A veteran – whether active duty, retired, national guard or reserve – is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to “The United States of America,” for an amount of “up to and including my life.”


In our last newsletter notice was given in this space that non-dues paying members would no longer the printed newsletter in the mail.  This notice has caused a surge in memberships that are greatly appreciated. As always the newsletter is posted on our website on the day of its mailing.

Our address directory that was mailed in August was incorrectly put together by our printer.  Because of this error, this newsletter is being printed free of charge.  We are sorry for your inconvenience and have assurance that it will not happen again.

Tom Griffith has brought to our attention that famed war correspondent Joe Galloway has recently been awarded the “Americanism” Award by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.  In our opinion they picked a good’un!

Under the TAPS section below, does anyone remember Carter K. Becker?  He was in flight class 70-35 and in our company in 70-71 according to records of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilot’s Association.

Will Fortenberry and Larry Lackey had both attended the New Orleans Reunion.  Sarge Lackey had never missed a reunion.

The Social Security Administration has announced a 1.7% increase in benefits for 2013.  The VA disability usually mirrors those numbers which would amount to these new numbers for a married veteran: 10% - $129, 20% - $255, 30% - $442, 40% - $632, 50% - $899, 60% - $1121, 70% - $1403, 80% - $1629, 90% - $1830 and 100% - $2974.

Being sold out of Rattlers and Firebirds seems to have done wonders for the price.  I recently entered Ron Seabolt on and was amazed to find two new copies of the book offered for $117.78 and $121.46.  Not to be out done, Chuck Carlock looked up his book, Firebirds, and found an asking price of $149.16 for a new hardback copy.

Being a nice guy, Carlock said he will make you a hellva deal on Firebirds.  $15 including the autograph!

Along this same vein of wonders, I had a recent call from Fred Biermann (EM 65) who told of a friend of his who was attending a reunion of “Air America” personnel in Las Vegas and struck up a conversation with a guy who claimed to have been in our company prior to working for Air America.  The guy gave him his card.  It meant nothing to this guy but when he showed it to Fred, Fred said, “I know that guy!”  The name on the card was ….Ron Seabolt, who has not been to Vegas since our 2000 reunion.  I suppose this was a wannabe impersonating a former CIA employee impersonating a tall country boy from Texas.

Our thanks to Gary Arne (WO 70-71) for mailing the Association a copy of John Brennan’s book Vietnam War Helicopter Art.  I saw three separate references to our unit, all of which had been the result of the art work of Tony Jones (EM 69-70).  A photo of Tony and his nose art Aquarius and the nose of the Snakedoctor, which we have among our artifacts, appear in the book plus the sign outside our Operations shop.

We are still attempting to find a suitable hotel that will meet our requirements for the 2014 Reunion in the Dallas / Ft. Worth area.  It should be near DFW airport as it was in 1995.  Hopefully it will be without the softball sized hail that hit this area on the Friday night of the reunion.  Every year on Cinco de Mayo (5th of May) the local weathermen usually make reference to that storm.  We were forced to leave our memorabilia room because of the glass exterior wall and a slew of our guys were left boring holes in the sky until the airport opened back up.

When a reunion contract is approved it will be posted on our website immediately.


By Hal Salem Call Sign “Pedro 74”

On June 6, 1966, I was flying an Air Force HH-43 “Husky” and was shot down.  A Firebird gunship came in and picked me up.  The “Gunslingers” from the 128th AHC were also involved and actually have photos of the downed Husky on their website.

The Firebird that picked me up had to bounce about five times to get airborne.  If you remember this incident I would very much like to talk with you about this.

Please contact Ron Seabolt if you can help on this.


The Association has learned of the following deaths since our last newsletter:



By Ron Seabolt

SSG Larry Lackey 1932-2012
SSG Larry Lackey 1932-2012

It is Thursday afternoon October 4th in Northeast Texas.  Our hot summer weather has finally ended.  The phone rings.  It’s John Lynch calling from South Dakota.  John says, “Sarge is dying, I’m going to Knoxville tomorrow.”  I tell him, “I’ll get right back to you!”

