On the morning of June 2nd, 1970, I received a call from the Clark Command Post asking me if I would volunteer for a mission. They told me two helicopter pilots had been shot down and were badly burned. The doctors were afraid that if they did not get them out of the country, they would not survive. The controller told me that I was not ordered to take this mission and that it would likely be dangerous. It was strictly up to me. I told him to alert my crew and I would be in operations in 20 minutes. At that time I was a 1Lt aircraft commander on the C-141 Starlifter and had been flying in and out of Southeast Asia for almost two years. I had never heard of a C-141 landing at Pleiku since the very early days of the war. When I landed on the short Pleiku runway and taxied up to operations, I was met by the base commander. As they were loading my patients, the commander told me that the presence of a C-123 was enough to trigger a base attack. He said that the C-141 would positively result in an attack and urged me to hasten my departure. I was able to get enough fuel to make Yokota. I had the engines running when one of the doctors came on the flight deck and told me he had forgotten some instrument. By that time, there was a full attack against the base. The doctor turned white as the observed the explosions. I then asked him if he had to have those instruments to which he replied, “I can do without them.” I then made a quick exit. A hail of tracers lit up both sides of the jet on departure. I believe the base was laying down fire suppression to clear our path.
Here is the reason for this post. I never learned the names of those two pilots or whether they recovered. It is something I have wondered about all these years. During my two years as an airlift pilot I probably carried 2,000 wounded out of the Vietnam and only experienced one death. The next 25 years I flew fighters. Perhaps someone is familiar with the event on June 2nd. I would like to hear from you.