LES HOWARD PASCHAL
Specialist Fourth Class, Combat Aviation Door Gunner
281st Assault Helicopter Company
From: Chicago, Illinois
Born: September 3, 1947
Tour of duty began on November 8, 1967.
Killed in Action on December 21, 1967, at Polei Kleng,
South Vietnam as result of a helicopter accident at
the Project Delta forward operating base.
Young Les Les Howard Paschall was born on September 3, 1947 in Nashville, Tennessee. At the age of two, his parents Billy Howard and Mary Paschall moved to Chicago, Illinois where his sister Lindy was born in 1950. In 1952, Les’s father returned to Nashville, leaving Les to live with his mother and sister until he enlisted in the Army.
Les & Kim
1965 Senior Prom
As a young man Les attended Prosser Vocational High School where
he was an excellent student,
consistently on the dean’s list. His younger sister, Lindy,
recalls that he was such a good student that she was able to get
by on his name. Les was the captain of the football team and
earned a letter in baseball, basketball, hockey and track.
Following high school he attended
Wright Junior College majoring in physical education, with a goal
of becoming a teacher and a coach. Les was known to his family and
friends as a competitive, but fun loving individual who
worked hard and played hard. He was a natural leader with a
great sense of humor. His summers were spent fishing with
his Grandfather and enjoying his many friends. Lindy recalls
that Les was not only popular in school but he was always in the
company of one or more good-looking girls.
In early 1966 Les decided to join the army and become an airborne soldier. He left his mother and sister, in Chicago and went into the army. Following the completion of basic training his dream came true as he was assigned to Fort Benning, Georgia for Jump School. While in Jump School he wrote his mother the following letter:
June 7, 1966
Dear Mom & Lin & Pudge
Mom today is Tuesday and I got 2 letters from Ollie and one from you and Gram. It sure was nice and I’m glad you guys are feeling good. Mom I know Ollie is great and she really likes me and am I ever glad. Mom I’m sorry but I told you I signed up to go to Vietnam, and I’m going whether I like it or not. But I want to Mom. If I go that’s just one less chance that Tommy or any other of our family will have to go. And also I’ll be helping to stop whatever they’re trying to do in Vietnam. Mom you keep writing hear, because I might not get to come home before I go over there. I’ll try my best to write more soon but right now I’d like to catch up on my sleep. Mom am I ever in good shape, I can run for 45 minutes straight or 4 or 5 miles without even getting winded. I can’t wait until I’m home before I go over there. We’ll celebrate my birthday, your birthday, and Christmas all in how many days I have home. Mom I love you and Lindy very much and I miss you all so bad. Tell Ollie to write and you guys keep writing too. It feels good to get letters. I love yas.
Write me. Les
PVT LES PASCHALL. Les completed jump school and, with the silver wings of a
paratrooper proudly displayed on his chest, went home to Chicago
on his way to Vietnam. When he arrived
in country he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division as an
infantry rifleman. With the 101st, Les was twice wounded and
Airborne for bravery. On June 28, 1967 he was awarded the Purple Heart and on July 7th, 1967 he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with V Device for valor. The citation read:
“For heroism in conjunction with military operations against a hostile force, Pvt. Paschall distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on May 15, 1967, in the Republic of Vietnam. While on a search and destroy mission the reconnaissance platoon was brought under intense enemy fire. Pvt. Paschall, armed with a machine gun and disregarding his own safety, remained in position and continued to provide suppressing fire for his withdrawing comrades while being the main target for concentrated enemy fire. With his fellow troops safely in the trench, he started to withdraw, firing as he pulled back. Upon reaching the trench he spotted an enemy soldier attempting to hurl a satchel charge into the trench. Unhesitating, Pvt. Paschall stood up and fired a burst of machinegun fire at the enemy soldier, killing him instantly and causing the satchel charge to explode harmlessly. Pvt. Paschall’s devotion to duty and personal courage were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army.”
Les and his close friend Mike McKenzie decided to remain in Vietnam for a second tour and were given a choice of assignments following a 30-day leave to the states. During Les's leave, He and Kim made plans to get married but decided to wait until he had completed his second tour. In early November of 1967, he returned to Vietnam and, at their request, Les and Mike was assigned to an assault helicopter company. Both joined the 281st Assault Helicopter Company on the 8th of November, 1967, and were assigned to the
Mike in 2003 Bandit Platoon as door gunners. Almost immediately the 281st moved to Kontum in support of Project Delta, a 5th Special Forces Long Range Reconnaissance Unit. In Kontum the 281st and Project Delta were located in an abandoned school campus on the western edge of the city and flew southwest daily to an abandoned air strip located close to the Laos and Cambodia borders. From the forward operating base, the 281st provided combat aviation support to the elements of Project Delta as part of Operation Sultan. During the early days of the operation Mike was severely wounded and evacuated to the states where he spent several years in physical rehabilitation.
