Specialist Five John Irwin is awarded his First Air Medal

The Air Medal was presented on 23 October 1966 for the flights from April of 1966 until August 1966. He did not receive the actual medal. It was stolen enroute. The one pinned on him belonged to his Major and he said as he pinned it on Irwin that he wanted it back. It could have been worse. Lieutenant No, the North Korean pilot who flew his MiG-15 to South Korea had his picture taken with a $100,000 check that was fake because nobody had put the reward money in the budget. He was paid the correct amount later.

I talked with Specialist Five John Irwin about his assignments in PSYOP during the Vietnam War. One thing his comments show clearly is how you can become a gypsy being moved and assigned to support one combat unit after another. The Number of units he moved through are amazing. Vietnam PSYOP was in its infancy and none of the big units was there yet, just some odd detachments and companies. As you read this remember this is just one year of military life. Reading this history is like looking at three or four years of war. I add his thoughts in italics with some of my own in plain text.

A 19th PSYOP Company Leaflet

100,000 copies of this black and white leaflet coded Leaflet 19-20-67 were produced by the 19th PSYOP Company at the request of the 3rd Brigade of the 9th Infantry Division. It targeted Viet Cong in their area of operation. The front uses a "death card" motif and depicts an ace of spades on a skill with the text:

"Viet Cong! This is a sign of death!"

In August of 1966, I was originally assigned as an interpreter to the 19 PSYOP Company, at that time part of the 3rd Special Forces Group.  Only a few of us were airborne at that time, the field teams only.  I taught at JFK Center Special Forces headquarters - part time, including one unit that later was assigned to Dak To, Vietnam.

The original plan for the 6th PSYOP Battalion was that the field teams would be airborne qualified. Several of us were, but not all. Field teams would have been supporting the 173rd Airborne Brigade, the 1st/101st Airborne Division, and one brigade of the 1st Cavalry, all of which were airborne. We also did a lot of work with the Special Forces teams. At the time, only the 1st Infantry Division was not an airborne unit, so field teams being jump qualified made sense. And a straight leg PSYOP guy would not be very well accepted in an airborne unit. "Leg" is an insult by an Airborne soldier who looks down on the average soldier that is not airborne qualified.

[Authors Note] The 19th PSYOP Company was activated at Ft. Bragg as part of the 3rd Special Forces Group on 10 August 1962. On 19 November 1966 it was deployed to Can Tho Vietnam as part of the 6th PSYOP Battalion to provide advice and support to military units and agencies in the Mekong Delta in IV Corps Tactical Zone. At first there were PSYOP companies and detachments in Vietnam, then it was found that more manpower was needed, and the Companies became Battalions.

The 6th Battalion First Headquarters in Saigon - The bombed Kinh Do Theater

[Authors Note] Headquarters was initially in the Kinh Do Theater in Saigon except for the radio and TV advisors, and the printing facilities, although a lot of paper and printing supplies were stored on the first floor where the seats had been. After the theater was blown up by an estimated 50 kilograms of "plastique," it moved some distance away to a small, modern, three-story building near Cholon that had been an auto shop.

The 244th PSYOP Company Leaflet & Poster Catalog

In January 1966, the 6th PSYOP Battalion went by boat to Vung Tau, and from there to Saigon, where it was headquartered. Other personnel were sent to the 244th PSYOP Company at Da Nang in I Corps, the 245th PSYOP Company in Nha Trang in II Corps, and the 246th PSYOP Company in Bien Hoa in III Corps.  IV Corps not staffed.  I was originally assigned to Headquarters Intelligence in a theater in downtown Saigon.  After a couple of months, I was reassigned to the 246th PSYOP Company at Bien Hoa. While at Bien Hoa, we did night loudspeaker missions in a C-47. We would awaken the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops and attempt to goad them into shooting at us. An artillery officer then zeroed a battery on the shooters.  We would continue broadcasting in the area to stir up more resistance. The enemy was wide awake so there was lots of return fire.  The artillery observer zeroed in additional batteries.  After several such episodes, the observer called for a "time on target," and all the artillery units fired so their shells hit at the same time.

