The citations for his awards of the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal merely scratch the surface of the legends that circulated about him. His passengers claimed that he would not fly an 0H-23G more than five feet off of the ground because he didn't trust one any higher than that. The airframe was inadequate for the engine, he explained, opining that the FAA would never certify an OH-23G for civilian service. However, when I hitched a ride with him from Dong Tam to Camp Bearcat, he insisted on taking the poor thing to its maximum altitude so I could take better pictures of the clouds for him using his camera. There is something disconcerting about sitting with half of your bottom suspended over open air with the ground several thousand feet below. The pilot sits in the center of the OH-23G while two passengers at most can sit, one on either side.
As I was taking pictures, I heard a strange object pass us. This was no mean feat since the engine sits just a few inches behind your head and the manufacturer made no attempt to impede its noise. The pilot hadn't heard anything because his ears were effectively muffled by his earphones. However, he heard it at last when he pulled one earphone aside after I dug my elbow into his ribs to get his attention. Consulting his charts, he decided that we had wandered into an area where artillery shells were enroute to targets somewhere below, and we quickly descended.
I had heard stories of him strafing VC that he found in open terrain like some sort of WWII Spitfire pilot, shooting his M-16 out the side of the bubble canopy. Helicopters didn't carry doors in Vietnam to save weight. On another occasion, an artillery forward observer riding with him claimed that he landed on top of a VC bunker and instructed the observer to lean out and lob a grenade in the firing aperture. No sense in throwing good artillery on a bunker.
There's a man we need in Congress to stop wasting money.