Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Man In the Doorway

I was looking up a song for a friend, but when I saw this on YouTube; I just had to to drop everything, and look it up.

"Note: The man in the door could be the gunner on the right or the crew chief on the left."

I was only in the air one time, that one trip in a Bell UH-1 Iroquois made it easy for me to see why these flying tin cans were loved, yet regarded as a notorious death trap for the crew.

Yet day after day, these gallant young men were willing to take the risk, and valiantly gave their all, in the name of freedom; or so they thought.

Sometimes, it is the bad guys who win. Sometimes, it is for our lack of fortitude and courage; that we let them. As fathers sons mothers and daughters in every nation; Many a brave sentinel of freedom, gave and will give their all. As they nobly take up the banner now, and in the future. Let us take heart, and let not their precious lives go in vain.

The Man In the Doorway

The Man In The Doorway....a poem by Michael Ryerson, USMC, FAC, 1966-1968, RVN "" Email Michael Ryerson

Tribute to the Door Gunner

They came in low and hot, close to the trees and dropped their tail in a flare, rocked forward and we raced for the open doorways. This was always the worst for us, we couldn't hear anything and our backs were turned to the tree line.

The best you could hope for was a sign on the face of the man in the doorway, leaning out waiting to help with a tug or to lay down some lead.

Sometimes you could glance quickly at his face and pick up a clue as to what was about to happen. We would pitch ourselves in headfirst and tumble against the scuffed riveted aluminum, grab for a handhold and will that son-of-a-bitch into the air.

Sometimes the deck was slick with blood or worse,

sometimes something had been left in the shadows under the web seats, sometimes they landed in a shallow river to wash them out.

Sometimes they were late,

sometimes...they were parked in some other LZ with their rotors turning a lazy arc, a ghost crew strapped in once too often, motionless, waiting for their own lift, their own bags, once too often into the margins.

The getting on and the getting off were the worst for us but this was all he knew, the man in the doorway, he was always standing there in the noise, watching, urging...swinging out with his gun, grabbing the black plastic and heaving, leaning out and spitting, spitting the taste away, as though it would go away...

They came in low and hot, close to the trees and dropped their tail in a flare, rocked forward and began to kick the boxes out, bouncing against the skids, piling up on each other, food and water, and bullets...a thousand pounds of C's, warm water and rounds, 7.62mm, half a ton of life and death.

And when the deck was clear, we would pile the bags, swing them against their weight and throw them through the doorway, his doorway, onto his deck and nod and he'd speak into that little mic and they'd go nose down and lift into their last flight, their last extraction.

Sometimes he'd raise a thumb or perhaps a fist or sometimes just a sly, knowing smile, knowing we were staying and he was going but also knowing he'd be back, he'd be back in a blink, standing in the swirling noise and the rotor wash, back to let us rush through his door and skid across his deck and will that son-of-a-bitch into the air.

They came in low and hot, close to the trees and dropped their tail in a flare, rocked forward, kicked out the boxes and slipped the litter across the deck and sometimes he'd lean down and hold the IV and brush the dirt off of a bloodless face, or hold back the flailing arms and the tears, a thumbs-up to the right seat and you're only minutes away from the white sheets and the saws and the plasma.

They came in low and hot, close to the trees and dropped their tail in a flare, rocked forward and we'd never hear that sound again without feeling our stomachs go just a bit weightless, listen just a bit closer for the gunfire and look up for the man in the doorway.

Mike Ryerson was an 0844/0846 with 11th Marines at Chu Lai (hill 69)
and then an FO with 5thMarines for a while before being transferred to 3rd MarDiv,
12th Marines(hill55) and then to the DMZ (Dong Ha, Charlie 2, Con Thien) with 4th and
9th Marines. Feb '66 to Mar '68(yes, 25 months!)

