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.”


Dubious HonorDennis Wheeler (WO 68-69) has just published his memoirs of his Vietnam tour. The book is titled Dubious Honor- The Story of a Huey Driver. This 250 page book takes you back to what it felt like to fly into the face of death on a daily basis. It reminds us of the wild and crazy guys who lived in the Firebird hootch. The horrid days of war are revisited. It provides an updated version of Col. Whiz Broome’s (USA, ret.) horrifying three days in September of ’69. Vic Bandini, Robert Combs, and Bill Lard also contributed stories. The book contains numerous photos of the men who served together at that time.

If you would like a copy of this work, the cost is $18.99 at

The history of our unit is being preserved slowly over time. Chuck Carlock’s book Firebirds along with Carlock’s and Ron Seabolt’s book Rattlers and Firebirds are solely for history with all monies received going to the Association. Frank Anton’s book, Why Didn’t You Get Me Out, details his imprisonment for over 5 years by our enemy. Chuck Gross has Rattler One-Seven, detailing his tour in 70-71. Now there is the Wheeler book mentioned above. There is an outstanding manuscript that is entitled, Rattler Two Six – From The Left Seat written by Tom Marty covering his tour in 70-71 that has never been made public. Several from our unit have read the manuscript and encouraged Tom to print it.

Twice at reunions, a representative of the Texas Tech Vietnam Virtual Archive has taken oral statements from several men in our unit.

This is quite a bit of history preserved for a company. Have you ever considered writing a book about your tour? Maybe a great start would be to get a recording device and tape material before it is lost forever. You can never underestimate how important this can be to future generations of your own family and others.

Recently Chuck Carlock had lunch with the son of one of the secretaries in his office. The young man had been to helicopter maintenance school at Ft. Eustis, VA, training on Apache gunships. Carlock had given him a copy of Firebirds. Later, the GI had reported for duty in Korea. At a formation, the maintenance sergeant told his men that they all needed to read the book he had in his hand, to know what real combat was like on gunships. The book was Firebirds. When the young GI told them he knew Carlock and had been out to eat with him, the guys were amazed.

Doug Womack has tracked down all the material needed to satisfy the Department Of The Army that a long overdue award to our unit has finally become a reality. This is a Valorous Unit Award authorized for all personnel of the 71st Aviation Company who were serving in the unit from 8 February 1971 to 28 March 1971. See the award and the awards of a Silver Star and a DFC for Ron Markiewicz in this newsletter.

64-13560 64-13560

In our last newsletter, in this section, a mention was made about Ken Krauss, a civilian pilot who now owns one of our former Rattler aircraft – 64-13560, a second platoon aircraft. Since that time, Ken has gone to great lengths to honor this former war bird with some beautiful Rattler markings. There are a couple of photos in this edition but they cannot do the ship justice. On our website, under Vietnam, under photographs, scroll to the bottom and click on “560 Continues To Fly” to get the full glory of this beautiful aircraft.

The Association has received several notices that concern e-mails that are sent regularly by unscrupulous persons who appeal to our religion, patriotism or sense of duty, somehow making it appear that you are less than American if you do not forward the message to your entire address book. This is usually a ruse to get the listings of your address book for the original sender for spam purposes. For this reason the Association never forwards these e-mails.

Firebird Christmas OrnamentRattler Christmas OrnamentA couple of new items have been added to our “for sale” list. We now offer oval “Rattler” or teardrop “Firebird” Christmas ornaments. They are made of beveled glass with a hanging cord and are 3 and ¾ inches tall and 2 and ¾ inches wide. They are priced at $15.00 each. A newsletter only special is offered now through Christmas at two for $25.00 plus the $6 postage and handling. See the color photos on our website and photos in this newsletter. Mention the special if ordering two please.

We also have copies of the group photo taken at Nashville. These are 10 inches wide by 5 inches tall and include an ID page. The photos are $6.00 each with NO postage and handling charge if they are the only item being purchased.

As always, make your checks to: 71st AHC Association. We do not take credit cards.


