I remember when......

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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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  • Friendly Rocket Attack on Bien Hoa
  • Certificate of Achievement
  • Fallen Comrade and Friend....Remembered!
  • War Stories....Rated "G"
  • Easy Way To Attract Attention
  • Bandit Crew Member Becomes P.O.W. !!


    Remaining evidence of unintentionally launched rocket in Bandit
    area of 118th (67)
    (Photo courtesy Tom Payne)

    I was the PSG of the Bandits at this time. The day prior to this incident I am telling, the aircraft commander (AC) of the aircraft, from which the rockets were launched in to Bien Hoa, had written up on the -13 that the number 1 & 7 rockets on the left side were "hanging." Prior to the next morning's flight, the armorer, SP4 Wilson was running a intervalometer check of the cannon plug to the rocket pod. Once he completed the test he plugged the cannon plug back into the rocket pod. Little did Wilson know that the gunner, "Rocket" J. Brown was making a mock rocket attack from the right seat ! Brown had selected 7 pairs of rockets, I guess, and was watching them click off about the time Wilson plugged the cannon plug, just in time to send the last pair sailing off towards Bien Hoa!

    When I heard the rockets launch, I looked out and saw this fire trail heading off towards Bien Hoa! I ran out of the tent and met Wilson who was jerking with fear. His fatigues were singed, his face was black with soot, and he stuttered that he was conducting a intervalometer check and when he plugged the cannon plug in two rockets just launched!

    Personal remembrance

     Bob Hoffman, Bandit Section Leader(1966-67) remembers the incident and other things, "I can't say if the Bandit Platoon leader was on the toilet when the Bandit Rocket Force decided to attack Bien Hoa, but I know I was. It assisted in my task at hand."
    " The Bandit armorers, crew chiefs, and gunners were always doing something wacko; like trapping rats, dousing them with JP4, setting them on fire, and letting them go (great fun until the rodent headed for the nearest hole.... the ammo bunker); increasing the door M-60 rate of fire to some incredible amount; test firing the M-60's without letting anyone know and putting the entire air base on alert; booby trapping the two holer in the bandit area; and adapting the Air Force 19 rocket pod for use on the M-16/21 system birds (when I test fired them all 38 went off at once). They also cheated (if that's possible) at combat volleyball."

    "They were, however, some of the best people I have known and they ALWAYS covered the Company at great risk to themselves. "

    I ran out to the aircraft and "Rocket" J. Brown was nonchalantly cleaning the windows of the aircraft. My Plt Ldr ( MAJ Patterson - I think) told me he was on the can at the villa and heard a rocket explode behind the villa. He said to himself that he sure hoped that wasn't from HIS platoon. The second rocket was a dud, but both did land in the field behind the officers' villa. The accident was written off to "static electricity."

    A few days later Brown inherited the name "Rocket" J. Brown. Brown was a black kid, likable but kind of lazy, at times. One day we were crewing a frog, and Brown forgot to plug the rockets in before we took off. We got on station at Song Be, made a rocket run and the rockets didn't fire from his side. LT Jake Mills was AC and he was pissed! I made Brown get out on the pylon and plug the cannon plug in and will never forget the look of Brown's face. What memories.


    John Kelley
    PSG Bandits
    (Table of Contents)


    Certificate of Achievement

    Sometime in the 118th a Certificate of Achievement was designed which would be awarded to those who served in the 118th Assault Helicopter Company for outstanding service. Exactly why or when this Certificate began is a mystery. Did the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion authorize the Certificate or was it simply a "Thank You" from the Commander of the 118th?

    (Certificate courtesy Jerry Bratcher)

    Above is a copy of the Certificate of Achievement presented to Jerry D. Bratcher, US 54810787, an enlisted member of the 118th Assault Helicopter Company. The small print reads:

    "For distinguished service and selfless devotion to duty while serving with the "Thunderbirds" in support of United States Army operations in the Republic of Vietnam during the period
    March 1967 to March 1968."
    "His contribution to the defense of his country reflect the high ideals to which he ascribes and did much to contain the Viet Cong menace that threatened the freedom-loving people of South Vietnam. A sense of honor and patriotism marked all of his achievements while serving on the front line of his country's defense and reflect great credit upon himself, the "Thunderbirds", and the United States Army."
    Major Henry C. Browning
    Commanding Officer

     Maj George Owens, XO and Commading Officer of the 118th in 1966 says, " The Certificate of Achievement was designed by the 118th 1SGT Ermil Sparks with the approval of the company XO about October 1966. LTC Walter Jones, CO, 145th CAB, was quite impressed with the Certificate as he always was with the performance of the 118th Thunderbirds."


