Tullo and the Giant

For pilots shot down over North Vietnam, the way home was jolly and green.

The interior of a Sikorsky HH-3E Jolly Green Giant, possibly at Ta Son Nhut AFB, circa 1966-67. (Richard Keller, National Air and Space Museum (SI Photo 2001-1887))
Air & Space Magazine | Subscribe

(Continued from page 3)

As the sound of Dogwood flight faded to the southwest, Tullo prepared to move up the hill to a better vantage point. He decided to open the survival kit and remove useful equipment. In a normal ejection, once stabilized in the chute and prior to landing, a pilot would reach down and pull a handle on the kit's box to deploy it. It was advisable to deploy the kit prior to landing to avoid possible leg injuries, since the case was hard and fairly heavy. Tullo hadn't had this option because he had ejected at such a low level.

He rotated the kit's red handle, and with a great whooshing roar, a dinghy began to inflate.

The dinghy! He had forgotten all about that! And it was bright yellow! He had to stop the noise. Tullo drew a large survival knife he wore strapped to the leg of his G-suit, threw himself on the dinghy, and began stabbing it. The first two blows merely rebounded. With a final mighty effort, he plunged the knife into the rubber and cut a large hole so the air could escape. With that emergency solved, Tullo lay back to catch his breath and get a drink of water. Then he started up the hill.

The elephant grass was so dense that at times he couldn't separate it with his hands and had to climb over the tough, wide blades. After climbing about 50 to 75 feet, he realized he wasn't going to make it to the top. His flightsuit was soaked, and his hands were cut by the sharp edges of the grass. Rather than waste more energy, he flattened out a small space in the grass and faced southeast to have a good view of any threat coming up the slope. Time to set up housekeeping.

Tullo's survival vest and kit included a spare battery for the radio, emergency beeper, day and night flares, pen flares, six rounds of tracer ammo, a "blood chit" printed in several languages that promised rewards for assisting downed American airmen, gold bars for buying freedom, maps, a first aid kit, water purification tablets, two tins of water, two packets of high-energy food, tape, string, 250 feet of rappeling line, a saw, knife, compass, shark repellent, fishing kit, whistle, signalling mirror, sewing kit, and two prophylactics for keeping ammunition or other equipment clean and dry. He extracted the ball ammo from his .38, loaded the tracers, and stuffed everything not immediately useful into the knapsack-type pouch. Then he sat back, tried to relax, and waited for the rescuers he knew would come.

Tullo heard the sound of prop-driven aircraft approaching from the north. He correctly assumed they were Douglas A-1s, or "Spads," as they were called. He stood up and keyed his radio. "This is Dogwood Two, do you read me?"

"Dogwood Two, this is Canasta, and we read you loud and clear. Transmit for bearing." Tullo warned Canasta of the flak to the east, and as advertised, the guns opened up as the aircraft approached Tullo's position. As soon as Tullo could see the aircraft, he began giving vectors. On the second circle, Tullo was looking right up the wing of Canasta, a flight of two Navy A1-Hs. He called, "Canasta, I'm right off your wingtip now." Canasta Lead said, "Gotcha! Don't worry, we're going for a chopper." As the Spads droned out of the area, Tullo felt sure he would be picked up.

Within a few minutes, he heard the unmistakable sound of Thuds. Thinking it could be Hosmer again, he turned on the survival radio and called, "Any F-105 over Vietnam, this is Dogwood Two." An answer came from a flight of two Thuds, which approached his position in a wide sweeping turn from the north. The flight Lead, whose voice Tullo recognized, asked Tullo to pop a smoke flare for location.

"Smoke?" Tullo replied. "Are you out of your mind? There's no way I'm going to pop smoke here!"

The pilot told Tullo to calm down. He had just spotted trucks unloading troops to the south of Tullo's position. He also reassured Tullo that they were working on getting a helicopter to him.

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus