Rattler/Firebird Association



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!


The cost of living increase for this year was 1.3%. The announced cost of living increase starting in January is 5.9%. For a veteran only rated at 100% this amounts to $185.63 per month increase. A married veteran rated at 100% will see a $195.98 per month increase.

There is a non-fiction book that came out in 2020 named Phoenix 13 authored by Darryl James. This book details James’ year in Vietnam flying scout aircraft out of Chu Lai. On the back cover (and in the inside back cover and in the photo section) is a photo of an OH-6 “Loach” aircraft at a firebase. Parked next to this Loach is Rattler aircraft 67-17497, a UH-1H that entered service in our company in June 1968 and served until April 1970 with a total of 2274 hours. If you flew or crewed this aircraft you might want to buy the book. You can just barely make out the snake on the avionics nose cover, but the last three of the tail number is in white letters identifying it as “497”. Our thanks go to Wilkie Boyd for furnishing a copy of this to Ron Seabolt. Note: A post on our Association Guestbook by William Mancil lists Mancil as the gunner on ship “497” with two crew chiefs, Bernard Smith and Bernard Hockensmith.

We have had some problems lately with getting our newsletters delivered. Part of the problem is the Post Office. Part of the problem was my having too much information on that back page which caused the scanners at the Post Office to not pick up the members’ address. From this newsletter forward, the merchandise page will be located inside the back page to alleviate this SNAFU.

Remember that the VA Crisis Line for veterans is at: 1-800-273-8255 Ext. 1.


We have learned of the following deaths since the last newsletter:

I was informed recently of the death on July 11th of Barbara Hand, wife of Dennis Hand. She had been ill for 15 months from a couple of problems, not Covid related.


At this time we are still up in the air about the location of the next reunion. An attempt is being made to secure a contract with a hotel in San Antonio, Texas. We were last in San Antonio in 2006 which will have been seventeen years in 2023.


Joseph Lee Galloway Jr. was born on Nov. 13, 1941, in Refugio, Texas, to Joseph Galloway Sr. and Marian (Dewvell) Galloway. His father worked for Humble Oil.

Less than a month after he was born, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Four of his mother’s brothers went to war; so did his father and five of his brothers.

Joe Galloway, a war correspondent whose wrenching account of the first major battle of the Vietnam War was the basis for the book “We Were Soldiers Once … and Young,” which became a best seller and the basis of a hit movie, died on Wednesday in Concord, N.C. He was 79.

His wife, Dr. Grace Liem, said the cause was complications of a heart attack.

Mr. Galloway started in journalism at 17 and worked for 22 years as a war correspondent and bureau chief for United Press International. He was the only civilian awarded a medal of valor by the Army for combat action in the Vietnam War.

Joe was the guest speaker at our reunions in San Antonio in 2006 and New Orleans in 2012.


General Colin Powell, 84, died on 18 October 2021 as a result of Covid 19. General Powell had served a tour in the Americal Division as an infantry battalion XO major. He rose to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs during Desert Storm, later became Secretary of State under George Bush in the 2000s.

On a personal note, the pilot who was my aircraft commander for six months in ’66 and ‘67, WO-1 Jerry Shirley, once told me that while he was stationed at Fort Carson, CO, General Powell was the Deputy Base Commander. Jerry told me that he thought Powell was the finest general officer he ever served under in 33 years in the Army.


By Marita J. Thomas (wife of Randy Thomas)

Hey, guys, come closer. I want you to be able to hear what I have to say! Wow, you all are classics. Look at you, you’re sitting here with the wisdom of the world sitting in your hearts and minds some fifty years after sharing your lives with one another, building bonds that can’t be broken.

That’s it… you remind me of classic cars. You know the ones I’m talking about. The muscle cars from the 50’s and 60’s. I’m sure you had a favorite. Was it a little deuce coupe? A 1955 Chevy? Perhaps a ’66 Corvette Sting Ray. Whatever the make and model, I’m sure you either had one or knew someone who had one.