Hilton New Orleans Airport HotelOur next reunion is only 19 months away. It will be held at the Hilton New Orleans Airport hotel, located right across the street from the airport terminal. The dates are June 20th (Wednesday) to June 24th (Sunday), 2012. No reservations can be made before July 2011. Our room rate will be $99 plus 12.75 tax for a total of about $112 per night. This is down from the $127 per night in Nashville. Our banquet meal will be $35, down from $39 and $41 in Nashville. There will be no free breakfast from the hotel, but as in the past, we will offer coffee and assorted pastries each morning for free. The hotel does offer a 25% discount off their buffet breakfast which makes the cost about $13 per meal. A Denny’s restaurant is about 100 yards west of the hotel as another option. Many more details will appear in your newsletters to come. See more about New Orleans in the Kay Seabolt column in this newsletter.

Please give some thought to nominations for the Rattler Legend Award and the Unsung Hero Award for our next reunion. Criteria for each are they must be in attendance at the reunion. The Unsung Hero Award goes to a person whose primary duty was NOT as a flight crew member. You might consult the May 2010 Newsletter to look for candidates among those who attended the last reunion, or talk your friends into attending next time.



VA SealFrom a letter dated 5/21/10 received from Marsden Sanford (EM 67-68)

Ron, I have recently filed with the VA for two claims. One I did 14 years ago but was denied because there is nothing in my files about it. It was for a Purple Heart which I want and tracked down my gunner to verify it.

We had a mission to support the Green Beret Special Forces out of FOB 4 DaNang. We took a recon patrol out near the Laos – Cambodia border area. On the extraction we started to receive fire and took a few hits. The gunship coverage was so close that I took a piece of shrapnel right above the zipper of my flack jacket. When we got back to DaNang a medic gave me a tetanus shot and gave me a slip of paper and told me to give it to my unit in Chu Lai. Young ass that I was I waved it off (dumb). My gunner, Paul Todd, administered first aid also and picked a piece of shrapnel out of my chest.

I do not remember who the pilots were. The VA told me to get a notarized statement from any witnesses. It took me a few years to make contact with Paul. He went to the trouble to notarize the statement and mailed it to me (enclosed is a copy). I forwarded a copy to the VA and again they told me that this is not in my records.

At that point I threw up my hands in disgust, which is what they wanted. I have recently learned this from an old high school buddy who is a Commander of a local DAV Chapter. He is a 100% disabled Marine who was at Khe Sanh during Tet. He is a great guy and has helped me a lot so I am pursuing this again. I want my Purple Heart and any disability with it. I’m retired now and have all the time I need so I am not quitting this time.

My second claim is for PTSD. I will begin with March 5th, 1968. We were the lead ship on a staggered right formation with a flight of six or eight ships. My gunner was a guy named Devos. The only one I see in the directory is a Harold Devos of Rock Rapids, Iowa. I have yet to try and contact him for fear of opening up some old (42 years) wounds. Rex Robertson was our aircraft commander and I think a Mr. Collier or similar name was our peter pilot. I just learned from a recent call to Paul Todd that Mr. Robertson died of pancreatic cancer. Paul had a liver transplant 14 years ago.

On March 5th we were hit and Devos was grazed by a .51 caliber machine gun round and fell out of the ship. He had not been belted in. Mr. Robertson is hollering, “MayDay, MayDay this is Rattler 22 we’ve been hit, we are going down.” On the intercom, Mr. Robertson yells to me to get Devos. This was the first time I had ever flown with Devos and I did not understand Mr. Robertson until he pointed over to Devos’ seat. I looked around the transmission area and then jumped into the rice paddy mud up to my knees. Crew Chief Dave Shaw from the 2nd ship was coming over until he saw me jump out. Shaw turned to go back to his ship.

It took me so long to get the message that Mr. Robertson was yelling in the panic that Shaw’s A/C must have thought that the round went right through and hit me also. The bullet did go through hitting the lift linkage causing us to lose rpm. It exited a little above where my head was, but I had swiveled in my seat, shooting my ’60 forward of the aircraft as far as I could to give the pilot a little reassurance. They told us in Ft. Eustis to do this and I was glad I was paying attention on that day.

