ODDS AND ENDS
Please check the mailing label of this newsletter to determine your dues status. If it has 2001 after your name, your dues expire 30 June 2001. In order to receive the address directory that will be mailed in July, the number after your name has to be 2002 or higher, or say life. Dues are only $12 per year, with life membership priced according to your age. Prices are: 50 and below - $200, 51 - 55 - $175, 56 - 60 - $150, 61 - 65 - $125 and 66 and over - $100. We have over 1045 names in the address directory with a few of them being associate members. The directory changes from 5% to 10% yearly. Remember, it's not the dues you pay to be a member, it's the dues you paid to be eligible.
If you are about to move or your telephone area code has changed, please notify the Association by calling, writing or e-mailing. Many of our men do not receive these newsletters because the postal service returns them rather than forwarding them. Non-profit mailings are not forwardable unless requested and paid for.
If ordering items from the Association, please use the prices and mailing rate from this newsletter. Some adjustments in the prices have been made to offset expenses.
We have e-mail addresses on about 160 of our men. If you now have an e-mail address, please send it to us. At times mass mailings are made to our e-mail list about items of interest. Mail to: email@example.com
In our last newsletter, a photo was identified as being Bill Taylor and James Dorsey. It was actually Jesse James (OF 64-65) instead of Taylor. Our apologies to both men. Jesse was working as a supervisor of census workers last spring, which prevented him from attending the Vegas reunion. He has assured us he will be in St. Louis next May.
In this issue, we have cajoled Jesse James, the original second platoon leader, into sharing some "early" stories about our unit. Jesse has a ton of stories to tell so you may expect to see his byline regularly.
As always, we need your stories for this newsletter. Please take the time to submit the story only you can tell.
The Association has updated our computer system from the '95 model that was "state of the art" for a very short time and now would only do about 50% of what was needed in our work. Unless you use a computer on a regular basis, you cannot imagine the improvement in service the new model provides.
Many poems and odes pass this desk. All that come our way are read. A very few are printed. The ode "When The Lord Was Creating Vietnam Vets" was sent to us by Ed Mills (EM 67-68) and is included in this issue.
Richard Rodriquez (EM 66-67) is a retired policeman and now works in security at a theater complex in California. In one of the plays being performed, the star of the show was Larry Storch of the TV show "F - Troop". Richard informed Larry of our "F - Troop Second Platoon" and regaled him with some of their antics. Storch was very interested in all these stories.
A small mini-reunion was held at Chuck Carlock's on April 21st. Those in town and attending were; Carlock, Jim Baragona, Joe Bruce, Larry Lackey, John Lynch, Ron Seabolt, Larry Smith and Bobby Wright. A full tour of the hundreds of Vietnam era display items highlighted the visit along with lunch at a local restaurant. A photo of this group appears in this newsletter. FYI - Seabolt's former platoon sergeant, Larry Lackey is wearing a flesh colored pull-over shirt.
Rattler/Firebird Reunion '02
By Vic Bandini - Reunion Committee Chairman
Planning for the 2002 Reunion in St. Louis, MO is well underway. The Reunion location is the Crowne Plaza - St. Louis Airport hotel located just minutes from the St. Louis airport. The hotel has just completed a $6 million renovation and upgrade in its conversion from a former Radisson property to the Crowne Plaza.
The Association executive committee has worked closely with the hotel sales staff and has confirmed a room rate of only $70.00 per night plus tax. The rooms will be one year refreshed during the Reunion May 2-5, 2002. A 'Concierge' floor is available should someone wish to 'upgrade' from the regular room rate. You can make reservations NOW by calling 1-800-2CROWNE (1-800-227-6963). This is a central reservation desk so be sure to mention you are attending the Rattler/Firebird Reunion - this is very important to assure that you receive the Reunion rate. Make your reservations now.
The Crowne Plaza offers complimentary airport shuttle, Metro Link shuttle, parking, and the USA Today newspaper. The hotel has a large central atrium, indoor pool and whirlpool, exercise facility, lobby lounge and bar, and a gift shop. Breakfast is available in the Clouds hotel restaurant with lunch and dinner served in the TGI Fridays also located in the hotel. Other restaurants and shopping areas are located close by. Outdoor display space is available for our Firebird gunship and Rattler slick, and two large rooms inside are reserved for meeting space and memorabilia displays.
The Reunion committee is busy planning a most memorable and enjoyable event. The Second Firebird "Free Fire" Open golf outing will be held at a local course close to the hotel. Tom Griffith will chair and coordinate the golf event - watch for details in the November newsletter. The regular Association business meeting and memorial service takes place on Saturday morning May 4th in the hotel meeting area. Saturday evening is our Association dinner in the Gateway Ballroom. The dinner price will be very reasonable in an effort to gain maximum participation. Special programs are being planned for the dinner event so plan to attend and enjoy the evening (which will not be lengthy or 'stuffy'.) We need your support to make the dinner a successful evening - the dinner price will be published in our November newsletter. The dinner tickets will need to be purchased in advance through the Association. The dinner ticket prices will be listed in the November newsletter. Complimentary coffee, soft drinks, beer and cold snacks will be provided throughout the day during the Reunion.
Vic Bandini is still looking for photos. Please send any photos (with an attached caption) to Vic at: 4421 Hazy Lane, Greenwood, IN 46142. Please mark the package "photos - do not bend". Your photos WILL BE returned to you ASAP after being scanned onto computer files. Vic is looking for photos of people, places, aircraft & crews, etc. while 'in country'. If you have digital images you may e-mail them (JPEG format please) to Vic at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Reunion co-chairman Don Vishy is assembling an information package on St. Louis attractions for those wishing to sightsee or visit the local area during the Reunion. Information packages will be available at the Reunion registration desk, or check out: www.explorestlouis.com for additional details to assist your planning. Plan to attend - call now to reserve your room(s). Looking forward to seeing everyone in St. Louis, MO May 2-5, 2002.
