Rattler/Firebird Association


CO. A/501 AVIATION BN.,
71st ASSAULT HELICOPTER COMPANY NEWSLETTER

VOL. XXVIII NUMBER 1 ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER MAY 2022

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!”

"Veteran" It’s not that I can and others can’t. It’s that I did and others didn’t!

Contents

ODDS and ENDS

Today is April 18, 2022. Fifty-five years ago today the Rattler and Firebird aircraft left the Snakepit at Bien Hoa bound for Chu Lai and a different type of war. One thing I’ve never forgot about that day was when we lined up in a makeshift outdoor mess hall to get cans of C-rations out of the boiling water of an immersion heater, I saw what appeared to be a stateside milk dispenser, like we had in basic training. When I put that milk in my canteen cup, it was actually real milk, not the reconstituted milk was had at Bien Hoa. Chu Lai being a Marine base, I assume this was milk received from the Navy.

Were Don Marsh and Tom Knapp the two best Rattler golfers ever? Don, from Alpharetta, Georgia, has won numerous golf tournaments around the country including the Georgia State Senior Amateur Championship as well as the Prestigious Bobby Jones Cup. He flew with the Rattlers in 1970 as a Lieutenant and was mostly in Operations. Tom is from Tequesta Florida. He has won two Florida State Amateurs as well as two Florida State Mid-Amateurs and 40 additional tournaments around the country. Tom will be forever linked to Ron (Radar) Seabolt as they took their first hit flying together on December 8, 1966 flying over the Hobo Woods, and were hooch mates their entire time at Chu Lai!

I recently talked with Lew and Ramona Henderson. Lew has had some orthopedic work done that has greatly improved his quality of life. They expressed their thanks to all who donated for the paver stones placed in Lew’s honor at Ft. Rucker. Lew will soon be 94. The photo of him in this newsletter with the white horse was part of an April fool’s joke done by their daughter.

I have been a subscriber of Vietnam Magazine since about 1989. My latest issue had an article about a lady named Janna Hoehn who has taken on the task of providing a photo of everyone who was killed in Vietnam. She has photos of all but 18 men. An amazing feat. None of her missing 18 men were in our unit. To look at her site, go to: The Wall of Faces. A number of the KIAs photos came from our website.

Chuck Carlock’s granddaughter, 2LT Jade Patterson recently received her commission into the USMC at Quantico, VA. Chuck’s family was on hand for this with Chuck giving Jade her first salute. A photo of this is in the newsletter.


Ed Mills

TAPS

SPECIAL NOTICE

For a while now I have had trouble receiving my emails that went through our website. From now on, if you wish to email me or the Association, please use this address: [email protected]mail.com. Ron

OFFICIAL NOTICE – FIFTH REMINDER

The Association Board of Directors has unanimously agreed that at future reunions, when our Memorial Service is scheduled to begin, usually at 8:30 on Saturday morning, the doors will be closed at that time and there will be no further admittance to the room.  The purpose of this service is to honor our fallen brothers by showing all the respect they are due.  It is a very solemn event.

This notice will appear in every newsletter going forward and, at the reunions, there will be prominently placed signs to this effect, as well as announcements.

Last year at Mobile, everyone gracefully complied with this situation. Rs

RATTLER-FIREBIRD 2023 REUNION

May 10-14, 2023 | San Antonio, TX

Welcome to San Antonio. San Antonio is home to one of the largest concentrations of military bases in the United States, and is known as Military City, USA. As the first civilian settlement in Texas, San Antonio de Béxar was founded in 1718. Today, many of the city’s early architectural and cultural elements remain, allowing visitors to visit the historical sites in San Antonio and see into the city’s storied past first-hand. Come and breathe in the life of historic San Antonio. The city’s rich culture offers an authentic glimpse of early Spanish colonial life in the Southwest.

Hotel Information

We are holding group space from Wednesday, May 10 until Sunday, May 14, 2023. We will be staying at the Hilton (soon to be DoubleTree) San Antonio Airport Hotel, located at 611 NW Loop 410 San Antonio, TX. The hotel room rate is just $127.00 plus tax per night (this will total to $150 per night), based on single or double occupancy. An All- American breakfast is included for up to 2 each morning during the reunion for guests staying in the hotel only. For those who choose to arrive early or stay late, the same room rate is available 3 days before and 3 days after the official reunion dates, based on availability. You may need to call MRP for assistance if you wish to come early or stay late.

