Wisconsin Veterans Museum

Oral History Interview with William Rettenmund

Wisconsin Veterans Museum


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[Interview Begins]

DERKS: First thing I'm gonna have you do is say and spell your name.

RETTENMUND: Alright, I can do that. I'm William Rettenmund Junior. It's R-e-t-t-e-n-m-u-n-d.

DERKS: When we identify you on screen do want William or do you want Bill?

RETTENMUND: William's fine, I guess, I usually go by Bill. You can call me Bill.

DERKS: So how did it happen that you became a serviceman?

RETTENMUND: Well like most people in those days, the draft was going on. And most people wound up getting drafted anyway. At least in my age group, although I was 21 when I got drafted in 1965. The 1st Cav and the 1st Infantry and the Marines were just going over. Just a little--you know about during May, June, 00:01:00when I got drafted and went through basic training. And I expected to go--I was--I was working commercial artist and, and figured one of these days I'll get called up and. And, and wanted to go. It was something that my family all the way back relatives and friends you know, was on the draft and gettin drafted and the like. But, I know--some of the kids were a lot younger than me that got drafted. I was drafted with four guys, my first cousin and two of my classmates. Well, we only had forty in our class and you know to have four of us get drafted, and our serial numbers are one apart. You know we were standing down in Milwaukee together and fortunately they went to Germany. And uhh--


DERKS: Everybody else but you?

RETTENMUND: Everybody else but me so. And one was a radio operator, and two artillery guys which were good ones for going to Vietnam but they didn't so--I was happy about it, I--I knew people, my cousin landed on the boat, Russel Rettenmund Jr. and got off with the first infantry division in June. And so by the time I got there--I was in a unit that supported him. And--

DERKS: When did you get there?

RETTENMUND: I got there in May. Took me about two and a half weeks to get there on the USS John Pope, and we left Fort Benning where our company was formed 00:03:00and--wasn't too far from AIT where helicopter training was going on. They took 25 of us out of the class and shipped us--and bussed up to Fort Benning for a new outfit that was going to Vietnam, the 162 Assault helicopter company.

DERKS: How did you get into helicopters?

RETTENMUND: Well maybe they put all artists in helicopters cause when you get drafted they put you where ever the heck they feel like what-- There was four--Three of us out of a hundred and twenty in basic training that went to the aviation school and one of them I went to Vietnam with, the other guy stayed there as a teach--instructor at Fort Rucker.

DERKS: What was that training like?

RETTENMUND: Which one? Basic training--

DERKS: When you were in helicopters

RETTENMUND: Basically, it was school maintenance. Our first class was figuring 00:04:00out how an airplanes fly and then we went on to helicopters and how they fly. And I went through a school for the same helicopter that was on M.A.S.H., the H-13 and the Raven. And so I could pull maintenance on them. And that's what what I was was a maintenance personnel. And then I went to school as a Huey. So you sort of graduate from one to the next to the next and when I got out of school, then they shipped up to Benning anyway so.

DERKS: Tell me about the Huey.

RETTENMUND: Huey. Well, it's probably one of the most famous helicopters. I think the Huey in a from one to ten falls about 4 as far as the best known or 00:05:00good helicopters. Huey was had a turbine engine and L-11, 1,300 horsepower turbine engine. First Hueys got there earlier in the--in the war. There were already quite a few companies in Vietnam even since '62 there was helicopter companies supporting the Vietnamese. And only until '65 when the Infantry, Marines and like needed support, either they had their own helicopters or in my case we were an assault company. And attached, doing most of our jobs for the 1st Infantry Division--on call for them. And we weren't part of the 1st Infantry like the 1st Air Cav was where they were all first--1st Cavs so. And when we 00:06:00weren't working for them we worked for the 25th Infantry, we worked for whoever--Vietnamese, oh Australians--and anyway I was in the--about 45 miles North of Saigon, a place called Phuoc Vinh. And that held, was used to be the First Infantry headquarters until they moved to Lai Khe about, I think about 25 miles away. And uh, but we still supported them so they stayed there most of the time. Huey--had to keep working on all the time. Every twenty-five hours you had to do oil filters and fuel filters and stuff like that. I did that and 50 hours you took it in to maintenance and they did a higher echelon type. 100 hours you started stripping the thing down and, and rooter blades all that, that type. 00:07:00Then--I never. I had-- What did I? 560 hours on my last helicopter so I never got to engine changes and things like that. It was always brand new, I had three of them and -and the first one had a 144 hours, second one 355, and the last one 650 so--and--

DERKS: What did you watch out for? Were there problem areas with the Huey?

RETTENMUND: Well--bearings, tail rooter-type you--pulling an inspection usually accounted for looking, pulling, tugging at push-pull tubes and see if you, and you got the feel of you know if the bearings were starting sloppy. And then 00:08:00you'd, the pilots went and had their own inspection too in the morning or at night, a post inspection. And so you'd tell 'em, cause I always got there first and the maintenance person on a Huey was the crew chief, and they flew and we flew. The Huey had four personnel, we had a pilot and an aircraft commander was in charge of the aircraft you know. And then I had a door gunner which was in charge of the guns, he cleaned 'em up every night and brought 'em out in the morning. And he'd help me with cleaning up, sweeping out whatever you know-- Some of these guys actually graduated into being a mechanic too. But mechanic was a kind of yeah--You know I would do the work, find out what was wrong from 00:09:00what I found out with the pilots what was happening in the air and then I'd go get avionics for the radios or whatever type of thing. It was-- kind of in you know in charge, I was in charge when we're flying though, loading, unloading, you know where the-- All of our storage of boxes of stuff; I carried all kinds of things, everything from ice cream to water to whatever the infantry would need: ammunition, parts. We--we tested a lot of stuff, tear gas canisters--throw 'em out the door you know. And so the crew chief was in charge of how its loaded, keep it towards the mass, towards the back and I saw one helicopter that 00:10:00had a whole bunch of avionics equipment but it was too far forward and the helicopter couldn't clear a building on take off and killed all four of them plus I think three or four high ranking officers too so. And just because they had too much equipment forward and then couldn't get the nose up. But the--the pilot usually didn't have a lot of training other than from school. In the 162nd when I got there, there was twenty-three Majors, two Captains, and about three Lieutenants, and not one Warrant Officer. We were supposed to have all Warrant Officers, Captain for a C.O., and a Lieutenant for that was supposed to be X.O. And said we had--we had a Major that was twice passed over for Lieutenant 00:11:00Colonel and so we had lots of Brass so to speak. And about half of the majors flew right on through the whole year with me and--I got us out of trouble once in a while then too, and its a Lieutenant that's trying to push you around and everything and the Major gets out and opens up his coat and there he is a Major and the guys you know so. But uh--

DERKS: So this is a Lieutenant from the troops you're supporting?

RETTENMUND: Yeah, he was. In this particular case was more pronounced, he was from the 1st Infantry and he wanted me to get out and unload and, and we were going in and out so quickly I didn't have time to pull my helmet off you know and the seatbelt and get out and help load, and then we had to take off again go 00:12:00get some more supplies so it was up to the Lieutenant to get more people to help. Sometimes I would, you know if we had more time, but uh. I love those jobs, they it was called "Ash and Trash" or carrying people or supplies. And we went all over the place, I went to special forces camps, a leper colony, hauled Donut Dollies around, newsmen, newswomen, even had cameras mounted and that type jobs [inaudible]. I had an entire helicopter filled up with ice cream one time in a big kinda bag like big square thing and--the four of us had four gallons of ice cream before we left but uh. And we used to haul beer and sometimes you have a beer you know or two or so. The infantry never had a problem with that. I'd 00:13:00even tell 'em, I said well we just ate some ice cream or just had a beer; that's fine as long as we get--get it delivered to us. So we were a big delivery type thing. That's usually what the slicks do in a non-combat assault position. We had two jobs, which was combat assault where the infantry would be taken in--assaulted into an LZ and if you wanna know about that type of thing we usually went in from 1,500 feet and went into the LZ, ten of us and in ahead of us the gunships were shooting and ahead of them the artillery was hitting and trying to soften up the landing zone for us so. And then usually we tried to land all ten of us at the same time, and it was a wild ride, it's coming off of 00:14:001,500 feets' like riding a roller coaster. And jumping around and pretty hairy and usually right before oh maybe a couple hundred feet out we'd--they'd tell us open up with the door guns, because I had a gun and my gunner had one too so. Most of my tour I had an M-60 mounted in the door and before that I had a free bungie corded M-60. And when I first got there I had my M-14 stuck out the door shooting that so. And a few other, a few crew chiefs and door gunners were shaking their heads they had never heard of anything like that, but other than maybe some of the guys that were Medevac you know that didn't have armament on it. Our gunships, we had eight gunships including the one over at the museum 00:15:00that came over and they all had oh fifteen hours of flight time--test hours. And all, we had sixteen unarmed helicopters or "Slicks" which was what I was on. And our gunships supported us and so usually they had to have a light two helicopters or have maybe three or four helicopters up and we had sixteen "Slicks" and we had to have ten flyable all the time. And uh--

DERKS: What does that mean, light and heavy?

RETTENMUND: A light fire team might be two helicopters, a heavy could be as little as three helicopter gunships and could be more than that, could be five and--And it just depends on you usual--- you don't fly with one gunship, you always have a wingman and our gunships were the, we took the first 540 rooter 00:16:00systems over there they were called--C Models and they were upgraded B's and these gunships had you know five shot rockets, sixteen shots, most of them had four M-60's mounted on it. And that would were flex guns and [inaudible]. Shooting went into 'em.

DERKS: Who controlled those?