Association Elections - 2002
From Harold Bowen (OF 67-68) Nominating Committee Chairperson
Fellow Rattlers and Firebirds, I sincerely hope that each of you have enjoyed and benefited from our Rattler/Firebird Association as much as I have. The newsletters, reunions and the camaraderie they have rekindled have been wonderful medicine for my long needed healing process. Because of our association and the renewed contacts it made possible, I have been able to sort through those memories of so long ago and finally put many of the old "ghosts" to rest. For the peace that has provided me, I am forever grateful to Ron, Chuck and the many others who have done so much to make our association the huge success that it is. I'm sure that many of you can echo that statement.
In order to facilitate the continued growth and success of the association, as in the past we need leaders who have a vision for the future of the organization and can take it where the members want to go. The current process of nominating candidates from the floor of the reunion business meeting does not provide an opportunity for members to get the information necessary for an informed vote. We are voting based on our memories of the candidates in that far away land, 30-35 years ago. While many of those memories are great and the friendships formed then are very dear, the future of our association should not depend on them. Although our association has been blessed with wonderful leadership, we need to use a process which allows members to know the candidates for office in advance, so that each voter can obtain whatever information he desires before being asked to cast his vote. This new process should not in the least be considered as a slight to our current or previous boards.
Recognizing this fact, the Association Board of Directors will adhere to the existing election by-laws in future elections. Starting with the 2002 election, nominations from the floor will not be encouraged. I have been appointed by the board as Nominating Committee Chairperson and will coordinate the nominations process. A slate of candidates for each position will be published in the November newsletter and in the reunion update (mailed around March 1st prior to our reunion). Each candidate will have the opportunity to publish a short "campaign ad" in that newsletter. Each candidate will also be asked to wear a distinctive nametag at the reunion identifying him as a candidate. In this way members will have the opportunity to interface with the candidates and learn something about them and their vision for the organization prior to being asked to cast their vote.
Please note that I said I would coordinate the nomination process. I am NOT the nominator, YOU ARE. To be eligible to nominate someone or to be nominated you must be a current dues paying member of our association. Anyone who would be willing to serve on the Board of Directors, or would like to nominate someone else for a position is asked to contact me. If I do not receive any nominations, I will be contacting some of you to "volunteer". The floor is now open for nominations.
The board consists of three elected officers (this is not to be confused with rank while in the service) and three directors at large, all of whom serve a two-year term. The officers may be reelected to an indefinite number of two (2) year terms but the directors are limited to two (2) two year terms for a total of four (4) years, after which they must vacate their position for at least one two year period. The current officers are Ron Seabolt, National Director; Johnny Hitt, Deputy National Director; and Chuck Carlock, Secretary Treasurer. All of these officers have agreed to serve another term and will be on the slate of candidates. The current directors are Jim Miller, Jaak Sepp and R.J. Williams. Jim and Jaak are both first term directors, eligible to serve another term and have agreed to do so, if reelected. R.J. is currently serving his second two (2) year term and is required by the constitution to step down for at least one term or run for an officer position.
I can be contacted at e-mail (email@example.com), snail mail at (Harold Bowen, P.O. Box 57, Gasburg, VA 23857) or telephone at (804) 577-2608. Nominations and/or questions/suggestions should come to me via any of those means. I will be traveling from June 4th to late October but expect to be available otherwise. You may also contact Ron Seabolt at the association address, if desired.
You may have read this before, if so this is for our new men located. The Department of Veteran's Affairs presumes that all military personnel who served in Vietnam were exposed to Agent Orange. Based on that presumption, the following diseases are on the VA's Agent Orange list of presumptive disabilities: chloracne, Hodgkin's disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, porphyria cutanea tarda, respiratory cancers (lung, bronchus, larynx and trachea), soft-tissue sarcoma, acute and subacute peripheral neuropathy, prostate cancer and adult-onset (Type II) diabetes. In addition, monetary benefits, health care and vocational rehabilitation services are provided to Vietnam veterans' children with spina bifida.
At our age, many of us will die from some of the above named diseases. Because of your service in Vietnam you are eligible for and entitled to a disability rating and full medical treatment if you contract one of these diseases. If you die from the disease, your spouse is eligible for compensation for as long as she remains unmarried. This compensation is around $850 a month. This information can make a considerable amount of difference in your lives. You are advised to save this info for later referral.
The Association has been notified of the loss of a life member. Kevin E. Collins (EM 68-69) was murdered this past November. We have no details concerning the murder. Kevin was a 2nd platoon gunner that was Jim Baragona's regular gunner. Kevin had originally been with the infantry and had extended to become a door gunner with the 71st AHC. Life member number 118.
From The "It's A Small World" File.
The Association was recently contacted by a Michael Parker concerning one of our KIA/MIAs, James Christof Becker. Becker was the peter pilot of a slick that was shot down and crashed in Laos on 15 August '70. Becker and the gunner, Peter Alden Schmidt were both lost in this crash with the bodies not recovered. Mr. Parker, who is 31 years old, has been wearing Lt. Becker's MIA bracelet since he was 13 years old. He has even visited with Becker's parents in Palestine, TX. After having an informative conversation with Mr. Parker, he has joined our Association as an associate member.
On 3 January 2001, a man named Rob Adams left a message on the guest book of our web site, inviting anyone who is interested to visit his "Gunslingers" web site where he has a page dedicated to our KIA/MIA Peter Alden Schmidt. If you are online, you can visit this page at: http://gunslingers.bizland.com/index.html
It is wonderful to see individuals take a positive interest in our KIA brothers.