The most reliable way to make reservations is through the online booking link which is coming soon on our website. For now, you may call the hotel at 888-728-3031 but to be honest there have been problems with hotel call centers. It’s best to call between 9-4 pm EST Monday-Friday. Be sure and reference the Rattler-Firebird Reunion to make sure you are associated with the group. If you have any difficulty getting a room at the group rate call MRP at 817-251-3551; we may be able to help. The published hotel check-in time is 4pm. It’s best to make your reservations now* you can cancel up to 72 hours prior to arrival without penalty. The hotel is holding a limited number of rooms until the group block is full or April 10, 2023, whichever comes first. We expect a sell out! If you have any trouble getting rooms at the group rate even if they say the hotel is sold out, or have questions on the program call MRP @ 817-251-3551 or email: [email protected]

Airport Transportation & Parking

The closest airport is San Antonio International Airport (SAT). For those of you flying the hotel offers a free shuttle service. For those of you driving, the hotel offers free parking for overnight guests. If you need directions call the hotel directly.

Travel safely and we will see you all in San Antone!

*The room block is the smallest we have ever had. This is to limit the liability of our Association. The room block can be expanded only to the extent of availability. This makes it imperative to make a room reservation ASAP.

THE NATIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR MUSEUM

The National Medal of Honor Museum is a museum that honors United States Armed Forces Medal of Honor recipients, founded and funded by the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation. The museum is scheduled to open in 2024 in Arlington, Texas, with groundbreaking scheduled March 2022. Previously, the group decided to build the museum in Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant, TX but decided on Arlington later. The projected cost of the museum is just under 200 million dollars.

The National Medal of Honor Museum in Arlington, Texas will serve as the only national institution dedicated to the stories, impact, and legacy of the service members who went on to become Medal of Honor recipients.

With this project, Americans will gather to learn and pay tribute to our country’s bravest heroes in a state-of-the-art facility. Through recipient stories of courage and valor, the Museum will inspire current and future generations to discover and develop the shared values inherent in every Medal of Honor recipient — COURAGE & SACRIFICE, COMMITMENT & INTEGRITY, CITIZENSHIP & PATRIOTISM.

Combined with the National Medal of Honor Monument in Washington, D.C. and the Medal of Honor Institute, the Museum will preserve the legacies of Medal of Honor recipients and inspire each of us with their humanity, courage, and selflessness.

The Museum is symbolic of the weighted choices and sacrifices each Medal recipient boldly bears during combat as well as the characteristic strength of each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. Immersive, open, and circular exhibits connect us to each hero, each other, and the world beyond.

Located in the heart of the Entertainment District in Arlington, Texas, the Museum will benefit from unrivaled national exposure, joining our local and supporting partners in celebration of those who serve our country above and beyond the call of duty.

Four former U.S. Presidents, Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama, join a growing team of esteemed professionals, Medal of Honor recipients, and military leaders to champion this vital project and ensure these historic legacies have a proud and permanent home in the American landscape.


Our D/H model display

Our D/H model Huey has not appeared at a reunion since 2016 because of the logistics involved in moving it. This display helicopter has brought much happiness to our men and their families over the last 25 years, but the people moving it are getting too old to deal with the gawkers while driving down the highways. They will literally run you off the road while they take photos. It has become a very dangerous situation.

Our Association has been approached by the Medal of Honor Museum folks about donating the aircraft to forever be on display in Arlington, TX. However, they want it displayed as a medi-vac aircraft. It will be repainted to reflect this type of service. This helicopter never served in our unit. It was a Blue Star aircraft.

Our Board of Directors have unanimously agreed to this donation with a placard denoting it came from the Rattler-Firebird Association.

REQUEST FROM MARC CARAWAY

Hi Ron

Hope all is well with you and yours.

I am an amateur researcher of the Vietnam war, primarily personalized flight helmets worn by helicopter crew. I'm Irish based in the UK. 

