A Simple Warrant's
Eye View of 1st Lt.- Captain Robert "Bob" Hackett
By Shark 7- Fred Thompson
Sometime in September or October of 1970, the rain stopped
long enough in Duc Pho for a delivery of the mail and a "Rollo." The term
stood for Real Live Officer or R.L.O. for short. Commissioned officers, and
especially "new" commissioned officers seemed to see themselves in this sort
of weird continuous, rose-colored spotlight. Forever the example setters for all
the men (or children if the truth be known) Commissioned officers saw themselves
as pipe-puffing scholars at-the-ready for immediate decision making. To the majority
of senior and junior enlisted men, they were a necessary nuisance that historically
had to be respectfully tolerated, in spite of any level of desperation or meaninglessness
of a given situation. To the warrant officers, the commissioned ranks were serious
inhibitors to fun and had to be avoided at any cost. (Exceptions were only while drinking
in the club, an additional hand was needed for a card game or while arguing over one's
favorite c-rats in some isolated PZ on a mission-hold.)
Newly assigned to the 174th Assault Helicopter Company came 1st Lieutenant
wing aviator, Robert Hackett, to be referred to here as LT Bob. He was early- to
mid-twenties, in shape and every hair in its proper place. He was from somewhere in northern Florida,
and that should speak volumes. He took his responsibility to the Army and command
seriously and reflected that to any he was in company of in his quiet manner upon his
arrival in Duc Pho. The 174th AHC was not only in Vietnam; they were in that northern
section known as I-Corp; the absolute heartland of VC sympathizers and NVA support.
The 174th was near the beach that they never swam in and next to a mountain they never
climbed. Reasons for this are sprinkled throughout the 174th AHC web site. LT Bob was
assigned immediately to the Shark Gun Platoon. At that time the only other
commissioned officer within its ranks was the platoon leader, Captain Mike Ackerman.
Captain Mike made LT Bob one of his section leaders and expected
him to keep the young
warrants in-line. These young warrants flew helicopters emblazoned
with teeth that spewed
aerial rockets, nose mounted cannons and electric machineguns,
at an almost invisible enemy.
They had been known to drink excessively, gamble endlessly, and
fire handguns within the
confines of their quarters. Keep in mind that most of these young
men had not been at the
controls of a car for very long before arriving in Vietnam. They were
thousands of miles from home with absolutely no
form of parental supervision. Except for LT
Bob. He knew his task would be difficult
when he noted that nearly every oral statement he made
was met with a routinely simultaneous
chorus of; "F... You, New Guy!"
And if that wasn't humiliation enough, virtually everyone he flew with either
crashed or put
him in near-death situations that he would be most fortunate to survive. It is
consequence that he was never wounded. For him, the Army should have come up
something comparable to the Purple Heart; like the Order of the Brown Stained Shorts
decoration for merely surviving most of the rides he had to endure. His only salvation
was that by the early goings of the Laos invasion all the other pilots that had tried to kill
him had gone home or were safely wounded, away in the 18th Surgical Hospital. And with that
him, he was free to lead his fire teams through triple A (anti aircraft fire) for the bulk
the Laos invasion. By the time we returned to Chu Lai, LT Bob was Captain Bob and
almost immune to the antics of the warrants. If nothing else, his exposure
officers cured him of any dilutions of a career in the Army.
In the many years that have come to follow, I've very much enjoyed his
videos and listening to the tapes of the mission we once
performed. And among them, one
of my all time favorites is hearing then-LT Bob
direct his attention to a struggling crew
chief while under intense fire and simply say:
"You got that damn gun working' yet?" Other
favorites are not fit to print but I especially
love that one. And if it ever came to it
again, I'd pray to God to be in his section. Fred
1st Lt.- Bob Hackett outside the Sharks tent 1971 at Quang Tri during Lam Son 719
outside the Shark tent at Quang Tri 1971. Bob says, "You'll notice some of these
Quang Tri photos
are sunny... but, common during our stay there was terrential down-pour.