[Authors Note] It was not very difficult to draw fire. One thing that almost every PSYOP specialist has told me is that when they broadcast, they were fired upon. Some units would follow the broadcast aircraft with a gunship. Often leaflet missions were fired upon and they were sometimes followed by gunships that would wait until the Viet Cong came out to pick up their leaflets and then open fire. This was not a good way to motivate them to read our leaflets. We want them to trust us and believe what we say or write. Gunning them down while reading is counterproductive.

Except for the Phan Thiet helicopter missions, I never did any helicopter loudspeaker or leaflet missions. Speakers were ineffective if there were other aircraft in the area. Most nighttime loudspeaker missions were flown by C-47s, but the 1st Cavalry used Huey helicopters in Phan Thiet. We threw large parachute flares, made ineffective broadcasts with ground quality loudspeakers, attracted attention, and used helicopter gunships equipped with grenade launchers for more effective response when we detected ground fire.

A 246th PSYOP Company “Litterbugs” Patch

I went to Phuoc Binh, southeast of Saigon to be part of a PSYOP team with the 2d Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division. The team of Lieutenant Anderson & me went to Division Artillery to load leaflet shells prior to the division’s deployment with most of 246 PSYOP Company going to Tay Ninh. Andy and I went to Ben Cui plantation with the 16th Infantry Regiment.

Loading Leaflets into Leaflet Artillery Shells

Lieutenant Anderson of the 246th PSYOP Company and me loading the leaflets into artillery shells at the 1st Infantry Division Artillery base between Bien Hoa and Saigon. I convinced Lieutenant Anderson for us to go from Bien Hoa to Saigon and stay overnight at the 6th PSYOP Battalion headquarters at the theater instead of going directly to the division artillery base. We did and had a nice dinner and drinks. The place at Division Artillery base where we would have been was in a couple of large tents designated for outside support personnel. Two guys in those tents were killed in a mortar attack the night we stayed in Saigon.

We returned with a convoy to Bien Hoa to rejoin the 246th PSYOP Company. SSG Terwilliger and I were to be assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade at the Michelin plantation. Roger Terwilliger and I never got to work together.  I was reassigned when the 101st Airborne Division ran into trouble and needed support.  My replacement and Roger died in a mine explosion with the 173rd Airborne Brigade after I left to be with the 101st.

In the planning for the PSYOP units, the field units were a two-man team of enlisted personnel. When the first units got to Vietnam, all field teams were then led by officers, virtually none of whom had ever been exposed to PSYOP. We received several loads of Infantry or other branch officers, all brand-new lieutenants.

Propaganda Shell from the Archives of the 7th PSYOP Group

[Authors Note] Loading leaflets into artillery shells is an art. The 155-mm leaflet artillery shell accepts a leaflet roll 4-5 inches in height, with a 1-inch inner and 4-inch outer diameter. The number of leaflets will depend on size and paper weight, but a standard load is about 2000 leaflets (four rolls of 500). The round can travel up to 20,000 meters and separates in flight to release the leaflets.

A 245th PSYOP Company Pocket Patch

The 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment (AKA Alpha 502) of the 101st Airborne Division found itself in deep doodoo at Dak To in II Corps near the border.  An ARC LIGHT mission saved them, but horrific casualties on both sides.  I was immediately sent to Nha Trang to join the 245th PSYOP Company, then the next morning to a team at Dak To.  As the only Psywar interpreter, I guess I was "A" team.  The next morning, the Generals airplane. two Captains driving and me and leaflets, went to Dak To. That day, the PSYOP Team went to the Alpha 502 battle site.  Hundreds of dead members of the 21st and 88th PAVN regiments, "People's Army of Vietnam" as North Vietnam called their soldiers. The smell of rotting bodies was horrific. The B-52 strike killed hundreds of PAVN.  I broadcast most of the night over the surrounding area until I fell asleep.  The following morning, several North Vietnamese Army soldiers appeared, surrendered, and led the 502nd troops to their mortar and headquarters positions.

All B52 missions, Arc Light in South VN, Linebacker in North VN, other names for the Trail missions in different countries had to be followed up with B-52 and Chieu Hoi leaflets.  The next morning, I threw leaflets from a USAF 0-1 Bird Dog, not the USAF U10 Helio-Courier loudspeaker/leaflet plane. The Ragged Scooper Bird Dog pilot had also been charged to count the 600 craters and knew which exact bombs would not explode on contact and were fused for delayed detonation. Any non-exploding bombs were targeted with rocket fire to detonate the bomb.

A B-52 Bomber Leaflet dropped on Vietnam

[Authors Note] During the Vietnam War, the B-52 became one of the dominant weapons of the Allies. Known by several code names like Fact Sheet, Frantic Goat, Arc Light, Linebacker I, Linebacker II, etc., these attacks did enormous damage to the enemy forces. Loudspeaker broadcasts and leaflet drops would try to bring in injured soldiers to surrender. It was often the only way those fighters could get medical treatment in the bush. John's use of "A Team" is an allusion to the Special Forces teams that do the heavy fighting.

It occurs to me that some readers might wonder what the loudspeaker message from an aircraft might sound like. I have many, but here is a short one about recovering Americans that have been captured. This message is 30 seconds long, requested by XXIV Corps, to be broadcast from aircraft:

"Attention People,

If anyone has any information regarding Americans missing in action or prisoners-of-war, please report it immediately to the nearest American unit or to any Government of Vietnam or Vietnamese Army unit. Once the information is confirmed the informer will receive 41,250 piasters. His identity will be withheld."

SF team A248 was at Dak To and willingly traded us our warm beer, brought in by USAF leaflet mission planes, for the coldest in their refrigerator.  A248 remembered me, and I was treated royally.  

A loudspeaker Jeep of the 24th PSYOP Detachment bearing the flags of the
Republic of Vietnam and the emblem of the Republic of Korea 

After Dak To, the 1st of the 101st Airborne went to Tuy Hoa.  Our vehicle in Tuy Hoa was a battered Jeep van with no windows in the back.  A tiger was painted on both sides.  The 24th PSYOP Detachment had been assigned to the Republic of Korea Tiger Division units at Qui Nhon, a few miles north.  We inherited the vehicle.   The 24th PSYOP detachment later became the 245th PSYOP company. Kids in town shouted, "CON HO" (animal - tiger) when we drove past.  We made lots of friends.  We did multiple assignments at Tuy Hoa, Qui Nhon, and in the surrounding areas.  I spent most of my time with Alpha 2 of the 327 Infantry - primarily 2nd platoon.  They had a squad of Army of the Republic of Vietnam attached, and I could communicate with them and became their de facto leader.

[Authors Note] In July 1965, the 24th PSYOP Detachment was formed from personnel of the 1st and 13th PSYOP Battalion assigned to the United States Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, Fort Bragg, NC. The unit, consisting of six officers and 24 enlisted, was formed, trained, and deployed to Vietnam in just two weeks. The detachment arrived in Vietnam in September 1965 and was assigned to support the 1st Cavalry Division G5 Section at Anh Khe.

The Sketch of the Prototype leaflet

I have a prototype leaflet that was never disseminated. The 2nd Battalion of the 327th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division was part of a trap to lure the Highland North Vietnam Army troops into a battle in the Central Highlands, in the area around Pleiku where the Special Forces Group (SFG) B24 base was located, and the subordinate SFG A teams A241-9. The A team locations each had been beefed up with a battery of 105 artillery. Additional 155 batteries and a couple of 175s were dispersed throughout B24s area. Normally, a SFG A team base could take on most of a regiment. The artillery, and supporting nearby artillery, meant that the A24x team could probably take on 2 regiments, but would be overrun by a third. Spook C47 gunships were on call for the operation, and probably SPECTRE, although they were Top Secret and not mentioned. A Special Forces Group "Mike Force," a battalion of ethnic Chinese from Vietnam was on call to helicopter in at night on preselected landing zones. The second battalion of the 327th Regiment of the 101st was to do a nighttime combat drop on a selected drop zone, depending on which A24x team was hit. I was listed for plane number 4. The remainder of 101st Airborne, troops from the 1st Cavalry, 4th Infantry Division, and armor from the 25th Infantry Division and others would come in with daylight. Estimated casualties for 2/327 were 85% by dawn. Several US divisions would take on a couple of North Vietnam Army divisions. Then President Johnson apparently said he would not give up an infantry battalion for a decisive victory in the Central Highlands. Therefore, the leaflet was never completed or used. I have the original design, showing the paratroopers and the clawed eagle descending that symbolized the 101st Airborne Division.


