This video is 28 minutes long, so be sure you have time to watch it all the way through. At the end there’s a great song playing in the background. There are thousands of similar accounts of those who served in VietNam, and this video does a great job of accurately expressing many of those experiences.
How "Aviators" came about
Aviators come from a secret society formed around a thousand years ago.
They are warriors and below is the proof.
A little known fact is the origin of the word "aviator." In the immortal words of Johnny Carson, "I did not know that." Phu Khen (pronounced Foo Ken), 1169 - is considered by some to be the most under-recognized military officer in history. Many have never heard of his contributions to modern military warfare. The mission of this secret society is to bring honor to the name of Phu Khen.
A Khen was a subordinate to a Khan in the military structure of the Mongol hordes. Khan is Turkish for leader. Most know of the great Genghis Khan, but little has been written of his chain of command.
Khen is also of Turkish origin, although there is not a word in English that adequately conveys the meaning.
Roughly translated, it means “One who will do the impossible while appearing unprepared and complaining constantly." Phu Khen was one of ten Khens that headed the divisions or groups of hordes as they were known, of the Mongol Army serving under Genghis Khan. His abilities came to light during the Mongols' raids on the Turkistan city of Bohicaroo.
Bohicans were fierce warriors and the city was well fortified. The entire city was protected by huge walls and the hordes were at a standoff with the Bohicans. Bohicaroo was well stocked and it would have been difficult to wait them out.
Genghis Khan assembled his Khens and ordered each of them to develop a plan for penetrating the defenses of Bohicaroo. Operation Achieve Victory, "AV", was born. All 10 divisions of Khens submitted their plan.
After reviewing AV plans 1 through 7 and finding them unworkable or ridiculous, Genghis Khan was understandably upset.
It was with much perspiration that Phu Khen submitted his idea, which came to be known as AV 8. Upon seeing AV 8, Genghis was convinced this was the perfect plan and gave immediate approval. The plan was beautifully simple. Phu Khen would arm his hordes to the teeth, load them into catapults and hurl them over the wall. The losses were expected to be high, but hey, hordes were cheap. Those that survived the flight would engage the enemy in combat. Those that did not?.. Well, surely their flailing bodies would cause some damage.
The plan worked and the Bohicans were defeated.
Only one of the Bohicans was left standing. He would become known as "The Last of The Bohicans." From that day on, whenever the Mongol Army encountered an insurmountable enemy, Genghis Khan would give the order "Send some of the Phu Khen AV 8ers." This is believed, though not by anyone outside our secret society, to be the true origin of the word Aviator.
Phu Khen's AV8ers were understandably an unruly mob, not likely to be sociably acceptable. Many were heavy drinkers and insomniacs. However, when nothing else would do, you could always count on an AV8er.
A Phu Khen Aviator. Denied, perhaps rightfully so, his place in history, Phu Khen has been, nonetheless, immortalized in prose. You hear mystical references, often hushed whispers, of "those Phu Khen Aviators."
Do not let these things bother you. As with any secret society, we go largely misunderstood, prohibited by our apathy from explaining ourselves.
You are expected to always live down to the reputation of the Phu Khen Aviator, a reputation cultivated for centuries, undaunted by scorn or ridicule, unhindered by progress.
So drink up, be crude, sleep late, urinate in public, yell at the women to show you their tits, and get the job done. When others are offended, you can revel in the knowledge that YOU are a true PHU KHEN AVIATOR
Memories of another time and place. These all from a rotorheads perspective.
Mind Pictures from Viet Nam.
[Not all of the pictures we brought back in Our Minds have faded and turned yellow with age. Some are as clear as the day they were taken -]
The sound of main rotor blades beating the sky into submission
The thump of outgoing mortar fire
The whistle, thump of incoming mortar fire
The smell of rice patties in the heat
The feel of rain so heavy you think you're going to drown.
The taste of ice cold "33"
Or luke warm "33"
Heating C-Rats with C-4
The ever-present smell of hot JP-4
The scream of 30 turbo-shaft engines under load
The beautiful dark green of the mountains
The smell of burning diesel fuel and shit
Flying lazy circles at 10,000 ft to cool off the beer
The sight of unfamiliar constellations viewed from the top of a sandbagged bunker on a pitch-black night
The chatter of a M-60
The smell of hot gun oil, burning gun powder and overheated metal
The sight of green tracers reaching up
The feeling in the pit of your stomach when you look around and realize that all the civilian workers have disappeared into the bunkers for no apparent reason
R & R in Vung Tao - R & R any place
The whistle a main rotor blade makes when it has a bullet hole through it
The call of a "f***kyou" lizard in the middle of the night
The breath taking beauty of the country from 5000 ft.
Waking up in a panic in the middle of the night because the Artillery at the end of the field isn't firing and it's to quiet.
The scream of the scramble siren in the middle of the night
The feel of your M-14 on full automatic
Drinking Jim Beam straight up and chasing it with warm black cherry soda because that's all you've got
A kidney busting full throttle run down Thunder Road in a sandbagged duce and a half
The feeling when fewer ships come home than left that morning
The mind numbing sight and sound when Puff lights up the night and saves your sorry ass
The absolute silence when Puff is done
Flying over the mountains and seeing a high valley still covered in the early morning fog.
And the fog spilling out of a high pass, like cream out of a cup.
Cloud skiing :-)) Get to the top of a puffy cumulus over the coast during the rainy season. Get right on top and dump collective. Try to keep just the skids in the cloud while following the contours.
Sliding down to the ridge lines in my Loach and pretending to do a recon while riding the updrafts like I was in a sail plane as the fog starts burning off. In my mind sailing a small "cat" in Cape Cod bay.
Cool night air at one mile high and one mile out over the coast.
High "pucker factor" while hovering up a road into 200 & ¼ with rain and fog.
The smell of human blood.
What a hard sideways flare feels like when started at 120 kts and 30 feet AGL.
Over the high plateau during the monsoon, cruising along a road in 200 & 1/4 (or less) and having to pull collective to miss a deuce truck coming at you and going IFR.
Sitting on the ground, looking up at a clear blue sky through whispers of ground fog; then flying over that same fog bank towards Dak To, finding only one FSB poking up through the fog. Then sitting on that FSB, drinking varnish removing coffee made in an aluminum pot over a Mo-gas powered squad stove, waiting for the fog to lift.
Foggy days at Bao Loc. Lining up, one by one, between the revetments and taking off into the fog at 30 sec intervals. Breaking out at 4000 msl, PZ was at 5000 msl and the LZ was still higher.
Running thru the rounds to get the team airborne when it was your turn on counter-mortar standby.
Insect repellant on your testicles...burns!
Blowing up a leaky air mattress!
The 'rush' of short final into a hot LZ!
A jammed M-16 during a "white" moment!
A howitzer firing over you in the middle of the night (during your two hours of sleep)!
Watching the ground come straight at you during a high overhead approach (in trail formation)
Realizing you're lost and have crossed the border when you can't see anymore of those little round yellow circles on the ground!
Realizing you're in the wrong place when the arty response is "Sorry sir. Those coords are out of range."!
The silence when the "whop-whop" and "whine" stops!
The realization when the "whop-whop" and "whine" stops that the only place you can see the ground is the nearby sewer called a "rice-paddy"!
Dry season integration (everybody is red)!
The joy of a ride home!
Hearing, "Move your tail left, sir." and "Move your tail right, sir.", at the same time in a hover hole!
Hearing, "What the hell was that!", "Awww shit!", and noticing little yellow rectangular lights out of corner of your eye all at the same time!
You notice how small trees look when you had a blade strike at 2000 feet.
You notice how many lights are not lit up on a master control panel.<zero>
The beautiful curving red lines of tracers at midnight.
The look of rice in the rocket pods.
The look of blood on the windshield.
The horrifying basketball size green tracers going upward in slow motion at
The eerie light of a parachute flare.
The true beauty of a mini-gun when you are down in the rice, and your wing ship is above covering your sorry ass.
The surrealistic sight of Nui Ba Den as dawn breaks the horizon.
The mosquitoes that carry harpoons
The sting of a rocket cap hitting your shins.
The taste of crushed cookies.
Pinto Beans cooked on a popcorn popper.
Measuring the grease in C-rat beef stew.
Finding a use for powdered eggs.
The thought of watching momma son pop the heads off those big roaches in the mess hall and eat them.
The whistle of a 122mm rocket inbound...right in the middle of The Good The Bad & The Ugly
Taking a shower at the edge of the roof during monsoon season.
Missing the submerged boardwalk during the monsoon on the way to the club and finding the 6' deep ditch instead.
Naming all the rats.
Roach races as a sporting event.
Scrounging missions just for the hell of it.
The white cranes that are bullet proof
The humidity in August.
Finding the true meaning of rocket city.
Plugging hydraulic leaks with bubble gum just to get home
The smell of Napalm.
The smell of rocket fuel
The cherry glow of a red hot M-60 barrel.
The pop of a .51 as it flys by too close
The incessant dust of Cu Chi
The sucking mud
Honolulu looks clean enough to eat off the street from the air.
The ring of the telephone that sends you to action station.
The ring of the phone at 2 am in Hawaii that almost sent you off the 17th floor balcony.
The backfire of a car .. the embarrassment of being face down in a ditch.
The joy of DEROS Day
The loneliness the days after Travis.. and ETS
Wondering why the grunts don't shoot your hook after it blows the air mattress out of their poncho tent and onto the concertina wire at LZ Leslie
Watching the rotor wash of your hook dismantle a hooch and not even care
Watching the water buffalo drag the farmer and plow across several dikes cause the boo doesn't like hooks
St Elmo's fire on the rotor blades
Wondering why the marines at Phu Bai don't have counter mortar anything
Listening to 2/20 ARA birds salvo doing counter mortar in Cav. controlled area
Swimming with sea snakes at Wonder beach
Watching how high a blivet can bounce when punched off at 50 feet
Being damn glad to be in Hooks when the last flight of the day you sling back a dead Huey and you can see the pilots helmet rolling around in there. Knowing he wouldn't have left it if he was okay............
Flying through the Mang Yang pass from Pleiku to An Ke and seeing the French graves from Groupe Mobile 100 on the hilltop
The smell of RVN
Flying out of Evans, over the mountains and low level over the rice paddies early in the morning. Looked like jewels sparkling in the morning sun
The sound of Armed Forces Radio at 0600...Goooooood Morining Viet Naaaaaammm!
The click as a round went past...
The sounds of the Mama's and the Papa's "Monday, Monday..." and you start another day, another one down and ??? to go.
The quite voice of the FDC..."On the way, wait...." and you wait for the bright flash of the parachute flare to see if you can see Charlie...and you can't.
The voice from the GCA controller, Hey are you hovering up there???
The whispers of the FO..."The Fu..are close, be careful"...
Y'all OK down there?..."click, click"....sigh of relief
The crew chief..."I think we took some on that last pass!"
Thanks to those who added their "mind pictures". . .
Memorial Day 2014
Terry Garlock Presentation to Angry Skipper Reunion D/2 Cav - Angry Skipper –
May 17, 2014 by Terry Garlock - (introduced by Norm McDonald and then Bill Neal)
Thank you. Since Norm and Bill only revealed my minor weaknesses, I know I am among friends. And since my Loach pilot buddy Mike King goaded Bill Neal to tell you the only thing Cobra pilots could hit was the ground, you should know that if Mike ever flew more than 20 feet of altitude he got a nose bleed.
It’s an honor to be invited to speak to you for several reasons. First, grunts and helicopter pilots share a lot of history from the Vietnam War. Somewhere, right now there are helicopter pilots laughing over a beer at the memory of a ground commander whispering on the radio, “Come on in, the LZ is secure!”
If you guys are anything like helicopter pilots, you have to be careful at reunions like this because nothing ruins a good war story like an eye witness! And no matter how different our jobs were 40 years ago, our best stories seem have a punch line, like this one a Navy jet pilot told me. He said the three best things in a pilot’s life are a good landing, a good bowel movement and a good orgasm, and when he landed on a carrier in rough weather at night he could have all three at the same time.
It’s a privilege to speak to veterans of Angry Skipper, a proud and accomplished Cav unit in a tough war. It’s also a special treat to spend a little time with old friends like Bill and Carolyn Neal, and new friends like Robin Woo, Stan Dillon, and Norm McDonald. Too bad Nick Donvito couldn’t make it.
Bill Neal is the guy I call when I need wisdom. Those of you who took orders from Bill might remember him as a tough guy, and you might really like the T-shirt I recently bought for a Marine friend who is rather proud to have been an enlisted man. The shirt says – “Officers – making simple shit hard since 1775.”
But the truth is, if I had a son carrying a rifle in combat, I would pray for him to have a strong hands-on leader like Bill Neal.
Bill told you I was “chumming” last week when our Vietnam vet group went out to the Gulf Stream on a bouncy day, but in case you missed his meaning, I was the weak sister on that boat, and while they hauled in Tuna, Mahi-Mahi, Wahoo and a Sailfish, I was puking my guts out all day long. I thought I was going to barf up my toenails and I am downright tickled to be here on stable, dry land.
I flew cobras with the Dragons in the 334th Attack helicopter company based in Bien Hoa in III Corps in 1969. When grunts called for help and we were scrambled, things were usually exciting when we arrived. My platoon leader, John Synowsky, had a radio call style intended to calm the ground commander:
Red Eagle 6, this is Dashing, Daring, Debonair, Devil-May-Care, Death-DefyingDragon 34, lead element of a fire team of cobras whose fire power can only be surpassed by a flight of B-52s, give me a sitrep, over.
Dragon 34, we’re getting hurt down here and you’re having fun?
Now that I have your attention Red Eagle 6, mark your position and give me direction and distance to place my fire. No such thing as left and right, smoke, direction and distance and we’ll fire them up for you, over.
John liked to use the same style to screw with the tower operator when we returned to base at Bien Hoa:
Spartan tower, this is Dashing, Daring, Debonair, Devil-May-Care, Death-Defying Dragon 34, lead element of a fire team of cobras whose fire power can only be surpassed by a flight of B-52s, back from kicking Charlie’s butt, weapons are cold, turning on final for lane 5, over.
If the tower operator was new, he probably would say, “Now who are you again?” and if he had heard it a bunch of times before, he might say “Yeah, so what Dragon 34?” but either way, by then we had already hit the pad and were hovering to our revetment to park for re-arm and refuel.
Now I’ll get serious and tell you some things from deep in my heart, so if I struggle, bear with me.
Like every other helicopter pilot who flew in Vietnam, I have felt the love many times from grunts like you expressing gratitude for slicks coming through a bad situation to take you out of a lousy place, or gunships like mine coming to put our fire where you needed it. When I was a new guy in Vietnam I used to wonder as I watched 20 year old pilots fly into a firefight, “What motivates young men to take such risks?” I soon discovered the answer was you guys, grunts on the ground, our brothers.
You were the ones doing America’s dirtiest and hardest work. You were the ones down there in thick jungle that made a Klick seem like 10 miles. You were the ones down there with the bugs and snakes, the oppressive heat and humidity, never mind the booby traps and enemy trying to kill you before you killed them. You were our motivation to climb in the cockpit after a bad day. When we call you grunts, it is truly a term of endearment.
