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"I think the casualty rate on a percentage basis--now, this would be wounded or killed--in my profession, which was helicopter pilot, was around 38 percent." (Video Interview, 14:46)

   Carl E. Bergman
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Carl Bergman [2005]
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: 163rd Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron
Rank: Captain
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Recruited by the Marines out of North Dakota State University in 1965, Carl Bergman figured the Vietnam War would be over by the time he completed his aviation training. Instead, he found himself flying enough resupply, recon, and rescue flights in country to rack up 43 Air Medals, one for every 20 missions completed. On one occasion, trying to evacuate a recon team heavily outnumbered by the enemy, his helicopter was shot up and all his crew wounded; the next chopper sent in was shot down and all but one of the crew killed. The bond forged under immensely difficult circumstances endured many years later in biennial reunions with other pilots and vivid memories of his service.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (5 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (48 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (5 items)
Marine drill instructors do live up to their reputations; in those days, they could physically assault a recruit; the movie Full Metal Jacket is a good representation of Marine boot camp; teaching obedience without question and great physical stamina; despite his athletic background, he was in even better shape after his USMC training; recalling his instructors. (03:52) Arriving in Vietnam, "that Godforsaken country;" heat affecting him deeply; Marine helicopter units are utility squadrons, so they fly a variety of missions; awarded 43 Air Medals; casualty rate, wounded or killed, among helicopter pilots, was 38 percent; on six or seven occasions, one of his crew was wounded; began as co-pilot and after two months became aircraft commander; some guys opted to extend their tour; "quite an exciting life," flying all day, partying all night, living on the edge of dying, with adrenalin pumping and intense camaraderie; still has reunions every two years. (08:43) Recalling one especially dangerous mission; coming back from resupply mission in Khe Sanh, hearing about a firefight on their radio; small squad of U.S. soldiers outnumbered, one helicopter going in for rescue but pilot shot in head; Bergman's and another helicopter diverting to help out; tried four times to get in, crew shot up; next helicopter in was shot down and all but one of its crew killed . (05:28)
Difficulties of night flying without the night-vision equipment that is used now; rescuing guys who indicate their location only with a lighter; going out with two aircraft, only one with lights on, the other dropping down for the rescue with power cut to avoid detection by the enemy. (02:03) Struggle to take a village reflected a battle of wills; called in to rescue one soldier; several crew wounded during the attempt; Distinguished Flying Cross for that action; picking up two other men on side of mountain. (05:15) 

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  October 26, 2011
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