A Day Like Many Others
Crew Chief of UH-1D 725
The following is my recollection of a mission that happened March 6, 1967,
while serving as a crew chief of a UH-1D with the 281st Assault Helicopter Co in Vietnam.
Frank Little: This day was like many others. A typical “hash and trash” mission for the Rat Pack (1st Flight Platoon) flying out of “C Detachment” at Da Nang. As we did a pre-flight on UH-1D #725 SF Major Miller (S-3) pulled up beside my aircraft in a jeep and began unloading his usual case of M79 ammo. I knew this would be an exciting day. Our crew was Capt. Barc Boyd (AC), WO Phil English (Pilot), Frank Little (Crew Chief), Ron Renfroe (Gunner). We lifted off toward A-108 Minh Long Special Forces Camp. Major Miller informed us that they had lost contact with a team near the camp. As we circled the area we spotted a guy in Tiger Stripes running down an old road/trail waving an OD handkerchief. There was no radio contact; however Major Miller believed it to be someone from the missing team. I watched him run across an abated stream and up a small grassy knoll followed by a number of what we believed to be NVA soldiers. I began suppressive fire at the enemy soldiers as Capt Boyd began a rather steep and speedy descent toward the grassy knoll where the SF soldier was. During the descent, while on the ground, and during the assent we were under heavy, intense, ground fire from extremely close range. I still marvel today that none of us were hit. I can’t say the same for my Huey. I could hear a number of hits during the whole process. As soon as we touched down on the grassy knoll SSGT Jake Roth dove in the helicopter and we lifted off. Mr. English, Renfroe, Major Miller, and SSGT Roth were all firing during the assent. Capt. Boyd recalls hearing the “krump” of a couple of mortar rounds in front of us; however, the ground was soft and there was no damage to the front of the aircraft. As we lifted off we had to circle back over the abated river because of heavy cloud cover. The river had a number of bodies in it and the water had turned red. I still see that scene today. SSGT Roth ran out of ammo and as he rolled over on his side to retrieve another magazine, a round came up through the floor right where he had just been laying. During the short flight to Minh Long, I stepped out onto the skid to survey any damage. I could see holes in the tail boom and horizonal stabilizer. The gauges all looked good but we didn’t do any sight-seeing on the way back to Minh Long. As soon as the skids touched down and before Capt Boyd could power off she lost power. I jumped out and opened the door for Capt Boyd then opened the engine cowling. A round had gone through the engine. I am amazed to this day it flew as long as it did. The Huey is an amazing aircraft and we all owed our life to it that day. I counted 17 different holes in my Huey. When I removed my M60 from its mount I realized I had less than 100 rounds of ammo left, maybe enough for one or two short bursts. I started that day with approximately 1600 rounds. AC 725 obviously could not fly and was sling loaded back to Marble Mountain Airfield the next day for repairs.
"Beeler's Bombers", USMC, recovered 725;
she took another hit leaving Minh Long.
Photo by B.Gourley.
We bummed a ride back to Da Nang in a Marine H-34. It scared me more than the NVA. We flew back to Minh Long so I could rig my aircraft to be sling loaded. I had to hook the sling to the bottom of a Marine CH-53. That is a BIG helicopter and sitting atop the mast of my Huey and having the CH-53 hover over me, very close I might add, made me nervous. I could see the flight engineer looking at me through a hole in the floor as he directed the pilot. I will always remember him smiling. I guess he could see the fear on my face. I hooked the sling and jumped off my Huey and ran. I took a picture with my trust Kodak Instamatic as they lifted off. I treasure that photo today.
You must realize that we survived this mission with no gun ship cover and no other helicopter in the area. If old 725 had failed us on that day I am sure I would not be writing this story. The skill of Capt. Boyd, Mr. English, the M60 Machine Gun, and our determination to not leave SSGT Roth to the NVA is something I am quite proud of.
There is sadness to this story. SSGT Roth and SGT Burt C. Small had walked into an ambush and had become separated. SGT Small was never found and is listed as MIA.
With the help of the Special Forces Association I located now retired SGT Major Roth in Fayetteville, NC. He had planned to come to our reunion in 2016 for our own mini reunion after all those many years. The weather prevented us from meeting but he will always be a part of my life story. There is more to SGM Roth’s story. He had been a POW in Korea for 37 months and four days and was determined not to let that happen again. I am proud we were able to be in the right place at the right time with a crew from the 281st. We were definitely “Hell From Above”.