A Death Card from A U.S. Marine Corps LRRP Team

We also did a few unusual, small leaflet orders. Often on a mimeograph system, rather than the unit printing press. We made leaflets for the Long-Range Reconnaissance Teams. The leaflet showed a LRRP soldier in camouflage combat gear. The leaflet had text something like, "This is who killed your comrade. Someday, someone will find a leaflet like this on your body." LRRP teams stuck one leaflet in the web gear of each VC or NVA soldier they killed, just as some infantrymen used "Death Cards."

I saw you but let you live…

[Authors note] Another card appears to be a SOG product. It depicts a rifleman taking aim at a Viet Cong Guerrilla. The text in Vietnamese is "I saw you but let you live…next time you die." This is not too unlike the message that Irwin mentions above. The back of the card depicts a crude skull and crossed bones. There are numerous such fake cards sold on the Internet but this one would seem to be genuine. It is depicted in John L. Plaster’s book, SOG – a Photo History of the Secret War, Paladin Press, Boulder, CO, 2000. The author says about this image:

SOG calling card, designed to be left by recon teams behind enemy lines.

LRRP teams carried the leaflets.  In the middle of 1967, there was a lot of data about the LRRP teams published so the teams from the 101st Airborne were quickly renamed Lima Company, of the 75th Infantry, the Ranger Regiment, and they had to work in larger groups because of the size of the North Vietnamese Army units in their area. A small four-man team would not survive.The smaller four-man teams became 8-man, then larger.During the A Shau battle, they only worked in platoon size units.


A Cozy Little C-47 Aircraft with a few Boxed leaflets

The picture is of the C-47 loaded with leaflets. The full load meant it was a resupply mission. Since I was on the plane, and never flew anywhere in II Corps except a few locations, it was most likely me returning to Tuy Hoa from Nha Trang with a load of leaflets. The other people are Air Force loadmasters assigned to GABBY. The plane always had a crew of about 5. Pilot, copilot, navigator, and two enlisted loadmasters. One or both enlisted could have been mechanics. The load is too full for a leaflet drop. Some of the leaflets may have been meant for a drop after the leaflet supply was completed.

While with the 101st Airborne Division, I recall a Tuy Hoa leaflet aimed at the North Vietnamese Army 410 Mortar Company. We knew their approximate location. Too little information for a bomb or artillery strike, but enough for a leaflet mission. We only wanted a few hundred or a couple thousand leaflets, aimed directly at the 410th. The lieutenant wanted thousands and thousands of leaflets spread over the entire region. PSYOP meant that the leaflet needed to land on the targeted audience, the 410th. Excess leaflets landing on other units meant the North Vietnam Army political officers could correctly say that they were not the 410th company, the leaflet was a lie, and that the soldiers needed to ignore all leaflets. Our own brass did not understand the futility of excess leaflets, and that correct intelligence and targeting really meant something. The leaflet aimed at the 410th Mortar Company was delivered at them about 8-9 months after they walked down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The leaflet mentioned how long the 410th had been in the South, and asked how many of their company had died, and said that the 410th soldiers would die in the South since there was no plan for them to ever return to the North.