I say to Kay, “I’ve gotta go to Knoxville tomorrow.  Sarge is dying and we cannot have Lynch there by himself.”

The automatic next call is to Wilkie Boyd, my brother-in-law.  “What do you have on your schedule for the next few days,” I ask him.  “Nothing that can’t be changed, why?”  “I have to go to Knoxville tomorrow, Sarge is dying.”  “I’m ready when you are,” he says.  I knew I could count on the guy I started 1st grade with in Rockwall, Texas in 1952.

I call George Jackson, our former 1st platoon leader in ’66-’67.  “Sarge is dying,” I say.  “Lynch and I will be there tomorrow.”  George says I’ll see if I can come also.” George returns my call saying he will leave for Knoxville tomorrow also.  He will be the first one of Sarge’s “boys” there with him because he’s coming from the Ft. Rucker area.

I call Larry Smith in Mississippi and David O’Quinn in Florida with the news.  Smitty can be there Saturday. David cannot be there until next week.  Smitty contacts Don Profit in Kentucky with the news.  He will be there late Saturday.

Thus set in motion, Sarge’s “boys” are coming to be with him.

This story begins at Bien Hoa in early December 1966 when Staff Sargent Larry Lackey became my Platoon Sargent in the 1st platoon of the Rattlers.  I had only been crewing since the 23rd of November so Sarge and I are really starting together.  Major George Jackson was also our recently arrived Platoon Leader.  Little did I realize how much these two men would be a part of my life for the next 46 years.  There could be no way possible for the 1st platoon to have two finer Army professionals in charge of us 18 and 19 year old crew chiefs and gunners.  Sarge became like a “Mother Hen” to us chicks.  Major Jackson had the rank as a field grade officer to keep anybody from messin’ with us.  We had the best of both worlds.

Now our beloved Sarge was dying.  It took me several years to get comfortable calling Major Jackson “George”.  I (we) never called Lackey anything but Sarge and that includes George Jackson.

When we started having reunions in 1993, I did not recognize my feelings for Sarge as love.  I knew there was respect and admiration for the job he did, but grown men telling their Platoon Sargent that they love them, it just isn’t done.  One day several years later after another friend had died it dawned on me that I had these feeling and that they should be verbalized.  Recently Sarge had told me he remembered at the Denver reunion in 2008 that just before the banquet was to begin I came to where he was sitting and knelt down beside him and told him I loved him.  Sarge said he would never forget that.

We were now at Sarge’s bedside at the University of Tennessee Medical Center Critical Care Unit in Knoxville.  Sarge has one niece, Bonnie Daniel, who has arrived from California.  We can readily see her affection for him also.  Most of our wives have called and also told Sarge on speaker phone of their love for him.  Smitty’s wife Brenda, who was there, said, “Sarge even sent me a dozen roses one time.”  I tell them he did the same for Kay after finding out about her cancer (which is now cured we hope).

With the oxygen mask on Sarge is very difficult to understand.  The group may catch three words out of ten and piece together what he is saying.  We retell all the war stories and can tell that Sarge enjoys them too.  With Bonnie there, we can say we are telling them for her benefit, but really it is our own method of remembering when all of us were young and strong and we would live forever.

When I have an opportunity, I ask Sarge where he is with his God.  He says, “Nowhere.”  I ask him if it would be ok if I told him how people can be saved from their sins by just asking Jesus to come into their heart.  “Sarge, would you like to do that?’ I ask.  When he nods and says yes, I pray for him as my own religion suggests.

