David Good of Port Charlotte joined the Marine Aviation Cadet Program a year out of high school in 1961. He went to basic training at the San Diego Recruit Depot and took advanced infantry training at Camp Pendleton, S.C.
“When I volunteered I asked for aviation training. I went to Memphis, Tenn. and the MARCAD program. Then I went to flight school at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1962,” Good recalled. “After I got my wings I was sent to the Jacksonville, N.C. Marine Corps Station at New River. I was put in a helicopter squadron being formed to go to Vietnam.
“We were flying Sikorsky UH-34 helicopters. We could transport eight Marines in full battle dress in one of these planes and twice as many South Vietnamese because they were much smaller.”
On the first leg of their journey to Vietnam in 1965 Good spent a couple of weeks in Okinawa then his squadron flew into Danang Airport. He was a 2nd lieutenant in the Corps when he joined Marine Helicopter Squadron- HMM-262).
“We ended up at the ‘Marble Mountain’ airbase that was just being completed. It was about four miles east of Danang,” he said. “I was with one of the original helicopter squadrons in Vietnam. After they finished building the base they brought in the entire air group (MAG-36) over from California. That amounted to eight or nine additional squadrons. There were 24 helicopters in a squadron.”
Good’s job was to pilot a ’copter that took soldiers into battle, deliver ammo to Marines on the front line, fly food and water to the the troops and rescue South Vietnamese civilians near where the shooting was raging.
One pickup he remembers after more than 50 years was a Medavac flight his unit made to rescue some badly-wounded children living in an South Vietnamese Army base who stepped on enemy land mines.
“We went out after sunset to an ARVIN (Army Republic of Vietnam) base. The kids were the children of ARVIN soldiers lIving there. They went outside the barbed-wire perimeter of the base and stepped on mines. Some of them had their guts open and their intestines hanging out. Others lost an arm or a leg to the mines. I had a kid about the same age back home. It was tough to see.
“We flew them to a Medavac hospital in Danang. Four of our helicopters transported 20 kids. They were on stretchers and took up a lot of space in the ‘choppers. Nobody ever told us what happened to them.
“After that we were assigned to fly helicopters off the deck of aircraft carriers. Some of us who were season helicopters pilot were sent to the carriers to fly off of them. They took about 10 pilots from the experienced pilots and sent us to the carriers. I flew for HMM-362 ’The Ugly Angels.’
“By the time I left Vietnam in 1966 they brought in the ‘Cobra’ and ‘Huey’ helicopters. They had also developed night-vision glasses that we flew with and red lasers for sighting. They did R & R (Research & Development) for years while fighting the Vietnam War.
“One day while going on R & R I met a lieutenant colonel named Tom Mooney from Philadelphia who fought in World War II. When I met him he was an air squadron commander,” Good said. “He was being checked out on helicopters. Eventually I flew copilot with him.
“During that first encounter he asked me if I had ever been in the Far East before. I told him, ‘No.’ He told me, ‘If I would stick with him he would show me the ropes.’
“One of the first things we did was go to the PX (Post Exchange) and buy some extra bottles of Johnny Walker booze and Marlboro cigarettes. With the whiskey and the extra cigarettes the colonel made arrangements to have the taxi driver take us to nice spots to eat and stay on call 24-7.
“One night in the colonel’s hooch in Vietnam I started drinking with him. Then he got an emergency phone call. Marine fighting NVA troops along a nearby river needed a flare flight. The colonel asked me if I had ever flown a tail dragger plane. I told him only a twin Beech in flight school at Pensacola.
“‘Come on with me,’ he said. “So we went out for about four hours and circled over the Marines and dropped elumination flares so they could see to shoot the enemy. We were flying a DC-3 (twin-engine transport) I had never flown before. When we got back to base he made me a registered pilot in a DC-3.”
A while later Good went to work for the colonel. He became the aircraft commander of a C-117. It was a Super DC-3.
He stayed in the Marine Corps for 14 years, until 1975. He was discharged and went to work for the airlines. He also joined the Marine Corps Reserve.
“I decided I liked flying fixed-wing planes more than helicopters. If you transition into jets from helicopters you had to go back to school in Yuma, Ariz. and learn to flying fixed wing. I got in the A-4 and it fit me like a glove. After I went into Marine Reserves I started flying C-119 (Flying Box Cars). I was flying for VMR-234 outside of Chicago. We flew everyone from the Marine Band to Marines going o summer camp.
“When I got out of the regular Marines in ’69 I went to work as a pilot for Northwest Airlines. I started flying 727s. It was a three-engine in the tale jet that carried 100 passengers. I flew larger aircraft on domestic and international routes as a captain for 26 years.”
Good moved to Port Charlotte from Clearwater in 1999. He had two grown boys, Michael and Mitchell from his first marriage. In 1996 Mitchell was killed in a motorcycle accident in Clearwater in ’96. Mitchell, his surviving son, spent a tour of duty in the Navy and lives in Clearwater with his family.
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018 and is republished with permission.
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