Attention Members of the K-10 Battalion, 5th North Vietnamese Army Regiment

[Authors note] I do not have a copy of the 410 Mortar Company leaflet John mentions. However, I have many other similar ones aimed at a specific target so I depict one here. This leaflet targets member of the K-10 Battalion, 5th North Vietnamese Army Regiment and bears the Chieu Hoi (Open Arms) symbol inviting surrender. Some of the text is:

"You have undergone much danger and hardship and before reaching South Vietnam. You thought you would be warmly welcomed by the people of South Vietnam. Now you know how wrong you could be…"

John also talks about the multitude of leaflets dropped. I looked at the opening page of the 4th PSYOP Group’s Monthly operations Report for March 1971. All it talks about is numbers:

Number of impressions: 4,883,285. Number of 6 x 3-inch leaflets printed: 10,150,000. Number of leaflets dropped: 60,768,000. Number of aerial loudspeaker hours: 138. Number of ground loudspeaker hours: 497. Number of movie hours: 160.

Some Leaflets dropped by John Irwin

Leaflet 3-66-11

[Authors note] Whenever I talk to a PSYOP soldier I always ask if he brought any leaflets home. Americans are great souvenir collectors and thank God for that, or my articles would be bare of illustrations. The first leaflet is a very familiar scene. I have about a half-dozen of this general type of leaflet, they always show a Viet Cong or North Vietnamese soldier dead in the dirt. Most are in black and white; some add a touch of color to catch the eye of the target. Because John was there early in the war, the leaflet does not have a standard code. Its code is 3-66-11. No U.S. leaflets used a “3” at the front, so I am going to guess that this was made about March or November 1966. The text is:

Surrender before it is too late!

Leaflet P-02

Another early leaflet. Early in the war when the U.S. wanted to address the North Vietnam Soldiers coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, they used the code “P” for “People’s Army of Vietnam.” Later, the code was changed to “T” for “Trail,” So, not only is this an early use of the code, but it is also an early use of the leaflet series, the second one printed. The front of the leaflet shows a bombed bridge with the shadow of an American aircraft flying over it. The back shows three photographs of the abundant life in South Vietnam. The text on the front is:

Compatriots of North Vietnam, look straight at the reality and judge for yourselves:

If the Communists of North Vietnam continue their destructive war in the south, destruction like that shown in this scene, will continue to be delivered to the north.

The text on the back of the leaflet is:

If the Communists of North Vietnam stop their destructive war in the South, these scenes of peace and posterity will materialize both in the North and in the South.

So,help win this senseless war and bring peace and prosperity to all Vietnamese. Leave the ranks of the Communist Party aggressors. Us this safe conduct pass to join the Just Cause.

Life in South Vietnam

Leaflet 941

This leaflet uses a common theme, that of a sad family waiting for their beloved member who has gone off the join the Viet Cong. These were produced by the Joint U.S. Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO) with numbers going up to about 6000. The text on the back is:

We remember you; do you remember us? Do you ever think about your families? Do you know that the Army of the Republic of Vietnam is winning the war everywhere? We are worrying over your whereabouts and what is happening to you. The Welcome Back government policy is waiting for your return. We hope that this letter will reach you so that you are able to come back to us sooner. We are hoping and waiting for your return.

Leaflet 245-N-13-67

I have always admired this vignette. It is found on several American leaflets, sometimes in color, sometimes in black and white. It shows so much. We see a lonely Viet Cong fighter sitting by himself and thinking of two paths he can take in the future. One portrays death and destruction if he continues to fight with dead bodies, blood, and a destroyed bridge and building. The back text varies according to who made the leaflet and at what point in the war. This leaflet was made by the 245th PSYOP Company. The “N” shows it was printed in Nha Trang in 1967. The code on the front, 6-676 (4) implies that the Vietnamese had part in the making and distribution of this leaflet. That is a Vietnamese code number. The text on the front is:

Isn’t it time to return to your family?

Which of the above scenes do you prefer?

The text on the back is:

You arrived in South Vietnam several months ago. You are tired, some of you are sick, and many of you have malaria. We have medicine and doctors. We will help you and treat your ailments.

