The Kid is Gone
Matthew Brennan wrote three books about the First of the Ninth Cav. The first was “Brennan’s War” but the next two were about other men’s wars—compilations of the memories of other squadron veterans, edited and introduced by Brennan.
Tom King wrote about his war in “Headhunters.” Tom was already a high-time pilot when he reported to the squadron at Fort Benning in July 1965. He was assigned to A Troop’s gun platoon, and sailed to Vietnam on the USS Boxer. What follows is from Tom King’s account:
I was originally assigned to fly copilot to the section leader, but I had spent too many years as an aircraft commander and I wanted my own aircraft. Captain Allen gave me one. [Dave Allen, the gun platoon commander, would go on to be a general.] We had an outstanding crew chief, nineteen-year-old Larry Wright, who later won the Distinguished Service Cross. The door-gunner was a paratrooper, SSG Jim Grady.
Our first real operation was called Shining Bayonet. We took in early morning dark, in the rain and clouds. I lost sight of my lead ship after the first turn to the east and spent the next hour and a half unsuccessfully looking for any ship from our platoon. Finally, we landed at the Special Forces camp in Binh Dinh province, from where we operated for the next few days.
Stockton [Colonel John B. Stockton, the squadron commander] took all three 1/9th gun platoons during Shining Bayonet into an area called Happy Valley. He put C Troop gunships in there first, then B Troop, and by the time we got there, “Charlie” was pretty well stirred up. I could see flashes on the ground and fired a couple of pairs of rockets at them. Simultaneously, my chin bubble was shattered and Jim Grady said over the intercom, “The kid/s hit!” Larry Wright was down and wounded.
We didn’t have doors on the gunships, the windows were open, and there was quite a bit of air flowing through the helicopter. Grady pulled off the kid’s flight helmet and blood flew everywhere. It covered so much of the instrument panel with small particles of blood that you couldn’t read the instruments. Wright had a scalp wound. I flew him to the aid station, and his only complaint was that his head hurt. There were two bullet holes in his helmet. One of the rounds had hit at an angle above his right ear, gone around inside the helmet, scalped him on the back of the head, exited the helmet above his right ear, and gone into the bulkhead above my head.