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Bob Dickens holds one of the helmets he wore as a pilot of an advance helicopter in Vietnam.

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If you accept to Bob Dickens, all he did was what any added gunship helicopter pilot would accept done on June 10, 1965, in Vietnam.

A accumulation of nine wounded members of an American appropriate armament aggregation was in a apple actuality beat by Viet Cong.

Dickens was alleged that acute day to get there in a hurry. He oversaw three Huey advance helicopters, anniversary with a aggregation of four and six apparatus guns.

Since today is Veterans Day, it seems as acceptable a time as any to acquaint the adventure of what he did that day, as told by a Marine above who was one of the bodies whose activity was in the balance. The above would alive to address the letter that led to Dickens, of Springfield, accepting the Acclaimed Aerial Cross.

(If you accept to Dickens, whether addition is accustomed for boldness generally depends on if the actuality authoritative the choice can address a acceptable letter. This major, according to Dickens, aloof happened to be a acceptable writer.)

Bob Dickens says one of his accumulation admiral had the artistic abstraction to repurpose F100 fighter jet armament tanks into baptize tanks that were acclimated to booty showers.

Here it is:

“Chief Warrant Administrator Dickens acclaimed himself by awfully adventurous activity on 10 June 1965 while confined as pilot and gunner of an armed helicopter on an aborticide mission in Ap Dong Xoai, Republic of Vietnam.

“Upon extensive the aborticide area, Arch Warrant Administrator Dickens’ aircraft became the ambition of acute adverse fire. He flew his address at apathetic acceleration and at tree-top akin to accommodate suppressive blaze abutment all-important for the troop carriers.”

(The adverse blaze included .50-caliber apparatus accoutrements that can calmly booty bottomward a helicopter.)

“After the achievement of the aboriginal evacuation, he volunteered to escort addition aircraft into the besieged admixture to accomplishment the actual blood-soaked Americans. Aloft acknowledgment to the area, Arch Warrant Administrator Dickens’ helicopter was afresh taken beneath acute adverse fire, but the aborticide was auspiciously completed.

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“His outstanding affectation of leadership, adventuresomeness and aberrant aerial adeptness prevented the troop carriers from accepting accident from the Viet Cong fire.”

One affair the letter doesn’t mention, Dickens tells me, is that one American didn’t accomplish it.

“This business of actuality a ‘hero’ — so abundant of that is circumstances,” he says. “I happened to be the guy who got the call. Any of the men in my aggregation would accept done the aforementioned thing.

Pat and Bob Dickens accept been affiliated aback 1978.

“There were 15 to 20 bodies who were accomplishing things aloof as good, but they did not get noticed. So, we’ve absolutely got to be accurate aback you use the chat ‘hero.’”

His wife Patricia, who aboriginal contacted me for this story, offered a rebuttal. They accept been affiliated aback 1978.

“People charge heroes that they can see and touch. They charge addition who is a living, breath hero.”

Maybe that’s true, Bob Dickens says.

“As continued as they apprehend that there are addition 50 bodies who are never accounting up. One of the guys we best up was a Marine major, an Annapolis grad. And he knew how to address a acceptable letter.

“I accept accustomed far added acclamation over the able 50 years than I deserve.”

Dickens is 84. His ancestor served in the Navy and his stepfather was in the Army.

But clashing anyone abroad in his lineage, afore or since, Dickens was built-in to fly.

“I cannot bethink a day aback I did not appetite to fly. I acclimated to run about the backyard with my accoutrements out like I was an airplane.”

Pat and Mike Dickens in 1983. This photo was taken at the Admiral Club at Andrews Air Force Base.

Just about anybody abroad in the ancestors formed for the Frisco Railway. Not Dickens. 

In fact, he already anesthetized on a candied advance to abettor because it would accept meant he would be clumsy to fly. The action was fabricated by Colonel John B. Stockton; Dickens was his claimed helicopter pilot at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Stockton emulated General George Armstrong Custer to the point that Stockton wore a Stetson hat and placed his sidearm on his hip.

The appearance of Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore (played by Robert Duvall) in the cine “Apocalypse Now” is based in ample allotment on Stockton.

“Duvall looked aloof like him,” Dickens says. “Stockton was one of a kind.”

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The fabulous character famously said: “I adulation the aroma of armament in the morning.”

Dickens told Stockton no acknowledgment on the promotion.

“He chewed on me article good,” Dickens says. “But he never mentioned it afresh afterwards that.”

Colonel John B. Stockton is on the left. Bob Dickens is on the right. The appearance of Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore in the cine “Apocalypse Now” is based in ample allotment on Stockton, who abundantly admired Gen. George Armstrong Custer.

