14 May 1967
in the First Platoon aka The Rat Pack
Memories fade with time; but I remember some of these events a bit differently and/or in greater detail than the citation writers. The reader may choose, or not.
May 14, 1967. Six days before my 21st birthday. I'll add these comments in order as they might have appeared within the text below; transcribed from my paper copy of the application found within my DA records which I obtained from DA after all personnel records were recorded on mictro-fiche during an opportunity to do that before DA destroyed the unclaimed.
I have told some of this story before. See a mini-reunion with Don Jutz, aka Zorro, and his DAT page.
I flew the first sortie in and out. After release from the formation and in a left turn, I was the first to see the LZ and executed a tactical approach from about 4000 feet above ground.
The citation writers stated the tree strike on approach to the LZ or attempting to depart on our second recovery flight.
It was i who put the holes in the rotor blades trying to knock over a dead tree to make a touchdown point. That didn't work. While we up there hovering, a guy in a rice hat (i saw him) was shooting at us from the other side of the clearing. Our gun on the right side failed; but our gunner over there manned his M-14 and made the woodline silent.
Gunner on the left was instrumental in guiding me to the ground with the tail rotor in between trees. We made the only touchdown in the area followed by a departure.
Departure from the LZ required OGE hover capability, but that was not possible upon the first attempt; we were too heavy for the heat and LZ elevation above sea level. I landed; SFC Markham jumped off. I tried again, we were still heavy but the aircraft departed at rpm slightly enough below the minimum to prohibit immediate climb or turns. We had no power to turn and closing rapidly with the tallest tree around directly ahead. I flared a bit and we went belly first thru the top of that tree.
While refueling back at the FOB, we taped the holes in the blades to discover upon engine start the tape only added to the noise. Shut down; remove the tape. Cranked up again and departed for the LZ. Now it's DARK.
The trip outbound, we could hear the FAC and TAC Air. The "dud" flares were expended flares, not duds. My memory sees the smoky trails and the candles suspended on the parachutes. Don Jutz flew our second sortie in and out; he gives me some credit there, but he flew it. The fellow hanging on the ladder remains pretty clear to me. I thinking he must have raised his feet while Barc was shooting rockets under us (ok - he did get inside fairly quick); I remember watching thru the chin bubble and seeing the rockets pass underneath. Thanks, Barc.
Memory much ends there - it was just another trip back to base like many thousands I have done since.
The next weekend, the 21st, Mother's Day, is quite another unhappy story. See the KIA and MIA files.
S T A T E M E N T
The following eye witness statement has been prepared to relate the circumstances and actions which occurred between 1840 and 2141 hours on 14 May 1967. As it will be noted, the action involved a total of five UH-1D and four Uh-1C helicopters. Since the air crews of the UH-1D helicopters are being submitted for similar awards and to reduce the multiple typing of my eye witness statement, I have received permission from Headquarters, 10th combat Aviation Battalion to write a single eyewitness statement and reproduce it as an enclosure for each individual concerned.
On the evening 14 May 1967, at approximately 1840 hours, I was the aircraft commander of the Command and Control aircraft of an infiltration flight consisting of fived UH-1D and four UH-1C helicopters which departed the forward operating bas (FOB) of Detachment B-52, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne), near Hue Phu Bai, RVN. Our mission was to infiltrate two long range reconnaissance patrols into the southern portion of the A Shau Valley, RVN. The infiltration was programmed in three phases; the first infiltration a "dummy" infiltration and the second infiltration. The aircraft and crew assignments were:
66-1136 (Second Infiltration)
AC - WO J. B. Hood
P - WO H. L Skaar
CE - PFC M. O. Alicie, Jr.
G - SP4 C. A. Green
PAX - A six man LLRP
66-1155 (First Infiltration and Third Recovery
AC - CWO R. E. Lubic
P - WO A. G. Rampone
CE - PFC D. Franco, Jr.
G - PFC W. G. Lang
RNCO - SFC O. G. Robinette
AC - Major D. G. Jutz
P - WO B. H. Gourley
CE - PFC D. E. Smith, Jr.
RNCO - SFC J. Markham
66-16192 (Dummy Infiltration, Second Recovery)|
AC - WO G. M. Omdahl
P - WO L. H. Schwuchow
CE - PFC R. C. Nueslein
RNCO - SFC O. G. Robinette
NOTE: RNCO indicates a Recovery NCO. They are highly qualified and trained Special Forces NCOs that are thoroughly familiar with each method of rescue and recovery operations. They are utilized to assist in operating the McGuire Rigs, rope ladders, rappelling ropes and hoist operations.
At 1855 hours, I released the first infiltrations aircraft 66-1155. The infiltration was normal and experienced no difficulties. As 66-1155 reported clear of the infiltration pint, I release the "dummy" infiltration aircraft 66-16192. This procedure also was normal and experienced no difficulties. After 66-16192 reported being clear of the area, the flight proceeded to the release point for the second infiltration. At 1905 hours, I released the second infiltration aircraft 66-1136. The approach was normal and was progressing as scheduled. As 66-1136 approached the landing zone and was approximately one hundred feet in the air, I observed ground fire directed at the helicopter from three positions in the landing zone. The aircraft immediately aborted the approach and WO Hood reported receiving fire from the landing zone. I also observed the machine guns from 66-1136 returning fire into the landing zone. As 66-1136 cleared the landing zone, WO Hood reported the engine oil pressure was indicating zero and the engine iol temperatures was rising rapidly. I acknowledged the report and in few seconds WO Hood reported he would have to land the aircraft immediately, I advised him there were possible emergency landing zones in front of him and for him to land the aircraft as soon as possible. WO Hood continued flying and kept me advised on the instrument readings and condition of the aircraft. He reported having a landing zone in sight and immediately set up his approach. ON short final WO Hood reported had fifteen foot sapling trees in it, but that it would cause no major problems upon touchdown. as WO Hood approached the landing zone the armed helicopters were firing suppressive fire along his approach route and into the landing zone. At this time, I alerted the first recovery aircraft 66-9191 to leave the formation and be prepared to recover the personnel immediately. WO Hood landed the aircraft at 1916 hours and reported no injury to the crew or passengers and minor damage to the aircraft. I could observe the passengers and crew exiting the aircraft and forming a defensive position in from of the aircraft. There was a total of ten people in the aircraft. WO Hood maintained radio contact and attempted to determine the extent of damage to the aircraft when I ordered him to complete the evacuation of the aircraft and join the other personnel in the defensive position. At 1920 hours I released 66-9191 to start its approach into the landing zone. As 66-9191 completed the approach and was hovering in the landing zone, Major Jutz reported it would be difficult to land due to the trees and stumps. After a few seconds, I observed a person leaving the defensive position and begin giving arm signals directions for landing. Major Jutz reported they hand landed successfully. I then observed the remaining personnel running toward the recovery aircraft. As per our standard operating procedures, the aircraft crew and three members of the patrol were loaded on 66-9191. As the aircraft attempted to take-off, Major Jutz reported they were having difficulty. I observed them setting down and was a man leave the aircraft. Another attempt for take-off was made and was successful. Major Jutz reported that he had seven passengers onboard but that his Recovery NCO SFC Markham had stayed on the ground since the aircraft was having trouble taking off. At 1926 hours, I released the second recovery aircraft 66-16192 to complete the recovery operation of the four remaining personnel. By this time, it was getting quite dark and I could no longer see the people on the ground. WO Omdahl reported on short final that he had the people in sight. I observed him hovering in the landing zone and he reported he would have to utilize rope ladders for the recovery because he could not see well enough to risk landing between the trees. As 66-16192 stabilized its hover and was holding in position when I observed it start a violent turn to the right. It completed a 270 degree turn to the right and came to rest upright, with the main rotor blades turning, WO Omdahl immediately reported that he had lost anti-torque control had crashed. I directed him to shut the aircraft down and give me a report on any injuries. He reported that the Recovery NCO was injured but he did not know how seriously. The time was now 1934 hours and I could not see the two helicopters on the ground and there were now a total of nine personnel on the ground. I asked for a fuel and ammunition status from each of the aircraft and at this point I ordered 66-1155 and two of the armed helicopters to return to the FOB for refueling and rearming. At 1947 hours I contacted the Forward Air Controller and requested a flareship, a "Spooky" AC-47 and tactical air support. I continued orbiting until 2000 hours and turned the operation over to the FAC while I went to refuel at Hue Phu Bai Airfield. I instructed the two remaining armed helicopters to go refuel at 2015 hours and return as soon as possible. I returned on station at 2035 along with 66-1155 and two armed helicopters. The flareship was ready to start its run so the