RETTENMUND: Well, the pilot and the aircraft commander, all depends on which; they had sites on both sides, one for the rockets, and one for the gunship flex guns. And in the case of 1.5.7. Over there it had, also had a 40-millimeter gun in the nose. It was our only 40-millimeter gunship and to have it all these years show back up in Madison is, is pretty surprising anyway for--especially 00:17:00when you find it yourself.

DERKS: Tell me about that, how that happened.

RETTENMUND: I was visiting some, some seminar that was going on. I only work three days a week and so Thursday or Friday if there's something going on I go up to the museum and listen to 'em and. And I'd always seen this gunship since 2002 sitting or hanging from the ceiling. And way back there in my helicopter crewman's association that I belong to, had a request from the Madison museum for somebody to help put it together, 'cause they got it from an Iowa National Guard in pieces or parts, wasn't pieces but uh. And so, I called up right away, well I hear a couple guys I guess from Milwaukee had put it together, but my magazine only comes out every three months so it could be almost as much as 5 or 00:18:006 months before that would have shown up. So, I always went in there and looked at it and finally at this meeting I said to the guy, can I, well you know when I was looking at that there's nothing on the helicopter that shows if it was in Vietnam. And if it was in Vietnam, there was no you know any combat hours on it. And like veterans that come back are issued the Vietnamese service, Vietnamese campaign you know, and helicopters usually have combat time or hours, flight hours. And civilian have just flight hours and, and so I wanted to find out if it was available. So, I asked the guy who was giving the speech, Bill, and he said go ahead, if he finds out something about it it'd be interesting to know. So, I went home and, and now you can get on the computer and find out all kinds 00:19:00of stuff. Air force has got almost all the helicopters on there from the army even. And so, I punched it in and up comes the, the tail number and the tail number kind of bothered me because--well a year ago I did a model for one of the crew chiefs that was killed in Vietnam from Milton Junction, one of the guys I know, he was killed right after I left. And so I thought maybe I'd do a model of his gunship and it was about four letters off, it was so close and I thought wow you know. And so when I pulled it up on the screen there was about oh seven or eight combat incidence that happened to it and the, and then I started reading--it said "1st Unit, 162nd" and said, that's, that's a Copperhead what the heck. You know and 'cause, to tell you the truth years ago 00:20:00I, I woulda liked to have been involved with it, I'd have tried to make it look like a Copperhead 'cause then too but uh-- Even though I wasn't on a gunship, but I walked around this one and 'cause it's the only one I could remember, all the rest of them looked the same except this one with the 40 millimeter on front.

DERKS: What does a Copperhead look like?

RETTENMUND: Copperhead is the, is the name of our gunship unit. We were called Vultures, one sixty second Vultures, and our gun teams was the Copperheads. And it, just a little [inaudible] type of thing. We were all One sixty second, and then even we had two platoons, eventually they got--the two platoons were named and had patches made and stuff like that to try and make 'em stand out a little bit more from the first platoon to the second platoon to the gunships and--


DERKS: So how do you make it look like a Copperhead?

RETTENMUND: Well, this one here, Copperheads had a yellow tailboom, or tail rotor drive shaft cover. And later on it had a red one, and then on the side it had a big number, woulda had a big '7' on the side maybe about 12 inches high. And then on the elevators, the sink elevators that stick out on the side that kind of help in the aerodynamics of the helicopter and fly it. That had an '11' from 'cause we were eleventh aviation battalion. And the stripe was probably about 4 inches striped and then in the center of it we had a red stripe so. It was even, 4 inches, 4 inches, 4 inches, or maybe it was six, six, six, I forget. And the red stood for the 162, green stood for the 173rd Robin Hoods our sister 00:22:00company, and the one 128 Tomahawks had a yellow, and their was marked up that way. And then on the tail right in front of the stabilizer there were vertical ones, same size mark on it. And then I think all of our, all of our roofs or hood, or the top right behind the greenhouse or the windows above your head or the pilots head was fluorescent orange and to kind of be able to 'em when they're on the, the ground a little bit better. But that was about it. We was there--our first unit there, or first, and so we went pretty well by the book and so there wasn't a lot of graphics on it. We didn't name our helicopters, I know this gunship wound up having sharks teeth painted on by the first pilot that, that was there, Captain Berry. And so the, the 40 millimeter gun in the 00:23:00front looked pretty menacing with the and-- But, and then when a later on one to be with the sharks and it had teeth all over the front of it. But before it came back so.

DERKS: So, you were pretty excited when you found that?

RETTENMUND: Oh, definitely, I was, I needed a safety belt to keep me in my chair you know. There was people I had to call right away. I had to call a guy in Cross Plains who was a gunship crew chief and, and so he woulda been interested in it then too 'cause he flew the same type of model with the Tomahawks. When I came back, actually, he met me at church in Mazo and said he was going over, and I said: what outfit? You know, and I couldn't believe he was going over in the same area supporting the same people in just my sister company anyway so-- I try 00:24:00to quickly teach or say a few things that I thought of but--

DERKS: Like what?

RETTENMUND: Well, things to watch out for. When I went to Benning out of school, we had pilots had returned from Vietnam. Like I say, some of them were there as early as '62 and so they had us watching things like if anything was fooled around with the gas port where the plug that you screw in there. And some say they put a piece of tape on it or something like that so if the tape was broken you had to worry about some Sapper coming in and dropping a grenade in there with tape around it and the AV, JP-4 Aviation fuel would eat away at the adhesive and try to come apart, and that wouldn't have been good for if you were 00:25:00in the air so. Either for the whole thing to come apart but--so it's [inaudible]. Like that we watched out for. You know, maybe the things you yank on first. But uh, you keep an eye on. Basically, it was so dry during the dry season we had to keep an eye on the filters all the time. And you gotta go, I went up there any time I could and pulled 'em off and knocked out the grass and all that stuff that was up there. Tried to keep the engine so it was taking in pretty good air and-- 'Cause it depends by not having enough air in a turbine engine the power is lost more, and when you gotta have, when you got seven infantry guys on board and all their equipment, couple hundred pounds a piece, that's a lot of weight to be lifting off and you need all the power you can. And 00:26:00sometimes if they didn't have enough power they didn't clear the tree line, we lost our first door gunner that way. Had one of the guys I went to school with, he was burned up really bad and the door gunner was burnt and I think three infantry guys were burned to death.

DERKS: Cause it went down?

RETTENMUND: Yeah it, it just went right into the trees, you know he just couldn't make it over the trees and, and maybe it was because it was early in the year and the pilots that didn't have as enough, as much practice naturally the more time that goes by the more practiced are you. It's sort of like putting a coat on for pilots, and you know everything is just, every little move and everything is felt all the way through. You're feeling your feet for mini vibrations and usually they come from the tail rotor if you have problems there.


DERKS: We talked to some pilots about that, about becoming one with the bird. Was it like that for you as well as the crew chief? Did you sort of listen to the engine and feel for vibrations and that sort of thing?

RETTENMUND: Oh yeah, you, there was vibrations normally in it and a little more on the high freq and normal with two rotor blades you bounce around a little bit. And the more weight you got in it the more sometimes it'll bounce too so. And wind turbulence does all that, be and, you know if you, if you look at as a passenger in a car, and you either trust or don't trust the driver makes you nervous. You know, and--Like my wife I ask her every once in a while are you happy with my driving you know and-- Oh yea, well I was happy with the pilots, 00:28:00there were some I was not. Especially after a crash that was kind of caused by the pilots. But then I wound up flying with them after, just a couple days later and was quite nervous about that anyway. I was not much for flying, I didn't like heights, and flying there isn't much to heights, you know you don't have anything that says how high you are. It's just a normal thing for people, you're either attached to the ground or you're not. And for you know hundreds of thousands of years, we've always been attached to the ground and so you're afraid of heights that way but when we've only been in the air since 1900, and 00:29:00so its a little harder. Easier to get used to, you don't see it as or feel it. And the more confidence you got the more you gotta ride, and common assaults was, was hard because-- Well first off you're going in an area that could get fire from, you're going in with ten helicopters we usually flew with on a normal common assault with the first infantry. And we had seven aboard and, but usually we went in from 1,500 feet and then come down right into the LZ. Sometimes we came in from low level and so then you're flying right at the tree tops you know a hundred miles an hour, a hundred and ten, whatever. And you're real close together, you try to keep packed in there, but when you come down and you can see the LZ right below you and you're 1,500 feet, you, that's pretty steep 00:30:00incline. And the faster you can get down, the harder it is for them to hit ya. And that's why we went down. Some outfits would almost auto rotate in, but then you're standing on top of another helicopter right underneath you with a tail rotor going back and forth and each pilot is right on and they have to trust the pilot behind them that they don't take the rotor or tail rotor off or hit the rotor blades and never had anything like that happen to our unit. Got all the way through with out any midair's, we had some close calls and stuff, but most of our stuff happened on the ground.

DERKS: You had said sometimes you auto rotate down in, and I was wondering what that meant?

RETTENMUND: Well auto rotating is a part of emergency procedures that the pilots do if the engine is lost. They usually drop the collective, collective which is 00:31:00on the side which makes the helicopter go up and down and bottom it out and we drop like a rock, a green rock or in our case olive drab rock so. And right before you smash into the ground you pull the power up and you can land perfect you know and set her right on down. Not a lot of maneuvering with it because you're just going down. Oh, I did have one pilot who actually auto rotated back and turned around and went back. And even the other pilots couldn't believe he could do that, but actually he got distinguished flying draws for it anyway and set her down on an opener. Otherwise he woulda come right down in the jungle anyway so. And--But I auto rotated I don't know how many times. First time for 00:32:00real was I had a battery problem and I was flying ten, I was the number tenth, and my sister company had their maintenance helicopter behind, behind me and the gun teams were up front. And the maintenance helicopter says you're billowing white smoke out of the back, and at about the time he's saying it I can start to smell it, and looked out sure it was just white smoke just coming out and so. The pilot just dropped the collective and we dropped down and it was a rice patty and of course we were a power descent though too whad--drop like an auto rotation. Usually, well anyway might's well finish the story, there was a battery, a Ni-Cad Battery in the back and the tail tried to explode and it was 00:33:00all kind of puffed out. It was supposed to be square but it looked kinda like a ball. And it didn't blow, if it had, mighta took the tail off, and that wouldn't have been good. But, so they just put another battery in up front and started her up and we took off. Helicopters will fly without battery in there, but if you shut 'em down then you have starting, you can't start 'em.

