January 1995 Letter
In less than five months our reunion will be held. The organizers of this reunion need your help now. We need everyone who has any idea that they may attend this reunion to please make your reservations now! Do not put this off one more day. The amount of meeting space we will have next May will have to be decided upon for sure by the first of February. The determining factor at that time will be how many reservations we have in on 1 Feb. We have 200 rooms blocked that can be reserved up until 30 days before the reunion. M1h 751 men located. do you want to take the chance of not getting a room at our reunion? Also consider how uncomfortable it may be if we reduce our meeting area and then end up with not enough space to sit down! Any reservations made now can be canceled up to within 72 hours of that reservation with no charge. The group rate for our Association is $55 per night, plus tax. This rate is good until April 4th, after which time the rate will be S2.2 per night, plus tax. To make your reservation, call 214-399-1010, and be sure to tell them you are with the RATTLER/FIREBIRD REUNION. The location once again is the Holiday Inn, DFW Airport South, 4440 West Airport Freeway, Irving, Texas. (This street is also known as Highway 183) This hotel is 2 miles from the South entrance to DFW Airport. There are Holiday Inn courtesy phones in all baggage claim areas of DFW Airport. They have 4 vans that are available 24 hours daily to pick you up and deliver you to our hotel (if you fail to get one of our 200 rooms, and have to stay at other lodging, you will miss this free pickup service). Dallas' Love Field is about 13 miles from the hotel and any arrival there would incur taxi fare to the hotel. Now is a good time to consider preparing any item from Vietnam you may have and wish to display at the reunion such transferring old 8mm movies to a VHS format or digging out old photos or slides that your buddies would enjoy viewing or any type of war relic. Old uniforms will be worn by several, so if you've got'um, wear'um!
We are attempting to obtain a surplus UH-1 (either a C, D, or H model) from the Army. Many veteran organizations have been permanently loaned these aircraft for display purposes. If we get one (hopefully a D or H model as it would be ~ easier to recondition to our Vietnam era because of the weapons systems on the C models) there is a small local (Southwest of Fort Worth) attraction called the Pate Transportation Museum at Cresson, TX that has agreed to displaying this aircraft, yet we could still bring it to a reunion. Requests for this aircraft have been through a local congressman, Pete Geren, who is in support of the project. Bell Helicopter will also assist us with paint and advice.
Many of you have told me that you never received all of your medals you were due. Everett Jeffcoat has been working very hard to obtain any records he can that pertain to our company. While searching through some 1st Aviation Brigade material that had been declassified he found a lessons learned section of an operational report that refers to processing of awards. This discussion states that the unit averages processing over 700 awards of all types per month. It further states that in one three month period over 600 awards received no action and that once the normal processing time for a medal has been exceeded it is mandatory to resubmit it. Is it possible that this is what happened to so many of our Air Medals? I received 13 Air Medals, but have flight records showing I was due 26 Air Medals. Some men have told me of flying for months and not receiving a single Air Medal. Finding out exactly who is responsible for this SNAFU and 25 years later getting it rectified presents a challenge. Does anyone have any idea how to right this wrong?
The Association will attempt to publish a list of all known awards due our men that did not require individual orders.
The main reason that Everett Jeffcoat was searching for Company records was for the Association to have copies of these records in case some of you needed to file a V A claim concerning any incident that may have been recorded in official documents. If we have copies of our own, it could sure save some time, expense and legwork. Everett has had extensive experience dealing with the bureaucracy one has to encounter when filing a VA claim and has made an offer to assist any of our men who served in our unit and wishes to utilize his generous offer. You can reach Everett at 803-568-3133.
For any of you who may be interested, we still have a number of replicas of our patches we wore on our shirt pockets. These include 1 I Rattler (7Ist), 42 Fire Bird, 34 Widow Maker, 30 F Troop and 27 151st Trans. Det. patches. They were donated to us for resale at $5.00 each as a means to raise Association funds.
In your address directories on the page called Rattler history, the company name change should have read I September, 1966.
On July 1st of this year one of our former Warrant Officers retired from active duty. Colonel Frank Carson had served a little over 28 years and now is teaching school in Daytona Beach, FL. Good luck and thanks for the memories, Frank! His new address: P.O. Box 1938, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170-1938, ph. 904-274-2284.
This passed September 6th Hal Bowen was in town on business and we met for dinner and then I took Hal on a short tour of our reunion site in Irving. Hal had retired from the Army in 1981 as a LTC and went to work for Northern TeleCom. On November I, Hal once again retired and has moved "to the lake". I would like to wish him and Kathy all the best now that he is full time doing "honey do's". Their new address: P.O. Box 57, Gasburg, VA 23857, ph. 804-577-2608.
My former Aircraft Commander, Jerry Shirley, visited and spent the night on October 15th. Jerry and I re-lived our adventures together and both of us came to the conclusion that it's a damn wonder we didn't die together. Jerry retired as a CW4 in September 1990 on his 50th birthday after 33 years of service. Jerry's new Ph. 011-81-098-933-5512 (Okinawa, Japan).
Everett Jeffcoat visited during the second weekend in December and he and I were guests of Chuck Carlock at a football game at Texas Stadium.
Ned Flecke has recently undergone over 10 hours of back surgery. Ned injured his back in Vietnam and it has been deteriorating over the years causing him to endure severe pain. I know he would appreciate hearing from any of his Association friends. His address: 7 Stephen St., Hazlet, NJ 07730.
