And so it came to pass one hot dusty summer afternoon at Wisconsin’s Fort McCoy that a Huey crew with JP4 to burn and no particular mission to burn it on found itself flying over the countryside looking for something to strafe. I was the crew chief and left side door gunner for that joy ride and was sitting behind my trusty M60 machine gun that I affectionately called Phillis, not really but I thought it added color. It wasn’t long before we spotted a lone Jeep tearing down a dirt road leaving a trail of dust in it’s wake. The pilot, a rouge of a Warrant officer who I’ll call Greg, because that’s his name, dropped us down over the road right behind the speeding Jeep and set me up for a nice gun run on target. We overtook the unsuspecting vehicle on it’s right side and I let go a nice long burst into him while swinging the gun around to keep him in my sights as we roared past. The look on the drivers face was classic when he looked up and saw a Huey zooming past with the door gun blazing away. Laughing Greg pulled up sharply and yelled over the intercom “Oh, we have GOT to do that again!”
With our blood lust up we roamed over the countryside looking for new and interesting victims to strafe. It wasn’t long before we spotted the telltale marks of numerous tracked vehicles leaving a dirt road and heading into a large stand of trees. Greg made a low pass over the suspected area and through the treetops we could see a company of M60 Patton tanks spread out trying to hide under their camouflage netting.
“Light em up Scary!” Greg screamed as we zoomed past.
I put a nice long burst into the general area then let up on the butterfly triggers as the pilot brought us around for another pass. I could see the armor crews scrambling as we gleefully poured more blanks into them. Coming off the second pass I saw black smoke belch from one of the M60s and was surprised to see it start moving quickly to the edge of the trees and into the field beyond.
“No freaking way!” I shouted over the intercom, “He wants to play!”
Greg hooted in agreement and banked the Huey away to set up the engagement. Now I don’t remember the Army teaching us how to have a duel with a tank at Ft. Rucker but it seemed to us that flying below the treeline, always a good practice in Army aviation, and sneaking up behind him would be a good idea.
Giggling like school girls we raced across the trees and popped up right behind the tank in a perfect position for an unsportsmanlike shot in the ass. But before I could get a round off the tank’s turret spun around to face us and a white puff of smoke blasted from the gun tube. We’d been out drawn. Cursing Greg hauled the Huey around in a tight bank and retreated behind a hill. Two more times we tried to sneak up on what we thought would be easy meat and two more times that dammed tank blasted out of the sky, simulatedly, (is that a word?), of course.
Admitting defeat we flew over the tank one last time low and slow and I saluted the tank commander standing up in his cupola as we passed. Maybe using attack helicopters and hellfire missiles when dealing with tanks isn’t such a bad idea after all.