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"One thing they don't teach you in flight school is how to land helicopters in a formation while you have other helicopters firing through the formation." (Audio Interview, 24:16)

   Francis J. Bayer
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War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Persian Gulf War, 1991
Branch: Army; Army
Unit: 155th Aviation Company; 92nd Aviation Company; 8th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Division; 35th Infantry Division; Army National Guard
Service Location: Blackhorse Base, Vietnam; Central Highlands, Vietnam; Ban Me Thuot, Vietnam; Cambodia; Laos; Fort Knox, Kentucky; New York; North Carolina; Delaware; Nevada
Rank: Chief Warrant Officer 3
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His grandfather and father were Marines, but Francis Bayer had other ideas about serving his country—he wanted to fly. He enlisted in the Army in 1967 because it was the one branch that guaranteed he would get into flight school. In Vietnam, Bayer flew helicopters involved in troop insertions and reconnaissance, learning to improvise under fire or in a tight spot. He is proud that in postwar tests of air-to-air combat situations, tactics that he helped develop allowed his helicopter to outmaneuver Navy jets. He continued flying after his service days, working rescue and medevac jobs.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (9 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (96 min.)
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 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (9 items)
Operating a helicopter involving eye-hand-body coordination; training started with keeping the helicopter inside a football stadium; on one night course run, wind changing direction, so he calculated a short cut to get him back with enough fuel; another helicopter ran low on fuel and made an emergency landing--inside the Texas State Prison. (05:34) First duty assignment in Vietnam: attached to the Royal Australian Navy, supporting Australian and U.S. ground troops for four months; reassigned to Central Highlands, supporting Special Forces; flew along Cambodia-Laos border; last three months in country were out of Nha Trang. (02:49) First day in country; told that only ten percent of pilots would survive to finish their tours of duty; in fact, only ten percent of his class did not make it through; Army trained so many helicopter pilots that there was a surplus by the end of the war. (03:11)
Australians' unique way of suppressing a landing zone; landing a helicopter in formation amid rocket fire from other helicopters without any sighting system; they used grease pencil on their windshields to line up the rocket fire. (02:18) Basic duties: troop insertions, resupply missions with discretion to avoid giving away positions of their troops to the enemy; reconnaissance by fire; occasionally taking fire from reckless ARVN troops, but that didn't happen often with threat of retaliation; at end of 1968, new rules of engagement required them to get permission to return fire. (04:15) Doing postwar tests on the OH58 helicopter, performing well in air-to-air situations with Navy fighter jets; devising tactics that are still in use for air combat scenarios. (02:11)
Dad and grandfather were both Marines; latter served in WWI, father in WWII and Korea; told his father that he joined Army for a chance to fly; one way of staying in touch with home from Vietnam: on the way back from missions, using the helicopter's radio to patch in to ham radio hookup; not allowing for time difference and waking up his family in the middle of the night. (02:05) Lunch food wasn't special, but being an aviator had its advantages over the infantry: morning and night they got a hot meal, and they did have a bed to sleep in every night; improvising to keep their tents out of the mud; company parties featuring fresh deer meat, hunted down in helicopters. (02:15) Favorite aircraft to fly in Vietnam was the UH1, the D model with more power; the one he had was nicknamed was Baby Hook (as in Chinook, the large troop carrier); episode of extracting troops from hover hole, an opening in the jungle canopy, requiring delicate maneuvering; when they were ascending with a heavier load aboard, their lift started to fail and they had to shear off some tree tops to make it out. (04:58)

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  October 26, 2011
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