On Saturday Bonnie is faced with the decision to remove life support.  There is no recovery from the many things wrong with Sarge.  He is on dialysis for kidney failure.  Oxygen is being forced into his lungs.  His blood pressure is being maintained only by meds.  He has terrible circulation problems.  His 80 year old body is worn out.  Sarge has given consent for all medical decisions to be made by Bonnie.  She very much wants our input also.  We five are in agreement that with no hope for improvement the time has come.  We designate only one person, John Lynch, to speak for us.  With Bonnie and John both on board with the decision, the doctors and nurses begin the back down of life support while increasing pain relief on Sunday afternoon.  Sarge is moved to another floor with more room for all of us to be with him.  As often happens in these cases, Sarge seems to rally back from the brink of death.  He hangs on throughout Monday, even eating a popcycle. On Tuesday morning shortly before 2 am he passes away.

Our last mission for Sarge has been completed.  His boys were there for him.  No more pain.  Rest in Peace Sarge!

Received From Larry Smith

We lost a good friend this week. Actually he was more than a friend. In some ways I think Sarge knew me better than my on dad. He and I shared a room together from the 1st Dallas reunion on and I knew I was in trouble. The 1st morning he hollered at me, “Smitty are you going to sleep all day?” I looked at the clock and told him, “Sarge its 0450!”  “Get your butt out of bed, I got the coffee done.” I told him we were not in Vietnam anymore. He said that’s no excuse and so it was at every reunion. Sarge was a man that never changed and did not want to. I don’t know how many times we sat drinking coffee and he would tell me how he loved his boys. That’s what he called those that served under him in the 1st plt and those he adopted at the reunions. He lived from one reunion to the next. I know my life is better for knowing him. R.I.P. Sarge. We love you...Smitty

Posted by Don Lynam (OF 1970-71)

Earlier this week I got an e-mail informing me of the passing of my Crew Chief, Will Fortenberry on August 30th. I do not have any details of his passing. Will attended the first two days of our last reunion. My wife and I enjoyed talking with him and meeting his two children. I'll always remember Will as a young man with flaming red hair and a warm southern drawl that reminded me of our home state, Louisiana. I was lucky to have flown with him and was always impressed on how well he maintained his aircraft. It was a source of pride with him. Several months ago I was watching a Viet Nam war history program on the History Channel and kept seeing flight scenes that looked very familiar. I finally realized that I was looking at film shot from Will’s Super-8 camera he carried on a lot of our missions. At the end of the program Will's name was in the credits.

I have thought of Will often over the years and I will miss him. Please keep him and his family in your prayers.

A Tribute To 1st Sargent Harris (EM 70-71) from a note left on our website to his granddaughter on our website


I served with your father in the 71st AHC in 1971.  I was a door gunner in our company.  I was only 18 when I got to Vietnam.  They had sent me early by mistake.  The first time I met 1SGT Harris was in a formation when he looked at me and said, “Son, you can’t be old enough to be here, come with me.”

He took me to the Commanding Officer and we all went to headquarters to check it out.  They sat me on a bench and went in to talk to someone inside.  I sat there thinking, “Man I am going home!”  In a little while they came out and said I was staying because it was only one month until my 19th birthday.  My heart just sank.  Damn, I thought I was out of there.  The CO made me his jeep driver just to keep an eye on me and 1SGT Harris became my friend.  Harry was all Army.  He could really be hard on you if you messed up.  He once made me burn shit for three days because I got drunk and missed a flight one morning.

He was still my friend though.  I and many others would go to Harry’s hooch at night and talk to him about our problems.  The thing I remember about Harry was that he was a good listener.  Sometimes when you are a teenager in a war zone you just needed someone to listen.  Harry did that and I believe he really cared about the boys in his command.  I’ve tried to listen to my kids and grandkids the way Harry listened to me.

As you can tell, Harry made a big impact on my life and I believe I am a better man for knowing 1SGT Harris.  I hope his grandkids know what a good man he was.  They should be very proud of him.  I have wanted to tell you and your mother this for over 35 years, but I always tried not to think about Vietnam too much.  I am glad I wrote you this note.  It feels like a house has been lifted off my shoulders.

May God bless you and yours.  I know he has Harry.  SP/4 Steve Hopkins.  71st AHC


A few years back one of Ron Seabolt’s gunners called one day.  I could tell he just needed someone to talk to.  This once vibrant man had now became disabled as a result from one too many helicopter crashes and work in law enforcement.  To make matters worse, his wife was also bed ridden with back ailments.  A large portion of his fixed income was going to pay on insurance policies that were imperative for his wife’s condition.  His finances were just shot all to hell!

