CO. A/501 AVIATION BN., 71st ASSAULT HELICOPTER COMPANY NEWSLETTER
VOL. XXI NUMBER 1 ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER MAY 2015
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.”
“Like the book said, we may be through with the past but the past is not through with us!”
ODDS and ENDS
My appreciation goes out to you who took the time to send in some fresh “war stories”. I guess my basic training story last time did some good! Please do not depend on someone else to do this. If you have something interesting to tell, by all means get it out there. Let your family see it in print. If you can send a photo of yourself with it we will use that also.
You will notice on the order form on the back page a few new items (or re-issue of old items). We again are offering the duel sided challenge coins like we once had depicting the Rattler emblem on one side and the Firebird on the opposite side. One hundred of these were ordered because of popular demand.
We again have the full color bumper sticker in a slightly smaller size. They are 3 x 9 inches and come two to a sheet. These are supposed to be better made to withstand the elements.
We are offering a black silicone Brothers Forever bracelet with the South Vietnamese service ribbon in color between the words Brothers and Forever done in relief bordered with the POW/MIA emblem. These were furnished by Bill DiDio of LZNam.
Your dues status determines if you will receive the address directory that will be mailed out the last week of June. Our dues year runs from July 1st to June 30th of each year. A dues status of 2016 expires on June 30, 2016 and will not receive the directory unless a renewal of $12 per year is received or a life membership is purchased. If you are 66 or older the life membership is $100. Under 66 is $125.00.
The dues status is on the mailing label to the right of your name.
2016 RATTLER – FIREBIRD REUNION
The reunion next year will be held starting on Wednesday, May 18th to Sunday, May 22nd at the Marriott DFW Airport South, 4151 Centreport Boulevard, Ft. Worth, TX 76155.
This is the same location as our 2014 reunion located south of DFW Airport in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. The date for this reunion was chosen by you, the persons who attend by a wide margin over another June date. It is good to move the dates around to accommodate the other events in our attendee’s lives.
IMPORTANT: No hotel reservations can be made before June 18th, eleven months prior to the reunion.
Our room rate has not changed from last time. It is $109 plus the 15% state and local taxes which bring the total to $125.35 per day. This will again include the free breakfast buffet we all enjoyed last year.
CONTACT INFORMATION FOR RESERVATIONS: Call 817-359-4610 for group reservations and tell them you are with the Rattler-Firebird Reunion. Our room block is 50% doubles and 50% king rooms.
All tour information will be posted in the November newsletter and will be handled through Military Reunion Planners (MRP) as in the past.
We will be bringing in luncheon items daily for free to go with our free beverages to again try and make this experience as affordable as possible. Our guests will receive a 20% discount in the Hotel Restaurant (excluding alcohol) when you show them you are with our group.
There are about a dozen eating places within a two block walk from the hotel, many being fast food (cheaper than hotel food).
If this is your first reunion, we will have the entire grand ballroom as our hospitality room from Wednesday morning to Friday night. Saturday morning the ballroom will be changed into theater seating for our Memorial Service and business meeting plus the group photo. We will have the room until 1 pm when the hotel will turn the room into the banquet sitting for Saturday night.
This entire hotel indoor facility is a non-smoking area.
The Association has been informed of the following deaths since our last newsletter.
- Gordon T. Carey (OF 66) died 12 February 2015 as a result of Agent Orange exposure. Major Carey was our unit’s third company commander from February 1966 to August 1966.
- Michael David Chassen (EM 64-65) died on 10 June 2001 from lung cancer.
- Michael N. (Mike) Chauncey (EM 68-69) died on 18 April 2015 from multiple organ failure.
- Sherril A. (Shawn) Hannah (WO 67-68) died on 16 February 2015 from advanced Alzheimer’s and influenza.
- John P. Tucker (EM 68-70) died in 2013 of an unknown cause.
LTC Gordon Thomas Carey, USA (RET), 3/20/1933 - 2/12/2015, in Austin, TX. A true patriot and admired leader, he embodied the best of the Greatest Generation. He will be deeply missed as a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother, and remembered as a respected Army Officer, businessman, and friend. His great sense of humor and engaging personality drew people around him wherever he went.
Gordon retired after more than 20 years of service, in 1972. His final assignment was in the US Army Research and Development, Special Projects Group, in Washington, DC. Trained as a multi-engine and helicopter pilot, he logged approximately 3400 hours flight time and over 800 hours of combat flight time. As a veteran of the Korean War and Vietnam ( 3 tours) in the Army Air Cavalry, he received several commendation awards and medals, including his highest achieved, the Silver Star, for gallantry in action in Vietnam on 07, May 1970. Gordon served as a Commanding Officer of Company "A", 2nd Battalion, 66th Armor, 4th Armored Division in Germany, the 71st Assault Helicopter Co in Vietnam, and the 3rd Squadron, 17th Air Cavalry in Vietnam.
Gordon was born on a farm in Nash County, NC. He graduated from Kenwood High School in Baltimore County, Maryland. Gordon attended the University of Maryland and graduated from the University of Nebraska.
Gordon's interest in service to his country began at a young age. He served as the Cadet Captain of the Civil Air Patrol, and later joined the Maryland Air National Guard. He entered the US Army in 1952. Subsequent to service, Gordon spent over 30 years in real estate management in the Washington, DC metro area, San Fernando Valley, California, and Las Vegas, NV.
