ODDS & ENDS
Last November a return trip to Washington D.C. was made by Ron and Kay Seabolt, Chuck and Kathy Carlock and Frank and Jane Anton during Veteran’s Day week. We went for three reasons.
On the night of the 9 th, we attended a special screening of the movie, In the Shadow of the Blade. This movie follows a “Robin Hood” Huey for 10,000 miles across the south and southwestern United States, reuniting Vietnam vets with each other and in several cases with the families of men that had died while serving with them. Frank Anton is one of the men featured in the show piloting the aircraft and we attended the event as his guest. This movie has been aired on The Military Channel this year. It is recommended viewing. It will remind you very much of a Rattler/Firebird Reunion.
Wednesday the 10th, the six of us attended the grand opening of a new exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History. The Price Of Freedom – America At War takes the visitor throughout America’s conflicts from Colonial times to the current Iraqi War. At the Vietnam War display, the centerpiece is the “Robin Hood” aircraft flown by Frank Anton in the movie mentioned above. Behind the tailboom of the Huey are several items donated to the display by Chuck Carlock including the Ho Chi Minh bicycle, an NVA and Viet Cong uniform and a “chicken board inside the Huey. Also on display is John Lynch’s flight helmet he was wearing when severely injured on 2 July 1967. The helmet has shrapnel holes in the front and a Rattler patch painted on the back. They have John’s uniform that was cut off of him, but it was not displayed as yet.
The opening ceremony was impressive. Two of the speakers were the Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Richard B. Myers, USAF. By far, the most impressive was the attendance of eleven Medal of Honor recipients. That is a lot of heroes in one place.
On Thursday the 11 th, Veterans Day, a return visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall was a solemn occasion as we once again honored our fallen brothers by placing at the apex of The Wall a list of our KIAs and Rattler and Firebird insignias.
On the way to Reagan International Airport we had to wait while President Bush’s motorcade passed by. He did not seem to recognize any of us fellow Texans but we waved anyway. He was headed to Arlington National Cemetery for the services that day. Our trip ended with the realization of how very fortunate we were to have been a witness to these events.
Two stories in this newsletter are dedicated to men loved by their fellow soldiers. Also, Linda Green, the sister of our KIA Richard Wayne McGee, was able to fill in some blank spaces in Richard’s life by reaching out to us. Several men remembered Richard (story to follow – He’s My Brother) and we also are able to see inside Richard’s thoughts through excerpts from letters to his Mom and family. Members of Richard’s family are planning to be at the San Antonio reunion next year.
Steven Hill tells of the man who made the rest of his life possible on "Black Monday" and is able to give recognition to Roger Hobbs. When contacted, Roger played down his roll in the event, but it can never be played down to Steven Hill.
"Black Monday", September 22, 1969, is forever part of our unit history. Many men reading this were part of that action. The Association has obtained some super 8 movie footage taken by Earl Ingram that day. Mr. Ingram was from a sister unit of ours, the 174th AHC, but was flying the recovery aircraft that day for the Rattlers. His aircraft went in and picked up the two surviving crewmembers of Barry Kenneth Alexander’s aircraft. Alexander and his gunner Johnny Lee Williams, Jr. were killed in the initial action. This footage is about 2 minutes in length and not good quality. We are in the process of having this footage preserved by putting it on a DVD. This is not an item for sale. This DVD will be shown at the reunion. Earl Ingram describes his role in “Black Monday” in this issue.
IMPORTANT: On every newsletter mailing, we lose people off our mailing list because they have never given the Association their new mailing address, especially when you did not move, but your address changed due to the 911 emergency requirements. Just because you get the newsletter now, next time you may not because you have a new postman. That postman MAY or MAY NOT deliver your newsletter. Many times they are returned to the Association marked, “No Such Address” and if we cannot get in touch with you, you are deleted from our mailing list. In addition, it costs the Association 1st class postage to get your newsletter back. Help us! If your address is wrong, tell us now!
A report issued in our last newsletter stating the National Personnel Records Center would be destroying veteran’s records after copying them was false. That is the bad news (not really). The good news is that many of our men wrote and received copies of their records which showed some surprises by what it contained and what it did not contain. You will not know about yours unless you request a copy. To do so write to this address: National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records, 9700 Page Ave, St. Louis, MO 63132-5100.
REUNION 2006 – SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS
Our 2006 Reunion is only 11 months away! Here are the dates: Wednesday, April 19, 2006 to Sunday, April 23, 2006. The Reunion site is The Omni San Antonio Hotel, 9821 Colonnade Blvd., San Antonio, TX 78230. A loop I-410 goes around San Antonio. The Omni Hotel is located on I-10 about five miles west of I-410 in the northwest part of the city.