Knowing of several very close calls we had been through together before he joined the Firebirds and was wounded, I suggested he file for PTSD with the VA.  “I hate those sons of bitches” was his reply.  I told him I would write a letter for him detailing some missions we flew together and I would get others to do the same if he would just go “play the game” and put up with all the BS that non-combat bureaucrats will throw at you.  Just do not quit once you start and do not blow up on those people.

The letters were written and forwarded to my gunner and thus began his trial of the VA mantra, “delay, deny and hope that you die.”

Months and months passed until one day I got a call from this guy.  He was beside himself with joy because the VA had rated him at 70% for his PTSD.  He finally felt validated for all the nightmares and other unseen wounds he had endured plus he had a sizeable amount of back pay because the PTSD claim paid him back to his filing date.

I was feeling pretty good that we had been able to help him but knew this fight was not over.  “Go file a protest,” I told him.  “If they gave you 70% to start with, you should have gotten 100%.”  Another long drawn out process began.

About a month after we returned from the New Orleans Reunion I received a call from my old gunner.  He said, “I had to call you first.  They rated me at 100% due to unemployability!”  Because this went back to his original filing date he had received a total amount of back pay in excess of $60,000.  His future was secured because of this.  Unfortunately his wife did not live to see this happen.

We just never know how much we can help our guys until we try.  I admonish you, if you write a supporting letter for someone, just tell the truth and only the truth.  Our combat time speaks for itself.

We have recently been made aware of the contaminated water supply at the Marine base at Camp Lejeune from 1 January 1957 to 31 December 1987.  If you or someone you know lived on Camp Lejeune for at least 30 days during this 30 year period there is a long list of illnesses associated with this problem. I urge you to go look up this site for more information: Camp Lejeune Water Supplies – Public Health.


For Unto Us A Child is Born (Isaiah 9:6)

Kay SeaboltKay Seabolt

As we celebrate this Christmas season, I want to personally thank all of you for your prayers, cards, and flowers received during my cancer treatment and recovery.  I felt the prayers, and received comfort and strength when I most needed it. My treatment is complete and my last scans were clear! I am so thankful.

It has been an interesting year for us, and one I am anxious to get behind me. I miss my hair terribly.  On the positive side the hair maintenance is minimal.  I have gone from bald to my current French poodle look. I say poodle because it is a nicer way of saying I look like Obama.  Hats are my new favorite thing.

On March 30th we had to put our sweet yellow lab, Huey, down.  It broke our hearts, but he was gravely ill and it was time.  This was right before my cancer diagnosis so it was depressing around our house for a while.  Ron especially took Huey’s loss hard.  He was the best dog we have ever owned.  I promised Ron that after my cancer treatments were over and I got my strength back that we could get another dog.  Three weeks ago we brought home an adorable yellow lab puppy we named “Jackson.” I just thought I had my strength back.  I forgot how hard it is to raise a new puppy.  (It may kill me yet.)  Ladies, you can identify with this…husband wants  a puppy; wife wants  a rescue dog who has already gone through the house-breaking, chewing, digging, destroying everything stage.  Wife loses…puppy it is.  Husband plays with puppy; wife cleans up after puppy and does all the training.  Wife is exhausted!  However, he is the cutest puppy ever.

We welcomed a new son-in-law to our family in November.  Our daughter Dawn married James Mathis in Las Vegas. The legal ceremony was followed by a fun one by none other than Elvis Presley!  We also welcome his two children Lane and Abby, ages 15 and 12, into the family. We are looking forward to having both daughters and their families with us this Christmas.  Grandma can’t wait.

We wish you the gift of faith, the blessing of hope and peace of His love at Christmas and always.