Not Fonda Jane!
On Thursday, April 12th, Jane Fonda was in Ft. Worth, TX to be the keynote speaker at the Ridgelea Country Club meeting of an anti-pregnancy teen program. The newspaper article the day before she arrived stated that they expected about 30 Vietnam Veteran protesters to make an appearance outside the posh digs. Before the day was through, over 200 protesters made their opinions known.
Chuck Carlock's nephew, Bart Collins, was towing an OH-6 on a trailer to jam traffic on the traffic circle in front of the country club. The chopper was shown on all local TV stations' newscast that day.
Joe Bruce was also filmed by the TV people and interviewed by the Ft. Worth Star Telegram newspaper. Carlock was disappointed that they did not have to bleep him out while talking about Hanoi Jane.
You Too Could Be Commended!
John Mateyko (OF 65-66) has sent the Association copies from his files of a set of letters that he received dated 20 June 1966. These letters came down through the chain of command as letters of commendation for our unit's assistance in recovering downed Air Force pilots. The time period covered by these letters is the previous 18 months from 21 April 1966. The set begins with a letter from Gen. Nowell N. Estes, Jr. USAF to General W.C. Westmoreland, Commanding General.
It is then forwarded with a note from Westmoreland to LTG Jean E. Engler, Deputy Commanding General.
It is then forwarded with a note from LTG Engler, to BG G.P. Seneff, 1st Avn Brigade, Commanding.
It is then forwarded with a note from General Seneff to Col. Raymond F. Campbell, Commander 12th Aviation Group.
It is then forwarded with a note from Col. Campbell to LTC Horst K. Joost, Commander 145th Avn Bn.
It is then forwarded with a note from LTC Joost to Major Gordon T. Carey, Commander A/501st Assault Helicopter Co.
It was then given with a note from Maj. Carey to 1/Lt John Mateyko.
John states that he thought that everyone serving in our unit during the time frame covered was entitled to a set of these letters in their file. He did not remember if everyone received a copy.
Another couple of items from John Mateyko: One hot day (weren't they all?) some general from Ft. Hood was over to see us, along with some RVN general or colonel. The officers formed a platoon formation with the "if you are taller than the man in front of you trade places, left face, if you are taller, etc, etc."
Then they started passing out the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry awards (with palm) and kept on going until they ran out of the boxes they brought with them. It must have been 12-15 medals. Bottom line, us tallest pilots got the awards.
Mateyko continues: On 2 November 1965, I was flying in the left seat of 19322 with Jim Dorsey as A/C and fire team leader. I have no idea who was flying wing. We were in support of a two-ship extraction with lead flown by CWO Richard A. Birnbach (Rattler 11) with 17 on his wing. We got to the pick up area and started our daisy chain. Birnbach made his approach and ended hovering above the trees. Not enough room. With the crew chief of the slick standing on the skid clearing the tail rotor, Birnbach started cutting chlorophyll with the main blades. I thought this is a hell of a way to do things, and asked Captain Dorsey just what was going on. All Jim said was, "Birnbach knows what he in doing".
That's it, no one hurt, no shots fired, just an awesome demonstration of what they did not teach at Rucker and how the entire four-man crew of our birds worked together. Just an ordinary day in Vietnam. Later, I asked Birnbach about it and he said something like, "If we didn't pick them up, who was going to do it".
Humor, Aviator Style
The Pope dies unexpectedly and finds himself at the gates of Heaven at 0300. He knocks on the gate and a very sleepy eyed watchman opens the gate and asks, "What do you want?" I'm the recently deceased Pope and have done 63 years of Godly works and thought I should check in here.
The Heaven's Gate Guardian Angel checks his clipboard and says, "I haven't got any orders for you here, just bring your stuff and we'll sort this out in the morning". Off they go to an old WWII barracks, 3rd floor, with open bay. All the bottom racks are taken and all empty lockers have no doors. The Pope stows his gear under a rack and climbs into an upper bunk.
The next morning he awakens to sounds of cheering and clapping. He goes to the window and sees a shiny Cadillac convertible coming down from the golden headquarters building on the hill. The sidewalks are lined with Angels cheering and throwing confetti. In the back seat of the convertible is a helicopter pilot, wings of silver shining brightly on his chest, a cigar in his mouth, a can of beer in one hand and his other arm around a beautiful blonde Angel.
This upsets the pope greatly and he runs downstairs to Heavens Gate and says to the Guardian Angel, "Hey, explain this to me; here I am, the recently deceased Pope, and I have spent 63 years doing Godly deeds on Earth and am here in open bay barracks, and I see this helicopter pilot that I know has committed every sin known to man, staying in the mansion on the hill and getting a hero's welcome. How can this be?" The Guardian Angel calmly looks up and says, "Well, we get a Pope up here every 20 or 30 years, but this is the first helicopter pilot we've ever had."
A few of Murphy's Laws for Rattlers and Firebirds: Every takeoff is optional - every landing is mandatory. Flying isn't dangerous. Crashing is what's dangerous. The only time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire (Firebirds might argue this point). Learn from the mistakes of others. You won't live long enough to make all of them yourself. Always try to keep the number of landings you make equal to the number of takeoffs you have made (see 1st rule).
Items actually found in some OERs: Not the sharpest knife in the drawer. A room temperature IQ. A gross ignoramus - 144 times worse than an ordinary ignoramus. Fell out of the family tree. If brains were taxed, he'd get a rebate. If he were any more stupid, he'd have to be watered twice a week. Takes him an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes. This man is depriving a village somewhere of an idiot.
