Rattler/Firebird Association

Firebird 91 Loss from Operations

On January 10, 1970, Tony Jones was working as an Operations Specialist in Operations and was recording a taped letter to send home. The tape caught much of what went on in Operations during that time. The following is a transcript of that tape recording. The transcription was done by Wally Honda.


(Narration by SP4 Jones) “….there’s not too much happing here right now. There is a ship in the POL trying to fuel up. The weather is heavy overcast and I don’t think there will be too many more coming in.” (Helicopter Rotor Blade and Turbine engine noise in background) “It’s still raining. They said they had a lot of action today, ah, up there by Tam Ky. A bunch of snipers on Highway 1. Highway 1 is the only highway that runs through Vietnam. But, Charlie is human. I don’t think he runs around in this type of weather anyway. They are shutting it down now. I’ll shut this off until something else comes in. I’ll flip this back on.”

(Helicopter Rotor and Turbine Engine Noise)


“Here comes one now taking off. That’s one of the gunships. He’s pulling into the revetments that is about a hundred yards away from me.”


“We lost a ship today, a gunship. And, ah, we don’t, we can’t, nobody knows where it is so we don’t know whether he had a mid-air collision with somebody else or if he ran it into the ground or something, but they are still looking for him.”


Today’s, ah, 10th of January [1970] an it’s still raining. We got a ceiling here about maybe 400 feet, 400-500 feet and is overcast. And is really bindgy weather. I’m standing pretty close to the road so you might hear the cars and stuff go by. There goes a duce and half. I think I hear our gunships coming back. ….the sounds of Vietnam.”


“See where I am standing now is on top of a hill. I think you got a picture of it back there and, ah, the pilots come up out of the Snake Pit. The Snake Pit is what we call our area down there. The pilots come up out of the Snake Pit and they climb up this hill. Here comes a bunch of them now. You can probably hear them.”

“I don’t know if you can hear what they are saying or not?”

Pilots: (Conversation in background, not audible)

SP4 Jones: “What’s happening there, Sir?”

Unidentified: “Do you have any coffee?”

SP4 Jones: “No.”

WO1 Honda: “No coffee?”

Unidentified: “Go down to maintenance, they got some.”

Unidentified: “Go make some!”

SP4 Jones: “Yeah, we got some in there.”

Unidentified: “Make it!”

(More conversation, not audible)

(Narration by SP4 Jones) “Bunch of pilots here looking for coffee. They are always scrounging.”

“ Here comes in one of our ships in.”


Unidentified: “In the gray bin.”

SP4 Jones: “Yeah, you can get some out of there.”

WO1 Honda: (inaudible)

SP4 Jones: “Haw?”

WO1 Honda: (inaudible)

SP4 Jones: “There’s potable water?”

WO1 Honda: “In here?”

SP4 Jones: “Go next door to the Air Force, they get some.”

Unidentified: “Got some Cokes over there?”

SP4 Jones: “Yup.”


(Narration by SP4 Jones) “See when the ships come in, they got to, ah, they got to pull in at the POL. That’s where they fuel up and everything. The POL is where they fuel up and everything is at the end of the flight line. So they come in and, ah, fuel up first and they come back and hey put the ship in the revetment where you know they have protection. The big revetments are about four or five feet wide walls in between each ships. If one ship gets hit and gets blown up, it won’t hurt the other ships.”

(Sounds of Helicopter Rotor and Turbine Engine Noise)

“A little later on in the tapes, I got a-. I’m going to put on here what happened on New Years Eve. It’s really out of sight.”


(Narration by SP4 Jones) “I sure got me a cold. I don’t know what I am doing out here. It’s probably getting worse.”


SP4 Jones: “Mr. Honda, what ship it that got lost today?”

WO1 Honda: “I don’t know what ship.”

SP4 Jones: “Was it a Firebird?”

WO1 Honda: (inaudible, aircraft background noise).

SP4 Jones: “What do you think; did they run it into the ground or what?”

