I remember when......

Page 12

This page is devoted entirely to interesting stories provided by former members of the 33rd Trans Co. or 118th AHC. It might be safe to say that the stories are true but in some cases "the names may have been changed to protect the innocent"!!

I remember when......

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SSG James E. Bailey


Entering the newly dedicated James E. Bailey Compound above and leaving below.
The compound housed the 118th Aviation Company Headquarters and enlisted
barracks for 118th Aviation Company and A/501st Aviation Company. Note
all the bicycles of Vietnamese workers.(64)
(Photos courtesy Joe Newsome)


The James E. Bailey Bio was written and provided by a member of the family.



Sometime in late 1968, about the same time that the pilot and cargo doors were removed (allegedly to improve visibility?), some, or all, of the 118th AHC Bandit gunships had the word "KILL" painted in large block letters on their belly! The move was a hit, it is said, as far as the "Grunts" on the ground evidenced by the many shouts and "thumbs-up" received as the Bandits flew low overhead. Visible from at least several thousand feet below, it was a "chest pounding" sight, for sure. Who authorized it, is unknown at this time or how long it was permitted. Apparently, it was done at least well into 1970.

Photo apparently taken by a "Grunt" on the ground. (69)
(Courtesy John Brennan)
Rememberance of Cecil Gunter
 "I was the Bandit Platoon Leader for most of 1969. Bandit 3 had "KILL" written on the belly when I arrived in country in Jan 1969 and when I left in Jan 1970. The Grunts we supported really liked it!!"

Same Bandit as in the photo above, after landing in the tall grass. (69)
(Photo courtesy John Brennan)
Rememberance of John Flynn
 "Avenger 3", aka Bandit 5, replaced "Avenger 2" which was shot down near Tay Ninh in Nov 68. I became the Crew Chief in Dec 68 and my first job was to paint "KILL" on the bottom of the aircraft. To the best of my knowledge all of the Bandit gunships had "KILL" painted on the bottom."

Photo taken while on the ground showing "KILL"
painted on belly of one of the Bandit gunships. (69)
(Courtesy Richard "Teeny Bopper" Rissman)
Rememberance of Errol Scroggins
 "I flew on Bandit 4 and Bandit 6 in 1969 out of Bien Hoa. Bandit 6 had "KILL" on the bottom of the aircraft."


Another great photo, apparently taken from another Bandit aircraft,
of Bandit 4, (Hog) with "KILL" painted on the belly. (68)
(Courtesy Marvin Bristol)
If you have any recollection of the word "KILL" being painted on the belly of any Bandit aircraft and have a story about it, please contact the Web Master, Tom Payne

Dong Xoai Crewmembers

Honored by Florida VFW Post

The VFW Post 4252 in Hernando, FL obtained a UH1-D, SN 63-08739 and painted it in the 118th Avn Co. (AML) Thunderbird colors. Blue Tail 1 is dedicated to those who were KIA and BNR at the Battle of Dong Xoai, 10 June 1965. While the UH1-D was an early helicopter it apparently did not serve in Vietnam because the serial number does not show in the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association database. There were two very close serial numbers (08742 amd 08743) that did and they were in the 1st Cav. Div.

The bodies of four Thunderbird crewmembers of the Blue Tail 1, which was the 3rd Blue Tail 1 according to its Crew Chief Fred Holder, was destoryed by an apparent direct hit by a mortar round. All of the aircraft was burned and the four crewmember were never found and were classified as BNR (Bodies Never Recovered). To this day, it is not known exactly what happened to them.

The UH1-D below was discovered by former 118th AHC "Thunderbird" pilot, Carl Garrett who was traveling through central Florida and took the photos and passed them on.

UH1-D at VFW Post 7991, Dunnellon, FL
(Photo courtesy Carl Garrett)
Story of how the UH-1 D came to VFW Post
 Fred Holder, who was the Crew Chief of the original Blue Tail 1, that was destroyed at Dong Xoai, was mainly responsible for the VFW Post 4252 obtaining the UH-1D for display. Fred and another Vietnam Vet, Jim Shields were good friends and members of a group of Vietnam Vets called Veteran's Education Team. Jim Shields was able to obtain the UH-1D through the 1st Cav Association. Mounted on a trailer and towed to schools to show and tell the students about Vietnam it was a hit. However, after several years the team became inactive. Fred Holder thought it would be a good thing for his VFW Post to have it to honor those who died at the Battle of Dong Xoai where the original Blue Tail 1 was lost. He approached his VFW 4252 Post Commander with the thought that the Post should "adopt" the Huey for their post and to repaint and re-logo it as a 118th Avn Co.(AML) Blue Tail 1 on which Fred Holder had been the Crew Chief during 1964-65 when he was in the "Thunderbirds". As can see from the plaque beside the Blue Tail 1, it is not only dedicated to those four men who were lost a Dong Xoai, but to all the men of the area who served in Vietnam.

Door post 2nd Platoon, "The Choppers"
(Photo courtesy Carl Garrett)

Vertical fin painted in 2nd Flt Platoon Blue colors.
Blue 1 was the one lost at Dong Xoai.
(Photo courtesy Carl Garrett)


The "Thunderbird" on the nose amd cargo door.
(Photo courtesy Carl Garrett)

Very fine dedication plaque beside the UH1-D
honoring those who died at the Battle of Dong Xoai,
plus those who made the acquisition possible.
(Photo courtesy Carl Garrett)


"Copters Crash, 9 Die at Bien Hoa"

Copy of Stars and Stripes article courtesy Fred Holder, Crew Chief. (1965)
Fred Holder Remembers....
 "This was Bluetail 1 & 2, both 2nd Platoon helicopters. I was the CE on Blue 1 and Steve Kartak was CE on Bluetail 2. Steve was one of the survivors, but he doesn't remember much of the incident beacuse he jumped or was thrown from his aircraft."

RED 2 Discovered in Louisiana !!


During some of his travels in mid-2014, George Colbert (Gunner 67-68), found a "Huey-on-a-stick" at the Louisiana Maneuvers and Military Museum at Camp Beauregard located in Pineville, LA. As he looked at the aircraft, high in the air, it rang a bell in his nearly 50 year old memory. The tail number was the same as Red 2 which he was a gunner on while in the 1st Platoon "Scorpions" of the 118th AHC "Thunderbirds" in 1967-68. When he returned home to Oklahoma City, OK., he looked up the tail number in a database on this web site and "YES" it was ole Red 2! He emailed the museum at Camp Beauregard and received the following email and the photo above in return:

"This is a photo of aircraft 64-13709 along with four of our UH-1 crewchiefs
taken in the early 1990s. It was completely repainted upon retirement and
placed on display at the Camp Beauregard Museum, Pineville, Louisiana. The
aircraft was last assigned to Det 1 225th ENG Group and flew in Panama for
several summers in the mid 1980s supporting Operation Blazing Trails, in
which the LA Army National Guard was helping the Panamanians build roads in
the rural areas out west. One of the guys painted the nose art to reflect
its participation in its last operation."
CW5 Wiley C. Nugent
Standardization Instructor Pilot
AASF #2, Pineville, LA

The next time George Colbert was able to travel through Pineville, LA he visited old "Red-2" again and provided the following photos. As can be seen in the first photo below, the serial number is "0-13709" and not "64-13709". The reason is the aircraft was badly damaged while in the 118th AHC in an incident where the helicopter was hit in the passenger cargo section by gun launched non-explosive ballistic projectiles less than 20 mm in size. (7.62MM). There was 1-KIA and 2-WIA on board. She was sent back to the USA to ARADMAC and completely repaired and converted to a UH-1H model and the serial number was changed to "7 0-13709". Upon reassignment to Vietnam, the now "H" model went to the 128th AHC "Tomahawks". Her later years were spent in Korea, NASA and Louisiana Army National Guard.

