SP5 Ed Hutcheson125th ATC Company
Attached to 174th AHC
I received a draft notice on October 28, 1966 which brought me down to meet with my recruiter for a little "pow-wow." I asked him what my options were and he came up with helicopter mechanics. I am mechanically inclined so I signed up for the extra year.
I went through basic at Ft. Polk. Boy THAT was a trip I'll never forget. What a shock! Upon arrival at Ft. Polk we were tested for hours our first night. A couple of days later I was pulled off to the side and offered Air Traffic Controller as an MOS, "93B20." I said, hmmm... what the hell is that? The guy said, "You don't need to know right now. It's a good deal. Take it."
Upon graduating for boot camp I was sent to Ft. Rucker for a few minutes, and then sent to Kessler AFB. While at Kessler I attended ATC School from February '67 to graduation in June '67. Just a note of interest, Jane Mansfield was killed in an accident just outside Kessler the day I left for Ft. Rucker. I had driven through the same intersection just moments before the accident. I caught it on the radio just as I was going through Mobile, AL.
I did "live" tower and GCA work at Rucker for a month and a half before being sent home for a few weeks. While at home, my last night there prior to going to RVN, I somehow managed to pick up seven moving violations on my motorcycle. Would you believe I failed to show up in court. I was in Nam by that time. Oh Well. They apparently dropped all the violations when they found out where I was, for when I came home I had a clean record. Thank you very much!
I checked into Oakland, CA August '67 and flew to Guam, then Bien Hoa. After the 90th replacement camp I was sent to Pleiku. Those chow halls were BAD! That first night in Nam I spent in Pleiku. I was told to follow some guys up to a bunker. It was very dark and I was tripping all over the place. No idea where I was. After getting to the bunker, there were three guys talking and looking out the opening. I saw all this light colored stuff across the top of this hill. What's that, I asked. The guy says, "NVA, Dude." A flare was popped and I could see them. Must have been a thousand at least. I ask why don't we shoot them? The guy responded, "We really don't want to start anything. We're a little out numbered here Dude." Anyway, after and hour or so, they vanished into the dark.
I left Pleiku on a chopper for Duc Pho. I checked in at the 174th. They took me up to the base of the hill to the
125th ATC GP tent. I was told I was attached to the 174th AHC. I was assigned to
the tower at Duc Pho and spent most of my time doing just that. Got lots of interesting
photos from the Duc Pho tower.
"The top photo is facing north with Artillery Hill to the right, and the bottom photo looking west over the POW towards Hwy 1., Spring 1968."
Time off was difficult at Duc Pho when I worked only three-hour shifts in the tower. Nothing
to do, so, I would fly with whomever was short a door-gunner. Cpt. Grant Cayton and Mr.
Brigante would take me with them occasionally. I remember Brigante's attempts
to fly the chopper upside down, or so it seemed to me... A little unnerving. I think
it was his ambition
to do a loop with a UH-1. I also flew quite a lot as a gunner with a guy from
Primo Aviation in the little OH-23. I wish I had written down the pilots'
names. Everyones' names.
"This is actually me, not Miller (his Ckicken Plate)."
I was a little overwhelmed with what I was doing most of the time. All I remember is the flying, the mini guns, the rockets (loud), and the view. I even was lucky enough to be onboard when the Frog was fired once south of Duc Pho. What an impressive gun. Sounded like some one trying to jack hammer their way through the bottom of the helicopter.
One day we were doing a milk run to Da Nang, Red Beach I think, when Cayton asked, "Anyone wanna go to the PX?" I needed a tape recorder so we did. Cayton found a nice little spot between some trucks in the parking lot, where we landed and went shopping. Different. Can't do that at Wal Mart.
Who's working today?
On the way back to Duc Pho I looked down to see a guy water skiing in the ocean, a dune buggy on the beach, and A1-Es dive bombing just a little ways back in the mountains.
What a war!
My Lai... Yes I remember that. That day, I walked over to "Herby" who just landed his chopper and asked him what's up? He informed me that something had just happened that we are really going to hear about. I said, what's that? He said we (the Americal troops) had just wiped out a village. This didn't seem news to me, as I had heard that before. He said, "No, I mean we really just wiped out the whole village." Before, it was just a sloppy phrase meaning some VC were killed, but not the whole village. Anyway, he was right.