FAC began the orientation headings and directions. It was 2055 hours before we were on target with eh flares and ready to complete the recovery operation. The two armed helicopters that were on station were released to set up their protective cover. At 2110 hours, all four armed helicopters were on station and in orbit. I released 66-1155 at 2113 hours to start the approach to the landing zone. CWO Lubic attempted to locate a touchdown point but was unable to do so. He reported he would utilize the rope ladders. At 2136 hours, 66-1155 departed the landing zone and reported having five people aboard, two of which were injured. I directed him to return to the hospital facility at Hue Phu Bai, to refuel and return immediately. At 2127 hours I released 66-9191 to complete the recovery of personnel. Major Jutz reported that the visibility was very poor and that "dud" flares were numerous and coming very close to the aircraft. After terminating his approach to a hover he reported that he would utilize rope ladders and that he had the people in sight. At 2141 hours, 66-9191 departed the landing zone with the four people and the recover operation was completed.
The following comments are directed toward certain points of interest that occurred during the night recovery operation.
a. Warrant Officer Hood (66-1136) was directly responsible for the successful emergency landing of the downed aircraft. He quickly determined that he would not be able to continue flight and in order to assure a controlled landing, he selected the best landing zone immediately available and completed the emergency landing. His calm and professional control of the aircraft was directly responsible for the successful landing and no injuries to the nine other people in the aircraft. Also, by fearlessly exposing himself to possible enemy fire he located and directed the first recovery aircraft into a suitable area for landing. This enabled more people to be recovered in a shorter period of time.
b. Warrant Officer Omdahl's (66016192) superb control over his aircraft and proper actions prevented any serious injuries to the crew upon crashing. It was later determined by the personnel on the ground that the tail rotor and pylon had been hit with automatic weapons fire. There were four bullet holes evenly spaced across the pylon and the personnel on the ground heard the machine gun that fired on the aircraft. WO Omdahl also assisted in directing the following recovery aircraft into position for their pickup.
c. Major Jutz (66-9191) was directly responsible for the recovery of eleven downed personnel. During his first recovery the aircraft struck a tree as it was climbing out of the landing zone and resulted in damage to the main rotor blades. He elected to return to the recovery site despite this damage and was called on to execute the second recovery lift.
d. Chief Warrant Officer Lubic (66-1155) was directly responsible for the recovery of five downed personnel. His recovery was accomplished under the flares; however, he had not been into the area during the daylight and had no prior knowledge of the conditions of the landing zone.
e. As the result of the two downed aircraft there was a total of sixteen personnel on the ground and all were successfully recovered.
f. During the night portion of the recovery operation, it was reported by the aircraft commanders of the recovery aircraft and the armed helicopters that smoke from the flares was reducing the visibility greatly. Also, the large number of "dud" flares was a definite hazard to the aircraft. At certain times during the recovery, I could not see the land zone due to the smoke. There was no wind to clear the smoke.
ELDON L. SMITH
Command and Control Aircraft
S T A T E M E N T
On 14 May 1967, Warrant Officer Brent H. Gourley was the pilot of a helicopter which was designated as a recovery aircraft on an operation to infiltrate two Special Forces long range reconnaissance patrol into enemy controlled terrain in the A Shau Valley, Republic of Vietnam.
The operation commenced at last light and the first patrol was successfully infiltrated. As the second patrol was approaching the landing zone, the was hit by enemy small and automatic weapons fire and the aircraft made a crash landing. Warrant Officer Gourley immediately started a descent when the pilot of the downed aircraft radioed his situation. Within four minutes after the aircraft had landed, Warrant Officer Gourley was assisting in controlling the aircraft, observing obstacles and giving directions to the crew members on their duties. An attempt was made to land the aircraft five to fifteen foot stumps and trees prohibited a landing and during the attempted landing a was struck with the main rotor blades. Warrant Officer Gourley located a landing point and through his outstanding pilot technique successfully landed the aircraft. The four downed crew members and three patrol members were loaded but tue to the heavy load take-off could not be made. The Recovery NCO jumped from the aircraft and the second take-off attempt was successful. During the climb, Warrant Officer Gourley selected the flight routes at tree top level, low areas and routes which would give the best protection from enemy fire. After landing at the forward operating base it was discovered that the main rotor blades had been seriously damaged, however Warrant Officer Gourley stated that every attempt must be made to continue the mission. An attempt was made to repair the blades with no success. In spite of this we departed for the recovery area.
