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VIETNAM
AIRCRAFT SPECIFICATIONS VIETNAM AVIATION  |  AVIATION DIARIES
MECHANICAL MULE  |  COL JOE BELLINO  |  J.D. CALHOUN JOHN DODD  |  PHILLIP C. BROWN
458TH PBR DE LONG PIER INTERCOASTAL OPS  |  PORTSRIVERS AND CANALS  |  SK-5
VC BIKE TET OFFENSIVE 

AVIATION DIARIES

Specialist 4 Donald Leon Braman was born 1 August 1941 in Mystic, Conn and died 2 January 1963 while serving as a gunner on an CH-21 with the 93rd Transportation Company.

SP4 Don Braman
Specialist 4 Donald Leon Braman, 1963

   On 2 January 1963, the 93rd Trans Co was tasked for an air assault by troops of the ARVN, 7th Infantry Division.  All ten CH-21 helicopters were used in the lift.

   On the fourth lift, the landing zone near Ap Bac was ambushed by an entrenched and reinforced VC battalion.  The first 4 CH-21s were able to take off again. The #5 helicopter was shot down, and the #6 CH-21 attempted to pick up the crew of the downed CH-21, but was shot down itself.  The landing zone was judged untenable due to enemy fire, and the remainder of the flight departed for the staging area at Tan Hiep.

   An hour later, ground troops in the area reported that VC firing had subsided and evacuation of the downed crews was possible.

   A CH-21 was dispatched to recover the downed crews and wounded, but the tempo of enemy fire increased and the pilot was wounded. The copilot immediately lifted off, leaving all behind.

   Eight hours later, the downed aircrews were picked up by ARVN armored personnel carriers and moved to an area where they could be evacuated by helicopter.

   By day's end, nine Americans had been wounded and one killed in action.  Of the ten helicopters on the mission, all had been hit by enemy fire, four were shot down and only three could fly back to base.

    SP4 Braman, gunner in the #6 CH-21 was killed.  He received a posthumous Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions to recover the downed #5 aircrew.

   The 93rd Trans Co eventually became the 121st Assault Helicopter Company.

93rd TC patch        Silver Star Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM)

 

* * *

  

   CWO Charles E. Holloway arrived in Vietnam in November 1962 to serve as a helicopter pilot with the 81st Transportation Company.  The 81st arrived in Vietnam in September 1962 and flew combat missions in support of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN).

   On 22 December, the 81st departed Pleiku for Qui Nhon to meet up with another unit and fly the 110 miles through Mang Yiang Pass.  It was known that there were VC in the area.

patch of 81st TC
81st Transportation Company

   Twenty-nine CH-21s carrying ARVN troops assaulted a suspected Viet Cong stronghold north of Tuy Hoa.  "It was a seaport.  We were flying full force at tree top level - seemed like 80 knots," said Door Gunner Arthur Whitemore.

   As the first choppers arrived, an intense volley of enemy ground fire erupted.

helos loading for a mission
CH-21s loading in Pleiku for a mission
.

    CWO Holloway was eighth in line to drop off his ARVN assault force.  Holloway and fellow pilot Warrant Officer Daniel Gressang held their chopper in position until the ARVN soldiers disembarked, while automatic weapons fire pierced the chopper's shell.

   "The VC were in the trees, and I opened up with .30 caliber fire.  Chief Holloway was struck in the forehead by one of a dozen rounds to the helicopter.  He was barely alive and later died back at Qui Nhon," stated Whitemore.

Camp Holloway near Pleiku

   On 4 July 1963, the 81st Transportation Company, then redesignated the 119th Aviation Company, named their airstrip at Pleiku, Holloway Field in memory of the first member of their unit to be killed in action.  Later they named the entire camp Camp Holloway.

