Fred B. Baker, II
BRIGADIER GENERAL WOLFE
I should mention that when I was younger, these stories usually began with the phrase, “This is no sh*t!”
Ok guys, I’ve been called nuts before. Usually it was said collectively like: “You chopper pilots are all crazy.” Sometimes it was directed at me with good cause. There are a couple of basic flaws that I have and they got me into trouble a lot in my younger days. I never seemed to be able to hold my tongue when someone was about to do what I thought was stupid (or any other time for that matter), and abusive drunks (a**holes) deserved a fist to the face.
The unfortunate part of the latter was that rank didn’t matter. On one occasion it was my Battalion Commander. The incident I am about to tell you about was the former with a smoke bringing, mean (by reputation), son-of-a-gun named Brigadier General Wolfe.
I was flying Command and Control (C&C) with the 2nd Brigade CO. On board the chopper were the CO, the Ops Major, Artillery Captain and the RTO. We were just southeast of Lai Khe and one of the 2nd Brigade company size units (I think) was ambushed. These were not the brightest VC because they didn’t wait for the troops to get too close. Anyway, the troops were pinned, more or less, at the bottom of a small grade at the line of some trees. Charlie was at the top of a knoll in the bushes. An open area of no-man’s land (of sorts) about the length of about 150 meters was between them. The CO wanted to go down and talk to the guy in command on the ground. We had already been in the air quite a while and time to refuel would be a little tight. I told the CO that he would have about 30 minutes max.
I suppose this is where I should tell you about the twenty minute fuel warning light. This is an amazing piece of technology put into the console of the aircraft to warn the pilot when his fuel was at a dangerously low level. I had briefed the CO about its purpose and told him that if I ever had it on, I would be asking for directions from him as the situation would be critical. He assured me that he understood. Its true purpose was to tell you that sometime in the next twenty minutes you were about to run out of fuel. Kind of like the lottery – pick a number from 1 to 20!
The only place I could land was in that no-mans area between the two, so I instructed them that di di mau was a maneuver they had best practice when we landed. As soon as they were safe I left to bore circles in the sky. After an immense period of time (to me anyway), the twenty minute fuel light came on. The conversation went as follows:
Dagger 22 (second Brigade CO) this is 22 Mike (me), I am low on fuel please advise.
Dagger 22 Mike this is Dagger 22…
Break, break, break, this is Danger 78 (BG Wolfe) what is going on down there?
Danger 78 this is Dagger 22 Mike, please hold
Dagger 22 this is 22 Mike say again you were cut out.
Dagger 22 Mike…
Break, break, break, this is Danger 78; I want to know what is going on down there.
Danger 78 please shut the f*ck up! Dagger 22 this is 22 Mike say again.
22 Mike come in and get us.
I landed again and Charlie opened up with a vengeance. They were to my left so I was looking right out the door window and it was NOT pretty. The CO and his group were coming from my right rear and confusion was high. As soon as I got the thumbs up I was pulling in the power. Unfortunately, the Artillery captain was not completely in and the gunner had to fight like the devil to get him up in the bird. He had a real death grip on the skid as I’m sure I probably would have had under similar circumstances. On the way to Lai Khe for fuel the RTO showed me his PRC 25. He was using it as a shield when he hit the ground while running to the chopper. Two hits right in the battery. My aircraft took none. Go figure.
When we came in for fuel and I brought it to a hover, the engine quit. My first pilot put fuel in while Gardner (crew chief) and I started pulling an intermediate inspection. The CO came around the chopper and asked what we were doing. I told him that we were pulling an intermediate inspection. The CO didn’t like to be delayed for any reason and asked if that wasn’t done as a scheduled maintenance item. I told him yes, but any time the fuel system is
cavitated, it must be performed. He then asked if that was why our landing was different. I told him that it was.
Shortly afterward we left for Di An and arrived without incident. Everyone on a C & C aircraft spent their first 15 minutes of downtime waxing the aircraft. In case you’re wondering it was J-wax. While in the process, Danger 78’s aircraft came in for a landing. There was a parade ground between the landing pad and 2nd Brigade Headquarters. Whenever anyone flew in, a jeep driver would come around to pick up the passengers. He barely got the motor started and General Wolf was already across the road cutting across the parade field. I figured that my wings and rank were gone and told my crew to continue without me. I was going in to face the music.
I went into the Brigade office, which was quite spacious and sat down on the couch at the opposite wall from the Sergeant Major’s desk. After about twenty minutes, the Sergeant Major came out of the CO’s office and told me the CO wanted to see me. I knocked and entered when called. General Wolfe was directly in front of me. I saluted gave a right face and reported to the CO. He told me that the General wanted to speak to me. I gave a left face and reported. He said, “Mr. Baker, do you know what you said to me up there today?” I replied that I did. He then said, “Knowing who I am, do you think you would say it again?” I replied, “General, when I said it the first time I already knew it was you, and given the same circumstances, I would say the exact same thing again.” To which he stated, “I like that, and am putting you in for a Bronze Star with ‘V’ device.”
As a footnote, I never got the Bronze Star and neither did I care. I did learn the meaning of what my father said when he told me that if you do something outlandish you will either be court-martialed or given a medal. I was happy just to be allowed to fly.
©Copyright July 17, 2005 by Fred B. Baker, II