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"So I got 11 hours of flying my first day: picked up people with their legs blown off, had a person shot out of my helicopter with his hand on my back-quite exciting day." (Video Interview, 17:07)

   Edward Arnold Canright
Collection image
Edward Canright [2007]
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Army
Unit: Company 13-4; 61st Assault Helicopter Company, 1st Aviation Brigade
Service Location: Vietnam; Germany
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
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Edward Canright dropped out of college and joined the Army to help support his widowed mother. His baptism by fire came on his first helicopter flight in Vietnam. He witnessed firsthand the difference helicopters made in this war: deploying and picking up troops in difficult terrain, saving lives of the wounded by getting them to medical aid more quickly, and scouting out enemy positions and movements. He and some buddies even used a helicopter once to pull in radio reception for an NBA Championship game being played halfway around the world.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (8 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (80 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (8 items)
Vietnam arrival in Ton Son Nhut; assigned to Na Trang, then to An Son; supporting 173rd Airborne Brigade; daily routine for first three months was flying between there and Ban San on ash and trash missions; after that, he got into gunships and combat missions; memorable first day, a long one during which they picked up a severely wounded soldier; seeing a photo in a newspaper of that soldier nine months later; dropped off about 120 people for combat operation; had to return and pick up wounded from that action; one of them killed as he tried to board the helicopter, his hand on Canright's back when he was hit. (12:54) After three months of flying lift helicopters, on a mission to insert LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol) teams on a hill; taking fire on the mission from NVA soldiers, some of them with antiaircraft gun; put on a gunship the next day and returned to the same landing zone, taking more fire but also able to return same; killed about 400 enemy in that week. (04:21) Flying gunships making you feel like king of the hill; description of weapons on board the helicopter; feeling the ship getting lighter as the weapons fire. (02:28)
Not knowing from day to day how you might react in combat situations; training contributes to a state of preparedness for eventualities; one principle: never leave anyone behind, no matter how many times you have to go in to retrieve him; good feeling when he was shot down knowing that someone would be coming for him. (01:15) The advantage of helicopters in fighting that war; never lost a battle but couldn't win the war the way it was fought; constantly fighting for the same piece of ground; helicopters saving lives, as opposed to enemy having to crawl to their aid stations; his respect for the enemy; his best friend, a Marine disabled by the war, has been back to Vietnam four times and has shared food and drink with members of the North Vietnamese company which attacked his; between warriors there is nothing but respect. (03:25) Easing the tension with humor; flying to an in-country R&R location on a beach; listening on an off-day in a helicopter at 10,000 feet to Armed Forces Radio broadcast of an NBA Championship game. (02:38)
Last mission before he left country; helping to guide a platoon out of the jungle at night from the air; mortar attack on the base the day he left; plane taking off and everyone letting out a cheer; he couldn't relax until the plane was out over the ocean; seeing some familiar faces on the plane and wondering about others he had come over with. (03:16) What pilots carried in case of crashing: gold coins to give to Vietnamese for their help; issued .38 pistols, but he acquired an illegal Thompson machine gun; extracting a wounded NVA officer; tricky landing setup; worried that the prisoner might try something desperate while in the helicopter; trying to hand his prisoner over, with no one willing to take him. (04:30) 

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  October 26, 2011
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