Leaflet 245N-14-67

The above leaflet was produced by the U.S. Army 245th PSYOP Company in Nha Trang in 1967. It depicts a heroic South Vietnamese soldier on horseback carrying his colors and trampling the flag of the Viet Cong on the ground. Irwin told me he thought it represented victory in the Chinese year of the horse 1966. I should mention that 1967 was the "Year of the Goat" but the story Irwin heard might be because the leaflet was printed in late 1966. There is a poster using the same image and that poster has the text at top:


None of the text on any of the three leaflets I have seen using this vignette mention the "Year of the Horse."

The enemy flag should have been a gold star on a field of red at the top and blue at the bottom. Instead, the colors are red and green. Somebody got the colors of the enemy flag wrong. The leaflet was later corrected with the proper color blue. There is no text on the front. The text on the back is tactical, targeting two enemy regiments:

To the soldiers of the 325th Division's 18th and 95th Regiments

You have fought in South Vietnam for almost one year. Look around you! Think about all the friends whom you will never see again! Are you about to die too? Everywhere you look you see disease and death. Death is chasing you - the power of Phuong Hoang [Operation Phoenix] will not miss even one shelter, one underground bunker, or one hiding place. You have only one chance to live and to see your families in North Vietnam again. That is chance is:

Return to the Nation's Just Cause before it is too late.

Leaflet 245N-48-67

This rather dull leaflet depicts about 11 scraggly Vietnamese people, some clearly far too thin and their ribs are showing through their chests, so without a second thought I assume they are Viet Cong fighters that have either been captured or gone Chieu Hoi. The photo is very bad. It is clearly taken in the field, and I assume the PSYOP unit could not do much with the film when it got back to the unit. I was wrong. Those were local villagers being held captive by the Viet Cong and rescued by the Americans. So, let’s see what the text on the back says:

Who can be indifferent?

The compatriots shown on the back of this leaflet have just been set free from a Viet Cong detention camp by the soldiers of the American 101st Airborne Division. Apart from Mr. Truong Phu Xuan, Chief of the My Trung hamlet, Truong Tung, secretary of the Phuoc Thanh hamlet, Mr. Hoang Kim Chinh, employee of the Local Force office of the Hieu Xuong District, Mr. Pham Thang, a Local Force private, Mr. Tran Van Dinh, an ARVN serviceman, Mrs Vo Thi, Lam Thi Ao, Mr. Nguyen Hang and Nguyen Huong are mostly innocent civilians. Looking at their skinny posture and miserable face, one can immediately see how badly they were maltreated by the VC while in captivity. They are currently being fed at a temporary residence camp, tended to by health care workers so they can recover before going home.

Tragedies like this shall be repeated if the Viet Cong continues to exist. Please help the government maintain security and order, as well as to rebuild a new life with empathy and mutual support.

Soldiers of the Southern puppet government!

SP5 Irwin must have found this enemy leaflet while on patrol. This Viet Cong flag leaflet asks the people to join the ranks of the guerrillas to drive out the Americans and their South Vietnamese allies. Another soldier told me he found this same leaflet in a village outside Landing Zone Baldy, a U.S. Marine Corps, Army, and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) base located northwest of Chu Lai, Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam. The text on the front is:

Soldiers of the Southern puppet government! Join the people in a united struggle under the just banner of the National Liberation Front for South Vietnam to defeat the American aggressors and their puppets and liberate South Vietnam.

The text on the back is:

Travel pass

Officers and soldiers of the puppet regime in the South holding this pass while reporting to any Front authority or PLAF unit will be decently received and treated.

The Central Committee of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam.

All cadres, Liberation troops and compatriots please note: Decently receive and guide the bearer of this pass to report to the nearest Front authority or People’s Liberation Army Front unit.

I now return this article to John Irwin.