DERKS: So what happens if you lose your tail when you're flying?

RETTENMUND: You wanna go the opposite direction that the, the tail rotors there to keep you going straight, and so when you add power or you're using the cyclic for turning or coming back you use your foot pedals to add more bite to the rotor blades in the tail rotor in the back. If you lose that, it wants to spin 00:34:00the opposite direction of the rotor blades which are counter- clockwise, it wants to go clockwise. And if you, in during a tail rotor failure or one reason or other, you have to keep a speed I think at least 35 miles an hour so the wind going by would kinda keep you straight, give you a little idea on that. Anything less than that she starts to come around on ya you know so. I knocked a tail rotor off of one helicopter and we kind of spun around and dumped it on its side, but-- Auto rotation getting back to that, it's was practiced all the time and if we had the instructor pilot along you knew you were gonna do auto rotations some time during the day you know. Even in full load you know maxed 00:35:00out loaded we did an auto rotation. He would just kinda turn the throttle off and-- And all of the sudden the pilot over on the right side would have to drop and go into auto rotation figuring that of course with the in-- The instructor pilot along all the time, he's probably on his toes you know. 'Cause he wants to fly right because he can get chewed out by this guy you know even if he's lower rank, he's the instructor pilot so. I don't, I can't say how many we've done or I've done. It was one of the things you practiced, you practiced tail rotor failure landings, you'd come in and land like an airplane at 30 40 miles an hour on the grass along side the runway. And slide right in, and take off, go around and do another one. And that's how we would practice if you lost it anyway and you were still moving. You know, auto rotations then too, and sometimes with the 00:36:00new guys coming in and the instructor pilots took 'em up for training, you know I shook my head and I said, "I got better things to do," you know. So I went into maintenance worked on something that had done and let 'em fly with out a crew chief, and up and down. I think maybe I'm speaking out of, out of knowledge or not knowledge, but I think civilian pilots don't practice auto rotations as much maybe as they should. But military pilots do it all the time, it's just one of those things that's gotta be--gotta be there you know. Instantly the pilot puts the helicopter on after a while and, and he can almost second guess it.

DERKS: You wouldn't really have time to figure it out

RETTENMUND: Yeah, it was just look for a spot and get in. Hopefully you're up high enough that you can--well, the lower you are, the harder it is to auto 00:37:00rotate 'cause the time lagged as he drops the collective, any time at all, you've dropped that distance with no power, and the rotor blades wanna stop turning too. And so at low level it's difficult to do an auto rotation that way. But they have other things I guess the pilots do, but like I said I was never was pilot so I'm not--been there when they done 'em , so my helicopter but..

DERKS: No desire to ever get up there and take control?

RETTENMUND: No not, not really. I like to be in control driving the car and I suppose if you went to the army and you practice and practice and go good enough to solo and everything I feel confident but I didn't have any desire. Being a 00:38:00draftee too I was only in for two years and that's, I wanted to get back out and go--get back into art school, and get back to working that way. 'Cause everybody else behind me did the, didn't make it a career. It was a good career, it was an okay career, it just wasn't the thing that I you know decided on doing. If I would I'd stay in aviation but--

DERKS: When you're at 1,500 feet and you're going in for a landing, what's the adrenaline like on that?

RETTENMUND: Well, if you're going in on a combat assault, you're really high and 00:39:00watching and tensed up. You know, I've gone on roller coasters since and I hate 'em. And I you know, it's that gut feeling that you get where you're kind of tied up in knots and you're-- Anyway it's you, you get a little bit used to it after a while and some people just love the heck out of it, that was their thing. But for me it was more of, uptight type of thing and -- I, when I went over in a boat, they had made me a crew chief out of these 25 guys that came from Fort Rucker. And they assigned us a helicopter and I'm an E-2, right out of school, wasn't even P.F.C. yet, and it's the E-5 slot. And so we got training 00:40:00from these pilots and stuff and when [inaudible] when I was going over to the boat I said to myself, self, you know you've never really committed yourself and the army wants you to be a helicopter mechanic and a crew chief that fly's all the time, you gotta get your butt off of this being afraid of flight or heights and stuff, and stick around. And that's kind of what I did, it would just, I just lived with it. It was not very smart thing to do, I shoulda went in maintenance and stayed there. I like flying because the day went by awful fast and sometimes it was four hour days, sometimes a twelve hour day out. And sometimes it was Sunday, ohh if it was Sunday I usually knew it was Sunday 'cause we hauled the, the church people around, and yay--it's Sunday. But, so 00:41:00seven days a week of working it gets all tied and put together and you don't even know which end is up sometimes. I guess as far as being uptight, going into combat assault, it wears on you. My best friend who left about six months into, went to, went to another company and of course all of us that came over at the same time went back same time. And he came, when he saw me the first time he says, he thought something was the matter with me you know. And I looked different, talked different, I thought I was fine. You know, seemed-- But it was just I don't know, just an uptight feeling. When I got in the, on the big bird 00:42:00coming back I was kind of nervous 'cause I wasn't out kicking the tires. Part of my satisfaction in trusting was that I do the best job as I possibly could, 'cause my butt is in the sling up there and that's why the army puts you bored lots of times too, so that you-- You're flying and well you better do a good job or maybe there be some consequences involved. I tried drinking, I hated throwing up when you're flying, never drank again. It would just, hangovers just-- I usually wore earplugs and a helmet to try to keep the noise down and--From the turbine engine squealing away, and so, I don't know-- What else--I kind of lost my train of thought there too.


DERKS: When you talk about the engines, so many veterans talk about that sound of the Heli.

RETTENMUND: Mm hmm, yeah, the womp, womp, womp yea. I still run out of the house yet if a, even when a medevac goes, goes by. Even though I know 'cause it's got three blades, it's quieter. The two blades just pound and heck-- Especially in the morning when the dews' a little, it goes up it just pounds away. And surprisingly you could still come in pretty quiet if the wind is blowing towards you when you're coming in. But, if the wind is blowing away, can hear you a long way off and the rattling of the, ten helicopters is kind of fun being up there with ten other guys and, crew chiefs anyway.

DERKS: Tell me about when you would take off in those missions. You were in a line, you had the gunships up front, however many slicks there were, and you had 00:44:00sister companies. What was that like loading up and heading out?