On 5 May 1970, a reinforced company was loggered Northwest of the little RFPF triangle shaped compound on the west side of LZ West. I logged 13 hours that night as Flare Ship and control ship over the gun support that flew all night while that company was essentially overrun or near overrun by what was estimated to be an NVA regiment.
I flew flares all night and landed twice late that night and early near daybreak to resupply the company. We evacuated eight ambulatory casualties each time. During that night two Dustoffs came in and took on eight casualties. The first one was shot down on the way out and landed right on top of the little triangle RFPF compound bunker where it was blown in place by an enemy RPG from the tree line to the North. All casualties had been unloaded and the secure device was removed before the ship blew.
The CWO who flew that ship wound up being liaison to get artillery and air support for the little people whose house he landed on. Evidently, with no American advisor, the little TrungWe in command could not get artillery from LZ West.
One afternoon about June 1970, I got a Mayday call from a loach that had been shot down on the West face of LZ West by a .51 caliber on the valley floor near the west side.
I was the high ship whose crew went in on the ground in a brush fire started by the crash. On two separate sorties we pulled two burned and injured men out. One of those was flown in, injuries and all, to the VIP pad on "West" while hanging on a 100-foot length of rope under my ship.
Excerpts From The Speech
Given By Joe Galloway At The VHPA Reunion - 2000
Submitted by Charley Sparks (EM 69-70)
...I think often of all that you did for us (infantry).all that you meant to us: You came for our wounded. You came to get our dead brothers. You came.when the fight was over.to give us a ride home from hell. There isn't a former Grunt alive who doesn't freeze for a moment and feel the hair rise on the back of his neck when he hears the whup whup whup of those helicopter blades.
What I want to say now is just between us.because America still doesn't get it.still doesn't know the truth, and the truth is: You are the cream of the crop of our generation.the best and finest of an entire generation of Americans. You are the ones who answered when you were called to serve.you are the ones who fought bravely and endured a terrible war in a terrible place. You are the ones for whom the words duty.honor.country have real meaning because you have lived those words and the meaning behind those words. You are my brothers in arms.and I am not ashamed to say that I love you. I would not trade one of you for a whole trainload of instant Canadians.or a whole boatload of Rhodes Scholars bound for England.or a whole campus full of guys who turned up for their draft physicals wearing panty hose.
On behalf of a country that too easily forgets the true cost of war.and who pays that price.I say thank you for your service! On behalf of the people of our country who didn't have good sense enough to separate the war they hated from the young warriors they sent to fight that war.I say we are sorry. We owe you all a very large apology.and a debt of gratitude that we can never adequately repay. For myself and all my buddies in the Infantry I say: Thanks for all the rides in and out.especially out.
I now know why men who have been to war yearn to reunite. Not to tell stories or look at old pictures. Not to laugh or weep. Comrades gather because they long to be with the men who once acted their best.men who suffered and sacrificed.who were stripped raw.right down to their humanity.
I did not pick these men. They were delivered by fate and the military. But I know them in a way I know no other men. I have never given anyone such trust. They were willing to guard something more precious than my life. They would have carried my reputation.the memory of me. It was part of the bargain we all made.the reason we were so willing to die for one another.
As long as I have memory I will think of them all.every day. I am sure that when I leave this world.my last thought will be of my family and my comrades.such good men!
DEATH VALLEY by Keith Nolan
A review by Chuck Carlock
This book was published in 1988 and covers the combat in August 1969 in the Que Son Valley and Heip Duc Valley. Anyone that served with the Rattlers and Firebirds during this period will find it interesting. From the 71st AHC point of view, Black Monday on September 22, 1969 is not covered but the September 12th attack on LZ Siberia was the start of the new action after fighting in August.
The book mentions that on August 18th, Rattler 26 and the peter pilot were wounded. If anyone could provide the names of these men it would be of interest to the Association. The book also points out how short people's memories are as to how and why places are named. A grunt in the book says "Million Dollar Hill" was named because someone would pay a million dollars to get there because it was safe. He wasn't told about the million dollars worth of choppers lost there.
Death Valley covers the loss of our Rattler crew and the attempts to recover the bodies on August 19th. These men were Plummer, Silverstien, Martino and Lavigne.
During this same time frame, Rocky Bleier, the running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was wounded while with the 196th LIB.
Based on this book and the book Through The Valley by a former 196th LIB company commander named Jim Humphries (Col. USA Ret.) covering the fighting in the same area in 1968, it appears the NVA learned a little more about tactics. Instead of attacking as they did in 1968, in 1969 they dug holes and waited to ambush the grunts.
This leads to the reason I am writing this review. At the 196th LIB reunion in St. Louis in 1999, a grunt came up as we were driving off with our helicopters and gave us a Viet Cong burial cloth and an NVA body bag, slightly used. Both are now mounted and will be displayed at our next reunion in St. Louis. I asked this grunt how he knew it was a used body bag. He said he and his friend STEVE NIEBUHR rolled the NVA out of it. I was shocked and told him laughingly, "That was like taking the nickels from a dead mans eyes". He said they were chasing the NVA soldiers and shooting at them. As the NVA grew tired running with their friend they dragged his head on the ground. You can see the drag marks on the bag. I wrote down his friends name, Steve Niebuhr, who he said was killed in a motorcycle accident after returning from 'Nam.
The reason for this article is that in the book Death Valley, Steve Niebuhr is credited with leading the first revolt that then lead to a combat unit refusing a direct order during the Vietnam War. The news media was listening in on the radio traffic and it was widely reported at the time. The LTC commanding the battalion asked the lieutenant commanding the grunt company if the NCO's were involved in the rebellion. The lieutenant answered that most of his NCOs had been killed or wounded. Out of ninety five soldiers, forty three had been killed or wounded. The company had been ordered to march back in front of known enemy machine gun positions that had previously ambushed them.
