Bill Meehan's Last Flight
activity was going on in the Ban Me Thout area. A large combat assault was
planned with the 281st AHC being tasked to provide four slicks. Upon
arrival we only had to provide three ships for the CA work and were told to
provide one for province support at Gia Niah. John Wehr, Bandit 26,
assigned that mission to me. I’d had a pretty rough tour to date (was the
unit magnate-ass) and had only returned to flight status several weeks earlier
after being wounded during a mortar attack. Thus the easy mission.
Upon arrival, the province senior advisor ask if we could make a drop (kick-out)
of water, medical supplies, and radio batteries at an outpost just south of the
SF camp. There was no pad within safe reach of the outpost. (That
should have alerted me.) The SF camp had been undergoing a weeklong
attack. He also said that the area near the SF camp was quite now, but
radio contact with the outpost had been lost. Thought it was due to
batteries running out. He suspected bad guys were still in the area.
him that if he would provide someone to kick the stuff out and had it stacked in
the left door (top heavy = quick kick out = less time in danger), we would take
a look. Over flew the place at about 2000 AGL. It was
triangular shaped, very small, on a knoll, and full of 292 antennas.
Certainly to small for a moving drop. There were no gun ships
available for support due to the big CA in progress. Following the VR, I
flew on for several miles and did a combat hover check. (If you can hover
at 2000 AGL then you can hover at 30 feet, no problem.) The real worry was
some high ground located several hundred meters to the east of the outpost.
We were getting ready to break all the rules, no gun cover in a known hot area,
and no radio contact with the supported unit. These guys needed help.
I ask the crew what they thought and all replied that they were with me and
a fast decent going away, then turned inbound placing the outpost between use
and the high ground, trying to mask our very low and fast approach. We did
a pop-up, came to a hover in the middle of the antennas, and I yelled for the
Kicker to do his thing. He had no sooner started than there was a loud
bang. I’d started to dive off the knoll when Bill Meehan yelled that the
blades had only cut an antenna wire. (Not my first set of blades, and wouldn’t
be the last.) I had no sooner put the brakes on and reestablished a hover
when a loud groan came over the ICS. I knew then, and dived off the
outpost heading away from that high ground. It all happened very fast.
Looking back I could see Bill hanging over his gun. The Kicker
pulled him off the gun and I headed for the SF camp, landed and jumped in the
back to help get him onto the cargo deck. He had a very ugly wound
in the left side of his neck (side towards the high ground), and was bleeding
from a wound in his back. He did say he was hurting really badly and
to do something for the pain. Nothing could be done. We thought he
was hit in the chest but could not find the wound. Did a very quick
bandage job to stop the bleeding and the SF medic told us to get to Ban M Thout
fast. We did, keeping the EGT running in the high yellow. Piss on
the torque. We went FAST. Called ahead and had several doctors
standing by. They stabilized Bill and shipped him right on to the hospital
in Nha Trang.
taken only two hits. Bill receiving one. When we returned to Nha
Trang that evening Maj. Miller ask me a question that I’ll never forget.
“Did Meehan have on a chicken plate?” ( Note: Bill had been leaning out
over his gun doing his job, as usual, and the round struck him in an area that
would have not been protected by the chicken plate.) I was dumb struck.
I did not know. He told me to find out. Neither the CE nor
Gunner had been wearing one. Their plates weren’t even on the ship (saved
weight). He told me not to worry about it, or the mission. AC’s were
out there to make decisions. He then announced that no Intruder Aircraft
was to fly again without chicken plates aboard for each crewmember, no matter
what type mission. I went to the hospital the next day to see Bill.
Only got in because of the time I’d spent there. He was in a full traction
rotary machine. The round had hit him in the neck, damaged his spine,
punctured a lung, and came out his back. On the flight to Nha Trang, the
medic had recessed him twice. He was paralyzed from the neck down.
many missions together and I always considered Bill a typical 281st crewmember,
OUTSTANDING, and so willing to do the non-typical.
I knew in my soul that we would take fire from that high
ground. I could feel and taste it, and should have had Bill placing fire
on it with his M-60. The way we were hovering placed he and I on the side
towards the hill. Guess I still justify not doing so to the fact that the
SF was out in the area and I didn’t know where they were.
Ed Young (Bandit 22)
Oct 67 – Oct 68