WO1 Honda: (inaudible, aircraft background noise).

SP4 Jones: “Where did they last find them, out there, out there from Tam Ky?”

WO1 Honda: “Tien Phuc”… (inaudible, aircraft background noise)…”tomorrow is your day off. (pause) Tomorrow is your day off, right?”

SP4 Jones: “Me?”

WO1 Honda: “Yeah!”

SP4 Jones: “I get everyday off now. I work nights.”

WO1 Honda: (inaudible)

SP4 Jones: “Why, can I go flying with you?”

WO1 Honda: “Not tomorrow, I ain't flying.”

SP4 Jones: “Well, why did you ask me if tomorrow was my day off?”

WO1 Honda: “Well, I thought tomorrow was your day off?”

SP4 Jones: “It is!”

WO1 Honda: “I mean, ah, it use to be, right--- every Sunday?”

SP4 Jones: “Yeah.”

SP4 Jones: “You gonna take me flying?”

WO1 Honda: (inaudible)

SP4 Jones: “Well, I don’t want to get my--, I don’t want to get my butt blown away!”

WO1 Honda: “You know how to shoot don’t you?”

SP4 Jones: “Yeah.”

WO1 Honda: “Well, let’s do it.”

SP4 Jones: “Ha, Ha, Ha. I feel safe with you.”

WO1 Honda: “You know, every mission that I went up on, I came back in one piece!”

SP4 Jones: “Ha, Ha, Ha. I hope so.”


Unidentified: (inaudible)

Unidentified: “…(inaudible)….shot up today, right?”

WO1 Honda: “…(inaudible)….what, how many shot up today?”

Unidentified: “Two!”

Unidentified: “Two or three shot up today, plus one missing.”

WO1 Honda: “Who else got shot up?”

Unidentified: “9-5, 1-6,--- that’s two.”

WO1 Honda: (inaudible)

Unidentified: “…(inaudible)…that’s three ships.”

(Narration by SP4 Jones) “That’s another ship coming in. Those guys don’t know I’m taping them.”

(Helicopter sounds in the background).

(Narration by SP4 Jones) “Excuse me, he’s going out.”

(Narration by SP4 Jones) “Oh, oh, the Majors here.”


Unidentified: “(Outside in the distance) Is Mr. Honda in there?”

SP4 Jones: Yeah.

Unidentified: Is he here?

SP4 Jones: Yeah., what’s happening?

Unidentified: (inaudible)

SP4 Jones: “The Majors here.”

WO1 Honda: “Oh, brother.”

SP4 Jones: “Really?”


(Narration by SP4 Jones) “I wonder what the Colonel is going to be doing down here? Probably an inquiry into the ships that got lost and shot up.”

“I don’t know how this is going to sound, but shouldn’t be too bad.”

(Noise from jet aircraft taking off in background)


Unidentified: (inaudible conversation with SP4 Jones)

SP4 Jones: “—(inaudible)----I’m taping ships coming in and off and stuff like that you know to send home…(inaudible)…to the family you know…(inaudible).”

(Sounds of vehicle traffic)

SP4 Jones: “All the ships down?”

Door Gunner: “…(inaudible)…I wonder if…(inaudible)…Major Price…(inaudible)…..”

SP4 Jones: “No, Major Price? He’s at Battalion now.”

Door Gunner: (inaudible)

SP4 Jones: “Phew, Why, what’s up?”

Door Gunner: (inaudible)

SP4 Jones: “Go inside, sit down.”

Door Gunner: (inaudible)

Door Gunner: “You talk about sick. All day we have been getting shot.”

SP4 Jones: “So you say that the Dinks have got their shit together out there?”

Door Gunner: “We started taking fire and I never seen a round shot from them Dinks. (inaudible)…shooting back at them because…(inaudible)…you know…(inaudible)…cover our ass out on our way out.”

SP4 Jones: “Yeah, you weren’t allowed to shoot back?”

