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Rattler One-Seven

A Vietnam Helicopter Pilot's War Story

Chuck Gross

Publication Year: 2004

Rattler One-Seven puts you in the helicopter seat, to see the war in Vietnam through the eyes of an inexperienced pilot as he transforms himself into a seasoned combat veteran. When Chuck Gross left for Vietnam in 1970, he was a nineteen-year-old Army helicopter pilot fresh out of flight school. He spent his entire Vietnam tour with the 71st Assault Helicopter Company flying UH-1 Huey helicopters. Soon after the war he wrote down his adventures, while his memory was still fresh with the events. Rattler One-Seven (his call sign) is written as Gross experienced it, using these notes along with letters written home to accurately preserve the mindset he had while in Vietnam. During his tour Gross flew Special Operations for the MACV-SOG, inserting secret teams into Laos. He notes that Americans were left behind alive in Laos, when official policy at home stated that U.S. forces were never there. He also participated in Lam Son 719, a misbegotten attempt by the ARVN to assault and cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail with U.S. Army helicopter support. It was the largest airmobile campaign of the war and marked the first time that the helicopter was used in mid-intensity combat, with disastrous results. Pilots in their early twenties, with young gunners and a Huey full of ARVN soldiers, took on experienced North Vietnamese antiaircraft artillery gunners, with no meaningful intelligence briefings or a rational plan on how to cut the Trail. More than one hundred helicopters were lost and more than six hundred aircraft sustained combat damage. Gross himself was shot down and left in the field during one assault. Rattler One-Seven will appeal to those interested in the Vietnam War and to all armed forces, especially aviators, who have served for their country.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Maps and Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Preface

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pp. xi-xiv

"I slowly lowered the collective (pitch control) as we began our descent into Landing Zone Delta. All hell was breaking loose. The Firebird gunships were laying down cover as they screamed along side us. Their miniguns were puffing smoke, singing their loud, but familiar sound.Their rockets were yelling out loud, screaming sounds as they flew..."

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Prologue—18 Days

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pp. 1-6

"Sitting here in the quiet solitude of my den, I find it hard to believe that the events that I am going to tell you about actually took place. When I reflect back upon them, they seem to be from another life, in another world, years ago. But they did happen, and I am thankful to be here today to tell about them."

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Chapter 1–First Assignment

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pp. 7-16

"It all started for me the summer of 1968. I had just graduated from Cooper High School in New Hope, Minnesota. I had decided against going to college. My mom suggested that I go into the service and get some training in electronics. Since I really had no clue as to what I wanted to do, the idea sounded good to me. My father had been an..."

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Chapter 2–Company Checkout

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pp. 17-26

"We headed out on Sunday, May 24, 1970, for the home base of the 71st Assault Helicopter Company. It was a dry, sandy road, and our jeep left a light cloud of dust as we traveled down it. The company area was situated along the South China Beach, about a mile from the Chu Lai airstrip. As we traveled down the dirt road, my mind ran wild with excitement. Changing units was a lot like moving to a new job...."

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Chapter 3–Newbie

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pp. 27-32

"My watch indicated 0500 hours as I climbed into the back of our company truck for the shuttle down to our flight line. I had barely gotten into the truck when I started hearing everyone shouting, 'Newbie, newbie.' They also had other nicknames for us, such as 'Peter Pilot' and 'Meat in the Seat.' By the time I finished flying the first day, I..."

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Chapter 4–My Cherry

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pp. 33-48

"I truly believe that until someone has been away from their loved ones, especially in a war zone, they cannot fully understand the importance of a note or letter from home. The letters that we received were lifelines to our other world, and that world kept fading further and further into the recesses of our mind as our tour rolled along."

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Chapter 5–Special Operations

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pp. 64-81

Well, I received your letter today. Tell mother that I’m sorrythat I hadn’t written sooner, but for the last seven days I wasreal sick. The sickest that I can ever remember. This is just noplace to get sick because you can’t take care of yourself and nohold of anything. It’s the worse I ever was in my whole life. I’m...

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Chapter 6–Goodbye Friend

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pp. 82-93

After the completion of the Kham Duc Campaign, we returned to fly-ing in our old area of operations. We had several LZs located in our AO, with names like LZ West, LZ East, mary Ann, and Hawk Hill. Hawk Hill was a fire-support base situated north of Chu Lai, a few clicks (kilometers) off Highway 1, halfway between Chu Lai..."

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Chapter 7–Laughing and Crying

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pp. 79-90

"The days seemed to run together as the months slowly passed by. I felt as if my whole life consisted of flying and sleeping. I did not think much about home anymore. The world I was living in was so different from the one in which I had been raised, to the extent that I found it extremely hard to emotionally relate one to the other. I was enjoying..."