I got to Devos, who was face up in the mud, and hollered, “Come on man, you got to get up!” Devos was a lot bigger than me. I was about 125 pounds at 20 years old, now 62 and 200 pounds. Devos limped to the ship with me and I helped him in. He was bleeding badly so I put my handkerchief over the wound to apply pressure and try to stop the bleeding. I cried like a baby too! It still haunts me. This took about 3-4 or 5 minutes until we were back in the ship and Mr. Robertson had built up enough rpm to lift off. We got to some medic station and I never saw Devos again. The bird was brought to the Chu Lai Snakepit by a Chinook Boxcar – CH-47.

That is a little of my history which I hope didn’t bore you. Now that I’m retired I am going to try to get to the next reunion. I give you permission to print this in any future newsletter. I hope to get statements from either Shaw or Devos to verify this event and help my case with the VA and my claims. I hope to meet you at a future reunion. Mr. Robertson was one great guy and one tremendous pilot.

Editor’s note: Elmer Collier was located by the Association in El Paso, Texas and provided Sanford with two letters of support for the actions described. Dave Shaw also wrote in support of Sanford. At the time, Dave Shaw was trying to prove to the VA that he was actually a crew chief in Vietnam. He had no Air Medals after flying for months. Because of Sanford’s letter mentioning Shaw, a copy of the letter was furnished to Shaw in support of his claim.

Lessons learned: We can be mutually supportive in our current battles with the VA. We have over 1,000 men on our mailing list who served with us in Vietnam, putting us light years ahead of the average GI who is trying to fight the bureaucracy on his own, without knowing where anyone is that he served with. The VA counts on you not being able to substantiate your claim in any manner other than your own memory. We have the resources. As we retire on fixed incomes, a successful VA claim can make a huge difference in your quality of life. Use these resources and also please support your fellow vets wherever possible.

Always remember, never take a “no” from the VA until you have exhausted all means by which you can protest the ruling. Even a “yes” should be considered suspect and subject to a protest if the final ruling is not up to what it should be.

Agent Orange

If you have never been to a VA hospital or never had an Agent Orange screening you should do it immediately. There are a number of illnesses that are recognized as presumptive service-connected. Most have to do with cancer but some are heart related also. Presumptive as service-connected means IF YOU SERVED IN VIETNAM you are automatically eligible for disability if you contract one of the illnesses. See our website for the listings of illnesses covered by Agent Orange. Some new illnesses covered now are ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, all chronic B-Cell Leukemias, and Ischemic Heart disease.

The Agent Orange hotline number is 1-800-749-8387.

PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)

The VA has streamlined its process to provide health care and disability compensation for Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. The new ruling, which applies to Veterans of all eras, reduces the evidence needed to support a claim. A specific event is no longer required to support your claim. If you have a specific event, by all means you should include it with your claim.

PTSD claims when awarded will be in one of these increments: 10%, 30%, 50%, 70% or 100%. An award of 70% may also result in the Veteran being deemed as “unemployable”, thereby he would be paid at the 100% amount. A married Veteran at 100% will receive $2,823 per month, tax free.

Suicide Warning Signs (from the Agent Orange Review)


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


I remember when John Calvacca came into the 1st Platoon. As I recall, John had re-uped to get out of his infantry unit and become a door gunner there at Chu Lai. One can only imagine how his life changed upon doing this. He went from living like an animal out in the boonies to living in a dry hootch on a beautiful beach and getting to fly. He was a very happy-go-lucky type and coming from the infantry, who could blame him. Rest in peace, brother! Ron Seabolt.

ALEXANDRIA VA 22332-0400

PERMANENT ORDERS 089-10 30 March 2010

Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 14th Aviation Battalion (8 February 1971 to 7 April 1971)

71st Aviation Company (8 February 1971 to 28 March 1971) 116th Aviation Company (5 March 1971 to 24 March 1971) 174th Aviation Company (8 February 1971 to 7 April 1971) 176th Aviation Company (5 March 1971 to 24 March 1971) 756th Medical Detachment (8 February 1971 to 7 April 1971) Troop F, 8th Cavalry (8 February 1971 to 7 April 1971)

Announcement is made of the following award:

Award: Valorous Unit Award
Period of service: As listed above
Authority: AR 600-8-22, paragraph 7-14

Reason: For extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy and in support of military operations against hostile forces. During the period 8 February 1971 to 7 April 1971, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 14th Aviation Battalion and its subordinate units displayed extraordinary heroism in action against an armed enemy in support of allied combat operations in the Kingdom of Laos and along the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Southeast Asia. The unit conducted numerous combat assaults into areas congested with anti-aircraft weapons and armor. Enemy gunners were highly accurate and positioned themselves strategically so as to disrupt the helicopters' flight paths as much as possible. Although harassed by the intense enemy fire, the unit continued to fly mission after mission into the increasingly dangerous combat zone. As the operation neared completion, enemy fire intensified. Displaying unwavering courage and exceptional skill, the unit began to extract the besieged allied troops. The unmerciful enemy inflicted severe damage to numerous aircraft and continually rained a hail of rocket and mortar fire into the pickup zones. Unit personnel were undaunted by enemy fire and expertly maneuvered their aircraft into the pickup zone to extract the beleaguered friendly troops. The determined aviators repeatedly entered the dangerous battlefield and ultimately extracted the entire friendly force. Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 14th Aviation Battalion's outstanding performance of duty is in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflects great credit upon the unit and the United States Army.

Format: 320


Woodbridge Man to ReceiveDistinguished Flying Cross and Silver Star for Gallantry Monday

ANNANDALE - Congressman Gerry Connolly will present the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Silver Star to Vietnam veteran Ronald Markiewicz of Woodbridge 39 years after the Army lieutenant and helicopter pilot risked his own life, while wounded, in two separate combat incidents to rescue downed helicopter crews and wounded Marines.

Connolly will present former Army First Lieutenant Ronald E. Markiewicz of Woodbridge with the two prestigious medals for gallantry in action and extraordinary achievement - authorized by the President of the United States - at a ceremony in Connolly's Annandale office on Monday, July 19, at 2 pm. Markiewicz will be accompanied by family members at the ceremony in Connolly's office.

Markiewicz was a first lieutenant in the Army's 71stAviation Company, 14thAviation Battalion, 23rdInfantry Division.

"It is truly an honor for me to have the opportunity to present this Vietnam War hero with well-deserved and long-overdue recognition of his gallantry in action and devotion to duty," Connolly said. "Too often, we have overlooked the heroism, contributions, and sacrifices made by the men and women who serviced our country during the Vietnam War."

Complete descriptions of the heroic acts of March 21 and March 24, 1971 in Vietnam and Laos that earned Markiewicz these prestigious military awards follow:

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, 9 July 1918 (amended by act of 25 July 1963), has awarded theSILVER STARto:



For Gallantry: in action on 21 March 1971, while serving as a UH-1 Pilot, 71stAviation Company, 14thAviation Battalion, 23rd Infantry Division, in support of combat operations in Vietnam. On this date, First Lieutenant Markiewicz participated in a valiant attempt to resupply Vietnamese Marines in Laos that were under siege by the North Vietnamese Army. Despite intense anti-aircraft fire from several positions, he completed his landing approach, successfully offloading ammunition in exchange for four wounded Vietnamese Marines. During the takeoff, heavy machine gun fire ripped through the aircraft, piercing the fuel cells. Ignoring the enemy fire, First Lieutenant Markiewicz navigated the burning aircraft to a location below the landing zone to facilitate a safe rescue effort. Despite his own wounds and under machine gun fire, he carried a wounded Vietnamese Marine while directing his men to the rescue helicopter for evacuation. First Lieutenant Markiewicz' gallantry in action and devotion to duty are in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, 2 July 1926, has awarded the DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSSto



ForEXTRAORDINARY ACHIEVEMENT: during aerial flight on 24 March 1971, while serving as a UH-1 Pilot, 71stAviation Company, 14thAviation Battalion, 23dInfantry Division, in support of combat operations in Vietnam. On this date, First Lieutenant Markiewicz attempted to extract downed helicopter crews from the border area between North and South Vietnam and Laos. Despite intense anti-aircraft fire from several positions, he began his rescue attempt by skillfully avoiding a deadly hail of gunfire. As the UH-1 approached the ground, heavy machine gun fire tore through the aircraft. Impacting enemy rounds riddled the cockpit, causing shards of metal and plexiglass to cut him in multiple places. Ignoring his wounds, First Lieutenant Markiewicz successfully landed the aircraft, enabling troops to recover the downed crews. Upon completion of the sortie, he obtained a replacement aircraft and continued with the mission. First Lieutenant Markiewicz' devotion to duty is in keeping with the finest traditions of military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.


