By Mike Powell
Luckily we, the crew of Bandit 37deuce, didn't have to fly on New Year's Day; however, being a gunner, I was assigned to perimeter guard New Year's Eve down at the north end of the active (runway) where our birds (helicopters) were parked.
We reached the perimeter of the Tay Ninh base camp around 1500 or 1600 hours and were issued the weapons that were issued to each four-man crew who manned a perimeter bunker around the base camp. I brought my own M-16, as I knew it by heart by now, and took my first hour making sure all worked with the M-60, as that is what I was in charge of on the slicks that I flew on. Even if my bird was down for PM (Preventive Maintenance) or just having the holes patched, my guns went with me on any mission, on any aircraft. Therefore, I knew my weapons well.
All, except the blooper or M-79 grenade launcher, which I had not had much contact with. However, it was a breach loading weapon with 40 mm round. If you couldn't see an anomalie in a chamber and tunnel that big, you either needed glasses real bad or shouldn't have been there in the first place.
I took nothing for granted. Being a gunner, I made sure everyone's weapon was fireable. I don't think anyone minded; and when the OG (Officer of the Guard) came around, we had our shit together. His only remark was that he knew it was the New Year and that we should not be firing our weapons or popping flares just because it was the New Year and took count of all our flares. We just kind of stood there and smiled behind his back. There was no way that whole perimeter wasn't going to go off at midnight, no matter if the CG (Commanding General) of the 1st Cav had been there himself.
Everyone back in Company (A Co/229th AHB, 1st Cav) were icing down beer and cooking meat over open pits. I have no idea what kind of meat it was, as the mess hall had more or less closed down; and what meat they had for that day was being grilled, along with the beans and bread. Can't remember if Skinny (our cook) made potato salad or not; but if he had had the means, we would have had it. There also had been a wild pig killed that was picked up, and I have no idea if that was part of the fare or not.
Right about sundown, we see this jeep coming our way; and we're trying to figure where to stash the smoke. Out steps a guy...not just a guy...a very good pilot, who asked if we'd been drinking beer. "Of course not, sir," I replied. "We haven't had time to get it yet."
I grinned because I knew this was the kind of officer that every Army needed. One who understood the EM (Enlisted Man) and knew where senior/subordinate stopped. Just like in a hover down to pick up wounded or KIA, you operated as a team...not as a CWII, a wobbley one, and two crew members. We operated as a fine oiled team. One question, one response...
"Tail right clear, sir...tail left, drop a few meters, and then you can tail left, sir," were the orders from the Crew Chief.
"Am I clear, gunner?"
"Only for about fifteen feet, sir, and then you'll have to swing the tail back left."
"Am I clear, Ron?"
"Yes, sir, you're clear this way all the way down."
"Yes, sir, if you clear this limb on my side, we're OK."
We did. We picked up the wounded and left the rest with the ordnance that they needed to survive until the next craft arrived. But, by the time the next chopper arrived, it was more or less finished...
So this was Pappy. Know why we called him that? Because he was about 25 years old. One of the oldest pilots we had. And you know what he brought us? Neva guess...it was chargrilled meat from the outside BB-Ques and ice-cold beer in a cooler. All he really said was that he didn't want us to have to spend New Years alone without tasting some of the beer and the fare they'd cooked. We all thanked him without much adieu and ate our ribs and chicken and bread, drank our Falstaff or Carling or whatever was available, and saluted him a good night.
The reason I tell this is because Paul R. Moran was killed in the line of duty on March 15, 1970. He had less than two weeks to go, already had his orders to be permanent party at the pentagon; and he said, "What the hell, let ______ sleep. I'll be back before lunch."
On his flight, he took a 51 cal. in the chin bubble, which penetrated his thigh and then struck him in the face. He was dead before they could get him back to 45th Surg in Tay Ninh. When they rolled the bird back over, I had to clean it out. Funny how I hosed out his flesh, blood, and grey matter and never shed a tear. But then, one did not have to cry over there. Mourning was something we did at official functions; and by then, we had to become numb. I won't go into naming the ones before and after him. This is Pappy's story. Long may he live.
We erected an officer's club for him. Called it "Pappy's." Saw a couple of guys, one RLO, one Warrant try to prove how tough they were by eating a live frog each. Both puked. Wonder if they'd have puked if they'd had to clean up Pappy's bird. Really doesn't matter. They probably never even knew him. But the ones who do, never will forget him.
I can't remember what panel he's on, but it's on the left wall as you're looking at it; and he's the last name on the panel. Those who know, know; and those who don't, I suppose, really don't matter.
Mike Powell (Shorty) for
Paul R. Moran (Pappy), March 15, 1970
Bless you Pappy...we'll never forget you...A Co/229th AHB, 1st Cav