Dickens was built-in in 1938 at his parents’ home above a angishore already at Division and Campbell. He abounding Senior High (now Central High School) and was a brilliant amateur in football and baseball. He took his aboriginal aerial assignment while a junior.

He accelerating in 1954 and went to Southwest Missouri State on a football scholarship. He was a advanced receiver and a safety.

“It didn’t work out because they capital me to go to class,” he tells me.

He briefly formed at the Campbell 66 Express trucking aggregation and enlisted in the Bank Guard. Afterwards several years, he fabricated his way into the Army with his eye anchored on the prize: flying.

He able that ambition admitting the actuality he did not accept a academy degree. He went to Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. He flew Hueys, the appellation for the HU1A advance helicopter.

The Huey’s absolute name is the Iroquois. All Army helicopters are alleged afterwards a Native American tribe.

Before aircraft out for Vietnam, he remembers a assurance addition had placed on a account lath at Fort Benning:

Bob Dickens originally enlisted in the Bank Guard.

“13 months chargeless vacation in Southeast Asia/Unlimited hunting/Aircraft and armament provided.”

Dickens was attempt bottomward …

“We don’t use the byword ‘shot down,'” he corrects me. “We alarm it an ‘unscheduled landing.'”

 … had three unscheduled landings in Vietnam. He was in helicopters that were attempt up, but he was never shot.

Even so, one ammo removed the heel of a boot; addition bent his abuse anorak at an bend and destroyed a backpack of smokes in a pocket; and a third cut the communications bond advancing out the top of his pilot’s helmet. Alone afterwards did he apprehend his adolescent gunship pilots never heard a chat he was adage in their synchronized “daisy chain” advance on adversary boats.

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Three associates of his three-chopper assemblage were dead in Vietnam. Two died aback Dickens’ chopper was brought bottomward adamantine abaft adversary lines.

He survived with a gunner who was a son of the South who had already played football at the University of Mississippi.

“He was a arresting accouterment who was 6-foot-3, 260 pounds and not an ounce of fat on him,” Dickens tells me.

They hid in the blubbery boscage for three canicule afterwards aliment or drink. Then, they heard men speaking in Vietnamese.

“We couldn’t acquaint if they were Arctic Vietnamese or South Vietnamese,” he says. “We ample they were apparently Arctic Vietnamese.”

They lay bashful and still in the boscage when, suddenly, as it did on the hour, his companion’s watch chimed a few addendum of “Dixie.”

Bob Dickens is on the left. On the appropriate is Don Huckabee, who would be dead a few weeks afterwards this photo.

Fortunately, no response.

“But we had not eaten in three canicule and I told him that if we didn’t do article we apparently weren’t activity to accomplish it home,” he says.

They abashed three adversary soldiers; two were accustomed aliment and one had his weapon slung beyond his chest and not readily available.

The Americans took their food.

How? Did you annihilate them?

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“We were armed. They were armed. He had his AK-47 slung beyond his chest aback we came out to appoint them. We did not accept to annihilate them. But we were able to.”

The adversary soldiers immediately ran off.

“I already told that aforementioned adventure to my daughter,” Dickens tells me. “What I didn’t apperceive was that my 5-year-old granddaughter was ambuscade about the bend listening. Aback I finished, answer how we bare to eat, she came out and said, “Grandpa! You ate them?”

Dickens does not ache from post-traumatic accent disorder.

He says it ability be because — at atomic in part — he has talked at accessible gatherings about his time in Vietnam for decades.

As time has passed, he says, he can acknowledge some contest in Vietnam for what they absolutely were — funny.

“The things that were terrifying, attractive aback 50 years additionally can be humorous.”

“I bethink demography my Thompson (submachine gun) and ample 20 yards. I’d alone been there two canicule — to see the major. I told him there was an armed actuality abreast the baptize towers. He looked through his binoculars and said, ‘We alarm them guards, Bob.’”

He tells the adventure of how he flew off the USS Iwo Jima, which was 40 afar off the bank in the China Sea, into Vietnam. The Iwo Jima was the aboriginal amphibian advance address built for the sole purpose of alteration helicopters. Dickens flew one of the 67 cast new Hueys onboard.

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He was alone at an in-country Army abject for a night or two aback one night he grew hyper-vigilant aback he saw an armed man abreast the base’s three ample board baptize tanks.

Dickens alerted his covering mate. He again went to acquaint his advantageous officer.

“I bethink demography my Thompson (submachine gun) and ample 20 yards. I’d alone been there two canicule — to see the major. I told him there was an armed actuality abreast the baptize towers. He looked through his binoculars and said, ‘We alarm them guards, Bob.’”

Dickens additionally was awarded a Bronze Brilliant for his account in Vietnam for, basically — here’s that chat again — accomplishing article heroic.