By Kay Seabolt

Raise your hand out there if you like to eat. If you raised your hand you are going to love New Orleans. I’ll say it again…you are going to LOVE New Orleans!

We took a quick trip to New Orleans in August to check out the hotel for the next Rattler-Firebird reunion. While I can honestly say that there is only one restaurant within walking distance of the hotel (Denny’s), there are other restaurants within a short driving distance and it is about 12-13 miles downtown. We ate our way through the French Quarter sampling beignets, po-boys, jambalaya, crab cakes, fried oysters, raw oysters, shrimp and catfish. And I can’t forget to mention the famous New Orleans bread pudding (yum). If we had been there any longer we would have come back blimps. I came back with a New Orleans cookbook, and have even learned to make “Roux”. I’ll go ahead and confess right now that the first batch was a total disaster and had to be thrown out.

I certainly don’t mean that there is nothing to do in New Orleans but eat. There are tons of sites to see and things to do. We tried to squeeze in as many as we could in two days. I just happen to have a love affair with food.

Our adventure in eating came to a screeching halt when we returned home. For the next six weeks we were on Weight Watchers. Our first splurge came after three weeks when Ron took me out for my birthday. We ate to our hearts and stomachs content. To all you guys out there here is an example of how not to compliment your wife when she asks how she looks for a night out on the town. Walking up to the restaurant I made the mistake of asking Mr. National Director how I looked. His reply: “I’ve seen you look a Hellva lot worse.” You can imagine my reaction. Only Ron could come up with a comment like that. Then to add fuel to the fire on the way home I was talking to our daughter telling her about the restaurant and how good it was when Ron belted out, “I haven’t had anything decent to eat in three weeks.” Sometimes his size 16 shoe goes right into his mouth. I wonder how he would like that shoe sliced up and on his plate for dinner. After all, it’s big enough to last for several meals.

By the time this goes to print we will have returned from a vacation that was made possible by a few wonderful friends. I won’t embarrass them by mentioning names, but you know who you are and we both thank you from the bottom of our hearts. This trip was why we both dieted so faithfully for six weeks. We know our track record and knew we had to get some excess weight off so we could have a blast putting it back on. So when this newsletter reaches your mailboxes, we will be a little heavier fondly remembering those endless buffets we were subjected to for seven days. I’m in the market for someone to come lay a napkin in my lap and serve me a four course meal without me having to lift anything heavier than my fork. Any takers out there?

Wishing you all a wonderful Holiday Season, and hoping you will all make plans to attend the 2012 reunion in the Big Easy.

What’s for dinner?


Taken from notes left on our website page under Paul Roger Lukins’ page
As written by SP/4 Tom Martiniano, RTO, Alpha Company, 1st of the 46th Infantry

I want to set the record completely straight about Captain Lukens and tell what a hero he was. You see, I was 3 feet from Captain Lukens when he was shot. It was during one of the biggest battles in Vietnam and Mr. Lukens was a big part of why I am still here and able to write this. I am actually going to start a movement to get Captain Lukens a Silver Star for his heroism that fateful day. Here is the story:

On May 13th, 1969 in Quang Tin Province, Alpha Company, 1st of the 46th was trapped by a Battalion of NVA. We had been fighting all day long and were taking casualties every fifteen minutes. It was close to sundown and we were surrounded and engaged with 200-300 NVA. They were moving in on us for the kill. We were all fighting for our lives and we were running out of ammo fast. I radioed Battalion and told them to get more ammo out to us ASAP. Battalion had anticipated us running out and had the resupply chopper loaded and running on the chopper pad of LZ Professional. Captain Lukens' ran his chopper out to us immediately after my call. He was coming in while we were heavily engaged with enemy as close as 50 meters to us. Capt Lukens called me and told me he was inbound. I told him he would have to drop the ammo on our position because the LZ was way too hot. He countered by asking me how many wounded we had. I told him "a lot" and re-iterated that the LZ was closed. He ignored me and came straight in and flared for a landing. I told him to break off the landing and get up to 500 feet and drop the ammo. He responded with; "Get your wounded ready for evacuation." I ran over to the LZ and stood in the middle of it and told him he was forbidden to land. He landed right on top of me. I ran to his window with my radio in hand and yelled at him to get the bird out of there. By this time the NVA were hammering his Rattler with bullets. There were so many bullets hitting the chopper at this time, that little pieces of chopper cut my face and hands, but I kept ordering him to take off. That is when he got hit in the face with a bullet. I pulled him out and put him in the back so his co-pilot could take off. He did and got the chopper back to LZ Professional.

Captain Lukens risked his own life to get the wounded out and to the hospital, which he did. He not only saved the lives of those seven wounded, but he saved the rest of our lives by giving us the precious ammo we needed to fend off the NVA, which we did.

Captain Lukens saved 65 lives that day: The seven wounded he got out went on to the States where they lived the rest of their natural lives. They owe Capt Lukens their lives. The other 58 of us had enough ammo to continue to fight. Mr. Lukens is a true hero and deserves a medal for his sacrifice.

This is true and an accurate summary of how Captain Lukens was killed in Vietnam.

Alan Kirby Milton of Alpha Company Adds His Comments about Captain Lukens

I was there in May 1969.This what I remember on that day in May. I was a Sgt for the Second Platoon in Alpha Co. I was told that a chopper was coming in and get ready to load the wounded. We were taking heavy small arms fire and also were being mortared. I and another soldier carried a badly wounded soldier and put him on the chopper. He was 3/4 in when the side gunner grabbed him and pulled him in. With that the wounded soldier yelled with pain. I stepped back and waited for the other wounded to be loaded. Once the chopper was full, I was knelling and waiting for the chopper to take off. I remember thinking, what were waiting for. The chopper started to bounce off the ground. All of a sudden, one of the side gunners got out and opened the door at the front where the pilots were. I think he took off the pilot’s helmet and saw that he was shot. He closed the front door and climbed back in to the side gun and the chopper took off. The chopper clipped a tree while ascending. I thought for a moment that the skids would catch a limb and crash. I remember hearing the pilot say on the radio that he is not coming back to LZ Pro but that he is going straight to Chu Lai. By taking the wounded that day, I know he and the men on that chopper saved their lives. In 2000 I found out his name. I just found this site today and started to read some of the stories. This is my memory of what happened on that day in May, 1969.

Editor’s note: The following story was taken directly from letters Pete Dolbee wrote home.


By Pete Dolbee (EM 66-67)
25 Jan 67 11:30 pm

Dearest Family,

George Bailey and Pete Dolbee George Bailey and Pete Dolbee

I’ve started to write you about three times the last few days and I always run out of things to say, and never get them mailed. I’ve finally got something to write about, so I’ll try and finish this letter.

First off, Mom, if you think I’m getting a lot of mail here, you’d better think again. I suppose the next thing you’ll do is stop writing completely and forget all about me. Dad, I know you’re busy too, but how about taking a little television time and changing it into letter writing time. Dammit, I sure would like to hear from some of my family. Nuff said.

26 Jan 67 3 pm

Last night, when I started this letter, I’d just come back from three days at Song Be, about 50 miles north of here. The people we were supporting were Special Forces (Green Berets). We were working with Vietnamese Recondos. Our missions were much like single ship combat assaults. We’d take four Vietnamese in black pajamas, drop them in the jungle one day and pick them up a mile or so away the next day.

The first day we were there (Monday) we got organized, pitched a large tent for the officers, got our equipment, guns, etc. ready, and went to bed early. I also managed to get stung by a scorpion – no aftereffects.

The next day we made two insertions at predetermined spots. The first was at a sandbank on a river. It wasn’t too bad an LZ but it was hairy in the fact that there was undergrowth right up beside us that there could have been a million Charlie’s in the area.

