33rd Transportation Company

(Light Helicopter) (H-21)

"Balm-De Balm"

(Ba Muoi Ba)

Patch of the 33rd Trans. Co.(Lt Hel)
courtesy of Chris Miller
New Book Out!! "Thunderbird Lounge" by Bob Brandt
Another Great Book Out by By Bob Brandt----"The PiasEcki H-21 Helicopter"

Original members of 33rd Transportation Company, 1962

Pilots of the 33rd at high altitude training program at Stead AFB in Nevada(Reno area, closed 1966) prior to deployment to RVN. MAJ. Joseph Henderson, CO of 33rd, squats in front row with USAF instructors.(1962)
Need help identifying all of 33rd pilots
(photo courtesy Gil Ferry)
First Row, L/R: ? , ? , ? , MAJ Joe E. Henderson, ?
Second Row, L/R: ?, ?, ?, CW2 Thomas E. Holmes, 1LT Richard J. Olsen, 1LT William F. James, CW2 Robert W. Meade, 1LT Donald R. Olsen, 1LT Lyman B. Harris, Jr., CW2 Lloyd D. Keith, CW2 Charles D. Gregory, CPT Edward Seymour
Third row, L/R: ?, ?, ?, CW2 Richard Loynachan, ?, CW3 Fredrick P. Cullen, CW2 Richard E. Glasgow, ?, CW2 Raymond A. Vierling.



Note--Much of the following information courtesy of Ralph B. Young, author of "Army Aviation in Vietnam 1961-1963, An Illustrated History of Unit Insignia, Aircraft Camouflage and Markings", published by The Huey Company, Inc., P.O. Box 625, Ramsey, NJ 07446-0625


Deployment to "Destination---Unknown"

The 33rd was alerted for deployment to S.E. Asia two times. The first alert occurred on 6 Mar 62 but was delayed until the second alert on 18 Apr 62. At the time the unit was at Ft. Ord, CA. The main body departed CA by C-121 on 10 Sep 62 and flew to Saigon. The aircraft were shipped to Saigon on the USNS Croatan and arrived 18 Sep 62. The Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) had estimated that 8-10 weeks would be needed for the unit to become operational. However, it was accomplished in a little over two weeks. MAJ Henderson recalls "We had no assigned area but ranged from Da Nang in the north to the 93rd's area in the South".


USNS Croatan loaded with 40 Spraylat coated CH-21 helicopters belonging to
33rd and 81st Transportation Companies. From the look of the terrain to left
of the stern, ship is in Hawaii where the 81st was stationed.(Aug 62)
(Photo courtesy John Ness)


Looking to the East somewhere on the high seas of the Pacific Ocean aboard
the USNS Croatan en route to "Destination--Unknown." (Aug 62)
(Photo courtesy John Ness)


CH-21C, s/n 52-8642 being readied on the flight deck of USNS Croatan on
18 Sep 62. The aircraft is painted in overall Gloss Olive Drab with the
Army's standard high visibility markings. The cargo door would be removed as
soon as the aircraft reached Bien Hoa Air Base.(62)
(US Army Photo Courtesy Ralph Young)

It is interesting to note that the 33rd had been ordered to give up all 20 of their CH-21's at Ft. Ord to several units who deployed prior to the 33rd.(8th, 57th and 93rd). Then when alerted for their own deployment, MAJ Henderson had to gather 20 replacements from around the US. As a result, most of the H-21's arriving by ship had high visibility markings which had to be painted over in gloss olive drab and toned down markings. Below is a grid showing the serial numbers of the 20 CH-21's that were deployed to Vietnam in 1962. This list was reconstructed by Bob Brandt who was the CO of the 573rd Maintenance Detachment at the time of deployment and is subject to change as more information becomes available.





















** (Tim Lang's ship)


The Vietnam service of the 33rd Trans. was from Sep 62-June 63. When the unit was inactivated, all personnel, assets and equipment of the 33rd were transferred to the successor unit, the 118th Aviation Company(Air Mobile Light), along with the attached 573rd Transportation Detachment.