Door Gunner: “I was shooting. Hell with that noise. I didn’t see a Dink shoot. There was big stuff coming at us, you know.”

SP4 Jones: “50 Cal?”

Door Gunner: “30 – 50, a lot of stuff. All I see is tracers you know. We just hit the deck, man, it was horrible.”

SP4 Jones: “50 cal. does a lot of damage.”

Door Gunner: “That’s no shit”

Door Gunner: (inaudible)

SP4 Jones: “When you shoot back at them, you need clearance from the pilots right?”

Door Gunner: “Shit…(inaudible)...you can fire…(Voice drowned out by aircraft noise in background)”.


Unidentified: (inaudible)

SP4 Jones: “Yes”

(Narration by SP4 Jones) “Most of our ships are coming back now.”

(Helicopter sounds).

(Narration by SP4 Jones) “The guy I was talking to was a door gunner in ah. As you can hear from him, It’s really getting kind of hot out in the AO. The AO is the, where, in other words, this area of operation, Ha, that’s where all the Dinks are, that we know of.”

(Narration by SP4 Jones) “Here comes another ship back from the POL. Boy they got some bright lights on those things. It must be a couple of million candle power.”

(Narration by SP4 Jones) “They just dropped the Colonel off here, so evidently there is something happening. Well, when you loose four ships in one day, there is cause for a little excitement.”

(Vehicle traffic noise)


Unidentified: “Why don’t you guys go next door…..”

SP4 Jones: “Sir?”

Unidentified: (inaudible)

(Narration by SP4 Jones) “Right now, I’m with my job next door. That was, ah, the Colonel was coming over and he needs to borrow our shop to have a briefing. So, everyone had to clear out of the building over there so the Colonel can come out with the pilots that last seen the ships go down. So, that’s the end of that tape, I mean that’s the end that, That’s why I had to shut it off there. But, anyway, I’m gonna try and tape the rest of this down here with some of my friends here can get in the act. Right now, I’m at work. you can probably hear the radios and everything, ah, down here in the Operations tower, or bunker, or whatever you want to call it. But, the, I’ll see if I can get some of my friends on the tape too when they come in. The sounds you heard there were all kind of—hard to identify with, but you can use your imagination. I mean everything was happening and you know, so ah, I’ll see what else I can get on this.”

“They just brought in a 50 Cal. from out in the field and it’s the first 50 cal. I have ever seen and it is just huge. I mean. I’ve never seen a 50 cal. before. Ah, it’s a heavy thing. It weights about 75 pounds. You know, I’ve heard about 50 cal. and stuff and, ah, some of the grunts just dropped a defective one in to get it fixed and they drop it off here and pick it up in the morning, but the, I hate to get shot at with one of those. Just bad news.”

“The pilots that got shot down were Captain Crosby and Mr. Howes and the Crew Chief and the Gunner went down too. They seem to think that, ah, the ceiling was so bad that they finally went IFR and, in other words, they went instruments and they couldn’t see or anything because the weather was so bad. Then they got vertigo, and they crashed into the ground or something but the vertigo is when ah when you look into the instruments and you don’t believe your instruments on the dash. In other words your body feels like your turning upsides down and going all kinds of ways but your instruments say something else. It’s a weird feeling. I remember I use to feel vertigo when I was under the hood when I was taking flying lessons with, ah, Tom Stauss. It’s just a feeling that you wouldn’t understand unless you have flown. Vertigo is bad, and ,ah, it will kill you if you let it over here. And, evidently these guys went bad and they got smashed up.”

“I hear them working on the mountains out there. Evidently they are going to put in a few rounds out in the mountains to wipe out some Dinks.”


(Sound of telephone ringing).

SP4 Jones: “71st Operations, Specialist Jones sir.”

SP4 Jones: “Ah, he’s not here sir.”

SP4 Jones: “He’s back at the Company right now- I can-“

SP4 Jones: “Right.”

SP4 Jones: “A gunship?”