    Ted Jambon, 65-66 says, " I received one of those dandy Certificates of Achievement for the manner in which I performed my duties as 1st Plt. Ldr and as Operations Officer . Also, mine was for writing the first SOP for separate unit assault helicopter operations. It is signed by MAJ. George Owens our CO and LTC Walter Jones, the Bn. CO. As a matter of fact it is hanging on the wall just above my computer."


    NOTE: If you have any knowledge about these Certificates and know when the 118th began awarding them and when they ceased, please help. Send your email to the Web master.




    CW2 Vann Dwain Sherrill

    October 23, 1965

    118th Aviation Company(AML)
    145th CAB
    Duc Hoa, Vietnam

    Vann Sherrill and I were both Instructor Pilots ( IP's ) and we were out on a standardization ride. It was really a pretty day, not too hot. The weather was just what the chamber of commerce writes about! We had been doing
    autorotations, having fun, each taking turns to see who could get closest to the touchdown point when we got a call from our operations that they needed a medivac at a certain area. They asked if we had the fuel to do it, the
    answer was yes. We already had the door gunners with us, so headed in the direction given. We got the frequency from the code book and as we got closer, made contact with the ground. We asked them if they were in a secure area, they said all was quiet. When we got closer, we asked them to pop a smoke grenade, and we identified. The usual procedure was to come in pretty high, then bottom the collective and make a fast descending spiral, with a steep flare on the bottom to decelerate for the landing, sometimes even hold a little pedal to be out of trim, so that if someone was leading you with a weapon, his aim would be off. We landed and it was a wounded American that had a medic to go with him. No problem, the man seemed to be stable and we
    flew him to the hot spot at Saigon. The ambulance met us with the doctors and they put him under good care. Always a good feeling when things go right. The medic stayed on board with us so we could return him to his unit.

    We were first going to refuel at a nearby area and I was under the hood to practice my instrument flying. We stopped for fuel and I asked Vann if he wanted to fly the right seat for awhile. He said after we dropped the medic off we could go for lunch, and he would change seats then. We were close to where the medic was to be dropped off when we got another call for a medivac. We had the medic on board so headed for the location given.

    Once again, same routine. Area seemed secure, then they popped the smoke and Vann was flying from the left seat, doing the overhead spiral to land. In the flare I had the impression of two men standing up to our left. It all
    happened so fast, the familiar crack as a bullet hit the helicopter. The helicopter pitched a bit as Vann let loose of the cyclic, and grabbed his neck. At that point, it seemed like slow motion, he cocked his head toward
    me with a surprised look on his face, which is a picture that will forever be etched in my memory, as the blood squirted through his fingers, spraying the instrument panel and me. I had grabbed the controls even as he had let
    loose. He looked at me and I was hollering for the medic as I dove to the right and trying to accelerate. He started to slump as the medic was standing behind him applying a compress in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

    I started talking to Vann, to "hang on", that I would have him to the hot spot in just a few minutes, not to give up, to hang on. It was already too late. His legs started to clamp on the cyclic and I was leaning across to
    pull them off the controls. The medic saw what I was trying to do and used his left hand to help me. I still kept talking to Vann and it seemed like ages before we got to Saigon. It wasn't. I pulled a 100 percent power on
    the way in. I couldn't see the radio frequency (due to blood) to get Saigon, but there's a switch you can throw to get emergency channel, so I used it. The ambulance, doctors were waiting for us. I just touched down and they
    already had the door open, checking him for life signs. The doctor shook his head at me, it was too late. I shut down and got out, walked around to the other side.... it was like a bad dream but you couldn't wake up. The bullet
    had entered through the left doorpost, and hit Vann in the right jugular vein. Standing there, the impact hit me... I started crying, and wanted vengeance. The crew chief was wet-eyed too. Everyone thought a lot of Vann. I had the crew chief get in the front seat and we returned to base at Bien Hoa.

    When someone in the company was killed, the first day everyone would talk about it until they knew what had happened. After that, it was never mentioned again, except weeks or maybe months later. Memories of another
    fine man, another name for the wall..!

    Ron Madsen
    CW2 1965-66
    (Table of Contents)



    (Rated "G")


    We had a pilot in the 118th named Reg Mason. He had spent about seventeen years in the USAF as an enlisted man, but had learned how to fly fixed-wing on his own time. He came into the Army the same way I did, on a direct appointment to Warrant Officer. He often exhibited a foul mouth but could always have everyone laughing. We called him our "Couth Control officer"!