A little while after that the interrogation rules of the VC seemed to change. He said that we (or rather one of our infantry units) were looking for some GI's in the My Lai area and they said they hadn't seen them. Then later they found them tortured in the jungle. Upon returning to My Lai they found one of the GI's (a Major's) boots in one of the ville hootches. I guess things went down hill from there. This was indicative that the village was in on it. My friend Herb walked with a nasty limp as he was in a helicopter accident in whigh some people died. Herb lost some length in his leg after surgery. Does anyone remember Herb? He was a CE.
As another note of interest, that C-123 that crashed during take-off... I was in the tower. He had a very strong cross wind. There was a dip in the runway which his front wheel went into. When he bounced out of it the wind caught his tail, blowing him around a bit. He put full power to the right engine but still drove off the runway because his front wheel strut was bent pretty badly (no steering). I bailed out of the tower when I saw that wing heading my way. Glad no one was hurt... me especially! He just missed the tower. The cause of the crash was really bad runway conditions. However, he was never given clearance from the tower to take-off. (Note: You can check out 2 photos and a another brief account by Dennis Pelliccia of this crash at Dennis Pelliccia Photos Page)
One day I woke up late for work to see a C-130 on the parking ramp and one back taxiing on the runway with choppers flying all over the place. I ran down to the tower, powered up and turned on the radios only to overhear Duc Pho tower answering some incoming aircraft. I responded to Duc Pho with, "Hello, Duc Pho, this is Duc Pho, where are you?" He said, "Well good morning Duc Pho, I'm that chopper sitting behind you in Shark Park. Nice of you to come to work today!"
Oh Well, again, thank you very much. I took it from there after that 174th Pilot bailed me out. I wonder who that pilot was. He was a good controller.
(Webmaster note: This photo, taken by Ed in 1968, shows Bill "Pete" Moss flying right-seat in this mini-gun Shark as it hovers by Duc Pho tower. It appears the person in the left seat is either Jerry Calloway or your webmaster, Jim McDaniel -- hard to tell.)
Ed says, "Same Shark abeam the tower. Anybody recognize any of these guys?"
(Webmaster again. The pilot is "clearly" Pete Moss. The gunner I can't tell -- looks a bit like Koster to me but can't be certain. Was Koster a PFC in 68? Anyone else tell who the gunner is for sure? Closeups below)
Bye-bye. Sin loy.
I spent my last year at Ft. Stewart, GA. I guess Mike Banek and I talked on the radios at Blue Tower at Tac-X for a year. He was Bandit and Outlaw. Remember those names well. There was one interesting night I over heard two choppers chasing a UFO at Stewart. They were sure chasing something! I won't go into that one, but I sure wish I had that tape... the tower one that is, all their transmissions were on it.
I was discharged from the service in November '69, at which time I returned to Minneapolis, MN. I went to collage again and switched to a trade school. I graduated with two degrees from trade school, electronics, and electrical wiring. I met and married my wife Micki in 1971. Been married over 30 yrs now, and loving her more every day. We have two boys, Ted (25) and Mike, (23). Both boys are graduated from college now, and starting out on their own. My oldest was married May 26, 2001(below).
"I'm on the left here, Wife Micki, new Daughter Kim, Son Ted and Son Mike."
They both like riding Harleys and I'm big into biking myself. May 30th I sold my '69 Chevelle SS I had for many years. It was a show car. I did all my own engine work, rebuilding, swapping, etc.
I feel lucky to have been able to serve the 174th AHC, as they were the real heroes of my days. To be so close to them, yet so far I feel.
"A duce that met with a sad ending on Hwy 1 just south of Duc Pho. I'm afraid the occupants didn't make it. 1968"
"Another kind of guard duty. A tank positioned just South of Duc Pho."
Wish I would have talked more and written down names. Had I known what I know today, I would have made a real pest of myself back then (heehee).
Imagine, Going to high school
football games and chasing girls one day, and flying in the jungles of Vietnam trying to
stay alive the next. How times have changed.