My short bio:

In the summer of 1967, I dropped out of college just before entering my third year. I had run out of money and would soon be drafted. In order to somewhat control my own future, I enlisted in the U.S. Army’s helicopter flight school program.

I flew hundreds of missions for the 119th AHC, stationed in the Central Highlands at Camp Holloway in Pleiku, Vietnam. I was awarded twenty-five Air Medals, four campaign Bronze Stars, and The Distinguished Flying Cross among numerous other awards.

I recently wrote a book about my experiences. Guts 'N Gunships is currently a #1 Best Seller in its category. It describes the whole process, from basic training, flight school, flying combat in Vietnam, and my return to the United States. It includes many incidents in combat flight, including being hit by rocket propelled grenades and being on fire in the air, over hundreds if not thousands of enemy troops. I also describe the daily lives, emotions, and nuances of the pilots and what we considered their mission to be.

I also recently recorded an interview for the Veteran's History Project. You can find all the videos on my YouTube channel.

My Proof:


My son was helping me with the video replies, but he had to go home. I'm not a superb typist, but I'll try to keep up the old fashioned way with a keyboard.

Comments: 93 • Responses: 33  • Date: 

usdeadpool22 karma

Vietnam was a mess of a war both politically and strategically. What is one of the worst misconceptions you know of that the anti Vietnam war protesters had?

Thank you for your service and your sacrifice.

markvgarrison19 karma

Alex_Huntington11 karma

Thank you for your service! The Vietnam war was covered pretty extensively in movies such as Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, and Apocalypse Now, as well as other popular media. What were some of the elements that they got right? What did they get wrong?

Also, how do you feel about "Ride of the Valkyries"?

Thank you for your time, I will definitely check out your book!

markvgarrison16 karma

wwcnd748 karma

Some of the most iconic war movies are centered around the Vietnam War. As a veteran, are there any major misrepresentations that you've noticed? Something you feel they've all left out or forgotten?

markvgarrison7 karma

swissarmypants8 karma

Was there a lot of crossover between the slick pilots and gunship drivers, or were the communities pretty homogenous?

markvgarrison10 karma

Socially everybody pretty much got along, though, the flight platoons tended to hang out within their own ranks. There was virtually no crossover when it came to flying missions. Gunships and slicks are different and take somewhat different skill sets. I flew slicks for about two months then went to guns so I was qualified in both. When you are assigned to one or the other, however, there is generally no crossover.

swissarmypants5 karma

Thanks for the answer. I was curious since, because because both groups used the same aircraft, the differences would have been in tactics & employment rather than capabilities.

I've got immeasurable respect for pilots of your generation. Last year the VHPA reunion made it down to my airfield to see what the army's using to turn gas into noise these days, and we got to talk to some of the most incredible aviators I've met in my life. I really appreciate all that you and your brothers did to shape and create army aviation.

markvgarrison2 karma

It's nice to have people of your caliber appreciating what we have done.

InvalidUserIDx6 karma

Politics aside, do you think the United States had any place to be in that war?

Also, I've never seen video responses before in iAma. These are great! Thank you for your service!

markvgarrison10 karma

prop_lupo096 karma

Looking past the stress and nightmares of the war. Is there anything you feel proud of the most? What have you gained the most from your experience in Vietnam?

markvgarrison8 karma

LeonJones5 karma

Have you had any experience being targeted with surface to air missiles or any specific anti aircraft weapons? Can you explain some of the complications with mountain flying? Were you sort of the forefront of extensive helicopter flight in this type of terrain?

markvgarrison10 karma

Yes, I've been shot at with 37mm AAA, and taken two hits from RPGs(rocket propelled grenades),taken hits from 12.7mm AAA and the ubiquitous AK-47. The major problem w/ mountain flying is reading the winds, updrafts and downdrafts. One time in Vietnam, I never could get over a mountain ridge because the downdrafts kept trying to suck me into the mountain. And, yes, I think we were at the forefront of flying in mountainous terrain.