The Reservation number is: 800-843-6664. Tell them this is for the RATTLER/FIREBIRD ASSOCIATION.
The room rate is $95 per night plus tax of 16.75% for a single or double. This amounts to $110.91 per day.
Our contract states that the group rate will be offered for three days prior and three days after the meeting dates stated above. The room block for the Reunion is: Wednesday night – 30 rooms, Thursday night – 140 rooms, Friday night – 160 rooms, Saturday night – 160 rooms, Sunday night – 10 rooms.
The Firebird Freefire Golf event will be held at Fort Sam Houston on Friday. On Saturday morning our Memorial Service will be conducted followed by a business meeting.
A banquet is again being held on Saturday night and our guest speaker will be war correspondent Joe Galloway. Joe is also well known as the co-author with LTG Harold Moore of the best seller, We Were Solders Once – And Young which was made into the blockbuster movie, We Were Soldiers, starring Mel Gibson with the role of Joe being acted by Barry Pepper.
There will also be excursions offered again during the reunion and this info will be in your November newsletter.
Once again, as in D.C. last year, Armed Forces Reunions have been contracted to assist with the reunion, collecting trip fees and selling banquet tickets. As in our last reunion, Armed Forces Reunions charges a $5 per person registration fee. This is non-refundable. The reunion information and instructions on all this will appear in your November newsletter.
You are urged to make your hotel reservations early. Reservation can be canceled up to 12 noon on your arrival date. Every Reunion, we have people that put off making reservations, and then find the block sold out. At that point, if we cannot expand the room block you would be required to pay the standard room rate if any are available.
RATTLERS and FIREBIRDS
Combat Action with an Assault Helicopter Company in Vietnam
Sales of our new book are still strong. You might consider buying copies of the book for friends and/or family. All proceeds from the book go to our Association. The price of the book is $15 plus $2 S&H (for each additional book ordered, add $15 plus fifty cents S&H, if being mailed to the same address). If you are ordering merchandise other than the book, the shipping and handling listed on the merchandise order form applies. Order 10 books for $150.00 and you will receive 11 books and pay no S&H! Make all checks to: 71st AHC Assoc. If you desire personalized autographs, please be specific on your order.
ASSOCIATION MEMBERSHIP DUES
Look at the mailing label of this newsletter. To the right of your name is your dues status. The membership year runs from July 1st to June 31 st. If there is nothing to the right of your name, or if the number is 2005, your membership will expire on June 31 st. In order to receive the Association address directory that will be mailed in late June you must have C 2006, 2006 (or higher), C Life or Life to the right of your name, or pay the $12 yearly dues. Life membership fees are: age 50 and below-$200, 51 to 55-$175, 56 to 60-$150, 61 to 65-$125, 66 or older - $100. Make all checks to: 71st AHC Association. FYI, life member number 24 is the only “call sign” number not being used. If you were Rattler 24 you might want to consider buying a life membership in that number. At present we have 241 life members representing about 23% of our entire roster.
With the assistance of COL Benjamin S. Silver, Doug Womack is submitting an inquiry to DA in reference to a recommendation for a Valorous Unit Award to the 14 th CAB for Lam Son 719. The inquiry is based on a copy of the original recommendation that he recently found at the National Archives. If DA acts on the original recommendation, the 71st may receive long overdue recognition for its participation in one of the most difficult operations in the history of the Vietnam War.
In that same vein, there is also the possibility that the 71st and other units might be considered in an amendment to the recent DA General Order awarding the Presidential Unit Citation to MACV/SOG. The 71st and other units in the 23rd ID area of operations participated in the "Prairie Fire" missions for CCN. Please contact Doug with any specifics of significant action in support of those missions.
Doug did find a specific reference to 16th CAG support for "Prairie Fire" in an ORLL report covering July and August of 1970, but the inclusive dates of the support fell short of the loss of our aircraft and two crewmembers on 15 August 1970, and no reference to that loss was found in the ORLL. That's probably why they were called secret missions!
The citation to the Special Forces, as written, clearly credits the support given them by Army Aviators, but no units are mentioned by name. Doug knows the unit covered those missions prior to his tour, and if there were missions that approached the intensity of those in the summer of 1970, please forward an account and any documentation to him at:
|Doug Womack||phone: 410-827-8720|
|711 Long Point Road||email: firstname.lastname@example.org|
|Grasonville, MD 21638-1071|
AWARDS and DECORATIONS
(as received from Congressman Ralph Hall (Rep. TX)
Federal law and Army policy require that recommendations for military awards and decorations be formally submitted into official channels within two years of the act that is to be recognized. However, Title 10, United States Code (USC), Section 1130, provides an avenue for consideration of military decorations that otherwise could not be considered due to existing Federal law and Army policy. Specifically, Title 10, USC, Section 1130, allows for the submission of any award or decoration that was not previously submitted within the prescribed time limitations, requests for unit awards, and upgrades to previously issued awards. However, a Member of Congress must refer requests submitted under this provision to the appropriate Service Secretary. Army individual decorations include the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Soldier's Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, and Army Achievement Medal. There are no time limitations for award of the Purple Heart and other awards such as service medals, badges, or lapel buttons.