Well fellas, today you get to undergo a transformation—you get to become that car! I want you to imagine yourself as that car: a strong engine, sleek body, Crager wheels on cheater slicks. Four on the floor, 427 engine with 560 horse power. Man, could you fly!!! Every car wanted to be you. Rev the engine, pop the clutch, burn rubber in all four gears running fast and crazy. How many times did you outrun the law? Oh wait—you wouldn’t do that, would you?

And the girls? Whoa buddy. The girls would stop you, maybe trail their fingers down the side of your fender. Maybe open the door, hop in and take you for a ride. Right? You know what I’m talking about. Could it get any better? I’ll bet some of those girls are still with you.

One day, someone else starts taking notice of all that speed, energy and muscle. Uncle Sam sees you and thinks: look at this, the United States Army could use this muscle to fight a war! And the next thing you know you find yourself morphed from the sound of roaring engines and loud pipes to the whop, whop, whop of a Huey helicopter.

But wait, that’s not all. Not only did you become a Huey, you became creatures: Firebirds and Rattlers. You were transformed from a street machine to a flying target, and The United States Army sent you into hell at Chu Lai, LZ Baldy and Hep Duc to get shot at, shot up and shot down.

But you Firebirds and Rattlers did your jobs flying day and night to save American lives. By the grace of God you flew through to the other side and morphed back to your former state; maybe edgier, maybe more risky. Maybe a scratch here and a dent there.

Like all classic cars you suffered some wear and tear. You realize that things just aren’t what they used to be. A few years and quite a few miles down the road you notice your headlights aren’t as bright as they once were, and things look a bit cloudy. A lens transplant takes care of that. Your engine isn’t running right; a bypass is required to keep things running smoothly. A few more years and many more miles pass by and you notice that the shock absorbers are shot. Hopefully, it will require only one knee replacement. A broken axle buys you a new hip. The years and the odometer roll on, and you admit you’re not that fancy muscle car from so many years ago.

Instead, you’ve become a classic. Burning rubber and driving fast isn’t important anymore; a Sunday afternoon drive at 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit suits you just fine. And here you are today with much to reflect upon. Let us focus on this: you served together for such a short period of time, but the bond you share has lasted more than a half century!

Let’s raise our glasses to the Boys of the Summer of 1969, and to the women who love you.


(reprinted from an article in “Southern Cross” by SP/4 William J. Hayes, June 12, 1970)*

CHU LAI (AMERICAL IO) – A helicopter crew and three infantrymen were rescued minutes after they were shot down during recent action near besieged Hiep Duc.

The downed UH-1H and the rescue ship were both from the Americal Division’s 71st Assault Support Helicopter Company, based at Chu Lai. The “Rattler” helicopters of the 71st ASHC were part of an extraction of infantry from a pickup zone surrounded by the enemy. It was the first time the company had successfully completed an extraction from a pickup zone taking enemy fire from all sides.

The downed ship was originally sent from Hawk Hill, where its combat assault mission was postponed to attempt the first extraction.

As the aircraft commander, Lieutenant Richard G. Lohman, Rock Rapids, Iowa, nosed the aircraft toward the pickup zone, enemy rounds stabbed upward at the ship from concealed gun positions. The Huey touched down briefly as the three infantrymen piled aboard. Within seconds the ship was airborne again.

“The infantrymen were elated to be taken out,” said Captain R.J. Sienkiewicz, pilot.

“We were taking fire going in, on the ground, and coming out,” said Lieutenant Lohman.

Door gunner Specialist Four Thomas W. Kellogg, Albia, Iowa and crew chief Private First Class Donald C. Deshazer, Coos Bay, Ore., laid down suppressive machinegun fire to the flanks as the ship climbed out.

Then things started to go wrong.

“My gun stopped firing because of a double feed,” said PFC Deshazer. He tapped one of the infantrymen on the helmet. The footsoldier immediately swung his own machine gun out and began firing.

Enemy rounds hit the bird hard.

“We were climbing out when they shot our engine out and the aircraft started going down,” said Captain Sienkiewicz.

They were at low altitude, and the rounds also damaged the hydraulic control assist system. The aircraft commander had to fight the dead hydraulic system.

“We didn’t have much choice of where we went. We were heading southwest and hit slightly to the left of our original heading,” said Lieutenant Lohman.

