Anthony W. Pahl

PUCKER FACTOR

Well my friends – here my “pucker-factor” story. I got a few more but they are nothing, I say NOTHING, compared to this.

I was in Vietnam from 4 June ‘69 to 5 June ‘70, initially with #1 Operational Support Unit as an Airfield Defence Guard and then as a helicopter gunner with 9 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force from August ‘69 to tour end.

My full name is Anthony (Tony) Pahl, so if you mention my name to an Australian Veteran and he looks at you kind of funny, it is likely that he knows me because I have the “not-so-splendid” reputation of being one of the only gunners in the history of 9 Squadron’s involvement in Vietnam (or anywhere else that I am aware of) to have fallen out of a Bushranger Gunship on a firing pass.

I’d like you to know that the reports of my death were grossly exaggerated; in fact, I only died for the length time it took me to climb back in with the assistance of my “monkey-strap”.

I think I was ready by the time we were setting up for the next firing pass – and that was no thanks to the crewman (Kerry Shipp) who, when assisting me to climb back in, grabbed the monkey-strap and started pulling.

Unfortunately, the strap was attached at the centre of my back and his actions promptly turned me upside down and I fell off the skid that I had spent considerable time to clamber upon. (You try it hanging face down, 200 feet in the air by a canvas strap attached to the centre of your back and 5 feet under the skid at 100 knots wearing a flak jacket and armour-plated vest)

Needless to say, my green nomex suit was brown, I was white (whiter than normal that is) and according to Shippy, it was the first time that I was at a loss for words since he met me. Hmmmm – I wonder if that was because my intercom lead was shorter than the monkey-strap?

And I haven’t shut up since so I’ll just sign off now.

Author’s Note: In October 1992, at the dedication of the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial, Canberra, ACT, Shippy spied Maria and me. He had great pleasure in relating the story in its entirety to Maria, probably adding some subtle exaggerations and definitely with a rather huge grin on his face. Maria laughed with him and all those in the vicinity… I tried to hide under a blade of grass.