Under the provisions of Title 10, USC, Section 1130, it is the responsibility of the requester to obtain all supporting documentation. The attached checklist and DA Form 638 (Award Recommendation) will assist constituents in preparing a well-supported award recommendation.
Recommendations that were previously submitted and acted upon can be reconsidered if there is conclusive evidence that new, substantive information is made available that was not previously considered. Awards submitted within the prescribed time limitations can be acted upon if there is evidence the award was not processed to a conclusion either through inadvertence or because it was lost. A request for reconsideration of a disapproved or downgraded recommendation must be placed in official channels within one year from the date of the awarding authority's decision. A one-time reconsideration by the award authority shall be conclusive.
However, a Member of Congress can request a review of a proposal for the award or presentation of a decoration (or the upgrading of a decoration) that is not authorized to be presented or awarded due to limitations established by law or policy for timely submission of a recommendation. In all cases, when making inquiries regarding a Soldier's award or those of an Army veteran, it is essential to provide the social security number or previous Army serial number. Providing a copy of the veteran's separation documents with each request or inquiry is also helpful (DD Form 214 for post-World War II Soldiers and WD AGO Form 53-55 (enlisted) and WD AGO Form 53-98 (officer) for World War II Soldiers.)
There is a service available to Army veterans and retirees for replacing medals, ribbons, and certificates either previously issued but lost, or issued, but for some reason never received by the Soldier. The Army may charge the individual for each medal replaced. There is no set fee since some medals are more costly than others. This service is available to the constituent by corresponding directly with: National Personnel Records Center, ATTN: Army Reference, Branch 9700 Page Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63132-5100
(Editor’s note: On the Association web site, under VA Benefits, there are printable forms like DA Form 638 needed for attempting to get an award of a valorous medal)
One of our men contacted the Association recently and said he was real close to saying, “The hell with the VA” last November. He was convinced he would never get anything from them. He said the encouragement he received in the last newsletter made him determined to “stay the course”. In early April this man was informed that he had been awarded a 70% disability, about $1147 a month. He said it really sunk in when he received his $12,000 back pay, back to his filing date. Could this be you also?
Have you ever been to a VA facility? Have you had an Agent Orange screening? Do you know what illnesses are “presumptive service-connected”? Presumptive service-connected means, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PROVE YOUR MILITARY SERVICE CAUSED YOUR AILMENT. Because you served in Vietnam a diagnosis of eleven assorted conditions automatically qualifies you for disability payments. They are not going to come looking for you! Also consider a disability award of, say, 60% may not be the award for which you are paid. If you have a disability award (not 100%) but are considered unemployable, in many cases the VA will pay you at the 100% rate. People that is around $2500 monthly, TAX FREE! You can also get your social security benefits to go with that. Veterans drawing the 100% disability, who die, should consider that their spouses are eligible to receive almost $1000 monthly in many cases. Would that stipend help your wife?
To keep abreast of Agent Orange information, log on to: www.va.gov/AgentOrange
There is also national toll free helpline for questions about Agent Orange. It is: 800-749-8387.
A VA benefits page has been added to our web site at www.rattler-firebird.org .
Remember, PTSD affects EVERYONE, whether it’s 1% or 100%. You cannot be in a war without feeling it’s affect on you for the rest of your life!
The Association has been informed of the following deaths since our last newsletter. A couple of the deaths occurred many years ago but we were not aware of it.
Jerry Cobb served in our unit in 1964-65 and died as a result of an aircraft crash in 1969
Mark Coulson also served with us in 1964-65 and died as a result of a motorcycle crash in 1965.
Paul Fox (OF 70-71) died 31 October 2004 from a heart attack.
Carl B. Jones (EM 70-71) died 20 November 2004. His wife told us he died suddenly. No other info was given.
Condensed from Industry Central Profiles – The Working Actor
Denis Arndt is well known by the men who flew in the Firebirds in the 1965-66 era. He is known on a much wider scale as an actor. Born in Ohio but raised in the West in Washington, Arndt became interested in acting in high school.
Denis spent eleven years in the military, one of those years being in our unit. He was awarded two Purple Hearts for wounds received in action, twenty-seven Air Medals and The Army Commendation Medal.
Returning to the States, Arndt resigned from the Army. “Too bad, too. I loved the military.” He said. “The costumes were great and nobody had props like these guys. One of my best roles was Combat Helicopter Pilot.”
