember the Plei Trap Valley. Big Mama, all the other hills, the
road, the trees, the meadows and streams to the west, that damned
ricky rifle at Polei Kleng.
I remember leaving Pleiku before dawn and returning long after dark,
then doing the same thing the next day, and the next, and the next.
I remember thanking God I was not a grunt.