 

 * * *

 

Warrant Officer Roy G. Azbill -

WO Roy Azbill

   Warrant Officer Azbill enlisted in 1960 and completed warrant officer training and the Rotary Wing Aviators' Course in 1963.   In January 1964, as a Warrant Officer First Class, he left for Vietnam where he was assigned to the 68th Aviation Company.

   On 30 December 1964, he died in Vietnam when his helicopter crashed as a result of hostile action.  He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters and V Device and the Army Commendation Medal with V Device.

Silver Star

Distinguished Flying Cross

Air Medal Army Commendation Medal (ARCOM)

 L-R: Silver Star, Air Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Army Commendation Medal

 

* * * 

Major James M. Vrba, Jr. -

   Vrba entered active duty in 1960 from Houston, Texas and attended the US Army Transportation School, the Primary Helicopter School and the Army Aviation School.  His assignments included the 544th Trans Detachment, Fort Knox, the 45th Trans Detachment, Georgia and the 167th Trans Detachment, Vietnam.  He also served as an instructor pilot at the Army Primary Helicopter School.

   At the time of his death he was commander of the 150th Trans Detachment in Vietnam.  Through unparalleled leadership and daring actions, he stopped the main advance of an enemy force in an attack on Vinh Long Air Field. 

   He was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his heroism.

Silver Star 
Silver Star

 * * *

 

1st Lieutenant Leonard J. Dadante

   1st Lieutenant Leonard J. Dadante was born 30 November 1941 in Cleveland, Ohio.   He graduated from the Transportation Officer Basic Course in 1963. 

LT Dadante  

 Silver Star
Silver Star

   After three assignments at Fort Eustis, Lt Dadante attended the Officer Rotary Wing Aviator Course at Fort Wolters Texas, and advanced training at the Aviation School at Fort Rucker.  Immediately after graduation, he was assigned to Company A, 101st Aviation Battalion in Vietnam.

   On 27 August 1965 in Vi Thanh, Vietnam, Lt Dadante was serving as the fire team leader of a UH-1B Heliciopter section to provide aerial protection and support of Army ground units caught under hostile enemy fire.

   His helicopter was the target of intense enemy fire that seriously wounded the crew chief.  Successfully landing the Huey 150 meters from Viet Cong lines, he carried his wounded crew chief 30 meters from the aircraft.  Despite being wounded himself by enemy fire, he retrieved an M-60 machine gun with ammunition from his helicopter and maintained a defensive position just long enough for a rescue helicopter to land and for him to carry his critically injured crew chief to safety.

   Lt Dadante was awarded the Silver Star Medal for displaying extraordinary heroism with complete disregard for his own safety in saving his crew chief's life. 

   He died as a result of his injuries on 9 September 1965.

 

* * *

 

Captain Terry D. Cordell -

   Captain Terry D. Cordell graduated from The Citadel in 1957, and after several infantry assignments transferred to the Transportation Corps, attended the Transportation Officer Basic Course at Fort Eustis.

CPT Terry Cordell

   After final training at the Special Warfare School, Fort Bragg in February 1962, he was assigned to Company C, 1st Special Forces Group Airborne as a Team Leader in Vietnam.

   In the Dar Lac Province, Captain Cordell protected and lived with the Rhade tribes in their native environments.  He developed the Village Defense Program to deter further guerrilla warfare.

   On 15 October 1962, Captain Cordell was killed when Viet Cong guerrillas shot down his low-flying plane over the jungles of Vietnam.

   He was the first American officer killed in action in Vietnam.  He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, and the Gallantry Cross with Palm.

 

* * *

 

1st Lieutenant Richard E. Jaeck -

   1st Lieutenant Richard E. Jaeck was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Army Reserves in 1962.  He was a commissioned officer from 30 March 1962 to 14 March 1964 with the active service.

Richard Jaeck

    He attended the US Army Transportation School, Fort Eustis, and the US Army Aviation School, Fort Rucker. 

