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War Stories

Storm of 11 May 1967

Bruce Powell

A Hurricane force storm that leveled portions of Cu Chi Base Camp. This audio tape & transcribed text below tells what happened.

Tom Fleming notes on the "Big Wind" and Herb Beasley's storm photo of 1966 are at the bottom

Summary of things mentioned: Flying Cpt Strickland; Monsoon season; terrible storm; ruined hooches; Little Bears and Arty Unit wiped out; Trip toWar Zone C maybe; Motor pool damage.

25th infantry Division, APO 96225 San Francisco

15 May 1967

Hi, everybody. Here I am again, finally. I got in a little bit early from my Road Runner mission. I thought maybe I might be able to whip out a tape here real quick before dinner. It’s a little bit after 5 right now. I don’t know what time that makes it back home—probably pretty late. Anyway, most of the guys out of the hooch here have gone up on a LRRP drop, and the other two people that fly light scouts are out on missions.

Oh, boy, this tape sure bothers me. All this harassment we have around here—people walking in and out, aircraft flying over, and like I told you before, it’s awful hard for me to make a tape.

It’s not raining outside, but I’m inside the hooch now anyway. Well, I guess the best thing for me to do is just tell you about some of the things that are happening over here, or else I’ll get all garbled up like I am now.

Well, the first thing, I’ll begin on this experience that happened to me 11 May 66 [clearly says 66, but should be 67. We had a pretty bad storm. I was out flying Sabre Alpha Six (that’s Alpha troop—you know, I told you about the tanks and APCs--armored personnel carriers). It’s a company-sized unit. Anyway, a big storm was brewing, which isn’t unusual in the monsoon season. They usually start in the afternoon, rain in the afternoon and evening, and then real nice during the day. Well, the storm came up. It was a big one, I could tell—I was flying at a forward air speed of about 60-70 knots, and I was almost flying backwards. So we flew out and around it, and waited for it to blow over Cu Chi. I guess it hit Cu Chi real hard. I never realized how hard until I got back down.

I remember my first introduction to Cu Chi was this movie we saw at Fort Rucker when this wind hit at a hurricane force. I may have told you about it. It knocked hooches down and tore our roofs off and turned trucks over and everything. I couldn’t believe it. I really thought this place would be a hell hole to be in when I saw the movie. Well, as it turns out, that’s what happened this time. I got back in my hooch here…well, I don’t know whether I told you what a hooch is or not… It’s just a big wooden structure, 16 feet by 32 feet long, plywood floor, and wood sides up about 5 feet and then screened up to the roof, and then a sheet metal roof. Just a very simple construction.

Well, anyway, I guess there was sheet metal flying all over the whole area. It ripped almost all the roofs over. The three hooches right in a row here where mine is, it just took them all three and moved them back about 5 feet and scrunched ours up. It almost fell over. The only thing that held it up was a bunker outside. It took everything inside and threw it all over. It took my--I’ve got this metal locker, like a locker that’s in a football dressing room, you know—about twice as big as that (a big metal one)—and some of my other cases, and knocked them over, smashed things up, broke my electric fan, and threw some of my color slides down. Everything in the whole hooch was just soaked with rain. It was just totally wiped out. You just can’t believe it. hootch
The building is at about a 30 degree angle, a leaning tower of Pisa. The floor goes up and down, slants all different directions, and it looked like a swimming pool inside. You wouldn’t believe it. It was a disaster area. There was about three areas here—ours, Little Bears, and the one on the left side (the artillery unit) that just plain got wiped out. The artillery unit next door to us called up the 25th infantry division headquarters and said they’re wiped out, they’re completely inoperative. Their headquarter building got demolished.

Amazingly enough, no aircraft got hurt. I don’t know how we managed to do that. Well, anyway, we weathered the storm pretty good. It didn’t seem like too much after some of the other things that’s happened around here. I managed to get all my stuff salvaged and back into boxes, and some of my slides that did get wet I dried them out and they came out real good. You’d never even know they were wet. Thank goodness. That was my biggest worry.

Well, anyway, it was quite a mess around D troop here, and we spent the next couple of days doing nothing but cleaning it up. I should say there that I had missions most every day, but it’s still quite a mess here.

Now the latest word, after we started cleaning up, is that we’re going to move out. My CO, Cpt. Sanders, came over last night. I’m still flying 23s and Hueys both. He said there’s a possibility that they might move the whole 3/4 Cav. up into War Zone C. It’s a bad area. Everybody’s teeth were chattering. They didn’t know whether they wanted to go up there or not. It’s still up in the air. I don’t know. I kind of hope we don’t, because we’re a little bit disorganized right now, and that will mean we’ll have to pack all our personal stuff and move out. It would be a lot of trouble, but if we do, it won’t be too bad a deal either, because what we take with us they’ll have to secure it pretty well because they just can’t give these aircraft to the VC.

Well, let’s see, you probably read about most of the stuff that happened. I’m going to send a whole bunch of newspapers and stuff if I ever get my hind end in gear and get them packaged up. Tell them that the newspaper we get over here is called the Stars and Stripes. It’s a real good paper. It gives the straight scoop on everything. Bien Hoa and a couple other places over here got hit by mortars and recoilless rifles here recently. They’re worried about Tan Son Nhut and Cu Chi getting hit here pretty soon, so that’s one of the reasons why we’ve been having these big pushes and the perimeter sweep. Search and Destroy missions, they call them. We’re trying to find suspected locations where there might be mortars and recoilless rifles, and try to catch them before they hit us.


Well, monsoon season really isn’t as bad as probably as it’s let on to be. Like I said, it only hits in the afternoon, but when it does hit, it’s the most amazing thing you ever saw. The whole area just becomes a great big lake—water everywhere. If the hooches weren’t built up off the ground, they’d be in water, too. The rain just blows right through these buildings. You’ve got to cover everything up with poncho and canvasses and move the bunks around so the water doesn’t drip on them. Oh, it’s quite a mess. We’re getting used to it, though, and it’s not too bad.




Tom Fleming comments about the storm:

"In early summer the troop area was struck by a tornado like wind that toppled many structures on the flight line side and blew off the roof of several buildings on the troop side of the road.  It left the troop area in a shambles from which it recovered slowly. Planning for movement of D Troop to the other side of the runway (in the area of the South POL) which included a new hanger was given a boost by the “Big Wind”.  We were the only unit at Cu Chi still conducting aircraft maintenance on an outdoor pad and without shop repair facilities for our 28 helicopters and their weapons systems. This put us first in line to get the first new real hanger constructed at Cu Chi."


Herb Beasley provided this photo of a storm the previous year of 1966.

Those Monsoons are something to see!