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Interview with Francis J. Bayer [5/21/2003]

Amy J. Betts:

This is Amy Betts, with the Adult Learning Programs, interviewing Francis J. Bayer, on May 21, 2003 in his home in Liberty, Missouri. Mr. Bayer was born on November 19, 1948. So, could you tell us a little about what branch of service you enlisted in and when?

Francis J. Bayer:

I enlisted in the Army in June of 1967.

Amy J. Betts:

And why did you select the Army as the branch of service you joined?

Francis J. Bayer:

Well, I had an interest in helicopters and the Army was the one branch that basically guaranteed that if I wanted to they would make sure I would get into flight school.

Amy J. Betts:

So that would be the reason why you joined. Tell me a little bit about what your boot camp or training experience was like when you did join the Army.

Francis J. Bayer:

Well, basically they told us to report to get sworn in. And we figured we'll report, get sworn in and go home and they would let us know what was going on. And we report to get sworn in and the next thing we knew we are on a bus for the airport heading for basic training.

Amy J. Betts:

And where were you living when you were sworn in? Where was that?

Francis J. Bayer:

This was in Pennsylvania. Actually were living in Warminster at the time, and just northeast of Philadelphia, and we had to go down to Philadelphia to get sworn in. On Broad Street. I guess it was kind of a surprise to my family because they, like me, figured well he goes gets sworn in and comes home and they you know make arrangements and all for when he is supposed to depart. And instead I went and got sworn in and about 5 minutes later I was departing along with everyone else that was there. Are we leaving already? (Chuckles) But, it was interesting because there were a few of us that were heading for the same destination down in Fort Polk, Louisiana to spend the summer months in the heat of the south. It was interesting experience there. And there was about 8 different guys I was stationed with in basic that were going to be going through flight school also so we formed a kind of a camaraderie, close knit sort right there from basic training on.

Amy J. Betts:

And so was your flight school in Fort Polk also?

Francis J. Bayer:

No from there we went to Fort Walters, Texas, which has been closed since then. But that was the primary, where you took your primary aviation training. And you start off with 3 weeks of officer training intermixed with classroom work and meteorology and aerodynamics and mechanical aspects of different aircraft and whatnot. And after those first 3 weeks then you actually finally got to go out to the flight line and see your first helicopter. They were actually flying three types of helicopters at the time.

Amy J. Betts:

And what were those three?

Francis J. Bayer:

TH 55, which was a Hughes, basically a Hues 500. Then they had the Bell 13, which was the old M*A*S*H bubble-type. And they also had a Hiller H23. Some of those you've probably seen on television as crop dusters and whatnot. They have a solid tail boom going up at an angle and this little bubble. I had my initial training in a TH 55A, or Hues 500 is or actually 300 I guess is what they are called now. It's basically a piston engine in a 2-place helicopter. The cockpit is shaped sort of like an egg with a tail on it.

Amy J. Betts:

And what was that helicopter used for then?

Francis J. Bayer:

Basically strictly initial training, flight training. Small enough to get into areas where you could develop basically I'd say hand-eye, or hand-body coordination. Cause any movement you make whether it be with the throttle, the collective, the cyclic, or the pedal everything else has to move equally, conversely, so as you increase power you have or as you increase collective to lift it off the ground you have to increase throttle to give it more to power turn the rotors faster and of course at the same time you are counteracting what ever movement the aircraft is going to make with the cyclic while you are trying to maintain your heading direction with your pedal so you can hover. Then they take you into these little tight little spots in the trees and everything so that you learn how to hover over a spot with out moving. And of course initially they bring you into a football field and tell you now just try and keep it in the stadium somewhere. Which is always amusing to watch.

Amy J. Betts:

How many people were in your aviation class with you in your training?

Francis J. Bayer:

Uh. Let's see. In my flight we had 80 pilots going through.

Amy J. Betts:

Did all 80 finish?

Francis J. Bayer:

Hum?

Amy J. Betts:

Did all 80 pass?

Francis J. Bayer:

All but 3.

Amy J. Betts:

OK.

Francis J. Bayer:

And... That was in my flight and there are 4 flights in the squadron so, living in the one dorm with about 320 of us in one dorm. Then they also had 9 different flight squadrons going through at a time so they were producing a lot of helicopter pilots back in the late 60s.

Amy J. Betts:

Sounds like it. So do you have any memorable or funny stories from your flight school or basic training that you would like to share?

Francis J. Bayer:

Well, we were out doing a night cross-country run. Solo night cross-country check ride and they had two students in there instead of a student and an instructor. And then the instructors basically plotted the course for us to take. We had to do all our different calculations while we were flying and make sure that we were on course and we got enough fuel and everything to get back. And that we had planned everything accordingly. Well about halfway through the flight I looked at my fellow pilot there and I said we got a problem. He said "what's that". I said the wind has changed direction. We came down here on a head wind and we got to go back with a headwind, which means we don't have enough fuel to get back. So, basically what we did is we decided that well, we're cutting this cross-country short, instead of going to checkpoint A to B to C back to A, we went from A to B to C direct back to A, we skipped the other half. And I figured we have just about enough fuel to get back. And then I figured well, maybe we better tell these other guys in our flight what is going on. They said, "We gotta fly the course given to us". "Where you at?" We called different people up, where you at and everything. Some of these people didn't even know they were lost. I said oh well, let's go. So the ones we could get a hold of we told you know turn around and head back because the winds changed and they are not doing what they predicted. About 3/4 of the way back all of a sudden you start hearing these mayday calls from people running out of fuel all over the countryside. And funniest one was the, well they had launched a command and control helicopter trying to get everyone to come back. Some of these people didn't know where they were to get back. So, we were listening to one discussion where "what's around you? Where you at? How much fuel you got?" and with that you hear them say well, all you hear is the student say " I don't have anymore fuel, and I see a nice area all fenced in and that's where I am going" Well he landed in the Texas State Prison. [Laughter by both Bayer and Betts]

Amy J. Betts:

Oh. My goodness!

Francis J. Bayer:

And they weren't much to thrilled about that, having a helicopter drop in on them in the middle of the night. But fortunately it was a quiet drop in because the engine had quit on the way down.

Amy J. Betts:

Were the pilots ok?

Francis J. Bayer:

Yup. And, then they had one guy, his name was Beck, he was in my flight. He ended up having to do an auto rotation and he gave them grid coordinates of where he was at, at least he knew where he was. When they went out there with a UH to pick him up, well that's all they did was pick him up and said we are leaving the aircraft there cause this things not coming out unless it's daylight. Cause we don't know how you got it in here to begin with. He was two feet from a fence, and he had trees within a foot of the aircraft all the way around. And how he got it in there and landed it without damaging it they don't know, but they had to truck it out of there. Cause there wasn't anyone going to try and fly it out. Anyway, then you spent your primary flight school at Fort Walters, Texas. That was 41/2 months down there. Then we had well basically we were getting close to Christmas so they gave us 2 weeks leave over the Christmas holidays and what not. Then right after the New Year we had to report to Fort Rucker, Alabama to complete our training and that was at that time what they called the Advanced Helicopter training facility. Current there is only one and that is Fort Rucker. National Guard has 2, eastern and western training centers. Western being in Tuscan and the eastern in Indiantown Gap outside of Harrisburg.

Amy J. Betts:

So how long were you at Fort Rucker then?

Francis J. Bayer:

We spent, let's see, we actually spent 5, 5 1/2 months at Fort Rucker. All in all it was about 10 months of training in the aircraft. Once you got to Fort Rucker then you basically flew the Bell 13 M*A*S*H bubble type, which was equipped with full instrumentation so you could get your instrument check out. Once you got your instrument ticket, you went in to the UH themselves, they are made by Bell, UH1s. Then you completed your training in those. Some of the pilots ended up not flying helicopters and going into fixed wing, old bird dogs and what not, observation airplanes. But the majority of us ended up in helicopters. You learned all about the different components of the aircraft, emergency procedures, capabilities of the aircraft so once you got to where you were going what every the situation be you could evaluate and get the job accomplished.

Amy J. Betts:

OK, so you spent about 10 months in training in the summer, fall, winter, so where did that take you now? So where did the Army send you after you were trained?

Francis J. Bayer:

I'd say 95% of my class went to Vietnam, and the other 5% went to Germany.

Amy J. Betts:

OK, and you went to Vietnam, it that correct?

Francis J. Bayer:

Yup. Spent the rest of 1967 and all of 1968 over in the Republic of Vietnam. I was attached my first duty assignment over in Vietnam I was attached to the Royal Australian Navy. There were 10 US pilots attached to them to help support not only the Australian ground forces but also we supported the 25th Infantry Division in a lot of their maneuvers. And we also supported both the 9th Armored Division down just northeast of Saigon. We operated out of a base called Black Horse. I was attached; well we were attached to them the first 4 months in country. Then they started to break up the US troops that were attached to them. One friend of mine went through flight school with, him and I got reassigned up into the central Highlands. I ended up with the 155th Aviation Company out of Buon Me Thuot. Up there we were supporting Special Forces and did some work with the 173rd Airborne and 101st Airborne division. Flying up along, well we did some work along the Cambodian/Laos border and whatnot. Mostly doing troop insertion, resupply and night time things of that nature.

Amy J. Betts:

Wow.

Francis J. Bayer:

In the last 3 months over there I was down in Nha Trang, just outside Nha Trang. It was called Dong Ba Tin (spelling?), or something like that. That was with the 92nd Aviation Company. I got reassigned there after spending almost a month in the 12th Medivac hospital with a mild case of malaria.

Amy J. Betts:

Wow! Did you recover well from that?

Francis J. Bayer:

uh-ha. They were based out of Dong Ba Tin (spelling?), just south of Nha Trang. And there we supported the 170th, or was it the 101st, the screaming eagles, yeah, the 101st. There they has their base headquarters up in the, I forgot the name of the city. I can't think of it off hand anyway.

Amy J. Betts:

That's OK.

Francis J. Bayer:

It was up inside of a mountain there. Up the foothills like.

Amy J. Betts:

Do you remember what it was first like when you first got to Vietnam? I know you were stationed lots of places, but the first drop-off in country?

Francis J. Bayer:

Well, they dropped us in Saigon and went into our briefing area where they told us who we were going to be assigned to and whatnot. Just kind of basically a holding area. But they greeted us and told us well probably wondering why so many people were going through flight school and being sent over here. They said "All you pilots who came in on this flight want to stand up". We all stood up and they said well, because just about my whole class was there. He said due to past experiences 10% of you will be back here a year from now ready to go home. The rest of you won't. And we said excuse us. He said, yup most of you will be gone the first 3 months, the rest of you will get nailed the last 3 months, there in between you all will be safe. He's there, the helicopter pilots over here knocked out left and right.

Amy J. Betts:

Knocked out, meaning shot down?

Francis J. Bayer:

Yup. So basically the guy that was our student company commander happened to be there and he's there "well I hate to tell you this but this will be the first class that all of us make it back."

Amy J. Betts:

What did that do for morale?

Francis J. Bayer:

It kind of, there was "yeah" cheering and whatnot. The major up there saying, "well, that's one thing we'd like to see, but reality is". We told him reality will be changed this course around. Let's just say there were about 10% of us that didn't make it back.

Amy J. Betts:

Wow, so you reversed his theory?

Francis J. Bayer:

Yup. His theory got reversed that year. Basically reversed from there on out, because the 90% that did make it back over half went to flight school to train those coming up. So, they were basically trained on not only how to fly the aircraft, but how to combat.

Amy J. Betts:

More survival of real life experience would you say?

Francis J. Bayer:

Of course the end result is after the war, they had more helicopter pilots in the civilian world than they knew what to do with. [Chuckle]

Amy J. Betts:

So, in your different assignments over there, did you see any heavy combat, heavy fire?

Francis J. Bayer:

Quite a few times. When I was with the Australians, they had a unique way of suppressing a landing zone, or LZ as it is known. In that one thing they don't teach you in flight school is how to land helicopters in formation while you have other helicopters firing through the formation. Because with the US troops it's not done. The Australians showed us how to do it. Because if you go to land in an LZ and they are firing at you, chances are your aircraft may not make it out. But once they stick their head up to start firing at you and they get return fire in form of rockets and grenades they go back under ground again. So you can land, disburse your troops and get out of there. Basically that's what our gun ships did, they fired rockets right through the formation. That's how good they were. An accurate. Without any type of sighting system except a grease pencil on the windshield. Basically when you took your aircraft out you were assigned an aircraft and once you took it out and got accustomed to it you marked grease pencil marks on the windshield for your missiles and mini guns so that was your alignment with the target. Once you got that on the target, fired it in and that's where they are going. We didn't have all this high-tech stuff that they have now, which I have used already like the helmet sights. Wherever your helmet goes that's where the guns and stuff go, which is current now. Back then it was you, a grease pencil and how good you are at repetition. But, a few times I went into a hot LZ, where they had what's called spider holes all over the LZ. When you land all of a sudden a head would pop up into your chin bubble cause they are underground in these little tunnels just snuggled down waiting for you. Once a helicopter lands they pop up and start firing at the helicopter. That gets a little hairy because bullets are going all over the place. We had a night resupply mission with the 25th Infantry one night. Called them up on the radio and find out their situation. "We have enemies to the north east and west. Come up from the south it is open." When we come in from the south short final, the aircraft is becoming uncontrollable from ground fire so we took off and headed out to the west decided we better reevaluate the aircraft and come to find out none of the instruments are working. We figured well, we'll go back to base camp unload the stuff into the spare aircraft and come back out. That's about the time the crew chief says we have a little problem back here. There is fire coming out the tail. So we kicked it out of trim so that it wouldn't burn the aircraft up and just blow off the side because base camp wasn't that far away. We got back to the base camp and the tower there notified emergency vehicles and as we were setting down they came out and foamed us. So then we unloaded all the ammunition we had grenades and everything, mortar rounds put them in another helicopter and went right back out. This time we did a little different in that basically in flight school they tell you never to fly in the GT line, which is the gun target line for the Howitzers to the target. We decided, well we are flying along with the rounds. We called them up and told them we are flying their GT line and told them that when we say cease fire you had basically 30 seconds of not firing until we get on the ground and it will take us approx. 20 seconds to unload. So when we day cease fire you got one minute we don't want any rounds coming down there. Cause that's basically the time frame it's going to be to get us on the ground through where the rounds are hitting, get on the ground, get unload and back out through where the rounds are hitting. We pulled it off. Got them resupplied and also informed them that they were now surrounded. So they set up a southern perimeter and on our way back we had some gun ships go out and assist them. But uh, next morning the maintenance officer wanted to know where the sam hell we were the night before cause it took him and 8 guys all night long to get my helicopter back up because they had to put 340 patches on it. He said" how did you guys get in and out of there with that aircraft and all them bullet holes flying through it and no one get hurt?" I said well, just say the powers to be higher than us guided us. Cause that's the only answer to that one. I can't dodge them that fast.

Amy J. Betts:

So, go over again what kind of support you provided for the different units you were attached to.

Francis J. Bayer:

Now what we would basically do with troop insertion, we'd pick these maybe a company up, 25th Special Forces squadron what ever and we'd take them out to the area they were going to be operating in. Depending on the train type operation or if it was a large operation you have 10 helicopters going in and maybe 2 flights of 5 landing in formation drop troops jumping out hitting. A lot of times with the special forces it was a single ship operations and you'd bring a squadron into an area a lot of times you'd go in a night and just hover into the trees and drop a repelling operation there. You go in and they are repelling down ropes off the side helicopter. Some of the resupply missions, especially if it was Special Forces, is they put a marker on the trail as you flew over the marker we'd start throwing supplies out. That way their location is not jeopardize by you landing and dropping supplies to them and what not. It's kind of a low level pass dumping the supplies out that way they can continue with their operations with out being jeopardize or anything. Of course the enemy doesn't know what you are doing out there anyway. I guess they figure you might be a snooper ship. Cause we did some of that too where we'd send a ship out and just fly a low level nice and slow on general top until you find draw fire and then you throw smoke grenade out and 2 kilometers behind you is a flight of gun ships that zero in on the smoke and annihilate what ever is there. And that's basically a search by, and recon by fire operation in a helicopter.