The water is up to the
level of the walkway here. Probably 5 inches deep. If you took a right
turn out of the tent...you
would be heading for the latrines and there were no walkways there." Bob
"Photo of Fred Thompson
and Terry Hayes outside the Shark tent. Terry's trying to get an action shot
of the dog (no not Fat
Albert). This was a rare down day during Lam Son 719." Bob
"An aerial view of a tank
near Laos (1971) that is disabled. Hope it wasn't one of ours. Anybody
<<<<< Webmaster note: In October 2002 I got the following explanation about this vehicle from a
visitor to the website. His complete message is included here (thanks Doug): Hi Jim... I just had
occasion to review some pics on your very nicely done website, and have some info for you on
that disabled tank in Bob Hackett's 1971 photos (the caption asks for any information about who's
this might be)... I wasn't on that operation, but was in-country in '71-'72 and I was an 11D (armor
recon) up north and 11E (armor crewman, down
south), a fancy way of saying I'm an
experienced combat tanker and scout. I can identify that vehicle as an M41 Walker Bulldog
(commonly operated by the ARVN) and can discern that it is the victim of an anti-vehicular mine,
evidenced by the separated track and, more tellingly, the loss of the front left road wheel. A log can
be seen at the rear under the vehicle as well as some welding gear (an oxy-acetylene tank). I have
a lot of experience with this kind of battle damage as a former tank commander with G Troop, 2/11th
ACR when I was later down in III Corps. To the best of my knowledge, no U.S. troop would have
been operating M41's in RVN (we liked 'em heavier...M48's or light armored cav, like mine...M113's
and M551 Sheridans). Just thought you'd like to know. Check out my stuff on the Vietnam Helicopter
Pilots Association virtual museum at
and elsewhere on that site, like '17th Cav'
(both 2nd Sqdn. & D Troop), 'Weapons', and all over. Also, my vehicle on
and you'll see what I mean.
Oh yeah...and Welcome Home! Doug Kibbey, 11D20, D trp.,2/17th Cav., 101 Abn.-'71 & M113 ACAV
Cmdr. of G71, G Troop, 2/11th ACR-'72
"Here's Shark Pilots Fred Thompson and Cpt. Rick
Gregore at Chu Lai in '71. This is basically
what Fred (on cot) did best his whole tour (kidding of
"And here's the Privy at Chu Lai. Unfortunately, they were located of just upwind of
hootch. You tend to forget all the luxuries we had during our little trip to SE Asia.
you can see Rick and Fred seemed to be content sunbathing near here in the previous photo."
"This was my bunk at Chu Lai Spring 1971. Pretty stylish at the time." Bob
Bob at the
side of Shark Gunship #540 in late '70. This gunship was originally called the
(with the Skull and Cross Bones painted on the access panel).
Rare early 1971
b&w photo by Fred Thompson depicts aircraft #470 "Charlie Tuna." Fred says, "At
we were socked in by fog at Khe Sahn. The pilot players from Lt. to Rt. are: Platoon Sergeant
Jim Skelly, Bennie Holmes, Cliff Stern (of 2nd Platoon ), Bob Hackett and WO Bob
had recently arrived from down south."
Photo by Fred Thompson. "The date was probably
March 5th or 6th and apart from the Witchdoctor
& Bishop crew recoveries, Jimmy Lee Souders
on the left and Lt. Bob Hackett had plenty to celebrate
about...Jim survived flying with Bruce
Marshall and Bob had survived flying with me (Fred)."
"Jim Souder relaxing
at Chu Lai in Fred's bed. He was probably Captain by then. We both were
promoted to Captain
at Chu Lai. Guess who's waiting in the chair on the left waiting his turn
to get into the bed/sun?"
This photo by Fred Thompson shows an exhausted evening in the Duc Pho Sharks
hootch Nov/Dec 1970.
l-r: Bob Hackett, Dennis McCabe (reading), Jarvis "Sugar Bear" Gambrill
and Greg Manuel.
Fred points out how red Bob's eyes are, if you enlarge the photo. "In December
the Shark Gun
Platoon consisted of eight C-model aircraft and only nine available pilots"!
