Daring missions. Dangerous rescues. Deadly accuracy.
Many pilots never made it out of 'Nam. This one did. Highly decorated Col. Bob Stoffey-- a Marine Corps pilot for over twenty-five years, who served multiple tours in Vietnam-- has seen and done it all. Cleared Hot! is his story-- a fast-paced, high-casualty flight into heart-stopping danger.
Full of vivid detail, this combat diary uncovers the real heroes of the Vietnam War, the behind-the-scenes Marine Corps pilots who helped our boys return home...then went back for more.
Includes eight pages of heroic photographs!
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Col. Bob Stoffey was born in Coaldale, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Pennsylvania State University. He served as a Marine Corps pilot for twenty-five years, having flown twenty-four different types of aircraft worldwide. His many military decorations include the Marine Corps Medal for Personal Heroism, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and twenty-five Air Medals. He retired in 1979 and now lives in Carlsbad, California, with his wife.
PART Ichapter 1Vietnam, 1965The steady drone of the four turboprop engines of the Marine Corps KC-130 transport aircraft from VMGR-152 abruptly changed. The drone shifted to a high-pitched whine as the plane started a descent. Lieutenant Colonel Duphey, the KC-130 aircraft commander, could be heard on the Mickey Mouse headset, saying, "Okay, fellas, to our right is Vietnam. We'll make a descending right turn to intercept the Da Nang one-eight-zero radial for a straight-in to runway three-six. I'll keep it high until final approach. Some of our other transports have received hitsfrom Viet Cong guerrillas. Some when they were as close as five miles to Da Nang Airfield. That city ahead, for those who can see it, is Da Nang. Not too long ago, it used to be called Tourane, under the French rule."I leaned to the right, twisting my neck to try to see through the small porthole window. I was just another passenger in the cold, large, metallic fuselage of this marine cargo and passenger aircraft. As I peered out of the right side of the aircraft, I saw a very green countryside. There were large brown and black mountains that appeared to be about fifteen to twenty miles inland from the expansive, golden beaches that merged with the white surf of the ever-so-green, calm-appearing South China Sea.All the officers and troops, about 150 of them, were straining to look out over the countryside that none of them had been to before. Only two KC-130 crew members in the cargo compartment and I wore earphones that allowed us to hear the in-cockpit chatter of Colonel Duphey, his copilot, and the flight engineer.I had known Duphey for several years. Therefore, when we and the other marines boarded the KC-130 at the Marine Air Base, Futema, Okinawa, Colonel Duphey had given me a plug-in-type crew member's headset. This enabled me to listen to the crew talk as they flew all the way down to Vietnam from Okinawa.The KC-130 had, besides the troops, about twenty officers of varying ranks traveling on individual orders. Most were coming from the States; the others had joined up at Futema on Okinawa. The enlisted men, in dark green utilities, had their M-14 rifles lying under their cloth seats. Each had been issued one clip of ammunition. The officers had no weapons. They would draw their pistols from the unit that they reported to. There were only a handful of Americans in Vietnam. It was spring 1965.Inside the aircraft, there were four jeeps and two "water buffalo," or water trailers, along with one 105-mm howitzer artillery piece. All equipment was strapped down to the center passageway of the troop/cargo hold.The flight had been long and very boring. Most of the passengers had slept and now had awakened because of the change in the sound of the engines for the descent into Da Nang Airfield.Curiosity had half of the marines up from their webbed seats and standing around the small portholes of the fuselage.Colonel Duphey's voice came over my headset, "Crew chief, tell all the passengers to sit down and strap in. We're approaching for a landing." I saw the two crewmen going up and down the aisles, telling the marines to strap in for the landing. I tightened my seat belt and continued to peer out of the nearby porthole. As the plane rolled out of the turn, the noise of the landing gear coming down convinced all the passengers that indeed they were landing in Vietnam. I saw the green beauty of thousands of rice paddies with dikes built around each paddy plot. There were hundreds of tree-lined villages with grass-roofed huts. I saw people in black pajamas wearing golden-colored, straw, conical hats. Most of the people were out in the rice paddies working. Along the paddy dikes were caribou, or water buffalo, similar to the type I had seen in the Philippines some years back. The country, green and lush, was simply beautiful.I looked about the semidark passenger compartment. I could see the excitement with very little apprehension on the faces of the young enlisted men and the similar expressions on the faces of the slightly older officers. I knew that they all had some feelings of approaching the unknown. Yet, I thought, they probably felt like I felt. War is why I'm in this Marine Corps uniform. This may only be a small communist guerrilla revolutionary war, but if we don't stop the communist guerrillas here, I thought, where will we stop them? Along the Mexican Border? The Vietnamese in the South have asked for our help, and as usual, we Americans are here to assist. As a professional marine, this is where I should be. I leaned