Arndt flew helicopters commercially for several years, then went back to get a degree at the University of Washington. While in school he was managing an apartment house for an income. A man living in the apartments happened to be directing some plays. One night there was a snow storm and the guy needed a ride to the theater. Denis was headed that way and offered the guy a lift.
In the parking lot, the guy invites Denis in for a cup of coffee and, just for fun, Denis decides to read for a part. The rest is history as they say.
Among his many roles played are parts in ten assorted movies. (Editor’s note: One role that quickly comes to mind is that of Michael Douglas’ supervisor, a police lieutenant, in the Sharon Stone movie, Basic Instinct).
There are twenty two television roles listed in Arndt’s profile in The Working Actor and fifteen theatre roles.
Denis shares his passion for the Military with a compilation of War Films called, “Uncle Sam – The Movie Collection”.
When reached in L.A. recently, Arndt was acting in a role, playing the part of Speaker of the House in the hit TV series “24”starring Kifer Sutherland. This segment will be aired as hour 22 on May 16 th on The Fox network.
An actor named Joel Elliot plays a four star general in this segment. Joel’s dad, Jacque Elliot, was a helicopter primary flight instructor for Southern Airways at Camp Wolters from 1965 to the mid seventies. Jacque died in the 90s.
A photo from The Working Actor is in this newsletter by permission of Denis Arndt.
(excerpted - as told to his niece for her high school history class project of interviewing a Vietnam Vet)
I was called at the last minute to serve as an Aircraft Commander for one of our companies, the 71st AHC (Rattlers) which was short-handed for AC’s that day. It was supposed to be a “quiet” day of flying supplies to infantry units we supported in the mountains west of Chu Lai. The morning was interrupted with orders to return to Chu Lai to prepare an airmobile movement of an infantry company.
I guess they were trying to “protect” me, since I was a real “short-timer”, by letting me be the “recovery” aircraft flying above the formation of helicopters that would actually be moving the troops. If, for instance, an aircraft moving troops had a mechanical problem, my aircraft would drop down and pick up the crew. If it was a “hot” assault, one conducted under enemy fire, this could be a “real exciting” job, but this was expected to be an “administrative” move to a hilltop standing out in the middle of many rice fields, and not under enemy fire, so we didn’t expect to do very much.
In fact, while the troop ships flying in formation of three’s approached the LZ beneath us, I was circling 3,000 feet overhead filming the action. The first three aircraft just reached the LZ when one called out on the radio, “Alpha 2 is down in the LZ, taking fire from the right!” I can remember those words still. I quickly put down my camera, started a rapid, spiraling descent, and requested permission from the air mission commander to pick up the crew. We had a practice of trying to pick up a downed crew in the first minute or two they were shot down, while the enemy nearby might be a little confused. If we couldn’t do it that quickly then we’d have to wait until the situation on the ground got stabilized, which could take hours, and might reduce the chance of saving the lives of those on the ground. I was given permission.
Based on the terrain around the hilltop LZ, I guessed that the fire had come from another hilltop a few hundred meters to the right (north) of the aircrafts’ flight path to the LZ. We approached the LZ at low level and hovered with one skid on the ground (uneven ground prevented us from touching down completely) below and to the left of the downed aircraft. I was hoping the line of fire would be blocked by this position.
Two men from the downed aircraft approached us, one carrying the other. Just as I felt them fall on our helicopter floor, a North Vietnamese Army soldier rose up out of a “spider hole” about ten meters directly in front of us and began firing his automatic weapon directly into our helicopter. Caution panel lights lit up like a Christmas tree. The other pilot started “jumping around” in his harness as bullets struck him. It didn’t take a second to realize that (#1) the engine was still running, (#2) we were doomed if we stayed, and (#3) we could only hope to drop down the hill to our left and hope to escape the fire being delivered into our aircraft. By the time we got to point #2, I was trying to fly it off that LZ.
I dove off the hilltop and noticed immediately that our transmission was freezing up. The gunfire had not affected the engine, but we found out later that five hits to the transmission caused it to lose its fluid and begin freezing up the rotor system. No transmission fluid means no transmission. No transmission means the rotors don’t turn, and you can imagine what a helicopter does when its rotor won’t turn.
With the rotors slowing down rapidly, my only hope was to put the helicopter into an aggressive flare (nose up, while losing only a little altitude – like pulling a windmill on a stick rapidly through the air to make it spin) while we tried to land. We landed roughly, but in a soft, muddy, rice field. We quickly got out of the aircraft, formed a small circle to defend ourselves, and waited about five minutes for a UH-1C armed helicopter to pick the six of us up.
