Dave Clemmer was 25 when he went to Vietnam as a warrant officer, flying heavy-lift Chinook-46 helicopters from 1968 to 1969. He arrived in the country a few days before Tet, the big North Vietnamese and Viet Cong offensive.
“I was amazed that the enemy could mount such a massive operation,” said Clemmer, the current president of American Legion Post 171 in Damascus, Md.
Clemmer remembers hauling supplies to Khe Sanh, where U.S. Marines were surrounded by the North Vietnamese and pounded daily by artillery, rockets and mortars.
“As soon as we landed, mortar rounds bracketed us,” said Clemmer, who was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross for another supply mission under heavy enemy fire later in his tour of duty. His war ended when gunshots in the notorious A Shau Valley came up through the floor of his helicopter, and chewed up his leg.
After the war, Clemmer flew Federal Aviation Administration officials all around the world before retiring to pursue other interests. Now, he spends his free time driving his 2019 Tesla sedan, and showing his vintage 1968 Ford Fairlane at car shows like a recent one in Rockville.