Varsity Photo Gallery
Photos this page courtesy Earl Doty
It was a beautiful sight, anchored there in DaNang Bay.
I'd landed on her before out in the South China Sea,
delivering wounded too bad for the field hospitals on
shore. The trick was to put our big helicopter on deck in
the pitching seas. We quickly learned to catch her on
TOP of a swell and never to chase that deck if it started
falling away. The best part was getting a cold Coke
handed through the window from a genuine 'round-eye'
nurse. Earl.
Most people have heard of the Ashau Valley, in what was
the Republic of South Vietnam. Those of us who flew
helicopters there remember wondering what it might look
like without all the frigging holes in the scenery! This was
coming off Eagle's Nest heading south, so I think that's A
Luoi in the foreground, looking at Ta Bat and Ashau
airstrips in the distance. Marvel at the holes.
Monsoon Means Bad Weather
Sometime during the winter monsoons, the call came that
Firebase Rifle needed emergency resupply. The artillery
base, situated on top of a tall moutain southeast of
Hue/Phu Bai had been shrouded in clouds and was
dangerously low on ammo, fuel for the generators, food
and water. Attempt after attempt to land had been foiled
by weeks of dense clouds. Situation critical.

I've Got a Plan
The head shed came up with a plan: we would pick up a
'care package' with a little of everything and circle west of
the moutain until further notice, waiting for a break in the
overcast. We picked up the massive net of goodies, food
and water, artillery ammo, and claymores, mogas and
medical supplies and headed over to the base of the

Beauty and the Beast
A thin spot would appear and we'd start easing up the
steep slope, trying to see the beleagured firebase.
Repeatedly, we were driven back by the danger of losing
all visual reference, pulling away frustrated. We dared not
risk crashing a Chinook on top of them. I snapped a shot
of beautiful jungle waterfall/stream under the mist-
shrouded mountain top. We were to have plenty of time
to comtemplate the beauty of the mountain.

How Much Longer?
The hours turned into days. The arty boys were
desperate. We took to using two ships, so one could go
for fuel while the second continued to probe the fog,
trying again and again to land that precious cargo to the
now near-panic stricken troops. Soon, it would become an
obsession with us. Without resupply, those guys
couldn't make it much longer. They caught rainwater in
their ponchos and steel pots, but enemy probed the wire
by night and there was little to shoot back with.

Sucker Hole
Then suddenly late one afternoon, a miracle! A sucker
hole large enough for one CH-47 drifted towards Rifle.
We knew there might be only one chance to deliver what
had now to be their life-blood load. Quickly, we hovered
up the steep slope towards the top of the mountain. The
flight engineer and door gunners called out clearances
from the trees and wires, and then the edge of the
patchwork fire base. The load cleared the pad by inches,
but suddenly as it had appeared the hole began to close!

Lookout Below
We were losing all reference and no one hovered near a
mountain on instruments. "I'm losing it!" I screamed over
the intercom, and we called out on the FM radio for the
men to get clear. But the FE said "It's on a guy's hooch,
the load's down."

Dew Drop Inn
As is often the case in critical load work, we never knew
who punched off the external load. There were three
primary releases, and I dare say both pilots AND the FE's
releases activated simultaneously that late, dark
afternoon. The troop whose sandbagged space took the
five-ton care package didn't mind; he was only trapped a
couple of hours and later passed the word through the
radio operator that we were welcome to 'drop in' any time!

Joy To the World
Shouts of joy rang through the air as we pulled thrust to
climb away from the mountain into the thick, covering
weather. Redline torque finally subsided as the AC called
for radar vectors back down to our warm, dry hooches
and the relative safety of the base camp. But, we knew
we'd had some help from Providence to save that doomed
firebase and the brave men who waited so patiently,
desperately in the clouds ....

This is one mission I would hate to ever have to try
again; And one mission I wouldn't hesitate to repeat.
Camp Eagle looking toward Phu Bai beyond the
dark hills on right side of picture.
One of the most beautiful sights I ever saw
happened on (what should have been) an otherwise
most uneventful flight.
Someone at Division HQ decided a good use for a
CH-47, since it could carry virtually unlimited pax,
was a "Bus Run".
Every day, one lucky crew got to run the entire
length of I Corps, stopping at almost every firebase,
outpost and LZ to pick up soldiers and carry them
to DaNang and back (or wherever). Two complete
round trips per day.
Simple enough. And you didn't have to carry heavy
loads down dangerous valleys or to windy
mountain tops. And even navigation was a breeze
because you weren't out circling in the biggest
target in South Vietnam looking for some smoke in
the jungle to deliver your load to. And Ops didn't
callyou up with 20 add-ons an hour before dusk. A
real cake-walk. [It was also a good deal if you had
the day off when your company had the Bus Run.
You were guaranteed the jump-seat! - the
Weather information was scarcer than round-eyed
women. In '68/'69 you were pretty much on your
own. So, we flew the weather we saw and did
whatever we had to to avoid the worst. (Over,
under or around were the first three choices.
"Punching in" was the last resort.).
One day me and my Peter Pilot were bus-running up
the coast when, somewhere near the pass north of
DaNang, we saw this mother of all storms blasting
across I Corps towards the sea. Being typical tac
card holders (read license to kill in the clouds), we
decided to divert out to sea to get around it,
figuring once we cleared the storm we could head
back towards Hue/Phu Bai. We had plenty of fuel...
Well, the farther out we flew over the South China
Sea, the farther and bigger this monster looked! It
was out-running us! By the time we realized our
miscalculation, the storm had swept out to sea
behind us, and the return course to DaNang was
out of the question. (Need I mention that I didn't
learn to swim until fully 17 years later?)
Now, as a low time Aircraft Commander, I knew my
shit was weak. I couldn't admit how bad this was.
Although a 'Hook is supposed to float, I seemed to
remember something about stowing the hook first
and closing the belly paenl. Not to mention how
high the seas would be on shutdown in the water.
At about 40 Nautical Miles (they're longer than the
Army kind) out to sea, we were starting to choke
down panic when the aforementioned 'prettiest
sight' of the war happened... We saw DAYLIGHT!!!
Folks, you just can't sit there at your computer and
imagine how absolutely wonderful the sight of
sunlight peeking around the big, ugly M-F was to
us... Winning the lottery wouldn't even be close!