It’s my privilege to be here with you even if I don’t know you. I used to wonder why I will always feel isolated, like a stranger around people even if I have known them a long time. And yet, when I walk into a room full of Vietnam combat vets I have never met, it feels like coming home, like I can relax in the comfort of knowing every one of them will watch my six. I’ll bet some of you feel the same way, even though it’s hard to explain.
There are a lot of things about us hard to explain. Some of the wives in this room might observe that combat veterans should come with a detailed owner’s manual explaining all of our quirks, warning lights and hot buttons, but the truth is we don’t even understand ourselves. Someone once said combat is a struggle to survive, and if you do, then you spend the rest of your life dealing with it.
Between 2005 and 2010 I was writing a book about Vietnam vets and I spoke to a great many of them. Listening carefully helped me see more clearly how we were changed by war. The more I listened to guys who didn’t understand themselves, the more I understood about myself. The things I learned are pretty much the same, I think, for pilots like me and for grunts like you.
How were we prepared for combat when we were so young? Intense training and drilling helped a lot because every one of us was worried about measuring up, wondering if we were made of the right stuff.
When the time came and the shooting started, new guys were too busy doing their job to notice they were learning lessons that are not taught any other place.
We thought we would be fighting for the flag, but it turned out we were fighting for each other We thought courage was not being afraid, but we found out courage is doing your job well while you are scared to death.
Combat is a cruel teacher, but somehow it turns a group of men into a sort of family where you may not like or even know a guy but you’ll take breathtaking risks in the struggle to keep each other alive. Amidst the chaos and danger of combat, beyond the mission there is powerful motivation that I think is summed up in two words – honor and trust.
What does a 19 year old soldier in combat know about honor? Quite a bit, I think. He may not ever put it into words but he knows honor is doing his job well and defending his brothers even at the risk of his life. He knows while looking in the mirror to shave whether he met the challenge. Passing that test becomes what he likes most about himself. As he gets good at his job, at some point he realizes his brothers trust him to deliver, even under fire. He may never say it, but he is enormously proud of earning that trust, and he would do anything not to lose it.
It’s almost like we proudly wore an invisible jacket of honor and trust that we had to earn, a high achievement that our family at home would never understand. The complete trust we had in each other made a closeness that only Shakespeare has successfully described. And so, even though everyone in combat fears dying, we feared even more that our courage might fail us, that we might screw up, fail to do our job, and we might lose our brothers trust or even lose their lives, and we feared that more than anything.
If you asked us back then if we loved each other, we would have thought you were out of your mind. But when one of us was killed the cut ran very deep, and we did what soldiers have to do, we crammed our anguish way down deep inside us into our own secret box and we closed the lid tight so we could carry on to do our job . . . and the ghosts of our dead brothers were always close by.
The calendar days passed in Vietnam, some days boring, some days exciting and some dark with anguish, and we all fantasized about going home, getting away from the nastiness of war and back to those we loved.
We may have left home as boys but we would return home more serious men who had learned to instinctively separate the fluff from important things that might get our brothers killed or keep them alive.
When we finally arrived home the reunion might not have been as smooth as we expected since we had changed more than we realized. We may have seemed remote to some people since our brothers, whether alive or hidden away dead in our secret box, meant far more to us than the dumbasses we met who would never sacrifice a thing for their country and wouldn’t know honor if we spelled it for them. It didn’t seem right that life went on as if there was no war, as if Americans were not still fighting and dying, and we found ourselves missing our brothers, the people we respected now, the people who understood us now, the people we trusted completely now to watch our back.
How crazy is it that many of us secretly wished to be back with those guys where honor and trust are the coin of the realm? Maybe we hated the war but felt the urge to be there again with the ones who were part of us now.
Over the years, we have been cautious about opening our secret box to tell others about our dead brothers because the memories are wrapped in the same feelings we had when they died, just as fresh as yesterday, and we didn’t like that we couldn’t control the tears and overwhelming sadness.
A few years ago when my daughter, Melanie was 13, I was driving her up to Virginia to visit Bill Neal for some fishing, and we made a side trip to Washington, DC. I told her we had little time, so what two things did she want to see? She said the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial.
I was proud of her and said I wanted to explain something about the Vietnam Memorial, what makes it so powerful. As I drove the freeway I asked her, “When a mother and father are informed their son has been killed in a war, and they suffer the worst day of their life, how long do you think it takes for them to get over it?” After a moment’s thought Melanie said, “Never.” I told her, “Exactly right. They take that anguish and do the same thing that soldiers do in combat when bad things happen - they push it down into a secret box deep inside them and close the lid tight so they can go on with life.”
I told her about two names I would show her at The Wall, Paul and Ralph. We were Cobra gunship pilots in the war, and our worst nightmare was being trapped in the cockpit after a crash and still conscious while spilled fuel burned it fast and hot, a horrible way to die.
Paul was my roommate. He obsessed about his wife pregnant with their first child. He was on top of the world when he received a telegram saying he was a Dad, he had a son. Four days later Paul and Ralph were supporting the 3rd Mobile Strike Force, Green Berets, trying to stop an enemy force crossing the Cambodian border into South Vietnam from the southernmost finger of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. They lost a firefight with a .51 anti-aircraft gun and died a violent death in the cockpit when the aircraft hit the jungle trees at high speed, stuck and burned about 200 feet up.
Three of the Green Berets volunteered to rappel down from a hovering helicopter to retrieve bodies. They got Paul’s body out of the front seat but the aircraft was burning and ammo starting to cook off. They couldn’t get to Ralph in the back seat and made a radio call for permission to “cap” him because he was trapped with no hope of getting out, alive and conscious, burning and screaming.
I learned of this radio request years later while talking to the 3rd Mobile Strike Force radio operator. He said the answer was “No,” and it was a stupid request anyway because what officer would want that on his record? They should have just done the deed, and I like to think they did it anyway.
As I was telling Melanie this story and still driving, I had opened my own secret box and had tears streaming down my face while she patted my shoulder and said, “Don’t cry, Dad” I told Melanie, “When I show you Paul’s and Ralph’s name on The Wall, you might remember some of the things I have told you, but you will never feel the things I feel, and for me . . . it will never go away. That is the power of the Vietnam Memorial. It comes from within the people who were involved.”
The names etched on the polished black wall make it personal, and as family members and brothers in arms approach The Wall, the air becomes electric as memories wrapped in anguish fly out of secret boxes, finally set loose to run free. We can almost see our dead brothers in the reflection of that polished wall, proudly wearing the jacket of honor and trust they earned. The Wall in Washington is our place to ease the pressure, to let loose those feelings we suppress, where we can talk to our dead brothers to tell them they are not forgotten, that we are teaching our children and grandchildren about them.It’s a place where we can confess our guilt that we lived through it and they did not, that they never knew the joy of watching children and grandchildren grow up.
These are some of the things that bind our brotherhood together, whether we were grunts or pilots, nurses or POWs, sailors or Marines. We may have lived in different worlds in Vietnam 40 years ago, but our shared history will always draw us to each other. The draw is much more, I think, than remembering the past and swapping laughs and stories.
I think It’s the comfort of being with men and women who proved themselves worthy of honor and trust, people who did hard things well when they were young, people who understand when we say we can almost see the ghosts of our dead brothers here among us, laughing and joking, sipping with us when we drink a toast to them and say our prayers in silence for them.
Memorial Day is coming soon, and the dumbass half of America will enjoy the holiday weekend with nary a thought to the sacrifice that makes them free. The other half will wave the flag and make speeches honoring the fallen, but those who weren’t there can never fully understand how we think of our dead brothers.
Those of us who lived through it will remember them vividly for the rest of our lives. Some of us think of them every day, as if we’re keeping an unspoken pledge to each other – I will remember you.
I am thankful I had the chance long ago to bring close air support to men like you, and if I had it to do over again, even knowing I would be shot down and badly injured, not for anything would I miss the chance to fly with the greatest bunch of cowboys in the world.
I am grateful for the brotherhood we have, even though I came to it late in life after ignoring it for 30 years – now it seems to pull stronger on me with every passing year. I am grateful for the remembrances of Memorial Day, even though you and I don’t reserve those memories for one day a year. We think of each other and we think of our dead brothers all the time with the affection of this old Irish blessing:
May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind always be at your back
May the sun shine warm on your face
May the rains fall soft on your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of His hand
Veterans Day 2013 - Man In The Door Reflections
It was a long time ago, but sometimes it seems like yesterday. Yesterday a plumber came to my house. He was from South Africa. He asked if I was a helicopter pilot, then he asked me if I flew in Vietnam. Then he shook my hand and thanked me for what I did for my country and the world. He was amazed at the humility that combat vets have. He knows other combat vets, neighbors and customers. He sees how most real combat vets don't talk much about the experience, especially to those who were not involved. My Father hardly ever talked about his flying experience in WW II, and I did not understand that as a teenager. When his older brother, who was also a pilot in WW II, came to the house they would loosen up a little and talk with each other. I would try to be the fly on the wall and listen to every word from those two combat pilots. They were my inspiration, and my hero's. Now my newest hero is my son, with his three tours as an A-10 pilot in Afghanistan. He doesn't talk much about it, but I am hoping that someday he will loosen up a little and tell me all about it. I know he was just like me while he listened to the conversations between me and my helicopter pilot buddies. The fly on the wall, listening to his hero's.
Here's hoping there is not another war, but realistically I know that is a pipe dream. Having said that, here's hoping that the new generation will be inspired to stand tall in the shadows of their hero's, to defend their friends and neighbors. Tom Harney
There's NO way we could have flown on those birds if it hadn't been for the best A/C mechanics in the Nam! And I say that with the highest regard for all those who kept the darn things in the air... We rode in your hands! And we all knew it who were hanging in the midst of life and death. Our thoughts were with all of those who watched those birds leave the Coliseum and we looked first to the hanger when we returned. I always know who kept us there... besides the Almighty! It took hard work but it was truly a work of love from all of us for each of us... I salute you, my Brother, with tears in my eyes... Buzz Roberts
Aw Man.... U bout made me cry. We ALWAYS looked to Y'all as U left every mornin & again when U came Home in the evening.... trying to count the Birds & make sure Same Same # came Home, as left in the mornin. Danney
Boy, this is great. It touches my heart. I am glad I flew guns so I never had to look close at the carnage nor leave those guys in the LZ. I hope the author had this copywriter. It then is placed in the Library of. Congress and his name last forever.
Thanks. Ivol “Curt” Kenner
A Day in The Life of Spartans
THE SOUND THAT BINDS, by Colonel Keith Nightingale, US Army (Retired)
Keith Nightingale is a retired Army colonel who served two tours in Vietnam with Airborne and Ranger (American and Vietnamese) units. He commanded two airborne battalions and both the 1/75th Rangers and the 1st Ranger Training Brigade. He was a member of the Iran rescue attempt in 1981 (Operation Eagle Claw, better known to many as “Desert One”) and was the assault force commander in both Grenada and Panama .
Unique to all that served in Vietnam is the UH1H helicopter. It was both devil and angel and it served as both extremely well. Whether a LRRP, US or RVN soldier or civilian, whether, NVA, VC, Allied or civilian, it provided a sound and sense that lives with us all today. It is the one sound that immediately clears the clouds of time and freshens the images of our mind. It will be the sound track of our last moments on earth. It was a simple machine – a single engine, a single blade and four man crew – yet like the Model T, it transformed us all and performed tasks the engineers never imagined. For soldiers, it was the worst and best of friends but it was the one binding material in a tapestry of a war of many pieces.
The smell was always hot, filled with diesel fumes, sharp drafts accentuated by gritty sand, laterite and anxious vibrations. It always held the spell of the unknown and the anxiety of learning what was next and what might be. It was an unavoidable magnet for the heavily laden soldier who donkey-trotted to its squat shaking shape through the haze and blast of dirt, stepped on the OD skid, turned and dropped his ruck on the cool aluminum deck. Reaching inside with his rifle or machine gun, a soldier would grasp a floor ring with a finger as an extra precaution of physics for those moments when the now airborne bird would break into a sharp turn revealing all ground or all sky to the helpless riders all very mindful of the impeding weight on their backs. The relentless weight of the ruck combined with the stress of varying motion caused fingers and floor rings to bind almost as one. Constant was the vibration, smell of hydraulic fluid, flashes of visionary images and the occasional burst of a ground-fed odor – rotting fish, dank swampy heat, cordite or simply the continuous sinuous currents of Vietnam’s weather – cold and driven mist in the Northern monsoon or the wall of heated humidity in the southern dry season. Blotting it out and shading the effect was the constant sound of the single rotating blade as it ate a piece of the air, struggling to overcome the momentary physics of the weather.
To divert anxiety, a soldier/piece of freight, might reflect on his home away from home. The door gunners were usually calm which was emotionally helpful. Each gun had a C-ration fruit can at the ammo box clip entrance to the feed mechanism of the machine gun. The gun had a large circular aiming sight unlike the ground-pounder version. That had the advantage of being able to fix on targets from the air considerably further than normal ground acquisition. Pears, Apricots, Apple Sauce or Fruit Cocktail, it all worked. Fruit cans had just the right width to smoothly feed the belt into the gun which was always a good thing. Some gunners carried a large oil can much like old locomotive engineers to squeeze on the barrel to keep it cool. Usually this was accompanied by a large OD towel or a khaki wound-pack bandage to allow a rubdown without a burned hand. Under the gunner’s seat was usually a small dairy-box filled with extra ammo boxes, smoke grenades, water, flare pistol, C-rats and a couple of well-worn paperbacks. The gun itself might be attached to the roof of the helicopter with a bungi cord and harness. This allowed the adventurous gunners to unattach the gun from the pintle and fire it manually while standing on the skid with only the thinnest of connectivity to the bird. These were people you wanted near you – particularly on extractions.
The pilots were more mysterious. You only saw parts of them as they labored behind the armored seats. An arm, a helmeted head and the occasional fingered hand as it moved across the dials and switches on the ceiling above. The armored side panels covered their outside legs – an advantage the passenger did not enjoy. Sometimes, a face, shielded behind helmeted sunshades, would turn around to impart a question with a glance or display a sense of anxiety with large white-circled eyes – this was not a welcoming look as the sounds of external issues fought to override the sounds of mechanics in flight. Yet, as a whole, the pilots got you there, took you back and kept you maintained. You never remembered names, if at all you knew them, but you always remembered the ride and the sound.
Behind each pilot seat usually ran a stretch of wire or silk attaching belt. It would have arrayed a variety of handy items for immediate use. Smoke grenades were the bulk of the attachment inventory – most colors and a couple of white phosphorous if a dramatic marking was needed. Sometimes, trip flares or hand grenades would be included depending on the location and mission. Hand grenades were a rare exception as even pilots knew they exploded – not always where intended. It was just a short arm motion for a door gunner to pluck an inventory item off the string, pull the pin and pitch it which was the point of the arrangement. You didn’t want to be in a helicopter when such an act occurred as that usually meant there was an issue. Soldiers don’t like issues that involve them. It usually means a long day or a very short one – neither of which is a good thing.