Several bullets had passed through the windshield on both sides of my head. I had been scratched up by flying metal fragments, but had been spared. Everyone else in our aircraft had been hit by bullets. The short crew chief, Tom Brown, who had carried/dragged the surviving pilot 1LT Tom Gates, a large man, to our aircraft had been shot through one knee and the other ankle-but still had managed to get him to our aircraft. The pilot in my aircraft was lucky, as he was only shot in the legs. The AC, CWO Alexander, who had first called out that their aircraft was down in the LZ, had been killed along with the door gunner, Johnnie Lee Williams, before they got out of their downed aircraft. Alexander had 19 days remaining before he was to complete his tour of duty. Tom Gates had been shot through the chest, but survived. Becky and I later met, and spent evenings in Mineral Wells, Texas cooking out and playing Hearts with him and his wife Gloria. That day and those events helped me understand what is meant by the word “luck”.
FROM: YOUNG AND INVINCIBLE, TO:
FROM: YOUNG WARRIORS TO GRANDFATHERS
By Larry (Smitty) Smith (EM 66-68)
Once our thoughts were filled with immortality. Now as the hair turns gray, our immortality seems so frail. As we gather at reunions we count heads and at every reunion there are a few less. I look back and ask myself, “Were we born for Vietnam?” Was our legacy in life “The Great Asian War”? What great contribution have we made to society? Or will we just be remembered as Vietnam veterans?
I remember the flight line, no matter what the day held for us, there were smiling faces and laughter, joking, and a few hangovers. Now, at the reunions, I see the same smiles and laughter on silver haired men, who love to be together.
As we gather to remember our fallen comrades from Vietnam, let us remember our brothers who have left us since Vietnam.
Life is one strange event after another. We traded our hot rod Fords for a Huey helicopter and then back to a hot rod. Life moves on to a comfortable SUV and not far down the road we get the best A POWER CHAIR! Life deals us many hands. I am certainly glad I got dealt to THE RATTLERS AND FIREBIRDS.
By an unknown non-vet
At the end of a long day scattered with rain, we finally arrived at the Lincoln Memorial and were given free reign of the area for about an hour. After spending time admiring Lincoln, I moved on to the two other memorials that were within walking distance. I strolled through the Korean War Memorial first. It was interesting and complex, but was only an introduction of what was yet to come. I continued down the path and went around the small bend in the sidewalk.
There it was. The Vietnam War Memorial. A long, gleaming black slab of polished granite imbedded into the ground and bank. Carved in it were thousands of names, separated into years. I walked closer and as I continued solemnly down the path with my fingers gently gliding across their names, I felt something that was, until then, completely unknown to me.
The darkness and an atmosphere of sorrow surrounded me which enhanced the newfound emotion that I was feeling. Scattered all along the base of the wall were flags, stuffed bears, and letters, placed there in honor of the men and boys who gave their lives in the name of America. It was then that I realized what I was feeling and why it had such a profound impact on me.
The men who went to Vietnam encountered a unnecessarily prolonged battle with no obvious goal and hardly any support from their country. Despite this, they still fought and died. Those able to survive returned home without any praise or gratitude. Standing next to that wall made me realize this tragedy and the heartbreak of those men’s lives. I was bewildered at the immense pain and sadness that resulted from this war which the Wall represented. All of a sudden I felt the weight of the families’ grief on my shoulders as well and an overwhelming shame at not attributing any appreciation for what they had done. The devastation that ensued from the events that took place during Vietnam had forever changed the lives of so many people, and I had never before acknowledged it.
I began to cry as I passed for a moment with my head and hand rested on the Wall. These newfound revelations came pounding down on me just as the bombs pounded the ground during the war. I was surprised at my emotion because I am not usually so fragile. However, this did not compel me to stop and my desire was only to show my respect by taking a few moments to reflect. The solemn mood I was embedded in continued while I followed the sidewalk that ran parallel to the Wall. I gradually got to the end of the cement path, and once I was beyond it., I turned and looked back. Again, I focused on the agony, the forgotten heroism and the bravery that the wall stood for. My friends passed me and asked me to come with them, but I just shook my head no. I needed another minute to process the things that were whirling around in my head.
Eventually, I snapped out of the trance I was in. Looking back, I see the importance of my visit to the Memorial. The destruction I learned about in history class had become real. It showed me that I need to remember to recognize the men and women who died while serving, veterans, and people who are currently serving in the armed forces. Most importantly, I gained a greater and deeper respect for them. While I do not support war, I am forever indebted to the results of our country’s past wars brought about by the persons who fought so courageously in them.
By Steven E. Hill (WO 69-70)
(from a letter received by the Association)
Steven Hill (1969)
Reading Rattlers & Firebirds finally gives me the opportunity to do something I should have and would have done years ago if I’d been able to remember the man’s name, thank Roger “Short Round” Hobbs for saving my life on Black Monday.
