LEON DARVIN FLANDERS
First Lieutenant, Infantry, Aviator
From: Fairfield, South Carolina
Born: October 30, 1942
Tour of duty began November 6, 1965.
Died on June 17, 1966 due to mortar fire.
LT. FLANDERS WAS THE FIRST 281st COMBAT CASUALTY IN SOUTH EAST ASIA.
Flanders preferred to be called Darvin and was known as Darvin or
"Darv" to his friends. He was born in Columbia, SC and
raised in Winsboro, SC, where he attended local schools playing
football, basketball and Baseball. Following high school
Darvin attended Clemson College, graduating in 1964 with a degree
in economics. After college Darvin attended the Infantry Officers
Basic Course at Fort Polk, Louisiana and, upon completion, transferred
to Fort Wolters, Texas for initial rotary wing training.
Darvin went on to Fort Rucker, Alabama where on July 6, 1965, he
graduated with Rotary Wing class number 65-8.
Following graduation he remained at Fort Rucker as a rotary wing
aviator with the Department of Tactics. In September of 1965
Darvin left Fort Rucker and on November 11, 1965 joined the 145th
Airlift Platoon which later became part of the 281st AHC.
On June 17, 1966, 1st LT Flanders and his crew were supporting a special forces camp in the highlands of South Vietnam when a mortar round struck and exploded in the tent being used as a waiting area. Darvin was hit by metal fragments and died instantly. Darvin was the first 281st AHC KIA in South East Asia.
Recollections of Darvin Flanders by Fred Phillips:
Darvin and I worked together as 'blackbirds' at Tac-1 at Fort Rucker for a while before we went to Vietnam. (His middle name was Darvin, spelled with a 'v.' He didn't like to be called Leon.) We shipped over at the same time, and he was assigned to the 145th Airlift Platoon at Nha Trang. That platoon was actually the predecessor of the 281st, whose primary mission was Project Delta. By the time my platoon arrived a few months later Darvin was an experienced slick AC and, unfortunately, a damn good one. Of course, the best slick pilot was always assigned to fly the primary pickup aircraft on the hot extractions and Darvin got stuck with that job for a couple of months. After a few weeks, he started to burn out. Hell, he knew that there was no way he could survive the six months or so left in his tour doing that job. The rest of us started to worry about him.
Then we went to Tay Ninh. I started to suspect that the operation wouldn't be much fun when I got shot down on our first area recon, but that's another story. Two days later, one of the recon teams parked in the remains of an abandoned village in C-zone called Bo Tuc. A few minutes later, an entire NVA battalion marched into the area and camped all around the team. The team couldn't move and the NVA appeared to be setting up to stay awhile, so they called for extraction. Darvin and Pete Frazier got the job.
We planned to use our usual tactics - gunships spraying the area while the slick comes in over the trees, pops up and lands amid the confusion, grabs the team, and gets out of Dodge, all in a few seconds. This time, there were just too many bad guys and it didn't work at all. On short final, Darvin got hit in the foot, the aircraft spun a couple of turns, but Pete recovered it and flew it out. On the way back to Tay Ninh, Darvin reported that his leg hurt, but that he didn't want to look at it since he thought his foot was gone. He finally looked at it when we landed and his foot was still there. In fact, an AK round had come in through the right chin bubble, hit the FM radio, tumbled, and knocked Darvin's left foot off the pedal. The whole bullet was stuck in the leather of his boot. It hadn't even broken the skin. Left a helluva bruise, though.
By then, Darvin had had enough, used up his chances, and the rest of us knew it. A few of us went to the CO and asked him to give Darvin another job. A few days later, he started flying ash and trash for one of the Special Forces 'C' detachments. I saw him a time or two after that and he was back to normal, feeling good. He told me that he was glad he didn't have to fly for Project Delta any more, and that he figured he could survive a couple of tours flying ash and trash.
Then one day he was eating breakfast in the team shack at some Special Forces camp when a mortar round came through the roof and blew him away. Nobody else got hurt. We all heard about it the same day, and somebody said it was a short round fired by the friendlies.
From John Hyatt: (who can be reached by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
I think I was working out of Det. C3 in Bien Hoa when Darv was killed. As I recall he had flown some SF people to a site near Buen Me Thuet where a new camp was to be. There was a secure perimeter with tents inside. The mess area was a GP tent with Reefer units and other mess equipment. The crew, including Darv was hanging out in the tent area waiting for the passengers to finish their business. Some ARVAN or VN SF were firing mortars from a position near by-possibly inside the perimeter. One of the rounds was short, some one called "Short Round" and everyone hit the ground. Rather than go completely down Darv knelt near one of the reefer units. A piece of shrapnel from the short round struck him in the neck- in one of the arteries. Before anyone noticed and administered aid he had bled to death.
A MAN IS NOT DEAD UNTIL HE IS FORGOTTEN
ONCE AN INTRUDER ... ALWAYS AN INTRUDER