Thursday, August 6, 2020

Low ceiling

Also in summer 1967.

Cloud cover was about 100 feet, white and thick when Regimental operations called and said a South Vietnamese unit was in heavy contact. The American advisor asked for immediate gunship support, and Air Cav Troop had the nearest gunships. The operations officer gave coordinates of the ARVN unit and frequency and call signs of the U.S. advisor.

I hit the switch for the five-minute alert team siren and at the same time checked the coordinates. The location was completely out of Blackhorse AO and well off the map board. And, with a 100-foot ceiling, pilots were not likely to even think about flying, not unless one of our elements needed gun support and that decision would be iffy. But, that was not my call to make. I was a 21-year-old sergeant, assistant flight operations NCO, and that day, both officers and the flight ops NCO were somewhere else.

Within two minutes, turbines were whining and MAJ Schorr, Third Gunship Platoon Leader, called and asked what we had. I gave him the information. After less than a minute, he called back and said, “Our maps don’t go that far, and we can’t fly in this weather. We’re shutting down.” I gave a “Roger,” and said I would contact Regimental operations.

The gunships could have taken off in that ceiling, but we did not know how thick the clouds were nor how far they spread nor what the weather was en route to or over the target. And there was no guarantee the gunships could have landed when coming back.

Weather is a big determinant on what happens in war.

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