The bird lifts off in a slow, struggling and shaking manner. Dust clouds obscure any view a soldier may have. Quickly, with a few subtle swings, the bird is above the dust and a cool encompassing wind blows through. Sweat is quickly dried, eyes clear and a thousand feet of altitude show the world below. Colors are muted but objects clear. The rows of wooden hootches, the airfield, local villages, an old B52 strike, the mottled trail left by a Ranch hand spray mission and the open reflective water of a river or lake are crisp in sight. The initial anxiety of the flight or mission recedes as the constantly moving and soothing motion picture and soundtrack unfolds. In time, one is aware of the mass of UH1Hs coalescing in a line in front of and behind you. Other strings of birds may be left or right of you – all surging toward some small speck in the front, lost to your view. Each is a mirror image of the other – two to three laden soldiers sitting on the edge looking at you and your accompanying passengers all going to the same place with the same sense of anxiety and uncertainty but borne on a similar steed and sound.
In time, one senses the birds coalescing as they approach the objective. Perhaps a furtive glance or sweeping arc of flight reveals the landing zone. Smoke erupts in columns – Initially visible as blue grey against the sky. The location is clearly discernible as a trembling spot surrounded by a vast green carpet of flat jungle or a sharp point of a jutting ridge, as the bird gets closer, a soldier can now see the small FAC aircraft working well-below, the sudden sweeping curve of the bombing runs and the small puffs as artillery impacts. A sense of immense loneliness can begin to obscure one’s mind as the world’s greatest theatre raises its curtain. Even closer now, with anxious eyes and short breath, a soldier can make out his destination. The smoke is now the dirty grey black of munitions with only the slightest hint of orange upon ignition. No Hollywood effect is at work. Here, the physics of explosions are clearly evident as pressure and mass over light.
The pilot turns around to give a thumbs up or simply ignores his load as he struggles to maintain position with multiple birds dropping power through smoke swirls, uplifting newly created debris, sparks and flaming ash. The soldiers instinctively grasp their weapons tighter, look furtively between the upcoming ground and the pilot and mentally strain to find some anchor point for the next few seconds of life. If this is the first lift in, the door gunners will be firing rapidly in sweeping motions of the gun but this will be largely unknown and unfelt to the soldiers. They will now be focused on the quickly approaching ground and the point where they might safely exit. Getting out is now very important. Suddenly, the gunners may rapidly point to the ground and shout “GO” or there may just be the jolt of the skids hitting the ground and the soldiers instinctively lurch out of the bird, slam into the ground and focus on the very small part of the world they now can see. The empty birds, under full power, squeeze massive amounts of air and debris down on the exited soldiers, blinding them to the smallest view. Very quickly, there is a sudden shroud of silence as the birds retreat into the distance and the soldiers begin their recovery into a cohesive organization, losing that sound.
On various occasions and weather dependent, the birds return. Some to provide necessary logistics, some command visits and some medevac’s. On the rarest and best of occasions, they arrive to take you home. Always they have the same sweet sound which resonates with every soldier who ever heard it. It is the sound of life, hope for life and what may be. It is a sound that never will be forgotten. It is your and our sound.
Logistics is always a trial. Pilots don’t like it, field soldiers need it and weather is indiscriminate. Log flights also mean mail and a connection to home and where real people live and live real lives. Here is an aberrant aspect of life that only that sound can relieve. Often there is no landing zone or the area is so hot that a pilot’s sense of purpose may become blurred. Ground commanders beg and plead on the radio for support that is met with equivocations or insoluble issues. Rations are stretched from four to six days, cigarettes become serious barter items and soldiers begin to turn inward. In some cases, perhaps only minutes after landing, fire fights break out. The machine guns begin their carnivorous song. Rifle ammunition and grenades are expended with gargantuan appetites. The air is filled with an all-encompassing sound that shuts each soldier into his own small world -- shooting, loading, shooting, loading, shooting, loading until he has to quickly reach into the depth of his ruck, past the extra rations, past the extra rain poncho, past the spare paperback, to the eight M16 magazines forming the bottom of the load – never thought he would need them. A resupply is desperately needed. In some time, a sound is heard over the din of battle. A steady whomp whomp whomp that says: The World is here. Help is on the way. Hang in there. The soldier turns back to the business at hand with a renewed confidence. Wind parts the canopy and things begin to crash through the tree tops. Some cases have smoke grenades attached – these are the really important stuff – medical supplies, codes and maybe mail. The sound drifts off in the distance and things are better for the moment. The sound brings both a psychological and a material relief.
Wounds are hard to manage. The body is all soft flesh, integrated parts and an emotional burden for those that have to watch its deterioration. If the body is an engine, blood is the gasoline – when it runs out, so does life. It’s important the parts get quickly fixed and the blood is restored to a useful level. If not, the soldier becomes another piece of battlefield detritus. A field medic has the ability to stop external blood flow – less internal. He can replace blood with fluid but it’s not blood. He can treat for shock but he can’t always stop it. He is at the mercy of his ability and the nature of the wound. Bright red is surface bleeding he can manage but dark red, almost tar-colored, is deep, visceral and beyond his ability to manage. Dark is the essence of the casualty’s interior. He needs the help that only that sound can bring. If an LZ exists, it’s wonderful and easy.
If not, difficult options remain. The bird weaves back and forth above the canopy as the pilot struggles to find the location of the casualty. He begins a steady hover as he lowers the litter on a cable. The gunner or helo medic looks down at the small figures below and tries to wiggle the litter and cable through the tall canopy to the small up-reaching figures below. In time, the litter is filled and the cable retreats – the helo crew still carefully managing the cable as it wends skyward. The cable hits its anchor, the litter is pulled in, and the pilot pulls pitch and quickly disappears – but the retreating sound is heard by all and the silent universal thought – There but for the Grace of God go I – and it will be to that sound.
Cutting a landing zone is a standard soldier task. Often, to hear the helicopter’s song, the impossible becomes a requirement and miracles abound. Sweat-filled eyes, blood blistered hands, energy-expended and with a breath of desperation and desire, soldiers attack a small space to carve out sufficient open air for the helicopter to land. Land to bring in what’s needed, take out what’s not, and to remind them that someone out there cares. Perhaps some explosives are used – usually for the bigger trees but most often it is soldiers and machetes or the side of an e-tool. Done under the pressure of an encroaching enemy, it’s a combination of high adrenalin rush and simple dumb luck – small bullet, big space. In time, an opening is made and the sky revealed. A sound encroaches before a vision. Eyes turn toward the newly created void and the bird appears. The blade tips seem so much larger than the newly-columned sky. Volumes of dirt, grass, leaves and twigs sweep upward and are then driven fiercely downward through the blades as the pilot struggles to do a completely vertical descent through the narrow column he has been provided. Below, the soldiers both cower and revel in the free-flowing air. The trash is blinding but the moving air feels so great. Somehow, the pilot lands in a space that seems smaller than his blade radius. In reverse, the sound builds and then recedes into the distance – always that sound. Bringing and taking away.
Extraction is an emotional highlight of any soldier’s journey. Regardless of the austerity and issues of the home base, for that moment, it is a highly desired location and the focus of thought. It will be provided by that familiar vehicle of sound. The Pickup Zone in the bush is relatively open, or if on an established firebase or hilltop position, a marked fixed location. The soldiers awaiting extraction close to the location undertake their assigned duties – security, formation alignment, or LZ marking. Each is focused on the task at hand and tends to blot out other issues. As each soldier senses his moment of removal is about to arrive, his auditory sense becomes keen and his visceral instinct searches for that single sweet song that only one instrument can play. When registered, his eyes look up and he sees what his mind has imaged. He focuses on the sound and the sight and both become larger as they fill his body. He quickly steps unto the skid and up into the aluminum cocoon.
Turning outward now, he grasps his weapon with one hand and with the other holds the cargo ring on the floor – as he did when he first arrived at this location. Reversing the flow of travel, he approaches what he temporarily calls home. Landing again in a swirl of dust, diesel and grinding sand, he offloads and trudges toward his assembly point. The sounds retreat in his ears but he knows he will hear them again. He always will.
On March 22, 1970 I was part of group of ten helicopters. We were inserting ground troops on the side of a hill in Than Linh province and there was room for only one helicopter at a time. Six helicopters had gone in to the landing zone and as I approached to off load the troops, my helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade (RPG). The rocket hit my side of the helicopter and exploded, separating the main rotor and tail boom from the main helicopter body. I was hit by exploding shrapnel, going through my left thigh and right calf. My co-pilot, Michael Hatfield, sitting next to me, was killed instantly from head wounds. We were on the ground in the jungle for about 90 minutes while the aircraft burned before a medevac helicopter could land to get us. During that time, those troops that had been off loaded before us were throwing grenades and killing enemy soldiers from the North Vietnamese 33rd Battalion as they attacked our position.
Along with seven other troops from my helicopter, I was taken by medevac helicopter to the 93rd Evacuation hospital at Long Binh where I was treated for the wounds. The next day, March 23, 1970, I received the award of the Purple Heart on my 20th birthday. After two weeks at Long Binh I was transferred to the 6thConvalescentHospital atCamRahnBay for additional treatment and rehabilitation. I returned to my unit at Bien Hoa seven weeks after being wounded. Some months later I was on a mission in the same area and photographed the ashes of my helicopter.
When we were initially hit by the RPG, crew chief Claude Taylor jumped off the helicopter and ran past the front of the helicopter into the jungle. While still taking fire, I tried to get Michael out of the co-pilot seat but I could not move him. Door gunner Jerry Sikkema was off-loading his M-60 machinegun and hundreds of rounds of ammo even with most of his left knee blown away. We got the troops off the aircraft and laid between some rocks while it burned and ground troops threw grenades and shot at enemy troops. When the aircraft had finished burning and the shooting was over, Taylor went to the aircraft and brought back the ammo that Jerry and I had off-loaded. Later a medevac helicopter came to get us out. Taylor was the only one who was not wounded so he returned to the base camp.
Theabove photos were taken by an Army Signal Corp photographer who landed in the LZ after I had been medevacd to Long Binh.
During my year in Viet Nam, my company lost three aviation crewmembers resulting from combat operations. All three were lost on a helicopter while I was at the controls.Crew chief Donald Vollmer from Bismarck North Dakota diedNovember 2, 1969.Co-pilot Michael Hatfield from Graying Michigan died March 22, 1969. Door gunner Randy Graves from Cataula Georgia died July 8, 1970.
On July 7, 1970 Major General George Casey flew into bad weather while flying towards the coast in theIII Corps area. The helicopter crashed, killing all onboard. The next morning a massive air search was launched in an attempt to find the crash site. I was flying to low-bird along Highway 20, south of Bao Loc with a crew of 4, including door gunner Sp5 Randall Graves. As we approached a mountain pass near Xa Phuong Lam, I heard a burst of 20-30 AK rounds and saw blood on the windshield. As I heard the burst, I lowered the nose of the aircraft and the hydraulics jammed, placing the helicopter in a near-vertical dive. It seemed like minutes before I could pull the cyclic back enough to get leveled out then broadcast a May-Day and indicating I had wounded on board. I completed a running landing on Hwy 20 and my wingman Michael Squeak Krueger landed to pick up Randy. Mike also indicated we were losing fuel badly from the punctured fuel cell and I rolled the throttle to the off position, shutting down the aircraft. I had the remaining crew pull off the M-60 machine guns and set up a quick perimeter. Vegetation along the road was tall grass and trees blocking the view of anything beyond ten feet. After about ten minutes the bushes started moving and there were a few nervous moments before we learned that there was a company of ARVNs on bothsides of the road. We stayed with the downed Huey until Pipesmoke arrived to sling-load it back to the company area.
There were 6-8 pilots in the operations office when I went in to be de-briefed by CW2 Carl Rajotte. It was then I learned that Randy had died and his body was being taken to Tan Son Nhut. In this massive air search of 150-200 helicopters, no other helicopter received hostile fire or had any other incident. My co-pilot that day was WO Jacobs, a red-headed kid who was assigned to the maintenance shed. When we took fire, he could only hang on and hope for the best. I heard he told our platoon leader that he would never fly with me again because I was just bad luck, and he wasnt the only one who shared that opinion.
I was on the mission when Randy Graves was killed. It was my last mission in RVN. I lead a flight up to II Corps to help search for the Commanding General of the 1st Cav. That General was the highest ranking US person to die in Vietnam. Randy (CE/G) was in a flight of three UH-1's crossing a ridge line just below the clouds when the NVA opened up on them. After that I brought the flight home. C&C wanted us to continue the search, but we were already on the way back. I told them they were coming in weak and unreadble and kept on trucking. It was a sad day for my last mission. Tom Harney Spartan Lead
Danney, This was on one of the Vietnam sites on Facebook. They have it marked as an H model, but it sure looks like a C model to me. It does give the date and names of the crew. Don Bortz
Contact Front - Vietnam War Living History Australia: 17 APR 1969:
A crashed UH-1C helicopter gunship from the United States (US) 190th Assault Helicopter Company, 145th Armed Helicopter Battalion, which was supporting the 9th Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (9RAR). The aircraft commander was Warrant Officer Class 1 (WO1) Dolph Todd, of Tacoma, Washington; the pilot was WO1 Bill Spencer, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the crew chief was Specialist.5 Robert Escamilla, of Houston, Texas; and the gunner was Specialist.4 Jim Foust, of St James, Missouri, who was the only crew member hurt, with bruises and a bad eye injury. Australian Engineers, from Nui Dat, assisted with the recovery of the downed aircraft.
On November 2, 1969, we were flying a single ship Special Forces mission out of the 5th Group in Bien Hoa. As we headed west toward the Cambodian border, we were directed toward a small village. There were only ten or twelve bamboo huts raised up above the tall grass and water. As we approached, the tops of the huts open up, as if they were on hinges. When the tops opened, we saw that the huts were .51 caliber machine gun platforms. There were four to six tripod mounted .51 caliber guns, which opened up on as did numerous AK-47s. I was at the controls and initiated an immediate sharp left turn and descended to about 20 feet above ground level as bullets smashed through my cockpit. One .51 cal round came up through the chin bubble between my rotor pedals and exited through the top of the helicopter through the green Plexiglas overhead window. An AK round hit the windshield support strut on my rightside and went out through the left pilot seat, occupied by Harry Bud Holzman. The windshield had blood spray all across it and I knew we had wounded on board. Bud took the controls after we had leveled off and headed east towards Cu Chi, about fifteen minutes away at 100 knots. As Bud was flying I contacted ground troops on FM radio to advise of our situation and let them know the aircraft was heavily damaged. We landed at the Cu Chi mede-vac pad and immediately shut down as medical personnel rushed Crew Chief Donny Vollmer inside.
I later photographed the helicopter and counted more than 50 bullet holes.
Holes in front, bothsides.
Bullet holes, front, chin bubble,greenglass, window brace,side door top. Jon Logan
On March 16, 1969, in a land far, far, away, a young soldier was snatched from deaths grip and put on an eighteen hour flight on his way out of the war. He didn't get a chance to say goodbye to his friends in his platoon and company because they were busy fighting in their war. This young man, now finds himself an older man, and is so glad that he's had the chance to connect again with his brothers in arms.
WELCOME HOME, MY BROTHERS!!!!! Steve Caliendo
Thanks for your message Danney. Fortunately, I'm doing very well. I got to the 190th in May 69 and on June 20 we crashed during a DCS extraction near Xuan Loc. The ship we were supposed to fly that day was Red X'd so we took the AC's regular ship, "Smokey," Tail # 845. I was the Pilot, WO1 William (Wild Bill) McKeown was the AC, The CE was E-5 LJ Ward and the Gunner was E4 FS Huff.
I haven't been able tofind these guys, but I did get an email from Major Murray'sDoor Gunnerabout our rescue which I'm attaching. You might find more guys through his email address
I was the door gunner on the 1st helicopter to arrive at the crash site outside of Xuan Loc. Major Murray and myself was present when the crew was brought out of the jungle by ARVN units that were present and secured the crash site until the helicopter could be blown in place. I remember it being extremely dense jungle, at least triple canopy and it was impossible to remove the wreckage from the site. One of the worst crashes I witnessed during my entire 2 1/2 year tour. The ARVN unit on site refused to assist in recovery and Murray and I were pretty much left alone with a substantial amount of enemy activity all around. I'll never forget this incident as long as I live. I'm happy to hear after all of these years that the crew all survived. Best of luck, Good talking to you.
Thanks for the e-mail and info you sent on the accident. As I said earlier, I remember the accident very well. I was the gunner on the C&C ship "694" and was sitting at Bien Hoa on standby while the slicks were all out on DCS. I was talking to one of the crewmen on the gun ships when the alert came in. We were dispatched to Xuan Loc and were halfway there before we were informed that the Smokey had gone down. As I said earlier, we arrived with two other gun ships. They provided air cover while we landed and tried to secure the crash site. Major Murray and I took M-16's and made our way through the jungle to the crash site. The info about the ARVN reaction to the small arms fire is dead on. We were lucky to get them to help us get you guys away from the scene and to the LZ. I don't recall exactly who talked to you and gave you the .38; I also don't remember anyone taking photos unless it may have been someone who arrived with EOD. I do remember whenEOD yelled fire in the hole and we all took off and went in different directions. The explosion was so hard that it threw me on to my stomach at about 100 yards. This is basically all I remember and most of it happened after you guys were long gone. Just a little info to let you know the really great time you missed (ha ha ha) Believe me, there were a lot of better places to have to ride a helicopter down. Even though there were some serious injuries involved, I appreciate being able to reminisce with someone that was there. Take care and stay in touch. Patrick Adcock
5/12 - Patrick Adcock - Danny,
Thanks for getting back to me...I read the info on the crash of the smoke ship... I know I answered an email from one of the crew and let him know what info I had, however I don't recall writing as much as is on the site. It was very accurate information as well as I can remember. The story of the pistol is very strange... Major Murray had me return the pistol to the pilot prior to him being med evac'ed out...it made no sense to me...I'm sure in his condition the last thing on his mind was that damn gun, but Murray seemed to think it was very important. I also don't understand the part in the story about not knowing about the crash until on the way to Xuan Loc... We were aware prior to being sent to the scene by operations. We certainly did have gun support, but being the C&C ship, we would not have left the ground except for an emergency. I don"t remember if Rucker was still the crew chief or if he had rotated and John Munson was the crew chief and I don't remember who was flying peter pilot but under the circumstances, most of my memories are of the crash. I was ordered to remove the KY28 from the smoke ship as soon as we arrived. I made three or four trips between the LZ and the crash site that day. I don't think I ever told anyone but when I was knocked over by the blast I looked up into the eyes of the first dead VC I ever saw. That memory will stay with me the rest of my life and I'll never forget that kids face. All in all, a very traumatic experience that has affected me to this day. Thanks for all your work in putting this site together and I hope to hear from more of the guys from the "69 Spartans" Patrick Adcock
Hello guys. I think you will find the attached photos are of 845. I can see the smoke ring on the exhaust in one of the photos. I hope they are of interest to the group. These images are part of dad's (Dewey Wilhite) collection I scanned a while back. I'd love to know more details and who the guys are in the one photo. Thanks to all of you for your service! I can't believe anyone survived such a rough landing. The Huey is a truly remarkable aircraft. Ray W
Ray...Thank you so very much for the photos of Smokey 845. I've been searching for them for 42 years. When we went down, I was unconscious much of the timeand Bill McKeown, who was only about a week from rotation, was out with a tree branch sticking out just above his eye. I thought he was a goner, but I heard from him about 6 or 7 months later and he was back on flight status and was a TAC Officer at either Fort Wolters or Mother Rucker. He said: "Imagine that! Me, a TAC Officer!"
Sorry, but I can't place whois in the photos. Maybe someone else can.
Now that I see the photos, I sure am glad I shut off the fuel switch just before the rotors hit the trees.Again...Thank you so much!Frank
Ray... Thanks for the offer, but when I was med-evac'd, any pictures I had, among other things,got lost in the shuffle. Please thank your dad for these. The work you're doing for the Museum is invaluable. Thank you. When I spoke with Bill McKeown back in 1970, he told me there was movie (probably 8mm) footage of our crash which was being used during training of new pilots for the proper ditching procedure into triple canopy jungle. It was probably taken by the "bird colonel" advisor we had just dropped off.As for details of the crash itself, here's what I remember.
We were assigned to DCS (Direct Combat Support) that day and had completed various assignments for about five hours when we returned to "Plantation" to break for lunch, fuel and to pick up another mission. We were assigned to work for the ARVN 18th Infantry Division andtransport a 'Bird Colonel" U.S. Advisor back to his unit in the field and extract his eleven dead ARVN soldiers.
Our LZ (Landing Zone) was in the middle of triple canopy jungle into a hole created by a B-52 Arc light mission. Landing into the crater was steep, but not too much of a problem. After loading the eleven bodies and their equipment, we performed a "power check" and determined that we could only take the bodies and would have to return for their equipment.
In order to get out of the "hole," we had to perform a "power take off." We cleared the treetopsby about 50 feet"nosed it over" to pick up forward air speed when there was loud explosion and we lost all power and hydraulics. Bill immediately put it into "autorotation" and we both struggled with the "cyclic" in order to "flare" to slow the airspeed, drag the tailand set the aircraft into the treetops. There was no clear place to land and 50 feet in that situation comes up extremely fast.
Evidently, we did everything right becausewe descended "vertically" through the treesbut theywould not support our weight. I did not see my life flash before me, but I did see the trees coming up past the cockpit as the rotors hit them and spun my head to the right just after I reached down and turned off the fuel switch. I guess that was a good thing too, as we crashed, but didn't burn. Whew!
On the ground, I was going in and out of consciousness when either Ward or Huff handed me my .38 and said he was going back for help. That's when I saw Bill slumped over and my left leg was jammed between the center console and my armored seat. With all the drugs, it was over a week before I realized that I hadalso broken my back.Being the last time I ever flew a Huey, it remains with me daily as if it was yesterday. It is truly a miracle that none of us died that day.
Thanks for your interest in the details of that crash. If I should ever find McKeown, Ward or Huff, I'll put them in touch with you for their perspectives.Frank
Way, way, back and a long, long, time ago in a far, far, place. Does anyone remember a pilot that got shot in the calf while test flying a gunship at night, I think his name was Monk, a tall lanky fellow,but like the fragmented first sentence says..
I remember, having to pull the cyclic out and replacing it as the round went through his calf and into the stick.
One of the other things that I remember, we used to pull off an inspection panels and just reach up into it, well----one evening I saw a cobra (real snake) go up a skid and onto the floor and down the chin bubble into the frame work. After that it was take the panel off and get an inspection mirror to check it out.
After the monsoon in 68 I saw this beautiful snake going across the flight line, grabbed a 1500 round empty ammo can and was going to capture it. Well again, he she or it, raised it head and flared, I bid it a fond ado and let it depart the area. I need to explain that I was raised in Sequoia Nation forest, snakes dont particularly bother me. Ken King
Danney, here's another reflection from the past. (1968)Our crewwas doing a DCS mission one day for somebody atVung Tau. The Navy had a base there and we landed at theirbase. After shutting down, I got to talking to some navy guys and telling them how hard it was for us to get parts for our M-60's. Well, after telling them a few "war" stories, (they just loved my stories cause they didn't seemuch of the war) one guy said to go to their supply and he'd make sure I got whatever I needed as long as I just signed my name. Theyhad any M-60 parts we needed and I loaded up quite a few canvas bags of parts. Once I made that connection, us gunners had all the barrells and bolts and whatever for our 60's. Needless to say, the few times I got to Vung Tau after that, I always loaded up parts for our guns! Steve Caliendo
Hey Guys , Flower Power was my idea and received it new in country I believe Dec 1968. I protected that bird like you would your Wife. If I had to fly or it had to go I made sure I was with her. I understand after I left some put it into KnobBay
She was a solid good flying bird. The onebarracks picture with the hole in the roof is turned around and thats from a rocket I believe Viet Cong called those 122. That was EM Barracks the Officers lived over at the Air Force Compound. Thanks Danny I thought I would never see Flower Power again. LesMan
Danney, An old friend called (James Curtis ) we were roommates at the Gladiator pit. (Gladiator 14&15) We would visit from to time thoughout the years then I relocated to Europe for 9 years.
It was so nice to hear from him today, I we were the best of friends. I believe it was James that was able to get under his Bunk while setting up during a rocket attack? It was the funnies thing I had seen, double over about 6 in high. Let me know if you remember. Les Howell
Danney: This is Buzz's letter he wrote for me to the VA...Thought you might like to read it....It's also a great letter of our brotherhood in the 190th and probably should be kept just for posterity in our units history for future generations. Steve Caliendo.
Hey Bro, Sent the letter yesterday with a few revisions in it. Here is a copy of it. Am checking in to the Branson area for special rates, shows that will be happening then, whatever else they have cooking. Will let everyone know what I find out soon. Buzz Roberts.
To Whom It May Concern: My name is Delbert M. Roberts, service number:RA15783612. I was in country Vietnam from 10 Dec 1967 to 16Jul 1969. I served with the 553rd. Heavy Equipment Company, Long Binh from 10 Dec 1967 to early Feb 1968. At that time I transferred to the 190th. Assault Helicopter Company, 145th. Combat Aviation Battalion, Bien Hoa.
I began as a door gunner on UH-1D helicopters the day I got assigned to the 190th. I became a crew chief with a few months. I eventually ended up on UH-1C gunships, where I was also a crew chief. I have been awarded 27 air medals for combat air time. I have also received various other medals including one for valor, as well as a purple heart.
I went to Vietnam as an eighteen year old, turned nineteen and twenty years old there, returned home still not legally old enough to drink or vote. Most of the men I served with in the helicopter company were the same age as I, give or take a year or two. We were young, gung ho, very naive, and patriotic.
I met Steve when he first came into the Company in July 1968. Steve had a heart to serve his country and did so without concern for his own safety and well-being. Flying on choppers is a testimony to this. During his time in helicopters he used his combat experience to improve the role of door gunner. He made such an impression on me, as a man one could trust and “be in the same foxhole with”, that I made it a quest to find him when I got back to the states. It took years, yet, I have recently rediscovered this combat brother.
Steve flew as my gunner at various times. He transferred from a combat infantry company to the 190th. We all were exposed to enemy hostilities quite often. There was a time I flew over forty five straight days without a day off. Because flying on helicopters was a volunteer job there was always a lack of personnel and thus the need to do more than was expected of oneself. I saw many, including Steve, serve under the same rigors of duty. At various times we pulled guard duty upon coming in from the field the same day we flew combat missions, so as to get a few hours off the next day. During a time called “mini-TET”, while on guard duty, Steve spotted infiltrators coming onto the Bien Hoa airbase and was the first to engage the enemy with machine gun fire.
Then there were times our helicopters were used in Operation Ranch Hand to spray defoliants. Upon the return of our choppers we had to clean them from the over spray and spillage. We were not informed of the dangers we were being subjected to. Plus we were physically sprayed at various times when select C-130’s were used to spray our battalion compound. This subjection to dangerous chemicals has led to my losing a kidney to cancer; bladder cancer; having, up to the present time, twelve surgeries in my left kidney to remove cancerous tumors; as well as the removal of various skin lesions which are pre-cancerous. Many in our company have been subjected to the same, as well as other afflictions. Steve has been fighting a battle with liver disease which very possibly could be linked to these chemical encounters.
The wages of war took a heavy toll on most of the men I served with. We were in many campaigns. Many times we were subjected to med-evacing the wounded, the dying, as well as the dead, they consisting of American, Vietnamese, Korean, Australian, New Zealander, as well as other nationalities. Often we were brought to within what seemed like a breath of our own lives while flying these sorties. Danger was ever present. Two of our own committed suicide while still in-country.
I personally have had a very difficult time readjusting to civilian life. We left American soil as boys to go do our patriotic duty and came back as old men in young men‘s bodies. Alcohol, drugs, flashbacks, dreams, night sweats, anger, guilt, have all played a role in our trying to reenter American society. Many of us never will return home, fully, and it is impossible to relate this to those whom have not hung out of a door of a helicopter delivering troops to a landing zone while under full suppression with the guns and rockets hurling down, bullets flying upward from the enemy, artillery bursting all around, jets delivering 250 pound bombs and 20 mm rounds within near range of friendly troops and of our choppers, the sight and smell of gun powder so thick it obstructed all human reasoning; or being scrambled out to a fire support base that is being overrun by Viet Cong or North Vietnamese soldiers, knowing that firing into such an exasperated environment meant the possibility of inflicting harm on our own troops, as well as seeing chaos in full bloom; flying out to recover bodies that have been mutilated by the machinations of war; as well as many other instances we were called to assist in.
Steve has been there. He did not fly with me as an assigned gunner but yet he flew with me at times and I saw him every day he was in the 190th. Assault Helicopter Company. When the days’ work was over many of the platoon would gather together and discuss the day’s events: we shared our deepest secrets, fears, loves, dreams and desires, families, pains, hurts. We would laugh, some would cry at news from home or what they had experienced that day; all making us alert as to where we were and what life might deal us. We could sense each other’s moods, feel each other’s hearts. Our motto to each other every morning was “keep the faith”. When one of us hurt we all hurt. When one DROS’ed it was like a part of us died. We were glad to see one of our own return stateside yet that one carried a large part of the others away.
Most of us did not exchange each other’s home address. It was as though we entered a new phrase of life. We had been afraid to see too far into the future. We lived day by day; and at times, moment by moment. Little did we understand the inner war we each soon had to face upon leaving Nam. The disfavor American GI’s walked in when they landed stateside was overwhelming, to say the least, especially after experiences the ravages of war. Being separated from those who literally became more than brothers; no longer having a friend near to share this “new” war and its sieges that was now being waged back home; harboring feelings of being deserted by one’s own government; returning to a family that no longer really knew you; all helped create a “loner” attitude within the ranks of the war torn fighter. And there was no place to turn to for help or guidance. We were in a strange land once again… fighting for life.
Steve has been there, and he is still there in many ways. We all are survivors looking for closure. And the search goes on. A Spartan and a Gladiator forever by choice or not.
Danney, I want to thank you very much for undertaking the arduous task of creating, monitoring, and maintaining the 190th Web page. Your work seeking out other Spartans and connecting us to each other is appreciated. Also, thanks Mama for her work. You are very lucky to have her by you side.As with everyone else, my memories of faces and names are diminishing. I look forward to receiving e-mails from you and looking at the photos in the scrapbook, Terry Sutphen - Spartan 17, Oct. '67 - May '69
I think Nick Mullet arrived in VN sometime in Oct. '67 and assigned to 190th. I arrived VN Oct. 1,'67, deployed with the 135th AHC to Vung Tau. I was transferred along with several other officers and enlisted to 190th early Dec. '67.
Nick and I became roommates soon after each of us extended our tours for 6-months effective Oct. 1968. Later both Nick & I both rotated state side in May '69.
The reason we both extended our tours at the same time was a little interesting. It seems the battalion discovered in the summer of '68 that several 190th pilots had rotation dates closely bunched together. If something was not done, the 190th would lose a lot of senior and experienced pilots at approximately the same time. To help alleviate this problem the battalion ordered Major Charles Vaughn, 190th CO, to select those who could be transferred to our sister company the "Thunderbirds".
A couple of months earlier 190th had set an Army record for extended safe flying (over 33,000 hrs, combined flight time, without any accidents). The company moral was very high. Major Vaughn found it difficult to choose who would be transferred. So he posted the eligible names on individual pieces of paper, placed them in a container and pulled out the one out to be transfer. The unlucky one was me.
I was devastated. I did not want to be transferred. I was felt secure be in the 190th. I had great living quarters, great friends, well maintained aircraft, and I enjoy the safe flying. What could be better? What was I to do?
I consulted with several people trying to figure out what could I do. One suggested I might want to offer to extend my tour 6-months with a guarantee that I could stay with the Spartans. Another motivator for extending was the fact that pilots were being returned to VN on a "Second Tour" after one year stateside. If I extended, I wouldn't have to return for a second tour. Life was good in the 190th, but the "Thunderbirds" were have a bad streak of aircraft loses to hot LZ's and accidents.
So I thought it over and offered to extend my tour 6-months with a guarantee that I could stay with the Spartans. Major Vaughn accepted. He then pulled out another name. It was Nick. He too did not want to be transferred. So Nick offered the Major the same deal as I had. Major Vaughn accepted. A few weeks late Major Vaughn expressed to the battalion CO that everyone was extending and he didn't know what to do about the transfer issue. Later we learned a recently arrived "second tour" pilot who had no strong connection to the Spartans accepted the transfer. This, with my and Nick's changed rotation dates, solved the problem of too many pilots rotating about the time.
When Nick & I returned from leave, we both became "Slick" Instructor Pilots. Near the end of our extended tours one FNG WO referred to us as "Olde Dogs". Interesting. We were well seasoned and tied after 18-month of flying, but can you really call two 22-year-olds "Olde Dogs"
When Nick and I became roommates, Nick, being a fledgling artist, started decorating our hooch. Does anyone remember the red door panel on our hooch? A large white peace symbol was painted on the panel and the words "Di Di Mau" was inscribed below.
Nick liked to improve his aircraft as well. He painted flowers on both sides of the aircraft nose and inscribed "Mellow Yellow" on the nose in front of the of the A/C's door. When "Mellow Yellow" was destroyed in a rocket attach, Nick painted "Mellow Yellow II" on his new Huey. I do not think the nose art was removed while we were in country.
When Major Vaughn was near the end of his stint as CO of the 190th, Nick constructed a poster sized collage of a Huey with caricatures of passengers and crew, a shark strapped to the top of the Huey, representing a shark fin antenna, and expressions illustrating some of experiences Major Vaughn had flying missions as "Charlie-Charlie".
The collage was presented to Major Vaughn at his change of command ceremony. Major Vaughn was very impressed as was everyone else.
One mission commented on in the collage was a mission supporting the 9th Infantry. It was a 13-hrs. Long day of continuous flying. The aircraft never shut down providing troop insertions and resupply while the Gladiators provide continuous gun support. Near dark, Major Vaughn, after provided support to a very demanding 9th Inf. General, notified him that the Spartans & Gladiators were going HOME. Very one cheered. We thought very highly of Major Vaughn. He always looked after the company and acknowledged everyone efforts.
When Nick and I rotated stateside we were assigned to Ft. Wolters as instructor pilots. We moved into a Ft. Worth apartment complex named the "Behind The Wall" as did many other returning pilots.
One day at the flight school, an Army directive came down authorizing that anyone having served 18-months or more in Nam could receive an "Early Out" up to one year. Both Nick and I had a less than one year left of our commitment so we both accepted the offer. Within two week we were both civilians again. Has anyone ever heard of the Army moving so fast?
Danney, Thanks for your work in trying to get a website up and running for the 190th. I was a CW-1 with class 67-2 and upon graduation was sent to Fort Campbell and assigned to the 190th. We were the 1st unit to get the L-13 engines and we formed up at Fort Campbell. I believe I got there in April of 1967 and spent about 3 months forming up with the unit. We then flew our helicopters out to Stockton Army Airfield in California and they were put on an Aircraft carrier and delivered to Vietnam. We got a 30 day leave and then were flown over to Bien Hoa Airfield near Saigon the first week in August of 1967. As I recall we were flown out to the Aircraft Carrier and flew the helicopters back to Ben Hoa. It was the only time I had an air-conditioned room the entire time I was inVietnam!!!
Few of our pilots had ever been to Vietnam so there was a massive infusion from other Helicopter Companies upon our arrival. I missed out on the first few infusions. I, along with others, was assigned to the 188th Assault Helicopter Company in October of 1967. After that I lost track of what happened to the 190th. I certainly would be interested in the history of the unit and I would be happy to help shed some light on what took place during my 6 months with the unit. Although at our age our memories leave a little to be desired!!! Thanks, Bob Mudge
Bob Mudge may remember getting helicopters with the L-13 in Kentucky engine but when I was with the 190th in January of 1968 they were all D models with L-11 engines.
Indeed, anyone reading the Unit History report from 26 Jan 68will note the comment, Chalk 8 had a weak ship and was unable to carry a full load, and he kicked one man off. I was the A/C of Chalk 8 that day andI had been complaining about my aircraft only making 32 pounds of Tq for a couple of weeks so it was no surprise that I could not take a full load. I would continue to bitch about it for several more.
At one point maintenance got a new engine and my helicopter was put down so the new one could be installed but that night I was flying a psyops mission out of Saigon and the helicopter (Nick Mullets) I was flying lost three engine bearings causing the N1 & N2 drive shafts (they counter rotated, one inside the other) to seize. The engine quit at about 200 feet while attempting a landing.It was a dark night and we were very lucky to get on the ground without damage. I used a hand flair to flag down a passing helicopter which turned out to be an OH-6 spotting artillery for a nearby operation. He called Bn and we were picked up. The aircraft was recovered the next morning and Nick got my new engine.
I continued to complain but I wouldnt get mine replaced until Maj. Vaughn used it a couple of weeks later for C&C and grounded it for not making power. I would not have had this problem with the L-13.
I also was one of the first members of the 190th when we formed at Ft.Campbell and we had L-11 engines. That included my platoon, the Gladiators, which was the C model with L-11s. Sam Denton
After many years memories get faded. The original members of the 190th arrived atfortCampbellwell before the 190th formed. I arrived in October 1966 and was assigned to B company general support, 101st AB Division. My W-2 was Jim Newhouse, he was supposed to teach us, as well as show us how to do the right thing in combat. Between him and the other senior warrants they did a great job. The vast majority of usreturned safe and sound. Dave Hagler and Charles Vaughn took care of us. They were always out front and in the middle of the action. The 190th was a great unit due to David Hagler because he formed us and led us toVietnam. He will always be my Hero. vSam
in the fall of 1967 the 190th was deployed to 4 corp to support usmc helicopter ops. the usmc medium helos had several catastrophicmid air structural failures that resulted in those aircraft being grounded. this was the first time an army aircraft unit directly supported the usmc since WWII. this occurred during the siege of khe sahn---hairy flying. a side note: my platoon flew delta project troops (us special forces and rvn special forces] known as "road runner teams" into laos that fall .delta project was the forerunner of todays delta force.these teams reconned the ho chi minh trail in laos. these activities are today referred to as "cross border black ops" verrrry hairy operations--a member of one of the teams we inserted received the congressional medal of honor. I have not found any reference to this activity in any vn history other than one cryptic reference in the marine 4th corp history for fall 1967--so cryptic that you had to have been there to known what was being referred to. t. connelly spartan20/spartan smoke.
I started flying the day after TET started. I got a new H model that they had taken the L-13 out of to send to a Unit that had all L-13's. I got an L-11. Rom Maher
I was the A/C of Chalk 8 that day andI had been complaining about my aircraft only making 32 pounds of Tq for a couple of weeks so it was no surprise that I could not take a full load. I would continue to bitch about it for several more.
At one point maintenance got a new engine and my helicopter was put down so the new one could be installed but that night I was flying a psyops mission out of Saigon and the helicopter (Nick Mullets) I was flying lost three engine bearings causing the N1 & N2 drive shafts (they counter rotated, one inside the other) to seize. The engine quit at about 200 feet while attempting a landing.It was a dark night and we were very lucky to get on the ground without damage. I used a hand flair to flag down a passing helicopter which turned out to be an OH-6 spotting artillery for a nearby operation. He called Bn and we were picked up. The aircraft was recovered the next morning and Nick got my new engine.
I continued to complain but I wouldnt get mine replaced until Maj. Vaughn used it a couple of weeks later for C&C and grounded it for not making power. I would not have had this problem with the L-13.
At least you didn't have your crew chief or gunner running along side of the helicopter to give you more lift. Our gun ships were notorious for that.Jim DeWitt; Gladiator 68-69
Hey: I was in the Maintenance Hangar and I Remember U guys doing this......dragging skids all the way down the Flight Line......making more work for........OOPS ......4Get that last part. I did think that y'all had the same name for your Birds........something bout "get off the ground..B _ _ ch" You didn't think we could hear U way up in the hangar...did you? Danney
I knew that would get a laugh if anyone remembered. Back then the best engine we could brag about was having an L-7 or L-9. The L-11's were few and far off. Flight crews just had to suck it up, both slicks and guns. I was in the California Army NG when we received the newly rebuilt M (mike) model. The old C model but this time around with an L-13 and boy was I ever envious of them. They really brought back memories.
Hey Danney, I started off in Maint. and thought the same thing. Until, I was the one doing the running. Any way, skid shoes were the least of my worries. If it didn't go well, then the CH-47's usually brought us back to home station and that is a whole other story. Hard landing, skids up to the belly. All I remember is the concertina wire at the end of the take off lanes. While in Maint. with Ken King, there was John Webber and Terry Blair. We were all FNG's, except Ken. Who had his hands full with all of us.
I just read this and started laughing; I can remember the "gunny's" running after their chopper as if they had missed the bus. The slicks, well, they just went to a hover and then departed the area.
It's funny in a way, I crewed the horse and had a line maintenance crew, stole from the air force and procured a lot of things, kind of like radar O'Reilly, and I traded a case of C-rations for a charley model engine from the air force. That twin rotor Kaman (Husky) had the same engine, not only did I get one engine, I took both and then went back the next day asking for more. I "borrowed" lighting modules from the air force so we could see on the flight line at night. At one time we had no .32 safety wire, guess what; a little creative thinking got us a case. God I loved my job. Jim lives down the road from me, and I'd like to get together for an evening, I remember he bought a 70 Chevelle, blue and white. I got a 69 El Camino after I got home. Going back to Skids, I had a D model that we had to replace the skid shoes on and my crew had taken the bolts of the cross straps that hold the skid in and put up the "safety barriers" around the bird with a sign saying what we had done, I got back that night and found
the chopper with the nose in the air and people working under it, I got the people out from under it and went to the maintenance office and asked why people had ignored the warnings. The answer was it needed to be fixed; I guess mechanics squished didn't matter. I have lots of stories but get tired typing.
I wonder, does anyone remember when a chopper threw a blade and went down in the mine field? I watched from the hanger, the crew chief should have received the Congressional Medal of Honor! This kid jumped out of the following aircraft ran through the mine field and was pulling the crew out the burning helicopter, A HERO. God bless us all for making it and take care of those that didn't
I have to add: I don't remember and of the people that came in after me as "FNG's" They all came in with the attitude that a job had to be done, so do
it well! Ken
The two paragraphs below are from Curt Kenner detailing late 1966 while still at Ft Campbell, some Great Early History.
Here are the 2 picturesI promised. The scanner finally decided to work.. These were taken by the Ft Campbell newspaper when the 190th went to the range. Bet you have never seen a six pound warhead before. They had come out with the 10 pound warhead y this time and later with the 13 pounder.They were using the 6 pounders up in training. don't remember the crew chief's name helping me load the tubes (my old brain).
In the other photo I am explaining how to line the helicopter up before lowering the nose to the target and firing. these were good times.
Don't know if anyone has mentioned the slot car track at Campbell. Kids couldn't get in because the place was filled up with 190th personnel.Some guys spent 100's of dollars on slot cars just to be the fastest. I was 30 years old with a $12 car and $30 dollars worth of mods. I held my own with them. We spent many, many duty hours at the track. As I said these were good times. I will look for more pictures but most of mine were ruined dueto the lens on my camera being unscrewed a few turns.Keep up the good work and thanks. Curt Kenner
A bit of 190th trivia for you. Unless someone can prove me wrong the first Spartan was Maj Hagee. I was the second I believe. I arrived at Campbell in Aug '66 with an ultimate assignment to the 190th. Maj Hagee was already there working as the Installation Flight Standardization Officer. I don't know how long he had been there when I arrived. I went to work for him as a qualification, transition and gunnery instructor after being sent to Rucker's IP school. We were overrun with pilots as there was three assault companies and one battalion hqs being formed there for assignment to RVN. Every pilot had to have a local orientation check with an IP. That was a lot of flights and they usually ended up at a cafe on the banks of Barkley Lake. We helped form the 189th and the 190th was second to be formed. I was the origional Gladiator 12. I am enclosing a few pictures of training in rocketry with the Gladiators. By the way, a TVreporter from Nashville filmed our day at the range and it was viewed on one of the Nashville stations that night. It was quite impressive with the mini-guns blazing and the rockets leaving the tube. Wish I had asked for a copy. oh well, my scanner isn't working so I will just send one that's in the computer already. The good looking YOUNG guy is me. Looks like my son reversed the slide on this one. Curt Kenner
In the fall of 1967 the 190th was deployed to 4 Corp to support USMC helicopter ops. The USMC medium helos had several catastrophic mid air structural failures that resulted in those aircraft being grounded. This was the first time an army aircraft unit directly supported the USMC since WWII. This occurred during the siege of Khe Sahn---hairy flying. A side note: my platoon flew delta project troops (us Special Forces and RVN special forces] known as road runner teams" into Laos that fall .delta project was the forerunner of todays delta force. These teams reconned the ho chi minh trail inLaos. These activities are today referred to as "cross border black ops verrrry hairy operations--a member of one of the teams we inserted received the congressional medal of honor. I have not found any reference to this activity in any VN history other than one cryptic reference in the marine 4th Corp history for fall 1967--so cryptic that you had to have been there to known what was being referred to. #4 I believe was WO George Taylor? Tom Connelly Spartan20/Spartan smoke.
Danney, I put this together a few months ago as something you may want to use in the unit history. Sorry that I didn't send it sooner. Support Mission to USMC Fall '67
Another trip down Memory Lane, Page two, Historical comments regarding our attachment to the USMC 1st Division by Dave Hagler
Shortly after being alerted to our new mission of being attached to the USMC in September, 1967, I flew up to Da Nang and visited the 1st Marine Div Headquarters to establish what and how we were to be used. All these years later recollections from this trip are vague of working my way through some headquarters types until I finally learned that we were to be further attached to MAG 36, a battalion sized unit stationed at Hue Phu Bi which was located a little south of Hue City. Also, I soon discovered that some elements within the USMC really didn't want us there. Inter service rivalry reared its ugly head at various levels during those first few days.
