Former Marine Corps Aviator
I served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1968 to 1975. I went
to Quantico and the 47th OCS in November '67 then to Pensacola for flight
training and rotated through VT-1, VT-3, VT-5, VT-6, and
I went to HML-267 at Camp Pendleton in '69
and then to Vietnam with HML-167 from August '69 until July
'70. I flew 620 missions in Huey Gunships. I returned to be the Assistant
Officer in Charge of the Marine Corp Auxiliary Landing Field at Camp Pendleton.
Later I went back to HML-267 for a while
and the transitioned to jets at VT-22 in
Kingsville, and then on the RAG at Cherry Point. From there I went on to VMA-331 at Beaufort, S.C.
until I separated in December '75.
I have always missed the good friends I made in the Marine Corps. I hope
I get a chance to see all that I can again. Visit if you want. ~ David Geaslin email@example.com
Photo Courtesy of Randy Crew
A novel of Marine gunships in Vietnam
1/Lt Jan Hruska 1/Lt Ira Hieberg
1/Lt Dave Geaslin
1/Lt Jim Hall
Hutton, Scotty, Adams, Ira Hieberg, Greg
Duesing, Paul Hugenberg, ?, Al Hinton
Jan Hruska & Milt Mathews just had a door
blown off at LZ Baldy by a H-46 lifting off.
Christmas bird Jan Hruska flew Bob Hope around in.
1/Lt David Geaslin (FNG) at
Cua Viet near the DMZ.
1/Lt David Geaslin
1/Lts Heiberg, Geaslin & Duesing
I took this bird up an a test hop for a slight beat at 60 kts. After 10
minutes of flight the beat smoothed out. I thought to myself, "Damn
your a good test pilot. All you got to do is think about the problem and
the bird fixes itself!"
Got back on the ground and found that the trans &
and engine cowling had blown off in flight and gone up through the rotor
system leaving a hole big enough to drop a canteen through.
Need some names here!
Over the Hoi An River near the mouth.
RoK Marine country.
From the HML-167 Web page
Death Of 1/Lt. Dick Dodd
It was in Elephant Valley, 1970, I saw him
a brave young man who loved to fly.
He went out of this world in a moment so fast,
but his fight to live went on to the last.
His Gunship fell past me in a mass of flame
but his courage was strong, for when the end came
despite a crippled bird without control
and the rising jungle coming up like a shoal,
as his flaming Huey plunged close to the ground,
I saw the nose pitch up and rotor slow down.
I was watching his last chance hitch,
with flames in the cockpit, he still "pulled pitch".*
To continue to fight against such pain and strife
sets an example to us for the rest of our life.
No matter how bitter the stuff in Life's cup,
take a big gulp and never give up.
* The complicated emergency procedure
by which a
helicopter can be landed without engine power.
~ An autorotation.
HUEY GUNSHIP MISSION
David T. Geaslin
|Those of us who flew that overweight beast
didn't fear her in the least.
She was ugly, squatting down on the ramp
and beside the Cobra she looked like a tramp.
The skids were always spread from landing too hard,
but in a Huey Gunship you couldn't avoid
planting it firmly with a thud,
leaving two long grooves in the runway or mud.
But she was a working beauty and to us a fine steed
and when things got hot, a real friend indeed.
One morning, flying Recon from An-Hoa
we committed a grim faux pas,
that still gives me a grin and a shiver
thinking about that runway that points down to the river.
Things had been hot on each line of the mission.
The Cherry Pie Recon Team had been extracted in bad
The Blueberry Pie team was on the ground
and found signs of the NVA all around.
The package went to An-Hoa to refuel and rearm
to stand-bye for Blueberry's inevitable alarm.
By now the sun was high and the red dirt started to bake.
I checked the charts to see how much fuel we could take.
The weight was critical with all the ordinance on board;
guns, rockets, bloopers and everything but my sword.
Then I heard the cry from Blueberry's clan,
"Get your birds in the air, the shit's hit the
I told my co-pilot, "Put just 30 gallons in!"
switching frequencies to listen with chagrin,
to men calling for help and to gain some clue
as to how to effect this rescue.
I called to the crew chief, "Everybody in, we've
got to go!"
When your in a hurry everything moves so slow.
RPM up from FLIGHT IDLE to
Then the fuel gauge hits me in the face like a lie.
