Pop a Smoke

Memoir of a Marine Helicopter Pilot in Vietnam


In stock

About the Book

By 1969, the Sikorski H-34 was an older helicopter with severe limitations for combat duty in Vietnam. For pilots like U.S. Marine Lieutenant Rick Gehweiler, the good news was it could still take significant damage and keep flying. His vivid memoir narrates his harrowing, at times deadly flight missions under fire, as experienced in the cockpit, along with anecdotes of tragedy and humor from his 13-month tour through Da Nang and Phu Bai.

About the Author(s)

Rick Gehweiler graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1967, attended Marine Corp Officer Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia, earned his navy wings in Pensacola, Florida, and served a tour in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot flying combat missions. He currently manages a fly fishing lodge on the Bighorn River in Montana.

Bibliographic Details

Rick Gehweiler

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 182
Bibliographic Info: 15 photos, appendix, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8864-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4691-6
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Preface 1
1. Pop Smoke 5
2. The Beginning 21
3. Quantico 36
4. Pensacola 43
5. The Edge of the Envelope 52
6. Phu Bai 57
7. Water Buffalo 67
8. The Sikorsky Bounce 88
9. Flying for the ROKs 96
10. Incoming or Outgoing? 102
11. Hill 818 107
12. The Twilight Zone 120
13. Final Days 128
14. Departure 135
15. Boat Ride from Hell 141
16. Coming Home 150
17. You Can Run but You Cannot Hide 156
Epilogue 161
Military History of Richard W. Gehweiler 168
Index 171

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “I was a Marine infantry company commander in Vietnam. The majority of our time was spent in the jungle fighting. Our lifeline was the helicopter and the pilots who flew them. They brought us food and water, carried out our wounded and dead and delivered replacements. Without them we could not have survived. They never let us down, no matter how dangerous or desperate the situation. I never remember them not responding to my call. It was incredibly dangerous flying in the worst terrain and circumstances imaginable. Their skill and courage were astounding. To this day I remain in awe of them. Read Rick Gehweiler’s personal account and you will understand.”—W. E. Boomer, General, U.S. Marine Corps (ret)