WALTER FRANCIS WROBLESKI
Chief Warrant Officer 3, Aviator
281st Assault Helicopter Company
10th CAB, 17th CAG, 1st AVN BDE
From: Freehold, New Jersey
Born: August 28, 1945
Rotarywing training class 66-17
Tour of duty began in December 1966
Killed in action on May 21, 1967.
Helicopter 65-09480 was shot down
in Quang Nam, South Vietnam.
Status changed from MIA to Presumed Dead
on February 15, 1978.
Wrobleski was born on August 28, 1945 in Neptune, New Jersey.
His parents, Mr. & Mrs. Anthony Wrobleski, moved to 6 John Street,
Freehold, New Jersey, which became Walter's home of record. In
December of 1965 Walter entered the army as a PVT E-1,
and was sent to Company C, 1st Battalion, 2nd Training
Brigade at Fort Polk Louisiana for basic training. Following
basic training, Walter was assigned to Rotary Wing Training Class 66-17 and
went on to earn the silver wings of an Army Aviator and to be
commissioned as a Warrant Officer.
In December 1966, at the age of 21, he was assigned to the 281st Assault Helicopter Company, at Nha Trang, Republic of South Vietnam. Walter was initially assigned to the 1st Flight Platoon (Rat Pack) flying UH-1D Huey slick helicopters. Later, after gaining flight experience he was transferred to the gunship platoon (Wolf Pack). His 1st Platoon Commander, Jack Serig, recalls giving Walter his first local orientation ride. Walter was relentless in demanding that he be sent to the gunship platoon (Wolf Pack) right away, as he wanted to kill the communist enemy. Every time he flew with his Platoon Commander he insisted he should be transferred to Wolf Pack. He eventually accomplished his wish.
On May 21, 1967, he was shot down in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam, while flying as a pilot on UH-1C gunship 65-09480. Walter was carried as MIA until February, 1978 when a Presumptive Finding of Death was approved by the Secretary of the Army. While in MIA status he was promoted to Chief Warrant Officer-3.
The crew members flying with Walter on the day of his loss were WO Donald Corkran, Aircraft Commander; SP4 Craig Szwed, Crew Chief, and SP4 Gary Hall, Gunner; all of whom were rescued after their aircraft crashed rolled and burned. Corkran and Hall were knocked back into the jungle as the hoist from their rescue helicopter carried them through the jungle canopy on their initial rescue attempt. The rescue of these three surviving crewmen took place over four days. For the complete story written by Corkran and Szwed please go to the Intruder Web Site at:
Donald (Corky) Corkran describes the event associated with Walter's loss like this:
"Crew member on aircraft shot down due to enemy action. Aircraft exploded and burned on impact. No known survivors."
To explain the above, my story begins on a
Sunday morning as I was flying as the Aircraft Commander on a UH-1
Gunship providing fire support for an extraction from a hot LZ.
Jerry Montoya, another of my 66-13 classmates went in to attempt an
extraction of an SF team that was being chased by “Charlie”. That's
when Jerry got his eye shot out. Jerry told me in 1999 that as he
was on the way back to the hospital, he heard that Wolfpack 33 was
All I can remember is that as we turned inbound on the daisy chain, all hell broke loose in the aircraft! We were hit as we were making a left turn and then we started to roll right. Neither Walter nor I could do anything with the aircraft. We became passengers as the aircraft started in the direction that it wanted to go! The rotor started to unwind and we were only able to get the collective part of the way down. (Craig Szwed or Gary Hall told someone later that he looked out toward the back of the aircraft and all he could see was fire, smoke and bullet holes).
Just as we reached the jungle canopy, I remember being able to pull back on the cyclic and the nose of the aircraft pitched up in response, so I tried pulling up on the collective and it came up but it didn't do much (not enough turns I guess). As we thrashed down thru the canopy, things flew everywhere until the aircraft came to rest on what looked like a big rock. The transmission came down between Walter and myself and that was the last time that I remember seeing him. The aircraft rolled over three times, landing upside down. At that point I realized that we were on fire and without thinking I released my seat belt, and fell on my head! I couldn't get my door open and there was fire around the transmission on my left. There was movement behind me and I saw Gary Hall going out the back door. To this day I do not know how I got over the back of my seat and out of the aircraft.
The aircraft was already a roaring inferno and ammo was cooking off as we ran away from the aircraft. Gary and I realized after we got away from the aircraft that we were by ourselves. We discussed going back to the aircraft but by now the fire was so intense and the ammo was really cooking off (an S.F. team member told me later that they found a rocket stuck through a tree in front of the aircraft). We figured everyone else was dead and that fire would attract unwelcome attention, so we moved about 50 meters from the wreckage and hid in the elephant grass.
Walter's home town of Freehold, New Jersey erected a memorial cross near their downtown area for Walter and each of it's other sons and daughters killed or missing in action in the service of our country. The New jersey Vietnam Veterans Association has a detailed write up on Walter at:
Click here for the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans' Memorial
CWO Wrobleski's cross - Freehold, NJ, Vietnam Veterans Memorial
[Photo by our Jack Interstein]
Walter is survived
by his mother and brother, Harry. Contact with Harry several years
ago revealed that Walter excelled in baseball and had the talent to
become a pro-player. Walter's religious preference was
Protestant and his name is listed on Panel 20E, Line 080 at the
Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
On Memorial Day, 1994, an article written by his former Rat Pack Platoon Commander regarding Walter's loss was printed in the Miami Herald. That article is also carried on the 281st AHC web site under the Personal Stories of Jack Serig who has assisted in preparing CW3 Walter Francis Wrobleski's Book Of Remembrance for the 281st AHC Association web site.
Click here for Jack Serig's personal stories.
Jack has since died. You may find his obituary in our Died After Tour pages.
In January, 2017, his page personal pages were still on line.
Another 281st AHC Door Gunner, Private First Class Michael Patrick Gallagher, was also killed on the same day, May 21, 1967, engaging the enemy during the time his ship was heavily involved in the rescue effort.
A MAN IS NOT DEAD UNTIL HE IS FORGOTTEN
ONCE AN INTRUDER ... ALWAYS AN INTRUDER