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Palmer Narrative

The following is a copy of an e-mail I received from the PJ of the Laos rescue, Dennis C. Palmer, on February 5, 2002:

Dear Gary,

 What a great surprise to hear from you last week.  As soon as Cinnie mentioned your name I knew who you were.  I immediately went to my scrap book and opened to the mission.  I remember the day very well.

 I will give you a little back ground how our operation worked at the 37th ARRS in Da Nang.  You probably already know but in case you don’t here goes.

 We had 5 active Jolly’s out of Da Nang every day.  We would brief with the pilots each morning around 0200 for the days bombing missions.  We always sent 3 Jolly’s to Quang Tri every day.  Orbit bird would always leave first to be ready for the first runs and would stay airborne. Then a couple of hours later high bird and low bird would follow and stage at Quang Tri.  We had a hooch there and would just hang out and wait.  Every couple of hours we would relieve the orbit bird and they would come in and refuel and take a break. We had 2 Jolly’s on alert at Da Nang, they were primary bird and secondary bird. 

On the day of your mission I was the PJ on the primary bird in Da Nang.  We always hung around ops when a mission was underway.  We would all get pumped hoping that we would get scrambled.  There was always a chance for a mission whenever we were in the area of Tchepone or the Rock pile.  Anyway I was down in our section working on some equipment and heard there was a mission going on over by Tchepone so I stopped what I was doing and went up to ops to see what was going on.  I had no idea at that point that we would get involved from Da Nang.  I remember getting excited when we heard low bird announce that they were having problems and would have to return to base.  I remember scrambling out and felt good because of the crew we had.  I had flown with this crew a lot and knew Captain Hall and Captain Richert were great pilots with a lot of nerve.  As we started getting near the area we began orbiting while the A1-E’s located you and tried to suppress the gooks. I remember when we decided to gas the area because the gooks seemed to be pretty close to your location. I was getting my gas mask out and was getting the rest of my gear ready to go down the cable when Thibodeau said to me that he had forgotten his gas mask.  We talked it over and decided that we would not mention anything until the last minute.  Just before we went on our approach I remember telling Captain Hall that Thibodeau did not have his gas mask.  At that point there was no chance that we were not going in. We decided that if the gas started affecting Thibodeau that Captain Hall or Richert would come back and operate the hoist.  I remember watching Captain Richert shooting out of the window and I could hear the bullets hitting the chopper.  You always twisted on the hoist so it was always tough to get a bead on anyone.  I remember getting you on the penetrator and into the Jolly.  Once we had gotten you back on the stretcher I remember getting back on the M60 in the door until we were out of the area.  I always wished we had two PJ’s on board at that point  the extra medical was always good.  I remember when I went back to start treating you that you were really alert, I asked if I could have your name tag from your flight suit you took it off and handed it to me and asked if I would like to have your snub nosed 38.  I thought boy what a great gift!  I carried it with me the remainder of my time in Nam.  The day I left country from Saigon the MP’s took it. I   was really pissed and mad that I had not sent it home.

 I looked up Cassidy’s address in our news letter and will forward it to you in case you don’t have it.  Robert Cassidy/ 526 Old Fredonia Rd. Mercer PA 16137

 I moved to Colorado after getting discharged from the Air Force.  I worked construction for a number of years and decided to get my pilots license.  I wanted to be a crop duster, still would enjoy it.  I did get my license but ended up back in construction.   It has really been the only career that I have had until I went into business with my son two years ago. I belong to our local search and rescue team here in Douglas County.  Most of the county is in the Rockies so we get a few good missions each year.  I think we had 46 call outs this last year.  It is great just getting out. We had a mission two years ago and called in a Blackhawk from Fort Carson in Colorado Springs to come in and evacuate a fisherman that had fallen into the South Platte River and had a severe head injury and was clinging to a rock.  When they were on their approach in I was hoping that they would be hot and pop off a couple of rockets for old time sake. No Chance!

 I will take a picture of your name tag and e-mail it to you.  I don’t have a digital camera but have friends that do so will get to it soon.

 Life is a petty thing unless it is moved by the indomitable urge to extend its boundaries. It sounds like you have done that.

 Stay In Touch,

 Dennis C. Palmer

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