    One day, Reg and WO Cronin, younger pilot, were out on a flight with some ground commanders on board that wanted to land in a pretty "nervous" area. Reg didn't much care for that, especially when they told him to shut down and wait for them. Cronin, his co-pilot, told us this story later. They were sitting in the helicopter when a bullet came in through the instrument panel, taking out the fuel gage, but passing between the two pilots and missing the door gunners. Cronin and Reg dove out each door and Cronin said that Reg drew his .45, raised it and started firing until his gun was empty. In fact Reg was not even looking where he was firing(kinda like Hawkeye Pierce did when he and COL Potter were pinned down in M.A.S.H.) Reg then started crawling around the nose of the helicopter and grabbed Cronin's wrist. Cronin told him to let loose of his watch, because he wasn't dead yet! Reg claims he just wanted to see if he was alive. Cronin wouldn't believe him! We laughed so hard at that story, and told anyone that flew with Reg, to watch him, he'd steal the your watch or pocketbook off of you before you were dead!


    The humor we would often use was amazing! If others heard it, they would really think we were crazy! Maybe we were!

    Another time I had a new Captain with me that I had just checked out. He was riding as my co-pilot on a combat assault. The whole thing was pretty much expected to be a "piece of cake" As normal, if the LZ is expected to be hot, the first lift fires all the way on approach until touchdown. This is called "full suppressive fire." This way it gives the troops a chance to get out of the helicopter and establish a perimeter while Charlie keeps his head down. However, I noticed that we weren't receiving any fire, and no one was calling "taking fire", yet all our door gunners kept firing. Such massive firepower is pretty impressive, especially if you had never experienced it before. Unknown to me, the door gunner on the right side had reached for something and snagged his hand on a small piece of wire. It was bleeding like a small cut can sometimes do. He reached up to wipe his face, and had blood smeared all over it, plus blood was flowing back up his arm as he was shooting his machine gun like John Wayne. Now about this time the Captain saw him and couldn't believe what he was seeing, "such bravery, such devotion to duty"! We all cracked up later when he was telling us what he was thinking.


    Another new Captain who came to the Company was getting an awful reputation. Seems like every time he went out with someone as a new co-pilot, the chopper came back with holes in it, with different aircraft commanders each time. We started calling him "magnet ass", and suggested to the "old man" that he be made an Aircraft Commander . That way none of us other AC's would have to ride with him anymore. He took it in good humor, and fortunately never got hurt....just scared along with the rest of us!


    A Bandit Fire team and one slick ship used to rotate an all night job called flare and gun ship standby. All the crews had to sleep at Thunderbird operations and in the Bandit area. The idea was that if the base was mortared, we had to get airborne as fast as we could so we could try and spot the VC mortar positions. After becoming airborne, we would report in to the TOC(Tactical Operation Center) and they'd tell us what direction the mortars came from. We would all rapidly head in that direction with the flare ship gaining some altitude so he could drop the flares. The Flares were very bright and descended slowly on a parachute as the Bandits would stay low and try to spot the VC position and thus lay a little "wrath" on them.

    All the crews usually sleep in their clothes and boots. However, that night I had taken the luxury of removing my boots. I had written a letter and it was quite late when I laid down on the couch to sleep. About midnight the mortars started coming in. When the first bunch hit, I slept right through it and didn't wake up. Someone hollered my name as they ran by and I woke up with a start just as some more mortars bagan to hit. I jumped to run to the bunker and the thought hit me to take my boots. As I turned around to grab them I saw holes all along the couch just above. If I had awoke with the first rounds and jumped up I would probable have taken the full impact of that shrapnel. Normally I'm a light sleeper(still am) but luckily I stayed asleep just long enough that night. Grabbing my boots I ran outside to the bunker outside the door. My co-pilot and crew were inside so I briefed them that at the first sign of let up, we'd run for the helicopter. Each one knew what to do and when we could, we ran for the chopper. As I jumped in began throwing switches, the crew chief was already telling me the blade was untied. The door gunner hollered he couldn't see any holes, so I pulled the start tripper and the turbine began to whine. You can get those old Hueys started and in the air very fast, when inspired. More rounds were hitting a different area as we took off with the Bandit Fire team right behind. We looked and looked around the Bien Hoa Air base until we were low on fuel, but never saw a thing. We refueled and took another look but with the same results.


