Duane “Dewey” Martin ’67
A Crash In-Country.
When I first joined the 1st Cav, we were required to be forward observers first before we did anything else. Because they had an overflow of forward observers at the time, they asked if I wanted to be an aerial observer. And that was a neat job because you weren’t in the field and you’d come back to your hooch every night and you had a clean place to stay. One day, I was picked up out of Quan Loi, South Vietnam, by a great pilot. He was a Cobra pilot and a fixed-wing pilot. And, we took off. We were registering batteries. He … he was crazy. We saw a few North Vietnamese on the ground and he was shooting at them with his pistol in between registering these batteries, and I think he forgot how many hours we were in the air.
Registering took time. Sometimes it would take me 15 to 20 minutes to register one. So, three and a half, four hours went by very quickly in this birddog we were in. And the engine stopped. And the pilot looked at me and said, “Duane, we’re in trouble. You better look around for an area we can land in.” I picked out a road about 10 miles away. He replied, “I don’t think we can make it.”
Luckily, we had fuel for about 30 more seconds. We managed to get close enough, and we didn’t see anything on the road as we were approaching it. But lo and behold, there was concertina wire, layers of it, all over the road. And as the plane came in for a landing, the landing gear picked up the barbwire. The plane started twisting and it flipped, took both wings off. The tail section of the thing clipped off, too. I remember him saying, “Put your head between your legs. You’re going to be fine, all right? Don’t look up.” I’m thinking, This might not be good. I figured I’d kiss my ass good-bye.
We woke up about ten seconds later and he yelled back to me, “You all right?” I said, “I’m fine.” We’d ended up in a field. Both of us hadn’t taken a leak in four and half hours so that was the first priority. I was still strapped in. I said, “I gotta go, man.” We took our knives and cut ourselves out of our safety harnesses. He’d called in a Mayday. We had no idea where we were. I think I had three or four clips of ammo—we weren’t supposed to be out in the field without seven. I never thought I would go down—I was a smart-ass lieutenant at the time. I was thinking, Maybe I’m going to have to use this ammo after all.
The pilot and I were picked up within a half hour. We actually landed near a small fire base that we couldn’t see from the air. That was the reason for all the wire in the road. After that, I was considered bad luck in the air and they sent me to the field as a forward observer.