He is survived by his wife of 27 years, Crete Strawhecker Carey, daughters Holly Helms, and Lauren Langis, son Mark Carey. He is also survived by brother, Anthony Carey, and 2 sisters, Ruth Cary Swanstrom, and Shirley Burdeaux, of Maryland. Grandchildren include, Luke Helms, Brian Carey and Shannon Carey.
Internment, service, and Military Honors will be at ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Washington, DC on JUNE 19, 2015, at 1PM, at the Old Post Chapel. A formal reception will be held following the service at the Women's Memorial at the entrance to the Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St Luke's on the Lake Episcopal Church, 5600 Ranch Rd 620 North, Austin, TX 78732, in his honor, for all the support and numerous visits made during the last months of his illness.
It is greatly appreciated from those who remember Gordon Carey to send messages, memories, stories, etc., to place in his memorial book. Please send email to: [email protected].
Mike Chauncey was a fixture at our reunions and could be counted on for anything that needed to be done always with a cheerfulness and a smile. His type are irreplaceable. Rest in Peace Brother! Ron Seabolt
I have more questions for you. I left Nam in June, 1967. We were at Chu Lai and one day several of us were out in the ocean playing around and relaxing. Some way or the other I got under water. Captain Mangum saw my predicament, grabbed me by the pants and lifted me out of the water. I don’t remember any of this but it is what the guys told me. This guy from Athens, Georgia told Mangum to lay me down that he was a lifeguard before the Army and knew how to take care of me. I remember going in the water and the next thing is I was lying face down and water was squirting out of my mouth. The guy from Georgia was on my back pressing down forcing the water out. I do not know his name. Do you know him or have any way of learning who it was. I would like to thank him for saving my life. It is only a short distance from where I live to Athens.
Hope this finds you and your family well.
Odell Suttle - Fountain Inn, SC ph. 864-862-4915 e-mail: [email protected]
SMALL WORLD I
On April 3rd while at the Dallas VA, I was waiting to be called for lab work to be done. The seat to my left was vacant but the next one was occupied. Another vet came and sat across from that occupied seat. He was obviously a Marine because he had a photo of an H-34 on his t-shirt. He noticed the two of us looking at it and told us he took that photo himself not knowing he would soon be a crewmember of that same unit.
The guy seated two seats from me said, “I was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam stationed at Chu Lai.” When he said that I turned to look at him for the first time and saw he had on an Americal Division cap. I asked him who he flew with and he said, “The Firebirds.” I told him, “I’m Ron Seabolt and he introduced himself as Ted Lorvine.” About 15 years ago Ted had actually been to my home and visited. We were the next two patients called and I just had to mention that we served in the same company in Vietnam.
SMALL WORLD II
I was playing golf this week (April 7th) in the Georgia Senior Amateur. During the first round I asked the guy riding with me, since we were about the same age, if he was ever in the service. He said, “I was in the Army”. I then asked what he did and he said he was a Helicopter Pilot, I then asked if he went to Vietnam and he said he was with the Americal Division, now I was getting very inquisitive, I asked where were you stationed and he said Chu Lai, now he really had my attention! I asked what unit he was with and he said the 71st Assault Helicopter Company, I then said to him, “Were you a Rattler or a Firebird? He looked at me as if I had 2 heads, he said, “I was a Rattler”, I said so was I. That was the first time for both of us to meet someone that flew with the same company in Vietnam. His name is Don Marsh, he was a Captain and was Rattler 2, primarily in operations his whole time with the Rattlers, Don was there in 1970, Jan 1st to Dec-12, retired from IBM after 4 0 years and has never been to a reunion. I’m going to see if I can’t change that!
He is also the 2015 Georgia Super Senior Golf Champion; believe me, he one really GOOD golfer!
ONE LONG DAY
From a letter mailed home by John Bley
Jan 7, 1968
January 5th is a day that I will never forget. It started out to be a normal day at 0500 when I arose. I had breakfast and went to the flight line. We pre-flighted the aircraft and took off at 0645. At about 0730 we landed on the 4th Battalion of the 31st infantry VIP pad at the top of a hill about 20 miles northwest of Tam Ky. Our mission was to provide a command and control helicopter for the 4th Battalion, call sign Goblin. I advised Goblin 33 and Rattler Control that were on station and we were told to shut down.
At 0900 the Colonel came out and wanted to visual recon the valley just to the north where his companies had been under heavy attack for the last two days. The Firebirds had also gotten shot up pretty bad putting air strikes in this area the previous night. Airborne we were viewing the valley adjacent to a gun-target line and we could see the artillery impacting below. After circling a few times we began to receive heavy enemy ground fire. I immediately moved out of the area and landed on the hilltop to check the aircraft for damage.
We thought we had received some hits, but did not find any holes after inspection. The Colonel wanted to get right back up to observe…to me the guy seemed crazy and did not seem to understand what was going on. We went back up and local artillery and mortar rounds impacted the area.
The firebirds made several passes and one received a hit and lost engine oil pressure. The pilot initiated a precautionary approach to the hilltop and lost his engine. He then autorotated to a lower hilltop. When I saw this I quickly landed at the fire support base at the top and kicked the Colonel and his aides off my ship. Then dove my aircraft to the site where the Firebird had made a hard landing. I landed beside the damaged ship and picked up the crew. They were only on the ground only a couple of minutes and then were on their way back to medical aid. Only one was hurt, but not serious. I’ve never seen a happier bunch of guys.
Then I returned back to my C&C mission. I made a few resupply runs into the areas that were getting hit and made one medivac. I finally shut down for a meal of C rations at about 1400. We recranked at about 1450 and performed more resupply and area recon. My release time of 1800 was approaching and I was advised that I had flare standby this evening.
At 1805 I was still not released and one company was mortared by the VC with 2 officers and one enlisted man reported seriously wounded. They called for a medivac ship from Ky Ha, which was back at Chu Lai. This was about a 30 minute flight, so I asked how critical they were and found out that one was in shock. I again kicked off the people I had on board and took off for the site. Iinstructed my door gunners to immediately return fire if we were shot at on the way in. I got smoke and landed in the tight LZ. The three wounded were quickly loaded and we took off. One of the officers was in real bad shape. My gunners opened fire as we received heavy automatic weapons fire all the way out.
I pulled all the pitch I could. 6600 RPM is normal and velocity red line is 120 knots. I lugged the engine down to 6100 RPM and pushed it to nearly 130 knots. I radioed ahead to the nearest medical aid station to have them standing by. Two medics got on board at the closest aid station, both of them Captains. They gave fluids all the way back to the main hospital at Chu Lai. The worst guy’s wind pipe clogged and they had to give artificial respiration to him. I also radioed ahead to have personnel standing by at the main hospital and requested an emergency straight in approach to the medical facility.
I tried to get a replacement for flare drop but couldn’t get one. I had to refuel, check over the aircraft for any damage and get back to load flares. I had gotten the mission to provide illumination over the same area I had been working in all day as they were again under heavy enemy attack. When I got back to the area it was about 2000 hours and our gunships were receiving a tremendous amount of enemy fire. Firebird 90, Frank Anton, was shot down and crashed in the valley.
I made about eightlow passes over the area where we thought Frank’s aircraft went down. Of course it was very dark and we could not locate the spot all while under heavy machine gun fire. I never before saw so many green and red tracers and all coming at me. We left the area and proceeded to load flares to drop over the area later into the night.
Later perhaps 2300 hours, we were loaded with flares and dropping them over the area at 3,000 feet…numerous 50 cal. tracers were coming by my ship. Theother gunship was shot up so bad had to return to base. A fixed wing FAC (artillery adjuster) who was above me at 3500 feet got his front engine shot out and had to leave the area because he could not maintain altitude.
Before the sun came up we off-loaded the remaining flares and put emergency medical supplies and grenades on my ship. I was to have a gun ship escort me into the area that was hit so badly. There was no way in Hell that I wanted to go back out there, but I figured if they wanted me to go I surely would.
We took off and returned to the area only to find it totally covered with fog and clouds so thick that we could not get in. I figured it would be this way as it was nearly every morning lately. We landed on the mountain top above the area and waited for the clouds to clear. It was then when checking over the aircraft again, now in daylight, that I discovered my main rotor blade was damaged. A flare canister dropped from and Air Force plane above me tore about 8” out of thetrailing edge of one of the main rotor blades. We taped it up and flew it back to base.
My aircraft was replaced and they got into the area at about 1100. They did not receive any ground fire, evidently the enemy had left the area. They found none of the Firebird crew that crashed.
A day later Frank Carson, the Co-pilot was found wearing only his shorts and shirt. He said he stripped in hopes that if they saw him, they would think he was a Vietnamese. And it worked. He said he hid in the water of a rice paddy once and 4 V.C. with weapons walked right by him on the dikes. A mortar round went off near him and he got some small shrapnel wounds, but he made it out. He was all shook up, beat and nearly froze from the chill of the mountain night. He forded rivers and hid in rice paddies. He also discovered two V.C. weapons caches which he pinpointed on a map for troops that discovered him south of the area. The other pilot and crew are still missing.
Frank said that if I had landed right next to his damaged helicopter, as I had wanted to, it would have been suicide. They crashed right in the middle of the V.C. and received point blank firing all the way in and on impact. All of them scrambled out of the aircraft and it was every man for himself. Automatic weapons and small arms fire came in from all around he reported. It was hard for him to realize that he made it out by himself.
I flew 20 hours and was on station for 28 hours, my crew worked as hard as I did and they were great. I would have flown more if the aircraft had not been damaged. Upon returning back to Chu Lai my Company Commander personally grounded myself and crew for at least two days. I got to bed at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon and slept till the next morning. It was great to find Frank back shortly after I woke up.
John Bley, Rattler 15, Chu Lai, Vietnam
YOU ARE NOT ALWAYS FLYING
CWO John Bley, 71st Assault Helicopter Company, Chu Lai, Vietnam
When in Vietnam, I was in the 23rd Americal Division, stationed at Chu Lairight on the beach of the South East Asian Sea. Within that group there wereseveral Companies. I was in the 71st Assault Helicopter Company, call signsRattlers (Slick ships mainly troop and supply carriers with Model D & H Hueys)and the Firebirds (Gunships mainly C Model Hueys). Then there was TheSnake Doctor, a D Model Huey that carried a maintenance crew that repairedaircraft in the field and rigged damaged aircraft to be sling loaded out byCH-47 Chinooks.