The 33rd's CO, MAJ Joseph E. Henderson assumed command of the unit on 1 Nov 60 and was the only commander of the 33rd to serve in Vietnam. The 33rd compiled an outstanding record under MAJ. Henderson, and no personnel or aircraft were lost to the enemy. Several aircraft were shot down, but were recovered successfully.MAJ. Henderson and 11 other officers, WO and EM were awarded the Air Medal for 25 completed missions, on 11 Apr 63 by LTC Hoffman, CO of the 45th Trans Bn. CPT Ben E. Luck was the 33rd's Opns Officer.

MAJ. Joseph Henderson at far end of table. BG Joseph W. "Cider" Stilwell, Jr.
is the gray haired fella talking and holding up his hand, on right. Photo taken
at Commander and Maintenance conference at Vung Tau in early 1963.
(Photo courtesy of COL Sam Conley, Jr, USA Ret. and Ralph Young, Author)


View of flight line of 33rd in Sep 62. Aircraft have had markings toned down.
Note no gravel, revetments or buildings. Also, the thunderstorm in the right background.
(US Army Photo Courtesy Ralph Young, Author)

Flight Operations building and sign of the
33rd at Bien Hoa.
(Photo courtesy of LTC Joseph Henderson, USA Ret. and Ralph Young, Author)


All information above about the 33rd Transportation Company was provided by Ralph B. Young from his book entitled: "Army Aviation in Vietnam 1961-1963, An Illustrated History of Unit Insignia Aircraft Camouflage and Markings"
Copyright 1999 by Ralph B. Young
The book is the first in a series of 10 books about US Army Aviation in Vietnam from 1961-1973. It is an accurate and factual book with fresh new photos and stories provided by the men who were there, the men who made the history! Vol. 1 is highly recommended.and is available from The Huey Company, Inc., P.O. Box 625, Ramsey, NJ 07446-0625.
Vol. 1 can also be purchased from your favorite bookstore. Vol 2 is due to be released the fall of 2000, according to the author. Ralph B.Young can be reached by e-mail at:

Old "Work Horse"

CH-21C, 56-2136 over Bien Hoa area during dry season.(62)
(Photo courtesy John Ness)

Photo of the original 573rd pocket patch worn at Ft. Ord, CA
before and for some months after the 33rd
deployed to Vietnam in Nov 62.
(Photo of patch courtesy Michael "Mike" Hall)



The original "Bird Cage" seen looking S.S.E. from the operations building
down the old 15-33 runway. Since there was only two platoons originally,
there was only two rows of CH-21(June 1963)
(Photo courtesy Jack Phillabaum)


Looking N.N.W., up runway 15-33, from between the two rows of CH-21's. Operations
building is rusty looking roof to left.(June 1963)
(Photo courtesy Jack Phillabaum)

'Home Sweet Home' for the 33rd

Main gate entrance to 33rd Transportation Company compound on Bien Hoa
Air base(Jun 1963) This area was actually very close to the main Bien Hoa runway.
(Photo courtesy Jack Phillabaum)


"Hooch Alley" with PSP walkway on gravel. Note trusty bicycle for quick transportation to the flight line. (Jun 1963)
(Photo courtesy Jack Phillabaum)


Airing out the Officers' quarters in 33rd Trans. Co. compound. Note mosquito netting.
(Jun 1963)
(Photo courtesy Jack Phillabaum)


Officers'(near) and Enlisted(far)latrine/shower in 33rd Trans. Co. compound on Bien Hoa Air base.(Jun 1963)
(Photo courtesy Jack Phillabaum)
View from inside the Officers' shower.
Wonder how hot "sun-heated" water is?
Screens are woven split bamboo(63)
(Photo courtesy Ben Luck)


Thunderbird Officers' Club patio. L to R: Fred "Fox" Cullen, Bob DeSantis, Don Schomp and Dick Loynachan. (Jun 1963)
(Photo courtesy Jack Phillabaum)
Working on Thunderbird Lounge on "No-Fly" day. (63)
(Photo courtesy Ben Luck)


Enjoying a game of cards in Thunderbird Lounge.
L to R: Desmon Burnette, John Ness, Jerry McGuffey and Dick Loynachan(63)
(Photo courtesy Ben Luck)


Somewhere on "in-country" R & R (Possibly Cape St. Jacques or Vung Tau) L to R: Ken Stanton,
"Pop" Henderson, "Smiley" Burnette
and Ben Luck(63)
(Photo courtesy Ben Luck)