Captain Sienkiewicz praised Lieutenant Lohman’s handling of the crippled ship.

“He did a fine job bringing it in,” said Captain Sienkiewicz.

He was able to drop the ship in a relatively clear area, but the ground was not level. The chopper rested on its right side, one end of the main rotor dug deep into the ground.

PFC Deshazer ran along the left landing skid, more than five feet above the ground.

“When I got to the front of the ship to open Lieutenant Lohman’s door, I saw him and Captain Sienkiewicz being very polite to each other,” he said.

Each was insisting that the other should leave the craft first. The etiquette session didn’t last long, however, and soon all seven men were on the ground.

The aircraft crew members began removing the machine guns from their mountings. Specialist Kellogg couldn’t take his ammo box along. It had been shot out from under him just before the helicopter hit the ground.

Heavy small arms fire was still crackling all around the downed men. The infantrymen who had just been picked up returned fire with their machine gun and M-16 rifles.

Gunships still in the air tore at the surrounding terrain with rockets and machine guns. The “Snake Doctor**”, the company’s repair and recovery ship flying above the other ships on the mission, came in with four machine guns blazing.

“We didn’t have much chance to set up on the ground around the aircraft,” said Lieutenant Lohman. “The first time I looked up, I saw the belly of the ‘Snake Doctor’ right above us,” he said.

The rescue ship landed about 50 meters from the downed slick. All seven men piled on fast.

“A few years ago, I ran the mile in five and a half minutes, and I was one of the last ones aboard,” said PFC Deshazer.

“Lieutenant Lohman low crawled and he was one of the first ones in,” said Captain Sienkiewicz.

With a total of thirteen men aboard, “Snake Doctor” lifted off. This time, they made it all the way out.

“As we climbed out, I glanced over at the infantrymen. They were smiling again,” said Captain Sienkiewicz.

* This article was printed verbatim.
**Captain Jim Duke and WO-1 Wally Honda were flying the “Snake Doctor” according to Richard Sienkiewicz.


Reprinted from “Our Helicopter War” by Garland Lively and John Hastings*

While living at the Pelican Roost (home of the 161st AHC) I had a pet monkey named George who served as the company platoon mascot for a while. I bought George for forty dollars and brought him back to the compound where the entire company fell in love with him. We constructed a little hooch for him behind the officer’s quarters and kept him tied to it on a leash. He had a little tin cup, and he would sit next to the PSP sidewalk and when someone would walk by with a soda or beer, George would beat his cup on the sidewalk and beg for a drink. If you failed to share with him, he would bite you on the back of the leg as you attempted to walk away. It was rather like a tollbooth on a turnpike. You either paid George or he would nail you.

We decided that George needed an air medal and attempted to take him for a helicopter ride so he could obtain the twenty-five combat missions required for his air medal. George became terrified as soon as we began cranking the turbine engine and he clung tightly to the crew chief with chattering teeth. When the aircraft broke ground and the wind began rushing through the aircraft, George went crazy and broke away from the crew chief. He began screaming and racing around the cockpit. We closed the cargo doors and finally climbed high enough that it cooled off sufficiently to enable the crew chief to subdue George. He huddled next to the crew chief for warmth. That was the end of George’s flying career. He never got his air medal.

George soon learned how to untie his leash, and while I was out flying, he would escape and terrorize the company area. He was especially fond of raiding the mess hall. The Vietnamese helpers were terrified of him and would flee in horror when he entered the facility. George would race through the mess hall stealing fruit and vegetables.

In the evenings we would release George and the pilots would gather behind their hooches to observe his antics. He loved to swim in the creek between our hooches and the battalion headquarters. We also had a small male dog named Snoopy that would play with George for hours. Sometimes George’s hormones would become overactive and he would attempt to mount Snoopy from the rear. This was exceeding the bounds of friendship that Snoopy was willing to endure and a fight would result.

When we went to the beach George always went with us. He would sit straddled on someone’s neck, holding onto the hair for support. He had a disgusting habit of urinating down the back of our necks during these trips. On one excursion to the beach, George, who was being carried by Kenneth Jackson, begin to pick at Jack’s ear with his finger. George suddenly lost control of himself and attempted to ram his penis into Jack’s ear. We almost had a dead monkey on our hands as a result of that action. From that point on we devised other means of transport.