 George Colbert remembers, "What memories, several pilots hit and several near crashes; lots of bullet holes, tail rotor loss, and loads of adventure. The pilot was hit in the side, hand, and hip joint from a round that was in that spot. Rich Casper was the pilot in the incident described on Dec 17 1967. We took hits at Duc Hoa and nearly crashed. Our co-pilot was a new red headed fella named Jack Mullican (Savanna Ga). He got control of that bird just a few feet off the ground and tried to build rpm. We went over some trees and through the leaves and branches while gaining altitude. We flew on to the Cu Chi hospital. Needless to say the gunners were amazed and thought he was the coolest pilot ever. "

Thanks George for keeping the memories alive and your eyes open as you travel around the Great USA! We are sure there are many more old "Huey War Birds" still out there to be found!







Bandit 2 found at Texas School!

66-00687, aka "Bandit 2" is now on the campus of the Brook Hill School, a private Christian school (Grades 1-12), located in Bullard, TX which is 15 miles south of Tyler, TX next to US 69 highway. The Amercian Freedom Museum is part of the school property. "The American Freedom Museum illuminated the American experience during crucial moments in our nations's history. From the hills and valleys of the American Revolution, to the sands of Iraq and Afghanistan, you will step into history and discover the journey of those in our nations' military who have courageously and heroically sacrificed to ensure the many freedoms that we enjoy today. Our mission is to Honor American veterans and military personnel for the sacrifices they have made for our freedoms; Educate this and future generations about our rich heritage; and Inspodre others to achieve greatness." In additon the museum has hitorical displays for every U.S. President.






ABE and "Star 5"

We had a VIP ship in the 2nd platoon named "Star 5". The blue flag on the tail had a white star with a 5 inside. This ship was dedicated to the CIA HQ at Bien Hoa. The CIA Chief was a "Commander" Whitehouse and his Army liaison was COL Kraus (who wrote a multi-volume treatise on "Counter-insurgency in Southeast Asia"). The AC was CW2 Thompson, Co-pilots were rotated according to availability. The ship had an extra step on each side of the cargo doors to make entry and exit easier. I flew with Thompson only a few times. When Thompson went on R&R the AC assigned was Abe Abrahamson, my old room mate. On his first mission, on approach to the CIA compound in Bien Hoa, over a tall chain link fence, Abe caught the tail rotor. As the aircraft began to spin, Abe successfully set her down in the crowded parking lot with out further damage. The damage was easily repaired. A few weeks later, we had a visit from "Corncob 6" the 1st Aviation Brigade's CO, General Hemingway. Now Abe was a nervous sort and thought he was going to be in a lot of trouble sooner or later. After Gen. Hemingway's speech to the assembled battalion, he called Mister Abrahamson to the podium. I know Abe thought he was going to be stripped of rank and drummed out of the service. The General related the story to the assembled troops and proceeded to present Abe with the Air Medal with fence device (a piece of window screen suspended from the medal's ribbon). He also congratulated Abe for a safe emergency landing. Abe almost fainted. This is a great story and shouldn't be lost in time.

Darrell L. Burkhalter CW2, Bandit 34
118th AHC RVN (69-70)


1st Cav "Help!"