The OH47 Helicopter

After leaving the 101st, the major sent me to a separate reinforced battalion operation of the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Calvary of the 1st Cavalry Division at Phan Thiet on the far Southeast corner of II Corps.  Most of our actions were with the Headquarters Reconnaissance platoon.  We worked in the Phan Thiet area for several months.  Since I was on flight status, I could ride in any of the helicopters and planes.  As opposed to the 101st, the Cavalry had tons of helicopters.  I substituted as a gunner for C/1/9th Cavalry, reconnaissance OH47 "glass gunships." Some of the gunships, called "hogs" were equipped with 48 rockets. The Cavalry was the only unit which used "hogs," Aerial Rocket Artillery (ARA), callsign SPARK GAP and the Delta 229 gunships, callsign BOXKITE. I also flew as a substitute gunner for SPARK GAP and BOXKITE. The Cavalry helicopter battalions had colored symbols painted on the pilot doors. The 1st ARA battalion was Red, 227 was green, 228 black, 229 blue, 9th Cavalry yellow. Individual companies were identified with the symbols:  X was Headquarters, A was a delta, B was a square, C was a circle, and D was a diamond, in the battalion color.  Spark Gap, Boxkite, C/299 slicks and the C/1/9 helicopters, including the glass gunship platoon were at Phan Thiet. 

SP5 Irwin’s USAF 1st Air Commando Wing C-47 [callsign Gabby] on the ramp at Nha Trang.
The front door is open, rear door removed for the loudspeaker system.

USAF loudspeaker C47s [callsign GABBY] had an enlarged door to accommodate cargo, unlike the civilian or even WWII DC-3 versions. The door opened to the front, and the rear half of the door frame was left empty as a large speaker system was bolted to the floor, aimed out the opening. The radios and panels were virtual antique and the planes 20 years old. Near the rear of the plane, opposite the door, was a metal chute to disperse leaflets, one handful at a time, by us or the crew. C-47s often carried leaflet resupplies to the field units, as well as leaflets needed for the missions. We never got new cardboard boxes, only those scrounged from wherever. Since boxes fell apart in the humidity, we always had problems with boxes breaking loose or falling apart.

The C47 loudspeaker is mounted in the doorframe. There is no rear door since it would block the loudspeaker.
A second door was created forward to load and unload cargo and crew in the GABBY aircraft.

The civilian version of the U-10 [callsign SPEAK] is called the Helio Courier. The CIA used them on short fields or improvised locations to insert or extract personnel. The USAF used the same door configuration and mounted the same loudspeaker system from the C47 on the left side, just behind the pilot. Leaflet boxes were loaded into the back via the right-side rear door. This was the same door to insert or extract personnel in the CIA versions. The right front passenger (usually a psywar team member) got in first, and then the pilot, both through the left front door. U-10s had an amazing level of radios and avionics and two audio control panels. The planes had two VHF radios (Very High Frequency - normal civilian or airline radios), at least one UHF radio (Ultra High Frequency - military airplane radios), and at least one FM radio (Frequency Modulation - a lower frequency used by ground military units). Radios were called Victor (VHF), Uniform (UHF), and FM (Fox Mike), respectively.

For SPEAK missions, I usually wrote down the local unit FM frequency, the FM Brigade command frequency, the USAF Bird Dog Victor frequency, and the jet fighter frequency that RAGGED SCOOPER would use to direct bombing missions by the fighters. I always punched the numbers into the radios, but most pilots just let me play with the radios. Pilots didn't know or understand the callsigns and all the lingo used on Army FM radios. To me, the USAF VHF and UHF radios were a novelty and cool. I monitored the radio traffic, and often the pilot's panel was off for almost all radios. I can recall incidents when the monitored radio traffic, in mid-air, changed our mission. Once, northwest of Tuy Hoa, I heard on FM that a ground unit was chasing a smaller and cut off VC or NVA unit. I climbed into the back and broadcast an impromptu call to surrender while SPEAK circled the area. Another time, I heard RAGGED SCOOPER point out a tunnel entry north of Tuy Hoa by Highway 1. The Bird Dog pilot said he would mark the location with a rocket.On the UHF fighter frequency, I heard Red 3, one of the F100 fighter jets on the bombing mission, say the rocket was not needed as Red 3 would mark the location with a 500 pound bomb. I flipped the switch to let the pilot hear all the action, which had us charged up. After the bombing ended, SPEAK dropped down below our authorized altitude to drop leaflets on the site.

