THE MAN FROM MARS
By: Don Tyler
“Sir, there is someone here from MARS to see you”, my crew chief yelled from outside the door. I was doing paperwork in our plywood, boarded office,
at the back of the hangar. From within our hangar, located at the north end of the runway at LZ Betty, near Phan Thiet, Vietnam,
Send him in”, I replied! In walked a short person dressed in green, from head to toe. With a sharp salute, “Good evening Sir”.
“What can I do for you Specialist Jones”? (I don’t recall his name) “I would like to swap a phone call for an airplane ride”.
Be here no later than 0800 tomorrow”, I instructed.
MARS stands for Military Amateur Radio Station (sounds close enough for me). These people sit in a radio shack all night, trying to make contact
with a ham radio operator in the ‘States’. Once the radio contact is made, the ham operator taps into the phone system and you have a phone call to
your family. Each party must say “over” after each transmission so the other party can transmit. Sometimes contact cannot be made for several days.
There are always waiting list and some people wait up at the radio shack all night to get a call through. This was the most important person on base!
Jones was standing tall at 0730. I explained that this would be a normal reconnaissance mission. It would probably be boring but the shooting could
start and he could be killed. He said the radio shack was boring and he would take his chances. Everything started out well and Jones was really enjoying it.
I even put him on the controls to get a little ‘stick’ time. I was showing him an area in the mountains known as “The Toilet Bowl”, when the call came in
.”Seahorse 21, this is Sector, over”. “Sector, this is 21, over”, I replied. “We have a Victor Charlie at grid coordinates Golf Hotel 364-569 on a trail heading west.
Can you check him out, over”? I was over the area in two minutes and there he was walking down a rice paddy dike. He didn’t seem to be armed but you
can never be sure. He wasn’t working like everyone else, which was suspicious. I told Jones to hold on and I flew past the VC as if I hadn’t seen him.
I chopped the power and pulled back on the stick to reduce air speed for the Split S maneuver. Then I rolled the plane over on its back and pulled back hard
on the stick. In two seconds, we were going straight down at nearly 200 knots. As I pulled out, the G’s pulled the blood from our heads. As you pull more G’s,
you grey out, not being able to see outside the cockpit. To compensate for this, you pull your stomach in and scream. Jones didn’t know what I was doing so
he thought we were going to die! My crew-chief had put a siren on the airplane and I hit it. If the VC had a weapon, he was going to use it then. He didn’t so I
had to disarm my rockets and leave. All of a sudden, I heard a clicking sound in my radio that sounded like someone shooting. Looking back, I saw Captain
John Anderson on my tail. The dogfight was on. Round and round we went. We never passed up a good chance for a dogfight! It was then, I heard the dreaded
words from the back seat, “I don’t feel too well”? Before we could get back to base, he lost his breakfast! He was still green when he walked away from the
airplane. Now I would never get a call through to my wife, Jane?~~~~~~~A couple of nights later, I got a call from Specialist Jones, he had my wife on the line!
Over the next few months, he got several calls through to my wife. I will always be grateful to him for that!