When I met the folks that had their feet on the ground and choppers in the air at Phu Bi, a more cordial welcome was extended and everyone seemed to have their act together pretty well. We discussed what was going on in the area and I finally begun to learn the full extent of why we were there. It seemed that the Marines had been operating their CH-46 helicopters with 50 Caliber Machine Guns mounted at the aft door for some time in a direct combat assault roll. With the passage of time, metal fatigue had resulted from the firing and several crashes resulted as the aft end of the helicopters weakened and literally fell off. The whole fleet of CH-46 was grounded until a fix was developed.
Apparently, Major General Robert Williams, CG of the 1st Aviation Brigade (our higher unit) in a high level discussion had offered a brand new US Army unit to assist them during this period of critical shortage of aviation assets. We, the 190th AHC, the unit newly arrived from the states was selected for this task. I would eventually learn that the Marines initially thought we were a CH-47 unit that would provide extra troop assault assets. When they learned the truth of the matter that the Chinooks did not make combat assaults, they were happy to receive us and our overall capabilities, even with a lesser payload.
Anyhow, we quickly formulated movement plans and were soon on our way up north. If I remember correctly, some heavy equipment was sent up via seagoing vessel, some by C-130 and the helicopters were obviously flown flown up via a coastal route. Very quickly we were settled into a sort of small tent city within the perimeter of the MAG Base Camp. The Marines who had been deployed there for some time were awed by our brand new helicopters, vehicles and other equipment. Several officers would comment unofficially that they were stuck in a mission that should be handed over the US Army.
In their words, "they had landed, seized the beach head and it was time to move on and be replaced by a staying force." Their equipment was worn out, their morale was low and for a short time it seemed that they looked upon us as their salvation. In spite of all these minor problems, we very quickly became "mission ready" to be employed to fill the gap of aviation resources.
Much to my chagrin, I saw that in spite of my efforts to the contrary, we were merely integrated into the "ash and trash" missions by MAG 36 operations. I felt that we were being misused and stripped of all unit integrity. We were a Combat Assault Company and should be assigned missions accordingly. After a meeting with SOG leaders at their camp near Hue City, I became very concerned over the missions that were being envisioned with our involvement. I simply didn't believe we were adequately prepared for some of the "off the wall" missions that were supposedly being planned. In fact, I felt so strongly that I bitched to the 145th CAB and 12th Group CO's about this arrangement.
Shortly thereafter, I was "invited" to join General Williams for supper and a "chat" about our experiences. The message came to me about mid afternoon and I grabbed someone to join me on the IFR flight which was an unusual experience in itself. Hopefully he can identify himself and describe the true Instrument Conditions that were encountered. Later, we met that evening at Marble Mountain, home of the 188th AHC where we had a nice meal and something like a "fireside chat." We spend the night there and hurried back to Phu Bia early the next morning.
It became obvious that something resulted from our meeting as two nearly back to back company sized missions were soon given.
I may have them out of sequence, but the first was the most coordinated and textbook perfect assault that I have ever been involved in. We arrived in the Pickup Area somewhere in the vicinity of Quang Tri to be met by perfectly aligned Marines who really had their act together. There were load-masters and even official photographers filming the loading. I felt like a real star as one stuck his camera through my window in the left seat of Slick Lead to film the guys as they entered the right rear door. I couldn't help but be amused by their PR efforts.
We, in our 10 slick staggered formation headed due east about 10 KM to the LZ in the coastal plain. Our four Gladiator gunships were close to our sides and USMC and/or US Navy fire support aircraft were above us and standing by to prep the LZ.
For me, the most beautiful thing about this mission, second only to how well all Spartan/Gladator crews performed, was how effective all fire support was coordinated and executed. I spoke directly with not only all aircraft, but ships at sea who delivered accurate and awesome suppressive fire into the LZ while we were en-route and when they ceased fire, the fixed wing aircraft picked up the barrage and continued until we were descending within maybe a quarter mile out. At that point, our fearless Gladiators let loose with their close and accurate fire on suspected targets in and around the LZ. Then, the door gunners were turned loose with their suppressive fire. Damn, I said to myself, what a fantastic show. I can still see in my minds eye the impact of that cannon fire and exploding 40 mm fire on short final and the smell of carbide that day.
In retrospect, I think the whole thing may have been set up as a Public Relations filming that probably backfired when the USMC Brass realized that these beautifully performing UH-1 helicopters had US Army markings on them. In any event, nothing was ever said about this mission from higher headquarters.
Our other combat assault mission, along about the same time, was much different and one best forgotten. Being a stickler for prior planning and "by the book" type operations, I was appalled by the lax command and control of this one. I would call it a true GRF by Army Aviation standards.
At the MAG 36 operations briefing, I was given a rendezvous point and time plus the general area for the loading area and a UHF frequency. In response to my questions, I was told that our Spartan helicopters would tag onto the end of the trailing USMC CH-34 in orbit at 4000 feet We would then follow them in, load up and then drop the troops off up in the mountains to the west of Hue. "What the Hell are we getting into," I thought as I climbed to this cool altitude and tacked onto the end of the line of H-34 helicopters orbiting below us. I think we were told that I was Chalk 45 in the single file formation. After a few minutes we began the descent into the pick up zone, dutifully loaded our slicks and continued the tag along flight west bound. Somewhere en-route, we were informed to land in two's in the small hilltop landing area. As we got closer, it became apparent that we would pick a spot among burning tree snags and crashed H-34's and clumps of previously off loaded men and equipment. I was grateful that the troops were not to be extracted and no further landings were necessary in that God forsaken place. Thus ended our company sized missions in the DMZ.
The Spartans and Gladiators would distinguish themselves individually, in pairs or sometimes as sections in future action. I yield to their individual descriptions of their exploits. Someone should describe how resupply missions into Con Tien, a small outpost practically on the DMZ were conducted. How about the countless missions into Khe San that was under constant enemy mortar and rocket fire? Someone? Anyone?
Danney, I was on those missions to Khe San dropping supplies off during our time up north in supporting the USMC. Look at the 190th web site, scrap book page 6, photo 20 of 60, this shows the camp at Khe San, the run way is on the left side of the photo. We brought in supplies and took out the wounded. We where under fire on the way and on the way out. Their camp was pretty beat up when we stated resupplies, they were running out of ammo and food.
When we would fly in you did not see anyone out of their fox holes or sand bag walls. We did not stay long on site 15 to 30 seconds at the LZ as I remember .
During one of the runs to Khe San a C130 also came in, it touched down and dropped their skid load of supplies out the back ramp and kept going never coming to a stop.
John C. Metzler, Jr. (Jack)
Danney, We worked Khe San for a month in the Fall of 67. We flew missions for 3MARDIV at Hue Phu Bai while their 46 models were sent to Okinawa because their rear transmissions were failing for retro fit, and SOG operations out of Khe San, including the A Shau Valley, the Rock Pile, and The Razorback... I remember one LZ where Leon Ratcliff who had our lead keyed his mike and said , "Mark the LZ with a Marine CH - 37..." ;-), an interesting time in our lives..., Character building opportunities. Joe Cancellare
Danney, I am sure that a book could be written from the episodes at Con Thien and especially Khe San.I was never on a hot re-supply mission at Khe San but I think that Ely was on a mission and when the resupply ship landed … there were some mortars tossed at them
Maybe he can fill us in on that mission
Most of the support missions that I flew on were at night. One thing nice about the Marines at Khe San was that they never called for support unless there was a hail of rockets or mortars
They would call us out and we would go looking for a launch flash from a rocket or mortar site or muzzle flash.We usually could fire at will but sometime the Marines had patrols out so it limited our ability to have an open kill zone.When there were Marine patrols outside of the base, we would describe our target area and the Khe San commander would give us a go or stand down.I always kind of wondered what the odds were for getting shot down by a mortar … funny how weird things would just pop in your head.
Since I had never heard of a ship getting shot out of the air by a mortar … I figured that I needed to be more concerned about small arms fire.I am sure that we were responsible for a multitude of dead NVA but we never received any confirmed kills that I was aware of.
One pitch black night we had a target and we rolled onto it … I do not remember who our pilots were but they decided to fire rockets at the target.When the rockets came out of the tube … all I could see was this HUGE flash from the rockets and I could not see a thing.We were temporary blinded from the flash. Our pilot pulled out of the run smoothly as he had done so many times before.We had the craziest and the best damn pilots running around I think that was the only time I ever saw rockets fired at night except during the Tet Offensive.
We did fire a multitude of mini-gun and M60 ammo at night targets … we learned to never look into the mini muzzle flash but always stay fixed on target and watch the tracers.When a mini was firing on target and one of the guns would reach it’s horizontal limit, the other gun would automatically double its firing rate from 2k rounds/minute to 4k rounds/minute.
The muzzle flash would double in intensity … that was a sight to see.I remember that one of the most wondrous sites at Khe San was the sun rising and casting its rays on the naked hill of the Marine outpost and we would finally be able to see some possible movement in the surrounding forests.We always lived in hopes of finding viable targets.It was always an adventure at Khe San …Rodney Lawrence - Gladiator Door Gunner - 626
1. Early '67 while our Unit was up North living in tents? Did your Poncho liners get stolen?
2. Who stole them?
3. What happened to somebody's foot, when some went to get them back?
4. OR: Who got grazed in the helmet, by a guy in the back, during a Gladiator Flight?
Some of you Early '67 190th Spartans & Gladiators share your memories of the above incidents and I will post on our Reflections page.
The shooting was the result of a marine attempting to steal a crewmembers M16. The crewmember confronted the guy and during a tussle to retrieve the weapon it fired. The crew member retained his weapon. Rear area marines did not have M16s.This occurred at Hue Phu Bai in fall of 1967.
Thanks to our Original "Old Warrior" I believe that we have some answers to Questions # 1 - # 3 concerning our Poncho Liners. I am still waiting on Les Man.........I mean somebody ....... to answer Question # 4.Maj. Hagler...You Done Good! This one will go on the website. Danney
Happy New Year to all compatriots from the 190th. Go with me on a trip down memory lane in response to a question posed by Danney.
While CO of the 190th Assault Helicopter Company, I made my first and last UH-1 landing on a ship at sea sometime in late fall 1967. The flight was out to the US Navy Hospital Ship Hope off the coast of Hue,Vietnam. I was flying IP in the left seat and whoever was flying right seat pilot should identify himself and admit how I probably scared the crap out of him with my landing. (Or was it him who did the dirty deed?) Anyway, we made the landing without damage to the helicopter in spite of my pucker factor. Someone was wise enough to give us a heads up to follow the directions of the guy on deck with the flags no matter what the instincts. Lucky for us, we landed on that rolling and tossing ship without mishap. The trickiest part was actually trusting the guy as he guided us onto the deck. Even after slamming into the deck, I still remember how I fought against the urge of moving the cyclic to level the artificial horizon indicator. It was a truly weird experience.
Another thing that was weird was the reason for the flight to begin with. It seemed that one of "my boys" had suffered a gunshot in the foot and had been medivacked earlier. I was there for a personal visit to my wounded warrior.
After shutting down and going below deck, I met with the Navy Medics. The report was that little damage had been done as the bullet passed between two of his toes without hitting the bone. In fact, he would be returned to duty as soon as a final exam by the Navy MD. Since he would be back in our base camp without much more than a couple small bandages, I turned my attention toward finding about the details of the incident. The old adage of "the devil is in the details" soon became apparent.
It seemed that this luckless Spartan had traded his poncho liner for an old French Rifle from one of the US Marines that shared our camp. Officially, I was told that in checking out his new "VC souvenir weapon," it went off while pointing toward his foot. Some rumors indicated that it happened during a scuffle with the seller. Moreover, witnesses told of several other swaps of those nice looking poncho liners fresh from the states by "my boys" and a trove of VC stuff was on hand in the unit.
As soon as I heard about these potentially dangerous trophies in the hands of "my boys," I ordered a surprise inspection of all personal equipment. As it turned out, several weapons turned up and were confiscated. I'm sure that I became very unpopular as a result of this little episode, but there were no more accidental shots fired in the camp. I recall having a talk with the CO of MAAG 36 about the deal, but I can't recall how it was resolved. I'm pretty sure that we didn't haul these weapons back to Bien Hoa, however.
We learned later that this unit that we were attached to suffered heavy casualties and lost most of their H-34 Helicopters duringthe Tet Offensive a few weeks later. I've often wondered what really happened to the Marines that we worked with.Best Regards to all, David Hagler
Maybe you remember me as Section Leader with the Gun Plt., and the Motor Officer at Campbell and half my tour inViet Nam. I was with the 190th my full tour as Gladiator 14.
Their one thing I must own up to. As you recall we all had jeeps so we could not see all the families of theViet Namfolks riding in Jeeps and had one ton. So we devised a problem fixer ( bolt Cutters)
As you can remember the Play Boys had also had couple of additional jeeps. Ill never forget that you had the entire 190th standing tall telling us we had too many jeeps. It was fun time so we endured.CW3 R/T Les Howell
Les and Major Hagler,
I remember those jeeps. Dennis Mielke and I had one stolen from us at Long Binh.
Possibly the first one was "acquired" by someone in the gun plt. and labeled it Chaplain.
Clete Farmer Gladiator-27
The story of the "chaplain" jeep. It was ACQUIRED by the Gladiators early on our arrival in RVN thanks to an active bolt cutter. We drove that thing all over Long Binh, Saigon and Ben Hoa. We even loaded it on a C-130 for our trip to and from Hue Phu Bai. We were almost caught in Phu Bai at the 1st R&R compound when we didn't have a log book. Hence, a brand new counterfeit log book complete with trip tickets. "Chaplain" was still there when I was infused to the 335th in Nov '67.
CPT Ware's Ship was the one suffering the friendly grenade incident. As I recall I heard he was burned fairly severely about the neck.
The unit orders of 21 Mar 67 were accurate but later amended as I was awarded an adjusted rank by DA. I had time in grade on CPT Jim Delay and became the 1st gun section leader. Jim wasn't happy with that, but he was an outstanding officer and we carried our friendship on to Ft Rucker.
CPT Delay and I were the first to receive awards in the 190th as far as I can tell. In early Oct '67 we were awarded DFC's for action with the SF on the trail.
That's about all I can add at this time. Feel free to solicit my memory anytime.
We will be coming thru Cartersville after Christmas. It would be nice to meet you and mama so I can put a face to the site. Curt Kenner
Dear Danney--I'd be pleased to be part of the active email list for the 190th. Myself and 4 other pilots were transferred to the 190th from the 240th "Greyhounds" in August '67. This was part of the "infusion" process, designed to inject new units with experienced personnel and thereby shorten the learning curve for combat operations. I was with the unit from August '67 until May '68 when my tour ended and I was reassigned to Germany. I was the original Spartan 22. I have a fair amount of detail from that period I would be happy to share. I also have contact info for two of the pilots that were "infused" with me from the 240th.
