Shot in the Wrist by Steve Williams

On 20MAR71, I was PIC (my second day as such) and Mike was my co pilot.  He had come to the 48th from the Delta, and this was to be his first flight into Laos.  I had been flying in Laos since the first day of Lam Son 719 and knew it to be somewhat more "intense" than anything I had experienced while flying I and II corps for the preceding four and a half months.

We cranked at Dong Ha and flew to PZ Kilo, a PZ right next to Khe Sahn.   We were to extract a bunch of ARVN from Laos that kept getting shot every time they stuck their heads up.

On the way into Laos, I showed Mike the river, and told him that if anything happened to me, he should follow the river back to Viet Nam and get with someone on the radio to lead him out of Laos.

The LZ was pretty nasty.  Single ship, or 2 ship at the biggest.  We took A LOT of hits in the aircraft all the way into the LZ (tick..tickety-tick, remember that sound?).  The aircraft in front of us departed the LZ with an ARVN hanging from the right skid by his hands.  I doubt he made it.

I don't remember taking any hits while in the LZ, but we were swarmed by the ARVN, and came out heavy.  I was on the controls and Mike called 50 lbs torque, but all I had in front of me was trees.  I continued to pull pitch with no Nr drop (God bless the guys at Bell!!) and came out of the LZ with the rotor over the trees and the body of the Huey between them.   All hell broke loose again, and again we took hits in the aircraft.

It was at this time that I felt like I'd been hit in the left wrist with a two by four.  My left arm and hand were thrown across my body, with my flight glove on my left hand turned inside out about half way up my hand.   I'd taken a round through my left wrist.  The round blew out about one quarter of my wrist and severed an artery, which was evidenced by my blood spurting across the instrument and radio panel every time my heart pumped. My left hand was flopped back (as I was looking at the palm side) and as hard as I tried, I could not for the life of me move the hand that I was looking at on the end of my wrist. I told Mike to take the controls and radioed I'd been hit (although nowhere near as calmly as I describe it here.)

If I'd been Mike, I probably would have been curled up in the fetal position and sucking my thumb by this time. Put yourself in Mike's position.  Flying with a brand new left seater, flying in an AO he'd never seen before, an aircraft he knew was full of holes, blood everywhere (two ARVNs in the cargo compartment were killed), and I was screaming at him to take the controls while we were continuing to be shot at.

Instead of curling up, Mike took the controls. While he got us away from the ground fire, I asked the CE to "red handle" my seat because I was starting to pass out. I do know that the CE saved my life by getting a tourniquet on my left arm.  I was squeezing my left arm as hard as I could with my right hand but could not get the bleeding to stop.   I remember laying back in the seat and trying to keep an eye on the engine instruments.  I couldn't believe after all the hits we'd taken that the engine was still running.

It gets a little fuzzy after that for me, but through this board and talking with Ron Turner and Mike, I believe it went something like this:

Mike let it be known I'd been red handled.  Ron Turner told Mike to follow him back to Viet Nam, but Mike couldn't tell which of the Huey's was Ron and vice versa.  Ron had either the CE or gunner pop a smoke and in this way Ron and Mike were able to hook up and get me back to Viet Nam.  We landed at that LZ just inside Viet Nam, where I do remember being drug out of my seat and placed into the rear of Ron's Huey and flown to Khe Sahn.

That was the second to the last time I saw Ron.  He looked pretty concerned when they unloaded me at Khe Sahn.  The next time I saw Ron was about two weeks ago in San Diego, where I finally had the chance to thank him for getting me back from Laos.

Then, Mike found the 48th website and an entry in the guest book that I was looking for the crew of the aircraft that day in Laos and e-mailed me.  I've finally been able to thank Mike for what he did too.

I hope someday that my gunner and CE will surface as will Ron's CE and gunner. 

And those, Term, are the details.  I'm not the writer you and others are here, but I hope it gets the idea across:  After 30 years, I've finally had a chance to thank 2 of the guys who I believe saved my life. 

I need to find the others and do the same.

 

Steve Williams Bluestar 76 9/70~3/71

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