HENRY THOMAS LEONARD
Sergeant, Platoon Sergeant flying as the Door Gunner
281st Assault Helicopter Company
From: Henderson, North Carolina
Born: August 19, 1943
Tour of Duty began on December 14th, 1965.
Killed in Action on November 11th, 1966.
Helicopter 65-9711 was shot down.
Henry T. Leonard had served four
years in the US Army at the time of his death. SGT Leonard
joined the 281st AHC on December, 14, 1965 and was Killed In Action while
performing a combat aviation mission on November 11, 1966.
The circumstances leading up to and surrounding his death are best described by Al Cartwright, the Aircraft Commander of the 281st AHC aircraft performing the mission.
From Lt. Col. Cartwright:
Killed In Action, November 11, 1966
Sgt. Leonard arrived at Pleiku, to temporarily replace Spec/4 Alipo (UH-1D Gunner) who was on R&R. Sgt. Leonard only had three or four weeks left in RVN when he assumed duties as gunner on UH-1D 65-9711. The Huey and crew were part of the Rat Pack Platoon, 281st Assault Helicopter Company, who provided helicopter support to the 5th Special Forces “C” Detachment located at Pleiku in the highlands of South Vietnam.
sunrise on November 11, 1966 the Operations Officer of the “C”
Detachment awakened the crew and alerted us for an emergency
ammunition re-supply mission. He briefed us that the Mike
Force was in heavy contact with NVA at a location near a dry
lakebed west of Pleiku. All available personnel in the
camp were stuffing sandbags with ammo, water and medical
supplies and loading them into the middle of the open chopper.
The Special Forces Supply Officer 1/Lt Paul Hess (who had
supervised the ammo detail) asked if he could go along and help
unload the aircraft. He was told to take the seat next to
At first light Huey 9711 took off on its emergency ammo re-supply mission. We had to go it alone as there was no available helicopter gunship support. Contact was made with the Mike Force on the ground. They had been in a firefight all night and were critically low on ammo. Smoke was thrown and their location identified. Just before touchdown the aircraft started receiving hits. Sgt. Leonard and Lt. Hess opened fire. He had identified NVA Regulars coming out of the wood line not more than 40 yards away, firing at the chopper. Sometime during that exchange of fire both Sgt. Leonard and Lt. Hess were hit. The aircraft was receiving heavy fire as we touched down. It was apparent that we wouldn’t be able to unload the aircraft on this approach.
The C.O. of the Mike Force Battalion, Captain Clyde Sincere, who rode out with us was on the left side next to the crew chief, jumped out of the chopper, ran under the skids, just before touchdown. He ran directly at the NVA firing his M-16. He wanted to rejoin his troops. His quick action allowed us to pull pitch and get out of there, as we were receiving numerous hits. We had to circle to the left over the dry lakebed because the trees were too high in front of us with the load we had. As we flew away rounds were hitting the top of the aircraft. Warning lights were coming on, but there was no way we could sit down in the middle of that fire fight and survive.
The crew chief climbed over the cargo and confirmed that both Leonard and Hess had been grievously hit. A few minutes later with warning lights on, cautious flying, and the blood of our fallen comrades everywhere I was able to sit Huey 9711 down at a 4th Infantry Division Aid Station. Just as soon as the skids touched down on the PSP, the engine quit. The power had not been rolled off or the switches turned off. The Huey had just died and the silence was deafening.
The Battalion Medics ran out and removed Sgt. Leonard and Lt. Hess. They were both pronounced DOA. A bullet in the neck was fatal to Sgt. Leonard. Lt. Hess did not survive a hit to the head. Sgt. Leonard displayed great courage under fire and bravely did his job. He was just one of the many young brave gunners who flew with the 281st AHC. I consider it a great privilege and honor to have served with Sgt. Henry Thomas Leonard. He will never be forgotten.
Alvin (Al) W. Cartwright
LTC USA (Ret.)
Al Cartwright <email@example.com>
A MAN IS NOT DEAD UNTIL HE IS FORGOTTEN
ONCE AN INTRUDER ... ALWAYS AN INTRUDER