Early in the morning of Thursday, December 21, 1967, the 281st units relocated to the forward site and went about the business of refueling, rearming and extracting the recon teams. At approximately 12:45 the 281st aircraft had completed the morning missions and Les and the crew chief had completed their post checks and were relaxing until it was again time for takeoff. Les was sitting in the back of the aircraft along with the crewmembers from other aircraft when a fully armed UH1 gun ship from the 189th AHC, 52nd Aviation Battalion, landed and hovered to the refueling site. After taking on a full load of fuel the young gunship pilot turned the fully loaded aircraft 180 degrees and started hovering back along the line of 281st aircraft to the take off point. At about the same time the 281st Operations Officer was starting a UH1 for the purpose of making an administrative run. The 189th pilot did not stop his aircraft and the 281st pilot could not shut down the UH1 in time. The rotating blades of both aircraft struck each other resulting in the destruction of both aircraft and damage to several others. Sections of the blades from both UH1s became flying projectiles and a small piece of one of the blades struck Les.
The Special Forces medics rushed to the site and immediately examined Les who had a small puncture wound in his side but was not bleeding. Within a few minutes Les, four other slightly injured individuals and the medics, were placed onboard a UH1 for the 20-minute trip to the field hospital in Pleiku. In less than 45 minutes from the time he was wounded, Les was in the hands of the doctors at the 71st Evacuation Hospital in Pleiku. The 281st continued the mission for the remainder of the day which included inserting an element of the ARVN Special Forces Rangers in a montagnard village which resulted in the rescue of the elderly village chief who had been left behind when the other members of the village were captured and taken away by North Vietnam Soldiers. The day’s activities ended at about 8PM and we immediately flew to the hospital to check on Les. At the hospital, we were given the sad news that he had died a few hours after his arrival.
On Saturday, December 23, 1967, the members of the 281st Assault Helicopter Company and Project Delta gathered in the mess tent at Kontum for a memorial service to a fallen comrade. For his service with the 281st Assault Helicopter Company, Les was posthumously awarded the Air Medal and the Bronze Star.
On the day of his death Les was twenty years, three months and eighteen days old. He is survived by his sister Lindy of Chicago. His mother passed away on December 21, 1981, and his father died in 1996. Les Howard Paschall is remembered on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Panel 32E, Line 39.
B52 (PROJECT DELTA) AFTER ACTION
REPORT, OPERATION SULTAN 670934
21 Dec: Recon Teams 1 and 2 and Road Runner Team 104 extracted w/o incident from RZ's GIDDA, CARTHAGE, and JERICHO, respectively. DTG: 211300H Dec Air Relay A/C made a safe emergency landing at Launch Site after losing oil pressure.
DTG: 211245H Dec, 2 UH1D A/C from 281st AHC and 1 UH1C A/C from 189th AHC were involved in an accident at the Launch Site. Results were one UH1D and one UH1C damaged beyond repair, one UH1D severely damaged; 3 personnel from 281st AHC and 1from 189th AHC MED EVAC to 71st Evac Hospital PLEIKU for injuries. SSG STEDMAN, Senior Advisor to Recon Team 7, injured and returned to FOB. Recon Team 7's scheduled infiltration for last light was canceled.
DTG: 211500H Dec, 1st Rngr K Co reported the tunnel, sighted by Delta FAC, was blocked 10 to 12 feet inside by bomb explosions from Arclight strike. No other entrances could be located.
DTG: 211520H Dec through DTG: 211615H Dec, MAJ SANDSTROM and CPT BAUMAN from IFFORCE V G Plans and Operations visited FOB to discuss Project Delta's plans and requirements for a stand down and future operations.
DTG: 211630H Dec, received message stating that SP/4 PASCHALL, 281st AHC crewmember, had died of injuries received in helicopter accident on 20 December.
DTG: 211705H Dec, 2nd and final lift of 1st Abn Rngr Co extracted from RZ GALILEE w/o incident. Recon Teams 4 and 9 infiltrated RZ's TASHAN and SARAN w/o incident.
Intruder 6, 1967-68
In early 1967 I assumed Command of
the 281st Assault Helicopter Company with one thought in mind.
Support the ground troops in a manner that exceeds their
expectations while keeping every member of the 281st AHC safe.