During our absence another helicopter had been shot down and there were nine personnel to be recovered. It was total darkness upon arrival that the recovery area and a flareship wa illuminating the area for the operation. Another aircraft extracted five personnel and we were released to pick up the four remaining personnel. During the approach, Warrant Officer Gourley constantly advised me of the obstacles, instrument readings and gave direction for avoiding "dud" flares along our flight route. While hovering over the area in minimum light above the trees, the four personnel were recovered by a rope ladder. We received word to "take it up and get out of here" from the SFC Markham and we departed the hover point. Almost immediately, we were informed that the last man was hanging on the ladder. Warrant Officer Gourley assumed control of the aircraft, slowed down to minimum airspeed to facilitate getting the last man into the helicopter. Warrant Officer Gourley's outstanding flying ability, composure under pressure and proper reactions to the most adverse conditions was instrumental in the recovery of eleven personnel from certain capture or death.
DONALD G. JUTZ
At 1840 hours, 14 May 1967, a flight departed the forward operating base of Detachment B-52, 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) with the mission to infiltrated two long range reconnaissance patrols late into the A Shau Valley, Republic of Vietnam.
The infiltration progressed normally and the first patrol was infiltrated without incident. At this time the second infiltration aircraft was released from the formation to complete the operation. As the aircraft was approximately one hundred feet in the air prior to landing, it received automatic weapons firefrom the landing zone and was hit. The aircraft hits resulted in a loss of engine oil pressure and a rising oil temperature which forced the aircraft to make an emergency landing.
Aircraft 66-9191 with the assigned crew of: Aircraft Commander , Major D.G Jutz; Pilot WO B.H. Gourley; Crew Chief PFC D.S. Smith Jr.; Gunner, PFC W.B. Kersh, and Recovery NCO SFC J. Markham was released to pick up as many of the ten downed personnel as possible. The pick up zone was covered with stumps and trees, ranging from five to fifteen feet tall and as the recovery aircraft completed it's approach it becomes obvious that a landing would be almost impossible. As the aircraft attempted to hover into position for a landing, the main rotor blades struck a tree. At this time a member of the downed crew gave assistance to the aircraft by giving arm signals and directions so a landing could be made. The four members and three patrol members boarded the aircraft but due to the restricted take-off area the aircraft could not take-off. At this time, SFC Markham jumped from the aircraft and the next attempt for take-off was successful.
A second recovery aircraft was released to attempt to pick up the four remaining personnel but while hovering he the pick up zone it was hit by enemy fire and crashed. By this time, further recovery attempts could not be made due to darkness and the Command and Control released the remaining aircraft to go refuel and re-arm. Also, the Forward Air Controller was contacted to obtain a flareship and tactical air support so the extraction could be continued. When the recovery aircraft and armed helicopters had returned to the area the night extraction began. The next recovery aircraft successfully extracted five of the downed personnel by using rope ladders. At this time aircraft 66-9191 was released, for the second time, to pick up the four remaining personnel. During the approach, visibility was very poor due to the smoke from the flares. Also, the large number of "dud" flares being dropped was a hazard to flying into the pick up zone. After locating the downed personnel, they were successfully picked up by hovering over the and using rope ladders. SFC Markham, who was in radio contact with the aircraft, gave an "all clear" when he started climbing the ladder. As the aircraft departed the pickup zone it had to reduce its speed to thirty knots until SFC Markham was inside the aircraft. After reaching a safe altitude the aircraft commander reported that all personnel were aboard and no one was left on the ground. The terminate the night extraction and all aircraft returned to the forward operating base.
1. Attached Sheet|
3. Proposed Citation
Allen L. Junko