Subject: "We Were Soldiers Once and Young by Moore and Galloway”

"Many of our countrymen came to hate the war we fought. Those who hated it the most---the professionally sensitive---were not, in the end, sensitive enough to differentiate between the war and the soldiers who had been ordered to fight it. They hated us as well, and we went to ground in the crossfire, as we had learned in the jungles.

In time our battles were forgotten, our sacrifices discounted and both our sanity and our suitability for life in polite progressive American society were publicly questioned. Our young-old faces, chiseled and gaunt from the fever and the heat and the sleepless nights, now stare back at us, lost and damned strangers, frozen in yellowing snapshots packed away in cardboard boxes with our medals and ribbons.

We rebuilt our lives, found jobs or professions, married, raised families and waited patiently for America to come to its senses. As the years passed we searched each other out and found that the half-remembered pride of service was shared by those who had shared everything else with us. With them, and only with them, could we talk about what had really happened over there---what we had seen, what we had done, what we had survived.

We knew what Vietnam had been like, and how we looked and acted and talked and smelled. No one in America did. Hollywood got it wrong every damned time, whetting twisted political knives on the bones of our dead brothers.

So once, just this once, this is how it all began, what it was really like, what it meant to us and what we meant to each other. It was no movie. When it was over the dead did not get up and dust themselves off and walk away. The wounded did not wash away the red and go on with life unhurt. Those who were, miraculously, unscratched were by no means untouched. Not one of us left Vietnam the same young man he was when he arrived."


Sent to us by Doug Lane (and many others)

Steinbeck in Vietnam: Dispatches from the War Steinbeck in Vietnam:
Dispatches from the War

Only a handful of people have won both the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes in literature. One of them was iconic American novelist John Steinbeck. His incredible body of work stretched from Tortilla Flat to Of Mice and Men, from Grapes of Wrath to Cannery Row to East of Eden. He had a gift for the language that few, before or since have possessed. Not widely known is the fact that in 1966-67, a year before his death, Steinbeck went to Vietnam at the request of his friend Harry F. Guggenheim, publisher of Newsday to do a series of reports on the war. The reports took the form of letters to his dear friend Alicia Patterson, Newsday's first editor and publisher. Those letters have been published in a book by Thomas E. Barden, Vietnam veteran and professor of English at the University of Toledo. The book is entitled, “Steinbeck on Vietnam: Dispatches From The War.” I found the following passages relevant to our experience in Vietnam and his ability to weave a vision is just magical.

On January 7, 1967, Steinbeck was in Pleiku, flying with Shamrock Flight, D Troop, 10th Cavalry: He writes, “...We are to move to the Huey of Major James Patrick Thomas of whom it is said that he has changed the classic sophist's question to how many choppers could Thomas sit on the point of a pin. Alicia, I wish I could tell you about these pilots. They make me sick with envy. They ride their vehicles the way a man controls a fine, well-trained quarter horse. They weave along stream beds, rise like swallows to clear trees, they turn and twist and dip like swifts in the evening. I watch their hands and feet on the controls, the delicacy of the coordination reminds me of the sure and seeming slow hands of (Pablo) Casals on the cello. They are truly musician’s hands and they play their controls like music and they dance them like ballerinas and they make me jealous because I want so much to do it. Remember your child night dream of perfect flight free and wonderful? It's like that, and sadly I know I never can. My hands are too old and forgetful to take orders from the command center, which speaks of updrafts and side winds, of drift and shift, or ground fire indicated by a tiny puff or flash, or a hit and all these commands must be obeyed by the musician’s hands instantly and automatically. I must take my longing out in admiration and the joy of seeing it. Sorry about that leak of ecstasy, Alicia, but I had to get it out or burst.”


