Vietnam Helicopter Pilot Baptized By Fire

During his first night as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, Neyman had quite a big shock. He was sleeping on the top bunk when he heard all these explosions. He woke up and saw the North Vietnamese hitting with mortar and gunfire, so he rolled off the bunk and stayed on the floor.

Chief Warrant Officer Neyman served with the Screaming Eagles, the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in an area which wasn’t considered secure and with constant fighting. He first studied engineering for two years at Youngstown University and in 1967, when he was 19 years old he decided he wanted to fly jets so he enlisted in the army. “I wanted to land on aircraft carriers,” he said, but he knew he needed two years of college before he could become a pilot.

In the meantime, requirements changed and all of a sudden he needed a four-year program before he could fly. In the Army he was offered an alternative training program which would also qualify him and would guarantee him a placement. Neyman joined up for flight school and left for basic training at Fort Polk, L.A., where he graduated with highest score in his class, the Ellwood City Ledger reports.

The 13-months flight school began with basic helicopter training in Fort Walters, Texas. The Vietnam vet recalled his very first flight with an instructor. He picked up the controls and ‘I was all over the place in the middle of the field,’ he said. Six hours later, Neyman would be the first in his group to fly solo.

After he did some IFR training at Fort Rucker, Ala., he graduated a lot earlier than his colleagues because of his high score and fantastic flight status. In April 1969, he and 13 others flew into Cam Ranh Bay in South Vietnam. Of 14 helicopter pilots, only four survived, with Neyman being one of them.

Shortly after, he was sent to Camp Eagle, close to the Demilitarized Zone, where he would pick-up and drop-off troops in his UH-1C “Huey” helicopter. He described the missions saying that during a week he would have to pick up troops from Da Nang and take them to  A Shau Valley and five out of seven days he would get shot at or hit. 9 months later he was shot down.

He had to drop off a company of Marines, but in the area they were in, the grass was too high and he couldn’t land. He hovered above the grass while the Marines jumped out. Then all of sudden “a sniper popped up and shot my tail rotor off,” recalled Neyman, saying his helicopter went crazy and started spinning. A few moments later, the aircraft was rolling down the mountain, with two of the crewmen swinging in an out of the helicopter as it went down the hill. Everybody survived.

Neyman left Army in January 1971. He was awarded 2 Distinguished Flying Cross medals and 2 Air Medals and the Screaming Eagle Silver Dollar for Valor.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE