"Dodging the Bullets"
"Dodging the Bullets"
Submitted by - Charley Barnes, Cpt, Headhunter 36, Pleiku May '67-May'68
Several months after arriving in Pleiku and being assigned to the 4th Platoon of the 219th, we received a very interesting intelligence report from the 4th ID. It addressed captured VC instructional materials concerning antiaircraft fire, and specifically dealt with the O-1 Birddog. The basic thrust of these materials was to fire in front of the aircraft and to lead it based on the visibility of certain items on the aircraft. These included the tail number, the whisker antennae, etc. I didn’t think much of it then, but as I thought about it over time I came to realize that perhaps you could trick them by putting your aircraft in a full slip and descending when you started taking fire. That would make you seem to be traveling in a direction 90 degrees from your actual flight path.
Months later, I was on a VR mission west of Plei Djereng Special Forces Camp and just north of the Se San River. It was an area where the 4th ID had fought several battles with the NVA about a year prior to that. There were many craters and old gun positions visible. However there seemed to be evidence of some fresh digging, so I cranked up the 175mm arty at Plei Djereng and started a little recon by fire. The NVA must not have liked it much. I soon saw some movement and made another pass over the area when all hell broke loose. I was the target of multiple AA machine guns while at an altitude of about 500 feet at most. Here was the unwanted opportunity to test out my theory. I applied a full descending slip and made it to tree-top level without taking a single hit. That was the good part, obviously. The bad part was having to look at all those tracers coming up right in front of you. I then continued with the artillery. After I left the artillery peppered the area with H&I fires all night. There were no friendlies in the area, so we never knew what damage we did.
In later months I had several more “opportunities” to use the slip technique. I don’t think I’d be writing this story today if I had not learned to do that.
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