Amy J. Betts:

Was there any mistakes in that situation where any of our soldiers were firing at you or is it pretty obvious . . .

Francis J. Bayer:

Well

Amy J. Betts:

that you know of anyway?

Francis J. Bayer:

Sometimes you get the ARVNs firing at you cause they are drunk or high on whatever they were smoking that day. "Wonder if we can hit that thing?" They learn real quick that you don't want to be firing at helicopters, because there's usually someone behind getting ready to retaliate.

Amy J. Betts:

Ok

Francis J. Bayer:

Later on in that year once it started getting political, the war, if you got shot at you had to call for permission to give return fire.

Amy J. Betts:

And what year was that?

Francis J. Bayer:

That was the end of 68 and beginning of 69.

Amy J. Betts:

ok, how easy was it to get permission?

Francis J. Bayer:

Depending on where you were and what kind of an outfit you were in. If you were just out on a routine mission than forget it cause you're not going to get it. If you are on troop insertion, you got command control helicopter with your CO in it, rest assure you are going to get permission one way or the other. But there was a lot of politics being played out towards the end of '68 beginning of '69. That had some people disgruntled.

Amy J. Betts:

Ok were you awarded any medals or citation for you time in service or any other work you did?

Francis J. Bayer:

I was awarded the air medal and I think I have something like 30 awards in the air medal. I have a National Defense Ribbon, Vietnam Service Ribbon, and Vietnam Campaign Ribbon. I'm not sure of all the different ones I have.

Amy J. Betts:

Ok

Francis J. Bayer:

But I was awarded 7 or 8 different medals plus the Presidential Unit Citation.

Amy J. Betts:

Ok, we didn't talk at all at the very being about your rank most soldiers going into the army in '67 would have come in as a private is that correct?

Francis J. Bayer:

Yeah

Amy J. Betts:

Tell me a little bit about your progression as far as a soldier through at least through Vietnam.

Francis J. Bayer:

Going in I was a private E1, which every one starts out at. And basic training I was promoted to PFC. And once I got to flight school I was promoted to an E5 and maintained the rank of E5 through flight school. At which time I was given what they call a Warrant Officer designation. I was a W1 getting out of flight school. Just before I was coming back from Vietnam I was promoted W2 and then in '72 I guess it was, '71, I got off active duty as a W2. Then later on I joined the National Guard. I was off and on in the National Guard for about 10 to 12 years at which time when I got out of the National Guard I was a W3, Chief Warrant 3. And I had gone to the Warrant Officer Safety Course I had taken. I had gone through the Warrant Officer College and advance course. And I had taken a safety course, the advance course, the supply officer course in Virginia. Fort, I can't think of the name of the Fort out there, anyway. When I came back from Vietnam I was station out at Fort Knox, Kentucky with the 8th squadron and first air Cav and we were at that time I was assigned to a test program of the OH 58 Kiyo, which is the Bell Jet ranger now. They were just making them for the Army. I was on a test program to decide whether they wanted to go with the OH 58 as their flight observation helicopter or the OH 6A Cayuss. And they had some each in operation. We did a 1000 hour testing on the OH 58 then ferried them out to Hunter-Liggett Air Base in California where we did tactics with them and then we started doing advance tactics for what they at that time we were being classified as the BOT, Battalion and Attack helicopter team. In which they were using the OH 58's just like eyes for an attach helicopter to be produced at a later date. As far as ground support and enemy interdiction on the ground and then we decided to try air-to-air combat using Navy fighter jets against us. Basically we had to devise a tactic for that. Of course at first the Navy that it was a big joke because hey there is nothing but a bunch of little helicopters down there. They are no match against us. Until we started devising tactics to out maneuver them. Basically they had sights built into the aircraft with cameras on them and transmitted a picture back to the headquarters where they in turn determined whether you were on that aircraft long enough to shoot it down or not. And towards the end of our tour there we kind of changed the tide from navy jets having superiority to helicopters having superiority. Through the different tactics that we devised. Basically to this day they are still using them.

Amy J. Betts:

WOW!

Francis J. Bayer:

Well I wanted to go back and ask a couple of question about when you were in Vietnam because I know that we've kind of gone pass that. What was your family's reaction to you joining the military and how did you stay in touch with them once you left home and were in the army?

Francis J. Bayer:

Well my dad and my grandfather were both military. My dad was a 3rd Marine division during the World War II and the Korean War and my grandfather was in World War I and some other conflicts.

Amy J. Betts:

What branch was he in?

Francis J. Bayer:

He was a Marine also.

Amy J. Betts:

Marine also

Francis J. Bayer:

Of course my dad wanted to know why I joined the Army instead of the Marines I said well the Marines won't guarantee you anything expect a gun. At least in the Army I know I'm going to get a chance to fly, so they won.