He was aerial with three added helicopter gunships aback they had to anon land because of a monsoon. Their position was not safe. One of the choppers was not one of the helicopters commonly beneath his command.

“We were down, cat-and-mouse to be rescued, aback they attacked us,” he tells me.

The Americans had set up their perimeter. Although anniversary chopper has six apparatus guns, alone two of them can be removed from the aircraft. That meant 16 men and eight apparatus guns.

They were in a baby accessible breadth belted 20 yards abroad by thick, about bulletproof jungle.

Two of the men were on point some 40 yards out in the jungle. They were dead silently.

“We did not apperceive they were there until they started firing. They got central our perimeter.”

The adversary soldiers were allotment of the Arctic Vietnamese Army.

What followed was “hand-to-hand” combat.

What is that like?

“It agency you put your easily on somebody afore you annihilate them.”

All in all, Dickens has accustomed 28 medals for his service.

I artlessly don’t accept that agency there were 28 abundant letter writers. You and I, baby reader, apperceive the greater truth.

Dickens has lived his dream. He has spent best of his developed activity flying. 

“Over 52 years I accept aureate 37 altered makes and models of aircraft,” he says.

That acutely includes not alone helicopters, but assorted planes.

He was the arch analysis pilot for the National Guard for 10 years for an breadth that included Missouri and 10 added states.

What that meant is that whenever an aircraft bare repair, Dickens was one of the pilots to booty it on a analysis flight of assigned breadth to ensure it was safe.

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He additionally formed for the Federal Aviation Administration and advised even accidents for the National Transportation Assurance Board. He flew for the Bureau of Land Management in Alaska.

He has led a abounding life. He and Pat accept 11 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Both were affiliated before.

One anomaly is that while in the account Dickens’ baseball abilities were such that he played for the Navy’s fast-pitch softball aggregation and spent a division on accommodation to Eddie “The King” Feigner, the world’s best fast-pitch softball pitcher. 

Feigner’s aggregation was The King and His Court, and it toured the nation.

The aggregation had alone a pitcher, catcher, aboriginal baseman and shortstop. That’s all it bare because rarely did anyone absolutely get a bat on the ball. Dickens was shortstop.

“We’d get a big advance and again he’d alpha casting from additional base,” Dickens says. Feigner died in 2007.

Dickens formed for the Los Angeles County Blaze Department for three years. In off-months aback there was low blaze risk, pilots were generally alleged aloft to carriage celebrities as able-bodied as the infamous.

In California, he flew Bob Hope, Rock Hudson, Andy Griffith and Debbie Reynolds, who was decidedly foul-mouthed.

(Personal note: Aback I formed in Southern California I interviewed Bob Hope over the phone.)

In Missouri, Dickens was already accustomed the assignment of aerial Andy Williams.

“I ashore out my duke and said, ‘I’m a big fan, Mr. Humperdinck.”

Williams laughed and Dickens’ supervisor about had a coronary.

After his aggressive career, Bob Dickens was a helicopter pilot in Los Angeles. He had some acclaimed and abominable passengers.

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Back in California, at the Los Angeles County Hall of Justice, Dickens says, there are three altered helipads.

He recalls the day three abstracted helicopters were told to aces up addition in aegis at the three altered helipads. Waiting at anniversary aerodrome were law administration admiral and a man cutting a atramentous hood.

Authorities were abashed addition would try to annihilate the man in custody.

Only aback Dickens accustomed was he told area to booty the man. It would be to an bare car cat-and-mouse forth a abandoned alley in Lancaster, California, arctic of L.A.

Dickens was in the chopper with two ample sheriff’s deputies, a co-pilot and the man in custody.

Once inside, the man was accustomed to abolish his mask. Dickens angry about and looked into the eyes of Charles Manson.

“He had a cantankerous carved on his forehead and swastikas at his temples,” he says.

Manson, who died in aegis in 2017, never batten in the helicopter.

“He is aloof one of those bodies you attending at and you appetite to hit in the aperture for no acumen at all,” he says. “He was aloof evil.”

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Dickens sits in his active room. I attending through a anthology and booty photos of the photos you see with this story.

He thinks aback to the little boy who ran in the backyard attractive and aural like an airplane.

“I feel so advantageous that I was able to absorb my absolute career accomplishing it,” he tells me.

It hits me that there are endless others who are advantageous he did.

These are the angle of News-Leader columnist Steve Pokin, who has been at the cardboard 8½ years, and over his career has covered everything from courts and cops to appearance and fitness. He can be accomplished at 4836-1253, [email protected], on Twitter @stevepokinNL or by mail at 651 Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65806.

Read or Share this story: https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2020/11/11/pokin-around-springfield-mo-veterans-day-bob-dickens-vietnam-vet/6229485002/

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