Spec 5 Robert D. Gibson -Vietnam Veteran
Tet was the most important Vietnamese holiday and took place at the beginning of their new year, January 31. In 1968, both sides announced a two-day cease-fire to celebrate Tet. Bob and his fellow soldiers were aware of the increased North Vietnamese radio chatter, and the Americans and South Vietnamese weren't unduly alarmed when the truce was broken by North Vietnamese with an vicious attack on Khe Sanh, in northern South Vietnam. However, the attack on Khe Sanh had been diversionary. The main attack began the next day, with well-coordinated strikes on more than 100 towns and cities, including Saigon. The North Vietnamese were quickly beaten back, suffering massive casualties. But the presence of all the main news organizations in Saigon meant that visual footage of the street fighting was taken into American living rooms, giving the incorrect impression that the South Vietnamese and Americans were losing the war. It was the turning point for public opinion and support for the war. Bob's tour of duty encompassed that fateful year of 1968. Bob was a crew chief and door gunner on a Huey helicopter, attached to the 9th Infantry and stationed at Bear Gap and Dong Tam. He and his fellow crew members were responsible for quickly putting a defensive perimeter around a downed chopper until a Chinook reached the area and could remove it. They also handled insertion and extraction of infantry into combat and "C&Cs," command and control, in which a helicopter circled above an insertion team if enemy fire was present. The M-60 Bob manned was fixed to the helicopter after trial and error (on earlier Hueys) determined that if it was hung from a bungee cord attached to the ceiling it could shoot off either the tail rotor or the forward part of the helicopter. A box for spent ammunition was placed below it, also after trial and error determined that without the box the ammo flew into the tail rotor.
JoAnne P. Miller