Pilot with a Magic Hat

Larry Bradshaw

by Reprinted with permission , "Naval Aviation News" August 1968

Most of the time, he serves as a Seawolf in Vietnam, flying a heavily armed UH1B Iroquois(Huey) in support of Navy river patrol boats(PBR's) in the Mekong Delta. His job has been to prevent the movement of supplies along the 6000 waterways and canals that crisscross the delta. He also makes reconnaissance and surveillance flights.

But LCDR Martin also wears another hat: the tall black topper usually associated with magicians.

Often, after completing a mission against the Viet Cong. the amiable Navy pilot teams up with PBR crewmen on the river to give a magic show. The PBR's pull into a river outpost or village and mark the spot for LCDR Martin's huey to land. Then they stand by to cover the helicopter while it is on the ground.

The Det Seven OinC climbs out of his aerial gunship to face his audience. He starts his show by setting up a small stand and placing his black hat on his head. Then he performs magic tricks as children gather round to marvel. Each of his shows lasts about 20 minutes.

The kids, it seems, quickly fall in love with LCDR Martin and his magic. He takes every opportunity to involve them in his act, and the willing "stooges" are the envy of the other children.

After a show, LCDR Martin's crewmen pass out clothing, candy, and medicine to villagers. Of their work, the pilot says, " All the men in my detachment are interested in civic action. I try to take as many men as I can to create a friendly relationship between the Vietnamese people and the sailors. By getting the sailors out on civic action missions and having them meet the people, they get a different outlook on the war instead of just the shooting.

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