Amy J. Betts:

So how did you stay in touch with them?

Francis J. Bayer:

Basically through letters and periodically be able to get to the PX and use the telephone there. I was overseas it was strictly letters except for every now and then when you got on the mission where they were using sidewinder radio where they have an antenna running down both sides of the tail boom and to maintain communication with different ground troops and what not. Usually on the way back you can climb up to a little bit of altitude and tune into a ham operator and get a patch back to the states, and get a phone patch over the radio.

Amy J. Betts:

WOW!

Francis J. Bayer:

Be able to talk to people that way. Of course you didn't think about time difference so usually you are calling someone up at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning getting them out of bed "Hi how are you doing" " I was asleep" "Who is this?" That was kind of seldom and far between. Occasionally you got a chance to do things like that plus they had MAR stations over there were you got a chance to get to one you could put in a phone call to home were they would patch you through hammer operator

Amy J. Betts:

Did any of your other siblings join the military or support the war effort that you know of?

Francis J. Bayer:

My sister's husband was a Warrant Officer. Actually at the time that I got out they were offering you could take direct commission in the infantry and go back over to Vietnam and continue your military career that way or because they had basically too many Warrant Officers for their liking in the Army at the time and I decided I'd just get out and fly on the outside.

Amy J. Betts:

So how did you take that experience, the flying, and use it on the outside?

Francis J. Bayer:

Well when I first got out I was basically joining the National Guard and was using it that way. I did some other things employment wise. I guess I was out for about 8 years when I decided well I was going to do this full time and landed a job with Island Helicopter out on Long Island, New York flying for them. I flew for them for a few years. Then I was offered a chief pilots job up in Connecticut. I was running a city-hop operation. Unfortunately that company only lasted another year and a half then they closed and I went into flying hospital Medivac. Which basically got me traveling all over the countryside.

Amy J. Betts:

What states did you fly in for medical helicopters? Medivac.

Francis J. Bayer:

I flew in University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and from there I went into University of Pennsylvania to help get them their Pennstar operation started. Trained all their pilots and there medical personal in and around the aircraft. From there I went out to Iowa with Marion Air Care and was there until Desert Storm got started up. Then my unit was activated for Desert Storm about the same time they had shipped me off to complete advance training, warrant officer training down in Fort Rucker.

Amy J. Betts:

How convenient.

Francis J. Bayer:

Since they were gone when I finished my training down there then I ended up staying down there and learning how to fly the and getting refreshed and everything on the Cobras. So once I was done with that, looking at going over in the 167th Calvary and by that time the war was over so about the same time my unit was getting back so was I. Only I had been reassigned to the Cav unit cause in my absence they needed to be deployed a 100%. They only lost two pilots while they were over there.

Amy J. Betts:

Well I know that you have told us stories from Aviation School. I have a couple questions. Was there anything that you and your fellow pilots did at all during your Army experience for good luck and were there any pranks that you guys would pull while in the service?

Francis J. Bayer:

Well, usually when you got to a new duty assignment being an aviator you'd show up and report in. Once you got to your first formation you would be introduced to the rest of the people in the flight or squadron at which time you were told 6 o'clock tonight officers club so you can be inducted into the unit in the aviator style. And basically what they do is once you showed up the company commander would be there and tell the bartender to fix you up a "Barrel" and basically termed what they called a "Barrel of mothers" which is a shot of everything behind the bar into a shaker cup and they shook it up maybe 2 or 3 times and handed it to you. Your job was to drink it down and walk out. What you did once you got outside was up to you. If you wanted to come back, "come on back." It didn't taste too bad it just carried a potent punch I'd say. But the object was not to get sick inside the officers club. Then of course every now and then we'd get a little rowdy and decide to have carrier landings on the bar.

Amy J. Betts:

Have what landings?

Francis J. Bayer:

Carrier Landings.

Amy J. Betts:

Carrier Landings. Ok.

Francis J. Bayer:

Well if the bar was low enough you could use that otherwise, what they'd do is put a bunch of tables together and wet them down and guys would go running and fly through the air and land on the tables and see if they could stop before they got to the other side

Amy J. Betts:

So they would fly on there bellies is that right?

Francis J. Bayer:

Yea

Amy J. Betts:

And did you ever participate in this antic?

Francis J. Bayer:

Mieu? A few times. It's a good way to let off some steam

Amy J. Betts:

Sounds like it, sounds like it. So I've heard lots of stories about military food what was the food like and the supplies and the things that you were given when you were overseas?

Francis J. Bayer:

Well I think they were feeding us leftovers from World War II called C Rations and that was usually your lunch. Being in the aviation unit it had its advantages that in the morning and at night you got a hot meal and you had a bed to sleep in.

Amy J. Betts:

Ok

Francis J. Bayer:

Even if you were out in one of our forward stations in the tent you still had a cot with a mattress so that was one of the nice things about being an aviator you were able to keep clean

Amy J. Betts:

You were well taken care of then.