    Normal procedures, at that time, was for the pilots to get to the flight line as fast as they could when the Bien Hoa Air Base was under mortar attack to evacuate the choppers to Saigon(Remember we didn't have enough revetments). Later the next day I heard some of the stories of what happened that night from other sources. One crew chief had arrived at the flight line before his pilot, and he figured that he would help things along. He had untied his bird, and even got inside and had started the aircraft still waiting for his pilot. About that time some more mortar rounds started coming in! He figured, the heck with this sitting here, so pulled pitch and took off by himself. His first solo flight all the way to Saigon at night, and made it! Then, typical military, someone comes running as he was landing and sez "hay buddy you can't park here," so he went to pick it up to move and crashes!!! Thankfully, he didn't get hurt.t If he had only said "forget it" everything would have been OK. However, as usual, the word came down, "No pilot was to give any crew chief anymore flight time at the controls." We ignored this and still did! After all, what were they going to do to us.....send us to Vietnam!?

    Good old Reg, he's about half crocked still in his skivvies and thongs when he got to the flight line. He sees a chopper running and knows he's too drunk to fly, so heads for it and jumps in the co-pilots seat and hollers pull pitch. The crew chief, looks at him and said, "but sir, I'm the crew chief!" Reg said ah shit and had to fly anyway... His crew chief told us the next day, "Mr. Mason did a better job when he's drunk!

    War stories, looking back now many had humor, lots of humor!

    Ron Madsen
    (Table of Contents)




    One day on "pigs and rice" CWO Frank Rusk , the Aircraft Commander, and I were flying low level at 100 knots en route from Phu Loi to Saigon. As we breezed along watching all the people and cyclos on the roads, I began to hear a high pitched whine. Frank didn't hear it at first because he was listening to Armed Forces Radio out of Saigon, but then he did. The crew also began to hear it as it increased intensity. Finally, when it was definitely noticeable and everyone was mentioning it, Frank quickly announced that he didn't think we could make it to H-3 in Saigon. So, he decided to set the UH-1D down beside a road.....no real problem since we were in such highly traveled and populated area.

    As Frank was slowing down and about 5-10 feet off the ground in a deceleration, the controls seemed to freeze and become very heavy! Ah ha, hydraulics! Frank skillfully and gently brought the helicopter to the ground and we skidded slowly to a stop! After shutting the down the engine, an inspection soon revealed that we indeed had NO hydraulic fluid. The UH-1D was one those that had the "moving dip stick" just below the transmission and inside the plexiglass window/cover on the fire wall, so inspection was very easy. Great job we all told Frank! We got on the radio on our Thunderbird frequency and raised another Thunderbird who in turn called Thunderbird Operations to let them know of our problem and location. Bird Watcher was notified and in about 20 minutes they arrived with a new pump, several hydraulic lines and quite a lot of "Cherry Juice".

    It was not long, like 1-2 minutes, and the children seen in the photo above began to come out of every house, tree line and off the road nearby. We were a hit as they crowded around chattering and pointing and wanting to sit in the helicopter. Some even ran up to sell us Coca Cola, Orange and even mangoes. It was time for a snack so we took them up on their food. There was no doubt about it....we had discovered an "Easy Way To Attract Attention".

    Tom Payne
    2nd Platoon
    September 1966


    More examples of Kids around helicopters!

    (This group of photos by Frank Zipperer in 1964
    show what happened when a helicopter landed
    in the country-side.)
    Another example of kids who crowded around a
    helicopter that landed in a village soccer field.(65)
    (Photo courtesy David Vandenburg)
    Kids at Ben Luc saluting and, of course, wanting
    cigarettes or C-rations.(66)
    (Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)
    Kids at Tay Ninh enjoying some of the left over
    American chow. (66)
    (Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)
    Kids who approached the helicopter during "stand-by"
    at Cu Chi.(66)
    (Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)
    Little girl who cautiously approached the parked helicopter at Tan An.
    We all wonder what these children are doing todaly.(67)
    (Photo courtesy Charles Milan)
    CWO Charles Milan visiting with children and making friends ,
    with the help of C-rations, at Tan An. (67)
    (Photo courtesy Charles Milan)
    A Huey attracts a crowd of school kids.(69)
    (Photo courtesy Dale Moore)


    SP4 Earl Gurnsey in barracks.(68)
    (Photo courtesy Dick "Teeny Bopper" Rissman

