by Billy Norman

Private First Class Billy Norman, carrying the squad radio
Private First Class Billy Norman,
carrying the squad radio

Before I was a doorgunner, I was a doughboy. A doughboy is part of a three 6 man squad that were sent out in three 6 man Slick helicopters each day. We were dropped off in the jungle to see if we could find the enemy or the "gooks." We were supposed to make contact with the gooks and then get the hell out of there so the gunships could come in and bomb the hell out of them.

One day we all stopped to eat our lunch and Sargent West asked for volunteers to go on down this trail and see what was there. Six of us took off. We didn't get a mile down the trail when we could hear the gooks talking out in the trees. We did not realize it right away but we walked into the middle of a gook base camp. Thru the trees about 30 yards in front of us we saw about 12 to 14 gooks sitting around a table. We opened up on them with everything we had, M-16's, grenade launchers, we even started heaving grenades off our ammo belts. The gooks took off out of there like they had a fire under their tail. I was carrying the platoon radio that day. Whoever was standing next to me started grabbing the grenades off my belt and heaving them in there. I was busy dropping smoke grenades and radioing the gunships to shoot over the top of the smoke. The helicopters did such a good job of it they were shooting the branches over our heads and they were falling on us. I picked up a small tea pot off that table. It was the only thing that wasn't broken.

Teapot on table is circled
Teapot on table is circled

As we were leaving, I looked over and saw that the lid for the tea pot was laying on the ground. I did not want to take the time to go back and get it. I still have the teapot in my living room.

Another day we got just about back to our LZ when I saw a sanpan down in the water on a small river. It was pulled up on the shore. I walked down to it and there was an ammo box in the sanpan. I grabbed the box. I opened it up and it was half full of Vietnam paper money. This was a gook paymaster sanpan. I took it back to our base that night and some smart ass told the company commander that I had it. A Sargent from headquarters told me to turn it into the company commander. I told him I would bring it over in a little while. As soon as he left I divided the money in half. I kept half and sent half to headquarters. That night our whole platoon went on one hell of a drunk. There was about $400 in there. I still have some of that NVA money.

On other one of our missions, we had to cross a small river. It seems I was the only one who really knew how to swim. It was about 30' across the river and the doughboys were crossing it holding their M-16 up over their heads. I was swimming back and forth helping them get thru the deep water. One of the doughboys dropped his rifle into the river. I had to dive under water until I found the M-16. I had an expensive Bulova watch with an expensive leather watch band. I didn't realize until later that it had come off my arm in that river crossing.

Weapons we found. The 2nd from left is mine.
Weapons we found.
The 2nd from left is mine.

Another time we were on patrol scouting an area that had been bombed by artillery. As we were walking along we found an entrance to a cave. I had no interest in crawling back in that hole but one of the other doughboys went inside. We called him the company tunnel rat. He found a weapons cache. It had a grenade tied to the weapons for a booby trap. We hauled all the weapons out of that hole and we all made claim to the weapon that we wanted for ourselves. It took quite a while to get a helicopter in to haul them away. While we waited, I carved my initials in the stock. The weapons you see in one of the picture are the weapons lined up at the company headquarters.

They told us we would get them back but I personally did not believe it; about 45 days later they came back. We all got to grab our weapon. My weapon was a 7.62 Chinese Chicom. I took it with me on my next helicopter mission. I used some 7.62 ammo that we had and put it in the rifle. I tried to fire it out the door. I tried out 5 bullets but only 2 fired. I am guessing the firing pin was broken. Our company headquarters decided to send an article into my home town newspaper. (See below.) When I was coming back after my tour of duty was over, I had to get special written permission from our Colonel to bring the rifle home. To this day that Chicom hangs in my living room.

My initials on the stock of the Chicom that hangs on my wall

Newspaper article about us finding the weapons cache My grandson, Mason Norman, just went into the military and is an infantry man. When I am gone, the Chicom goes to him.

Another time we found another tunnel and I crawled down in to it. It was like a maze with rooms and hallways all over the place. It was just enough to scare the hell out of me and I vowed to never go into another one.

I was a doughboy for about 60 days but I spent all my off time going over to the runway where they kept the helicopters. I would help the door gunners clean their weapons, they had 2 ammo boxes to keep full for the M-60 and several more ammo boxes to keep full for the mini guns. Each side of the helicopter had 7 rockets. Anyway, that is how I become a door gunner by going over there and learning all about it. When a slot came open I was naturally picked. A slot came open after a doorgunner was killed and I got to take his place.

When Mason was 10 years old he wanted to go into Army Infantry. He stuck to his guns. When he was a senior he signed up for the Army way before he graduated. He graduated in May, 2016 and went into the Army in June. He went to Fort Benning, GA and took his basic training and also his AIT. He graduated about 8 weeks later. He then went to Ft. Lewis, WA where he is now. Mason is my youngest son, Randy Norman's youngest son. I am one very proud grandfather.