ATLANTA VOICES: MEMORIES OF VIETNAM
Carl Bell's Vietnam War Photos
HIS VIETNAM WAR STORY
Ret. Colonel, U.S. Army General Support Aviation Company
Carl Bell served two tours in Vietnam, from 1969 to 1970 and from 1972 to 1973. Carl flew the Huey Cobra as well as the Huey (UH-1).
The Cobra is an attack helicopter with a crew of two. The helicopter is armed with 2.75-inch folding fan Ariel rockets. It’s also armed with a minigun which is basically a 30 caliber six barrel weapon and also a grenade launcher that fires 40mm grenades. We would fly with scout aircraft and when they would make contact (with the enemy), we would roll in with rockets and take care of the situation.
Bell explains one fear that all helicopter pilots had.
One thing that ruined the whole war for me was when the bad guys introduced the shoulder fired heat seeking missile. Those things were really death on helicopters, so we began to fly low because they couldn’t track us. Now when you’re flying low you’re vulnerable to small arms fire – AK47 and machine gun fire – and what the bad guys would do is they would all point their weapons in the air and fire on command. If you flew through it, it was like flying through a popcorn popper. All you could do is grit your teeth and drive through it.
He describes landing a Huey in a hot landing zone.
You’re going in low and fast and drop down to the ground. You’re probably taking fire and the longest time in the world is waiting while they load up the wounded. Once you’re on the ground if you start taking fire you’ve got to get the aircraft up and flying again and the aircraft is most vulnerable when you’re taking off. But you’ve got to get those wounded to the nearest hospital as fast as possible.
He remembers coming home.
When I got back I sort of thought people would be grateful and they weren’t. Not only were they not, some of them were pretty hostile and the ones that weren’t hostile just couldn’t care less. They didn’t want to hear about it and that really hurt. It still hurts.
Most of the Vietnam Vets I know, we greet each other by saying welcome home. That’s something we do just because nobody did it for us, or very few people did.