Chuck Carlock's as yet unnamed book has been accepted by a royalty publisher. This book has reached 300 pages at this point but Chuck is still awaiting certain pals to "get up off their ass and send him their promised stories." Chuck has pledged to give any profit from this book to our Association because the stories came from many of our men's experiences during '67 and '68. Also Chuck has promised that in his story about a pilot with the hemorrhoid problem he will not tell that it was Mark Leopold!
Major Jim Fulbrook (WO 70-71) is the author of the article series on Lam Son 719 published in Aviation Digest in 1986 and is trying to obtain any new stories or pictures he can locate for a re-publication of this series on the 25th anniversary of the operation. Jim is now OIC of the ROTC unit at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. If you would like to send any info you may have on this subject, Jim's new address is: 8492 Silverview Ct., Lorton, VA 22079. Ph. 703-690-8545 home or 703-993-2706 work or 703-993-2708 fax.
I know you men get tired of reading this, but here goes again. If you have any orders from our unit that contains other men's names please make copies and send them to us. Robert Carey, an EM from '69-'70, sent me a set of orders for an Army Commendation Medal that had 110 71st men listed on it and about 90 of the names I had never seen before. We have since located a large number of these guys.
We currently have 751 men who served with us in Vietnam located. There are 54 men on our KIA list and 56 men on our known deceased after serving with us list. This accounts for 861 men from our unit which is a pretty substantial amount for a quarter of a century later. I believe you will agree that time expended locating our men is well spent, but please, if we have located you and you wish to remain on our mailing list, keep us informed of any address change you may have so we do not need to search for you again.
I was sorry to hear from the widow of William G. Jaeger (EM 69-70) that he died in a boating accident on this past July 4th weekend.
In the August newsletter, the story about the death of Gary McCall also stated that a Memorial to Gary would be dedicated and if any of his friends wished to donate to this memorial they could send the funds to us with notice that it was for Gary. We collected $1650.00 for this purpose and forwarded a check in this amount to VFW Post 5841 in Breckenridge, CO. The Memorial is to be placed at the mountain side location of his death as soon as official clearance is received from the Parks Department. We asked that specific mention be made of the 71st Assault Helicopter Company and the call sign, Firenird 94, on the Memorial if possible.
The men of our unit have been very generous to our Association with their cash donations. Since our Association was formed this summer we have received $2121.29 from you and have spent $797.26 on various expenses. Counting the funds already on hand at the time we formed the Association (our $500 deficit was covered by an anonymous donor) our total money on hand at this time is $1531.95. We now have a non-profit bulk mailing permit which will reduce our future costs. Our Association Secretary, Chuck Carlock, who is a CPA, receives and reviews our financial statement monthly. A lack of space prevents us from listing all the names of our donors, but I would like to mention the names of our donors who have given at least $100 since the August mailing: Jim Baragona, Hal Bowen, Chuck Carlock, Will Hall, George Jackson, Larry Lackey, Bill Lurvey, Kerry McMahon, Jerry Meader, Bob Parsons, Gordy Sundt, and Michael Wheeler. Also Everett Jeffcoat has surpassed this figure in expenses obtaining info for us. Santa Claus is bringing me a fax machine for Christmas that will be installed on our Association number (214-226-4252) after Dec. 25th if you need to send anything to me via that method.
I do not know if another mailing will be made before our May reunion, so you should not count on it. I feel like our men would rather have a mailing immediately following the reunion in which everyone can learn how the reunion went and receive an update on officially joining our Association and the dues that we decide upon for operating this organization. I expect these dues to be in the $10 - $20 range annually. If you have an appropriate entry for a future newsletter please send it to me.
The following is taken from the preface of the book Wings of the Eagle by W. T. Grant.
Finally, I wish to honor another hero of the Vietnam war with this book. One that was wounded many times. One that saved thousands of lives. A hero that has not received one decoration for all the times that it performed flawlessly. The Huey. The UH-I helicopter brought many of us back alive. Ask any grunt what the most beautiful sound he heard in country was, and he'll tell you that it was that loud thump, thump, thump of the Huey's blades. Ask any pilot if he ever screwed up and had his Huey save his ass by doing things it was not built to do. Huey never complained. Huey never quit. Many times these birds continued to fly with their life's blood leaking out till the mission was complete. Many of these veterans are still flying with almost thirty years of hard service. Many still proudly wear scars that are left from their Vietnam service. They served in Grenada, Panama, and Saudi. They will continue to serve into the next century. They have indeed earned a Distinguished Flying Cross; it is worn in the hearts of the pilots that flew them.
In response to David S. Harvey's comment on "Firebirds" ("Firebirds: Helicopters Go To The Movies," Aug. '90, page 15), no it is not a film about an automobile model, nor was the title pulled out of a hat. "Firebird" and "Rattler," the callsigns used in the movie, were the callsigns of the gunship and lift platoons of "A" Company, 501st Aviation Battalion, and later the 71st Assault Helicopter Company (AHC) in Vietnam.
N50lers were the original "Firebirds" and "Rattlers" until September of 1966 when N501 was deactivated. The men and equipment of N501 were transferred to their new unit, the 71st AHC, where assigned personnel elected to continue using those callsigns.
If the technical advisors for the television series "Tour of Duty" were any better at their craft, the viewing public might have heard those callsigns before. "Tour of Duty" depicts members of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade and Special Forces S.O.G. operations, both of which were supported by the 71st AHC throughout service in Vietnam.
No, I did not bother to see the movie.
CW4 Douglas M.F. Womack
SVC Co., 11th SFG(A), USAR
Note: This letter was sent to Rotor and Wing magazine in response to their review of the movie "Firebirds". Reprinted with permission of Doug Womack.