ATLANTA VOICES: MEMORIES OF VIETNAM
Cliff Stern's Vietnam War Photos
HIS VIETNAM WAR STORY
Ret. Lieutenant Colonel, 174th Assault Helicopeter Company, U.S. Army
Cliff Stern was a flight platoon leader responsible for supporting the 11th Infantry Brigade in any kind of mission they needed. He flew a Huey (UH-1) and carried food, ammunition and troops out to the field, dropped flares at night so they could see who they were fighting, and would fly medevac missions when no medevac aircraft were available.
He also sprayed Agent Orange.
We would go out and spray areas in order to cut down the triple canopy so we could see what was underneath them. For the most part, I think we thought it was a super version of round up. I don’t think we saw any danger in it. We didn’t wear a mask. We just flew normally and every once in a while the winds would shift and that stuff would blow back on you but I think we were unaware of how dangerous the stuff really was. In my unit if you look back at all the members who have passed away after the war there’s every kind of cancer you can imagine involved there.
One of the most dangerous times for a helicopter pilot is when he’s on the ground during a firefight.
Although we’re only in that LZ for a few seconds to drop off our infantry men sometimes it feels like forever ….and the lead aircraft is responsible for the entire flight so if I have five or six aircraft behind me I pretty much had to wait until five or six aircraft were ready before we take off……people are shooting at you and bullets are flying everywhere. They are hitting the trees, they are hitting your tail boom and sometimes your rotor blades. It’s pretty unique and scary and we were glad to get out of there as quick as we could. And no matter how many times you do it, it’s the same feeling every time. You don’t get used to that.