Thunderbird Officers' Club with parachute on the ceiling and prior to completion. Looking from the
bar area to the entrance.(63)
(Photo courtesy Ben Luck)


Thunderbird Officers' Club Bar. CPT Frank Radspinner? at bar and fella on right is playing a slot machine. Anyone remember Vietnamese lady behind bar? Note the design of the "Thunderbird" on the wall behind the bar. It resembles the one on the Thunderbird Casino for which the unit was named.(Jun 1963)
(Photo courtesy Jack Phillabaum)


Another view of Thunderbird Lounge Patio
with Bien Hoa Air base runway across
the fence. (63)
(Photo courtesy Ben Luck)


Mess Officer Wally Larson's Diner.(63)
(Photo courtesy Ben Luck)


"Classy" serving line in Mess Officer
Wally Larson's Diner
Note Cook and 4 Vietnamese ladies
peeling potatoes.(63)
(Photo courtesy Ben Luck)


"Wally Larson's Girls" peeling potatoes
in their red uniforms.(63)
(Photo courtesy Ben Luck)


Wash rack area and immersion heaters behind
"Wally's Diner."(63)
(Photo courtesy Ben Luck)


Motor Pool area of 118th Compound on Bien Hoa Air Base in late 1963 during Monsoon season.
(Photo courtesy "Red" Sparling)


Gate entering the 33rd Trans.
Company Motor Pool.(62)
(Photo courtesy John Ness)


Working on the Thunderbird Lounge patio
which sat next to the Bien Hoa runway.(62)
(Photo courtesy John Ness)


Bien Hoa Air Base in the rainy season. (62)
(Photo courtesy Ben Luck)


Ben Luck on left and Doc Mears at
Chinese Restaraunt in Saigon.(62)
(Photo Courtesy Ben Luck)


Mission Planning for next day's mission in Thunderbird Lounge.(62)
(Photo courtesy Ben Luck)


The original Thunderbird Lounge(62)
(Photo courtesy Ben Luck)



Vietnam definitely looked like a vast ocean of water during the rainy season. Water could be seen as far as the eye could see. Flying the CH-21 presented a concern that if the aircraft went down in a river, rice paddy or the open sea, the pilots needed to quickly "un-ass" through a window because there was no door to pull the pins from or open.
Here we see members of the 33rd Trans. Co. utilizing "Dilbert Dunker" and learning how to quickly and safely unbuckle the harness and escape through the "window". Note several things: the wrecker used to suspend the "Dilbert Dunker"; the 93rd Med, 3/4T ambulance next to the two, oft seen, bicycles; stretchers and oxygen.
The writing on the side of "Dilbert Dunker" says, "Say Bud, have you seen a H-21 around here?" The pool was a newly constructed swimming pool on the Bien Hoa Air base. The water doesn't look too clear.....kinda green!
With the replacement of the CH-21 with the UH-1B, this training ceased and the exact date unknown.
(June 1963)
(Photo courtesy Jack Phillabaum)
Personal Remembrance
 Jack O. Phillabaum, who served in the 118th for 4-5 months as the OPNs Officer, remembers; " The "Dilbert Dunker" was actually a device hand made by possibly the 121st Aviation Company (AML) from down in the Delta as a result of a crew being drowned when a helicopter landed in a river. Our wrecker operator, who was apparently new or nervous, when lifting the device from the pool too quickly before the water could drain out, and ripped the top off . We had to re-weld and repair it before sending it on to another unit for training."


Early life in the 33rd Transportation Company


CH-21's Loading in the PZ(above)
(Photo above courtesy Jim Larson)


CH-21's Departing the PZ

Because there were no U.S. troops in Vietnam until early 1963, the 33rd Transportation Company worked only with the Army of Vietnam(ARVN) during the first years. They usually supported the 5th and 10th ARVN Divisions teaching and flying their troop units in air mobile operations. This photo very clearly shows the lack of interest and urgency very often shown by the ARVN's that many of the 33rd pilots expressed concern about. They appear to be sitting around all bunched up and not very concerned about tactics or the enemy. They are more interested in watching the H-21's as they depart the LZ over the distant rubber plantation.(62)
This two photos above are official U.S. Army Photos.
(Photo courtesy Martin Lehotay)

