Bob was a dustoff pilot, who wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Soc Trang Army Air Field, by coming to drink at the small bar we had at the MACV House. He and I were developing a budding friendship, and he had invited me to go with him on a milk run to the big PX in Saigon. For reasons not remembered, other than I was leery of flying when I didn't have to, I turned down his offer.
He and his crew were last seen alive near the Can Tho Air Field and the Bien Thuy Air Force Base, which were pretty close. We never did find out exactly what happened, but the chopper crashed into the river running between the two facilities.
For years, I couldn't remember his last name, and over time I had begun to think the accident happened in December. Finally, a few months ago, thanks to members of the VHPA, I was directed a page on the web listing the KIAs; and it was today, 30 years ago, that God stepped in and kept me on the ground.
One VHPA member told me that he thinks the weather was overcast, with a low ceiling, and that a plane coming in for a landing at Bien Thuy emerged in the clouds in the same space that the Dustoff was in, and that Bob lost control trying to evade a midair crash.
The notification on the web lists Bob's as a non-hostile death. Bull roar! He was there because of the Vietnam War, and death is death.
Join me in a toast to the memory of Captain Bob Cottman, U S Army, from Princess Anne, Maryland; and his crew. You can find Bob on Panel 40W, Row 002. Please say "hello" when you next visit the Wall.