The second LZ was much worse as it was a small clearing in the jungle that would barely fit a helicopter. The trees around the clearing were 30’ high, & old Pruney (his aircraft) was really straining every bolt in her to get us out. We made it though, and that was the end of Tuesday’s action.

Wednesday started off wrong. I was wiping the morning dew off my windows when a gunship came by, blew the aircraft commander’s door open and broke both hinges on it. My pilots didn’t want to fly with the door off, so they flew another ship up from the Snakepit.

That afternoon we flew one mission much like the last one of Tuesday, except we were making an extraction rather than an insertion.

We went back to Song Be, dropped off the troops, and refueled. The last pickup of the day was a little worse than all the others. There was no adequate clearing, so we were to pick up the Recondos two at a time on a rope ladder. We came in and hovered at 30’ above the treetops. Two Vietnamese started up the ladder on my gunner’s side. The next thing I heard my gunner say was, “There’s seven of ‘em on there.” My pilot, Mr. Bailey started yelling into his mic, “We’re losing RPM! Cut the ladder!”

The gunner had a knife he was supposed to use in case we ran into trouble. However, I swung around my pole outside the helicopter and went over to cut the rope. The gunner was still sitting in his seat. I grabbed the knife from him and started hacking the ropes. The knife was dull and it must have taken 20 seconds to cut the nylon ropes. Just as the ladder fell, I heard the pilot say, “5000” (RPM), and I knew it was too late. I hit the floor and she started coming down.

Because the RPM’s were so low, we lost tail rotor control, and the ship started spinning around like a top. My gunner guessed that we spun 3 times before we hit. We landed in the exact same direction we had been headed 30’ above.

The next thing I remember clearly was climbing out of the door (we landed right side up thank God) and looking at the ship. The tail rotor was broken up and bent at crazy angles. It had stopped completely. The tail boom and synchronized elevators were bent up. The tail rotor driveshaft was banging against the tailboom where it had broken in two. The mail rotor was still going around slowly. The blades were gouged, bent and torn where they had mowed down trees. There was undoubtedly considerable damage done to the undercarriage, but I couldn’t see how much due to the density of the brush.

Everybody got out of the ship and grabbed their weapons. We began the longest 2 and ½ hours in our lives – down in the jungle, Charlie’s home grounds, only walking distance from the Cambodian border.

28 Jan 67

To make a long story short, they recovered all the Vietnamese by sling load in Hueys. After they got all the Vietnamese out, they took the pilot, Mr. Rudolph, and the gunner, SP/4 Rink, out by sling load. Mr. Bailey, the aircraft commander, and I waited while they dropped the recovery crew. We helped them set up the ship and a Chinook came in and sling loaded it out. Mr. Bailey and I were the last ones out of the LZ where we crashed. We all got back to Song Be safe and sound and shortly thereafter they sent us all back to 96227 (Bien Hoa). I was up flying the next day.

I managed to borrow an instamatic camera and took 60 slides while I was in Song Be, including pictures of the crash. I’ll send them on to you as soon as they’re developed and I get a chance to look at them (probably a couple of weeks).

Yesterday we took a couple of Generals around the countryside. Kind of tame for Rattlers’ blood!

Today we pulled a mock combat assault for General Westmoreland, Premier Ky, and Secretary or the Army Resor. Jets prestruck the area, the Firebirds hit it and then we went in and dropped off 80 Vietnamese troops. The rattlers were picked specially for the mission (I think it’s ‘cause we’re the best).

I’m enclosing a couple of pictures that my gunner, Dennis Cornibe took of me with his Polaroid Swinger today. Of course that’s Prunella Glutz (his ship) in the background.

Pruney’s in maintenance right now with a bad hydraulic leak – she’s also in for intermediate inspection. My engine’s having to put out way too much work for the results it gets, so I think my cyclic control is out of rig. At 80 knots I’m pulling 40 lbs. of torque, and 91% gas producer rpm, when I should be pulling 33 lbs. and 85%. I’ve got something wrong somewhere.

12 June 67

Dearest Family,

Catastrophe hit the 71st once again. I was flying “lightening bug” early yesterday morning when it happened.

