Our latest interview is with Major (Ret) Terry Morris who had a long and varied Military career from Special Forces, to flying gunships in spoort of SOG and ending up as Deputy Commander of the Test and Evaluation Divison, Combat Develoments at the Infantry School, Ft. Benning. In his own words "I started my career as a Pvt with the 82nd and ended up a Major 25 years later. Served most of my career in the 82nd, 101st and SF with a couple misc leg assignments in between. During my two tours in VN I was shot down 7 times, and earned the Silver Star, 4-Distinguished Flying Crosses, Bronze Star, 57-Air Medals three with V device, 4-Purple Hearts, ARCOM with V, and a bunch of I've been there ribbons"
Modern Forces: Can you give us some background on your military history?
Major (Ret) Terry Morris: I enlisted right after highschool in 1963 and after basic and AIT went straight to jump school. Was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. From there went to SF and assigned to the 10th SFG in Germany as a demo specialist. Attained the rank of SSG. In 1967 attended Warrant Officer Flight School and upon graduation and appointment to WO1 was assigned to the 240th Assault Helicopter Company (Greyhounds and Maddogs) at Bear Cat, RVN. Received a battlefield commission to 2Lt in 1969. Rather unique in that I was promoted to CW2 that morning and later in the afternoon was called back to HQ and given my commission. Returned to the states in 1969 as an instructor at the Flight School at Ft. Wolters, Tex. Returned to Vietnam in 1970 flying the AH-1G Cobra and was assigned to D Co, 101st Aviation Battalion, 101st Airborne Division.
After Vietnam I spent some time in leg assignments commanding a basic training company and finishing my college. After bootstrap and the Infantry Officer Advanced Course I returned to Ft. Bragg flying with the 129th AHC, 18th Airborne Corps and then back to the 82nd where I commanded the Cobra platoon for the 82nd Aviation Battalion. From there back to Special Forces where I commanded the Headquarters Company, Institute For Military Assistance (IMA) (which was the second largest company in the Army second only after the Pentagon HQ Co), also commanded the Allied Liaison Division and the 1st Special Forces Company while assigned to IMA. Back to leg assignments at TRADOC HQ at Ft. Monroe, VA and then as Deputy Commander of the Test and Evaluation Divison, Combat Develoments at the Infantry School, Ft. Benning where we developed and tested all new equipment and weapons dsignated for the infantry. Retired after 25 years of service.
SSG Morris with 10th SFG Germany 1966.
Modern Forces: How did you come to be involved with SOG
Major (Ret) Terry Morris: I became directly involved with SOG while flying with the 240th AHC and later with the 101st. I was fortunate in that the 240th and D Co, 101st spent most of their time supporting SOG operations.
Wo1 Morris setting outside tent at Tay Ninh East. "We had been overrun the night before".
Modern Forces: What was your role supporting SOG, what would be a typical mission?
Major (Ret) Terry Morris: Since I was flying gunships our role supporting SOG was to provide fire support for the insertion of teams and then provide what ever support they need once on the ground. A typical mission consisted of the slicks inserting a team into a hostile area then we would return to our base of operation and wait until the team requested our assistance. We didn't remain on station because we didn't want to compromise the insertion.
Modern Forces:What helicopter/s did you fly?
Major (Ret) Terry Morris: I basically flew the UH-1C (Charlie model) gunship in 1968-69 and the AH-1G Cobra in 1971-72. Also spent some time in a OH-13 with a m-60 mounted on the skid when working with the Thia's and on occasion would fly the UH-1H.
Crashed Cobra during Laos mission.
Modern Forces: Do any missions stand out in your mind?
Major (Ret) Terry Morris: There were so many experiences while working with SOG and each and every one had its moments. One that pops up was a rescue mission into Laos. We had received intel that several US military personnel were being held in a small POW camp about 20 miles inside Loas near A-Shau Valley. A 20 man SF team from the Marble Mountain launch site was tasked to attempt the rescue. I was in command of a heavy (3 ships) fire team of AH-1G Cobras, which was to provide cover for the operation. My aircraft was equipped with a 20mm Cannon and two rocket pods, one 7 tube and one 14 tube plus the standard 40mm and 7.62 mini-gun in the turret. The team was inserted directly into the center of the camp in a lightening raid that had them on the ground in less than two minutes from the time we broke over the mountain and dropped into the valley so we acheived complete surprise. We set up an orbit directly over the camp to provide fire as needed. As the team fanned out I received a call from the team commander that requested we depart our overhead orbit because our cobras were making to much noise.