Francis J. Bayer:

Yeah

Amy J. Betts:

ok

Francis J. Bayer:

In comparison to the foot soldier who had to wade around the mud all the time. We were innovative and in one base camp which was all tents all we had used the tent as a roof and built four walls out of Ammo boxes and side walks out of ammo boxes so that we could at lease stay elevated out of the mud, pretty much. But the food wasn't too bad when it was hot. The other thing we would do is usually about maybe once or twice a month we'd have a helicopter go out and supply chow for the company get-together. Company parties some people would term it and they would go out basically with there helicopter spot a few deer running around and door gunners would shoot them and then go down and pick them up, throw them in the back, bring them back and let the cook take care of them after that and we'd have a little cook out. Everyone seemed to enjoy those good moral builders but the C Rations they were terrible. Usually when we were out resupplying, especially 5th Special Forces. They had what they called LRPF at that time. Long Range Patrol Food. And they came in plastic pouches you'd add water and stir it up and you had a lukewarm meal anyway. They weren't too bad cause they had like spaghetti and meatballs and stuff like that. So we were out resupplying them and usually keep one of theirs and give them one of our cases of C Rations. Swap it out. One night we did that and we were all fixing to have a good meal until we found out that the LRPFs that they had sent out weren't American but Vietnamese LRPFs and all it was, was fish heads and rice. So we switched it back the next time we went out.

Amy J. Betts:

So are there any other funny stories you'd like to share as far as camp or in Vietnam or any memorable moments?

Francis J. Bayer:

Well there was a couple times some of the pilots who hadn't had a day off in like 2 months or so would finally get a day where the flight sergeant says you're grounded for 24 hours. Well, inevitably when we came back from flying that day they were staggering around base camp. They were quite intoxicated. We'd pick them up and stuff them in the rain barrels trying to get them sobered up. Basically you had these rain barrels that were there catching the water when it rained so if in the event there was a fire you'd have water to put the fire out with. Just dunk them in there a few times head first and take them and through them in the shower. We had these big fuel bladders to refuel the aircraft with J.P. 4 and every now and then we'd get one emptied out and cleaned it out real good and filled it with water and stick it up in the trees so the sun could beat on it and heat it up. And just run tubing down into the showers and got a hot shower every now and then

Amy J. Betts:

Did you ever get an opportunity to go on leave while you were stationed over there?

Francis J. Bayer:

Yea they gave me usually 1 R and R in country. R and R meaning Rest and Relaxation period. That's about a week and you had a choice of one outside the country also. Being stationed with the Australians, I went to Australia for mine. Stayed with one guy that I was stationed with. He had a sheep farm over in Australia so we stayed there. He showed me around the country a little bit.

Amy J. Betts:

How was that?

Francis J. Bayer:

It was interesting.

Amy J. Betts:

Was it?

Francis J. Bayer:

We went down to Sydney and saw that. I spent sometime on the beach, saw how the sheep farmers live and what not. Went back and saw some of the outback, kangaroo's running wild and what not. Kind of an almost desert like only with foliage. Kind of a dry area at least at that time. But it was very interesting and enjoyable experience.

Amy J. Betts:

Wonderful, so you mentioned that you had 8 buddies. There were 8 of you from aviation school that you were close with. Did you keep in contact with them once you were finished in Vietnam? Have you made any other close friends in the military?

Francis J. Bayer:

No, basically with moving around and what not in my civilian careers and everything I kind of got out of touch with everybody. I'm not sure where any one is right now.

Amy J. Betts:

Did all 8 of you make it back from Vietnam?

Francis J. Bayer:

7 of us I know did.

Amy J. Betts:

7 did.

Amy J. Betts:

This is Amy Betts interviewing Francis J. Bayer born November 19, 1948 on May 21, 2003. This is tape number 2. So the question I had just asked was do you recall the day you ended your full-time Army service and where were you?

Francis J. Bayer:

I was at Fort Knox, Kentucky and basically it was about a week before Christmas that I actually got off active duty.

Amy J. Betts:

What was the year?

Francis J. Bayer:

1971.

Amy J. Betts:

Ok, so what did you do once you left the full time active duty?

Francis J. Bayer:

Basically when I went home for Christmas. It was about 3 weeks later I started working for W T Grant up in Souderton, Pennsylvania as a manager in charge of the automotive center. Then I joined the National Guard in Allentown. That summer of '72 they had a huge flood were we got activated I spent basically three months on active duty during the floods. The first part was involving search and rescue operations. After that it was just going around and doing field sight inspections for those in charge of the flood control in the area up in Wilkes-Barre Scranton area in Pennsylvania.

Amy J. Betts:

Ok and you have already alluded to different careers, things you've done different things in your civil life. Did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general?

Francis J. Bayer:

Well basically it got me to the point where while being in Vietnam, being at that point and time probably saying a third world country in that I was a kid being raised over here in the United States where we have television, running water. You know if you want to get cleaned you go jump in the shower turn the hot water on and get nice and clean. Got to go to the bathroom well most houses have two. Then we are going into a culture where there is no running water there is virtually people there if they have to go to the bathroom well they just go beside the street. That's where they go. In most of the villages, the streets are ox cart paths made out of dirt. You're living in thatch huts with dirt floors. But they do sweep the floors even though they are made out of dirt. There is no indoor plumbing only in the big cities do you see any electricity and I'm not sure if we brought it in or the French brought it in or who brought it, but it's not like you'd see here. When you see people preparing your food it's usually over a fire or something and you don't see to many stoves in the area so it's kind of a culture shock. I guess here we are trying to help these people get some type of freedom from under communist regime and at the same time there's politicians trying to take advantage of it back here so it's kind of a catch 22. And you know there's people dying left and right and really don't want wars any more wars because then the love ones that follow you are going to have to go and fight them. If you can find a way for everyone to live peacefully and have people learn how to resolve their conflicts peacefully. Naturally it would be much better. However there are people out there for example Sadam Hussein who are selfish enough who take an entire country and throw it into poverty while they live with gold and diamonds and millions stashed in the wall. And the worse part is that if you get someone like that that can influence the people to the point where they don't know what to do with freedom.