Our air support was from the 1st Air Commando Wing and several of their squadrons. I do not remember which of the wing’s several squadrons flew which planes. One flew the leaflet and loudspeaker U10 Helio Courier (AKA Useless One Zero), the Helio Courier is a cantilever high-wing light short takeoff and landing utility aircraft (callsign SPEAK), another flew the C-47 loudspeaker birds (callsign GABBY), others flew the 0-1 Birddogs (Callsign Ragged Scooper), C47 gunships (callsign SPOOK), the AD-1 FAC (forward air controllers over the Trail and North Vietnam, later replaced by fast FACs: F100 Super Sabres, and later F4s Phantoms, and another squadron flew the super-secret C130 gunships, (callsign SPECTRE).  My missions were in the C47, U10, and O1s.

The Air Medal

After one year in Vietnam, I was done.  One Air Medal, most of the way to a second, a Combat Infantry Badge, and lots of memories. The award of Air Medals during Vietnam was measured in hours. 200 hours were required. Submission of information to substantiate Air Medals included date, location, time in hours and minutes, type of mission, and type of aircraft, and usually the aircraft organization, often callsign, etc. I had a little over 300 hours. Since we had 2-3-4 guys with a field team, we took turns flying, some liked to fly, some didn't. We didn't have a mission every day, and weather was also an issue. Most of our missions were 1-2 hours. We also counted the "lifts" being transported in "slicks" UH-1D transport helicopters on landing zone assaults or extractions. Most of them we 10-15 minutes. Since I was on flight status, I could also get gunner time, which I previously mentioned. Early in the war, anyone could substitute as a gunner. That didn't work out well, and then flight status became required. Gunship flights were on an alert status and called out as needed, except for designated patrols or escorting a "lift," called an Eagle flight of ten ships, unless fewer were required. OH47 Glass gunships of the 1/9 Cavalry only allowed substitute gunners on their "last flight" at dusk. If the mission encountered heavy action, the 1st Battalion of the 9th Cavalry did not want an inexperienced gunner dealing with multiple additional helicopters, gunships, and incoming troops on an incoming Eagle flight lift during gunfire. The lack of daylight would prevent additional resources being sent to assist in dealing with whatever the last flight encountered.

John Liked to fly and often volunteered as a door gunner
He took the picture of this door gunner on a Vietnam helicopter mission.

The Cavalry had tons of helicopters, even flying standby while we searched on the ground. The 1st Infantry Division moved in battalion strength, with 7-10 Eagle flights to move the battalion. Each Eagle flight had 2 gunship escorts, plus the Landing Zone had a flight of about 10 gunships flying cover. The 101st Airborne Division walked, and often moved at night. I can recall walking 20-25 kilometers, just one platoon crossing an entire map, at night. Resupply was water, food, and ammunition brought in on the "Dustoff" air ambulance slicks sent to pick up our wounded. The 101st worked in platoon strength, in the boonies, just us, often out of range of artillery support, with no helicopters available for anything except Dustoff. There was a difference in how the Airborne was treated. I was probably the only one who worked in all three environments.Troops did not get moved between units, and only paratroopers got sent to Airborne units.

After I left on the first week of January 1967, my old 19th PSYOP Company was reassigned from 3rd SFG to IV Corps. The 6th PSYOP Battalion became the 4th PSYOP Group. The four PSYOP companies became the new 6th, 7th, 8th, and 10th PSYOP Battalions. I never saw any of that. When I got back to the USA, I was too “short” to qualify for Special Forces and ready to return to civilian life. If I requested Special Forces, I would need to reenlist. I was still in the Army, and the 82nd Military Intelligence Detachment (82nd Airborne Division) sent me to Fort Holabird for Interrogator school just before my discharge. My job description said I must be able to perform the duties of Interrogator, serve as principal operations NCO in strategic intelligence interrogation center at theater Army or higher headquarters; assist command and staff officers in intelligence operations and training situations for strategic intelligence interrogation activities. On 15 March 1968, I returned to civilian life.

As always, if any readers care to comment or send additional information I encourage them to write the author at sgmbert@hotmail.com.