The 174th Assault Helicopter Company was another Company in our Divisionlocated at Duc Pho, about 60 miles south of us. These guys were called theDolphins (slicks) and Sharks (Guns). They had developed some problems witha lot of enemy activity and too many pilots with high flight hours. So they selectedabout four pilots within my company to go down there and relieve some of theirpilots. In other words…we would fly in their place for a short while. I was chosento be one of those pilots. I simply did not like this assignment and neither did theother guys. There was always a lot of rivalry or attitudes between differentCompanies…You know, you guys aren’t worth a shit and we’re better pilots thatyou guys, etc. Sometimes it was hard to tell that we were all on the same side.When we showed up there was an awkward and uncomfortable feeling about it,kind of like in the old western movies, we were the guys in the black hats and they were the guys in the white hats.
We got there and were all assigned aircraft and scheduled to go on a lift rightaway. I checked over my aircraft and found a few discrepancies. We called aTI(Technical inspector) and he red-Xed the helicopter on about 3 of the 5 or sowrite-ups that I had made. Operations selected two more helicopters to fly andI found conditions on them that the TI also red-Xed. So the 3 aircraft that theyassigned to me were all deemed unflyable. I did not fly at all that day.
In the mess hall that night, the company commander called me over to his table.I think there was a Major and Lt. Col. seated there. One of them told me in a ratherdisgusting language that he thought I was scared to fly in their area of operation.There had been a lot of aircraft shot up there recently. He literally told me that Iwas a chicken shit. I looked him in the eye and told him that wasnot the case atall. I said I would fly anywhere they wanted me to go, IF they would give me anaircraft that was flight worthy. I said I would fly with or withouta gun escort.
The guy said, this is what we are going to do…my aircraft, the helicopter that Iusually fly, is in inspection right now. It will be coming out of inspection sometime tonight. I want you to fly that aircraft and you had better be on that lift in the morning.
I went to check that aircraft that night, but I couldn’t see a lot of it because theywere still working on it. I checked it over again early in the morning. I climbedup on the stinger just below the tail rotor and moved the rotor back and forth. Ifelt a grinding and binding feeling in the tail rotor movement. I got a TI and heconfirmed red-Xing the aircraft. I called to get another aircraft, but there werenone available. I did not fly in that lift………..
That evening the Company Commander again called me over to his table inthe Mess Hall. I thought, Oh Shit……..here it comes. He told me that maintenancereplaced the tail rotor 90 degree gearbox on his aircraft. He had ordered them totake it apart and exam it. They assured him that if the aircraft had flown it wouldhave failed. He then apologized to me and asked if I would consider a reassignmentto his company to become his maintenance officer…I declined. I think I flew one lift on duty there and then we were all sent back to our home unit.
I loved aircraft maintenance. I was always looking over the aircraft and sometimesother guys would even ask me to check out theirs. I worked a lot with the TI’s andone maintenance officer and got along with them well. I tried to learn bearingtolerances and critical elements of the machine. They knew after a while that if Iwas asking for them to look at something, it was probably serious. I couldn’t believethe pilots that wouldn’t even look over the aircraft or would simply ask their copilotsto do it while they filled out the log.
One time I was scheduled to perform a quick medivac early in the morning. Whenchecking over the aircraft I found one of the bearings on the push-pull tube to haveexcessive play. It wasn’t all that bad, I decided to fly the aircraftperform the shortflight and then come back and have a TI check the condition. The push-pull tube,of which there are two, connects the swash plate to the main rotor blade andcontrols the flap or angle of pitch in the main rotor blade.
So I did this and upon returning and getting it checked out the TI red-Xed my aircraft.Later that night the Operations Officer called me in and told me that I must haveknown of that condition before takeoff, but I flew the mission anyway. So once againa little butt chewing. I said, yes I did but it wasn’t that bad. He said it was not my
decision to make. I said….do you know how many pilots we have that would not haveeven noticed that. Made no difference…..I still lost.
It’s not always flying; there is a lot of other stuff that needs to be done.
BACK TO VIETNAM…ON PURPOSE
From David O’Quinn (WO 66-67)
I said when I arrived in Vietnam all I wanted was the first award of the boarding pass. That I received and left in July 1967, I was one of the last people to have to go back to Bien Hoa from Chu Lai for DEROS. Shortly afterwards Cam Rahn Bay became the Rattlers – Fire Birds point of departure. Two years later when I returned to Vietnam all I wanted was the second award of the boarding pass. Thanks to Hal and Kathy Bowen, Paula and I got a chance to get the 3rd award. One thing I always said that there was nothing I left In Vietnam that I needed to see or retrieve. When Hal and Kathy called us and said they were considering a trip to Vietnam, after much discussion between us we decided that a trip like that might be something for our 50th Year Wedding Anniversary that set the planning in motion.
Hal and Kathy had already been researching tour companies and the best one seemed to be Vietnam Battlefield Tours. They were willing to set up the tour to meet our requests, Hal and I both had served a second tour and decided to concentrate on our first tour.
