Siouxland veteran recalls service as Huey pilot during Vietnam War

Veterans Voices

EARLY, Iowa (KCAU) – One Siouxland man prepared himself for the war in a more non-traditional way, saying as soon as he got drafted, he purchased an expensive sports car. He drove it around for a few weeks and then sold it, saying he wanted to live life to the fullest before risking his life in Vietnam.

July Fourth, 1969, Bob Rohlfsen was drafted into the Vietnam War right out of college and became a Huey pilot.

Huey is a nickname for a utility military helicopter, a helicopter typically used in command and resupply, casualty evacuation, and troop transportation

“We inserted troops. We would get our orders from battalion headquarters, and they would tell us- they would work with the Vietnamese Army, and they would tell us where they wanted them inserted,” Rohlfsen said.

After transporting troops, Rohlfsen and his crew would bring supplies to outposts for other troops to pick up.

“What was the mission we didn’t like because we went in by ourselves, one helicopter. We would supply outposts with mail, food, ammunition, hand grenades, smoke grenades.”

Rohlfsen says he’s been shot at roughly 60 to 70 times, but was somehow never hit.

“Going into those outposts got to be a little hairy because we didn’t have gunship cover. All we had was one machine gun on each side of our Huey,” Rohlfsen said. “We did get shot at quite often. They would just take random shots at us, as we were coming in with supplies.”

But that wasn’t his first or only scare. On just his first day of the job, Rohlfsen was flying a helicopter when they started getting shot at. Two men sitting behind him were hit and died instantly.

“One of them was leaning up against my seat, and I thought, ‘Holy cow. This is going to be a long year.’ The crew chief was sitting behind, and he said, ‘Sir, don’t turn around. You won’t want to see it.’ And I didn’t worry about that, because I was shrunk as small as I could get in my armored pilots seat,” Rohlfsen said.

And after everything he had been through in Vietnam, Rohlfsen says he was nervous to return to his home because of the opinions people had on the war.

However going on the Midwest Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., Rohlfsen got to see the memorials built honoring Vietnam servicemen, changing the stigma surrounding that war and getting that welcome home.

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