    This is a very unusual story. It is a story very little publicized back in the United States or in Vietnam. It is a story of extreme Valor under fire and one which no one yet knows the full details. SP4 Earl F. Gurnsey was the door gunner aboard Bandit UH-1C, 66-15015 on 27 November 1968 when the aircraft was struck by reported .51 cal anti-aircraft fire at XT238290 in the Tay Ninh area, near the Cambodian border. All aboard the UH-1C gun ship were KIA, except Gurnsey. All efforts to recover SP4 Earl F. Gurnsey were unsuccessful by both ARVN troops and 25th Division troops. Some eyewitnesses have said that, "when they flew over the wreckage and tried to drive the enemy soldiers from the area, a "waving hand" could be seen extending from the wrecked aircraft!" When the U.S. troops finally reached the wreckage, the remains of ONLY three crew members was found....SP 4 Earl F. Gurnsey was not in the wreckage!



    (L to R) SP4 Earl F. Gurnsey, Door gunner and SP5 William James Simpson,
    CE having a drink in the 118th barracks area of Bien Hoa Airbase.
    (Photo courtesy Bob Karvonen)

    The following is a narrative by Dave Evans, who was in the 118th Assault Helicopter Company as an enlisted Crew member at the time. He gave the verbal story at the Vietnam Helicopter Crew Members Association reunion, June 25, 1999:

    Personal remembrance of Dave Evans

     The 118th AHC was doing a CA for an ARVN unit to the west of Tay Ninh about 1K or so from the border. We had ten slicks, four guns, a C&C and a smoke ship - all from the 118th. This was mid-morning and the first lift into the LZ. I believe we picked up the ARVNs at their base. The tactical area was a village either on or near the border, then a rice paddy area about a 400 to 500 yards wide, then a single tree line, and another rice paddy area that was the LZ. All ten slicks landed at the same time in this dry rice paddy, unloaded and departed. I can't remember details about the LZ prep, only that we departed and shut down at our staging area. I don't recall that we took fire during the CA or if we went in full suppression or just normal rules.

    The C&C remained and at least one, maybe both, Bandit gun teams. The UH-1C with WO Alexander as AC and WO Larocque as CP and SP5 Simpson as CE and SP4 Gurnsey as gunner was shot down by what I was told was a .51 cal firing from the village. I believe they were making a gun run on the village at the time. They crashed about 300 yards from the village in the first rice paddy area.

    We learned the ship was down by listening on the radios. Fire from both the ARVNs and the VC intensified after the crash as both sides tried to gain control of the ship. About mid-day someone saw that a smoke grenade was popped near the ship, so we believed that someone was alive there and wanted someone to land near it. The C&C wouldn't let us - saying the area wasn't secure, they were still taking heavy fire from the village, and we wouldn't risk another ship and crew. When the ARVN advance stalled, very late in the day, we were able to insert an American Infantry unit. This was in the 25th Inf Div's AO, so most likely they were from that unit. I was involved in this insertion but didn't get a real good look at the crash site. We went back, shut-down and went back to listening to the radios.

    The GIs quickly fought their way to the gun ship about six hours after they had gone down. The VC broke contact in the face of the GIs. I believe the GIs found the bodies of the two pilots and CE but the gunner was not found. I don't remember if we pulled the ARVNs out that night or not, but I believe the Americans stayed there to secure the crash site. Not long after dark, we returned to Bien Hoa knowing that we had lost three KIA. A few days later we learned that Gurnsey had been captured, was held in Cambodia, and that he was badly injured. I left Vietnam on the 15th of January and distinctly recall knowing that Gurnsey had been repatriated and released by the Cambodian government.

    About two years later, I met up with George Burchett who stayed with the 118th at least nine months after I left. He told me that Gurnsey never recovered from his injuries and had died in the States about six months after his repatriation. Submitted by Dave Evans at the VHCMA Reunion 6/25/99.

    Photo of Bandit crash site.(69)
    (Photo courtesy Dick "Teeny Bopper" Rissman)

    SP4 Earl F. Gurnsey is officially listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as a P.O.W. returned alive. While not very much is known or officially available about his time as a P.O.W., it has been speculated that his release was approved by Prince Sihanouk and he was officially listed as released 6 Jan 1970.(This is in error, because he was actually released 6 Jan 1969.)


    From records recently available to the public through the Library of Congress, there are two mentions of Gurnsey.