It was late spring 1970 and the 118th Assault Helicopter Company was on a routine mission near Cu Chi. The mission entailed picking up some ARVN troops at point A, taking them to relieve some US troops at point B, then taking the US troops back to Cu Chi. Then back to Point A and doing it all over again. I was in charge of a light fire team of "Charlie Model" Huey gunships (2). My ship was a "Hog" with 36 2.75" rockets and the other was a "Mini ship" with 14 rockets and 2 mini guns. The AC of the 2nd ship was WO1 William Hinton.
We were refueling at CU Chi when the Cu Chi Tower called out for available gunships to go to the help of a 1st Cav unit in heavy contact near the Razorbacks, a string of hills northeast of Cu Chi. I went over to Hinton's ship to consult with him about offering our aid. He said I'd better get clearance from our CO before committing to the mission. I went back to my ship and tried to contact some one with authority to authorize the mission. I was unable to contact anyone while Cu Chi tower kept calling for help. I decided on my own to go. We got the coordinates, the FM ground troop's frequency, and the UHF Medivac frequency from the tower and departed to the area.
Enroute we could hear the ground troops RTO hollering for help and trying to get the Medivacs to land. The Medivacs replied the area was too "hot" for landing at their area to pick up the wounded. The troops were hunkered down in some scrub brush and small trees no higher then 15-20 feet. The wind at ground level was strong and the marking smoke just ran along at ground level making it difficult to see their position from the air.
At about 5 miles out we could see the 2 Medivac ships circling to the southwest at about 1500 feet and 2 Cobras circling to the west at about 2 thousand feet. We called the Medivacs and suggested they follow us in. The RTO called to inform us they were almost out of smokes to mark their position. I told my Crew Chief to gather up a lot of smokes and wire tie them together. I then broke procedure big time and told Hinton to go into a "bulls eye" pattern over the troops. This put me in a small circular pattern over the troops and him in a larger circle around me. This put him over the enemy half the time. Normally, we would use a "racetrack" pattern around a landing zone at 180 degrees from each other to suppress the area around the entire landing zone.
I called the Medivacs to follow us in. At tree top level I could see the RTO and told the Crew Chief to drop the wired up smokes. We almost fell through (lost lift) and I had to overstress the aircraft to pull out of it. The Medivacs were behind me and Hinton was behind them and a little higher.
One of the Medivacs came to a hover above the trees for a moment and as I recovered, flying right over the enemy, the Medivac called out he was taking fire. He banked right and scooted out of the area. We went into the bulls eye pattern and having "eyeballed" the Cav's position we used our door gunners to suppress the enemy.
The RTO called to say he couldn't find the smokes we dropped. We were so low, I looked and could see them still wired together about 30 feet from the RTO and one had gone off. The Crew Chief had wired them through the pins and one had pulled on landing on the ground. I directed the RTO to their location. All this time we could see and hear the enemy shooting at us and them.
Then there was a lull in the fighting. I dropped a smoke over the enemy and we climbed up to set up for a rocket run. At about 500 feet we set up for the run and I couldn't see the smoke I dropped because the wind kept the smoke along the ground. So down I went to mark the enemy again. Back up and I couldn't see it again. Third time down, back up and nothing. I felt I could guess, but that would be risky. I called the RTO to get low as I would shoot 1 pair of rockets and have him adjust. He agreed as the enemy had started up again once we had left tree top level. I punched off 1 pair and the RTO said I was right on and away from his people. I unloaded about 6 more pair and told Hinton to shoot up the area I had hit. We continued the runs until we were both out of rockets. The RTO was hollering "right on, right on, we can hear them screaming". The Medivacs came back in and started loading wounded. We had to leave as we were out of rockets and low on fuel. The fighting had stopped and the RTO said "come up to Tay Ninh and I'll buy you a beer". I told him "we're here for you, come down to Bien Hoa and I'll buy you a steak".
Then their "CO" showed up in his "C&C" (Command and Control) ship and he started giving me orders to sweep and fire to the north. He strongly insisted even after I informed him of our condition and fuel. He ordered us again and I told him to "go to hell" and "where were you and those 2 useless Cav Cobras, while your troops were in the fight?" We left for Cu Chi to refuel and rearm. We then returned to our original mission never having contacted anyone in our unit for authority to leave our mission.
Later on that afternoon, back at Bien Hoa, I was watching AFVN television and saw a news report of 2 unknown "Charlie Model" gunships helping out the 1st Cav near the "razorbacks" killing about 35 enemy soldiers. On my way to the officers club for dinner I was confronted by our "CO" and he asked "what happened this afternoon?" I simply told him to watch the 10 o'clock news. He must have already seen it as nothing more was ever said. No report was ever filed.

Darrell L. Burkhalter CW2, Bandit 34
118th Assault Helicopter Company RVN '69-'70