I elected to move about 2 miles up the valley and wait for further orders from the C&C or the ground force. As I proceeded up the valley low level I suddenly saw a very small clearing on side of the valley which contained several hundred round baskets which appeared to contain various food supplies, noticably numerous baskets containing eggs. In addition just at the edge of the clearing was a thatch hootch. I informed C&C and my wing men that I had a target and requested to engage. Permission was given and I climbed up out of the valley to set up a gun run. As I reached 1500 feet I found I could not locate the position. From altitude we could not see the clearing. After several orbits attempting to locate the exact position I decided to go back down low level and pin point the position. As I flew slowly up the valley I again found the clearing and made several slow passes directly over the site. Seeing no sign of actual enemy troops I elected to come to a hover and let my front seat work the area over with the 40mm and mini-gun.
I informed my wing men of my intention and they set up a protective cover overhead. My co-pilot was having a ball with the 40mm. Baskets were flying every which way and then he begin destroying the hootch. I was holding steady at about a 30 foot hover when I noticed some movement about 50 meters to my right. I caught sight of a single NVA soldier in his tan uniform step out from behind a tree and point his pistol directly at me. Before I could react he managed to empty his pistol and retreat back into the jungle. Within seconds the comforting sound to my turbine engine quit and the only sound was the thumping coming from the 40mm still hammering away at the hootch. I called my wingmen and informed them that we had taken fire and were going down. I made a very nice hovering autorotation to the edge of the clearing and within seconds we were out of the aircraft and making our way away from the clearing. It took C&C about 5 minutes to get to us and a successful extraction was made with no further enemy fire being received. Our little expedition to destroy a couple hundred dollars worth of NVA supplies cost the tax payers a fully loaded AH-1G and could have easily ended with us both becoming POW's ourselves. I was totally embarresed about losing my aircraft to one dink with a pistol, however my commander praised us for making an impossible emergency landing at the edge of such a small clearing. He assumed that I was at altitude when hit and was not aware that I was screwing around in a place that I should have not been. Turned out the camp had been abandoned the morning of the raid about three hours before our arrival and my cobra was destroyed by my two wingmen who really enjoyed blowing up a loaded gunship. They said it made a great site when the fuel and rockets went up. To his day the only one that knew the actual circumstance of this adventure was me and my co-pilot, but after 37 years I suspect I won't get into to much trouble now. I managed to get myself shot down a total of 7 times during my two tours, but all the other times were legit so I don't feel so bad about them.
Cpt Morris Vietnam 1971 while supporting CCN.
Modern Forces: Did the different teams you supported have different tactics (choice/type of LZ or method of insertion) or were these dictated by standard SOPs
Major (Ret) Terry Morris: Tactics were considerably different between the mission in the Delta and those in the North. And I feel that the particular mission depicted their method of insertion or extraction and their conduct while on the ground.
Modern Forces: You mention being shot down 7 times, was this typical of the type of missions you were running?
Major (Ret) Terry Morris: The type of mission we were conducting especially for the gunships was a contributing factor. With the exception of the initial insertion every time we were called out it was because the team was in contact and we knew we would be engaging the enemy, which more often than not was in their favor because they knew we would be coming to help the team on the gound.
Cpt Morris while commanding 1st Co, IMA 1980.
Modern Forces: Can you describe a few of this events (seems small word to use to describe being shot down...), how did you get picked up etc?
