My First Combat Mission
by Mike “Moon” Mullen
I was on my (no shit!) first combat mission with HMM-262, flying Marines from a BLT into combat on Operation Badger Tooth, in December of 1967, off of the USS Valley Forge.
I was Ron Gatewood’s copilot, and Ron, at that time a seasoned veteran of many “sandwiches” had briefed me to “……just lower the ramp in the zone and dump fuel if I ask you to…..” Since we were flying ’46 Alphas, this last part was a real important issue, as the ’46A would only climb with a full load on a great day with many “lifties” in the air, and with 15 degrees of right crab, and drooped to 94%NR….if you were lucky!
Anyway, as I was sucked as far back into the armored seat as possible, we lifted off with a full load of retrograde during the assault on a ‘ville near the mouth of the Qua Viet……..Ron figured out real quick that we were going to probably scrape some branches from the far side of the zone; so he hollered,
“…hey Moon, since you forgot to lower the ramp for me last time in the zone, how about DUMPING SOME FUEL”
At which point I froze for the fifth or sixth time that hop…… Ron waited for a milisecond, and again shouted,
As the trees loomed larger in the wind-screen and the turns fell below the published minima….by now flying nearly sideways…..Ron tried with a hurculean effort to snap his frozen copilot out of his stupor by shrieking at the top of his lungs,
While squeezing the black out of the bakelite cyclic….keying every button from ICS to FM to UHF to whatever! In the debrief, after we made it back to the ship….yes we cleared the trees, no thanks to me……… we found out that every copilot in the flight of eight had suddenly dumped fuel at that fateful moment….except me!
Yeah, yeah, it was hilarious.
Thanks Ron, for not giving up on me.
Mike “Moon” Mullen