back into the cold, webbed seat and turned away from the small porthole. I closed my eyes and thought. All of us aboard were on individual orders to replace some marines who had completed their thirteen months' tour of combat, assisting the Republic of Vietnam in fighting off communist guerrilla attacks in the farming countryside. The Russians, and to a limited degree the Chinese, were supplying arms and equipment to the Viet Minh, now called the Viet Cong, or VC. Unlike the internationally supported direct invasion thrust of the North Koreans into South Korea just six years after World War II, this war was different.I reflected on the history of Vietnam, which I had researched after receiving my orders while stationed in Hawaii. In Hawaii I had been a pilot in Marine Aircraft Group 13 and a platoon commander in the 1st Air and Naval Gunfire Liaison Company--1st ANGLICO.Leaning relaxed against the webbed seat-backing, I thought about how well I had been trained for all these years. I had eight years of Marine Corps training and was now a captain. I had flown fixed-wing aircraft (airplanes), both prop and jet, and helicopters for over two thousand hours in many parts of the world: Korea, Japan, Okinawa, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the USA. I was ready; I was well trained no matter what the size of the war. I had a small exposure to combat conditions in '62 in Cuba as a search-and-rescue-helicopter pilot flying off the USS Boxer supporting the Marine Corps low-altitude photo missions flown over the Cuban missile sites. These photo flights were flown by VMCJ-2 of Cherry Point, North Carolina, and were flown from Key West, Florida. I flew along the Cuban coast, close in, as the marine jet photo-birds came in low over the missile sites. In the event one was shot down, my mission was to go in and get the pilot of the recce-bird. Therefore, this going into a hostile environment in Vietnam was not a completely new experience. The same feelings of the unknown were present.As the KC-130 squeaked onto the runway at Da Nang Airfield, the warm air of Vietnam filled the aircraft. The lumbering transport rolled out and taxied to the west side of the field, where the U.S. Marine Corps helicopter squadrons were located. I saw Vietnamese air force T-28 aircraft loaded with bombs on the east side of the runway. There were also eight A-1 Skyraiders (also called ADs or SPADs). I had flown this aircraft out of Iwakuni, Japan, back in 1958 for a very short period, as they were being phased out of service. That was shortly after I had flown the T-28 aircraft in the Naval Flight Training Command. The AD was a very large, single-engine aircraft that could carry the bombload of a WWII four-engine B-17 bomber. I loved flying it, but it was unbelievably slow. Next to those Vietnamese aircraft were parked five U.S. Air Force F-102 jet fighter-interceptors. The F-102 Delta Dagger could climb to sixty thousand feet in about five minutes. The rest of the east side had a mixture of Vietnamesecivilian transports, including vintage U.S.-made C-47 Gooneybirds and DC-3 prop transports of the 1941 pioneer airline era.After parking, we quickly exited the KC-130, and I was directed to the headquarters of detachment Marine Aircraft Group 16, called SHUFLY. I walked past the CH-34 helicopters of HMM-162 and of HMM-163, my very first assigned squadron of "Ridgerunners" in Japan in 1958. The dusty tents of their flight line indicated that it was a dirty and hot job for the mechanics. Looking over the helicopters, I saw that they were filled with dirt and sand. All of the Plexiglas windows were removed from the pilot's and passengers' compartments. M-60 machine guns, one on each side, hung out the open windows in the belly of the aircraft. The choppers did not resemble the slick, shiny, clean CH-34 helos that I had flown for three years in HMM-161 in Kaneohe, Hawaii. The CH-34 choppers had been redesignated UH-34D, meaning utility transport helicopter. Pilots and crews continued to use the two terms interchangeably. A few hundred feet behind the flight line of dusty tents, I saw several rows of brown stucco buildings with dark brown tile roofs. One of those buildings was the location of the group headquarters. The rest appeared to be the officers' living quarters. I stopped a second and thought. So this is home for the next thirteen months, away from my wife and children. Upon checking into the S-1, personnel, the major said to me, "Captain, General McCutcheon, the assistant wing commander, is now down here for a while. He plans to expand our operations. He read your background and told me to tell you to report to him upon your arrival.""Where's the general?" I asked."He's in the officers' club. But first go ahead and get your living area. It's in building 3, across from here. After you drop your B-4 clothing bag, you can chase down the general."I asked, "Major, why would the general want to see a lowly captain?"The major replied, "As I said, the general read a copy of your officer's qualifications jacket. He reads the OQJs of all the pilots coming into the country to see their backgrounds. He saw that you had attended both the navy and Marine Corps supply schools, plus he saw that you had been an engineer as a civilian.He said he wants to talk to you about his plans to build a new airfield."I thought, Hell, I came here to fly, not play engineer or supply officer.I walked over to the rather nice, but dusty, row of stucco buildings and entered building 3. It must have been 120 degrees inside. The walls had green open shutters, but no breeze came through.A young corporal wearing wrinkled, green utilities