RETTENMUND: Well, I'll try to hurry it up--when I get up in the morning, I pull an inspection. Say we gotta take off at seven on a combat assault, I already know it. If I don't, then I got into operations find out, and, or the pilot will come out and tell me anyway. And I get shaved and my steel pot and-- Go get breakfast and head out the fly line with my helmet and lots of times it was my M-14 I carried along. And then you pull inspection on the thing. Well, the pilots would show up, they'd do their inspections and we'd climb aboard and there are ten helicopters on this lift say. Maybe we gotta have a fire team or three gunships or getting ready to go so. We all crank about the same time and 00:45:00'cause there's no use sitting there waiting for the last ship to crank so. Flight leader will call back and tell to crank 'er up and I've already been out and undone the rotor blades and watching the engine when they start and all that. And usually we fly then to an LZ or a pick up zone--PZ. Some place, and occasional at Phuc Vinh they were on the run way, so we'd just all ten of us would pick up and move over to the runway and, and, and load up the, the troops. We had three rows of helicopters and lots of times we would take off right from our pads and then come together in the air as a--the ten of us flying either 00:46:00echelon left or, or flying in a straight line, or maybe we'd have one on the left, one on the right, and one in the middle you know it all depends. And meet up, upstairs, and we go to the pick up zone and on the way up there I usually get my gun ready, loaded up 'cause I didn't load it on the ground anyway. And make sure it was looked like it was ready to go and-- We'd go to the pick up zone and usually there, there were, if we had one lift there was seven guys and they were placed about a helicopter apart and-- And so we would, lead would land and seven guys would climb aboard. And if I was number 4, I'd land in the number 4 spot and even if I knew I was in the number 4 spot, I'd actually go out. We 00:47:00had numbers we put on the side of the helicopter and I'd put a '4' on there. And so, even the infantry would knew they were getting on number 4 so. And, so then when we're all loaded, lead would give us--Well usually trail would say we're up, we're loaded. And, 'cause he can see all the helicopters up front, and then so lead will say, pull pitch, and so we would all take off the same time. And as we're heading to the landing zone, we, there's nobody up there, they would tell us we're gonna fire when we go into the landing zone or suppress fire. And already the artillery is hitting and up there from some outfit that hitting the landing zone. And then that usually a white phosphorous will go in and then 00:48:00maybe the jets will come in, F-4s or, or whatever Navy that operated you know North of Saigon anyway. And they would put their ordinance in, into the tree line, and so when we came, we came in about couple hundred feet. They would say door gunners open up, so we would just whatever looked like would hide somebody we shot at. And, but it didn't take very long you know I had 500 rounds in the box or 1,500 I guess [inaudible]. You chewed in there, towards the middle of my tour I realized that tracers make quite a difference as far as seeing. And I would think the Vietcong seeing tracers coming down would be nervous and get down. So I went to a, a tank outfit and I got solid tracers from their, their 00:49:00guns that would put, that would fire the M-60 and then get the big guns to goin 'cause they'd see where it's hitting and they'd stop one--start the big one. So for the rest of it, I always had loaded up with solid tracers. I didn't shoot enough to really burn up a barrel like the gunships did. But I put a lot of red streaks going down you know. And I thought maybe it'd help me and help the crew keeping them off our back anyway, and keeping 'em hidden so we can get down, land, and as soon as the trail would say we're up, all of us would take off. And uh, or unloaded type a, type of thing. 'Cause when you're coming in and landing, and you land all at the same time, they give you, you give them ten helicopters to shoot at. If one comes in and lands, number 2 comes in and lands, you get one to shoot at each time, and it's-- We found it was a lot--Well, attrition rate 00:50:00could run a lot higher in bullet holes and stuff like that to in one helicopter than it would be sporadic all the way. They didn't know who to shoot at you know there was so many of them. And so then we would all take off at the same time, same reason, and the gun team that was in front of us prepping the LZ would swing back around and came in, come in and by that time and following us out. And they would also tell lead if they got received fire say from the North or right side of the, of the helicopter. The lead would probably say let's make a left turn as we leave the LZ and hopefully they weren't setting us up, but we tried to use everything they could, and then we came low level for a short difference and up to 1,500 as quick as we could. 1,500, why do I say 1,500 all 00:51:00the time? Was an arbitrary height that we felt small arms fires could not be accurate. You could hit somebody at 1,500 with an AK or, ah, you know, you could with an old Garand or whatever. It could be done, but a lot less chance of it happening, and so that's why we flew at 1,500. Or you flew on the deck, you were right down on top of you know 6, 10 feet off the grass or six feet off the trees, sometimes in the trees or between trees going up a valley or something going as fast as you could 'cause all of the sudden even with the heavy rotor blades of ten helicopters, lots of times they didn't realize you were there until you're already past. And of course ten helicopters, the easiest, the hardest job is I'd say for receiving fire would probably be four back. All 00:52:00depends on however long the [inaudible]. Or the North Vietnamese could get on once they first saw the lead helicopter go by. And get up there and start shooting. And the, the last ounces coming, coming through-- That's why we, we flew in a fairly tight formation. So, it didn't, so we all went by pretty fast anyway. But. I know whenever a door gunner got shot we were right down in the trees off a, off a river 'cause they told us the morning before that there was supposed to be a Quad-50 out there. And this was, even I knew what Quad-50 was, from World War 2 stuff. And we didn't like, that was heavy and that could hit us at 1,500 feet without that much problem, especially four barrels going. And so we stayed down in the deck for that, that mission. But, my gunner still got shot 'cause we were about the fourth or fifth one back and he got, just took one hit 00:53:00and went through his arm all the way through. Come out about foot off to my, to the right of me and through all the fuel cells. And I was down waiting for fuel cells, 'cause the crew chiefs fly with the helicopter and they're in charge and so it goes into maintenance, crew chief goes into maintenance too. My door gunner went back, we were still, we still had, I don't know, I guess I can just go on--rattle--

DERKS: Well, I was wondering what that moment was like when he got shot.

RETTENMUND: Well, it was--when I, when we first received fire, lead or second are receiving fire, I could see, I always watched real careful. And I always had my, my outside communications on, 'cause I could reach up and turn my outside 00:54:00off and just have Com from the interior. And I saw the smoke go out 'cause we always threw white or red smoke out the door as soon as we received fire. Hopefully the gunships could get on the smoke and know kinda what area he's in. Well pilots ordered, lead order everybody open up. So we all started firing, I got about, I think about ten shots off and my gun jammed. So I reached in and pulled a operating rod back and I got about five shots off that time. I pulled her back and got another five off, and I was saying god damn, Edge what's the matter with my machine gun? And then I turned and looked over and I could see the pilot was looking back at me and I could see little red dots coming on the pilot's visor. Even with the windshield up front, pilots always had their visors down and so. Well for me, I had to have it down 'cause the wind was pretty, 00:55:00pretty rough. And he finally said the door gunners hit, and, and then all the Vietnamese that we had about eight or nine on board 'cause we can take more of them started sliding over on my side over to the right. And so I un, unhooked my belt and climbed over the, the seat and went over to him and asked where are you hit, and he said in the left elbow and that was the last thing he said, but-- And so one of the Vietnamese hand me a little pack off his belt but it had real long streamers on it so I thought I'd try to do a tourniquet. He had a field jacket on and the blood was coming out of his field jacket, out of the cuff and the bottom and-- So I was gonna try to get tourniquet going and it kept wrapping around the bungee cord and he had a bungee cord on his gun, and he just sat there. And Edge was a black man, and he was turning white, it was just gray and 00:56:00the like, and so I said, I had to do something so I jammed my thumbs up underneath his armpits and hung on. And then the pilots say well you know how is he? And I can't talk without pressing the button, and so I had to take one down and press the button. We gotta get out of here, he's hit pretty good and there's blood all over the helicopter this time 'cause the blood comes from the back and flies forward, and it kind of like cuts the helicopter in half and gets everything pretty messy. And so I hung on and we went in the [inaudible] which wasn't very far away. It seemed like it was I suppose, well it seemed like a half hour, hour, but probably 10 minutes. And we put down in the, and the guy was out with stretchers and, and I unhooked him and still hung on as they were 00:57:00getting' him off. And I told them where he was hit and hanging, I thought they would do the same thing, but they just put him on the stretcher and ran off, ran off with him. And I remember my thumbs I could hardly feel 'em. Especially the back part of my thumbs from hanging on. But I remember too that when I was, when I first grabbed him, the blood stopped. And I know it wasn't a coincidence 'cause I didn't really have training in that. We had some first aid, we weren't medics or anything like that. I knew arterial, you know where to grab for that type of stuff, and so I knew in the arm, get up in the armpits, if you don't know where it is to try to cut it off that way. So apparently it must have worked okay, and he went back to the states and he turned out okay, I never heard from him again, but it was kinda hard. Well first off trying to clean all 00:58:00the blood out the helicopter with a empty ammo can and some muddy water. And the, but the hardest part is you know when a casualty goes back, you never see him again and you wonder what's going on and what's happening. When a KIA goes back, it's done, and you know where you are with that and I still think about him you know. I have the bullet that went through his arm at home. Actually it's down at the museum and with the shrapnel that I had. But I even tried to find him on the internet but, and say if he wants it he can have it. But, maybe someday he'll show up, but or he'll give me a call anyway. I have no idea where, what state he's from even.

DERKS: You talk about casualties and KIA, is that in pick up? When you go in and 00:59:00pick up when they're loaded in?

RETTENMUND: Yeah. Well the worst one for me was, was the first one. KIA picking up, we, we came in and they were mortaring and so we had to loiter. They didn't call medivac, they called the closest helicopter to get in to get him. And, so we could get him to the hospital as quick as we can. So when we finally landed he, they messed around with him for quite a while and then when they brought him over he had a, a ticket on him that he was KIA. I think he was alive when we were coming in but--Being that junior was underneath me someplace on the ground, I had to find out what his name was or at least look, and that was pretty fast 'cause they had the poncho came open and he was just laying there. But, Amino? 01:00:00Gonzales his name was, never forgot it. I forgot my roommates name, pilots names, all that, but never forgot his name. We went to the wall, my wife and I with the helicopter crewman's and, and he was there, so, and Edge wasn't, but, I was glad of that. 'Cause sometimes you don't know on second tours, pilots are lost then too but-- But that, but the ones I carried after that I just, I don't remember 'em, I would check, lots of times they had a tag around in their boot if they had, if they had a boot. But most of the time lucky for me, maybe for wounded guys too that we didn't pick up the-- we had enough medivacs around on any of the assaults we were on that were close by that could get in or the 01:01:00operating units had 'em on standby some place. So they have personnel to get there and take care of it. And so we might have more of a chance to carry KIA. I remember one time we got called in out in jungle and we got there and there was seven bodies laying there. And wrapped in ponchos so-- And they came over and they had found them just a short time ago, they were on patrol and they were ambushed and all, all were killed. And it was in a pretty unsecured area, and of course with seven guys killed I knew, who knows maybe they were being watched and everything and, and so they put the four bodies on, I already had the seat up so we could get 'em on cross ways laying in there. And then, infantry were really good you know, they treated their wounded guys you know a lot better who 01:02:00dragged 'em off of the helicopter or on the other end you know 'cause they were friends and stuff. And they asked me, you wanna come back for the last three? And I says, I'd rather not, can you put the three on top? And they say yeah, they didn't, I don't think they liked it very well, but they slid the last three guys on top of the other four, and we took off and we received fire going out. And I knew if we'd of had to go back in there to pick up those last three, who knows how much fire you'd get on going in. So, decisions like that you gotta, you gotta work at. Sometimes it wasn't actually the pilots that did it, lots of times it was, but I was in charge of loading so. But, ponchos don't like to stay 01:03:00closed in the air at a hundred miles an hour so, there were a lot of gray faces and blue faces and red faces and it all depends on where they're hit. Anyway then too, but they don't really teach you much about that in helicopter school and stuff, but you know it's all on the job training type of thing. When my door gunner was shot, I got it cleaned up as best I could, and we had another job right away; we had to go over and haul a coffin for a Vietnamese soldier that was killed up in Taynan Mountain.

DERKS: Do you want to pick that up at Tay Ninh?