YraelMeow1 karma

Forgive me if this is ignorant, but even heavy military helicopters seem quite delicate. GTA has taught me that one RPG would generally be sufficient to destroy one.

How durable are those things? Were the hits not direct? Could you have taken more in each scenario?

markvgarrison2 karma

I was extremely lucky. Both RPGs hit the rocket pods at angles away from the aircraft. We were able to kick the pods off before we blew up. They were on fire and they were burning (the rocket motors, that is)on each side of the fuel cell.

streamstroller5 karma

How is your hearing? A former boss of mine (J. Holtzman) was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and lost his hearing (along with part of his thumb when he laid his copter down sideways...

markvgarrison11 karma

Hey! What's that you say????.....Starting to get high frequency hearing loss from the high pitch whine of the jet. It's starting to affect conversational understanding.

jonybagodonuts5 karma

Are you somewhat happy at seeing the way modern veterans are received by the American public, i.e. with relatively open arms and praise, despite people not always agreeing on the current wars? How much of a contrast is it compared to when you returned home from Vietnam?

I've heard countless stories of how vets were treated coming home back then, I was curious if its really turned around.

markvgarrison10 karma

conyak075 karma

What was your baptism by fire like?

markvgarrison7 karma

My son recorded this a few weeks ago about my first mission where we received heavy fire:

popcorntopping5 karma

Were you paired up with the same crew chief most of the time or was there a rotation? Any good/funny stories involving maintenance of the helicopters?

markvgarrison7 karma

So many funny stories. Here's one of my favorites:

Unorofessional5 karma

The Huey had a very distinctive sound caused by the shape of the shape of the blades (I'm lead to believe). Was anything done correct this?

Also, was it something you were very aware of knowing that enemy combatants could hear you from a great distance?

markvgarrison5 karma

You're right about them hearing us coming. We adopted a policy in the central highlands to stay out of the "Zap Zone"---50ft above the trees to 1500 ft above the jungle. You either flew "Nap of the Earth"--(right on the deck) or above 1500 feet absolute to avoid small arms fire.

fmhall2 karma

Why would you ever fly nap of the earth besides taking off and landing?

markvgarrison1 karma

There was what is called the zap zone in Vietnam. It was from 50 ft to 1500 ft. This is where you were most vulnerable to enemy small arms fire. You could fly above it or right on the deck(nap of the earth) at treetop level. A lot of times it was the better option to fly lower than higher. Besides, we were all adrenalin junkies by then and it was a lot more fun!!

DRAWKWARD794 karma

The iconic scene in full metal jacket. "Get some! Get some! ...was that mentality prevalent? Did you actually witness or take part in anything like that? Or see or here about anything like the mi lie massacre? Sorry if this is insensitive but I'm genuinely curios. Thanks op for your time and your service.

markvgarrison15 karma

In my experience nothing like that ever happened. If a door gunner in my aircraft started shooting innocent people I probably would have shot him myself!

DRAWKWARD798 karma

Thank you for your answer and being a man of strong moral value.

markvgarrison3 karma

It truly touches me deeply that you took the time to tell me that. You are welcome, Sir!

Canttakethewhyfromme4 karma

Do you think it was better or worse to see everything in battle from above?

markvgarrison8 karma

TooSmalley4 karma

After all of it was said and done do you personally feel like Vietnam was a righteous or unrighteous action on part of the USA?

markvgarrison5 karma

I answered a similar question earlier. Here's my answer:


What types of missions did you fly? Where they more combat or supply runs? What type of helicopter did you actually fly?

markvgarrison8 karma

TechnicolorM3 karma

What is your opinion on the necessity of war?

Thank you for your service.

markvgarrison6 karma

HIsmarter3 karma

Thank you for your service. Do you think that helicopters would be effective in full-scale war or are they too vulnerable due to there limited speed?

markvgarrison7 karma

They are effective. As they give away speed(because of retreating blade stall) they gain maneuverability/capability. For instance, an Apache can lock-on to an enemy tank from quite a distance away, fire a Hell Fire missile and drop below the treeline and never be seen as the tank is vaporized.

whizzy4021 karma

My dad was in 69 and 70. Top tigers. Does your dad go to the Vietnam helicopter pilots association reunions? One of the best weeks of the year for pops. Seeing all those old timers bullshit and get drunk and tell stories. Pretty cool..

markvgarrison1 karma

I belong to the VHPA and plan to attend this year's reunion.

