The Typhoon Truce, 1970

Three Days in Vietnam when Nature Intervened in the War

Robert Curtis

It wasn't rockets or artillery that came through the skies one week during the war. It was the horrific force of nature that suddenly put both sides in awe. Sometimes wars are suspended and fighting stops for a while. A holiday that both sides recognize might do it, as happened in the Christmas truce during World War I. Weather might do it, too, a
Date Published :
October 2015
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16pp photos
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It wasn’t rockets or artillery that came through the skies one week during the war. It was the horrific force of nature that suddenly put both sides in awe. As an unofficial truce began, questions and emotions battled inside every air crewman’s mind as they faced masses of Vietnamese civilians outside their protective base perimeters for the first time. Could we trust them not to shoot? Could they trust us not to drop them off in a detention camp? Truces never last, but life changes a bit for all the people involved while they are happening.

Sometimes wars are suspended and fighting stops for a while. A holiday that both sides recognize might do it, as happened in the Christmas truce during World War I. Weather might do it, too, as it did in Vietnam in October 1970. The “typhoon truce” was just as real, and the war stopped for three days in northern I Corps--that area bordering the demilitarized zone separating South Vietnam from the North. The unofficial “typhoon truce” came because first, Super Typhoon Joan arrived, devastating all the coastal lowlands in I Corps and further up into North Vietnam. Then, less than a week later came Super Typhoon Kate. Kate hit the same area with renewed fury, leaving the entire countryside under water and the people there faced with both war and natural disaster at the same time.

No one but the Americans, the foreign warriors fighting throughout the country, had the resources to help the people who lived in the lowlands, and so they did. For the men who took their helicopters out into the unending rain it really made little difference. Perhaps no one would shoot at them for a while, but the everyday dangers they faced remained, magnified by the low clouds and poor visibility. The crews got just as tired, maybe more so, than on normal missions. None of that really mattered. The aircrews of the 101st Airborne went out to help anyway, because rescuing people was now their mission. In this book we see how for a brief period during an otherwise vicious war, saving life took precedence over bloody conflict.

About The Author

Robert Francis Curtis was born in Middletown, Ohio, in 1949, making him exactly the right age to be drafted for the Vietnam War. After dropping out of high school twice, he passed the general educational development exam, giving him enough educational qualifications to gain entry into the Army’s Warrant Officer Candidate program. There he learned to fly, starting him on the path to a military career as an aviator in the Army, National Guard, Marine Corps, and as an exchange officer with the British Royal Navy. After service in Vietnam he attended the University of Kentucky, graduating with honor with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Later, while serving at Naval Air Systems Command in Washington, DC, Robert completed a Master’s Degree in Procurement and Acquisition Management at Webster University. His military awards include the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and 23 Air Medals. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa while at the University of Kentucky. Robert is an FAA certified Commercial Pilot in both helicopters and gyroplanes. He has previously published articles in professional journals including the Marine Corps Gazette, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and the Royal Navy Fleet Air Arm Aircrewman’s Journal TACAN. Robert and his wife, Mariellen, reside in Exeter, New Hampshire.


Rain Unending

Walking Fish • The Technicians • Liftmaster •The Roommates • The Hootch

The 159th Assault Support Helicopter Battalion (159th ASHB) • The Aircraft • The Mission

OCTOBER 14, 1970
Monsoon Flying • Weather Checker • Loose Lips • Last Ditches • Even the Bad Guys Get the Blues • Once Started

OCTOBER 16, 1970
Show Time

OCTOBER 17, 1970
Much Pain, No Gain

OCTOBER 18, 1970
Playtex 820: Roommates Go Flying • Playtex 831 • The Weather Hold • Routine Maintenance Playtex 831 • Broken Bits

OCTOBER 24, 1970
Recovering Playtex 831 • Playtex 831 Returns to Liftmaster Pad • Playtex 820 Goes North

OCTOBER 25, 1970
Playtex 820 Has a Tiny Problem • Liftmaster Prepares for Super Typhoon Kate • Domestic Matters

OCTOBER 26, 1970
Kate Makes an Entrance • Cameraman James Taylor • No More Party Today

OCTOBER 27, 1970
Anticipation • Cameraman Barry Fivelson • Congratulations on Your New Assignment

Warning Order • Meeting the Locals

OCTOBER 28, 1970
Launch! Launch! • Alice and Strider Go Flying in Playtex 506 • Playtex 506’s Crew • The War is Suspended, Day One • Hovering Practice • The New Mission Begins • Weather Hold • Playtex 820’s Crew • War Stories and Lunch • Day One Ends • Domestic Matters, Part Two

OCTOBER 29, 1970
Day Two: Playtex 506 Launches Again • The Rescues Begin Again • The Newest Playtex Pilot • Two Wheeler • Surprises • The Next Round • Panic • Getting Tired Now • Playtex 107 Calls it a Day • Not Lost, Merely Disoriented • Playtex 542 Returns to Liftmaster • Bits and Pieces • In Playtex 506, the AC Makes a Decision • RO1N—Remain Over One Night

OCTOBER 30, 1970
Day Three: Playtex 506 • Normalcy •

The RLOs • The Roommates, Part 2 • Strider • Cobb • Steiner • The Locals

They Still Live

APPENDIX Who They Were


"great job detailing the day to day operations, the command structure and the personalities of C/159th, complete with their triumphs and tragedies. You will have a hard time putting this one down."

- The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association

"An extraordinary of courage, bravery and sheer humanity...      "

- Books Monthly

"Curtis—the author of Surprised at Being Alive: An Accidental Helicopter Pilot in Vietnam and Beyond—has a unique way of moving sideways as well as forward in telling his story. Many times he interrupts the action to fill in personal details of the men involved to bring a greater depth of understanding. I believe this story will stimulate much conversation among former Vietnam War helicopter pilots and crews. I would be surprised if it did not elicit similar examples of kindness from other veterans in the midst of a devastating war. Reading this book is a mission strongly recommended."

- The VVA Veteran

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