Please could I ask if you and the association might be able to help me in my research of Charles F Ihle*, he was a Rattler pilot with a DEROS date of 18 June 1966. 

Having looked through all the members photos on the site for 1965 and 1966 I did notice in a photo by Garth Adcock (exposure levels increased by myself) that in the left seat of the attached photo, the rear helmet art is near identical to the art on an APH 5 that the daughter of Charles Ihle sold around 10 years ago on eBay. I have not been able to contact his daughter unfortunately.

Would you be able to contact Garth Adcock on my behalf to ask if he can recall if Charles Ihle was his copilot in that photo? 

Ideally I'm try to find more incounty photos of Charles Ihle, other members recollections, even his call sign, any help at all would be very much appreciated.

His helmet was heavily painted on all sides which was unusual in1966, see attached photos for your reference. Maybe members recall the helmet, possibly it was painted by another Rattler. The quality of the art is particularly good.

Thank you very much.

*My records show Charles F. Ihle as an enlisted person. I spoke to Garth Adcock who could not remember Ihle. Perhaps one of you reading this can assist Marc in this endeavor.

He can be reached at: [email protected]

rs

PTSD

Reprinted from “The Hump” by Al Conetto*

Ask me, ask any man who had been to war about his experience, and chances are we’ll say we don’t want to talk about it…implying that we hated it so much, it was so terrible, that we would rather leave it buried. And it is no mystery why men hate war. War is ugly, horrible, and evil and it is reasonable for men to hate all that. But I believe that most men who have been to war would have to admit, if they are honest, that somewhere inside themselves they loved it as much as anything that has happened to them before or since. And how do you explain that to your wife, your children, your parents, or your friends?

That’s why men in their sixties and seventies sit in their dens and recreation rooms around America and know that nothing in their life will equal the day they parachuted into St. Lo or charged the bunker in Okinawa. That’s why veteran’s reunions are invariably filled with boozy awkwardness, forced camaraderie ending in sadness and tears: you are together again, these are the men who were your brothers, but it’s not the same, can never be the same. That’s why when we returned from Vietnam we moped around, listless, not interested in anything or anyone. Something had gone out of our lives forever, and our behavior on returning was inexplicable except as the behavior of men who had lost a great, perhaps the great love of their lives, and had no way to tell anyone about it.

Part of the love of war stems from it’s being an experience of great intensity; its lure is the fundamental human passion to witness, to see things, what the Bible calls the lust of the eye, and the Marines in Vietnam called eye f------g. War stops time, intensifies experience to the point of a terrible ecstasy….War offers endless exotic experiences, enough “I couldn’t f-----g believe it!” to last a lifetime.

War replaces the difficult gray areas of daily life with an eerie, serene clarity. In war you usually know who is your enemy and who is your friend, and are given means to dealing with both.

The enduring emotion of war is comradeship. A comrade in arms is a man you can trust with anything, because you trust him with your life – the defining emotion that binds us.

Because of that love of war and comrades, I have bragging rights. To paraphrase George C. Scott in the movie Patton: Thirty years from now when you are bouncing your grandson on your knee and he asks you what you did in the great Vietnam War, you won’t have to tell him you were shoveling shit in Louisiana. I didn’t shovel shit in Louisiana. I have done something that only a very small percentage of American men have: I have been in combat, I have done my duty, and I have survived.

It is too bad our politicians were not of the same caliber. Many brave men gave their lives only to be sold down the river by those in Washington, D.C.

This is the great lesson of Vietnam: Do not send American troops to fight a foreign war unless you plan on using every available means to win. A tie is not a win. To risk young American lives for anything less is sheer stupidity and should be considered treasonous. Every American life is precious, and our politicians should not risk even one unless it is to protect the United States or its real interests.

*Not everyone will agree with everything this author writes. rs

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER

by Doug Hopkins (OF 66 - 67)

A coincidental meeting with a doctor led to a flashback to Viet Nam in 1966.  