Casualty Statistics of Air Ambulance Crews
Statistics confirm that air ambulance pilots and crewmen were at risk of being injured, wounded, or killed during their one-year tour. About 1,400 Army commissioned and warrant officers served as air ambulance pilots in the war, one of the most dangerous types of aviation in Vietnam. About forty aviators (both commanders and pilots) were killed by hostile fire or crashes induced by hostile fire. Another 180 were wounded or injured as a result of hostile fire. Another forty-eight were killed and about two hundred injured as a result of non-hostile crashes, many at night and in bad weather while on evacuation missions.

These totals mean that slightly more than one-third of the aviators became casualties in their work, and the crew chiefs and medical corpsmen who accompanied them suffered similarly. Furthermore, helicopter ambulance missions in the Vietnam War were lost to hostile fire at a rate 3.3 times higher than other aviation missions. Even compared to the loss rate for non-medical helicopters on combat missions, the ambulance loss was 1.5 times higher. Warrant officer aviators, who occasionally arrived in South Vietnam without medical training or an assignment to a unit, were sometimes warned that air ambulance work was a good way to get killed.

This next one about killed me, the young man favors so much, one of my nephews, I had more than a few tears myself.


The cost of the helicopter war was high, 2202 Huey pilots were killed: The Army lost 2,249 to hostile fire—more than half of them Hueys—and 2,075 to accidents; the Marines lost 424 to all causes. Between 1966 and 1971, one Army helicopter was lost for every 7.9 sorties—564 pilots, 1,155 crewmen, and 682 passengers were killed in accidents alone. More Hueys were downed in Vietnam than any other type of aircraft.

1st Lt. James Phillip Fleming Distinguished himself as Aircraft Commander of a UH-1F Iroquois, transport helicopter when he aided a Special Forces Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol being overrun by a large, heavily armed hostile force on 26 November 1968. The call was heard by Captain Fleming’s five ship Green Hornet flight. Two gunships and three transport helicopters arrived to find the team trapped on three sides with their backs to an impassable river. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing the 6-man Green Beret team, who were surrounded and besieged by the enveloping reinforced N.V.A positions, near Duc Co, Vietnam.

"THE VIETNAM WAR touched a generation of Americans with its human tragedy, sacrifice, and strife. In terms of casualties, it was the fourth most costly war in American history. However, despite a monumental military effort and modern technology, the war was lost as support from the American public and its elected officials waned. Now, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, as we embark on what might well be another protracted war, lessons from the Vietnam experience become relevant. On a positive note, a refined system for the triage, management, and evacuation of wounded military personnel evolved in Vietnam. A wounded soldier could actually be at a well-equipped base hospital within minutes after injury. At those facilities, casualties had a more than 90% chance of survival, despite some of the most horrific wounds in the history of warfare."
Kelly, Patrick J. M.D.


suZen said...

WOW! It's taken me 10 min. to stop crying and get a grip so I could post a comment. My son spent 6 yrs in the Army - two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan - as crew chief on a Chinook!

Walt said...

Suzen, your son is a brave man.
I spent most of my service time in the comfort of an heavily armored tank. Those brave boys had so little protection the soldiers would sit on their helmets, for fear of being shot from below.

Robin Easton said...

OMG, I am moved to tears. I am sitting here with them running down my face. What incredible writing. I have missed visiting you and loved your email. Work has kept me almost completely from email and blogging.

I have one friend who flew with the medic choppers who picked up wounded and he was shot down twice. Another friend who was in a Humvee in Irag and was bombed and pinned under the Humvee. One guy died, another almost died and my friend was seriously wounded and the vehicle was on fire. They finally got them all out but my god the trauma and fear. I can't even imagine it Walt. I just can't. Thank you my dear friend for sharing this. Big hugs, Robin

Walt said...

Bless you Robin. I feel like I have written myself into a corner; and must let this stand for a few days, in honor of all those who served, and to those whos hearts have yet to recover.

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Don Dennis said...

A wonderful poem. It brings back haunting memories.

DD Australian Army SVN 1967-68

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