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Wilson was wounded on Vietnam mission

June 21, 2018
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer (apeterson@esthervillenews.net) , Estherville News

Bullet hit left side

Amy H. Peterson

Staff Writer

Article Photos

Lonnie Wilson graduated from Estherville High School and went into the U.S. Army in 1965.

He served with the 68th Assault Helicopter Co., the "Top Tigers" from March to December, 1967, flying helicopters, gunships and "slicks" or transport aircraft.

"It takes a lot of people to run a helicopter unit," Wilson reflected.

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"I just shook my head. Then I noticed the blood running down to my hand and I knew I was shot."

-Lonnie Wilson

"We had maintenance crew, avionics for our radios, personnel for the mess hall, headquarters company personnel, air command, and others who made our missions possible," Wilson said.

On the slicks, they would land with a light touch in the land zones and pick up zones, transporting ground troops as safely as possible.

When he was a gunner, Wilson witnessed a pilot getting shot.

"The bullet went through my bubble, through all the radio wires, cutting them off, and through his calves, just the flesh, not the bone," Wilson remembered.

Wilson took the controls and flew through the dead man zone from the treetops to about 1,000 feet until he made it to C? Chi base camp, northwest of Saigon.

"I landed right on the H," Wilson said.

When Wilson was shot down, he said, "It felt like someone just cold-cocked me. I didn't know what happened."

The bullet ran through his left upper arm, into the side of his chest and lodged in his throat.

The pilot's name was Dusty and he asked if Wilson was okay.

"I just shook my head. Then I noticed the blood running down to my hand and I knew I was shot," Wilson said.

They took him to the hospital unit where after surgery he didn't wake for three days.

"The last thing I remember, they rolled me to the operating table, and it was so cold. I woke up and they had sent a letter to my mother; that's how she found out," Wilson said.

"We were kids. It was a wasted year of my life, of all our lives," Wilson said.

Because Wilson was wounded, he was allowed to choose his next duty. He went to Savannah, Georgia to teach how to fly the Huey helicopter.

 
 
 

 

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