"My God! The tanks are full!", I
said with lip bit.
"Were to heavy to get out of the fuel pit!"
Looking at my copilot with the intent to kill,
I realized this FNG was not an imbecile.
His first day on Recon was just taking place
and the massive confusion had hit him like a mace.
The fueling crew chief was waiting for him to say "Stop!"
but he was distracted by men dying and we were in a spot.
No use crying over spilled milk at this time
as Flight Leader my place was at the head of the line.
"Gunner and Crew Chief - Clear left and clear
Let's try to get this pig into the fight!"
Pull in the collective, all power into play.
We can't even hover, watch the RPM decay.
"I'll switch into MANUAL and the safety
(If we get through this, I'll tan his hide!)"
Watch the EGT and don't let the RPM
Pull in the pitch, "Now fly you whore!"
Two inches of altitude (God what a drag)
If that's all you got I'll take it you Hag.
A little forward cyclic and we settle flat
the skids screeching on the pierced steel mat.
"We've to much in this gutless, garbage bag
dump something or we'll melt the engine into slag."
Out went tool boxes, spare parts, and a pile of other junk
with sliding and scraping noises it went out with a clunk.
Out of MANUAL and back into NORMAL
Now I'll try beeping up the RPM.
Bump it up to short of redline.
Cross your fingers, "God, listen to that
Hot damn, I think it's going to work. "Let's be
As we settle to the deck with the LOW RPM AUDIO
"Crew chief and Gunner out!", that's 400
"Meet me at the end of the runway!"
That was the straw that saved the camel's back.
I slid to the end of the runway with that little bit of
"Crew Chief and Gunner, back in your place."
A quick mental check to recover from the pace.
"How long have we been grounded?"
I look at the clock astounded.
It has seemed like a lifetime wrapped within it,
I can't believe it's just the fifth minute.
The H-46's are just taxing out of the fuel line.
We're ahead of schedule, but Blueberry's short of time.
The Recon team was in bad need for us to show,
I checked the gauges and mentally said, "Go!"
Looking down the runway of about 2,000 feet,
thinking how 200 more horsepower would really be neat.
I pulled in collective and started to slide.
On the center line I tried to guide.
Translational lift was our do-or-die.
Fifteen knots I needed to fly.
At fifteen hundred feet remaining I felt secure,
At a thousand feet remaining I wasn't so sure.
A man on a horse could've passed us bye,
With five hundred feet remaining I wanted to cry.
I could feel her shuddering, wanting to fly,
just two more knots and we'll get bye.
The copilot's hand was on the JETTISON
to drop the rocket pods to try to save her.
I glanced at my copilot and said "Guy,
I'm not sure this thing is going to fly."
Black humor sometimes slips in,
as I said to the door gunner with a grin,
"Corporal, if were not gaining altitude when we
cross over the river,
you jump and I'll send the Silver Star to your sister!"
I guess nobody else saw the humor to chuckle
because I saw the corporal start to unbuckle,
but just then the old girl came across
and with a shudder, sluffed gravity off.
I could feel the airspeed start to build
and we cleared the runway threshold and a small hill.
We were flying by heck,
if only two feet high and in ground effect!
The LOW RPM AUDIO was a sound to hate,
"If we can't get over the wire, we'll go through the
Our rotor wash beat a path through the combat base.
Tents and flack jackets were being blown all over the place.
Thank God, that gate wasn't barred,
'cause we'd made a hell-of-a-mess out in their yard.
We shot the gate at about 50 knots.
with about as much room as a coin in a slot.
It took us three miles to get 300 feet.
I think all four of us were sweated to our seats.
I glanced at my copilot with my Wings of Eagles look,
just to let him know I wasn't shook.
I checked the crew with a look very brief,
The corporal's still there, "Boy, that's a relief!"
Then I heard Blueberry in a voice not so bland,
that soon they would be fighting hand-to-hand.
So one crisis surpasses the next
and Blueberry's problems would fill a text.
But we got Blueberry out to fight another day
and when all was quiet we were released to fly away
and in the club that night, having a drink it didn't seem
that such a small error could risk man and machine.
We both learned a lesson that money can't buy,
trying to get that Gunship up in the sky.
No matter how good we get or how far we've been,
Neither of us will forget that fuel gauge again!
David T. Geaslin
Former Captain of Marines