Our Medical Doctor at a large Clinic in Houston referred us to a Gastroenterologist, Dr. Hughes, for my wife in 2016.  Our doctor had told us that Dr. Hughes had also served in Viet Nam.  At the end of the appointment with Dr. Hughes, my wife stated that I had been a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam.  He just listened at first, then finally looked at me and said:  “What unit were you in and what year?”  When I told him “Rattlers” and 1966, he really perked up, laid down his pen, and we began to share information. 

To summarize that history, he was an 18 year old infantryman with the 173rd Airborne Brigade at the Bien Hoa Air Force Base in 1966.  I was a pilot for the combat assault helicopter company, the Rattlers, at Bien Hoa in 1966.  Much of the Rattler’s daily work involved supporting the 173rd on their search-and-destroy missions in the rice paddies and jungle areas. 

We both agreed that it was entirely likely that we were on the same helicopter on one or more occasion, given the number of missions and the number of troops the Rattlers hauled for the 173rd.  He remembered the dusty, red dirt airstrip we used to stage the 173rd troop movements.

He recounted to Ann how, on one occasion, his unit was under heavy fire from the enemy.  They radioed for choppers for an evacuation.  One chopper company said the ground fire was too heavy to come in.  He said: “The Rattlers were called and they didn’t hesitate, they came in and rescued us.  I LOVED the Rattlers!”  You could sense the desperation in his tone as he recounted that life-or-death moment 50 years after the fact.  

He then had to get back on track to seeing his other patients, but as he was leaving, he turned around and stated:  “This is a subject I don’t talk about.  You brought back some deeply buried memories.”  I said:  “Thank you for seeing us.”  His response was: “No, no! THANK YOU!”

Now fast forward to 2021 and I’m the patient of Dr. Hughes. 

There was some confusion on my appointment schedule at the Clinic for a specific treatment by Dr. Hughes.  He got involved because he had seen me on the pre-procedure visit.  He was the one that would do the procedure and I had scheduled it with his staff.  Come the appointed time,  it turned out that it was not the day that he did this particular procedure.  His staff had erred. Nonetheless, when he heard of the mix-up, he interrupted his full days schedule to do my treatment, rather than hand me off to one of his associates.  He searched us out in the waiting room and advised us that he was going to the hospital to see a patient, but would be back soon.  “You rescued me from enemy fire in your helicopter once, and now I’m coming back for You.”

Of course, I can’t say for certain that I ever had Dr. Hughes on my chopper, but I take great pride sharing his “Thanks” to every Rattler who flew for the 71st AHC.  I know deep down that there were many acts of heroism where the Rattlers would go to the rescue when called upon.  This is just one story, but it depicts the life-long respect of not only this one survivor, but of many who were served by the dedication, courage and expertise of the 71st AHC crews.   Job well done, Rattlers!

DOG DAYS*

by Jim Jobson (OF 67-68)

Some time around April, 1968, we were operating out of LZ Baldy on a Command and Control mission. My usual aircraft was a UH-1D, serial number 66-1001, with John Lambie as crew chief and Roger "Doc" Marley as door gunner.

It was late afternoon and we were lounging around with little to do - some days on C&C you flew all day, but many times you just waited for an assignment. We were probably wondering if it were late enough in the day that they would release us to go home or keep us there doing nothing until dusk.

About this time we noticed a Firebird gun team cranking up down on the main airfield (we were parked on a pad up on the hill). We watched them waddle into the hot, humid air and head west towards LZ Ross. This usually meant some unit had made contact and needed a little extra firepower. We watched them depart and were waiting to see if we would be used to circle overhead so their battalion commander would observe. However, things settled down after a while, and we went back to waiting.

Soon after this someone came out to tell us that a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) team was in contact and needed an immediate extraction. We were instructed to leave immediately an make contact with the Firebirds already on station.

On our way out we were thinking about the LRRP team on the ground. We had performed plenty of LRRP insertions and extractions in the past and these were usually routine. We would land in several designated LZ's to hopefully confuse enemy observers, and the team would get off in one of them. The LRRP team would then move a considerable distance to an area where they would seek out information on enemy strength, movements, etc. After completing their mission they would move to a pick up point some distance from any known enemy units. The LRRP teams were small, often four to six members, and tried to avoid contact with the enemy, since they could be overwhelmed by a small enemy force. This unit would need to be extracted quickly before their ammunition supply ran out.