George was an excellent swimmer and loved swimming in his creek but did not like the waves generated by the South China Sea. We always carried our inflatable rubber air mattresses with us to ride the waves. Much to George’s objection we waded out and placed him on an air mattress. When we launched George, the combination of wind and waves caused the mattress to fly about five feet through the air before flipping over and crashing into the ocean. We became concerned when George failed to pop back up. Someone flipped the mattress over, and there was George, still hanging on for dear life. He chattered and complained all the way back to the hooch.

We frequently visited other clubs in the area at night and at times we carried George with us. One night we entered the officers’ club at the hospital and a nurse was sitting on a barstool with a dress on. George broke loose from us and scrambled up the barstool and nosed himself up under the nurse’s dress. We were promptly asked to leave and requested to never return.

George was far more welcome at the MAG-36 Officers’ Club where we hung out. His marine buddies kept him well supplied with beer. One night the marines at the table next to ours ordered a large pizza and placed it in the center of the table. They, however, broke protocol and failed to offer George a piece. George was insulted and scrambled onto their table and began stuffing pizza into his mouth. When one of the marines challenged George for the pizza, George bit the marine on the hand. George’s club privileges were promptly revoked.

George was very vindictive and did not hesitate to seek revenge. Walter Shaw teased George a lot. One night, Walter was walking along the sidewalk from the officers’ club back to his hooch. The drop tank shower extended a bit over the sidewalk. Unknown to Walter, George was lurking in an ambush for him in the over-hanging shower structure. When Walter passed the shower, George pounced on him and bit him on his earlobe. Justice was served.

George eventually met his downfall when he managed to engineer one of his escapes and wandered into the Commanding Officer’s hooch. Major Donald S. Galla had just received a new box of Dutch Masters cigars, which were sitting above his bunk. George sat in the middle of the major’s bed and shredded every one of the cigars to pieces. Not satisfied with his efforts he then emptied an entire can of shaving cream onto the bunk and spread it all over the shredded cigars. When I returned from my mission that day the operations officer informed me that Major Galla wanted to see me ASAP. Major Galla showed me the carnage and gave me twenty-four hours to get rid of George. The next day Kenneth Jackson and I carried George to the PX and traded him to some GIs for two cases of coke. I’ve often wondered how many units in Vietnam George was involved in. I’m sure he never remained anywhere for long before being “Transferred.”

In Chuck Carlock’s book “Firebirds” he describes a monkey named Clarence J. Dammitt, who was a mascot of the 71st Assault Helicopter Company at Chu Lai. This sounds amazingly similar to George the Monkey, the mascot of the 161st Assault Helicopter Company. Since Chuck did not arrive in Chu Lai until October 1967, the dates seems to correspond to the time frame when I had to get rid of George, likely in August 1967. If my theory is correct, then the 71st Assault Helicopter Company was likely the fourth and final Americal Division unit to have this obnoxious little monkey for a mascot. He may have served in several other area units prior to arriving at the Pelicans Roost.**

*Editor’s Note: John Hastings was involved with the action at Million Dollar Hill on September 12, 1967 and was the crew chief of the aircraft that removed the body of our own Efrain Robledo from that LZ.

**My recollection of Clarence was that he showed up in our unit in August 1967 and was likely the same George as in this story. Later, Clarence once again found his way (with help) into the CO’s hooch who was Major Joe K. Bell. Major Bell retrieved a pump shotgun and promptly ended Clarence’s mascot career. I believe Clarence was awarded a posthumous Purple Heart (unrecorded). Also contained in this 161st history was the story of the Battle at Cape Batangen in the early morning hours of 15 July 1967. Their story reflects quite a bit of discrepancy between what our unit history of that action reports. WO-1 David Ellingsworth was Fire Team Lead of the Firebirds with wingman Captain Joe Daughtery. They first attacked the NVA trawler and Ellingsworth ended up salvoing his “hog” into the ship and left it a smoking hulk when relived on station by Scorpion gunships of the 161st AHC. The center page of the next issue of “Stars and Stripes” was loaded with the Navy version of this battle. At an awards ceremony a few days later, Premier Ky awarded Ellingsworth and Daughtery the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for their actions that night. I was told at the time that the Navy needed some heroic stories. rs



Received from Mark Leopold (WO 67-68)

Steve Jobs Died a billionaire at age 56. This is his final essay:

I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In some others’ eyes, my life is the epitome of success. However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, my wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to. At this moment, lying on my bed and recalling my life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in have paled and become meaningless in the face of my death.

