On August 3, 1970, my younger brother’s birthday, I was assigned to a flight to take Captain Bob Walker to Long Bihn for DEROS. He was going home. Captain Walker was one of our most accomplished and respected scout pilots. I had flown many combat missions with Captain Walker while assigned to D- Troop of the 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment.
The next day, August 4, 1970, I was assigned to the 1st flight of 3 flights that had been working an A. O. (Area of Operations) near Song Mao, in the Central Highlands. Our unit had been receiving enemy fire around this A.O. so operations were very active and productive around the A. O. We began our low level search for enemy activity, bunkers, trails, hooches, etc, but early on, our search yielded nothing.
Suddenly, we received a radio call from our Command and control aircraft flying high overhead. We were abruptly being dispatched to fly support for our ground troops who were in contact with a company of V. C. Grid coordinates were given to us and we immediately pulled out of our current A. O. to fly to the new A.O.
We soon reached the area where enemy contact was most likely imminent. As per SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) I assumed my posting riding side saddle out of the front left seat of the Hughes 500 Helicopter, my M-60 Machine gun suspended from a bungie cord attached to the door handle and cradled in my arms at the ready position. We began to “LOACH around”, low and slow at tree top level. There were open low lying areas here with growths of bamboo scattered about. As we approached a clump of bamboo that we could fly over, with our skids nearly touching the tops of the bamboo, my pilot stated; “Watch that clump of bamboo, there could be bad guys in there.” As soon as we were over top of this clump of bamboo, we encountered a large explosion. We are sure that the V. C. had set and aimed an anti personnel mine skyward and blew it as we passed above it. The helicopter pitched violently up and to the right as if making an extreme right banking turn. Small arms fire engulfed us and I could feel the helicopter start to vibrate, and then I felt the “thwack” and thud of something hitting me in my left thigh. I was on the intercom shouting; “I’m hit, I’m hit. A very distinct and pungent taste of metal came through my mouth and jaws. I monitored the instrument panel for abnormalities and found that some of our instruments were not working. Fortunately, the helicopter got us gar enough away from our point of contact where we set down. Our Cobra Gunships expended all of their ordinance on the point of contact. Enemy casualties were unknown.
I was flown to an aid station where metal fragments from an AK-47 armor piercing round were removed from three holes in my leg. The helicopter was severely damaged and sent back to the States for structural repair.
I was fortunate that I did not take the full force of the round. I healed in country and returned to flying. I was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in action and I was working on my 4th Air Medal when my tour ended in April of 1971.
We honor you, Richard Christensen.
(#Repost @National Purple Heart Hall of Honor)