SP4 Jones: “Ah, we had one of our gunships, ah, lost in action and ah –yes—and I can’t tell you any more about it over the phone. But, if you want to call the Company area and get a hold of the Operations Officer, I’m sure he can tell you, you know.”

SP4 Jones: “About the ship?”

SP4 Jones: “Ah, evidently he was ah—“

SP4 Jones: “No, they are all lost. And the search was probably hampered by the weather. And, ah, -- pardon?”

SP4 Jones: “Yes, until—I imagine it got dark and you know, and the Colonel came down here and ah, the Battalion Colonel, and ah, grounded all the ships. I mean you know, so nobody else could go out tonight because the weather is so stinking, he didn’t want any more shot up.”

SP4 Jones: “Yes.”

SP4 Jones: “Yea, we have ah Captain Crosby, C-R-O-S-B-Y, Mr. Howells.”

SP4 Jones: “Ah, hold one, well, I don’t know if I can give this out over a phone like this. In other words, I don’t think it’s ah—“

SP4 Jones: “The last time I gave out information like this over the phone, they jumped my shit.”

SP4 Jones: “Right.”

SP4 Jones: “This is Specialist Jones. The Operations Officer, ah, left and is back at the Company, I have a place where you can get a hold of him. I would much rather you called him.”

SP4 Jones: “3348?”

SP4 Jones: “OK will do and---yes, will do.”

(Sound of phone hanging up)


(Sound of dialing phone).

SP4 Jones: “Ah, Lieutenant Wharton, Specialist Jones, ah, some people from the 4th of the 31st or I think it was 3/21 just called and was asking a bunch of information about the ship that got shot down today, and I declined to give it to them, because you aren’t suppose to over a phone like this so you are supposed to call him back at 3348 and ah you can handle it.

SP4 Jones: “Right, ASAP if possible.”

SP4 Jones: “Um Hum!”

(Sound of phone hanging up)


(Narration by SP4 Jones) “With me being on this night shift and all, it’s pretty easy because I have plenty of time to write and everything. See, now I work from 6:30 at night till 5:00 O’clock in the morning and, ah, keep track of the radios down here and everything until they come here in the morning to relieve me. And, ah, it’s really kind of boring sometimes but ah it’s better than nothing at all. I guess over here you go wild if there is nothing to do.”

“On this address change, no sweat, when I put 71st A V N company, C-O, after I put in prentices AHC, ah, it’s the same place. It’s no change at all, except that I don’t want to write out ASSAULT any more, in other words 71st Aviation Company, AHC stand for Attack Helicopter Company, and the other way around 71st Aviation Assault Company, it means about the same thing and so there is no sweat on the address, either one of them will get to me here.”

“I got all your stuff in the mail and it was just really the most out of sight stuff. I just don’t know how to really thank you. I put the model together and ah, one night. I mean I took eight hours. I brought it down here and worked on it and had paints and everything, and, ah, It really looks nice. It’s the first time I got to really see one you know for real in miniature. And, I think I really bought a real groovy car.”

“But, ah, everything got here in good shape and the shoes and the pants will just be out of sight for R and R. I leave here on the 25th of January and ah don’t worry about me in Bangkok. I mean, I can take care of myself and everything. I’ll probably be able to get you your watches in Bangkok because they do sell them over there. And, ah, they sell Seiko. Seiko is a real popular watch. Everybody around here has Seikos and we get them for a real good price here. I think you can get about a $50.00 watch here for $24.00. It’s because the Japs and the Dinks they hardly much import tax or anything. For the GIs, the PX doesn’t have any tax on anything. So, everything will be quite a buy, even in Bangkok it will be and I’ll see what else I can pick up there. I’m going to pick me up a tailor made suit and maybe a double breasted with bell bottoms.”