By Terry Weese (EM 69-70)

When I made crewchief in July 1969 I was one proud hillbilly from a holler in West Virginia. I was given 67-17522. WO1 Wally Honda flew with me one day and told me that if I could find a workable clock he may consider flying this one on a regular basis. So naturally, I stole one out of the aircraft next to me. I then took the nose door off and took it to the PX complex and had RATTLER 27 painted on it with a rattlesnake riding a Honda motorcycle. The aircraft wouldn’t win any beauty contests but that nose door was pretty and shiny.  On Black Monday, I saw and heard heroic feats that people back home just saw and heard on television. On 21 Nov 69 I witnessed pure stupidity. We were flying for LZ Center and as luck would have it, I inherited an aircraft commander from the Dolphins for that day (Wally was still looking). We were flying ash and trash and one of the platoons had found a rice cache in a grave yard that was in the middle of some rice paddies. After our first load out (I think we took it to Tam Ky) we went back for the second load and the a/c flew the same route in at the same altitude and landed in the same place. I thought to myself that maybe that’s the way they do it down south, but not here pardner. Everything went well and we took that load to Tam Ky and returned for another one and damned if he didn’t do the same thing again. While we were on final, I took my spare 60 barrel and tapped on the front of the transmission and got John Sylvester’s attention. I told him to keep his eyes open because this fool doesn’t have a clue. We set down so the grunts could load the rice bags but we were too far from the rice paddy dike, and I told the pilot to bring the tail a little left so the grunts wouldn’t have to wade in that nasty water. He picked the aircraft up a little and turned to tail to the left and a RPG hit us just aft of where I was sitting. It hit on my side and went through and exploded coming out the right side of the aircraft. We settled and I looked for John and he had to dive over the passenger seats’ bar to get out because of the fire on his side. I had jumped in that nasty water and opened the a/c’s door and told him “Fire, Fire”. He sat there and I swear he said “What”? I said we’re on fire get out. By that time the peter pilot had scrambled over the center console and was coming out the left side of the aircraft. We ran to the grunts that were in the graveyard and hid behind some tombstones. The grunts were walking around and talking with rounds coming in and they were, in my opinion, very cool and businesslike. The grunts were putting M-79 rounds toward that tree line across one of the dikes. After about 15-20 minutes a LOH came in and picked us up. Now I was flying door gunner on a LOH with my M-16 with one magazine with 18 rounds. I believe he took us to LZ Center and we were picked up by Mike Curtis (?) and taken to Chu Lai. Wally Honda was out spending all of his newfound wealth and I couldn’t find him until the next day. The first words out of his mouth were not, are you okay? Or did anyone get hurt? No. The first words out of his mouth were, “Weese, what about my nose door ?” I hung around the company, flight line area for the next week or so and flew a little on “Smokey” until I was given a brand new H model 68- 16383.

Black Monday is a day that will be our "1st day of the rest of our lives". Every combat assault, every resupply and every ash and trash was judged by this day.

On September 22, 1969 I was the crewchief on 522 with WO Mike Curtis as my aircraft commander and Ron Wessels was my Sunday gunner. I don't know what Wally Honda, my regular a/c was. Probably on the beach trying to find a nurse or donut dolly without hairy legs. But, Mr. Curtis was fine with me because there were some people you could depend on and he was one of the best.

We loaded up the pacs and I remember flying over Center and thinking, Hell they could support us and never get out of their bunkers because it was so close. In fact the only thing they would be missing is popcorn for this show. We were in the first three ship lift and made our approach in hot to the mound of dirt someone called a hill. As soon as we passed Center, Mike said to go hot and we were shooting at any and everything that they could hide in or behind.

We landed lightly and I kept firing from 9 o'clock aft to prevent hitting the grunts getting off and out of the corner of my eye I saw one of them shoot at his own feet. I thought, damn but that's not the way to get out of here. Ron and I cleared up left and right and as we moved forward I just happened to look down and saw a shot up VC. The grunt that got off my ship had stepped on the dude's back that was in a spider hole. So he stitched him and moved on. As we were coming out and turning left, Mike asked me to look back and see if all the aircraft made it out of the LZ. I looked back and told him that one of the aircraft in the LZ was still there and the rotor was slowing down. Mike called this info over the radio.