I was well into my tour when one Sp/4 Les Paschall was assigned to
the unit as a door gunner. I recall meeting him and talking
with Bob Moberg, the unit executive officer, about him. We
were both amazed that he had chosen to extend for a second tour
after being wounded twice in the 101st and that he had
chosen to become a door gunner, which ranked right at the top of
the high risk jobs in Vietnam. However, this was not
uncommon as several of our door gunners had been reassigned to us
after being wounded the second time in a line unit, but none were
on their second concurrent tour. Les quickly fit into the
unit and was assigned to a Bandit Platoon crew in support of
Project Delta. His first mission with us was the Kontum
mission in which we were housed on the edge of the city in an
abandoned school facility, and flew our missions out of a forward
site located close to the border of both Laos and Cambodia.
For the most part the missions leading up to December 21 were
routine, which for the 281st was dangerous beyond most people’s
On the morning of December 21, 1967, we flew several extraction missions from the forward airstrip and I was flying in the last aircraft to land around noon. I recall walking along the line of 281st aircraft stopping to talk to the crews as I went along. When I passed Les’s ship he was sitting in the back reading a comic book that I’m sure was passed from crewmember to crewmember. I vividly recall stopping to kid him about his reading material and thinking that; you could take the boy out of the states, but not the states out of the boy. A few minutes later the Delta Commander, Maj. Chuck Allen and I were in the operations tent going over the final details for the remainder of the day, when the there was a sudden explosion that sounded like we were receiving incoming rocket or mortar fire. We quickly realized that the point of impact had been in the vicinity of the flight line and we ran to the scene to find that two UH-1s had overlapped blades and in so doing had destroyed each other and damaged several others. At first glance it did not appear that anyone had been seriously injured by the flying blade parts, then I saw Les lying beside one of the damaged UH-1s. The Special Forces medics, who were highly trained and skilled NCOs, that were respectfully referred to as doctor, rushed to him and immediately examined him. Les was alert and responsive to the medics who found a small puncture wound in his side but no bleeding. As soon as we saw what had occurred, an aircraft was started, the medics quickly loaded Les and they were on their way to the field hospital at Pleiku within a few minutes of the incident. The aircraft and the medics returned with everyone except Les and they reported that he was stable and did not appear to be in danger.
UH-1D in which LES was sitting
when the accident occurred
(NOTE: Remains of comic book on the floor)
Photo by WO John Galkiewicz We started sorting out the mess on the airstrip and trying to determine what had happened. A fully armed gun ship that we referred to as a “Hog Frog” from the 189th AHC, 52nd Aviation Battalion, Pleiku, was flying in support of the 4th Infantry Division in the vicinity of our site, when the pilot determined that we were the closest fuel site, and elected to land at our strip for fuel. I recall seeing him land and hover to the fuel site as I walked toward the operations tent. To reach the fuel site he had to hover along the line of 281st aircraft which in itself was a task, especially in a heavily loaded underpowered gun ship. While he was refueling the 281st Operations Officer and his crew were starting their aircraft for a mission flight. The gun ship pilot completed refueling and in place of taking off to the east he elected to hover along the line of 281st aircraft to a takeoff spot on the west end of the strip. The 281st crews who observed his actions stated that he was having difficulty hovering and was “bouncing” the UH-1's skids to keep it moving. The 281st crew saw him coming toward them but were unable to do more than shut down the engine and try to slow down the blade rotation. It became clear that he did not see them and was not going to stop, so they abandoned their aircraft. The turning blades overlapped and struck each other destroying both aircraft and sending flying metal pieces into several other aircraft, to include the one Les and other crew members were sitting in. (The call sigh of the 189th Gunship was Avenger 697 and it was totally destroyed. AC of 697 was WO Ginac, Pilot was WO1 Engle, crew chief was Sp4 Tipton, and gunner was PFC Nelson. The only injuries sustained by crew was head lacerations received by Sp4 Tipton.)
The accident was the result of a young pilot trying to do his duty in a rush, and he and his crew failed to observe what was happening around them. The gun ship was, as was the case most of the time, overloaded to the point that it was barely controllable at a hover, especially in the hot climate of the highlands of Vietnam. Responsibility for the accident rested clearly on the shoulders of the young Warrant Officer who was the Aircraft Commander and his Co-Pilot who was also a young Warrant Officer. The crew of the gunship were all concentrating on controlling the movement of the aircraft and in so doing failed to see that they were moving into the space of another UH-1 that was preparing for takeoff. Contrary to rumors that surrounded the accident, the only individuals involved were the two Warrant Officers from the 189th AHC, their crew, and the 281st crew that was preparing for takeoff. (The accident was investigated by the 52nd Aviation Battalion and the investigating officer’s findings were along the same lines as I have stated.)
When we completed the missions for the day, I went directly to the field hospital to visit with Les. I arrived there at about 8 PM fully expecting him to be resting and preparing to return to the 281st within a few days. When I entered the hospital I asked to see him and was told by the doctor on duty that he had died a few hours after being admitted. The doctor sensed my surprise and took me into his office where he explained that the metal fragment had punctured his liver and that he had died before they could operate on him. We identified his body and I left the hospital in a state of unbelievable shock. Thus ended the life of a fine young man who not only was a war hero, but was truly loved and respected by his family and fellow soldiers. Les was the only member of the 281st that we lost on my watch, but he was one too many. I shall always carry with me the mental image of seeing him sitting in the back of the aircraft reading a comic book and smiling.
COL John W. (Jack) Mayhew, USA Ret.
Intruder 6 (1967-1968)
Les Pachall, a remembrance by WO John
Galkiewicz, 281st AHC Aviator
There is a saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”. When Sp4 Les Paschall died on December 21, 1967 it could just as easily have been me. His death was a waste for he died needlessly as a result of someone’s carelessness and he was on his second tour too. A few years back I found his sister and gave her a call and she was very much interested in getting the facts from someone who was there. That part of his death was laid to rest.
I had been in the 281st just over a month and we were working Delta out of a very tiny airstrip by a village south west of Kontum called either Poly Klang or Play Zur Rang (that's not the correct spelling but that's what they translate to in English) [Polei Kleng and Plei Djereng -ed]. The airstrip was pretty much east to west and about as wide as a two-lane road. All the ships were lined up on the south side of the strip facing east and our tents were set up at the SE end of the strip. The fuel dump was in a small dug out area on the north side of the strip. Because things were so tight, and for safety sake, we were only taking off and landing to the east.
Once the teams were put in, all we had to do was wait and that made for some pretty long days. I found myself bored so I went down to my ship to try to find something interesting to do. The ship was about 10 or so down and about 4 down from the fuel area. When I got to it I found several crew chiefs and gunners sitting around telling stories. I was invited in and took them up on it. Since the seats were taken I sat on the floor between the two pilot seats. Paschall was also on the floor, to my right, with his back up against the side post.
The ship immediately in front of ours had cranked and was waiting for takeoff clearance. Just prior to this a gunship from another company, which was engaged in a hot skirmish and gotten low on fuel landed for fuel, fueled up, and supposedly was told to take off to the east. In their haste to get back to the battle they began a take off to the west instead. There was no room for that with the ship in front of us cranked and both ships meshed blades. Pieces of blades flew all over the place. I immediately noticed white honey comb floating in the air amongst us. Everybody started exiting the ship to my left. Paschall grabbed my hand and pulled me out then laid down next to the skid but would not let go of my hand.
I then looked up and saw that both ships had come apart and were in pieces just mere feet from me. I focused my attention on what was left of our ship, the one that had just run up, and saw that it's transmission had torn lose from it's rear mounts and was now tilted forward. One blade was shattered but the other was still somewhat in tact and both were still turning. I saw the AC get out of his seat but he apparently was in a daze. He started walking forward and was just about to walk into the still turning blades when, at the very last second, the crew chief, badly bloodied from the transmission coming out on top of him, grabbed the AC and pulled him back pointing at the blades. There is no doubt that the AC’s head would have been cut off had it not been for that crew chief's quick thinking.
I then noticed that Paschall wasn't letting go of my hand and looked down at him still lying there next to the skid. I asked him if he was OK and he said nothing. I noticed he had a very strange look on his face. All the other guys had run to the downed ships to help. I asked him again if he was all right and again he said nothing but this time he began to shake a little. I knew something was wrong so I pried his hand loose and unbuttoned his shirt. In his side was a hole the size of a quarter that looked like it went in 6 or 8 inches. There was not a drop of blood in it. A piece of rotor blade had come through the post he was leaning against and had gone clean through him.
By this time people were running around all over the place so I pulled one of them aside and told them about Paschall and to let the medics know. I then went to the ship behind ours and cranked it for the medivac to Pleiku. A few minutes later the crew for that ship took over and flew all the injured to the main hospital at Pleiku. There was no wasted time at all getting the injured out of there.
Les died about 3 hours later from a lacerated liver. I believe our pilots and the crew member that the transmission came out on came back a day or two later. I never heard of what happened to the pilots that caused the accident. Life can be taken so quickly, its a shame that Paschall’s had to go in such a senseless manner. And I was sitting right next to him.
Les is more than just a number, Les was one of us and we don't forget.
Les was "adopted" by Jack
Mayhew of the 281st AHC Association
who completed this Book of Remembrance.
A MAN IS NOT DEAD UNTIL HE IS FORGOTTEN
ONCE AN INTRUDER ... ALWAYS AN INTRUDER