“Oh, Dad said something about ah; they don’t wear those types of things in Australia. Let me tell you, the dudes that went over there in Australia on R and R, came back and told me that Australia is one of the most swinging countries that they have ever seen in their lives. The women, the broads wear their dresses up to, wow it’s really short. And they’re built. The Aussie women are really built. And, it’s not like Bangkok or Hong Kong or Taipei or Manila where you can go and kind of rent a girl out. I mean it’s, Australia is kind of like stateside, you got to go there and you rent a hotel and you just have a good time. And, if you find some girl there, you know, you just see how it goes and , ha, ha, all that. But, like in Bangkok, they got places you can go and rent girls just about and it’s supposed to be out of sight.”


(Narration by SP4 Jones) “I’m going ,ah, I’ve got a scramble here for the helicopters and I’m going tape this whole thing so I that I can ah let you guys can hear what a scramble sounds like when they get a mission up. It’s three O’clock in the morning and they have a scramble mission. They found some Dinks out there and the ships are alerted and so we are going to try and get them off here and let you know what is happening.”


(Helicopter Rotor Blade and Turbine Engine Sounds)


(Narration by SP4 Jones) That’s a Flare Ship right there that is taking off.

(Radio transmission between Rattler Control and various aircraft on the mission)


SP4 Jones: “Rattler 2-7, Rattler 2-7, Rattler Control.”

WO1 Honda: “This is 2-7, go ahead.”

SP4 Jones: “Rattler 2-7, call me when you are off please.”

WO1 Honda: “Roger that, I’ll be off at this time. How copy.”

SP4 Jones: “Copy, be advised, keep close radio contact with me because
Battalion is not following, ah, flight following with you.”

WO1 Honda: “Ah, 2-7, roger, out.”


Firebird 95: “Control, 9-5.”

SP4 Jones: “9-5, this is Control, go.”

Firebird 95: “Ah, roger, I’m about 0-1 and will I will be following ----(broken radio transmission)---and close in at all on---(broken radio transmission).”

SP4 Jones: “Ah, Roger that, thanks for not…(broken radio transmission).”

Firebird 95: “Roger that and I say again, if it look like ---(broken radio transmission)…I’m going to turn around and head right back.”

SP4 Jones: “Roger that, ----(broken radio transmission).”


SP4 Jones: “Firebird 9-5, Rattler Control.”


SP4 Jones: “(broken radio transmission)---call me when you are off please.”

Firebird 9-5 “Roger”


(Jones or 95?): “Rattler 27, (broken transmission).”

WO1 Honda: “This is 27 go ahead.”

(Jones or 95?): “Ah, roger, say your position.”

WO1 Honda: “Roger, I’m on Highway 1 at this time about 800 feet and climbing.”

(Jones or 95?): “Roger that, how does it look out there?”

WO1 Honda: “Roger, It’s really fogged up bad, can’t really see out here, Ah, I would say obviously a no go.”

(Jones or 95?): “(broken radio transmission)----Going to be monitoring close and ---(broken radio transmission)----going to shut it down.”

WO1 Honda: “Click, Click” (radio mike engaged twice as conformation).


Firebird 95: “Rattler Control, you wanted me to call when I got off.”

Firebird 95: “Rattler Control, 9-5.”

SP4 Jones: “9-5, this is control go.”

Firebird 95: “Roger, you wanted me to call when I got off.”

SP4 Jones: “Roger that, 9-5. And be advised and keep flight following with me because I’ll be the only one flight following with you tonight, Battalion is doing something down South.”

Firebird 95: “Ah, this is 9-5, roger, OK (garbled) Chu Lai (garbled) visibility stinks.”

SP4 Jones: Roger, Roger.

Unidentified: (broken radio transmission).

Unidentified: (broken radio transmission).


(Narration by SP4 Jones)” Well, they finally got off, see what I mean, everything is a big hassle around here when everything starts going. Once it starts going, boy everything starts moving pretty fast.


Unidentified: (broken radio transmission)

Firebird 95?: “Ah this is (garbled), I don’t know if I am going to make it out there or not.”