Amy J. Betts:

How do you feel you were received when you came home from Vietnam as a soldier? I know there was a lot of unrest in this country at that time. What was your experience coming home as a Vietnam soldier?

Francis J. Bayer:

Well due to the unrest, the plane that I landed in California on, basically the flight crews told all the military personal that were continuing on to the Philadelphia area and to stay on the aboard the plane because they had to dead head that plane to Philadelphia and it was a free flight.

Amy J. Betts:

What does Dead Head mean?

Francis J. Bayer:

It means once they landed the there were suppose to fly empty to Philadelphia not pick up any passengers. Their theory was we're not picking any up because there are already on board. No it wasn't a scheduled flight.

Amy J. Betts:

Oh ok

Francis J. Bayer:

Just deadheading to get that plane and that crew back to Philadelphia so that it would be ready for the next day. And evidently they probably had some maintenance problem or something with another aircraft. That was the only one available. So basically at that point they told us and the other guys that were getting off of there that you know their service was greatly appreciated and not to take to heart what they were about to see once they get out into the terminal, because being one of the main airports were all people from Vietnam are coming back into go. There are a lot of demonstrators and my understanding is there are people throwing stuff at you and calling you all kinds of names. People basically ignorant to what we had been living with and facing with day in and day out. Which I guess you can say my understanding the time I was over there it was about 1500 soldiers a week losing their lives. Which when you compare that to the most recent conflicts where 132 or we're talking a couple 100 lose there lives. We lost all during the course of the Vietnam War something like 57,000 lost their lives so. And around '66 to '69 were the worst years. It's when the most casualties were.

Amy J. Betts:

Did you personally experience any type of backlash when you arrived at the airport or went to arrive back home?

Francis J. Bayer:

I got home in August and I guess the temperature was in the upper 80's mid 90's and once you finally get use to the temperature over there people look at you weird because you are running around in a winter coat in August because you are freezing.

Amy J. Betts:

This was in Pennsylvania where you were running around in this winter coat?

Francis J. Bayer:

Yep, when over in Vietnam when it got down to 98 you were under a wool blanket because you got cold. The temperatures ranged usually 110 to140 in the shade and once your body got acclimated to that you were no longer sweating. It was bearable when it dropped 20 to 30 degrees you started getting cold. People looked at me strange because I would be wearing a heavy coat in the middle of August trying to stay warm. Everyone else is in shorts. "It's hot out here." "No it's cold". Of course you were trying to stay keep from going in the stores too much because of course they all had their air condition running full blast. It was bad enough outside. It took about a month or some to get reacclimated to where it was bearable to walk around in short sleeves.

Amy J. Betts:

How did your family, what was your family's reaction to when you came home?

Francis J. Bayer:

My mom was overjoyed cause I decided I'd surprise them and instead of calling them I just showed up in a taxicab. My little brother Jimmy was looking out the window watching me getting out of the cab and he says of course they had the doors open and the windows open of course it was summer time I heard him say "hey mom Franny's home".

Amy J. Betts:

How old was your brother at the time?

Francis J. Bayer:

He was about 10 or 11. She came flying out the door. After she gave me a hug she chewed me out for not calling her

Amy J. Betts:

As any good mother would do.

Francis J. Bayer:

Yep, I just laughed at her, well I just wanted to surprise you and give you a Merry Christmas in August. But it was good to be home.

Amy J. Betts:

Did you join any Veteran's Organizations since Vietnam?

Francis J. Bayer:

I joined the spearmen of VFW in Pennsylvania and then went moving around. Then went with American Legion. Basically I just keep my membership on a national level

Amy J. Betts:

ok

Francis J. Bayer:

instead of a local post level. Of course different movings of here and there. Usually on a post level normally some kind of commitment and time you have to give them. With my work schedule and everything it's kind of hard to dedicate the time right now. Hopefully when things get a little bit lighter, a lighter workload I'll be able to.

Amy J. Betts:

Well I have a question that I'm personally interested in. What of the many kinds of crafts that you can fly, if you could give me your favorite during your Vietnam experience and then maybe your favorite equipment that you flew in your civil experience or post Vietnam?

