PICKLES, MICHAEL RICHARD
Here is an exchange of E-mail written by some guys who served with Mike Pickles in Vietnam. This round of E-mail was spurred by an individual who was assigned to a unit that Mike supported as a slick pilot and a LOH pilot. The E-mail has been slightly edited to remove subjects not relevant to Mike Pickles.
Did you know a guy by the name of Junior Richman who was a crew chief on Mr.
Pickles bird during '69 and maybe early '70. Can't remember just when Pickles
got shot in his loach. I took my maiden flight to the field with Pickles and
Richman. Took 3 attempts to get me in due to the unfriendly fire and damage to
the birds that day. I was with B & E companies 4/31st Inf. 196th LIB which
worked off of LZ West, LZ Siberia, Hawk Hill, LZ Baldy, when I was there. Just
thought I'd ask if you knew Richman or Pickles.
John "Doc" Lysinger
Subj: Re: minuteman
Thanks for responding. Pickles was a good pilot. He liked to agitate the dinks with his loach but they won in the end. I believe he could fly that bird upside down....
John "Doc" Lysinger
Subj: Re: minuteman
I don't know a lot about Pickles except he flew us quite a bit in June of 69.
He flew me on my maiden flight to LZ West the first part of June '69. We made 3
attempts into AK Valley before I got in. Pickles was the pilot. He flew Charley
Charley for our battalion part of the time. Richmon was a crew chief on a Huey.
The thing that set Richmond off was the fact he wore a white helmet most of the
time. Are you in contact with him? I remember Pickles just before he was shot
flying Loachs. He would come out and hover right over the trees kind of duck in
and out. They would shoot at him with a rifle alot of the time. Kind of cat and
mouse. He really flew low and it got the best of him. He wasn't scared of
anything and if somebody had to be inserted or extracted he was a good one to go
get them. I've heard them say things have been bad enough he took the risk by
himself without a co-pilot and crew. Left them all setting on a firebase and
went by himself. I can't say whether this is true or not. Pickles was good and a
Dustoff pilot by the name of Roberson was also outstanding. When the two of them
were around there no worry about getting in or out. There was a pilot by the
name of White who was wounded or later died in I think May '70. His whole crew
was shot up. They came in unannounced over the wire on the north end of LZ West.
The bird was shot up all over. I remember it taking all 4 to fly because of
there wounds. I remember I could read the 1 pilot name "White". They
were a mess, looked like a butcher shop. The bird's bubble was all shot up, tail
shot up, everything was shot. This might have been a "Rattler" instead
of a "Minuteman". Well I've went on long enough. Anyway I always
appreciated the choppers and crew. Down on the ground wasn't any fun. We had
several guys who transferred to the choppers as door gunners and maintainance in
the fall and spring of '69 & '70 back in Chu Lai.
Take care and if I can be of help don't hesitate.
John "Doc" Lysinger
Got your latest letter. I was a 11B to start with and did everything from RTO, gunner, sniper, etc. that you do in the field. I was one of the 4 surviving OJT Medics in that I know about. Otherwise we were infantry and crossed over and on the job training for 3 days as Medics and sent back out to a line company as a Medic. That was 3 days out of the field which was a relief....
Pickles made a lot flights in June for us and we always knew he'd make it in
when he was on the radio. I wouldn't wanted to been in his crew in some ways
because he took alot of risks but on the other hand he was a good pilot and
could get it out of the bird. You could depend on him. The flight I was
referring to was off of LZ West in June '69 to AK valley. I think we lost 5 or 6
men and had about 12 wounded the next day which was around the 15th. I was new
in the company and didn't know everyone. We had pretty hard casualities in June
in AK Valley, July it was Happy Valley, and August it was Hiep Duc which the
book "Death Valley" was wrote about. I was SSgt. Shepard's RTO at that
time. In Sept. it was the Human Wave assault on LZ Siberia. Things cooled down
until after the first of the year and it started all over again and was going
good when I left in June of 70.
Subj: Re: Pickles
Well, Doc, your info about Pickles' reputation has been verified several times over. It appears that he was something of a legend in his own time. Thanks for putting me on to such a great story. I did not know that he was the one dropping the calling cards. I had heard about that story (see below).
Here are some E-mail notes that I got from three 176th guys who flew with
Pickles. You will enjoy them.
I am trying to verify info about Pickles in the forwarded E-mail. Did you know him?
you bet i knew him,,,,,,,,,, he and ralph bigelow were "requisitioned" to fly the loh's ,,,,,,, i'm only assuming that they flew the hughes,,,,, they might have been in bell's cuz that was about the same time frame for them bells to takeover,,,,,,,,
pick and i flew alot together,,,,, he flew smokey for us and took some shrapnel in early '70? when the gunships fired a little to close to the lz,,,,, he wasn't hurt bad,,,,,,,,,
i don't know anything about their demise except i heard they were "1 shot charlies" and both took it in the head,,,,,
for some reason i thought pick was kia before i was hit but on all documents that i've seen this is not the case,,,, i was hit on april 7th and he was a month or so after that,,,,, it just seems to me that he was killed before i left country,,,,,,,,,,,,, go figure,,,,,,, will fill you in on a couple war stories later,,,,,
From Minuteman 29/Musket 38:
I flew quite a few times with Mike Pickles during my tour. I believe that he was into his second or possibly third tour when he was killed. I flew with him in Slicks, a few Smokey 500 missions, and covered him as a Musket during Smokey Missions. After he went to Loaches, (Informal Callsign: "Zippo", as he managed to set fire to just about everything, especially marijuana fields) I flew as a co-pilot with him a couple of times, until he scared the be-jesus out of me and after that I was satisfied with covering him on Dawn/Dusk patrols of the Rocket Pockets. He also perfected the "Snatch", while in Loaches, and there was a point that he was capturing almost as many as he was killing. He and his doorgunner carried handcuffs and they would sometimes come back to Chu Lai with a Dink or two dangling by one arm handcuffed to a seat stanchion or tie down ring, like a side of beef, outside the aircraft. He was one helluva pilot, totally dedicated to getting the job done. About going home, he said to me once that "I'll go home when the war ends, or they carry me out in a body bag." Unfortunately the latter happened. I have a few stories about him, most on the humorous side. Mike was one of the best, and I categorize him along with Angus (Mac) McAllister as those type of guys who ALWAYS got the job done, while screwing with the Army as best that they possibly could. I know that Maj. Detiveaux wanted a piece of his ass, but never had the balls to go after him. I think that was one of the reasons Mike went to Loaches. I know that he saved Bimbo Lent's and my collective asses with some bullshit line that only Detiveaux was stupid enough to believe. We really felt the loss when he was killed.
A little more amplification on Mike Pickles. The incident where he got wounded by rocket schrapnel. He was flying a Smoke Mission and started taking pretty heavy fire. I was flying with Bimbo Lent and we were doing our best to get the bad guys off of him when two rockets collided in flight. One continued towards the target but the other dropped almost straight down and impacted on the ground just left and forward of Smokey 500's nose. Mike took schrapnel in the leg and Detiveaux flying the C&C bird went ape-shit and really started screaming for blood. Mike just calmly radioed that he took hits from a B-40 explosion and that the Muskets should keep up the fire. Detiveaux tried to push the issue that evening but Mike insisted it was bad guys. We later talked with Mike at length and he said "that we were finally close enough with our cover fire to make him feel safe". That about sums up how Mike flew and handled himself.
After the incident with the rockets colliding, Fast Eddy Covill and Bimbo Lent were scared shitless that Detiveaux was really going to put the screws to them. He had been actively hunting the Minutemen and Muskets that "Stand Up and are Counted" because of all the risks that were being taken. He was really after the Muskets for flying "over-gross" all the time and actually ordered them to never take on more than 800 lbs of fuel in their Charlie Models. As Musket 38 so aptly put it, "Well you can't take a fight anywhere or stay in the thick of it for too long on 800 lbs."
So Fast Eddy Covill came up with the idea of taking on a full load of fuel and then during shutdown, pressing the fuel gauge test switch until the gauge read 800 lbs, then turning off the inverter to keep the gauge at 800 lbs. Detiveaux used to check the aircraft in the revetments to see if we were complying with his order and could never understand why we were still dragging the skids during takeoffs when the gauges all read 800 lbs. He never got wise to it, or just gave it up and never said anything more on the subject.