Arriving in Los Angeles on the 4th of September, we had a day to kill. We used this day to take a bus tour of Beverly Hills and the surrounding area. Muscle Beach was also included. Boy do I look puny compared to some of those men.
We met up with our tour group on Sunday afternoon. After introductions all around finally figured out there would be 14 men and spouses on the tour. One of the tour guides, wife was also along, making a total of 17 people. Our plane didn’t take off until around 1 AM. A heck of a time to be going to the airport, but with the international date line and 14 hours of air time between LAX and Taipei, Taiwan there should be opportunity to catch up on sleep. Although sleeping on an airplane is not the easiest thing in the world to do.
Our arrival in Taipei was uneventful and the transfer to a plane bound for Saigon took less than 2 hours. Again a very pleasant flight. The landing in Saigon brought back memories, while taxiing to the terminal we passed revetments that had been built by the Air Force during the war. That was the only thing that we could recognize from the old Tan San Nhut Airport. A modern new terminal now replaced the one to which we arrived back in the 60’s. This new modern terminal was built courtesy of the Japanese.
The bus ride to our hotel took about ½ hour due to traffic, instead of pedi-cabs there were motor scooters, and lots of them. Traffic like you couldn’t believe.
The next day after a buffet breakfast at the hotel, we boarded the bus for a trip to the Palace of the late South Vietnamese President. Which was now a museum, full of pictures and trophies from the departed regime. Out front was a tank that represented the one that came through the fence at the fall of South Vietnam. We then toured the war remnants museum which was the old American Embassy.
That afternoon was a tour to Long Binh, Bien Hoa and the surrounding area. Nothing is left of the Long Binh complex that we rotated through. It is now an industrial complex with factories warehouses and shipping areas. The trip to Bien Hoa airfield was also eye opening. The airfield is now an active Vietnamese Airbase and we couldn’t see any of the Snake Pit or billeting area. The best I could figure the Snake Pit is now a parking lot. None of the airfield could be seen except for the approach end on the east end of the runway. Other than that nothing is the same. What used to be rice paddies and open areas is now built up with shops, and houses. There is now open area between Bien Hoa and Saigon. None of the places from which we used to get shot at are there.
The next day we visited the Cha Cham Church where President Diem was captured and murdered during the coup. Heading south into the Delta we passed through Tan An before arriving at My Tho. We boarded a ferry and toured the area around Thoi Son Island. Where we toured a coconut candy factory (open air) and sampled some. Also included was a bee (ranch) farm where we sampled honey fresh from the comb. We boarded horse drawn carts and traveled to our restaurant for fruit and entertainment. Not the most comfortable of rides, but it wasn’t for too long. Following a sampan ride to our ferry we returned to My Tho. A bus ride back to Saigon for the evening.
Next day was our trip to Tay Ninh, Cu Chi, and the Hobo Woods. There were side trips to the Iron Triangle. Lunch was at an open air restaurant run by a former VC LTC. Who was a most gracious host and even donned her uniform for pictures. She was stationed in the tunnel complex in the Cu Chi area. More than likely she shot at us more than once. We continued on to Tay Ninh, where the main road through town is the old active runway from the airfield. There was nothing there to remind us of Tay Ninh Base as we remember it.
On the way back to Saigon we went by Chu Chi home of the 25th Infantry Division which is an active Vietnamese base so we couldn’t see anything that would bring back memories. A tour of the tunnel complex near Chu Chi proved to be very enlightening, the VC had ventilation systems, spider holes, entrances and exits everywhere. There was an underground hospital, uniform factories, we were able to go down into one of the tunnels which after stooping over and almost crawling opened up into although not spacious were at least enough room to move around in. There were bomb craters all over the place. If you remember we could see Nui Ba Den from the base, this is no longer possible. The area is too built up to allow any long distance sights. The base at the foot of Nui Ba Den is no longer there and we couldn’t get real close. It still doesn’t look like a place I’d like to shoot an approach to .
The next day we took a flight to Dalat, the hotel was very nice without air conditioning, the temperature at night was cool enough it wasn’t necessary. A night of entertainment consisted of a trip to a Montanguard area which featured local dancing and music. Nothing like we say 50+ years ago. No topless women and no pig stickings. There weren’t even any tin huts with little children running around.
The next day brought us by bus towards Nha Trang, passing Cam Ranh Bay which is nothing now. No base at all. Chu Lai no longer exists, the only thing that remains is the airfield which is now a civilian airport. There were concrete bunkers at the north end of the strip, which is all that remained of when we were there. Lunch was on China Beach from which we could look down the coast and see nothing but beach. A Typhoon had blown everything we built away. The hospital was gone, along with all the support buildings.
Marble Mountain is now a place where marble is mined and all kinds of things are made by the local craftsman. We returned to Hoi An for the evening. The next day was a free day to explore Hoi An and relax for before brief our trip to Ha Noi.
We had half the day for last minute shopping before the bus ride to Da Nang for the flight to Ha Noi. A last minute visit to a silk factory to spend more tourists’ dollars . The flight to Ha Noi was on Vietnam Air Lines. An Airbus 320, not a CH 34.