We had flown one mission south of here earlier in the night. We spotted a sampan and put the big light that was installed in the helicopter I was flying in on the boat. The gunships, flown by our CO, Major Arink, and the XO, Major Hall, came in and destroyed the sampan with miniguns. That was the only action we saw on that mission.

At 0400 we went out on the second mission. We had been in the air for approximately fifteen minutes, patrolling the banks of a large backwater area just north of the Chu Lai runway when the gunship spotted another sampan. Over the radio we heard, “Mark!” and we soon had out light on the target. The gunships made a circle, presumably to make his firing pass.

We circled the sampan with the light aimed right at it, but the gunship didn’t show up. The command and control ship, the third helicopter on a lightening bug team, began calling the gunship on the radio, “Rattler Six, this is Rattler Three!” “Rattler Six, this is Rattler Three!” “I think Six has gone down back there somewhere.”

“Roger, this is Two-Two. Do you want us to drop some flares?”

“That’s affirm. We’ve got to try and find him.”

We were carrying thirty magnesium aircraft flares in addition to the seven 1500 watt landing lights composing the lightening bug lighting setup. We began dropping flares in strings from three to five flares per run waiting from five to fifteen seconds between flares.

The flares are of extreme brightness due to the light producing qualities of magnesium. They also produce tremendous heat – capable of burning through carbon steel. The fuse device consists of two dials, a safety pin, and a 1/16 inch steel cable which has a quick disconnect in the middle and a ring at the end.

In order to operate the flare one dial is set for “ejection time.” We set this at ten seconds for an altitude of 2500 feet. After ten seconds the flare is blown free of the canister and the parachute opens. The second dial, set at five seconds, is for ignition of the magnesium. All dials are set on the ground in order to make throwing of the flares a speedy operation. The cable is connected to the cargo floor by means of a snap ring. The safety pin is pulled as the flare is ready to be thrown, and the flare is shoved out of the door. Eighteen pounds pull is required to ignite the fuse device, and twenty-four pounds separates the cable at the quick disconnect.

After throwing about twenty flares, Corney pulled the pin on one and the ejection charge went off, burning his hand. Knowing that if the magnesium ignited that the flare would burn through the floor of the helicopter and blow up the fuel cell, I tried to kick it out. I was blinded by the light from the sparks from the ignition device and couldn’t see what I was doing, but managed to get the flare overboard along with a couple of others.

We threw the remainder of the flares and found a piece of rotor blade in the water. Rattler Six had indeed gone down but we couldn’t see any sign of the aircraft or survivors. We flew Corney to the second surgical hospital for first aid treatment and rearmed the ship with flares at the Firebird line.

We went out to the crash area and began dropping flares again. We spotted a large oil slick and then the aircraft upside down in the water. Two of the four crew members could be seen standing upon the helicopter. We enlisted the aid of a USMC H-34 which hovered down and picked up the two men. The men were Major Arink and Major Hall. The crew chief, SP/5 Taylor, had a large gash down the length of his chest and the gunner appeared to be unmarked.

The accident was caused by a large object which came through the windshield hitting Major Hall in the head. It knocked him unconscious causing him to slump over the controls and the aircraft went down.

Major Arink almost drowned getting out of the aircraft. He came up for air, went back down and got the unconscious Major Hall out of the ship. After reviving him with artificial respiration, he started back down for the crew members but he ran out of strength and had to give up.

The aircraft was twisted and buckled like a pretzel, and Major Hall is listed as having a fifty-fifty chance of living.

I have told our platoon leader that I quit flying, but after some thought, I’ve decided to continue. You’ve no idea how scared I get sometimes. I’ve told you before that I’m no hero and it’s definitely true. I feel that I owe it to you all to keep at it. It’s awful hard for me to keep up my courage, but I love you so much that I want you to be proud of me. The job I’m doing over here is the most I’ve ever given you to be proud of me. I pray that I am soon home to share the most wonderful moments in my life – being with my family in the United States once again – I miss you all terribly.

Bob JacqmeinBob Jacqmein - Snakedoctor Crewman - 1966
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