Introduction

I met Marty Lindahl through a mutual friend. Marty was an 82 ft WPB skipper during the Vietnamese War. He is genuine and immediately like-able.

For those that might not be familiar, the 82-footers main job was choking off the enemy’s sea borne supplies but it soon became more than that. The patrol boats also worked with the Marines, Navy SEAL’s and recon units. They also gave emergency support to Special Force’s camps, transported personnel, evacuated wounded and provided gunfire support. The Crews were highly competent, accustomed to independent operations and knew how to respond to the unanticipated. RADM Veth and others of Naval Forces Vietnam praised them highly.

One of the contributions the 82 ft skippers made, that few are aware of, was to ride back seat in an L-19 with an Army Forward Air Controller when the mission involved Naval Gunfire Support.

Marty was one of these volunteers. I believe that any aviator remembering back to their very first solo or “Why Me?” moment will identify fully with Marty’s story.

Aviator wings

John Bear Moseley
CG Aviator 743

My First (and last) Solo

by, Marty Lindahl

It was late summer 1967 in Da Nang, Viet Nam. Having arrived in Dec., 1966 I was assigned as CO on an 82 footer in Division One. After six months I was relieved and reassigned to Staff as Operations and Training Officer.

I learned that one of our extra duties was to help the Army as a spotter and fire control for offshore Naval Gunfire. It was not a frequent job; we spread the assignment amongst the staff. When your turn came up you reported to a small field outside Da Nang run by the Army and met your pilot, a young 19/20 year old W1. You suited up- flak jacket, emergency kit, pistol, and helmet and walked out to a L19, climbed and wiggled into the back seat. It was a tight fit.

Once aboard you got “checked out”. This consisted of a radio check, locating the emergency stick and hole in the floor to put it, the two foot pedals and the engine controls on the left bulkhead.

Taxi then takeoff – This was my 3rd flight. We headed north from Da Nang, passed Hue and flew toward Quang Tri. I was very familiar with this area up to the DMZ having patrolled it for six months.

Somewhere North of Hue the pilot saw something he wanted to check out and dropped down. You can’t see forward from the back seat, only out the sides. I did get a glimpse of what looked like vehicles moving south. As the pilot pulled up he suddenly lurched to the right and his head went slack. No radio check. The plane started to drift right and loose altitude. I pulled stick from the bulkhead, pushed it into the hole, flipped up the pedals and slowly eased the plane into a level flight. My biggest problem was I could not see forward from the back seat.

My previous flight experience had been as a Coast Guard Cadet during 2nd class summer at Elizabeth City where we were given about 15 minutes of flying in the right seat of a HU16. The one thing I remembered was to do everything easy. — “soft hands” the pilot said.

I slowly gained altitude and eased over toward the coast. I called Mayday, Mayday and got a response from the Army airfield. I told them my situation and lack of flight experience. I got a “standby”. I was now getting close to the coast. I eased south and kept the coast on my left, looking out the side window.
Army came back and asked my position, told them I was somewhere along the coast north of Hue. They told me to follow the coast and that two L19’s had been sent to escort me. I explained I could not see forward, only to the side.

I kept going south along the coast and was contacted by the L19’s. After some time they spotted me and positioned themselves on either side of me so I could see them above me. They stayed there and guided me back towards Da Nang. They kept me calm and joked around and told me they would get me down – I was not really convinced of that.

As we approached Da Nang they started to tell me how it was going to be. They said I would follow them down, slowly. They told me about the flaps and where they were in the back. We started down and I just stayed with them. I could see the land coming up as we lost altitude and they kept talking to me. At some point they told me to put down the flaps slowly, then they said stop. I started to lose altitude and they told me to add throttle. The ground was coming up pretty fast and they told me to keep the plane level. Then I hit the runway hard and the plane bounced back up. They told me to just keep level and I hit again. The plane veered to the left and the right wing touched the runway. The plane skid sideways and the right wheel collapsed. The plane came to a stop. All the emergency vehicles came up and they started to get the pilot out. After the pilot was removed they pulled me up and out and eased me down to the runway.

The pilot was dead. He was shot in the bottom of the spine. Somehow I wasn’t dead but very shaken.

A Colonel met me when I got to the ground. He told me the old saying “any landing you walk away from was good a landing”. He then asked me if there was anything they could do for me. I told him a double martini would do the trick and he accommodated me in his office.

When I got back to our shore facility I debriefed my boss, LCDR Friel, and told him I wasn’t flying anymore. I also suggested to him we should be getting combat flight pay. He agreed. He went up the line for flight pay. Pay was denied and we were “taken off flight duty.”

Marty Lindahl ’64