More about night terrors in Soc Trang, on one of our infamous evacuations, we had run out to the aircraft, cranked up, departed and joined up for the flight to Bac Lieu. I flew initially and then turned the aircraft over to my co-pilot so I could buckle in, finish tying my boots, get my flight helmet on correctly, (it was unstrapped and not plugged in to the radio system)! We did not have time for all the "niceties" as the rounds were falling, priority one was crank and leave! We always left the aircraft in the “cocked” configuration, so all we had to do was untie the blades, jump in, turn on the battery and hit the starter switch, no lights until we were airborne and away from the airfield.
Anyway, after having done all that stuff, I started looking for my cigarettes and realized that I had left them in the hooch, my Copilot did not smoke, and I remember saying, "I wish I had a cigarette". I had no sooner completed that statement when over the console between the pilots, out of the dark, this “hand” appears with a pack of Camels and lighter! I swear, it looked like some kind of apparition, and startled me, but I took the offered cigarettes, shook one out of the pack (Literally!) and lit up. I put the cigarettes and lighter back into "the hand" and it withdrew towards the rear of the aircraft. After having a smoke and recovering my wits somewhat, I turned and looked in the rear of the aircraft, and there sat Bill Hitch along with several others, who had jumped on board my aircraft during the evacuation, I never even realized that anyone else had gotten on board or when. The hand and the cigarettes belonged to Bill!
I'll never forget the sight of that hand, cigarettes and lighter seemingly appearing out of thin air! Thanks for the smoke Bill!
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