greeted me. I told him my name and he led me down the dark hallway to a small room. There were four folding cots with mosquito nets draped over them."Well, Captain, this is your new home, sir. As you've probably heard, this is an old French officers' living area. One night during the French Indochina War, every French officer sleeping here had his throat cut by the Viet Minh ... about forty officers died that night.""Thanks a lot, corporal. You made my night. I'm sure I'll get a good night's sleep in that cot."I dropped my B-4 bag and walked over to another, similar building, which had a sign over the double doorway that read "DETACHMENT MAG-16 FAR EAST JUNGLE FIGHTER OFFICERS' CLUB."As I walked into what was obviously the officers' messing area for dining, combined with a bar, I couldn't miss the Southeast Asia overhead ceiling fans slowly turning the hot air around. It was like a scene from the old movies in the thirties with Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, in a sweating bar in Singapore or some other exotic place. It was extraordinary--bamboo chairs included.The general was a thin, short man with piercing blue eyes. He had been a pioneer in helicopters with HMR-163, the "Ridgerunners," the first and only Marine Corps transport helicopter squadron in the Korean War. He was a lieutenant colonel during that so-called police action. They were the very first choppers to move combat troops in action and to fly day and night missions in combat. Their sister squadron, VMO-2, had light, fixed-wing Cessna observation aircraft, "Bird Dogs," for forward air control (FAC) for controlling attack bombers and also had a handfulof HO4S choppers for medical evacuations. Not many years later, the army began using helicopters for troop transportation and assault.The general was seated at the bamboo bar with two colonels. His neatly starched utility cap, with its single brigadier general's star, sat to the side of his mixed drink.As I approached the only three men in the bar, since it was only about 1500 in the afternoon, one of the colonels turned around and said, "What is it, Captain?""Sir, Major Plum in S-1 told me to report to the general right now."The general swirled on his barstool and said, "Can I help you, Captain?""Well, sir, Major Plum said that you wanted to see me when I checked in from Hawaii. Because of my supply and engineering background.""Yes, I sure do. Join us and have a drink--but mix your own. The bartender doesn't come aboard until 1600."I went behind the bar and mixed a rum and Coke, while looking for ice cubes."Captain, we're lucky we flew in a small amount of booze and beer. But there is no ice here. There isn't ice anywhere in Da Nang that we know of yet," said the other colonel.So I sat down with a warm rum and Coke in a room of about 120-degree heat, next to two colonels and a brigadier general, thinking, This sure is a strange way to get introduced to combat.The general looked me in the eye and said, "We are planning to bring in our fighter and attack aircraft shortly to support our grunts, who will be coming in at that time. With the jets here, there simply will not be enough room here at Da Nang for our helicopters and eventual three jet squadrons. Therefore, we plan to build another airfield three miles east of here on China Beach, next to the South China Sea."He got up, walked to the open window area facing east and pointed. "The airstrip will be located somewhere between that large green mountain on the north called Monkey Mountain and that solid brown-gray mountain called Marble Mountain on the south.""Sir, with all due respect, what does this have to do with a captain who's a helicopter pilot?""Well, Captain, you have a supply background, and as a helicopter pilot you fully understand chopper operations, plus you have an engineering background. All of this is important to order supplies and coordinate with the Seabees to help me get that helicopter field built fast. Therefore, I had Major Plum assign you to Lt. Col. Tom Vaile's squadron, Marine Air Base Squadron 16. MABS-16 will have the task of working closely with Naval Construction Battalion 8--NCB-8--the Seabees who will build the actual cantonment and runway before we move three helicopter squadrons there.""But General, I came down from the Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, 1st ANGLICO, in Hawaii where due to my grunting duties I only flew a couple of hops a month in a T-33 jet. I came down here expecting to fly a lot. If I get tied up with building an air base, I'll get very little combat flight experience. I need a flying billet in a flying squadron, not a base-support squadron, sir.""I understand, Captain. But we're a small informal group here and we all must do what each of us knows best. In a few days the full MAG-16 group will be flown in here from Futema, Okinawa. We won't be a mere detachment of MAG-16 anymore. Included will be the group supply department and group supply officer. That supply department will handle the standard aviation and ground supply needs for all of the squadron. You will continue to draw on them for normal squadron supplies. But what I want you to do is to personally handle the unique requirements of supplies and materia...
"About this title" may belong to another edition of this title.
Book Description St Martins Pr, 1992. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0312069294
Book Description St Martins Pr, 1992. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110312069294
Book Description St Martins Pr. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0312069294 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.0084778