After checking into our hotel in Ha Noi we toured Ho Chi Minh’s House, the one pillar Pagoda and the grounds around the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. A brief stop at the site of John McCain’s capture according to the monument there he flew for the Air Force, no mention of the USN.
We departed Ha Noi the next day for Tapti from Noi Ba Airfield for Taipei. A very modern airport, courtesy of the Japanese. There was evidence of Russian influence all over the capital.
It looks like Vietnam has done reasonably well since the end of the American War as they call it. We left lots of equipment, very little of which is visible. The improvements we made in the infrastructure has been improved on and added to. Vietnam tried running the country as a communist country. It didn’t work and the economy suffered greatly. They now allow private enterprise and the economy is prospering.
AMAZING SHORT STORIES 1967
From Fred West 2nd PLT F-Troop 1967-68
I was walking through the company area one day when I came across Clarence Dammit, the little monkey. I stopped to chat a little with him, he was quite amusing. After a couple minutes he jumped on me and in about 5 seconds had his hand in my pocket and pulled out my pocket knife. I didn't think much of it until he tried to open it. It was always pretty sharp. I tried to take it from him but he was not giving it up. He tried opening it with his hands but couldn't, then he put it in his mouth and did open it with his teeth to my surprise. Now I'm embarrassed, I've just been disarmed by a monkey. I tried to take it from him again but he started waving that knife like a hood in the street back home.
I figured I could run my hand down his chain to his neck and pin him down, didn't work. As I got close to his head he turned and took a chunk out of my thumb. Now I'm pissed but I didn't want to hurt him. I didn't know exactly who he belonged to so I went and knocked on the door of the hooch. I believe it was a WO, one of our pilots. I told him what had happened, he laughed and said that Son of a Bitch is always getting in trouble. He walked up to Clarence ,smacked him in the head, Clarence dropped the knife and that was that.
But wait, it gets better. Like I said you can't make this up.
About a week later I was sitting in a jeep waiting to go down to the flight line. Along comes Clarence across the company area, loose, straight towards the jeep. I said to myself, this isn't good. He jumped in the jeep, sat up on the steering wheel where we looked at each other for a few seconds. Yes he did, he let go and pissed all over the front of me. In a flash he jumped out and started running through the company area with me in fast pursuit with my .380 Beretta, I fired at least 4 shots but he got away. 1SGT Hillhouse chewed my ass out for shooting in the company area until I told him my story. He got a laugh out of that one. Clarence and I never crossed paths again.
In late 1967 someone through a CS grenade into MAJOR BELL’S hootch. As usual it had to be someone in 2nd PLT F-TROOP. The #1 suspect was R.J. WILLIAMS.I remember Sgt Hillhouse having a formation the next morning. He must have got his ass chewed out because he wasn't happy. He said some things that I won't repeat.
The next day 2nd plt Sgt Jolly Rogers came and told us that if the person that threw the grenade didn't come forward, Maj Bell was going to split up 2nd plt and send half of us down south. No one at that point knew who did it. I couldn't let Maj Bell split up the Platoon. I knew I was in big trouble and most likely going to be court martialed. I went to Sgt Rogers and told him I was the one. He was surprised and said oh shit we're both in trouble. He didn't believe me at first but after I explained what went down, he said well we have to go see Maj Bell.
Needless to say I thought I was going to LBJ(Long Binh Jail). I only had about 30 days left in country. O shit!
We entered Maj Bells hooch and Sgt Rogers told him I was the guilty one. He excused Sgt Rogers and it was just the two of us. He didn't look to happy, understandably. I didn't have a weapon and I thought he was going to shoot me. The first thing he asked me was why I was sticking up for RJ. I told him it wasn't RJ it was me. He didn't believe me either. He kept telling me it was RJ. I told him I had gotten four CS grenades on a resupply mission and I had 2 left in my locker. He let me go get the other 2. I still had trouble convincing him it wasn't RJ. although it was RJ who got Sgt Hillhouse a couple nights before which I didn't tell him. I had given the other one to RJ.
After a while I think I convinced him. He asked me why I did it and I told him the truth. I told him I thought he had made several bad decisions that turned out ugly and I explained which ones in my opinion. I figured I might as well as I was going to be court martialed. I don't think he got injured but got a good dose of cs. I had a bad cold at the time. After about an hour he said I could go. I started for the door and he called me back ,oh shit, to my surprise he said West I admire you, you have a lot of balls, go on sick call tomorrow and take care of that cold.
I left in a hurry before he changed his mind and never said any more about it. To this day I think he still thinks it was RJ.
GOD BLESS BOTH THEIR SOULS
RJ didn't need this notch in his belt, he had plenty of his own.
I met Maj Bell at the Dallas reunion. I think in1995. I asked him if he remembered me. He said, “I remember you West.” I asked him why he didn't court martial me. He said he thought he would have been in real trouble then. Go figure?