You can employ someone to drive the car for you, make money for you but you cannot have someone bear your sickness for you. Material things lost can be found or replaced. But there is one thing that can never be found when it’s lost - Life. Whichever stage in life you are in right now, with time, you will face the day when the curtain comes down.

Treasure love for your family, love for your spouse, and love for your friends. Treat yourself well and cherish others. As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we realize that a $300 or a $30 watch both tell the same time. You will realize that your true inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world. Whether you fly first class or economy, if the plane goes down - you go down with it.

Therefore, I hope you realize, when you have mates, buddies and old friends, brothers and sisters, who you chat with, laugh with, talk with, have sing songs with, talk about north-south-east-west or heaven and earth that is true happiness! Don't educate your children to be rich. Educate them to be happy. So when they grow up they will know the value of things and not the price. Eat your food as your medicine, otherwise you have to eat medicine as your food.

The One who loves you will never leave you for another because, even if there are 100 reasons to give up, he or she will find a reason to hold on. There is a big difference between a human being and being human. Only a few really understand it. You are loved when you are born. You will be loved when you die. In between, you have to manage!

The six best doctors in the world are sunlight, rest, exercise, diet, self-confidence and friends. Maintain them in all stages and enjoy a healthy life."


Never ask a woman, “What’s for dinner?” while she’s mowing the lawn.

Never argue was anyone who buys ink by the barrel.

What was Forrest Gump’s Facebook password? 1forrest1(runforrestrun).

How do you cook a kidney? You fry the p--s out of it!

William Shatner has discontinued his new line of lingerie. Apparently, Shatner panties wasn’t the best choice for a name.

My wife has evil lessons with Satan every week. I don’t know how much she charges.

An elderly couple is in church. The wife says to the husband, “I’ve let out one of those silent farts, what do I do?” The husband says, “Change the battery in your hearing aid.’

I told my wife I saw a deer on the way to work. She said, “How do you know he was headed to work?”

Photo Gallery

Group Photo From 2021 Reunion

Group Photo from 2021 Reunion

ON THE FLOOR: John Reis, Doug Schultz, Rich Lohman, Terry Igoe, Vic Bandini, Lynn Kazmierowski, Greg Arndt, Gene Waldrip, Butch Meche, Les Winfield, Steve Hopkins, Paul Bartlett, Jim Fulbrook, Roger Howell, Kilfred Walley, Bob Gardiner, Charles Everest, James Malone, David Benedict, Doug Womack, Ed Mills , Jerry Richardson.

SEATED: Eric Kilmer, Jim Pfister, Carl Stanat, David Ellingsworth, Steve Israel, Terry Wasson, Chuck Gross, John May, Danny Conn, Gary Fischer, Hal Bowen, Tom Knapp, Ron Seabolt, Johnnie Hitt, Jay Wilhelm, Fred Smith, Chuck Carlock, David O’Quinn, Bill Lurvey, Don Profitt, Larry Smith, David Weber, Dick Ehrich, Mike Beaumont.

STANDING: Bill Keller, Sam Arthur, Tom Semmes, Mike Hansen, Ed Maryliw, Don Rodgers, Dick Parcher, MaryLou Crosby, Doug Lane, Pat Riley, Wendell Freeman, Gene Britt, Chico Marcano, ‘Lil Mac MaMahon, Rick Cronin, John Bracken, David Ropes, Don Lynam, Mike Ricker, Paul Teelin, Bill Holgerson, Jim Malek, Bob Wade, Jim Collins, Rick Webster, Bill Patrick, Will Drewry.

NOT ATTENDING GROUP PHOTO: John Hoss, Bruce Kelly*, Mark Leopold*, Tom Marty*, Randy Thomas* For sure not in photo.