From reading the book, reasonable people could have different opinions as to whether Steve Niebuhr was justified or not.
Uncommon Valor By Emma D. Jackson
reprinted from the May 21, 1999 issue
of The Sandusky Register (Ohio)
Castalia - It was in his play "Julius Caesar" that Shakespeare said, "Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.
You can count Castalia's Paul Dalferro (EM May-70 to July-71) as one of the valiant. He did not bow out of combat when surrounded by enemy forces. Instead, he sprayed intense gunfire into North Vietnamese troops until the last of three of his crew members were freed from the wreckage of their helicopter. That was March 5, 1971.
Two months ago, he and the other men received medals for the feat that waited 28 years to be acknowledged.
"I'm glad we finally received something for what we did," said Dalferro, 49, of his U.S. Army Air Medal with Valor Award. The basis of the award was the valor and bravery he showed in a dangerous situation.
Why it took so long for Dalferro and the others to get their medals is unknown, according to U.S. Army officials. But Dalferro believes it has to do with the location of the incident.
The combat occurred in Laos, a country in Southeast Asia between Vietnam and Thailand. U.S. troops weren't supposed to be in Laos because the conflict was in Vietnam. But the U.S. did go into Laos to fight North Vietnamese troops who were stationed there as a way to elude foes.
At the time of the incident, Dalferro and three other crewmembers were aboard a helicopter gunship escorting a medical helicopter on a Laos rescue mission.
Dalferro's helicopter was shot down by the North Vietnam Army. After the crash, Dalferro held off surrounding enemy soldiers with gunfire until a crewmember who was trapped in the wreckage was freed.
The crewmembers had survived a crash and enemy forces. Now they faced another challenge: Finding their way out through 14-foot-tall grass. "It's like being lost in a cornfield. We didn't know where we were," he said.
They were eventually directed to safety by another serviceman, Tony Catalina (EM 70-71), who was aboard another helicopter on the mission. "I owe my life to him," Dalferro said.
When they returned to base, Dalferro's superiors put recommendations in for the men to be rewarded. The award is usually given to the recipient within 30 to 60 days after the incident occurs.
"Ten years ago, I was at the (Vietnam Veterans Memorial) wall and I told another vet that I was supposed to receive an award for a rescue mission in Laos and he said, 'You'll never get it because you weren't supposed to be in Laos and the government will never admit that we were there because it took place outside of Vietnam.
SFC Melvin Tenner of the U.S. Army Military Awards Branch said he cannot confirm or deny Dalferro's suspicions of a gag order but there are other factors that could have contributed to the lateness of the award.
"During wartime, a lot of superiors were telling veterans that they were going to get awards and nothing was ever filed or the paperwork got lost or was never completed," Tenner said.
Before 1996, veterans had two years after an incident to apply for or receive an award, Tenner said. The 1996 National Defense Authorization Act amended that rule, which is how Dalferro and the other veterans are able to get their overdue awards.
"Congress felt that the veterans needed a break," he said.
Tenner processed the paperwork and submitted it to a committee that made the decision.
But the drive to get Dalferro his due was started by his 25-year-old son John Dalferro, a 2LT in the U.S. Army. During a phone conversation in March, Dalferro reminded his son that the 28th anniversary of the Laos rescue was approaching.
John made a few phone calls to several Army departments. A few weeks later, a certificate and medal were in the mail.
The younger Dalferro believed it was something he had to do.
"I knew how much it meant to him. I've heard a lot of the stories and seen all of the pictures of when he was in Vietnam. It's not the fact that he didn't get the recognition for what they did but especially Catalina (not receiving recognition)," John said.
Catalina received The Distinguished Flying Cross, the most prestigious air medal, right before he died. (February 1999)
"I was pretty happy to see after this many years, everyone got what they deserved.especially Tony Catalina," said Dalferro.
The award, when presented in a timely fashion, is usually given to the recipient by high-ranking officers and among the recipient's peers. But because it lagged 28 years, Dalferro had to settle for a modest post office worker.
Dalferro's children planned a surprise presentation to make up for the lost pageantry.
His daughter, Gina, 21, was commissioned Mat 14 as a 2LT in the U.S. Army by graduating from Xavier University's Reserve Officer Training Corps program. During that ceremony, Gina and John borrowed some ROTC time to present their father with the medal and certificate before many family members and friends.
"He was really happy, emotional and overjoyed. He had no idea," John said. "He said it was his 15 minutes of fame."
"It was excellent, I can't even express it in words. It was really special," Gina said. "It was an honor for my brother and I to present him with his award because both of us are in the military and we know the hard work and dedication it takes to receive these sorts of awards."
Being presented with the award by his children changed Dalferro's whole perspective on receiving an award 28 years late.
"I was pleasantly surprised. It was well worth the wait of 28 years so my children could present me with the award," he said. "It meant a lot more to me that my kids presented it to me than the company commander.
This is a story about a big money caper that occurred soon after the Big Red One arrived in country.
During the arrival and set up of the Big Red One, almost all combat assaults were halted so that the incountry assets could be used to support them and the Cav. Base camps needed to be erected at various "secure" sites. While this was going on, there was a flurry of action as the grunts prepared their home turf. It was not uncommon to have a load of nails or plumbing supplies as your major load. All we were worried about was the weight, not the number of empty seats.
On this particular day, a young lieutenant of the BRO asked for a ride to three base camps - Cu Chi, Song Bei and Bear Cat. I asked if he had a big load because I was already loaded down with several kegs of nails for Cu Chi. His reply was that he had just a small bag and that he would be returning to the Plantation with me if I could wait about ten minutes at each stop. It didn't matter to me, as I was support for the entire day.