RETTENMUND: Yeah, it's a, I was pretty emotional at the, at the time, and a, hanging on, and washing blood and all that stuff, and then have to go over on 01:04:00the Tay Ninh runway and, and pick up a coffin. It was all yellow and all red and yellow, just as bright of colors as the Vietnamese had. I'm used to wooden coffins or gray coffins and, they put a lot more flair into theirs and, and we had to take them up to Tay Ninh Mountain and I a, I remember, like, being upset that it was, I, I couldn't do anything about [inaudible] and he was going to have a funeral at home in his own coffin and I got to carry this, this one here for a Vietnamese guy. But he was a Vietnamese soldier, and a, and that's who we were working for, too. So I kind of shook it off that he deserves to, to have his coffin up there. It's one way of me being able to do it, but a, everybody 01:05:00and his brother wanted to get on the helicopter and, and include all the ducks and chickens and goats and pigs, so, with the coffin in there we could only get so many on board. I remember the chickens, I suppose they were taking them up to slaughter them for a, the a, wake, type of thing. But a, we flew up there, it was about 3,000 feet or something like that. Little bitty patch of grass, one pad up there. We owned the top, the VC owned, owned the middle, and then we owned the bottom. So I was, I was kind of glad in some ways that I did get to do the coffin and, especially, there was still, I sat, sat it down blood that was still there, so, anyway, but, just another experience at the, kind a went through.

DERKS: Did, did those emotions start to catch up with you while you were there, 01:06:00or were you able to put them aside?

RETTENMUND: I just kind of went on each day, that type of thing. Most of my jobs were fun, the ash and trash things, the combat assault where you get more of a time to have problems like that. Where you have shoot or get shot at more. Not that a helicopter couldn't get shot at, everyday, no matter what is what doing, you know, we were pretty vulnerable. I had infantry said they would never go up in, and fly there when somebody could shoot at you anytime he wants to. I'd want to hide behind a log if somebody shoots at me. Well, just, that's the aviation for you, I was glad I could go into LZ and hopefully leave it the way I went in. So, in the infantry, I always felt kind of bad for them. With my cousin there I always did the best I could in bringing hot chow in or beer or whatever it was, 01:07:00to resupply 'em without a, without haste, and without stealing anything from them or, you know a, I think we did a hell of a good job, our aviation company, in supporting. All the units we operated with. We had a lot of helicopter companies when first aviation was formed in July. So, if any, if we had ten helicopters flying or eligible, were up or eleven or twelve. It went up to maintenance or went into the first aviation. Anybody wanted a helicopter in all Vietnam, our area, would a, had a chance to a, get one. Whether it was for an hour, whether it was for a half a day, a day, a week, usually it wasn't for that long. But it might be overnight and a, um, it could be BBC, calls up when a 01:08:00helicopter go. So when we go out, sometimes pilot'll come up with a list of places to go, well we got this stop, this stop, this stop. I, I had a gal come up, she was from the BBC, reporter, and she says I want to sit with you. Okay. So she crawled up alongside, I hadn't seen a round-eye for quite a while, so, it was kind of fun, kind of fun that way. And she says, I want to sit in the back because I feel protected. I was going to tell her, this is the worst place to sit, you want to sit up with the pilot 'cause the bullets hit back here. They shoot at the pilots and they hit the crew in the back. 'Cause, it's just trajectory type, type of thing. But I thought she's probably nervous enough as it is without me causing any undue stress on her, too.


DERKS: Um, did, now you always had the same helicopter, I mean, for a long time unless it was replaced. Was the pilot always the same or did they go ship to ship?

RETTENMUND: Oh, sometimes a, we had the same pilots that were in our platoon, we had eight or ten, well, later it was ten, in each platoon, so we had a list of a, pilots that generally flew with the same platoon. And they tried to, it wasn't like the, we weren't like the guns, guns tried to have their crew all the same, 'cause they, they feel each other out when, when the pilots says there are, a, rockets, everybody knows get your legs back in 'cause he's punching off. You know, it's a coordinated type, type of thing, or they're banking left, and with us a, banking left or right we just watch out around make sure we ain't 01:10:00going to run into anything. It was a lot a, easier for different pilots and a, generally had the same door gunner. Lots of times the same pilot and sometimes aircraft commander. But a, they weren't assigned to the helicopter, anyway, I was. But um, I remember I a, went down with an oil leak. We wasn't, we were less than a half-way back to [inaudible] supporting a, a, APC outfits that were engineers, were building, were working on this bridge. And the oil light comes on, and I, the pilot yells right away, I got an oil light, the flashing oil light. So I looked over my shoulders, you can see the transmission oil reservoir light in there, but a, I don't know why I looked back there you can't really see 01:11:00it because the thing's running, you know. And he, and a, he says, so we immediately went into an auto rotation and the, and the aircraft commander decided to go the shortest route back. And that would be back, and we'll see if we can make the a, the engineer outfit that we, all [inaudible] in. 'Cause we were empty, and going back and we got to low level, and he says a, a, it's a, it's staying on more, but it's still flashing. I says well, we should be able to a, make it back. I'm thinking to myself, I don't know if he asked me or not, because, you know, you ain't going to ask your crew chief what to do up there, that's his, his job, and we stayed on and we made it all the way back. And when we set down it was on red, so all the transmission fluid was gone. And when the transmission fluid goes it, the rotor blades will seize up and you, you drop 01:12:00like a green rock. Anyway, we got, we got back and um, that was a, one of the times that we kind of autorotated in. Anyway, I started this story because of who was in charge, so, maintenance calls and says they don't have a, time to come out, it was just starting to get dusk and they'll come out in the morning. So that meant that somebody had to stay with the helicopter. And the aircraft commander says, well I'm going back, and the pilot says, I'm a pilot, he says, I'm going back, and the door gunner who's after edge was shot was a staff sergeant he was the gunners' sergeant, he says, I'm going back I've got to get everybody up in the morning, and the aircraft commander turns around and says, you're the only one assigned to this helicopter. You get to stay. Okay, you know. So I ran over to my roommate was um, was flying resupply with me and he 01:13:00had one more trip to come back and um, and resupply than I did. So I ran up and said a, can, can you get my blanket off my bunk? 'Cause I didn't carry anything, we try to stay as light as you could. So, I don't know, a half hour or so later, maybe it was a little longer than that, a, he a, here he comes in for, for landing anyway. The pilot that had left in the first one already drove the infantry to feed us, or feed me, and a, I was just kind of working around the aircraft like I normally do. Well, here comes my roommate up and he's got this gargantuan you know, thing, he had the mattress, the blanket, the white sheets, the white pillow, that I had, that I had to go buy. And a, and I says, you know, 01:14:00I just asked for a blanket, oh yeah, he says, here, so he hands it to me and of course all of the infantry are sitting in foxholes along side of me 'cause we landed right along side of them. You know, I thought, you know, here's these white sheets. I thought well, they already think aviation's a little nuts anyway and a, and a, I didn't want to get my white sheets dirty so I made a bed right on the, on the bench seat in the helicopter and a, white sheets, pillow and everything. Took the gun off that was facing the infantry, 'cause I knew they wouldn't shoot at me anyway, and a, put a hundred round bag on it, and pointed it out the door and then I made sure the gunner's machine gun was still there, was ready to go and on, ready to fire, I didn't even have to put the safety off. Said a few hail Mary's extra on that one, and hopefully I would wake up the next 01:15:00morning the same condition I am in right now. I must have been, I suppose about, oh you know, four feet off the ground. You know, you know, the infantry were in the holes over there and they were kind of shaking their heads but a, but a, you got to keep up your image you know, as a, then in the morning they came and fixed the plug that blew out of the bottom. I was up on top, they were still shaking their heads. You know, anyway, rolled up my stuff and took it back. It was kind of a funny time.

DERKS: So, did you have an idea what you were going to do if mortars came in?

RETTENMUND: Well, I had the gun set, I would probably have pulled it off and slid back into the foxhole there. The infantry didn't tell me to a, dig a 01:16:00foxhole. I had never done that, maybe in Basic a little bit. But a, we didn't do foxholes. The only hole we made is if we augured in.

DERKS: [inaudible] to augur in?

RETTENMUND: A nope, nope, [inaudible] did that.

DERKS: But you went down a few times didn't you?

RETTENMUND: Yeah, well like you say, the battery, went down once, this, that, that time with the oil failure, there might have been a couple other times, I don't remember. I never was shot down, knock on wood. That, that, anyway, I think.

DERKS: Did you have holes in the? Did you have holes?

RETTENMUND: Yeah, oh yeah, yeah. It's kind of hard to get back from Vietnam without holes in your helicopter and maybe in you too. So, but a--


DERKS: But what about that photo? Where you're standing next to that helicopter on its side?

RETTENMUND: Well a, that was the second helicopter [inaudible]. Some of it's kind of funny in this one, too, we a, we started from a landing strip, we had a pickup zone, we were picking all these infantry up and we wanted to pick up extra guy for the weight, so we kicked off the door gunner. There were ten of us, there were ten door gunners, I remember looking down the runway and here are these ten door gunners with their machine guns sitting there. And a, and off we took. I was on the right side, so we went into V formation and all the door gunners couldn't shoot anyway, in the inside of a V. Normally we went in on a trail, you know, or staggered, so we could shoot, we covered each other that way. So we went into a, on the pickup zone, they were having trouble finding a 01:18:00spot to park. And I think both of them pulled back on the stick a little bit too fast and our tail came down and hit the [inaudible] and blew off. I could still, I still could see it flying through the air. This big hunk, chunk of metal. And then we started spinning to the left. And so the pilot just rolled it over on its side. All the ammo came draining down out of the box on top of me, you know, and all the time I'm thinking this is going to blow, this is going to blow. And a, so I'm scrambling trying to get up and still not unhooked this safety harness, too, and I remember standing on the side of the helicopter, on this skid, before I jumped off, looking down and the fuel overflow valves are down there, I have to check every morning, were spewing gas out. So I jumped off and 01:19:00the pilots were okay, they had already beaten me out, and a, so I went back up and it didn't blow up, and a, took the gun off. And so my picture was taken, a it was probably fifteen minutes or so by one of the pilots there. Right after that some high-ranking officer came over smoking a cigar and I had to tell him to stay away from the aircraft or [inaudible]. So he did back up, [inaudible] or he did stop anyway. Most of the time I wasn't afraid to say anything 'cause even though it was laying on its side you were still kind of in charge of helicopter. So, but it went back to the States and got all fixed up and went back over and flew with the CIA for a little while, and it wound up in Fort Knox, Kentucky right now.

