ODE TO A LIEUTENANT - Bob Heckman
As the Exec you got to meet all the "newbies" to the TASS, do their
orientation, and then the wheels decided where they would go. There were
a few exceptions, but I think I met all the folks coming into the 20th TASS
from Oct 1970 thru June 1971.
The folks in the 20th TASS I knew the best, and flew many missions with most
of them. A lot of pilots started by flying the line and then transitioned
into PF or other of the special missions.
One of the people I flew several missions with, including a week end in Ubon
was Larry Hull. He had switched to one of the special missions in 1971
and after his second or third special mission they (his crew) had found troops
in the open, had called in the appropriate support and whatever ordinance that
was used caused (in Larry's words): "There was just a pink flash and mist and
they all just disappeared," etc and it happened several times--anyway he stopped
in my room the night that this all happened and was hyper with excitement about
it. Larry was blond and light skinned and I will never forget that he
was so flush with excitement that he was almost bright red. He also had
on a pair of bright red shorts which contributed to the effect.
The next morning he and the army spotter were shot down by small arms fire
on the same sort of mission. Both were killed instantly and the aircraft
was very badly damaged. An insertion team went in and recovered the army
observer but Larry's body was crushed between the stick and the seat and the
team was unable to extricate him. They grabbed his map bag and his dog
tags and later the aircraft was napped because of fear of the radios being found
by the enemy. The area was just too hot to attempt any other recovery
You need this background to understand why I wrote later what I did.
After the team came back they dumped the very bloody map bag in my office and
left the dog tags with me to determine what to do with them.
Over the next couple weeks I just wanted to write something down that reflected
what a contribution Larry had made or at least recognized that he had been in
Its been in my briefcase for the last 30 years and every now and then I open
it and read it. It always brings a remembering smile.
He lived, he sang, he laughed, he smiled , he died--the
game he knew it well, he played it hard, for sure, for keeps, he died.
He knew no fear, he risked it all, he paid, perhaps
for all. We loved his laugh--he was so shy, how could he die? He
did though, suddenly on a day when none should--his machine, he was the master,
clear and a million over the lethal fire, he had jinked before, he had touched
death's lips before, just a brush, but he knew its chill.
He had respect--but now we think the odds were too
He went, he loved it more, once in a life event,
he sat, he played, he drew and filled a blank and they called the hand and he
fell trembling down--he's dead, he's gone and yet?
To those who knew, who really knew, his mark is
made. Though he will stay forever in Nam, we know, we will not forget,
not for long.
Larry, lives above this clamor, this sickness, this
fruitlessness, he lives--in death he lives--
Be strong, be strong, he lives.
I wrote some notes that Larry died in Feb 197l. I think that is probably
It still brings a smile.
I will work on a page as to what the exec did. I think I have a different
slant on "Major" memories than a lot of folks do.
By the way about three weeks after all of this happened Arch Battista was
rotating back to states and I gave him the dog tags to give Larry's widow.
Arch wrote me 4 years ago or so he met Larry's daughter and that she was a very
nice young lady. It was hard to send those dog tags when it represented
all that was going to be sent back (not including personal things).