We first went to Cu Chi in the Iron Triangle. After we unloaded, the LT got back on board and said that his business was complete. We then took off for Bear Cat because Song Bei had been deleted from the itinerary. The straight line from Cu Chi to Bear Cat was across some of the most difficult jungle in the Bien Hoa area. It was all virgin triple canopy with no place for an emergency landing. Also, the area was the end of the Iron Triangle and the beginning of War Zone C - not a good place for an afternoon stroll or picnic.
When we arrived at Bear Cat, I heard my crew chief literally yelling at the LT and calling him all sorts of names. This was not my regular crew chief so I didn't know what to expect or what was going on. I could hear the CC over the noise of the engine and blades and NOT over the headset. When I finally got the CC settled down he gave the following account. About half way between Cu Chi and Bear Cat we had experienced a little turbulence - not bad but common for the dry season over the jungle. The aircraft had yawed a little and when it did, the bag that the LT was carrying blew out the door. He was sitting on the end seat next to the CC and had thrown the bag under the seat. The bag was FULL OF MONEY AND POSTAL NOTES! The LT was from the base post office and was on the circuit that day to exchange green and pay checks for money orders so the GI's could send their money home to their families. He had exchanged about twenty thousand dollars at Cu Chi for money orders and was to do the rest at Bear Cat. When the bag flew out the door, the CC told the LT that his bag flew out. The LT just smiled and shrugged his shoulders as if nothing was wrong. He didn't tell the CC what was in the bag until we landed at Bear Cat.
Back to the CC and the story. The CC was literally screaming at the poor guy. Then the LT had the audacity to ask me if we could go back over this part of the jungle and hover around the trees and look for a GREEN MONEY BAG IN GREEN TRIPLE CANOPY JUNGLE. I could not believe my ears. This idiot had lost all of that money out of the helicopter and then wanted to go back and try to find it.
I told the LT as we arrived at the Plantation that he had to report the loss. Before I could get back to Bien Hoa and secure the aircraft, the MP's had been alerted and were waiting for me to hover in to the Snake Pit. They immediately took the crew into protective custody and put an armed guard on the aircraft. We were required to give statements to the Spooks that were beginning to arrive. The aircraft was literally torn down worse than any inspection maintenance was capable of giving because the investigators thought that this was a plot with the LT and the crew in it together to steal the money.
Nothing ever came of the incident as far as my crew was concerned. I have no idea as to what happened to the LT. The only thing that Lew Henderson (Rattler 6) got angry about (and rightly so) was that he had an operational aircraft sitting in the Snake Pit and it could not be scheduled until the investigation was completed.
The PS to this whole story was that several years after this incident (as reported by Stars and Stripes) a tunnel rat working in the vicinity of the lost bag, found a payroll bag in a tunnel with about $20,000 in it. Evidently, it had been there several years because the money was beginning to deteriorate as well as the bag. Same bag - same money? We'll never know.
While the whole company was TDY to Vung Tau for the month of January 1965, we had lots of screwy missions. One particular mission comes to mind. We were supporting an ARVN unit that had been inserted near the beach north and east of Vung Tau. The LZ was cold but there had been reports of NVA in the area. The ARVN were cooling their heels and enjoying the beach area. We were tasked to resupply food and ammo. One of the Rattlers was loaded with jugs of nuc mam - the fermented fish sauce. One of the bottles broke and the juice spread all over the interior of the aircraft. By the time the aircraft returned to Vung Tau, it stank so badly that no one could get near it. It could not be flown this way. The guys tried hosing it down but to no avail. Finally, Billy Taylor (OF 64-65) our maintenance officer, decided that the entire aircraft would have to be taken apart - all of the floor panels etc and each item washed, no scrubbed, and then reassembled. Believe it or not the crew chief, gunner and maintenance were down into the formers and sub flooring with toothbrushes to try and get rid of the smell. It took the combined efforts of several men of the platoon and maintenance about two and a half days to get the bird flyable again. Incidentally, several of the enterprising young studs were using their protective masks while working in some of the more confined areas.
The date was 17 May 69. I had been with the company for 29 months and only had 10 or 12 days left before DEROS. I was layed back doing nothing when someone grabbed me about 7:30 am and said I had a mission to fly. The aircraft was a mini-gun ship, but not my ship. The A/C was Al Adamitis but the peter pilot and gunner are lost to me. I do remember that the gunner was brand new though.
We staged out of LZ Baldy and were headed to Antenna Valley as fire team lead. About ½ mile out, we took fire. Low rotor rpm warning screaming in my ear, doing a hundred knots about two feet off the ground and a hill coming up real fast. All of a sudden all hell breaks loose. Debris flying all over the place, even cowling loose and flopping around and the dust was unbelievable. And then the mud. "God love the mud."
When I came to concerning what was happening around me I thought, "So this is what it's like to burn to death". I could still hear the engine running free, but couldn't see because of all the fuel and dirt in my eyes. I was pinned to the ground by the weight of the ship. Had it not been for the deep mud in the paddy I would have been dead.
The next thing I remember is this black dude, a medic, just seemed to materialize over me saying, "You Firebirds have to quit this stuff man, you are the second one I have had to shoot up this week and I don't like helicopters no way, always crashing and catching fire." The only part of my body he could get to was my right arm. I was so scared I didn't even feel the shot of morphine he gave me. It was a full ¼ grain dose and all I wanted was out from under this pile of junk.
It was a good 45 minutes before a tank retriever made it to the crash site and I was feeling no effect of the morphine. I kept screaming, "Put out the fire," as the hot oil ran on my left arm and shoulder. All the black medic could say was, "I can't see your left arm man, what you want me to do?" Finally the tank retriever had spooled off enough line to hook up to the helicopter. When they lifted the helicopter off me, it hurt so bad it felt good.
