Basic School Class 2-65 New Orleans 2019 Reunion

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George Sandstrom's Story

Vietnam Memories

                                            By George Sandstrom

In an attempt to dispel the 90 knot brain label affixed to helicopter pilots of the time, I have included a picture of myself and the Bird dog that I also flew in RVN in which I observed nearly 140 knots at least once on a downhill run.

My choice for this article is to recall a few of the more ancillary and somewhat light-hearted episodes that were part of my experience.

Quite often when returning from a resupply mission or anytime we could spare something useful we would pull into a hover and drop C-Rats and other supplies at the Leper colony that was located just southeast of HyVan pass.  My wife and I returned to the area in 1998 on vacation and witnessed the colony still in existence.  We also observed the electric poles that I dropped into dug holes going up and over Monkey Mountain.  I remember backing the helicopter into the hill under the direction of the Crew Chief and lowering the poles with the hoist.  There is probably not enough beer in Wisconsin to cause that to happen again.

One of my stalwart squadron mates and I would occasionally provide air show type entertainment along the beach just north of the city of Da Nang.  We would drag our right front wheels in the water sending up a two plane rooster tail to the delight of the gathered throngs who were squatting on the beach delivering their morning constitutional message to the sand.  Always cleverly in the advance of high tide.  I can’t remember ever playing to a more appreciative and productive audience.

Occasionally, the night medevac birds would be asked to transport nurses to and from the hospital ships to provide party companionship for the poor deprived jet jockies at ChuLai and DaNang.  The obvious inference here is that the aforementioned jet pilots were somewhat inept at providing their own entertainment.  I personally never cared for this duty and took great pride in refusing to do it while on night medevac duty two nights before returning home.

It is not my intention to make light in anyway of the seriousness and the level of contribution that many of us made. From a close up and personal viewpoint I saw the impact of pilots and support staff on the overall effort.  This was particularly evident when the red phone (medevac) rang.  We literally would stop at nothing to retrieve an injured man.  The level of dedication and courage displayed was astonishing.  I feel privileged to have known and worked with so many persons who gave so much and particularly those who gave their all that we may continue to enjoy the lives we have.  Recalling a bit of the “lighter side” has helped me over the years to maintain some modicum of sanity regarding the experience.  I am sure there are those who would argue to the contrary.  As the years go by and little by little wisdom creeps in, it occurs to me that everything seems to fade (except the waistline), but I cannot help but recall how similar we Marines are, regardless of our MOS.  I suspect the upcoming reunion will bear out that thought.  I look forward to seeing everyone.

Semper Fidelis  


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