    Mention # 1

    The first is from U.S. Army files and is titled, "Three Separate Sightings of U.S. Prisoners of War in Tay Ninh Province". In this document, dated for distribution 17 July 1972, it states,"Rallier(name deleted)stated he had seen U.S. prisoners of the Viet Cong(VC) on three separate occasions while he was with the V.C. He said he had talked to the prisoner guards in each case and had come to the conclusion that the prisoners were being taken to a large central office for South Vietnam(COSVN) prison camp, located in the Dambe Area of Kompong Cham Province, Cambodia. All three of the U.S. prisoners were seen in Tay Ninh Province."

    "While (No Name) was a cadre of rear services group 100 of COSVN, he saw the three U.S. prisoner in about March 1970. He said he saw the prisoner, A U.S. pilot(evidently because of his one piece flight suit?), in the Ho Ba Tay area near Chuoi Nuoc hamlet, Long Khanh village, Hieu Thien district, Tay Ninh province in the custody of troops from the 1st Regiment of the 9th NVA Div. The guards told him, the man was a pilot whose helicopter had been shot down nearby by ground fire. The prisoner was about 26 years old, Caucasian, about 1.80 meters tall, heavy set, had short blond hair, a high forehead, blue eyes, was clean shaven and had thick lips and sharp chin. No scars were visible. He wore a wrist watch with a black face and luminous dial, but no ring. He had a broken leg and his boots had been removed while the NVA medics treated his broken leg. He wore a one-piece pilot's fatigue uniform. The following day, a platoon of Khmer (Rouge) communists arrived in the area and carried the prisoner away without saying where they were going. The NVA guards said they had no choice but to give up the prisoner, as he had crashed on the Cambodian border."

    The Joint Personnel Recover Center(JPRC) commented that, "records at this office indicate only one possibility for this sighting.....Gurnsey. This sighting, the only incident recorded by this office which involved circumstances like those described, was the one involving SP4 Earl F. Gurnsey, who was captured on 27 November 1968 after his helicopter was shot down. He suffered a broken leg in the crash. He was treated by the VC/NVA and then turned over to the Cambodian Authorities, who released him on 6 January 1970."(Again this seems to be an error because release was 6 January 1969.)

    Mention # 2

    This document was, " a summary of an interview done on 11 Oct 1994 with a Mr Hoang Duy Hoa in Thai Binh Province by a joint US/Vietnamese contingent made up of 2 U.S. military personnel/interpreters, one representative of the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense and one representative of the Ministry of Interior. Mr. Hoa, a retired PAVN political staff officer, recalled limited eyewitness and here say information about U.S. personnel concerning the administration of the mobile POW detention Camp in the greater Tay Ninh area, policy for treatment of POWS, early repatriations of POWs and reporting procedures."

    The stated purpose of the interview was, "to search for additional information from key cadre in the South Vietnam Liberation Army (SVNLA) political staff. Research indicate personnel from this office politically indoctrinated U.S. POWs being released from the policy section inter-unit, a camp system for U.S. and foreign POWs."

    "Mr. Hoa was 65 years of age and was known as "BA". In 1964, Mr. Hoa began his battlefield assignment in the Tay Ninh area of the S.W. region for the SVNLA. He remained on the political staff here until 1972."

    "Mr. Hoa remembered an incident which, "involved the release of one U.S. POW before the Paris Peace Agreement(date not recalled). The American was either a Sergeant or a Warrant Officer. SVNLA representatives completed arrangement for the release and took the POW to a previously agreed location on the DA stream(Suoi Da(Suoois Das))in Tay Ninh Province. One SVNLA Representative walked with the POW for the last kilometer to the exchange location. After 20 minutes, a U.S. helicopter arrived and took the POW away. Mr. Hoa said by the time of the Paris Peace Agreement, the SVNLA had already released "some tens" of U.S. POWS from the S.W. Region detention camp in the Tay Ninh region."


    No doubt SP4 Earl F. Gurnsey was more fortunate than most POWs. He didn't spend years and years on the run or in the "Hanoi Hilton" in North Vietnam. Exactly why he was repatriated so quickly and released by the Cambodian authorities, is not known. No records have been released of his debrief listing the details of his ordeal. Someday, maybe they will be.

    Exactly why Gurnsey was picked up by a helicopter is a mystery....and what unit did the helicopter come from and who were the pilots??? All these questions are still unanswered.

    Finally, Earl F. Gurnsey never fully recovered from his ordeal. He returned to the U.S. and reportedly died in his home state of California 29 May 1982.

    Note--Anyone having first hand knowledge of the repatriation of SP4 Earl F. Gurnsey,
    please contact the Web master.
    (Table of Contents)