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Chapter 8–The Holidays

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pp. 91-108

"Please go ahead and buy the kids and yourself presents from me. If there’s any left, go ahead and buy the Christmas tree with it. Please spend it all. I hope this letter gets to you in time. The mail is starting to slow down quite a bit. I’m still trying to keep my morale up. It’s pretty hard sometimes. Well, I better run now."

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Chapter 9–Quang Tri

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pp. 109-120

"During the third week of January 1971 we received word that our unit would be moving again. This time it would not be just a short hop from the beach to the airfield. We were going to move our entire unit north, to a town called Quang Tri. Quang Tri was in Northern I Corps, just below the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)."

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Chapter 10–Rank

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pp. 121-132

"As the push to Khe Sanh continued, our unit continued flying several types of missions, ranging from resupply and combat assaults to troop insertions and extractions. We flew a lot of reconnaissance work, but sometimes we were stuck flying what I called taxi service. Taxi service normally consisted of ferrying the senior ranking officers from the..."

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Chapter 11–Lam Son 719

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pp. 133-144

"Hi and how is everyone? I’m sorry I didn’t write sooner. We’re in the middle of a big operation and I just don’t have the time. We moved out of Chu Lai and are up north along the DMZ, now working the Khe Sanh Valley. We are presently living in Quang Tri and it’s a lot worse than Chu Lai. We’re operating our company out of tents and that’s really bad for the..."

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Chapter 12–Lz Lolo

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pp. 145-154

"February was going by fast. Lam Son 719 had turned into a full-fledged war. The ARVN units we were supporting were meeting heavy resistance everywhere. Up at Ranger North, the 39th ARVN Rangers had to fight their way over to Ranger South, leaving over a hundred dead behind and several wounded.23 The ARVN forces at LZ 31 got..."

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Chapter 13–Landing Zone Delta

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pp. 155-170

"On March 5, one of our Firebird gunships got shot down. WO Wendell Freeman and WO Pat Riley were operating their Charlie model gunship out west near LZ Alouie, supplying gun cover for a downed aircraft. Freeman explained to me, 'It was late in the day and I had just told my crew, Dalferro and Betts, to go hot, when we started taking .30 cal. fire. We were flying low-level at about 125 knots, when my..."

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Chapter 14–Realization

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pp. 171-180

"Hello and I’m fine believe it or not. Been flying so much lately. We just don’t have enough pilots. I guess you’ve been reading about the war. It’s really bad. Everyone is getting shot down or shot up. I just wish that they would of waited till June to start this operation. I don't want you to start worrying, because I'm ok and if anything ever did happen, it wouldn't help by worrying..."

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Chapter 15–Chu Lai

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pp. 186-190

"Well our operation is over with for our company. We have six flyable aircraft left out of twenty-three which we started with. Everyone’s back out of Laos and everybody sure is glad. We’re moving back to Chu Lai this week. I guess we’ll go back to the same area as before. Everybody is just worn out. Sure will be glad to come home."

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Chapter 16–R&R

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pp. 191-198

"It was finally time to go on my R&R. As I was getting packed, I realized that I did not have any shoes to take with me. One of the lieutenants in our platoon, the one I did not get along with well because of our argument over his minimal postflight inspections, offered to loan me a pair of sandals. I thought his offer was quite unusual, but nice, so..."

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Chapter 17–Homeward Bound

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pp. 199-206

"This will be my last letter sent from Vietnam. I'm down in Saigon, on my way back to Chu Lai from leave. I’ll tell you all about it when I get home. I leave Chu Lai on the 10th to go down to Cam Ranh. I should be coming home either the 15th or 16th. Starting to get real excited about getting my tour over with. I'm done flying now or at least I'm supposed to be."

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Epilogue

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pp. 207-212

"Vietnam fell to the Communists on April 30, 1975. Of the 58,169 American soldiers killed in Vietnam, 4,906 were helicopter crew members and 2,202 were helicopter pilots. The average age of the 58,169 soldiers killed in Vietnam was 23.11 years old.33 There were 11,827 helicopters that participated in the Vietnam War, with 7,013 of them being Hueys. A total of 5,086 helicopters were destroyed..."

Notes

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pp. 213-214

Glossary

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pp. 215-218

Bibliography

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pp. 219-220

Index

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pp. 221-229


E-ISBN-13: 9781574413397
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574411782

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 26 b&w illus., 2 maps
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Military Biography and Memoir Series

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Personal narratives, American.
  • Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Aerial operations, American.
  • Gross, Chuck, 1950-.
  • Military helicopters -- Vietnam.
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