On 22nd September 1969 I wasn’t yet a Rattler. I was on loan from the 176th (Minutemen) and was flying right seat in a Rattler aircraft.
As we descended into the LZ, I remember a wall of rounds coming up and striking the aircraft and everything around me. I later discovered hits in my “chicken plate” chest armor that I never felt during the flight.
Somehow the aircraft and crew survived and we were able to land and disgorge our troops.
While we were doing that I saw an enemy soldier rise up and point his rifle directly at my head. I had my hands full of aircraft and could do nothing but stare down the sights from the opposite end into the eye that had me lined up for the kill.
One moment I was dead, the next the enemy soldier was gone! The door gunner had spotted him and cut him down before he could pull the trigger. I was alive because Roger was on the ball.
I’m sure it wasn’t the first or last aircraft or crewmember he or another Door Gunner or Crew Chief had saved, but it was the first time my life had been saved by the action of another, and that’s memorable.
As we left the LZ the aircraft took more hits, knocking us over sideways like a puppy smacked with a truck. We had no hydraulics or much of any systems, but had lots of pucker factor.
By God’s good graces the aircraft was still flying. Looking back at the damage after, we counted over 50 hits; I could attribute its still being in the air to no other factor.
I remember the running landing, my memory says Baldy, but after so many years Hawk Hill will do just fine, pushing the pedal so hard I thought my leg would snap, thinking we would never get it lined up straight, and get it down safely. (*editor’s note: to readers not versed in Huey helicopter flight, an aircraft without hydraulics is like your car without power steering times ten. There are three VERY important controls that must be forced to work, in unison, if a landing is successful, i.e. one you walk away from! It takes both pilots to manhandle the controls, if they can.)
After landing I remember the DG looking at his helmet with a hole right through it, gingerly touching various parts of his head looking for the damage.
I was all of 20 years old and the only thanks I gave the DG at the time was to congratulate him on his shooting ability.
The rest of the day is a blur. I seem to recall humping ammo and helping to reload the “Guns” that showed up from everywhere to take part in the battle, but that’s all.
Steven Hill family
When I read Rattlers & Firebirds I finally had the names of at least two of the crew. I doubt there were two aircraft that day that got as shot up as we did and still flew, made a running landing and had a DG with a hole through his helmet.
The Aircraft Commander who I now know was Fred Morreall, the Crew Chief, sorry I can’t remember his name either, and the Door Gunner Roger Hobbs, were outstanding soldiers, cool under fire, and quick to react to the changing conditions of the battlefield. If not for Roger’s quick reaction I wouldn’t be writing this.
I was given the opportunity shortly thereafter to transfer to the 71st and jumped at the chance. I finished the rest of my tour through 69/70 as Rattler 29.
Enclosed is a picture of me as I was then and a copy of the citation for the DFC I received for my part in the action that day. Without Roger’s quick reaction it would have been posthumous, so he deserves it more than I. Also enclosed is a picture of me, my three children and three grandchildren. None of the people in that picture would exist if not for Roger.
Note: We received an update from Richard Puls (EM 69) that the aircraft referred to above was tail number 528. The crew was: Aircraft Commander CWO Fred Morreall, pilot WO Steven Hill, crew chief SP4 Richard Puls, and door gunner SP4 Roger Hobbs. According to Richard, "And yes we took a toll of 54 hits and were still able to make it safely back to Hawk Hill, thanks to Mr. Morreall's knowlege of autorotation ". Thanks for filling in the blanks, Richard!
HE’S MY BROTHER
By Linda Green (sister of our KIA Richard Wayne McGee)
It’s been almost 39 years since we told him goodbye but there are days when it seems like only yesterday. For those of you who never met him I’d like to introduce you to my brother – Richard Wayne McGee.
Every family has at least one hero – one bright and shining star. My brother Richard was ours. He was tall, kind, handsome, funny and – he was my best friend. He was 11 months older than me and I took great pleasure in reminding him (often) that we were twins for one month during the year.
Richard and I have a “special” brother named Joe. He was older than us but growing up was difficult for Joe. He was picked on constantly and sometimes even beaten up. But anyone who hurt Joe only did it once because Richard would go “talk” to them. Richard would come home after a “conversation” with a bloody nose and/or torn shirt and put his arm around Joe and say, “They won’t bother you anymore, Joe”. When Richard died Joe lost more than his Little Brother – he lost his Protector.
Our father died when we were young and, due to limited financial resources, we moved to a government housing project. Mom’s lack of a formal education prevented her from acquiring any employment other than ironing and cleaning house for other people so, needless to say, we scrimped along with only the bare necessities. Whenever I would feel embarrassed about wearing hand-me downs from the other kids in school Richard would always make me feel better by reminding me that it didn’t matter what I wore because “You’re smarter than all those rich people”. Looking back I realize that I was also “richer” than all those rich people - because I had my brother Richard.