Francis J. Bayer:

I'd say the UH 1 at the time they had the D model over in Nam. It's a little bit larger troop carrier. It had a little more power to it and heftier engines. The one I had they actually had nicknamed basically called a "Baby Hook" were the hook was over there was a Schnook Big Bowing Schnook. And they were used to carrying a quiet heavy load and for some reason I do believe that I had a very good crew chief that kept it well maintained. I remember a couple times we had to get troops extracted at what they call hover holes where you find a hole in the canopy of the jungle and you settle down into it and then you maneuver back and forth till you get down to the ground into the jungle. It's usually a crew chief and gunner telling you ok "get down three feet, get back up two feet, down one foot to the right, on foot" basically maneuvering down though the tree line, different canopy levels to get to the floor of the jungle so you could pick up these guys that had been separated maybe from there unit and are surrounded. Or it's a platoon size unit you have to extract because too many enemy in the area for a unit their size to handle and they have to get out of there quick so they can call air strikes in or whatever. And there was three helicopter that had gone in there ahead of me and basically they had each been able to pull three troops out with all there gear and they barely got out of there. You are pulling more power to get up to clear the tree line and everything with the high density altitude because of the heat it takes away from your lift and them maneuvering up and through the trees makes it a little more difficult. By the time I got it in there they were basically 6 guys left. So I said if I take three that would leave two and with two down here they are gonna get wiped out. So basically I got right on the skids with three and we put it back down so we could throw the other two on and we could go ahead and get out of there all of them and I didn't want to leave anyone behind. The crew chief was looking over my shoulder and he said, "Are you sure about that" I said I think we got to. What are we going to do leave two behind and get killed. He said "I ain't gonna sit down here and wait for someone to come down on top of us. We're out of here" and basically going up is the same thing maneuvering yourself up threw or back threw the same hole you just came down. When you are up by the top then you have about three feet to go and inches, start bleeding off a little power. Well there is only one thing to do know, we beeped it up as high as it could go, poured all it had and started forward. I figured if nothing else we were going to chop top of the trees off. That little burst got us clear and away we went. As soon as clear of the trees we reduced power to get them out of there and the lead aircraft was on his way back after dropping those three in a more secure area. "How many are left down there?" I said "none". "How many do you have on board? Six. "What do you think you are doing flying a baby hook?" Yep. We should say that my aircraft was known as the baby hook.

Amy J. Betts:

Wow.

Francis J. Bayer:

We got them out of there.

Amy J. Betts:

Must be a good feeling to know that you got them all out.

Francis J. Bayer:

Yep, then when I was out in Ban Me Thuit I had a pet monkey.

Amy J. Betts:

YOU DID!

Francis J. Bayer:

Yeah.

Amy J. Betts:

What happened with your pet monkey?

Francis J. Bayer:

And a pet oscelot.

Amy J. Betts:

A pet what?

Francis J. Bayer:

A pet oscelot. It is member of the cat family

Amy J. Betts:

Did they just wonder into your camp or something how did you acquire a pet monkey?

Francis J. Bayer:

Well it kind of wandered in. It was a little baby type kind of young.

Amy J. Betts:

Do you know what kind of monkey it was?

Francis J. Bayer:

I think they call them spider monkeys or something like that. It was a little baby just happened in there. It got lost I guess wandering around. So I started feeding it. It took a liking to him and he hung around. He would guard my room when I was gone, my hooch. And that pet oscelot we had, it would warn us when they were setting up the mortar tubes because it could hear what we couldn't. Of course we didn't know it at the time. We're sitting there playing cards one night and all of sudden the oscelot jumps up and lets out a blood-curling scream and out the back door. Me and the guys were sitting there "what is wrong with your cat?" "I don't know." Two minutes later all of a sudden you hear, Ka-chunk, Ka-chunk, mortar tubes. So we head for the bunker. There is the oscelot down the bunker, looking at us like what took you so long. We didn't think anything of it. Two nights later the cat does the same thing. You better get that cat checked out; there is something wrong with it. About that time, Ka-chunk, Ka-chunk, and here we go to the bunker. I'm there, wait a minute, that's twice we ended up down here after that cat did that. So about three nights later, all of a sudden the cat lets out a scream and heads for the bunker. I am like, I don't know about you guys but third time I am not a fool. I am out of here. I head for the bunker. No sooner do we get in the bunker and here they come. Basically the cat could hear them setting up and we couldn't. When the cat screams and ran to the bunker, it's time everyone follows the cat.

Amy J. Betts:

Was card playing an evening event typically?

Francis J. Bayer:

Yeah, to keep from getting bored and what not. The only thing you had the radio America or what ever they call it. About the only thing you had on the radio was "Good Morning Vietnam".

Amy J. Betts:

So that was what you heard, just like the movie?

Francis J. Bayer:

Yup, matter of fact, what's his name, Cronauer, the guy that, the actual guy the movie is about, when I was setting up the University of Pennsylvania's flight program, Pennstar, he was there going through his last year of law school to be a lawyer. So he's a real life person.

Amy J. Betts:

So what became of those pets, the cat and the monkey once you left?

Francis J. Bayer:

The monkey I left with my platoon leader who was going to be saying on another five months. And the oscelot, well he just became the mascot for the camp. So whoever, they stayed there. I tried to bring him back but the only way to bring him back was just to give him to a zoo.

Amy J. Betts:

You don't see too many people with an oscelot in their house.

Francis J. Bayer:

Nah.

Amy J. Betts:

Or spider monkeys. That sounds like a neat memory.

Francis J. Bayer:

But they were fun. They kept us entertained.

Amy J. Betts:

I am sure that was nice to have entertainment. Well is there anything you would like to add that we have not covered in our talk today.

Francis J. Bayer:

Not that I can think of.

Amy J. Betts:

Ok. Well I want to thank you very much for sharing your story with us. If I have any other questions I will get back in touch with you. Thank you very much. Description of Medals- side 4 of interview Senior Aviator badge with the star on the top On the top left as you look at it, is the air medal.

 
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