174 th Assault
Helicopter Company


Robert "Bob" Hackett
Shark 9

First Lieutenant - Captain

1970- 1971

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 and rotary 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 of small consequence that he was never wounded. For him, the Army should have come up with 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 behind him, he was free to lead his fire teams through triple A (anti aircraft fire) for the bulk of the Laos invasion. By the time we returned to Chu Lai, LT Bob was Captain Bob and had become almost immune to the antics of the warrants. If nothing else, his exposure to warrant 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 company, watching 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

Bob's view 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 know?" Bob.

<<<<< 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 http://www.vhpamuseum.org/11thCav/11thCav.html and elsewhere on that site, like '17th Cav' (both 2nd Sqdn. & D Troop), 'Weapons', and all over. Also, my vehicle on http://www.kithobbyist.com/AFVInteriors/m113/m113d.html 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 course)." Bob

"And here's the Privy at Chu Lai. Unfortunately, they were located of just upwind of our Shark hootch. You tend to forget all the luxuries we had during our little trip to SE Asia. As you can see Rick and Fred seemed to be content sunbathing near here in the previous photo." Bob

"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 "Jolly Roger" (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 the time 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 McGee who 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?" Bob

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 1971."

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."

Three small "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 aircraft."

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 explode outside 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 more days.

Bob Hackett photo of a "Bird Dog" crash at Quang Ngai Airfield. It turns out (from several 174th AHC witnesses), the spotter plane was on take-off. An ARVN pilot yanked and banked too quickly and stalled.The plane crashed just outside the small building pictured, where several Shark pilots were passing time playing cards while on stand-by in 1971. The Shark pilots helped pull the unconscious pilot from the plane. The passenger was an American GI who was unhurt but 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

"I'm including this photo of Budda Mountain (?) only because it looked like such a pretty place. If memory serves, it was a Buddhist Monastery located on the top of this isolated hill on the east side of QL-1 near Quang Ngai. For some reason, I think we also were not allowed to overfly this location. Any Comments anyone?" Bob

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