Bob Rupert of Clinton, Pennsylvania was working as an aircraft mechanic for a major airline when he was called up during the Vietnam War. It was a good job. He was a well trained technician. But the army needed infantrymen in 1968.
Not long after landing in Vietnam and being assigned to the 1st Air Cavalry’s 11th Aviation Group, Warrant Officer Herman C. Bliss noticed Bob’s aircraft experience and recruited him as his crew chief—and sometimes co-pilot. For the next year, the two-man team would fly assorted missions in a de Havilland Beaver, an all-purpose, slow-flying, prop-driven, single-engined utility aircraft, otherwise known by its Canadian manufacturer as a “bush plane.”
On one of his earliest missions, Bob’s experienced pilot turned to him as they flew low and slow over the jungle and requested, “I want you to listen for beeps on the headset.”
“What’s it mean if I hear them?” Bob asked with concern.
“It means the Vietcong’s locked onto us with their missiles.”
“What do we do then?” Bob exclaimed, looking out the window as the plane slowly sputtered above the treetops.
“Not much,” the Herman said calmly.
During 2015, we conducted monthly oral history interviews at Seven Oaks Country Club, located in scenic western Beaver County, Pennsylvania. As part of his community outreach effort, manager Joe Strauss graciously provided assistance and space for us to set up our mobile recording studio so that we could meet with local veterans and preserve their stories.
On December 21, 2015, we invited two area veterans to Seven Oaks Country Club to share their stories with the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. First to be interviewed by Kevin Farkas was John Schweich, who served as an army intelligence officer in Vietnam, and then we sat down with Bob Rupert, a Vietnam veteran who flew spotting planes throughout the war.