DERKS: Really, you keep track of the--

RETTENMUND: Yeah, I, you know, just pull up the, the same way you, 157 just pulled it up and found out where it was. The first, the first helicopter I had we came home in a, April we got, I got there in February and started flying at 01:20:00the end of February, and a I was lead helicopter. Most of the time after that I was always lead, 'cause I had this brand-new helicopter and lead always wanted to fly it. And the bullets hit back farther you know, too, so, and so we were coming in, and I was still pretty new at it and they had a steel telephone pole up on the right side of the road that we were going to land on. And there was chalks, sticks, or seven infantry guys standing there, you know, in the helicopter part, and a, yeah I remember the major says a, there's a telephone pole off to the right, everybody watch it. And we hit that thing with the rotor blades. [inaudible] got it out and we hit just the back, maybe a couple inches or so, but that's all it took. Bent the metal pole right over at the top and the rotor blade went up in the air and the, the one that was hit the other one on 01:21:00the opposite side hit the ground. And a, then came up and hit the side of the helicopter in the back. And I went through the seat, because we didn't fall that far, but when you got that much weight dropping it's a pretty good, pretty fast. And we just, I just sat on a canvas seat anyway. And a, and the door gunner fell out, he [inaudible] fly farther, and he was scrambling, because the rotor blade actually hit twice. In the ground there, and the thing looked like a tadpole 'cause the whole tail section came around and was almost, oh, it was 90 degrees from the main part of the body, but a, when they hauled it away I think they scrapped it for parts and I got a picture I think was the body of it that somebody brought back for me, but a, yeah it had 144 hours on it, and it had 15 01:22:00when I started. So, but a, on the second run I had 360

DERKS: So did you say you went through your canvas

RETTENMUND: I went through the canvas. It was, I sat on a chicken plate, it was a chest plate, ceramic chest plate, that they had 23 holes in it, because the pilots stood back and blasted away at it with different guns. And, and nothing went through, you know, and so they walked away, and I says, well what are you going to do with it, and, well, I don't know, can I have it? Sure! So, I sat on it the rest of the tour. So, I sat on it the rest of the tour. I figured it took 23 hits it'll take 24. You know, and a, but that kind of helped me go through the seat too, and a, anyway, but um, but a, 'cause a, canvas or nylon seat is not very effective for stopping bullets and shrapnel and things like that. But a--

DERKS: Maybe those are the people who are shooting at you, so


RETTENMUND: And my last helicopter had 650 hours on it, and a, so, that was kind of last, glad to leave it healthy, me too. But, kind of surprised going home. I was supposed to go home on the third of February and get a ninety day early out, if you're, if you come back from Vietnam with less than ninety days they discharge you in California. And so I was automatically extended from about the ninth or fifteenth or something like that of January, and a, but my orders came down and a, the guy says yeah, I saw your name so hell, it was the ninth of January I think it was, and I picked up my orders and went with all the other guys that had their orders and headed down to the a, checked out of a, of the 01:24:00battalion anyway. I was the first one to walk in the door, I was the first, I was ever in the front, and he says, you can't go home, you're supposed to, you know, they could see I'm supposed to, somebody made a mistake in the rear area and they should have extended my time. I said Well, I'm just following orders. Well, then I was kind of depressed 'cause I hitched a ride back to the company area and all these helicopters sit there and we had a lot of crew chiefs that went home. And um, so I knew I had to be flying for a, a few, a couple, three more weeks anyway. First lieutenant, and the, the first sergeant came down and they said, a, well, battalion just called and said there's twelve guys with, exactly the same as you, that um, they don't want to make twelve do orders, so a, they just sent, we'll let California worry about you. And they said, well, 01:25:00crash regiment already went home, well, somebody call them up and we'll see. So, they called back to company area and came down and got me and the, the lieutenant here wouldn't give me the [inaudible] to stay for the 23 days or whatever it was. And the um, like I said, I was in an E-5 slot since E-2, I mean, the PFC I hadn't made it yet, everything went kind of by the book in those days. In the a, they said they would make sure I got a, E-5, and I said I thought to myself, give me a second and a half and I said, my mother'd kill me if she knew I extended and I didn't have to. So, I went back and went home with the guys. All those stories are a little funny sometimes but a, maybe it's just me who a, look at the humor side.

DERKS: So what was that like going home?

RETTENMUND: A, well a, a relief. You know, kind of a, I wanted to get back to 01:26:00the farm you know, and a, [inaudible] was a, being a crew chief. I didn't get a chance to kick the tires on the old 747 or 707 I guess it was. And a, I went back and I, and there was only one seat available right where I was going and I sat down and the seat was broken. It was laying back, you know, and a the, or the, a lieutenant came up and says you can a, you can't sit in the seat because it's broken. I says, I've been sitting in some pretty funny seats, for a, for eleven months here, I think I can sit in this. Well, if you're sure you want to do that. You know, so I pulled the thing up as straight as I could and, we took off and it automatically went back into the low-down position. I kind of liked that position anyway, as far as kicking the tires I figured that the crew out there probably had good maintenance people. 'Cause me making 300 bucks an hour 01:27:00or something they were probably making a hell of a lot or month, they were probably making that an hour it seemed like. But with combat pay a, pilots, aircrew made 55 dollars more than non-aircrew. Then we made 55 dollars combat pay. You know, that was always kind of an odd thing, I always kind of wondered about that. 55 dollars is all it's worth to be a hired gun. Yeah, and 9 dollars overseas pay, so, they sent it home, all but 50 bucks went home and a, I remember when I got to California they said do you need money? I had 141 dollars I think I remember in my pocket. And I only get 50 dollars a month, 'cause the rest went home I had almost 3 months pay, so I had to pay out of my own pocket 01:28:00going home. And a, they reimbursed me when I got to the next station, so, but a, you wouldn't have to buy cigarettes it was [inaudible] stuff like that.

DERKS: And then you were discharged right away when you got home?

RETTENMUND: Oh no. If I stayed for 23 days I would. So a, they says what do you want to do? I liked to teach school at Fort Rucker, I've got education and stuff. Yeah, okay, we'll send you back to Fort Rucker and a, my best friend he says he was going to Fort Knox, he lives near Fort Knox anyway. So I go to Rucker, and they says you can't go to school 'cause you don't have enough time. It takes a month or so of training to teach you to be a, a, so I fired furnaces for two and a half months I think. And then um, they got cold down there in 01:29:00Alabama in January, so, and a, the other guy who went to Fort Knox he says, we don't have any helicopter mechanics here, they discharged him right on the spot. He, he went home. So if I'd a went to Knox I'd a, and it was close, it wasn't that far away from a, from the, from Kentucky to Wisconsin anyway. And I called, got home to Madison, I had a kind of light duty. Well, kind of forgot how cold it is in January in Wisconsin. And a, I was a, wanted to do two things when I came home. I wanted to surprise 'em, when I came home, the other one I wanted to get, go to the tattoo parlor and get a tattoo, not a real one but just the inking they put on, 'cause my mother said a, when I went into the Army, do not 01:30:00a, she didn't want me to get a tattoo. She didn't say anything about me getting killed. You know, but don't get a tattoo. Moms I guess. And the other one was to surprise, well I didn't get the tattoo, I a, more interested in getting home. I remember I got to Madison and a, it was about 3:30 Sunday afternoon I guess. I called my a, I called up and my sister answered, and, a, I asked for my dad and a, I remember saying, asking him what he was doing, said he was getting ready for church, and that a, well I says a, after church could you come to Madison to 01:31:00pick me up, and a, dad says well, I think we'll skip church today, so, can I get a drink of water?

DERKS: Sure, sure.

RETTENMUND: Funny what chokes you up.

DERKS: So they didn't know you were coming?