   At the time of his death, 1st Lieutenant Jaeck was assigned to the 73rd Aviation Company and was piloting an L-19 aircraft on a combat support mission in Vietnam.  He died when his aircraft crashed as a result of hostile action.

   His decorations included the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with nine Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Purple Heart.

 

* * *

 

Specialist 5 James E. Lane -

   Helicopter engines clattered 15 miles from the Laotian border in search of a downed CH-21C helicopter from the 140th Trans Detachment.   Among the dead at the site was Korean War hero James E. Lane.

   Lane was born in 1933 in Odessa, Texas.  He served bravely during the Korean conflict, earning the Silver Star.  After a break in service, he again entered the Army, and deployed with the 140th Transportation Detachment to Vietnam as a senior helicopter mechanic. 

    On 15 July 1962, Specialist Lane volunteered to serve as a door gunner on a CH-21C helicopter, standing in the doorway just behind the pilot on a cloudy, misty day.  Hostile fire erupted near the village of Dak Rode.  Lane returned fire, but the CH-21 was an easy target in the air with Viet Cong concealed in the mists below. 

   Four of the six men aboard the CH-21 were killed.  Specialist Lane was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Distinguished Flying Cross

 

* * *

 

Sergeant First Class Arlie D. Lester -

   Lester enlisted in the Army in 1962, and completed a tour in Okinawa and two tours in Vietnam.

   While serving in Vietnam, he was a gunner on a UH-1B helicopter engaged in a search and destroy operation, for which he was awarded the Air Medal for heroism.

   In 1968, he became an instructor at the US Army Transportation School.  On 31 May 1970, SFC Lester died while attempting to rescue a drowning victim in Dare County, North Carolina.  For his heroic conduct and humanitarian efforts, he was promoted posthumously to Sergeant First Class and awarded the Soldier's Medal.

Air Medal on left and Soldier's Medal on right 

* * * 

Sergeant Franklin Delano Porter -

   Porter enlisted in the Army in 1960 and attended the Aircraft Maintenance School at Fort Rucker.  He was assigned to the 81st Transportation Company (Light Helicopter) in Saigon, Vietnam from 1961-1963.  He was a crewman and later a Tandem Rotor Helicopter mechanic on the UH-21 Shawnee helicopters that flew combat assault missions.

   As a sergeant, he volunteered to return to Vietnam and was assigned to the 68th Aviation Company (Air Mobility Light) at Ton Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon as a Single Rotor Helicopter mechanic for the UH-1B Huey helicopters. 

   He died of multiple injuries in a helicopter crash as a result of hostile action on 30 December 1964.  He was awarded the Air Medal with 10 Oak Leaf Clusters and a Purple Heart.

Air Medal on left and Purple Heart on right

 * * *

 

Chief Warrant I William Metsker -

   "A couple weeks before my tour in Vietnam ended, I was flying Hueys with Ken Person in a small horseshoe-shaped valley.  We had a 300-foot ceiling - rotor in the clouds, skids in the trees.

   "The lift ships had just picked up an infantry platoon when the main rotor drive shaft failed on our bird.  We landed safely in a rice paddy, avoiding the nearby trees.  The lift ships redeployed the infantry to secure the area."

Juey in rice paddy

   "The infantry had not noticed anything suspicious on the ground, but I saw recent sandal tracks on the rice paddy dikes, which indicated VC to me.  The weather was deteriorating and they didn't want to send in aircraft recovery.  I did NOT want to say there overnight!"

   "A Chinook was able to get in and recover the Huey, and lift ships came down through the fog just before dark to pick up us and the infantry.

   "When the lift ships departed and broke through the cloud layer, we gave the pilot an 'atta boy' - we were most grateful to be out of there!"

recovery of forced down Huey

CW1 Bill Medsker piloted H-13s and UH-1Ds for Command and Control.  He is shown here with Huey Tail No. 65-1717 a few days before the ill-fated flight.  He retired as a CW4 in 1981.

pilot by Huey

 

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