Photo by Fred Thompson shows Lt. Bob Hackett at Quang Tri "Just prior to the shit hitting the fan
(Lam Son 719)...Feb. 1971." The Shark gunship is #170 "Ace of Spades."
Says Fred, "Another
great (174th AHC Maintenance) tent party photo...we're celebrating the
recovery of the
Witchdoctor crew. l-r: Half of Neal Varner's face on lower left, shirtless
back of Red Jones,
also shirtless Jim Story, Bob Hackett and Ray Richard (near anibriation
ya think?). March
Bob says, "This is a slide of Chuck Blake relaxing in his corner of the Shark
hootch at Chu Lai
(Spring '71 after Lam Son 719). I don't know who is standing behind him
in the pic. Maybe
P.J. Roths or Bennie Holmes. Their bunks were across the aisle."
"captures" from a 8mm/VHS video by Fred Thompson. Fred says this is from some footage
of a couple of gun teams coming back from a five ship CA in Laos during Lam Son 719. Bob's
face says it all.
Photo by Fred Thompson. Fred says,"Although most, but not all of the
174th AHC personnel
were seriously dissapointed in not returning to Duc Pho upon the
completion of Lam Son, the lighter
side of life at Chu Lai could be witnessed occasionally; like
the expression on 1lt. Bob Hackett
when he found out he no longer had to do his own laundry."
See captions below
The above two photos (by Fred Thompson) are of the wreck of Shark
Gunship #045 "Easy Rider."
Bob Hackett's Account: "We were on a night scramble mission
(December 1970). Actually we hit
the side of a small mountain going sideways...but did not roll
(as some say). Greg Manuel was on
controls and was in the left seat. When we lost the tail rotor,
along with our slow speed, the
aircraft yawed to the right and we couldn't get it staightened
before we ran into the mountain.
Luckily, where we hit was a gully about 6-8 ft. deep. We slammed
into it and stuck.There was a big
rock at one of the top sides of the gully. The aircraft hit the
boulder right above where the
gunner sat. You can see this identation in the roof in front of where
Bud Vann was. Hitting the
gully sideways and sticking probably prevented serious injuries. One
of the gunners twisted an
ankle, but other than that, we all got out with some scratches and
bruises as we UNASSED the
See captions below
Greg Manuel and I were again
flying this day (Feb. 11, 1971). Two teams were working hot C.A.'s
around the Rockpile and a
nasty hilltop called LZ Scotch. One team would refuel and rearm at Vandy
before hustling back
to relieve the other team. While we were on our rocket run, we had a rocket
Manny's (right side door). The photos above are the A/C sitting at
Vandy. I can't remember
whether we flew it back to Quang Tri or if the fine folks called
Witchdoctor did it for us. Manny
suffered burns and an enemy round in the foot." Greg Manuel
was scheduled to DEROS in three
Bob Hackett photo of a "Bird Dog" crash at Quang Ngai Airfield. It turns out (from
174th AHC witnesses), the spotter plane was on take-off. An ARVN pilot yanked and
quickly and stalled.The plane crashed just outside the small building pictured, where
Shark pilots were passing time playing cards while on stand-by in 1971. The Shark pilots
pull the unconscious pilot from the plane. The passenger was an American GI who was
very upset at his tour guide.
"This is a (late 1970) photo of a NVA hootch that was
located way back in the mountains west of
Minh Long. I don't remember this being a CA. I think it
was just a gunship mission called in by
a spotter plane. There was an isolated rice paddy at the
bottom of the hill with a lone water
buffalo in it. Never saw any bad guys, but naturally, we put the
buffalo out of it's misery.
Seems we made three or four passes, with one of the gunners firing the
whole, before it went
down. One tough buffalo." Bob
this photo of Budda Mountain (?) only because it looked like such a pretty place.
serves, it was a Buddhist Monastery located on the top of this isolated hill on the
of QL-1 near Quang Ngai. For some reason, I think we also were not allowed to overfly
location. Any Comments anyone?" Bob