Another story and a name for your list. Shortly before Tet of 68 it was decided that we needed more than 38s to protect ourselves. Several people went out to see what they could scrounge up. Someone came up with a .50 cal that went on top of the two story O Club / briefing room that later became BN HQ. Archie Ahl (may have misspelled that, it was pronounced All) set it up. Archie was a dual rated W-3 that was really pissed that he wound up in a helicopter unit; he wore a SF patch on his right shoulder and was one of the only Officers that had real life, hands on experience with a .50.
I flew down to B-56; they had a base camp about 9 miles NE of Saigon and were conducting a highly classified (T/S+) operation called Project Sigma. I dont think they were happy about an unscheduled helicopter showing up but I was 20 years old, had been in the Army for about 18 months and I still had an IOU for $58.00 I took in a poker game from a Staff Sgt. named Barrows when I had flown in support of their operation for a couple of months in late 67. Because of what they were doing with Sigma they knew even better than we did about what was getting ready to hit the fan so when I explained that all we had were .38 revolvers and I was looking for some rifles Barrows let me have 50 or so M-2 Carbines which were passed out to the pilots.
Great idea at the time but about 10 days later some of the newer W-1s started patrolling through the compound in groups of two or three armed with locked and cocked M-2s. It was decided that someone was going to get shot so all the M-2s were rounded up and shipped out. I was flying that day and the rifles were gone by the time I got back so I couldnt return them to B-56. Since Sgt. Barrows had signed for them and I had no way to make them good I decided not to press the IOU. I still have it somewhere.
Oh yes, the rifles were turned in just a few days before Tet. The main attack hit the East side of the Air Base where the 101st HQ was located and the .50 never came into play. I often wonder what the result would have been had the VC decided to come through the town where standing between them and the entire flight line, Army and Air Force, would have been an old French minefield (the mines were useless by then), a few strands of barbed wire, an AP with a M-16, some chain link fence and 50 or so Warrant Officers and a hand full of RLOs with .38s and a .50 Cal. LeLand Cranmer.
Danney--Interesting piece about Archie Ahl & the .50 M2 he scrounged during Tet. It was considered quite a coup at the time but perhaps it was just as well that it neverwas actually used. I heard later that the head spacing was all messed up and it would probably have exploded. By the way, Archie Ahl died about a year or so ago. Saw his death notice in the VHPA newsletter Best Regards--Joseph Trudo
David: Bill Long sent me the Hard Back copy of 145th CAB Pictorial History Volume 11, and I noticed that in the history of our 190thAHC, David Hagler was the first CO. Would that B U Sir??
Hi Danney, I was indeed the first CO of the 190th from Jan 1967 until Jan 1968. It was the highest honor of my 20 year military career. I've been in the process of sorting through some of my old photos, orders, and such and will scan those involving my timeas CO of the 190thor subsequently as the S-3 of the 145th (our parent Battalion) that may be of interest.
I am confident that a web site similar to the 118th as mentioned earlier could be established for the 190th. All that is needed is a "Spark Plug" such as yourself and/orothers whoare knowledgeable about such things. There are many among us with limited computer skills who would be willing to help defray costs and otherwise assist in getting the content of such a site off the ground.
Will be in touch soon with some info and pictures covering our inception at Ft Campbell, organization and training, andmovement to Bien Hoa and subsequent missions.
Hopefully, we will be joined in this undertaking by others. Regrettably, I am not currently in touch with any from my era, but will attempt to find past addresses and phone numbers.
Again, thanks for initiating the reuniting of other "Old Warriors" fromour days of glory. You guys must be about to hit retirement age soon and need something to sink your teeth into. As you may imagine, the term "Old Man" as often called the company commander, has finally hit home for me.
Best Regards to all compatriots from the 190th. David Hagler
Danney, Major Hagler was the first CO. He took the company to Viet Nam. Major Vaughn was his replacement. When we deployed toViet Nam we had 4 or 5 majors in the unit. Major Hagler did a great job of forming a company and getting us toViet Nam with no major problems. We went a whole year with no major accidents, if you don't talk about the D model we left in Laos along the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
CHARLES VAUGHN was the second CO of 190th. I was the 13th man to sign into the unit atFt. CampbellKy.I was with the unit when it deployed toViet Namin 1967. Hagler was the CO until around January of 68. Charles Vaughn was CO for about 6 months. We both left the unit in July 68. I think Vaughn had been the XO of the 334th at that time the 334th had a 0-5 LTC as CO. Major Vaughn had flown armed Mohawks before the air force made the army stop doing it.
Hi Danney, Thanks for the info and your concern for Bob Hagee, the first and probably the best XO that the 190th ever had. Like so many others who quietly went about their duties, receiving little of the limelight, he contributed greatly to the success of the unit. Hewas truly outstanding during our time together and I couldn't have functioned without his able assistance.
Since moving only an hour and a half north of his home in Columbia,SC we have been in sporadic contact, but drifted out of touch during the past few years. I tried to get him to come visit us here in to the mountains of NC and more recently to attend the 145th reunion about four years ago, but he declined. Like many other compatriots, he seemed content to let the wartime memories rest. His last email told me that he was more interested in his "grands" than going to the reunion, but to "say hello to the boys." Now that you have given me an update of his situation, I will attempt to visit him if his wife so advises. Anyway, it is good to hear that things are not too serious.
Thanks again for your efforts in getting the former members of the 190th organized. You have made great progress and the web site is a major step in sharing our history.
As you may have figured out, I'm not much of a computer person and spend little time at it. With summer activities winding down, I hope to be able to contribute the historical photos, orders , etc soon. Since returning from a trip, your messages are piling up and I will try to catch up shortly.
You and some of the others are setting a great example for contributing photos and historical information. Best, David Hagler
Attached photo were taken of a ceremony sometime during August 1967 after our arrival at Bien Hoa. As I recall, we were given two weeks to unpack, get the aircraft ready, and organized for our acceptance into the 1st Aviation Group. We may havegone out on our first mission that day or soon thereafter. At any rate, it was a big deal for we newbys who didn't even have a name at that time. It would be a few days later that we selected Spartans and Gladiators as our call sign. We were considered mission ready on that day, however. Maybe you can work this one and the ones that will follow in subsequent emails into the unit history. DH
The Pictures described below are on our 190Th AHC Ft Campbell to RVN page. DP
Welcoming ceremony of the 190th AHC to the 145th CAB and 12th Avn
Group at Bein Hoa in August 1967.
LtCol John Todd (tall officer on left) Commander, 145th Combat Aviation Battalion and Colonel Psaki (right) CO 12th Aviation Group adjust the company guidion of newly arrived 190th Assault Helicopter Company. Major David Hagler along with assembled members of 190th in background.
Myself and 4 other pilots were transferred to the 190th from the 240th "Grayhounds" in August '67. This was part of the "infusion" process, designed to inject new units with experienced personnel and thereby shorten the learning curve for combat operations. I was with the unit from August '67 until May '68 when my tour ended and I was reassigned toGermany. I was the original Spartan 22. I have a fair amount of detail from that period I would be happy to share. I also have contact info for two of the pilots that were "infused" with me from the 240th. Best Regards--Joseph Trudo
SEE BELOW EMAIL - from Bill Zanow to (Son) Kevin Reynalds, shortly after Vern Reynalds was Called Before Us.
Hello Kevin - I saw the message from Danney below and wanted to say hello and to extend my condolences to you and your family on the loss of your Dad. As I feel certain you have known since you were a little boy, your Dad was a wonderful man. I often flew with him while assigned to the 190th Spartans during 1967/68. He frequently talked about you and your brother and was always counting the days until returning to the two of you and your Mom on completion of his 12 month tour. I left Vietnam about a month ahead of him in the summer of 1968 and as things happen, lost contact for several years. I do recall visiting your home (in government quarters at Ft. Rucker) once during the late 70's (I think??) and sadly, I believe that was the last time I saw him.
I did want to take a couple of minutes and tell you about one of many flights we flew together. I am not sure how much he talked with you about his war experiences so at the risk of telling you something you may have heard before I'll briefly relate to you an incident we shared on Dec 7, 1967. I had been injured as a result of hostile enemy fire 30 days before then when shot down while flying in Laos. (See "That Empty Feeling" by Terry P. Arentowicz http://www.amazon.com/That-Empty-Feeling-72-Hour-Mission-ebook/dp/B00HCBELVE).
I was assigned as a copilot on your Dad's crew the first day back flying, after being released from the hospital from the earlier incident. I was 20 years old and think your Dad may have been 28 - an old-timer in comparison. We were flying a UH-1D Huey carrying Vietnamese soldiers into a part of what was called the Iron Triangle near Pho Cong. We were flying as the last ship in a 10-ship formation - call sign: Chalk 10. As we landed we started receiving automatic weapons fire from a well camouflaged contingent of Viet Cong (Aka VC). We hastily off-loaded our soldiers in the landing zone (LZ) and like everyone else were trying to get out of the kill zone as quickly as possible. In flying out we passed one of the other aircraft (Chalk 2 I think) which appeared to be having problems. We quickly circled around and landed to the rear right side of Chalk 2 (the four o'clock position). At the same time another aircraft (Maintenance ship call "Spartan Horse") landed to the left rear (the 8 o'clock position) of Chalk 2. The crew from Chalk 2 was carrying their mortally wounded pilot (a great guy named Charlie Wilcox from Buffalo NY) to Spartan Horse. While sitting there to ensure everyone was able to load to the other aircraft, we came under intense enemy fire resulting in our aircraft being hit 41 times. Our door gunner, a tough kid from Brooklyn, was returning fire on the enemy with his M-60 Machine Gun the whole time we were sitting on the ground, but that didn't seem to slow the enemies' persistence. By that time our master caution panel was glowing with every imaginable combination of warning lights saying the aircraft was doomed. We knew we had to get out of that kill zone or our numbers would soon be up too, and in spite of the known dangers of flying a "wounded" Huey with no transmission fluid or hydraulics to support the flight controls, we rightfully concluded that taking a chance on it flying a few more minutes gave us better odds than slugging it out any longer with the Viet Cong. We got airborne long enough to get out of the enemies' range and while calling "Mayday Mayday Mayday" put it down in a rice patty from which we were subsequently rescued by one of the other Spartan birds.
To bring things to closure, suffice to say that following that December day, your Dad and I had long philosophical discussions on the odds of our longevity exceeding the remaining days we had to serve in Vietnam - and I assure you his thoughts were always of getting home safely to his family. BTW - your Dad received a Distinguished Flying Cross that day and beyond being a great man was a great hero too.
Please give my best to your Mom. Bill Zanow
I was an Army pilot with the 190th AHC that was attached to MAG-16 after the grounding of the CH46's on 9/02/67. We set up our tents in front of MAG-16's officer's club. I too flew Gen. Hochmuth around this area one day in OCT 1967.
I had flown other VIPs before and after that flight but never did any remain in my memory as this flight did. I had always heard that his A/C crashed due to TAIL ROTOR failure but had never seen the STATEMENT of Maj. John Chancey and. I have seen UH-1's with tail rotor failures, but never seen an A/C Explode in flight due to this type of failure. The day I flew the General around he insisted that we fly low up Hwy 1. When I tried to fly around our own artillery fire I was ordered to fly through the live fire or I too would be a Grunt the next day. I took over control of the A/C and prayed as we flew through our own artillery fire.
On my first stop on the coast close to the DMZ, after making my approach to the east, I made a right pedal turn so as to let the General exit my A/C [in front of] his welcoming party, The General's aid started shouting over the intercom to sit the A/C down immediately. At the same time, I heard this loud bang from the rear of the A/C. Thinking something has happened the General, I plant the skids in the sand. The General had thrown his helmet on the deck. His Aid informed me to never turn the A/C around again! Spartan 52. Submitted by Ira P Taylor, pilot
Dear Sir,I was the air craft commander of the two Army UH1/D helicopters that had inserted this team earlierthat day @ was sent out about 2200 to make an emergency night extraction under fire. We were the 190th AHC, slicks SPARTANS @ our gunships were the GLADIATORS.I made my approach from the west to a single strobe light on the side ofthe hill with all a/c lights out. All the SOG t/m loaded from the left side, When SGT Fleming @ SGT Baxter got to the side of the a/c , a loud discussion took place about who was going @ who wasstaying, at the same time my right door gunner opens fire @ states the NVA are coming out the ground like ants. SGT. Baxter orders SGT Fleming on the a/c @ we lift off @ my wingman comes to a high hover @ takes a RPG round in the upper right section of the a/c @ rolls down the hill to the ravine at the bottom. All the 4 crewmembers survivedthe crash @, evaded the NVA all night, BUT crew chief SGT William A. Whitney, died due to crash injuries, before being rescued. His body was found with his M60 in his lap. An escorting KINGBEE a/c tried to pick up my wingmans crew 2 also was shot down. SOG: HQalerted 37th ASRout of Da Nang,Jolly26 @ Jolly29,Jolly29 made an approach w/lights out, took many hits.J.29 picked up 3Pac. @ made an emergency landing at Kan San. Jolly 26 picked up SGT. Baxter @ SGT Kusick @ was shot down during take off.I dropped myPac. at the USMC hospital @ landed back at SOG HQ. THE next day we rescued 7 crewmembers @ inserted an 80 man hatchet force torecover the bodies. Rescued crewmembers; WO Woolridge, WO Zanow, SPJarvis, allthree KINGBEE crewmembers and CPT. Young. IRA TAYLOR SPARTAN 52(PostedSep 25, 2006)
Kent Woolridge Bill Zanow Kent Woolridge Bob Jarvis
Kent Woolridge Bill Zanow Bob Jarvis Bill Whitney - Spartan 53 crew
Just a follow up on some info of some members. As I said, that I flew with the 190th. I got to the unit in late Nov.67. One brother you mention in fog of war is an incident in Nov. that involved Sp/4 Jarvis. I remember talking to him a lot about that night of the crash. If my memory is correct, his name is Bob Jarvis, and I think he told me that he was from upper east Tennessee, aroundJohnson City or close to that. Since I was the medic for the company, I guess he sort of trusted me, He told me some of the ordeal he had to deal with, if my memory is correct, He also told me about the effect it had on him, even to his hair turning white. I can still picture his troubled eyes. I also remember others, Goff and some I can't remember. I do have some pictures and will try to get my daughter to send. Hope everyone is doing well. I did not see another medic, Gerald Akers; we shared the same cubicle that got hit on Tet 68. I believe that he was from Ohio. If others come to memory I will let you know. Russell Burger
On 08 November 1967, two HH-3E SAR helicopters of the 37th ARRS departed Danang Air Base for an emergency extraction of a Special Forces road watch team operating in Laos. Shortly aftermidnighton09 Nov 67JOLLY GREEN 29 picked up part of the team before being severely damaged by hostile fire and forced to leave the area. His wingman, JOLLY GREEN 26, then attempted pick-up of the two remaining team members. The two men were brought aboard by hoist, but as the HH-3E (now with 6 men aboard) began lift-out it was heavily hit and crashed in flames. A search team was inserted into the area during the afternoon of 09 November and reached the downed helicopter as dusk approached. The search team did not actually search the HH-3 wreckage until after daybreak on 10 November, at which time they recovered and identified the remains of five men (three aircrew and the two Special Forces team members). The HH-3E pilot, Captain Gerald O. Young, had escaped the burning aircraft and was recovered (Captain Young received the Medal of Honor for his actions). Weather and enemy action precluded removal of the bodies from the area, so that five men were left behind when the search team was extracted:
This Incident occurred 44 years ago (11/8/67), when our 190thAHC had only been in Country a few months. The different perspectives that must be considered and acknowledged, as you read these reflections from the Past, are from our 1st Co David Hagler, about our 1st KIA Casualty Bill Whitney, after the action had taken place, and from an interview with a rescued survivor DG Bob Jarvis. Our Gladiator and Spartan Pilots who were involved during the action, Bill Zanow, Kent Woolridge, Les Howell, Clete Farmer, Sam Denton, Curt Kenner,Ira Taylor, and the SOG leader, Gambil Dick, who led the Hatchet force team to find survivors and retrieve victims. One thing we must remember is, that over time, memories do fade. D Pickard
A Tribute to Sergeant William A. Whitney, to whom I dedicate this Veterans Day, Nov 11, 2011. May he, and the countless others who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for ourcountry, rest in peace. Written by David Hagler
Specialist Four William A. Bill Whitney was killed while participating in a classified mission November 8th, 1967 while performing Crew Chief duties as a member of the 190th Assault Helicopter Company, the Spartans. He was the first member of our unit to be Killed in Action. I was his Commanding Officer at the time of his death and I write this on the eve of his death forty-four years later. While I was not familiar with him on a close personal basis, we did maintain a friendly relationship and I considered him one of my best soldiers. We would exchange pleasantries almost daily and I flew with him on several occasions. I and the other pilots who flew his aircraft did so with a confidence made possible by his obvious professionalism.