Mikofthewat1 karma

I'm a currently serving Helo pilot. How much training towards the other missions did you guys do? We're expected to be a jack of all trades these days. Any tips for my next deployment?

markvgarrison1 karma

First of all, I sincerely thank you for your service. Whenever you are flying an eclectic array of missions like a "jack of all trades" I would advise you to remember a couple of things. First, prepare well, because there is no such thing as over-preparation. Secondly, always know, not only your limitations as a pilot, but the limitations of the aircraft you happen to be flying. My thoughts are with you my fellow aviator. God speed and be careful.

rofl_pilot1 karma

Would you like to ride in a Huey again? It seems as though most Vietnam veterans I have encountered were excited by the prospect, but there have been a few that were very hesitant if not downright opposed to the idea.

I am part of an organization ( that is dedicated to restoring and flying aircraft (primarily helicopters) that have Vietnam history. A big part of what we do involves giving free rides to veterans.

markvgarrison2 karma

Yes, I would. But, I would much rather fly one again!! Btw, I think what you're doing is fantastic. Keep up the good work.

BlenderGuru1 karma

What memory has stayed with you the most?

markvgarrison2 karma

To counter the nightmares, I have to keep remembering that as a helicopter pilot I was able to get a shitload of guys home alive that would have been killed if I had not been there. Also, the bond that combat pilots form is so strong that the memories will never die. I would take a bullet for any one of them even today.

xxambellina1 karma

Did you experience anything you would consider an atrocity by either side during the war?

Also, do you experience symptoms of PTSD from combat and if so do you feel the VA has given you proper care and resources to deal with it?

Thank you very much for your service, sir!

markvgarrison1 karma

I think war itself is an atrocity. Specifically, though, I saw some South Korean interrogators toss an NVA prisoner out of a helicopter at 3000 feet and we watched him go "splat" on the ground below. They couldn't get the guy to tell them anything. There was another NVA prisoner on board and apparently when he saw what they did to his comrade, they couldn't get him to shut up!

markvgarrison1 karma

PTSD is with you for life when you've seen the things I've seen. I have no problem with the quality of care at the VA. They've treated me promptly, fairly and competently.

Ru5tybike51 karma

Most people I know that were on gunships think the crews on slicks were crazy for going into hot lzs with virtually no defensive firepower, the guys I've met who were in slicks all think the gunship guys were crazy for going in so heavy and unmaneuverable. With you having done both, which do you think was more dangerous?

markvgarrison1 karma

I hated flying slicks into deep dark holes in the jungle because you never knew when all Hell would break loose. That being said, the shit was usually already flying on gunship missions so you saw a lot more hot I have to say gunships were far more dangerous in my opinion

TheMapleSyrupMan1 karma

What was the most violent act you witnessed during during the war?

markvgarrison1 karma

It's hard to single one out of the crowd, there were so many, but having hundreds of AK-47s shooting at you at once while you are returning fire at 100 rounds/second and firing rockets that have the punch of a Howitzer and seeing human beings blown to pieces is pretty violent. It was truly kill or be killed...simple as that!

FairFarooq1 karma

What was it like when you started flying?

markvgarrison1 karma

It was a steep learning curve but fun until people started trying to kill you....then it wasn't so much fun....just dangerous as hell

mixeero1 karma

Did you take any type of drugs to fly or fight? Or did any soldier take drugs?

markvgarrison1 karma

No! If I found out that anyone was taking any kind of mind altering drugs on my aircraft while flying, I would not have allowed it.

Book81 karma

What is your take on the book, Chickenhawk by Robert Mason?

markvgarrison1 karma

I like Mason's book. I read it when it first came out and it is accurate. I take a different approach in Guts n Gunships, describing many aspects of our lives as combat pilots.