At the age of 17 Richard joined the Army. He went away to Basic Training a tall, skinny kid and came home a tall, skinny man. I don’t remember how long he was home but we never saw him alive again. He went to Hawaii and from there to Vietnam. When his tour in ‘Nam was over he extended it because as he said in a letter “For the first time in my life I’m doing something to help somebody who needs it”.
A voice from the past:
30 Aug 65
Dear Mom, ….Well Mom I leave for Vietnam day after tomorrow on the first of Sept. Mom, this is hard for me to write but I hope you’ll understand Mom. Mom, if something happens to me while I’m in Vietnam, I want you to remember that I love every one of you very much and hope the Lord will look after all of you. Mom, I don’t want you to think that this is goodbye but just in case something happens I want you to remember me as the little boy I once was. ……Mom, I’m enclosing my address so you can write to me in Vietnam. Mom, I want you to know that I won’t be able to write very often. …..Mom, I want you to all be good and remember that the Lord watches over us all. Love, Richard P.S. Pray for me and if the Lord’s willing, we’ll all be together Xmas.
21 November 65
Dear Mom, I received your letter today and was glad to hear from all of you. I got the letter with the newspaper clipping in it. Of course everybody in the barracks had to read it, thanks to the cute little note on the envelope…..Mom, I extended over here for nine more months so I’ll be here for a full year. Love Richard
28 April 66
…..What I’m going to tell you about happened almost two months ago. A friend of mine almost lost his life when his helicopter was shot down and was burning before it hit the ground. Nothing is unusual about this except that he’s a Negro. As I watched it go down I felt sick as hell. If it had been anyone else I would have felt the same way. What I’m trying to say is that I can’t believe anyone in our family could have anything bad to say about them. I don’t see how people can expect to fight and win a war here in Vietnam when they have one right in their own backyard. ….because a person’s skin is different doesn’t mean a damn thing. They are dying and spilling blood so everyone and anyone can worship and do as they please. Love Richard P.S. Excuse the few words I had to use.
Linda Green continues:
Sounds like a movie – but it wasn’t. They came to our front door (two men dressed in Army uniforms) to deliver the telegram. That telegram shattered our lives and changed all of our futures - forever. My oldest brother Gene, who was home on leave from the Army and about to go to Korea, saw them first and he knew. He answered the door and stepped outside and then brought them in and said , “Mother”. She knew of course. She said later she’d known all day and was simply waiting for them to arrive. She was never the same.
Richard was KIA on July 1 st 1966 and I don’t remember ever wanting a national holiday to end as much as I did on July 4 th 1966. Every boom of the fireworks made me jump and I kept thinking that it must have sounded a lot like Vietnam on the day he died.
I was so ANGRY when he died. I couldn’t understand WHY. He was such an exceptional human being and everyone loved him and he was gone. I wondered why God took Richard and left me , and why he couldn’t just send him back and take me. For years I used to think that my Mother would look at me and wonder the same thing.
I wandered through life, always looking for something that seemed just beyond my grasp and never really understood what was missing, grew up (a little) and somewhere along the way managed to acquire a loving husband and two exceptionally brilliant, beautiful children. Throughout the years Shawn and Heather heard “Richard stories” over and over. They knew him as well as anyone can know someone who lives only in other people’s memories and old photographs.
The memories of Richard’s funeral have faded – with the exception of the 21-gun salute and the trumpet. I always thought that “Taps” was a lovely, haunting melody. It was never more beautiful than the day my son Shawn played the trumpet at a Memorial Day ceremony at the cemetery where Richard is buried. My son – standing off in the distance – alone – was playing “Taps” in honor of an uncle he never met.
Our Mother passed away on January 30, 2005 and was laid to rest right next to Richard. She’d been waiting for almost 39 years to “be with Richard” and standing in the cemetery that day I felt an overwhelming sense of loss and I began to wonder – again – “Is there anyone anywhere who knew my brother Richard”?
Several weeks after my Mom’s funeral I sat down at my computer, said a silent prayer, and typed “Richard Wayne McGee Vietnam”. I found his name on the Virtual Wall and I also found another site – the Rattler-Firebird Association website. I was so excited when I saw his Memorial Page! I logged on and typed a note and then wrote my question in the Guestbook “Does anyone remember...?” I waited a few days before checking back and there was a note from Ron Seabolt pointing out that I hadn’t left my email address. (DUH!) I inserted my email address in the Guestbook and waited.
It felt like forever but within a matter of days I received an email from Ron and he had names. He had NAMES! Names of men who knew Richard in Vietnam! Men who talked to him, laughed with him, and might have been with him when he died!
