Rockets Glare

Click below to listen to “The Sounds of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel

By Mike Cornell

High above the rockets glare
The shells do burst their pretty glow
With their sounds my soul is bare
From their beauty their memories grow
With whistles and cracks the shells did fall
All alone, upon the ground
No where to go, no one to call
All alone, upon the ground
All alone, no place to go
Not a soul to share my space 
Upon the ground and laying low
In my arms I buried my face
Without relent, they continued to fall
One after another they shook the ground
No where to go, no one to call
With every one came the sound
Whistles and whines, that pierced the ears
A foreboding sign of other rounds
A time to wonder, a time to fear
And with it came the other sounds
Into the night sky the rockets do glow
To all the world, it is a show
In my mind I will always know
All alone, no where to go

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.


Sept 3 – A day to remember.

by Mike Cornell

I was replacing the short shaft broken the night before.  It was early, the start of the day. The unmistakable whistle of incoming screamed the arrival of the first round.

There was nowhere to go and nowhere to hide.  I got on the ground and weathered the storm.  All alone YN3 and me.  The rounds kept coming and the ammo dump started cooking off.  The sky seemed to be falling.  The ground was shaking.  An ant and I were hiding under the same rock.  That was all alone.  The sad part – I was more worried about my helicopter than myself.  How wonderful to be 19 and immortal!

When the shelling ceased, the ammo dump continued to cook off spewing unexploded shells and debris in all directions.  Helicopters became rippled under the concussions. During this time I left my bird and headed toward the line shack.  Along the way I was knocked to the ground. I was bleeding from the back of my head, back and I removed scrapnel from my left calf.  Finally I made it to the line bunker by what was the line shack.

My good friend John Noble met me at the entrance.  He could not shoot me if I had been the bad guy – There wasn’t a gun in the place.  John and I decided to head out.  It kinda calmed down.

Others were crawling out also.  We were told to get back into our holes by the Gunny.  Ah – to be young and immortal.  As a group we dug out those trapped by debris.  I then headed to first aid for burns and cuts.  It turned out they needed someone to drive the ambulance to the other side of the runway.  Off I went – what a ride!

Finally the two birds stationed at Khe Sanh returned to base.  They were the only two birds we had capable of flying.  We still needed to fly medi-vac for the night.  The existing crew couldn’t fly so I flew crew and Noble took over the gun position.

We flew medi-vac off of the USS Ranger.  The next day we flew to Marble Mountain, our new home.  I then went back to Dong Ha to replace on blade on my bird, set the blades and fly to Marble.  As far as I know, YN3 was the only chopper to fly off the ground from Dong ha – My angels were busy

The next I flew back to Dong Ha for medi-vac.  We didn’t have enough birds for a full replacement.  YN3 stayed flyable for around 25 days.  All the other crewmembers traded places –YN3 and I stayed.

Finally YN3 and I went back to Marble Mountain.  But with so few birds flying, the next day we were back in the air – Good Morning Viet Nam!

The Night

Eyes of the living
Unseeing eyes of the dead
Fear and dread 
A tomorrow
Only for some
Pushed aside
Masked by thoughts
Of today
Hopes of tomorrow
The night 
Has no mercy
Sights and sounds once hidden
Rush forward
There is no today, yesterday is forever
No today
No hope 
No sweet embraces
Through unblinking eyes
It’s you – and the night
All that was
Is still real
The heavy hand of emotion
Doesn’t leave with the rising sun
Smiles and laughter – hide what is within

Over the Roar of the Rotors

By Mike Cornell

Over the roar of the rotors

I told a lie

The last words you would hear-

You’ll be all right, we’re almost there

The rotors sing their lament

On the wings of an angel

You were gone

Your hand limp in mine

The rotors sing their lament

You were the first

But not the last

When do you run out of tears

The rotors sing their lament

Why should I ever want to pass on

Memories that are lurking subconsciously 

To spring forth like thieves in the night

A cascade of sights, sounds and odors 

Experienced long ago

The sounds of the rotors

Permeates my sleep

They sing their song

Forever a part of me

I do not hide from the truth

White wash cannot take away

The machine guns angry snarl

Limbs and torsos carried like discarded trash

Blood covering the spent cartridges on the floor of the copter

Hollowed eyes of the living

Unseeing eyes of the dead

Then there’s tomorrow

The rotors sing their lament

The irony of it all

Taking the life of one

To save the life of another 

The rotors sing on

Going Out On A Wire!

Written by John McElligott

Zeke was a Medivac Corpsman that was 6’2 and weighed 220 pounds soaking wet. Zeke always had his Bible in his hand, and if not working, he was reading it cover to cover. He never said a word. One dark night, Zeke and I had flown all day and we still had on our flight suits and rubber slip-ons called, ” Ho Chi Minh’s”. They were  made out of  old tires. They sold for about  one MP (10 cents). Mine were old, and Z’s were new since he had not been in country long. It was dark and there were no incoming. We got a call from the outer perimeter requesting Corpsman fast, and a midnight attack on a perimeter foxhole.  Not sure why the grunts did not call up their own Corpsman, but when they called I always said, “OK”. We were going to drive our ambulance to the Sergeant’s designated spot outside the perimeter… with no cover, no lights and a grunt waving a flag when we turned the last corner before heading to North Viet Nam. 

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Pity me not, shed not a tear.  The tears of today, spring from the well of memories of long ago.  The memories of a boy not running from the past, but a man-to-be striding toward tomorrow.

A long way from home this place in the sun.  I came not to conquer.  I need no awards, there will be no heroes made today.  I can stand with my head held high.  I faced the demons and gave not a step.  I held the hand of the dying, then alone – I wept.  Two boys died that day.  One became a memory – a flag to be tossed in a closet, the other no longer a boy – not yet a man.

The days stretched into forever.  Reality was today, home but a dream.  Through eyes scarred by reality, the boys of ‘67 passed through the portals of time.  Survival is the key.  Close the doors to reality.  Live in the dreams of youth to mask realism of war.  Each boy that passed through the door of my chopper shared a common thread.  Some would survive, some would give their all – let their mother morn.

Death was not an issue, but it was a gift I would give.  I come not to die.  The shuttering helicopter beneath my seat was as real as the blood beneath my feet.  Night and day the carnage came.  There was no relief no pause to have.  On we flew that chopper and I – with us was mercy.  We carried hope, we furnished care – sometimes we just furnished their last ride home.

Gone now are the days of fright.  Even though they return in the night.  It is the price I’ll pay.  I brought relief to those in need.  I gave comfort to those I could.  I prayed for those in need.  I cried for those who knew not.

I have no regrets for the memories that I endure.  I share the ordeals of men across the ages.  We came, we gave, we cared.