On the way out we made contact with the Firebird team, who gave us their location and the FM frequency of the team on the ground. The location was several kilometers west of any friendly units. Once we got a little closer we could see the gun team making their runs in a racetrack pattern. Firebird lead told us the LRRP's were in a suitable LZ for pick up, but it was surrounded by hills on three sides. As a result we would have to come in and go out along the same path, which was never desirable. The enemy troops were on the high ground firing down at the trapped LRRP's.

Firebird lead cleared us in and adjusted his orbit to cover our approach. All I remember of the landing was seeing tracers going everywhere - green and orange streaks punctuated by rockets impacting the hillside. I was thinking that I would keep the ship light on the skids, ready to depart as soon as the team was safely aboard. As soon as we came to a stop, I could feel people coming aboard as the Huey rocked and wallowed. About then Lambie said that they were in and it was time to go. At this critical time, I was starting to turn and pull pitch when a large black animal bounded onto the radio console heading for me. I must have set the Huey down in my confusion because the intercom came alive with "we gotta get out of here" (or expletives to that effect.) As the animal, which turned out to be a tracker dog, started to get in my lap, a hand came up and grabbed his collar to drag him back to his handler. Once he was out of the way I resumed my expedited departure from the LZ.

The flight back was uneventful. Once we were clear of the shooting, Doc Marley went forward to check for wounded LRRP's and reported that everyone, including the dog, was OK. Then we speculated as to whether we took any hits. No one remembered feeling any impacts and all the instruments showed normal reading, so we continued on to LZ Baldy rather than stop enroute to check for damage.

Once back at Baldy we shut down close to the Firebird area to drop off the LRRP's and check for damage. The LRRP' sergeant thanked us for the pick up and apologized for the dog's behavior, he said the dog was a good tracker, but could be difficult to control when the shooting started. I had to agree with the dog on that subject.

After the LRRP team departed we carefully checked our Huey for damage. We checked everything at least twice, but couldn't find any holes anywhere. Whoever was shooting at us was being harassed enough that they couldn't aim and didn't get any lucky shots either.

My crew wanted to know why I was so slow getting out of the LZ, especially with all the shouting over the radio. The peter pilot apparently didn't see the dog lunging for me, so none of the crew was aware of my distraction. I was a little embarrassed to tell them that I lost my concentration because I thought I was being attacked by the tracker dog.

Thanks to the Firebirds, the enemy troops were kept busy while we pulled the LRRP team out. I know they were shooting at us, but they had to keep their heads down and couldn't take any aimed shots.

All in all it could have been a textbook demonstration of how to extract a LRRP team under fire. The gun team support was coordinated and accurate. The LRRP team boarded the Huey quickly. The crew put down suppressive fire and informed the pilots when it was clear to depart. There were no wounded troops and no damage to the helicopter. If only the aircraft commander could have kept his cool when that dog came aboard.....

*Reprint

TODAY’S AMERICAN SOLDIERS, SAILORS, AIRMEN, MARINES & COASTGUARD

The average age of the military man is 19 years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country. He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his fathers, but he has never collected unemployment either.

He’s a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten-year-old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away.

He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and a 155mm howitzer.

He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk. He has trouble spelling; thus, letter writing is a pain for him, but he can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and reassemble it in less time in the dark.

He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.

He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional.

He can march until he is told to stop, or stop until he is told to march.

He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity.

He is self-sufficient.

He has two sets of fatigues: he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry.

He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts.

If you are thirsty, he will share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food. He will even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.

He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands.

He can save your life - or take it, because that is his job.

He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay, and still find ironic humor in it all.

He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime.

He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed.

He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to square-away those around him who haven’t bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful.

Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom.

Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years.

He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding.

Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.

And now we even have women over there in danger, doing their part in this tradition of going to War when our nation calls us to do so.

As you go to bed tonight, remember this shot…

A short lull, a little shade and a picture of loved ones in their helmets.

Please send this on after a short prayer. Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. Amen.

Of all the gifts you could give a US Soldier, Sailor, Coast-guardsman, Marine, or Airman, prayer is the very best one.

HUMOR

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