by Dennis C. McVey
Detachment B-52 (Project Delta) 1968-1970

During Operation ARES at Dong Xoai, I had to take a sick Delta member into the Third Field Hospital in Saigon. I took the 281st admin run that was going to Tan So Nhut and got the patient to the hospital. He was not sick enough for a MEDEVAC but too sick to keep at the FOB. The RECON SGM asked me to pick up some beer as the beer supply was running low, and gave me money from the beer fund to purchase some beer and sodas. I bought a pallet of beer, a half pallet of soda and paid the bill. The guy from the PX asked if I wanted some free beer and of course I said yes. He showed me some pallets of beer, some off the wall brand (Blatz something) that nobody wanted and that had been sitting around for so long that the cans were rusting and leaking, but I agreed to take some. The PX guy said to take all you want so we loaded another pallet of “free“beer on the 2 ½ ton and set off to the airfield. Well, my eyes were bigger than the cargo area of a Huey and it did not appear that two and a half pallets of drinks would fit. However the makers of Huey’s had underestimated the initiative of thirsty DELTA members and the 281st aircrew. We painstakingly stacked beer and soda, with the good stuff in the middle of course, so that the “free” beer cases were hanging over the edge on the chopper by ¾ of their length. By carefully stacking we were able to weigh them down with cases stacked on cases until we got everything wedged in. I had to squeeze in with a gunner on the ride back but what the hell, we had a whole pallet of “free” beer on board. I felt good as I had made a good deal for DELTA and the guys would have plenty of beer. Well, we were a little heavy and the beer hanging over the side made the Huey a little less aerodynamic but it was flying and we were on our way home. About halfway back and flying over heavy jungle, we hit a downdraft and the chopper made a huge lurch and began shedding cases of beer like a dog shaking water off itself. I sat stunned as I watched my “good deal for free beer” cascade toward the earth. There was silence for a moment then we all burst out laughing and talking about Charlie looking up and saying “those crazy Americans are bombing us with beer”. I can only hope that the beer was so bad that it made them sick if they got any. We got back to the FOB with all of the good beer and soda and a small amount of the “free” beer which turned out to be flat as it had sat in the sun too long. I believe we finally traded what was left of the bad “free” beer for some C- rations with the artillery unit that set up next to us for a short time at the end of the runway so things turned out all right in the end.