It was at that time that it felt like someone hit me up beside my head with a baseball bat. The round / shrapnel had entered my right cheek and exited my mouth. I always flew with the mike between my lips so that I could be understood because of air flow. It slapped my mike to the left side of my face and blood started to flow. I brought my mike back and said that I was hit. Mike asked who is hit. Our peter pilot said it wasn't him and Wessel said it wasn't him either. Mike then asked again then who was hit. Hell Mike, there's only one left! My blood was splattering all the way to the windshield.  Mike told Wessel to help me out and keep me from falling out of the aircraft.

We went to Hawk Hill (I think) and was turned over to the aid station. They evaluated me and put me on a dust-off to Danang. At the hospital they determined that I had lost 9 teeth and 14 were damaged to the extent that they would have to be removed. While at the hospital that evening, one of our pilots (I don't remember who he was) was there waiting to be operated on and he asked me for a cigarette and a light. I gave him both and the medical personnel came to get me.

After the dentist finished with me and I was waiting for a lift to Chu Lai, I met a grunt in the waiting room. We began talking and I didn't see anything wrong with him and asked why he was there. He showed me his left hand and the fingers were curled up and he partially opened his hand and he had a bullet wound on the inside of his ring finger right at the area the ring would cover. It looked like someone just scooped out the meat and I was looking at the bone. He told me that after he shot a gook when he got off a helicopter that was in a spider hole, it was so hot in that LZ that some of the grunts would lay on the ground and hold up a hand or foot to get wounded so they would be medevac’d out.

When I returned to the company at Chu Lai the evening of 22 Sept 69 everything seemed surreal. I went to my hooch and all of my cigarettes were gone, c-rats and anything else that was perishable. It seems my buddies heard that I was going back to the states, so they helped me out by storing the items for me. When they heard that I was not dead yet, all of the stuff came back with very abject apologizes. Some of them were real. I then went to the mess hall and I remember the mess sergeant was real hard-core and didn’t take any lip from anybody, me included. I was standing in line to get something to eat and someone mentioned that I had been shot in the face and that I really looked better. The mess sergeant went behind the serving line and told the people in the line that I was now first, his words were “we take special care of our wounded”. He then personally went down the line and as I pointed to what I wanted he would put in on my tray. If I remember correctly, all I took was mashed potatoes and gravy. Later that night, Pappy Smith (our platoon sergeant) was looking for someone to fly the next day and most of our people had pieces missing from them. He asked me if I thought I could fly and I said that I couldn’t think of anywhere else I could go since I was broke. Did Wally mention that he was the payroll officer for that month and the reason I didn’t get paid? The next day was ash and trash, I don’t remember my fellow crewmembers, but, after about 4-5 hours I started to get a little dizzy and bleeding some and the a/c called out if someone that was going to Chu Lai to swap crewchiefs. I believe that Major  James was the one that swapped and took me to Chu Lai. The next morning everything returned to normal.

Received from Wally Honda Concerning Terry Weese

Terry, not to minimize your injuries, I am happy that it was not more severe and that you are still around to talk about it. We will always remember brothers that are no longer with us.

On a lighter note, here is a quick war story for you: Earlier in September (1969), I was appointed a class A agent (Payroll Officer). I thought that Warrant Officers were hired to be pilots and RLOs were hired to be in charge of company business. I thought wrong. Our flying schedule remained the same and we were given extra duty to give us something to do with all of our spare time. I counted and signed out for the $50,000.00 or so in MPCs and set up my shop in the mess hall after or between flying. At the end of the month, mainly because of the causalities on "Black Monday," I had a ton of money left over. I was relieved that the month was over and that I could get rid of all of the cash. I would no longer have to sleep at night with one eye open, barricades against the door, and with my M-16 loaded and ready for action!

When I went to return the unclaimed funds, I had to fill out a bunch of forms. The Army has forms for everything. The form had boxes to check for each individual on why he was not paid. (There was not a box for: "he never showed up," or "I have no f-ing idea.") The people that I definitely knew were KIA, wounded, or R&R or staying in LBJ; I checked the appropriate box. I had no idea where the rest of the people were. I did not find out until a week later that you were relaxing in China Beach with the nurses. If I knew I had to fill out paperwork, I would have done some research ahead of time.

