by Ken Carlton
Although I was a pretty good stick, especially for an RLO, CW2 Embrey had me beat by a mile. I flew as Embreys Six and he covered my ass, as Bounty Hunter 31, through thick and thin! The Bounty Hunters Charley Model Guns, and the Boomerang Slicks worked the Delta out of Dong Tam. The 191ST AHC was good at CA's, both night and day. The 9th Division GRUNT's knew we would be there when needed. On the way back to Dong Tam, Curt Embrey, my wingman, and I would dog fight several times week. Gordon Hahn CE for the Bounty Hunters, who is on this net may remember some of these flights. We would get into unusual attitudes to say the least. Hammer heads, tail slides, and looking out at the ground through the dog house was the norm. All the shit you weren't supposed to be able to do in the Charley Model, was against the rules, or scared the shit out us....WE DID! But you know what? All that dog fighting and unusual attitudes saved me and my crews ass on at least on two occasion that I can remember. The first one was in a good shoot out near the Seven Sisters Mountains on a night CA. I was lead gun of a heavy fire team. The 9th Division GRUNTS were in position as blocking forces around the base of one of the Sisters. The Arvin Rangers were working their way down hill from where we had inserted them that morning..the guns flew 12.7 hours that day! Anyway the Arvins started putting pressure on a NVA regiment and we were called out at about 2200 hours. We'd just had a C Rat dinner and attempted a short nap at a near by Base Camp. It was as dark as the inside of a golf ball, I'd already flown about 8 hours and had that empty sort of unnecessary feeling, as we rounded the mountain all of a sudden we had lots of ground references. Tracers were bouncing and slicing the darkness with a frequency I hadn't seen before. The C&C turned me over to the ground commander as we flew through our first clouds. Even a 22 year old Army Captain who didn't think he could die...started getting that feeling that things couldn't get any worse....WRONG! I'd like to add here that very few of our attitude indicators worked in the Charley Models, we were flying with the doors off and we had a "no moon" night with clouds at the 500 to 900 foot level. I could barely understand the Infantry Commander radio traffic, over all the ground fire in the back ground. He'd lost contact with one of his platoons and was getting very strong probes on his listening posts and was trying to pull them in...but the gooks were between the outposts and his perimeter and the listening posts troops afraid to move. I called for a flare ship and and was told one was on the way, the best I could do was try and fly low enough to spot the friendly forces as the ground commander wasn't sure where everyone was. This was actually working out pretty good as the Gooks weren't shooting at us yet, I doubt they even knew we were up there. Embrey was on my wing and I believe CW2 Aayala was the third Bounty Hunter. I was flying a Hog with nails in one pod, we only shot one pod at a time, the other pod had 17lb'ers w/proximity fuses. The flare ship started dropping flares about the time we had things squared away with the ground troops. We were freezing our asses off by now as we were wet and tired, As the first catrillion candle powered flare floated down through the clouds, we could see PRAISE THE LORD...GOOKS IN THE OPEN. There is was with 19 nails about 45 minuets of on station time and and at least 50 or 60 gooks looking up like a deer caught in the high beams. If I remember right , I needed at least 600 to 800 feet to use my nails to best advantage, as I climbed through a small cloud another flare illuminated the ground and all of a sudden I was punching off those nails as fast as my little thumb would move. Down we went with the gunner shooting around my right elbow with a highly modified M-60, as we broke away from the target Embrey was laying mini gun in the mist of the hapless gooks. We swung around for a second pass and the last flare went out just as I entered a small cloud bank. At the same time the NVA figured out that they really needed to suppress the helicopters or they weren't going to survive the night. Tracers were now slicing the darkness all around us. When I broke out of the clouds several things became apparent to me. Another flare had just illuminated and I was upside down at about 800 feet above a bunch of pissed off NVA. I looked up to see tracers tracking my every move THROUGH THE DOG HOUSE!! This is where all that unusual attitude training I'd been doing with Mr. Embrey paid off. I increased collective, displaced the cyclic all the way to the left and back, applied a healthy dose of left pedal and rolled that Charley model upright, leveling off just feet above the trees. During this maneuver both dog house windows fell out on me and the Peter Pilot. During the last few seconds of the roll, according to Embrey, everyone stopped shooting. Even the NVA wanted to see how it all turned out or as Embrey said later, even the Gooks were waiting to see a dumb ass pilot fly inverted into the ground. The Infantry Commander commented that enemy ground fire had slacked off and could we continue to keep doing what we had just done! It was real quiet in the cockpit as we landed back at the base camp and shut down looking for damage. Other than both dog house plexiglass being out and new holes in my seat, things we pretty much normal. Ralph "Curt" Embrey had saved my ass again...I'll never forget him. He was KIA on 4-13-70 near Phoung Heip, a few days after I left for Alaska.