Remembrance of "Duke" DuShane
 C. Joseph "Duke" DuShane remembers this interesting story about the early days in the H-21's: "It seems several H-21's upon returning from a mission had landed at the 118th helipad. The crews were doing after flight checks to see if they had any damage from the mission, When low and behold one of the H-21's had an arrow from a crossbow sticking in the under-belly of the aircraft. Everyone had a good laugh and forgot about it. Well, a couple weeks later, the very same H-21 was setting down in a rice paddy when one of the wheels hit the dike and the aircraft fell over on its side. When this was reported to the TOC some quick thinking wit loudly proclaimed that 'the poison from that arrow finally got to the engine'! Needless to say this story was retold every time a new member joined the unit. True story!!"


LT Bill Harris(?) and CPT Jack McKnight in short sleeves and gray flight suits
(Aug 63)
(Photo courtesy Jack Phillabaum)



CPT Kilgore in center ,others unknown in front of 118th Flight Operations at Bird Cage
(Sep 63)
(Photo courtesy Jack Phillabaum)


Because the 33rd Trans. Co. compound was on the Bien Hoa Air base, this was a good mode of transportation to get to the flight line. According to those who were there, the bicycles were purchased in Bien Hoa. Pilots, unknown.
(Jun 1963)
(Photo courtesy Jack Phillabaum)


Pre-mission planning in the field. L to R- Joe Saffle, ?, Hidden ?, CPT Leaf, CPT Van Wert.
(Jun 1963)
(Photo courtesy Jack Phillabaum)


Don Olsen and Robert D."Pop" Edwards, Sr.
outside 33rd Trans. Co. Operations.(62)
(Photo courtesy Ben Luck)


CW2 Donald R. Houston playing with "Tuffy" the original tiger mascot of the 93rd Transportation Co. They were known as the "Soc Trang Tigers".Note the red "33" ball cap worn by these early guys instead of official US Army caps. Also, note the personally altered fatigues and high visibility name tags and patches.


CPT Lyman B. Harris cautiously scratching "Tuffy" in Soc Trang, home of the "Soc Trang Tigers", 93rd Trans. Co.(62)
(Photo courtesy John Ness)


Lloyd "Doug" Keith introducing Santa
at Dec 62 Christmas party.
(Photo courtesy John Ness)


Local entertainment at Christmas party, Dec 62.
(L to R) Render "Baby Huey" Guinn, Jerry McGuffey, John Ness & Lyman Harris.
(Photo courtesy John Ness)


"Grand Finale" of the show at
Christmas party, Dec 62.
(Photo courtesy John Ness)


L to R: Ben Luck, John Ness, Lyman Harris and
Ray Vierling on patio of Thunderbird Lounge.(63)
(Photo courtesy John Ness)


L to R: Billy Reneau, Browder Willis,
"Pop" Edwards and John Ness.(63)
(Photo courtesy John Ness)


Arthur Boudreau with Montagnard friends.(62)
(Photo courtesy John Ness)


John Ness and friend enjoying a cigarette.(62)
(Photo courtesy John Ness)


Tim Lang checking out a native bald hawk
with RFPF troops.(63)
(Photo courtesy John Ness)



L to R: Bryson Penny, Dick Glasgow and Ray Vierling on the Bien Hoa fixed-wing ramp.(62)
(Photo courtesy John Ness)



Wow! checking out the avionics compartment
on a brand new UH-1B in Saigon are
L to R: James L. "Dan" Daily, John Barnett
and Lyman Harris.(63)
(Photo courtesy John Ness)


L to R: Ken Anderson and "Pop" Henderson somewhere on Bien Hoa Air base.(62)
(Photo courtesy John Ness)


Results of a wind storm at Saigon Airfield. (62) (Photo courtesy Ben Luck)


More results of a wind storm at Saigon. H-21s belonged to unit in Saigon, the 57th Trans Co.(62)
(Photo Courtesy Ben Luck)


More wind storm damage to H-21s at Saigon.(62) (Photo courtesy Ben Luck)


Interesting Trivia

 August 18, 1964 was the day the last CH-21C flew in Vietnam. CWO Charles D. Holbrook from the 120th Aviation Company flew the last CH-21C from Saigon to Vung Tau to be transported back to the United States on that date.