Gary Parks (EM 65-66) remembers his best friend:
Richard Wayne McGee and I volunteered to go to Vietnam as door gunners on helicopters. A door gunner program had been in effect since 1962. It started out with “Shotgun One” and then three months later “Shotgun Two” and then three months later “Shotgun Three” and we were on “Shotgun Eleven”. Of course we didn’t realize that this would be the last shotgun group to go to Vietnam because the whole 25 th Infantry Division was going to Vietnam a few months later.
I didn’t know Richard Wayne McGee before we started taking our 30 day training together before we went to Vietnam. We became somewhat friends during the 30 day training. The training was very, very intense. When we got to Vietnam and were assigned to the same platoon, we became really, really close.
I remember him buying a guitar downtown when we were off duty we would sit in the bar and he would make up songs and strum his guitar. I know he couldn’t sing and I know he couldn’t…he didn’t know any music but the Vietnamese people in the bars didn’t know that and thought he was a rock and roll star. We spent a lot of times together. He always called me “Doofus” for some reason.
I made Spec 4 about three months after I got to Vietnam. When Richard made Corporal we celebrated about that and I was excited. I was a Spec 4 and he was a Corporal. Both of us were E-4s but he was a non-commissioned officer.
When he was riding on a helicopter he was a professional soldier and all the pilots liked him and all the crew chiefs liked him.
On the day he got killed he was on a separate mission than I was on. It was a shock to everybody and a lot of heads hung low when Richard Wayne McGee was killed.
He has been on my mind all these years and every time I go to Washington, D.C. I go to the Vietnam Memorial and I do a rubbing of his name because Richard Wayne McGee from Gary, Indiana was my closest friend in Vietnam.
It was a dark day and a dark week when Richard Wayne McGee died that day, the first of July nineteen sixty six. I’ll always remember that day. Richard Wayne McGee was 19 years old and he will always be 19.
Thoughts from Ed Maryliw (EM 66-67):
I served in Vietnam from January 1966 to January 1967. I was stationed in Bien Hoa, Vietnam. I came there as a communication specialist. I was told that they needed door gunners on the Helicopters. Richard McGee was with the Firebird's. Since I had no experience with firing a machine gun or any knowledge about helicopters, Richard was called to teach and qualify me on the gun. We went to the flight line and I started to fire the machine gun into a 50 gal. drum barrel filled with sand. That's how I got to know him and he was special. I never forgot him because he made me feel comfortable since he could see I was scared because I had never fired or qualified with a machine gun. I never will forget him and when we have special intentions in Church I always say a special prayer for all that have served. I've been trying to write this letter to Richard’s family for the past 35 years but it was hard. I feel better by doing it now.
Shotgun 11 classmate Franchot Lee (EM 65-66):
We got up to Bien Hoa and I think it was just shortly after the base was blown up and all of us knew, this is it. We had to bunk together and do this thing. Richard was pretty gung ho. He was a funny guy, you know, a very good sense of humor. He stood out not only because of his height and everything; it was just his general character. He could mesh with everyone. I don’t care who it was. Whether it was the guys from the South, North or whatever, he crossed the bridges for everyone, made it fun for everyone to be together and have to do what they had to do every day.
He didn’t think anything was going to happen to him. He was invincible and made us all feel that way. We flew many missions together (same fire team) almost his entire time.
Denis Arndt (WO 65-66) remembered the day McGee died: I was the Aircraft Commander on the Firebird aircraft on which Richard McGee was killed. Richard was shot in the side and the bullet severed his aorta. The thing I will never forget is that when he was hit, he had the presence of mind to lay his M-60 on the floor to secure it as he died. Richard Wayne McGee was my brother too.
Linda Green continues:
Joe and I took flowers to the cemetery on Easter Sunday and I reached down to brush some dirt and grass off of Richard’s marker. I thought, “He knows I’ve been searching. He knows”. I think he knew I’d find them!
There are no words to describe how I feel today. That sense of loss is still overwhelming and time does NOT heal all wounds. But I think hearing from those men who served with Richard will help fill the empty space in my heart and I can’t wait to MEET them, hug them, talk to them, and tell them that I know exactly what Richard would say – Thanks for Remembering and Welcome Home.
He was just a boy when he went to war
In a far and distant land
From things he saw, through deeds he did,
He soon became a man
Through wind and rain he suffered pain
And many times knew fear
With head held high he struggled on
He knew that God was near
A year dragged by. His time was nigh.
He’d soon be coming home
With tears of joy we'd welcome him
And hope he'd no more roam
The paper came which bore his name
In Action he had died
Through Heaven’s Gates he has passed through
To sit at Jesus’ side
To all of us he was many things…
Uncle, brother, son
But to you who knew him not as us
He was an “American”
Author – Sergeant First Class Gene E. Martin