BEATRICE – For a moment, emotions took over for a Beatrice man who served in what some Americans viewed as an unpopular war.
:11 “very emotional”
Retired Beatrice Police Lieutenant Joe Hawkins, a helicopter crew member and marksman with two weapons, was honored for his service during Vietnam in the U.S. Army. He served from March, 1965 to March 1968.
Hawkins, recognized Wednesday before the Gage County Board, spoke of one occasion when the Vietcong tried to overrun the base where his unit was located.
:27 “knocked ‘em out”
Hawkins call it his “welcome to Vietnam party”. Hawkins served aboard a CH-47, Chinook helicopter. He spoke of Lima Site 85, a secretive mission his unit was a part of.
:41 “don’t know who you are”
Hawkins says the area was considered heavy for enemy MIG jets. The area had traffic control equipment used to direct U.S. aircraft in bombing missions over Hanoi, 90 miles away from the North Vietnamese Capitol. Hawkins unit helped set up the operation, which eventually was destroyed by the Vietnamese.
:15 “couldn’t get it”
A website details the loss of Lima Site 85, where sophisticated electronic equipment was used to direct airstrikes by pilots, without actually having to see the target. Bombers could fly at altitudes that only surface-to-air missiles could reach. The site was in neutral country, though the North Vietnamese were using the same area to transport troops, equipment and supplies.
Hawkins says his duty was to maintain his helicopter, man a machine gun and make sure onboard cargo was secure, in case the copter was forced down.
Following his retirement as a police lieutenant, Hawkins has continued to serve his community, helping out in the Gage County Emergency Management office. He was recognized Wednesday before county supervisors in their ongoing project to remember the sacrifices of the county’s war veterans.