REST IN Peace RJ
AND ANOTHER STORY - DIRTY DETAIL
As we all know Chu Lai didn't have the best septic system. I was reminded by Bill Just several years ago when the Moving Wall was in town. Bristol Ct. We hooked up with Frank Anton who was a guest speaker, after at the local American Legion . And we did close up the place late. Good time. I think we all, EM, had our chance at the outhouse detail. Well one day myself and Bill Just had this detail. I was unlucky enough to have done this before. I told Bill we'll do this the easy way. We made our way to the motor pool and borrowed a diesel tanker truck. We pulled out the 55 gal half drums. We backed up the truck as close as we could. I told Bill to squeeze the handle slowly because there was a lot of pressure in the hose. Well Bill squeezed the trigger too quickly. SORRY BILL. It came out full force and a mixture of diesel and shit came out of that barrel and all over Bill. He said the only reason he was mad was because I couldn't stop laughing. By the time Bill got back to his hooch, stripped down and got to our wonderful showers he had rashes all over from the mixture.
Posted:Wednesday, January 14, 2015 9:20 am
By SKIP VAUGHN Rocket editor [email protected]
Greg Arndt remembers getting off the bus at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport after returning from Vietnam. Protesters behind a chain-link fence jeered him and his fellow Vietnam War veterans. This was his reception after serving a year in combat as a door gunner on a helicopter gunship.
Of course not everyone treated him that way. There was also the guy who bought him a beer in a bar.
“It’s much better today,” Arndt said. “When I came back they kind of snuck us back into the country.”
Arndt, 66, has plenty of time these days to reflect, sleep late and enjoy sports. He retired in early January as an intelligence analyst from the Missile and Space Intelligence Center after 45 years of service.
He was born July 18, 1948, in Womack Army Hospital at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and grew up in an Army family. He was the oldest of three sons of Albert and Grace Arndt. His dad was a Marine in World War II and an Army paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division after the war.
The family was later stationed in Germany. His dad went to electronics school at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, and subsequently came to Redstone as an instructor. Arndt attended Lee High School where he played football until breaking his arm; and he graduated in 1967. His family owned a pizza shop where the boys learned the nuances of slinging pizzas.
With the draft looming, Arndt joined the Army in March 1969. He decided to get into aviation, helicopters, without telling his dad who preferred a noncombat branch for the oldest son.
“I’d been with the military all my life,” Arndt said. “I just wanted to do something. Probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do in the world, but I don’t regret it.”
He served in Vietnam, stationed in Chu Lai, from November 1969 to November 1970. He was in a combat unit which flew missions nearly every day, wherever and whenever needed. At 21 he was one of the older guys.
“We flew combat missions, so it was bad at times,” the former specialist 5 said. “At that time Vietnam was going fullbore. We lost a lot of ships, a lot of people. I went down twice, wounded. But getting shot down in a helicopter wasn’t out of the ordinary. I mean everybody got shot down at least once. I had some close calls.”
There was the time an enemy rocket blew up beside his gunship and he got hit by a piece of shrapnel. Another time a 51-caliber machine gun round came up through the floorboard, beside his foot. The round severed the microphone cord which was attached to his helmet and missed his head by a matter of inches.
The first guy he met in the unit, a crew chief, was killed in the war. One crew got captured and a few of those Soldiers spent five years in a prisoner of war camp.
Arndt left the military after three years. He entered civil service at Redstone in early 1972 under a veterans hiring program. He earned a bachelor’s degree in math, with a minor in computer science, in 1979 from the University of Alabama in Huntsville.
His wife, Linda, died from cancer about four and a half years ago. Their son, Mike, 44, who was 9 months old when Arndt returned from Vietnam, is a truck driver in Birmingham.
Since 1984 Arndt has served as an assistant coach for the boys soccer team at Grissom High School. The Tigers have won eight state championships (1992, 1994, 1996-99, 2000 and 2010).
His nephew Spc. Brandon Barbee, of the 82nnd Airborne Division, returned to Fort Bragg from Afghanistan in early December. The Decatur native’s homecoming was much different than the one Uncle Greg received after Vietnam.
“I think any kind of remembrance or accolades that vets can get is good,” Arndt said. “I mean I just have a lot of support for them. I’m patriotic. What can I say?”
Just Another Day of Flying with the 71st
From Steve Mackey – crew chief 3-70 to 3-71
I believe it was sometime in August of 1970 we were flying resupply for the 196th LIB out of LZ West. I can’t remember the A/C or Peter Pilots names, but the door gunner was Harry Justice.
We had been resupplying the troops in the field all day. At the same time LZ Siberia, which had been getting hit hard every night, was low on ammunition and in dire need of re-supply before night fall.
Other ships had been trying to re-supply LZ Siberia all day long, but were unable to get into the base because of mortar and rocket fire. Each time a ship was on its final approach to Siberia the NVA would start launching mortars and rockets at the LZ and the pilot would have to abort their mission.
It was late in the day, somewhere around 1800 hours, we were making our last re-supply to the field when we heard someone inform the command on LZ Siberia because of the mortars being launched at the base the helicopters could not get into the LZ landing pad with the re-supply. The command was told they were going to have to make it through the night with the ammo they had.
As we were headed to our last re-supply our pilot told us he had an idea on how to get into and out of LZ Siberia before the mortar rounds hit. He would tell us about it after our last field re-supply. We made it into and out of the field without any incidents.
As we headed back to LZ West the pilot said if anyone of us objected to his plan then we would not try it, all four of us had to agree to the plan. He also said the guys on LZ West and LZ Siberia would have to agree with his plan.
