Not everything that happened in Vietnam was horrible. In fact, sometimes things happened that were downright funny. Of course those that were there did tend to develop a sense of humor described as “strange” by those who stayed back home in what participants fondly remembered as the “world”, aka “land of the round-eyed women.
Back in those days, the door gunners of both Army and Navy Hueys rode side saddle in the wide open side door openings to offer defensive firepower of their M-60 machine guns. Since the gunners had to stand up to operate their guns, for obvious reasons they wore a harness fastened to a strap secured to the aircraft, much like an organ grinders monkey, hence the term “monkey strap”.
Usually two straps were available, one long and one short. The short strap was adjusted to come taut before the wearer could fall out of the aircraft. The long strap was used in landings during hot tactical situations, where the wearer might need to get out of the aircraft. Thus, if the pilot had to lift off in a big hurry, the gunner would be plucked away by the strap, and wouldn’t be left behind on the ground. When clear of enemy fire, the copilot and the other gunner could pull him back into the aircraft.
The true incident illustrated by this cartoon happened in the Navy’s HA(L)-3 “Seawolves” gunship squadron in the delta region of Vietnam. A gunner who was basically pretty abrasive and obnoxious had gotten into an argument with the three other crew members just prior to liftoff, and they were still annoyed with him. Much later while on the way back to the base, he leaned out to admire the scenery, 1500 feet below. He expected the short strap to come tight, but forgot that he had switched to the long strap! The law of gravity still being in effect, in a twinkling he was dangling fifteen feet below the chopper, bellowing for help.
Under normal circumstances, the crew would have pulled him in immediately. But since they were all still mad at him because of the argument, they just left him hanging there all the way back to the base! He spent the whole time screaming bloody murder, and hoping that the strap wouldn’t break.
Time soothes all things, including bruised feelings of this incident. So much so, that a friend recently ask that the incident be made into a personalized birthday cartoon by Russ Dillard.