By now, I was raising so much hell in the LZ, my black medic friend thought I was hurting more, so he gave me another full ¼ grain hit of morphine. This time the first shot kicked in on top of the second one. I could have flown out of there without a helicopter. About this time things started happening real fast. You see they cut off all my clothes so they had nothing to pin the morphine serrate to, which meant to another medic that I was good for another shot. In came the dustoff ship and I was loaded aboard. The pilot then took us to eight or nine thousand feet where it was about 55 degrees. I was laying there buck naked and shaking like a leaf. I was pointing to them to close the cargo door and the flight medic thought I was hurting more, so he hit me with another ¼ grain of morphine. Now the cold isn't bothering me because I went comatose. I was out like a light.
The next thing I was aware of, I was all bandaged up in the Da Nang hospital. Everything there was pretty uneventful except for a rocket attack about 2:00 am. The next morning started pretty early. Getting a planeload of wounded G.I.s ready for evac is pretty tough.
Things were OK on the flight to Japan except six G.I.s died on the way. This crash of mine happened right in the middle of the events of Hamburger Hill. Rumor control had it that a unit of G.I.s were going up the hill and were caught in an enemy crossfire and only three men lived. We landed OK in Japan and I received some real butt kicking Demerol just about 30 minutes out. I was high as a Chinese kite. They took us in on stretchers and set them on the floor in this big building and beside each stretcher was a big stainless steel water pitcher and a glass.
This doctor was roaming from patient to patient and he seemed mad at the world because his day was ruined by a planeload of wounded G.I.s. He finally got to me and he read the tag around my neck. Right away he started tearing at the big bandage on my arm. I said to him, "Careful Doc, that arm is burned!" He answered in a real smart aleck tone of voice that the tag doesn't say anything about burns, and he just kept on tearing at the bandage. About that time he ripped off a piece of bandage and my skin came off with it. I yelled and grabbed that big heavy water pitcher and hit that S.O.B. right between the running lights just as hard as I could. The blood flew in every direction, his eyes rolled back and he wilted to the floor.
Just before I passed out from the pain I remembered thinking, "I killed the S.O.B.good! That was the first time I had ever used a water pitcher for a weapon, but it felt pretty good and the balance was just right. I never did see that doctor after that and my water was always served up to me without them ever leaving the water pitcher behind.
Things were pretty cool after that until I got to San Francisco. I was flown from Travis AFB to Presido San Francisco Letterman General Hospital in a rickety old Marine H-34 helicopter. This was undoubtedly the most hair-raising experience I have ever had in my life. This helicopter was a death trap and should have been pulled from the military inventory 10 years earlier. It would cough, belch and vibrate all over the place and was running on about half of its available cylinders. These dumb marine pilots thought how lovely. Little did they know they were on the verge of death! Had I not been strapped to the stretcher, I would have gladly kissed the ground when we landed.
At Letterman, things were for the most part pretty standard for an army hospital. They would come around in the morning about 5:00 am and give you all your shots, which screwed you up all over again after spending the night being doped up and sleeping like a rat. We would have to endure something called "grand rounds". This is when all the non-combatant doctors came around to goof on all the screwed up dudes from the war.
One morning I was awakened for this grand round b.s. with no coffee, not even time to make myself presentable. This chief doctor in his highly starched and pressed lab coat came prancing into my room with four non-combatant civilian doctors and five nurses. The nurses had on enough perfume to make you puke. Everyone was carrying clipboards to write down nothing at all. They just carried them as a status symbol. Well, this head doctor was a one star general and I think his name was Train. I was already hot about the way this doctor entered my room. He went on about this, that and the other, and then he messed up! He said, "We intend to amputate the extremity and install an appliance". I said, "What did you say you S.O.B.?" He said, "Don't talk to me that way young trooper, I'll have you busted!" I said (louder), "What did you say you S.O.B.?" It just so happened, not five minutes prior to the doctor's grand entry, you guessed it, a big old stainless steel water pitcher full of ice water was delivered to my room. I slowly went for the pitcher, sitting on a stand just below eye level, with my right hand. I said, "Screw you and this hospital you butt hole", hoping to lure the general in closer. It worked! The stupid general got within a foot of my face and started to say something when I let him have it! Bam, right across the bridge of the nose and right between the eyes. Blood flew everywhere and he sank to his knees. Then I came across my body, "shooting in the dark" and scored a direct hit to the back of the head driving his face and mouth into the bed bars. This cat was screwed up in a major way.
The four civilian doctors saw it coming and hauled butt for the door. Two of the nurses hit the door at the same time and wedged themselves for several seconds leaving the other three to push and shove, making things even worse. All the screaming and hell raising like you never heard before. Finally one nurse broke free and then they all split. I was laughing my butt off. It reminded me of the Keystone Cops. About two minutes had gone by when these two medics showed up on their hands and knees and dragged the general out of my room by his legs. One of the medics said, "Good shot, I never did like this S.O.B.!" The other medic said, "I bet the butthead had it coming man because you can't be messin' with dudes like Bruce or you'll be walking away with you head in your hands!"
After about seven months of my complaining about pain in my left forearm the doctors took fresh x-rays and discovered the remains of a bullet lodged in my forearm. The metal jacket had separated from the armor-piercing slug and it had severed my radial nerve before exiting my arm. This nerve had reattached and healed itself at which point I slowly regained use of my left hand. They removed the armor-piercing slug and this greatly relieved my discomfort.
After 16 months at Letterman, the Army up and discharged me out of the blue. I was given a 30% disability from the VA. About 26 or 27 months later, I went back to the VA because of the pain in my upper left arm. When the doctor examined me he discovered that the humerus bone was still broken and calcium had built up around the break holding everything together. They went back in and inserted four screws and a plate. I finally got some relief, again!