RETTENMUND: No, I supposed to come home 23 days later. So it was, I did surprise them that way anyway. I remember my brother says, what's the purple ribbon for? And a, so I had to tell him, well it's one of those things a, you know you a, don't bother your parents as best you can, I think most veterans are that way. They don't, if they're talking to or writing to another veteran a, I did send home pictures that wound up in the paper at home. I was two-fold, helicopters 01:32:00was always on the six o'clock news and they always told how many helicopters was shot down and how many KIAs. Well, every night my mother and dad and sisters were watching the, you know, the six o'clock news and so I thought, well, I'm going to send home pictures of the crash I'm in and show I'm fine. And no, and tried to tell them it's a tough bird to a, to get killed in. And a, you usually walk away from it. You know, I walked away from two, you know. Without hardly any, any problems. And so that was kind of how I a, I had one guy told me that a, or I heard that, they wrote home and said a, that I'll, I'll tell you what really happened today. And I wouldn't even want to do that, 'cause they know something else was going on, so a, I didn't even do that. Although the pictures 01:33:00was there for another reason, so, I got wounded where I didn't have to go to the hospital, um, but um, so I had it taken care of in, in my own company area. And, if you go to the hospital--

DERKS: [inaudible]

RETTENMUND: Well, it's a couple, couple days story, um, my roommate was out a, and had to stay overnight. With his helicopter, and I remember seeing him a, in that a, I needed to get maintenance on the helicopter and so we decided to switch helicopters and a, then we would trade the next day during this combat assault. Well, the next day I grabbed my pants to wear and I didn't have a, any 01:34:00new ones to wear and I didn't feel like wearing the old ones so I went over and grabbed one of his spare pants and a, wore it, and a, so when I stayed overnight I still a, pulled in behind and he, there was twenty Robin Hoods, or ten Robin Hoods and twenty Vultures. Or ten Vultures to make twenty, and he was way down, my bird was way down, and I thought a, what the, we'll just wait till tonight when we both come in. And a, anyway the mortars started coming in, in like hay, it was, started walking them down the tree line and a, and if they would have been over maybe twenty yards they would have walked them right down the helicopter line, 'cause we're all right in a row. And a, the pilot a, I had seven a, guys on board, infantry, first infantry, and a, the pilot says he's 01:35:00going to start cranking and so I always watch the engines start, mechanics always, crew chiefs always do, make sure there isn't any oil spraying around or anything funny in the engine. And even though the mortars were going off I still did my job. You know, and I got hit in the leg or I got knocked down and I got up and hopped over to the pilot and I says, I'm hit let's get the heck out a here. You know, so I crawl behind this seat in my, in the crew chief well and hooked up and a, we took off and I was, like [inaudible] runway is a lot higher than where we were parked I was kind of worried at how fast we were starting and he wanted to get out of there. Turned out we were the only helicopter to get out of there, a, a, the mortars quit before everybody could get cranked up anyway, so, and a, we, I remember pulling the gun up looking for, on the end of the 01:36:00runway see if I could see any of the, any of the mortar, VC, mortar was shooting. 'Cause I figured it'd have to come down one side, end of the runway or the other, then go right down the tree line. But a, then the pilot turns around and he says, well how bad is it? And I says, well, I haven't looked, well look, he says. I was hit right above the boot and um, about a half inch up. And there was blood there but it wasn't running out. And um, it was numb. Pretty well numb right off. And a, um, the pilot says a, you want to go to EVAC? Or one of the hospitals down the--

DERKS: You were describing your wound:

RETTENMUND: Yeah, right above the boot line. I told the pilots that I didn't 01:37:00think that it was that bad. And we have a medical staff with the 162nd and the doctor was a bone surgeon. I figured he should be, should be able to handle it, you know. And he said "OK, we will go back to Company Area." So he rolled the helicopter over and we DD moved to Phouc Vin, anyway. I remember as we were coming into Phouc Vinh standard operating procedure is not to fly over the camp because there is too much dust and everything flying around. This was in June so it was kind of dry. Right over the top of the camp he goes and people were coming out of the buildings you know because we had a big maintenance area there. He flared the helicopter and sat it right down cross ways on the VIP pad. 01:38:00Usually they are facing towards the camp. And shut her down. And so I got out of the helicopter. And these guys all jump out and they are all trying to give me--they had a pack for me two and I had refused it when we were flying. I thought maybe they needed more when they were flying And I could see the ambulance and the jeep come. And the ambulance was following farther back. The guys were hanging on to me and I had to kind of shove them away because I needed to get my chicken plate off, and so I just sort of hopped over to jeep when he pulled up and hung the leg out like something really big had happened. And he drove back to the 100 yards or what ever it is back to the tent. He told me to 01:39:00get on to the gurney, the Sergeant said. So, I jumped up on the gurney. And here comes the ambulance. Well, the doctor is in the ambulance. And the doctor starts chewing out the Sergeant for--he is supposed to be driving the ambulance and not the jeep. And they were going fussing about that, you know. And I finally said "Sir, sir." And I pointed at my leg. "Oh!" You know. And they gave me I think a shot in the leg. And I could feel it when they stuck a probe in. And he was really worried about it. That he thought, because we didn't have X-ray capability there, that if he tried to pull it out he might make the wound bigger because it might have went in, turned, or something. But he said he'd give her a try. He went in there with a fork and it came right out the same way it went in, nice and easy. It was about a five eights inch piece of ragged steal mortar fragment.


DERKS: Is that up at the museum?

RETTENMUND: Yeah, it's up their too. I guess they take it around to the kids. I was over their one time and some gal had recognized me, or my name anyway. "Yeah, I always take it, you know." They always like to shake it and look at it, the kids. So I took a couple of pills, he gave me. He said "take a week off" and well, I can't just start taking a week off. I had to go down and look at my roommate's helicopter, you know. First things first, you know. And by this time I was hobbling along, and anyway it didn't seem to--it was still numb. I got down to the helicopter and here was the seven guys, just sitting there, around. And they of course when I got there they recognize me. And they started laughing 01:41:00and joking and patting me on the back and everything. And I says "jeez, I am sorry you guys missed the combat itself." Oh, no he says. Tell you what, if you will let us stay here on the VIP pad I will spend my whole tour right here. Well I don't think they were going to do that, anyway. I found a couple of holes in the helicopter. In the chin bubble and one underneath the belly, that I remember. I can hear the helicopters coming in. I looked over and here is my Huey comes in and lands on the pad, and out comes my room mate. And he is yelling and yelling. He said "You borrow my aircraft and you put all kinds of holes in it and you get a cheap purple heart." And I says, "Guess whose pants I am wearing?" That sort of ends that story. He kind of flared up again.


DERKS: That was the end of the story?

RETTENMUND: That is pretty much the end of the story. Nope, not. I spent three days waiting. I probably should have spent a week, you know, because if I had got shot down running around in a rice paddy with an open wound--but I think I stayed out three days. But four months later the Purple Heart showed up. I remember we got our wings--going to Fort Rucker in Mechanics School, when you come out you get your wings. Like when you go to pilot school you come out you get your pilots wings. Well, in those days they only had only one class of 01:43:00pilots, err--crew people coming out. And they didn't give the aircraft crewman wings anyway. And so when we finally got orders for them, we sent five bucks in everybody, and sent to the States for some wings. At the time we were wearing Vietnamese wings. I had one that had a big "G" on it. Or one that had "CE", Crew Engineer on it. Fabricated out of stuff so, and then my sterling silver one came in, the actual one. Pretty proud of that. Lost it at a dance a few years later. I wasn't happy about that. Yeah, they used to have sterling silver ones. They would probably we worth 60 or seventy dollars now. If you can find one.


DERKS: How did you loose your wings at dance?

RETTENMUND: Well, I was proud of my wings so much I had it made into tie tack, or tie clip. I should have made it into a tie tack. And it slipped off. And either no one turned it in or didn't want to. I am still dancing, usually once a month. I don't take my wings along.

DERKS: Did you ever tell your mom about how you got wounded?

RETTENMUND: Yeah, actually right in the car coming back. I said it was just a slight wound and it wasn't that much to write home about. I wasn't really hurt. I didn't have to go the hospital or anything, you know. And she seemed to accept 01:45:00that. I didn't get to flamboyant with the stories. Most of the stories I never told, anyway. And usually most of my stories are tellable, sort of speak. Thing that aviation guys do maybe, it's not liking shooting it out with the VC. Hiding behind a log or fox hole. Kind of do that from the air. Or when we land on the ground sometimes, too, so.

DERKS: What was it like when you were out of the combat area. Did it stay with you. Is it hard to put it away?

RETTENMUND: A little. I thought I did pretty good with it. I came home I think 01:46:00the tenth of January. I left Nam on the ninth, and I remember my brother was getting married the next month and so and I helped fix up the house that he was moving into. And so I was just out on the farm. I remember driving in with the family down through Black Earth. And it looked exactly the same as when I left it. N body you know--not that I expected--incur any fanfare or anything. I just wanted to take in Black Earth, you know. "There it is" You know, looks the same as when I left. Anyway my cousin called up from when he got back from. Was wondering where I was, anyway. I think I spent fifteen days after I got back from Vietnam. Just taking it easy. And my mother said that heard me yell a 01:47:00couple of times. I don't remember it. So I went to Fort Rucker and stayed there for two and a half months. And then came back. Actually, my guys from Germany that went over beat me back because they got out about a week or so early, I guess. But it was farm--you know--half the American Legion was Rettenmunds, or cousins, or something. And so I got kind of got caught up into that. Russel was the first combat veteran to come back from Wisconsin. So, he got to meet the Governor and all that when he got back the following June. And he went to, I remember he went to--we have a two year and you usually have another two year obligation and two year inactive. So most of the time when you come back from 01:48:00your two years active then you was in the Reserves for two years. So, he got to go because he got to go because he was the first veteran back. Had to go to reserve and I remember he saying he got busted down to nothing. Because he kept telling them you are going to get killed, you are going to die. You can't charge up a hill like that, you know. And, of course, the people were yelling at were higher rank than he was, so he got busted. And then they wound up saying that "No, Vietnam vet would have to serve in Wisconsin." Because they had so many people in the Reserve and the Guard that were joining anyway. And they didn't have room for us coming back, so. It was okay for me I think. Go in the barn a lot more. I went to school when I went back. Took the second year over at MATC. 01:49:00Spent 23 years at Oscar Mayer as an artist. Retired there. Working for a stein maker now in Verona part time.

DERKS: In the graphic design shop at Oscar Mayer?

RETTENMUND: Yeah, I did package design. Funny when I first got the job for several years I was in charge of army rations, C-ration boxes, cause I did all the shipping boxes for Oscar Mayer. And I was always kind of shook my head at that, like this is kind of--you know. In those days you kind of wished you were back. In helping out. I even had--.my Uncle say "Well what are you doing back? War isn't over." Well he was in World War two for the duration. And I said, 01:50:00Well, they only said we had to do 12 months, and that was enough. I am willing to come home anyway. You know he was in four and a half years, or something like that. Vietnam in infantry, because of our helicopter we were able to haul infantry around to one battle to the next. Where they had to go from one battle to the next was trucked or walked and all that stuff. I think our infantry spent a hell of a lot of time in combat for their year in service than maybe somebody that was in World War Two for three of four years. Probably another story.