The pilot then told us of his plan. We would land back at LZ West as if we were just picking up another re-supply for the troops in the field. We would land at LZ West facing south (we always landed facing north). We would have the guys on LZ West load us up with all the ammunition we could handle weight wise. Once we were loaded we would take off to the south of LZ West. We would drop down and fly low level all the way to LZ Siberia. By doing this the NVA, that had been shelling LZ Siberia, would not be able to see us and would not know we were headed to Siberia.
We would approach Siberia from the south, also to conceal our actions from the NVA, at high speed, go up the back side of LZ Siberia and set down on the landing pad before the enemy knew what was going on. The troops on Siberia would know we were coming and as soon as we land they would get us unloaded ASAP.
Once unloaded we would lift off, turn around and go out the same way we came in. Simple and quick. The only problem the pilot saw was that we were the last helicopter in the area. If something went wrong and we went down it could be a while before helped arrived. The pilot asked us what we thought.
We all agreed it was a great plan and we should go for it. The pilot then let LZ West know what our plan was. They were quite thrilled with the idea of us trying to get the ammunition to LZ Siberia.
We landed at LZ West facing to the south and prepared to load up with as much ammo as we could haul. Once we were loaded our pilot lifted up and hovered so we could check just how heavy we were. We were right at the limit so we knew we were good to go.
As planned we lifted off LZ West to the south, going down the side of the hill and leveled off at tree top level. We headed towards LZ Siberia flying low level the entire way. As we approached the south side of Siberia the pilot reminded us as soon as we set down on the landing pad to start pushing the cargo off as fast as we could. We knew the guys on Siberia would be there pulling the ammo off but the sooner we got unloaded the sooner we could take off so we were going to pushing boxes off like crazy.
As we approached LZ Siberia the pilot asked us if we were ready. We all said yes. We started up the side of Siberia from the south. As we approached the top of Siberia we could tell we did not have enough speed to make it up and onto the landing pad. I could see if we continued up the hill we were going to pull too much torque. The pilot had a few choice words then turned to the left, made a U-turn and headed back down the side of Siberia.
The pilot said we were not going to give up. He decided we needed to go out a little further and come into Siberia with more air speed. He also said he did not think we made it far enough up the hill for the NVA to see what we were doing. We all knew we had to do this for the guys on Siberia.
We went out a ways, made a turn and headed back to Siberia a lot faster than the first time. This time we went straight up the south side of Siberia and set down right on the landing pad. Before the helicopter had settled down the guys on Siberia were already pulling the ammo off. Harry Justice and I were helping them unload. After the last box was off we let the pilot know we were set to go. We lifted up, made a 180 degree turn and took off to the south without a mortar or rocket being fired at us or LZ Siberia. Mission accomplished.
We headed back to LZ West flying low level the entire way. About half way between Siberia and LZ West I here Harry Justice open up with his M60. At the same time Harry comes over the radio and lets us know we are taking fire from 3 o’clock. At that moment I see the green tracers going under, above and around our helicopter. As Harry continued to fire from the doorgunners well the green tracers stopped just as fast as they started. Harry’s great suppressive fire caused the enemy to quit shooting at us.
Checking all the gauges it appeared we were okay. At least the helicopter did not take any hits in any vital areas. Our pilot set us down on LZ West so we could check the ship for any possible hits.
Examining the aircraft we found one hit. The hit entered the tailboom on the right side of the helicopter about 2 feet behind the body of our ship and exited on the left side leaving one large hole and several small holes in the center of the tailboom. We determined the ship was safe to fly so the pilot flew us back to Chu Lai without further incident.
Thinking back on the incident we were all concerned about taking mortar or rocket fire while approaching or sitting on LZ Siberia, but not about taking fire to or from LZ Siberia.
Thanks to Harry Justice for his quick response when we started taking fire and thanks to the pilot, I wish I could remember his name, who came up with the plan to re-supply LZ Siberia and then carried it out to completion.
- ON TURNING 70
- 'I still chase women, but only downhill.'
- ON TURNING 80
- 'That's the time of your life when even your birthday suit needs pressing.'
- ON TURNING 90
- 'You know you're getting old when the candles cost more than the cake.'
- ON TURNING 100
- 'I don't feel old. In fact, I don't feel anything until noon. Then it's time for my nap.'
- ON GIVING UP HIS EARLY CAREER, BOXING
- 'I ruined my hands in the ring. The referee kept stepping on them.'
- ON NEVER WINNING AN OSCAR
- 'Welcome to the Academy Awards, or, as it's called at my home, 'Passover.'
- ON GOLF
- 'Golf is my profession. Show business is just to pay the green fees.'
- ON PRESIDENTS
- 'I have performed for 12 presidents but entertained only six.'
- ON WHY HE CHOSE SHOW BIZ FOR HIS CAREER
- 'When I was born, the doctor said to my mother, Congratulations, you have an eight pound ham.'
- ON RECEIVING THE CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL
- 'I feel very humble, but I think I have the strength of character to fight it.'
- ON HIS FAMILY'S EARLY POVERTY
- 'Four of us slept in the one bed. When it got cold, mother threw on another brother.'
- ON HIS SIX BROTHERS
- 'That's how I learned to dance. Waiting for the bathroom.'
- ON HIS EARLY FAILURES
- 'I would not have had anything to eat if it wasn't for the stuff the audience threw at me.'