I developed back pain as a result of the crash, which the VA finally recognized as service connected in 1979 at which point my VA rating was increased to 40% and in 1986 it went to 70%.
You know, as I look back over the years, I have mellowed quite a bit. My left arm is in great shape. I often think about the other guys that lost limbs just because some S.O.B. doctor didn't take the time to see him over the rough spots in life. I spent a day or two in Da Nang, about five days in Japan and over sixteen months in Letterman Hospital. It took four years for my left arm to heal, but at least I had one to heal with.
All The Good Things
submitted by Sandy Boyd (Seabolt's sister)
He was in the first third grade class I taught at Saint Mary's School in Morris, MN. All 34 of my students were dear to me, but Mark Eklund was one in a million. Very neat in appearance, but had that happy-to-be-alive attitude that made even his occasional mischievousness delightful.
Mark talked incessantly. I had to remind him again and again that talking without permission was not acceptable. What impressed me so much, though, was his sincere response every time I had to correct him for misbehaving - "Thank you for correcting me, Sister!" I didn't know what to make of it at first, but before long I became accustomed to hearing it many times a day.
One morning my patience was growing thin when Mark talked once too often, and then I made a novice-teacher's mistake. I looked at him and said, "If you say one more word, I am going to tape your mouth shut!" It wasn't ten seconds later when Chuck blurted out, "Mark is talking again." I hadn't asked any of the students to help me watch Mark, but since I had stated the punishment in front of the class, I had to act on it.
I remember the scene as if it had occurred this morning. I walked to my desk, very deliberately opened my drawer and took out a roll of masking tape. Without saying a word, I proceeded to Mark's desk, tore off two pieces of tape and made a big X with them over his mouth. I then returned to the front of the room. As I glanced at Mark to see how he was doing he winked at me. That did it! I started laughing. The class cheered as I walked back to Mark's desk, removed the tape and shrugged my shoulders. His first words were, "Thank you for correcting me, Sister."
At the end of the year I was asked to teach junior-high math. The years flew by, and before I knew it Mark was in my classroom again. He was more handsome than ever and just as polite. Since he had to listen carefully to my instructions in the "new math," he did not talk as much in ninth grade as he had in the third.
One Friday, things just didn't feel right. We had worked hard on a new concept all week, and I sensed that the students were frowning, frustrated with themselves - and edgy with one another. I had to stop this crankiness before it got out of hand. So I asked them to list the names of the other students in the room on two sheets of paper, leaving a space between each name. Then I told them to think of the nicest thing they could say about each of their classmates and write it down. It took the remainder of the class period to finish the assignment, and as the students left the room, each one handed me the papers. Charlie smiled. Mark said, "Thank you for teaching me, Sister. Have a good weekend."
That Saturday, I wrote down the name of each student on a separate sheet of paper, and I listed what everyone else had said about that individual. On Monday I gave each student his or her list. Before long, the entire class was smiling. "Really?" I heard whispered. "I never knew that meant anything to anyone!" "I didn't know others liked me so much!" No one ever mentioned those papers in class again. I never knew if they discussed them after class or with their parents, but it didn't matter. The exercise had accomplished its purpose. The students were happy with themselves and one another again.
That group of students moved on. Several years later, after I returned from vacation, my parents met me at the airport. As we were driving home, Mother asked me the usual questions about the trip - the weather, my experiences in general. There was a light lull in the conversation. Mother gave Dad a side-ways glance and simply says, "Dad?" My father cleared his throat as he usually did before something important. "The Eklunds called last night," he began. "Really?" I said. "I haven't heard from them in years. I wonder how Mark is." Dad responded quietly. "Mark was killed in Vietnam," he said. "The funeral is tomorrow, and his parents would like it if you could attend."
To this day I can still point to the exact spot on I-494 where Dad told me about Mark. I had never seen a serviceman in a military coffin before. Mark looked so handsome, so mature. All I could think at that moment was, Mark, I would give all the masking tape in the world if only you would talk to me. The church was packed with Mark's friends. Chuck's sister sang "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Why did it have to rain on the day of the funeral? It was difficult enough at the graveside. The pastor said the usual prayers, and the bugler played taps. One by one those who loved Mark took a last walk by the coffin and sprinkled it with holy water. I was the last one to bless the coffin.
As I stood there, one of the soldiers who had acted as pallbearer came up to me. "Were you Mark's math teacher?" he asked. I nodded as I continued to stare at the coffin. "Mark talked about you a lot," he said. After the funeral, most of Mark's former classmates headed to Chucks farmhouse for lunch. Mark's mother and father were there, obviously waiting for me. "We want to show you something," his father said, taking a wallet out of his pocket. "They found this on Mark when he was killed. We thought you might recognize it."
Opening the billfold, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped, folded and refolded many times. I knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which I had listed all the good things each of Mark's classmates had said about him. "Thank you so much for doing that," Mark's mother said. "As you can see, Mark treasured it." Mark's classmates started to gather around us. Charlie smiled rather sheepishly and said, "I still have my list. It's in the top drawer of my desk at home." Chuck's wife said, "Chuck asked me to put this in our wedding album." "I have mine too," Marilyn said. "It's in my diary." Then Vicki, another classmate, reached into her pocketbook, took out her wallet and showed her worn and frazzled list to the group. "I carry this with me at all times," Vicki said without batting an eyelash. "I think we all saved our lists." That's when I finally sat down and cried. I cried for Mark and for all his friends who would never see him again. Written by: Sister Helen P. Mrosia. (PFC Mark James Eklund, United States Army, KIA 06 August 1971