DERKS: Do you think about that year of your life a lot?

RETTENMUND: Yeah, it comes back. Lots of people say why don't you just forget about it? You know, it just--I don't know something keeps you from forgetting 01:51:00about it you know. Rotor blades banging away, something on TV, you know I was only in the service for two years. And how much it makes an effect on you. I think everybody should go into some sort of service. You know, maybe not get drafted. I don't think people get drafted today. They just--I was in the mind set because everybody got drafted. Nowadays nobody has been drafted since '72 or something like that. We got generations without it. I think they would rebel. Or more, you know.

DERKS: What were your feelings about the war when you were there. Did you have a sense about how it was going, if the mission was being accomplished? Or was it 01:52:00just doing you job every day?

RETTENMUND: Pretty well it. Get up a do your job every day. And do a good job. There was always things happening that I knew I was doing a good job. The people we were helping would even tell you, you know. We, I didn't think too much about what was going on because you had so much of your regular job to stay with. And I thought--it did change. Like I said I got their, I started flying in February of '66, and by --I remember picking up weapons, VC weapons and they were old French guns. Bolt actions. I don't know if you can call machine guns cute. They were small little machine guns that you pull around. And they weren't very big 01:53:00at all. And M1Grands and M2 Carbines and stuff like that. And it was only until later on in '66 where I started to see AK47, or for that matter even North Vietnamese. They were all Viet Cong. So, I felt I was kind of blessed in hind sight with not as heavy of combat duty as people in--Crew chiefs were flying in sixty seven and sixty eight and sixty nine, you know. With the heavier weapons they had. I probably hit in the whole year maybe some body got hit more than that in a week, you know later on in some of that heavy stuff going on.

DERKS: But at that time in '66, you guys were figuring out air mobile weren't you?


RETTENMUND: Yeah, it was a learning type thing. The First Air Cav., who left just before I got to Benning. And they were sorting out combat assaults and everything. And so we did a lot of improvising. I mean the infantry did too, you know. What to do. We used to test throwing out water bags to see how high before the broke. CS gas, throw it out the door in 55- gallon drums and see what it looked like when it detonates, you know. Cause this was part of these jobs I kind of liked to do, you know. It didn't have hardly any contact with the Vietnamese. Other than soldiers carrying them. They right across the wire from us, the village. And I did have to go into town a couple of times to get some 01:55:00stuff. The pillow that I was taking about earlier. I didn't have one in the fool locker I bought down there. I had a buddy of mine, he was from California. And his father was in maintenance but he didn't handle the helicopters very well. And so they made him a driver. So, he gave me a drive downtown because my helicopter was on standby. And he rushed down there and get that stuff. Well, he took me to this one building, it was kind of like a store front outside building, you know. Maybe where one end is open. They had all kinds of stuff in their. And, anyway, I don't remember how this got to going, but he knew I was an artist. There was three girls their, and one mamasan. And somehow I wound up 01:56:00behind the counter their with a eight and a half by eleven bond paper drawing pictures of these gals. And Chuck, he wanted some pictures of them, or something like that. So I asked the girls if they had any portraits, you know. Well, they had little pictures. Anyway, they gave me and I could go out and do your own thing or what ever. So I just drew them right off of their. It didn't take very long. I was pretty good it those days. And we--so I gave it to him afterwards and he went roaring back to the Company Area and, you know. I got out and the gravel flew and he went back down town. It finally dawned on me who these three gals were. Nobody had said anything to me. Or anything, or at least as far as I can remember. I was a good Catholic boy, so I wasn't out looking.


DERKS: Did--kid from Wisconsin?

RETTENMUND: Yeah, I saw some of those VD things that they were always talking about. They got a whole country that they keep guys who they can' cure. That was, you know. That and the domino theory. I remember watching a movie once with my wife. And it was a World War two one, Had all these guys standing along the street on up the steps into this building. And the guy said it was GI's waiting for prostitutes up stairs. And I remember my wife saying, "They wouldn't do anything like that." I said "Oh yeah, they would", I said I remember up in Tanin pulling maintenance on my helicopter and there was a line probably be forth guys waiting for--on the other side of the wire there was little hut or something set 01:58:00up their and their was Specialist, First Lieutenants, Captains and Privates and Majors. Standing in line. Nobody jumped the line. I didn't get in line either, so.

DERKS: When you were on an assault, what kind of communication went on in your helmets?

RETTENMUND: Well, I liked the outside communication. I wanted to know what was going on all the time. If somebody received fire I knew it immediately. Without having to look out the door or without the pilot telling me. There on fire up there. So I knew I was ready to suppress fire if I had to. Suppress fire is just shoot up the wood line and everything and try to keep their heads down and so we could keep on going. You question?


DERKS: Just what was going on--?

RETTENMUND: So, you would hear the gun teams talking. The infantry talking back and forth. We used FM, UFH. We had you know all those on. And then we got intercom. And the traffic was usually pretty sporadic. Lots of times when questions were asked you would hear "schrakkkk", and you knew the other guy answered by just hitting the button. Didn't have to say anything. And people got chewed out for talking too much. You kept pretty strict type thing, business type. Because there is a lot of people involved sometimes. And you didn't want to get in the middle of something where somebody couldn't hear. You know some 02:00:00gun support team trying to support the infantry down there and the like. Internal wasn't I didn't do anything more than the door gunner than clearing the right of the helicopter and the left side over the intercom and watching all the time. There wasn't anytime I fell asleep in the back. You know, it was just not my thing you know. You are always alert. But I had somebody ask that was--wanted to do a combat assault and wanted to know what people said over it. And I tried to find communication internal. But I could only find external communication. You could hear what the pilot say outside, and coming back. And some time it was only one sided. You could hear them talking, and you wouldn't hear the answer on the other side. I says "Well, if you are really going to do a story or a thing 02:01:00on them you got to get a hold of a say a door gunner and he would say what the pilot says when they are banking. And they are all in communication with each other, so you don't have your foot stuck out the door or you are not shooting at something and the guy banks right into you and all of a sudden you are putting the tracers, or the bullets right underneath the seat, which happened. It happened to me anyway. My door gunner shot it up doing that with a 360. And so we listen to the radio, sometimes because sometimes there wasn't too much going on. But when there was a combat assault I always had everything going. I wanted to know when it was maybe direct support or going from to place to place I might 02:02:00shut it down, somewhat.

DERKS: What were your passengers like?

RETTENMUND: Well, newsmen, donut dollies, ministers.

DERKS: Tell me about the donut dollies.

RETTENMUND: Well, we would pick them up and they would go out to an infantry company or something like that. And they usually had donuts and stuff like that. And would talk to the guys. And the guys they really, from my perspective, really liked what they were seeing. Seeing American gals and, then we would load back again and then take off another one and take them back where they come from. I don't hear any--you know I've heard later on that you know maybe there 02:03:00was stuff going on between you know women and services and stuff like that. But I never seen it first hand or anything. I just thought they were like the USO. You know, it was nice having people to say "hi". And in a combat zone it is really a lot nicer. I met Martha Ray, maybe actually she was doing a show about, well you and I away. Funny! Had a guitar gal and quite a lady. Funny. Had a lot of respect for her. She went to some of the areas she shouldn't have went and she went anyway. Most of the people were in more secured areas. I've heard of 02:04:00USO shows that were in the next compound and I could hear them singing and all that and telling jokes. But I was out in the flight line then. You know our gun ships probably one, five seven, when Billy Graham was their, we did the perimeter. Our gun ship did the perimeter. kept constantly going around the perimeter watching. Because they had the tightest security that they could, you know. And our gun ships were hired guns, and so. And that was on of their jobs, so.

DERKS: What about the soldiers when you were going in on an assault? Could you read their minds?

RETTENMUND: Pretty strained. I give them a lot of credit for doing that. And some of them seemed professional is the thing to call about it. I never seen 02:05:00anybody sweating or curled up in a corner or wouldn't get out. Those guys get out in a flash. I literally had to throw Vietnamese out to get them off. Americans not problem with that you know. Sometimes they would give you a smile or something. This is on a combat assault. From the pick-up zone. They usually had lots of stuff on their minds you could see. Maybe what they were going to set up. I don't know what infantry does when they do. Sometimes they come out-shoot at the tree line then too. When you bring them back that is a different story. Smiles and chatter and things. They look a lot different. Muddy. They would load just as fast, too. To get out of there anyway. They were 02:06:00usually pretty happy when the Huey comes in that way. And, of course, we were happy to be of service to do that. So I that's probably all I can think of. Of what the infantry is like. Vietnamese, some of those guys were pretty professional and would get out too. Some of the Ranger were good at it. I remember one of my crew chief friends, he had his dad send him a .38, I guess it was a .38, a police .38 and he had it in his holster. And one of the Vietnamese stole it right out of his holster. And after that, it was a short time later he quit. He says, "He could have shot me with it, my own gun." He says " I am going to go to maintenance." Because you could just say I want to go to maintenance. And without too much hassle. There was plenty people in maintenance who wanted 02:07:00to come out and be crew people. Even had one guy come out just to fly for one day. And he took a round right in the ammo box right in from of him. Never went out again. He stayed in maintenance the rest of the time. It wasn't my helicopter it was one of the other guys, anyway.

DERKS: Thank you for your service.

RETTENMUND: Alright. Thank you for having me anyway.

DERKS: Do you want to look at your list--

[End of Interview]