Major (Ret) Terry Morris: My most serious incident occured while working with a SOG team that had been inserted about 20 miles into Laos to observe a major infiltration route. They called us about 3AM saying they had been compromised and were in heavy contact. When we arrived over the site we could not make contact with the team and could see no tracers or signs of battle. We spent about 30 minutes in a holding pattern over the valley where the last position of the team was known with negative results. I contacted the base at Marble Mt and we were instructed to return, refuel and go back out at daylight. I acknowledged and told my wing man to head back and that I would make one more low pass up the valley to see if I could see a strobe or some sign of the team. It was not uncommon for a team to be on the run and pop up several miles from the last known positon. As I made my run up the valley I approached the teams last position and as I did the entire tree line erupted with muzzle flashes and tracers. We took a number of hits and I initiated a steep climb to get above the small arms fire. As I approached 2500 feet I thought I was about clear when a round came up through the floor and hit me in the chin, the round lodging in my mouth under my tongue. That knocked the crap out of me but we were still climbing and I was conscious so I felt we were in pretty good shape. I asked my co-pilot if he was alright and he stated he had been hit in the arm. I pointed the aircraft towards Da Nang in hopes of making it to the hospital there.
About that time several large air burst rocked the aircraft. We had been targeted by a 37mm. It took out my canopy and a piece of shrapnel hit my helmet knocking the visor off. The aircraft begin a severe lateral vibration and all the lights on my panel were gone so we were in pitch black with a 120 knot wind hitting me in the face. I could barely make out the lights of Da Nang and I thought I would be able to make it. I thought we were still at around 2500 feet and the engine was still humming so I felt we were going to make it when I saw a tree go by. I immediately pulled the nose up and pulled as much pitch as I could in an attempt to climb out, but it was to late. We impacted in a rice paddy and lodged on the paddy dyke. I managed to pull myself out of the aircraft after getting it shut down and fell into the rice paddy. My co-pilot was trapped in the front seat and I couldn't help him. My back had been broken in two places and I had wounds to my arm and face. I had not been able to contact anyone as the airburst took out my radios. We laid in that rice paddy until it got light when a Cav loach flew by and saw the wreckage. We were med-evaced to Da Nang and later that morning my co-pilot was shipped to Japan. I laid around the hospital for a couple weeks then returned to my unit where I was grounded for about a month then returned home. Incidently we never found the team and they were never heard from again.
Another shot of crashed Cobra
Modern Forces: How did the missions change during your tours, did the LZs start to be more compromised as the war went on?
Major (Ret) Terry Morris: During my first tour the missions were pretty standard without a lot of change. My second tour was more active in that the NVA were becoming more knowledgable about our tactics and methods of operation. The NVA especially in the north would have spotters on all the mountains watching the lodgical LZ's and as soon as we would insert they would route troops to that location. We countered this by flying 5 slicks in a trail formation. The team would be on the 2nd and 4th aircraft. They would fly low level through the valleys and pass over a number of obvious LZ's knowing they were being watched. As they would pass over their intended LZ the 2nd slick would drop out of formation insert his team and then rejoin the trail of the formation the 4th doing the same. That way if a watcher saw 5 aircraft go around the hill then saw the same 5 come out on the other side with no sounds of them landing he would assume they were just passing by. Worked rather well unless we inserted in a LZ that he just happend to be sitting on.
Modern Forces: Did you work with the South Vietnamese Air Forces during this period?
Major (Ret) Terry Morris: No, never had the opportunity to seve with the South Viet Air Forcees. Did support the South Vietnames Army in their mission during Lam Son 719.
Modern Forces: Your career after Vietnam is equally impressive can you give us a break down?
Major (Ret) Terry Morris: Pretty much covered that in the first paragraph.
Modern Forces: Do you have any other stories or events you want to share with our readers?
Major (Ret) Terry Morris: Just one that brings a smile everytime I think of it. The launch site at Phu Bia had a pet python in their bar. It was about 12 feet long and would slither along the bar checking out each person setting there. I thought it was a class act and wanted one of my own. About a week later I was on berm partol around the compound and saw a small green python in the middle of the road. I picked it up and put the little devel in a empty ammo can and drove back to the bar to show my SF buddies my catch and future playmate for their python. Several team members and some brew were setting around a table and I told them of my great find, I opened the can and dumped my baby python on the table in front of them. Within seconds I was alone in the bar standing beside the table admiring my new found pet when one of the team members yelled to me that I had a bamboo viper commonly called the "two steps" because when it bites you two steps later your dead. They killed my pet and that ended my desire for a new pet.