The Night I Gave Swimming Lessons in the Middle of the South China Sea.

By John McElligott

Just as the sun went down and my shift was ending we were sent to Delta Med to take causalities who were critical to the hospital ship.  We had just medivac them from Con Thien (The Hill of Angels) just a little while earlier. Well we went off the side  of the flight deck at night with 6 stretchers hanging. Captain Rat came in from the rear while the hospital ship was steaming and right into the stack smoke. We ended up in the water and we flipped out getting the wounded marines ready to become sailors on a stretcher with IV hanging and a life jacket one each end of the stretchers. This meant the Crew Chief, gunner and me had no flotation other than our lungs and had to jettison our 50lbs bullet bouncer.

Well next thing I know Cpt. Rat revved up the engine on the 34  and with water up to our hips we popped up and crashed down on the flight deck. Standing on the deck and drinking something Cpt. Rat orders us all back on the helicopter and away we go. Cpt. Rat tells us when airborne to be prepared to abandon the ship since the Chip Light (not a good sign) was on and did not know if we would make it back to Dong Ha. We slowly we made it back and I was sweating bullets. But waiting was lots of cold beer and purple Jesus punch at sick bay houch with all the sides down and the band of Tom, Sean and possibly a few marines crammed in but drunk. Yancey aka Bill was leading the party to see who could handle the most and still fly in the AM. Thank God I was off and was still shaking from the Captain Rat drill and just had a few weeks left in Dong HA. Well guess what I remained there till September 2nd  at 6pm when the first rockets came in with some artillery. I got out on a large helicopter when the next day September 3rd the shit hit the fan.  Stay tuned for John and Mike’s tails since they were there though the destruction of the squadron and base. We do have Sean Barry a corpsman I hope can talk to us as well.

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