Unidentified: “Ah, roger that, I’m at the Highway about five miles outside---(garbled) ---when you get out there. I’m at 700 feet----(garbled) ---at 1300 feet, ah, it looks like, ah, pretty bad out there.”

Firebird 95: “Ah this is 9-5, roger, ---(garbled)---and will be right back.”

Unidentified: “Roger that.”

Firebird 95: “Keep me informed”

Unidentified: “Ah, Roger that.”

Unidentified: (garbled transmission)

Unidentified: “Ah, Roger (garbled).”


Unidentified: (someone talking at Operations)

SP4 Jones: “Yea, sounded like Center.”

Unidentified: “(garbled)….go ahead”

Unidentified: “(garbled)”

Unidentified: “Ah roger that”

Firebird 95: “Ah, 9-5, I’m a quarter of the way up now, and have a ceiling at 500 feet, the visibility is skosh, and I don’t know if I can make it the rest of the way or not. I certainly cannot put it on a target…(garbled)…..”

(Narration by SP4 Jones) “See ,we got a scramble but the weather has socked them in.”

Unidentified: “(garbled)….be advised… (garbled)…400 feet…(garbled)…I can’t… (garbled)…”

Firebird 95: “Control, Firebird 9-5.”

SP4 Jones: “Firebird 9-5, Rattler Control Go.”

Firebird 95: “Ah, 9-5’ Roger, (garbled)”

SP4 Jones: “Roger that 9-5.”

Unidentified: “9-5, this is (garbled), say again your position”

Firebird 95: “Roger, this is 9-5, (garbled transmission)”

Unidentified: “Ah, roger that, now I’m seeing clear weather at this time.

Firebird 95: “Ah, this is 9-5, roger that, ok (garbled) ..Chu Lai… (garbled) clouds are 0 to 600 feet, so watch it.”

Unidentified: “Ah, roger that.”

Firebird 95: “This is Firebird 9-5 (garbled transmission)”


SP4 Jones: “Rattler 2-7, Rattler 2-7, Rattler Control.”

WO1 Honda: “This is Rattler 2-7, go ahead.”

SP4 Jones: “What is your current position and how is the weather?”

WO1 Honda: Ah, Roger that, it’s starting to rain a little bit …(garbled)…how copy?”

SP4 Jones: “Say again your position please.”

WO1 Honda: Roger that, I’m heading…gabled….feet west and I’m between Tam Ky and your location and …(garbled)…“

SP4 Jones: “Roger that, you say it is pretty socked in?”

WO1 Honda: “Roger that, it’s getting pretty bad out here.”

SP4 Jones: “Roger, Roger.”

(Helicopter traffic drowning out low level conversation in Operations)


SP4 Jones: “Control, 2-7.”

WO1 Honda: “Rattler 2-7, go ahead.

SP4 Jones: “Roger, Can you give me your current position and weather.”

WO1 Honda: “Ah, Roger that. I’m over Chu Lai at this time. Ah, it’s pretty good over Chu Lai but when you start heading north, ah, the weather is closing down. ----(garbled)--- 1500 feet ----(garbled)---going down to about 400 feet in some places----(garbled)---Chu Lai , Fat City. I’m over Chu Lai at this time, how copy?”

SP4 Jones: “Roger, copy Chu Lai.”

(Sounds of Helicopter hovering)

Unidentified: (garbled)

Unidentified: (garbled)


Firebird 95: “Control, Firebird 9-5”

SP4 Jones: “Firebird 95, Control, go.”

Firebird 95: “Roger, myself and (inaudible)7 back at POL.”

SP4 Jones: “Ah, Roger that.”

Firebird 95: “-----(garbled)----still on…(garbled)..”..Chu Lai east.

SP4 Jones: “Roger that, understand both of the birds are down now?”

Firebird 95: “Roger,---(garbled)---at this time, at this time.”

SP4 Jones: “Roger that, thank you, Roger

Firebird 95: Ah, Roger that.”