Maj. Detiveaux was Americal Division Safety Officer in 1969 before he commanded the 176th AHC.
Needless to say, despitethe CO's efforts, the Muskets contined to load up and fly over-gross for the remainder of the time that the unit was in Vietnam. That may be one of the reasons why so much mail commending the actions of the Muskets has been sent to the 176th site by men who were in ground units that the Muskets supported.
Subj: Fwd: minuteman
Did you know Pickles well? ... Pickles must have been quite a guy.
I knew Mike Pickles quite well when he was with the 176th and saw him a few
times after he left to fly LOH's. Mike was well liked by everyone, and was
fearless. He never refused a mission and was a gifted and savvy pilot. He loved
to taunt the enemy, and would drop calling cards after a successful mission such
finding a base camp etc. It was rumored that the Dinks hated and feared him so
badly, that they put a price on his head. I can confirm that he did play cat and
mouse with the enemy in order to draw fire so they would give their position
Subj: Re: Picture Information
...... Did you know Pickles?
I've read these letters and from my conservation with Pickles and what I seen out of him they're true to me. It was neat to watch him in the Loach just above the trees ducking in and out. Then let it rip!!! I never seen the handcuffs but he caused us to have to pick up several on the ground. Guess we're going to have to get in contact with Richman. I've heard him talk about some of these stories also.
As the above information about Mike Pickles was being edited, but was not yet published, the following unsolicited guest book entry about Mike Pickles was posted.
Entry of Jul 23, 1999 at 11:22 [EST]
From: Craig Singer - email@example.com
How I found your page: From the ADVA web site
Comments about the web site: I served with A Company 1/6th 198th LIB (Gunfighters) from Jan 1969 to Jan 1970. Mike Pickles Minuteman 28 I believe pulled me and two other wounded grunts from the rice paddies in the rocket pocket on March 15, 1969. the Ides of March. I was sorry to hear that Mike did not make it. I still have his card with my Vietnam memorbilia. Found out about Mike from Dave Grieger. Thanks to all you guys who made life a little better for us grunts. Peace. Craig
....he was a great pilot and a great american. .... i have a copy of a card i would like to send to you on mike, and maybe you can scan it in to your website. i have contact with seven members of my old company, we meet every other year on veterans day in dc and i will see if they have anything to add regarding "the minutemen". as i said before they brought our dinner (c rats) our clean clothes, our mail, our ammo and our replacements. and they hauled us out whether we were wounded dead or just going to the rear. i was part of several ca's with the 176th none that i cared for, one lrrp extraction (hot), that my platoon was "volunteered for", two medevac's (both as a patient) and really never had the opportunity to say thanks. i hope i am doing that now. the card I am going to send you has Mike on it as smokey 500 and minuteman 18 not 28. card says that he provided death and destruction 24 hours a day special mercinary rates, chu lai vietnam.
thank you carl. later.
Subj: Info for posting on MIKE PICKLES
Date: 12/22/2001 5:30:20 PM Eastern Standard Time
Here is some more info for you on Mike Pickles, who was KIA while serving with D Troop 1/1 Cav in Chu Lai. I knew Mike well.
Mike was a friend and hoochmate. He came to the Sabres of D Troop from the 176th, I believe in early 1970, and started flying Scouts. I believe he came to D Troop to get closer to the action, and to try something different than the slicks he flew with the Minutemen. He was a fine pilot, a good guy and funny as hell. He had a bright quick smile, and could relate a story fast and funny. He often visited the Mintemen while off duty, so I know they thought well of him, too.
In battle, few were better. He was aggressive, brave and capable. He did several dozen Visual Recons with me, he as lead scout, and me as lead Snake. We worked well together.
He was killed in late April, and I was on the scene just after he went in. I still recall how I felt as our blues pulled him from the wreckage and evac'd him to Chu Lai Hospital, sort of like the opening scene from Mash. He was just north of the Tra Bong River, a few clicks west of Highway 1, working in the flatlands, when a one shot charlie got him. As I recall, his crewman was not seriously injured.
Mike was like most of us, a guy who loved to fly, and who did his duty as he saw it. He is one of the guys I see when I visit the wall.