One of my most heartfelt duties was to identify his body at the mortuary at Hue, Phu Bi Marine Base inVietnamon Nov 9. I spent time in the mortuary awaiting the arrival his platoon leader, Captain Ware, who would providea second positive identification of his body, required by regulations. During that wait, I gained a better appreciation for the Marine or US Navy Medical Specialists who worked there. The gentle dignity that they exhibited in processing the remains of Bill Whitney was quite impressive. I stood a few feet away in the small air-conditioned room as they went about their work. His body and clothing was lightly soiled with dirt and mud. They removed his clothing and cleaned him, as one would sponge-bathe a baby or elderly invalid, taking care to maintain a special respect for him as would be expected. I vividly recall them removing the bracelet made from the links of a tail rotor pitch change chain that was a badge of honor at the time, among helicopter crew-chiefs. The only injury that I observed was a large discoloration (bruise?) on his side. No other injuries or marks were noted from my vantage point. Finally, his body clad only in jockey shorts was placed in a body bag. After Captain Ware confirmed identification, wesaid our farewell and took our leave to return to other pressing duty. A memorial service was held for Sgt Whitney a couple weeks later when we returned to Bien Hoa.
The process provided me an unusual amount of time to think of this fine young man who died too soon and yet willingly and gallantly risked his life in the service of his county. This experience occurred all too often, as additional young men were lost during my tenure as a company commander and battalion operations officer.
The incident that took Bill Whitneys life occurred around midnight the previous evening when his UH-1 Slick troop-carrying helicopter crashed while attempting a rescue mission. I never fully established if it was a result of enemy weapons fire that actually hit the helicopter or not. Regardless, the crash was a direct result of operations in an extreme hostile combat environment.
I was engaged in moving and establishing the main element of the company in a new temporary camp at Duc Pho as we made our way south toward our home base in Bien Hoa. Although not in the area at the time of the crash, I returned as soon as possible and arrived by the time relief forces had secured the crash site. The nature of our operations in support of the USMC 1st Division often required us to dispatch several small teams or individual aircrews on missions away from our home base. This particular mission included the team off our helicopters that was dispatched for several days in support of a Special Operations Group SOG unit near the city ofHue. Bill's UH-1, Spartan 53 was onethis team.
The Special Forces mission involved inserting a recon force of about 18 men into a small mountain clearing near the Ho Chi Mien Trail. Landing the team went well and Whitneys aircraft and a sister ship were on stand-by at their base camp about an hour away. Plans called for the special recon team to strike out in a certain direction to a specific area where they would began their surveillance mission. Routine procedure was that if they were detected or encountered enemy contact during the first two hours after landing, the mission would be aborted and extraction would commence. Unfortunately, contact with the enemy occurred and the extraction was ordered. Two VNAF (Vietnamese Air force) helicopters were sent in to the small hilltop clearing. One of the CH-34s was shot down and the other aborted with reported damage. Darkness was setting in by this time, which made the mission even more hazardous.
With the failure of the H-34 helicopter extraction,ourSpartan team that was on stand by was called into action. I believe that the firsthelicopter made a successful landing and picked up about half the recon force. Next, the second Spartan UH-1 helicopter began his approach. I am not positive, but I think the pilot and copilot were WO William L Zanow and Kent Woodridge. Airborne witnesses described the approach by Whitneys aircraft to be faster than normal with landing light turned on just prior to intended landing. Next, it was reported that the helicopter crashed and began to tumble down the steep mountainside and came to a rest some distance downhill.
The gunner, secured in his designated seat at the right rear of the cargo compartment, was only slightly injured. Both pilots incurred non-life threatening cuts, bruises and broken bones. Most of my information describing the events of the rest of the night was from the perspective of the gunner, (Bob) Jarvis. As I interviewed him the next day, he was articulate in describing his ordeal in vivid detail. SPARTAN 53 & Flight Crew
Bill Zanow Kent Woolridge Bob Jarvis
Kent Woolridge, Bill Zanow, Bob Jarvis, Bill Whitney - SPARTAN 53
He told of helping the other crewmembers out of the aircraft and making them as comfortable as possible before climbing up the hill to seek help from the remaining members of the recon party. On the way up, he became aware of the approach of a large helicopter and redoubled his efforts to make contact with the friendly force. Just as he came into the clearing, (unarmed, I may add) he described seeing a fully uniformed North Vietnamese soldier come out of the tree line and boldly take up a firing position between he and the hovering helicopter that he recognized as a USAF Jolly Green Giant. The enemy soldier facing away from Jarvis commenced firing an AK-47 toward the HH-3. He continued to explain, Moments later sparks began to come out of one of the engines that were being fired at. At that point, he described the helicopter as making a slow turn and roll before the main rotor struck the ground and it began to break apart and burst into flame. In answer to my question as to how close he was, he said, I could feel the heat and hear the screams from inside the jolly green as I helplessly stood there. Later, it waslearned that USAF Captain Gerald O Young, pilot of the Jolly Green was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism on that mission.
Due to flying debris and becoming the next target of the enemy shooter, Jarvis withdrew back downhill toward the Spartan crash site. Suddenly, he found himself at the receiving end of gun ships that were firing all over the place with rockets and machine guns. I buried myself under a huge log to try to save myself from being killed by the heavy friendly fire, he added. He continued to describe how he remained hidden under a log for the rest of the night.
At first light, he made his way downhill to his own crashed helicopter where he discovered that Bill Whitley had died during the night, apparently from internal injuries. Shortly thereafter, additional helicopters and rescuers arrived. By this time, the enemy had vanished. Bill Whitneys body and his injured crewmembers were flown to medical stations near our base camp.
Whitney was posthumously promoted to Staff Sergeant and awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.
The experience of viewing his name at the Vietnam Wall in Arlington National Cemetery last year helped somewhat to bring closureof his death. Even after all these years, the pain and sorrow conveyed to me by letters from his parents after his death remains with me and probably always will.
I am unable to recount any meaningful details about the event or (Bob) Jarvis first name or rank. Neither can I recall awards to him or others. Perhaps others that were involved in that operation can fill in the blanks from their viewpoint.For me the "Fog of War" has beenfurtherobscured by the "fog of old age."
It wastold that a story describing the events of that night was published in Argosy, a popular magazine of that era. Failing to find it, I did discover the following article describing Captain Youngs valor that may provide more perspective at least from the USAF standpoint:
By John L. Frisbee, Contributing Editor
A Hillside near Khe Sanh
The severely injured HH-3E pilot laid his life on the line to save a rescue force from disaster.
Shortly aftermidnightonNov. 9, 1967, Capt. Gerald O. Young, an instructor pilot with the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron,Da Nang, headed his HH-3E Jolly Green Giant toward an area southwest of Khe Sanh. Low-hanging clouds shrouded 5,000-foot peaks off to his left. Visibility was poor. It was not a good night for a rescue mission in the hill country just below the DMZ, but Young was a veteran of 59 combat missions, including as far north asHaiphong. He and his crew had volunteered for this one.
The previous afternoon, a small US-South Vietnamese reconnaissance team had been surrounded by a NVA battalion. Two helicopters were shot down during a daylight rescue attempt. Young and his crew were flying backup for another Jolly Green, supported by a C-130 flareship and three Army gunships, in a desperate attempt to save the ambushed patrol.
As the rescue force approached the beleaguered team, the enemy opened up with automatic weapons on the escorting gunships. The primary HH-3E moved through heavy fire into the area, now lighted by flares from the C-130. Hovering along a steep slope, its crew picked up three survivors before they were forced to withdraw to an emergency landing area, badly shot up and leaking fuel and oil.
The pilot advised Young not to make another attempt under such extremely difficult conditions. Nevertheless, Young decided on one more try, even though the gunships were low on fuel and ammunition and might not be able to stay with them.
Young approached the slope head-on, hovering with one main wheel on the ground and his rotor blades barely clearing the bank above him. His copilot, Capt. Ralph Brower, directed fire from the gunships while Sgt. Larry Mansey leaped to the ground to help the wounded aboard, covered by SSgt. Eugene Clay at one of the chopper's machine guns. The big bird was sprayed by automatic weapons fire while five survivors were pulled aboard. During takeoff, a direct hit exploded one of the Jolly Green's engines, flipping the craft over on its back as it burst into flames and crashed down the hillside.
Young, hanging upside down in his harness, finally escaped through the broken windshield, his clothing on fire. He rolled down the slope to extinguish the flames, which had inflicted second- and third-degree burns on his legs, back, arms, and neck. Then, with his bare hands, he smothered the flames that were consuming a soldier lying nearby who had been thrown clear of the wreckage. Were there other survivors in or near the burning wreck? Young crawled 100 yards up the hill toward the flames, but was driven back by intense heat and enemy fire.
Young knew that daylight would bring a rescue force looking for survivors. The first A-1ESandys to arrive spotted him and the unconscious man he had rescued. Young tried to warn them of a possible flak trap. He knew that the main rescue force would arrive at any moment and that enemy troops were moving back into the area to oppose them. The only way he could help was by leading the hostiles away from the crash site. In his condition, that meant almost certain capture or death.
He hid the wounded man whom he had rescued earlier and, despite the agony of his burns, took off into the brush, with enemy troops in pursuit. Each step ahead in the long hours of flight was a triumph of will over searing pain as he lured his pursuers farther and farther from the wreckage. After stumbling and crawling for six miles, he eluded the NVA troops late that afternoon, 17 hours after the crash, and called in a helicopter to pick him up. A rescue force had finally been able to land at the crash site, retrieve one survivor, and recover the bodies of the dead, including that of the man Young had hidden.
Young spent six months in hospitals, recovering from his burns. In May 1968, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon Johnson at a ceremony dedicating the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.
Before retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1980, Young served at the Air Force Academy, was instrumental in setting up the forerunner of the Air Force Mast Program (which provides helicopter assistance to civilian highway patrols), flew with the VIP transport squadron out of Andrews AFB, Md., and was Air Attach to Colombia.
Today, 18 years after his last combat mission, how does he feel about hisVietnamexperience? "The air rescue mission was one of the best in the war," he says. "There is no greater compensation than to participate in saving lives."
By that standard, Young is a wealthy man indeed. Published July 1985. For presentation on this web site, some Valor articles have been amended for accuracy. Copyright Air Force Association
Hi again Danney - long day!
I wanted to let you know that a friend named Gamble Dick, will be reaching out to you soon. He led a Hatchet Team that had the mission of going intoLaosthe day after we were shot down to help recover survivors and/or victims. I fortunately was picked up first on the next morning (Nov 9), by a VNAV CH-34 flown byCaptain Dao, a young VN officer who I was to meet 3 years laterwhileassigned to HAAF,Savannah. Smallworld huh!
Gamble has lined up about 15 (or so) others that were involved in the mission - he will provide details.
As I recall the following people were involved in the Nov 8th mission: Les Howell, Clete Farmer, Ira Taylor, Wilbur (???) as well as: Bill Whitney,Spec 4Jarvis(first name??); Kent Wooldridge, and myself.Regarding your earlier question, I do not think Captain Ware was the 2d platoon leader at that time; but can't be sure. It seems to me that it was CPT Ratcliff. Possible Kent or Ira will recall.
The information offered by Dave Hagler is accurate with one minor exception. It should be noted that while we were routinely inserting and extracting other teams intoLaos; theAshValleyand the DMZ, we did not put the team in that we tried to extract on Nov 8th. Some other unit had that mission. One thing that Dave probably never realized, it was several weeks before Bill's body was properly returned to his family in thestates. They were never provided a goodexplanation of what transpired - as you may recall, that was not an uncommon happening in those days.Ira,Kentand I have communicated (in 2007)by email with Bill's brother, Terry Whitney and helped fill in some of the missing information.
I have included several people on this message that were either involved or had knowledge of this life changingevent. Please feel free to passmy responsealong to others as you determine appropriate.
In closing I do feel the need to say, it was a terrible day when we lost Bill and other brave warriors and 44 years later I still often think about the terrible price that so many young men and so many families paid. Bill Zanow
Danney, Bill Zanow forwarded your note. I was there...getting into the area on the 9th. I tried to start a book about it but eventually turned over my info to Terry Arentowicz who has almost finished a book about the incident. Im sure he will be trying to contact you via this email address. What I wrote can be found at http://www.scally.com/mia/jolly26.html Thanks for your info and I hope I can add you to my email list. Gamble Dick
Danney, This story brings back old memories for me. Mr. David Hagler has put all the information in order. The slick pilots Bill Zanow, andWoodridge. I cannot remember just who the gun ship pilots were, I was in one gun ship and think WO Baker was another. I do remember it being pitch black with Muzzle Blast from all different directions that's much all we had to go on. Thank you (Major) Hagler for the wonderful thoughts of Sgt. Bill Whitney.
We had a UH-1D at Duc Pho blow up in the revetment after a ground troop dropped a live grenade in the helicopter, during deplaning. I know one or two Troops were killed, plus Helicopter burned to ground (Was Capt. Ware Flying That Bird?) Les Howell - Question: What happen toWoodridge?
"Crash site photos are courtesy of Jeff Nash. The '67 photo was taken by PJ Angus MacDougal on JG 04 during our insert. White cloud is smoke laid down by A-1's. The discolored area to the left of the smoke is the LZ from the night before. Both JG-26 and Spartan 53 were hit there and rolled down the hill. The '95 picture will give you some idea of how steep it was. When the rain started and turned the clay to mud, it became unbelievably slippery."
"On the map, a small x marks the top of hill 891 where we set up our CP. (Upper left)"
-- Gamble C. Dick, U.S. Army, Retired
http://www.v-prod.com/trailer_vietnam.html Michigan Vietnam Vets
Life is too short and friends are too few.
Galipoli - This ballad like makes a good point about war and those who fight
them...50+ Years before our War....yet the same...???
http://youtu.be/kODDgJRYF5I Bob Hope Long Bien 1970
http://youtu.be/C32PcN-VDvw Bob Hope Long Bien 1967