To make a long story short, the next day the CO was called to battalion to explain why the 71st had 20 people on maneuvers. The good news was that I was never given extra duty again. I hope you got paid.


by Colonel Keith Nightingale, US Army (Retired)

Unique to all that served in Vietnam is the UH1D / H 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 set of blades 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 set of rotating blades 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 upper outside legs – an advantage the passengers 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 Ranchhand Agent Orange spray mission and the open reflective water of a river or lake are crisp in sight. The initial anxiety of the flight or mission recede as the constantly moving and soothing motion picture and soundtrack unfolds. In time, one is aware of the mass of UH1s 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 medevacs. 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 are 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 onto 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.

Sometimes we forget...A Poem Worth Reading

(A Soldier Died Today)
by A. Lawrence Vaincourt

He was getting old and paunchy
And his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion,
Telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in
And the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies;
They were heroes, every one.

And 'tho sometimes to his neighbors
His tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly
For they knew where of he spoke.

But we'll hear his tales no longer,
For ol' Bob has passed away,
And the world's a little poorer
For a Soldier died today.

He won't be mourned by many,
Just his children and his wife.
For he lived an ordinary,
Very quiet sort of life.

He held a job and raised a family,
Going quietly on his way;
And the world won't note his passing,
'Tho a Soldier died today.

It's so easy to forget them,
For it is so many times
That our Bobs and Jims and Johnnys,
Went to battle, but we know,

It is not the politicians
With their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom
That our country now enjoys.

When politicians leave this earth,
Their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing,
And proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories
From the time that they were young
But the passing of a Soldier
Goes unnoticed, and unsung.

Is the greatest contribution
To the welfare of our land,
Some jerk who breaks his promise
And cons his fellow man?

Or the ordinary fellow
Who in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his country
And offers up his life?

The politician's stipend
And the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate,
To the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Soldier,
Who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal
And perhaps a pension, small.

Should you find yourself in danger,
With your enemies at hand,
Would you really want some cop-out,
With his ever waffling stand?

Or would you want a Soldier--
His home, his country, his kin,
Just a common Soldier,
Who would fight until the end.

He was just a common Soldier,
And his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us
We may need his like again.

For when countries are in conflict,
We find the Soldier's part
Is to clean up all the troubles
That the politicians start.

If we cannot do him honor
While he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage
At the ending of his days.

Perhaps just a simply headline
In the paper that might say:


received from John Bley (WO 67-68)

  1. It's important to have a woman who helps at home, cooks from time to time, cleans up, and has a job.
  2. It's important to have a woman who can make you laugh.
  3. It's important to have a woman who you can trust, and doesn't lie to you.
  4. It's important to have a woman who is good in bed, and likes to be with you.
  5. It's very, very important that these four women do not know each other or you could end up dead like me.



received from Fred West (EM 67-68)

  1. Begin by standing on a comfortable surface, where you have plenty of room at each side.
  2. With a 5-lb potato bag in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute, and then relax.
  3. Each day you'll find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer. After a couple of weeks, move up to 10-lb potato bags.
  4. Then try 50-lb potato bags and then eventually try to get to where you can lift a 100-lb potato bag in each hand and hold your arms straight for more than a full minute. (I'm at this level)
  5. After you feel confident at that level, put a potato in each bag.

Santa’s helpers: John May, Will Drewry & Bill Krell Vic Bandini, Nate Wilondek & MG Tom Griffith Marsden Sanford, Howard Bahlke & Jim Pfister 2012 Reunion Group from ‘69-‘70-‘71 Doug Womack – Rattler Legend Award Ed Maryliw, Dick Parcher & Mike Hansen Paul Bartlett & John Wiklanski Firebird 93 David Ellingsworth David Hunter & Bob Wade Ron Seabolt & Jim Waddell Chuck Carlock & Rick Webster Attention Getters!