Navy Seawolves
 
AEAN Barry Solomon

AVIATION ELECTRICIANS MATE, AIRMAN, BARRY SOLOMON U.S.N. was assigned to Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron Three, Seawolves, Republic of Vietnam from September 1970 through September 1971 as a Combat Aircrew Door Gunner/Crew Chief. After being in country for five days and due to a shortage of gunners, he was sent to Detachment 9 where he served as a Door Gunner/Crew Chief on a Navy UHIB Huey Helicopter Fire Team, providing close air support for Navy SEALS, Brown Water Navy Boats, Marines, Army, and other friendly ground forces. The aircraft on which he served were armed with fourteen 2.75 inch rockets, one pod mounted mini gun, with one helicopter having a door mounted mini gun and the other helicopter a door mounted 50 cal. machine gun. Each helicopter had a left door mounted M-60, 7.62 cal. machine gun as well as M-16 rifles, M-79 grenade launchers, hand grenades, flares, and various personal weapons. His squadron was the most decorated Navy Squadron of the Vietnam War and was the first and only squadron of its type. During his tour he flew 650 combat missions in the Republic of Vietnam.

Airman Solomons last mission was as the 50 cal. gunner on the trail aircraft. This mission was to be a routine intel patrol with door gunner practice in a district just north of the mouth of the Mekong River. When the patrol was complete, and the Gunship Fire team headed back to the USS Hunderton County (LST), they encountered a severe rainstorm between their position and the LST. The Fire Team Leader (FTL) contacted the ship and was told that it was clear in their area which was on the other side of the storm. The aircraft was not equipped to handle a storm of this magnitude so the FTL decided to fly south around the storm. The storm extended farther south than was first thought and this extra flight time causes a low fuel state. After reaching the other side of the storm, the ship could not be located because the storm had moved and was now covering the LST. After two low level passes were made to locate the ship without success, Airman Solomons fire team then proceeded to divert to an outpost inland. Nearing the coast a sandbar was spotted but was bypassed so that the fire team could land on the beach due to a now critical fuel state. The area in which his fire team landed at the mouth of the Mekong River was a known Viet Cong stronghold.

His fire team had conducted a special operations insert near the location the previous night. After landing, the crew members from both aircraft set up a perimeter guard with their weapons. Airman Solomon stayed in the trail bird manning the 50 cal. in case of an enemy attack from the starboard side of the helicopters. The attack came soon after landing, from entrenched enemy troops on the other side of a tree line and a small tributary nearby. As enemy rounds flew through the helicopter, Airman Solomon opened fire in an attempt to suppress the heavy enemy fire coming from the canal. The FTL passed word to get the birds airborne and try to make it to the sandbar spotted earlier. Airman Solomon continued firing keeping the Viet Cong at a distance while the crews got aboard the gunships and got airborne. His bird went out first and he continued pouring fire over the top of the lead bird onto enemy positions. As the lead bird lifted off, Airman Solomon layed down covering fire until it was safely airborne. Airman Solomon was hit by an enemy round in the left leg and his aircraft was hit by a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) in the transmission at 30ft and 40 knots. It went down between the sandbar and beach. After his bird sank, Airman Solomon made it to the surface and came under heavy fire again as enemy rounds hitting within a few of feet of his head. The Viet Cong/NVA were now on the beach firing at the downed crew. The lead bird landed on the sandbar, flying on fumes, and was unable to provide cover for the downed crew. The downed crew was trying to swim to the middle of the river away from enemy fire. Swimming was very difficult for Airman Solomon with a leg wound, sprained ankle from the crash and enemy rounds hitting all around his head. In answer to their Mayday, another Seawolf gunship arrived on scene and while hovering with skids in the water and under heavy enemy fire, rescued Airman Solomon and the other crewmen. The rescuing Gunship, being too heavy to get airborne, had to water ski to the sandbar. A SEALORD helicopter, responding to the Mayday with the Squadron Skipper as pilot, took the wounded to a medical facility while the rescuing gunship put strikes on the enemy position. Due to the severity of his wound and only having a few days left on his tour, Airman Solomon was medevaced to the states. This is where his family found out that he had been in Vietnam flying combat. He had never told them for he didn't want them to worry about him.