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View from helicopter of the battle of August 30 1967

66-16222

There are a couple of stories floating around about August 30, 1967. They may have a lot of information. But they are missing some important details about that day. I'm not going to rewrite all those stories. I would just like to add some missing information that is important to that day.

This account starts the morning of August 30, 1967 at our base camp in Dau Tieng, Vietnam. This was the base camp of the 188th Aviation Company. I was the crew chief of a delta model helicopter tail number 66-16222. My door-gunner that day was PFC Alfred J. Smith, aka Smith, or Smitty. The aircraft commander was WO Chuck Restivo (Left seat) and WO Spearman (Right seat) aka J.J. We have all flown together at one time or another.

The pilots of the 188th were the best at what they did. Many times while flying I'd hear the pilot say “lets practice a tail rotor failure landing” or “autorotation landing”. This is why these pilots where some of the best. They practiced over and over – like their lives depended on it.

The morning of August 30, 1967 we were told we would be flying to Cu Chi and doing a lift from there. It's going to be a big operation. Two or three other companies will be flying in to take part. I later found out the Black Hawks 187th would be taking part in this operation. My first introduction to helicopters was with the 187th Black Hawks. I was one of the original Black Hawks from 1966.

We would be supporting the Manchu Company stationed in Cu Chi.

On our first lift we found out what kind of day we were going to have. My chopper was loaded and heading to the LZ. As we approach the LZ about 20ft or so off the ground the chopper makes a quick jerk and WO Chuck Restivo tells us he's been hit. The chopper jerked when Restivo got hit in the right calf and the bullet past through then hit the radio consul then the upper panel of the cockpit. Restivo lifted one leg off the pedal making the chopper jerk to the left but was quickly recovered by the pilot in the right seat J.J., who put us back on course. That's one of the things the pilots practiced was landing with both pilots at the controls. We completed that lift and headed to the 12th Evac to get Mr. Restivo medical attention.

We landed at the 12th Evac and Restivo was helped inside. We were one man short and needed a Aircraft Commander. J.J. took over as A/C and WO Mark Hayes jumped in as pilot. Crew chief and door-gunner stayed the same. Door-gunner PFC Alfred J. Smith and Crew chief SP5 Marty Schorr.

Our second lift was an ammo supple and evacuation of wounded. After we touched down we through off the ammo and started pulling in the wounded through the left cargo door. Smith was on the right side of the chopper at his M60 machine gun. The right side of the chopper was a fairly safe place to be - considering it was a hot LZ, but by no means 100% safe. But Smitty was tucked behind the transmission on the right side of the chopper pretty much out of harms way. As the ground troops and I unloaded ammo and started to help load on the wounded Smitty saw we needed help and lean over to help pull in wounded. As Smitty twisted to reach with his right hand to pull in wounded he leaned forward and was shot in the right shoulder about 3” down from the top of his shoulder in the chest. The bullet did a lot of internal damage with a lot of internal bleeding. As we landed at the 12th Evac all the wounded would be unloaded and Smitty was followed in closely by J.J. Spearman. J.J. stayed with Smitty as long as he could. - Sadly, Alfred did not survive his wounds that day and past away. He will be missed.

     
Cpl Alfred J. Smith
PFC Alfred J. Smith was promoted posthumously to corporal and awarded an Air Medal with “V” device for Valor.

As we prepared for our third lift our crew was short a door-gunner. At this time we had WO Spearman, WO Mark Hayes and myself SP5 Marty Schorr Crew chief.

The chopper was moved from the 12th Evac to the staging area. The Manchus D company was held up waiting on standby. They were sitting on the ground not far from my chopper (66-16222). J.J. said we need fuel and he would find someone to get a fuel truck over here. Couple minutes later a fuel truck pulled up and the driver gets out and drags the hose from the truck down the hill about 50ft or so to my chopper. It was J.J. He said I'm going back to the truck and try to get it pumping let me know when you get fuel. I said okay and put the nozzle in the filler hole with the handle squeezed and waiting. I could hear the fuel truck running at high RPM's. But no fuel. I could see J.J. shifting and moving levers trying to get the fuel truck to start pumping. More levers, more RPM's and finally the fuel started flowing. Or should I say flying, it came out like a fire hose! It had so much pressure it pushed the nozzle out of the chopper filler hole and covered me with JP-4 aka jet fuel. I was cover from top to bottom in fuel and my eyes burned and I could not see for a while. Thanks to Manchus D company for acting so fast. They helped me to the ground and washed my eyes out with water. You know who you are THANK YOU! I was not in any condition for flying after that. I was sent back to Dau Tieng on a chopper. Note: J.J. is one hell of a pilot – not so much a fuel truck operator.

By this time my helicopter 66-16222 had no Crew chief or Door-gunner. Some were along the way SP4 William Sondey was put in as Crew chief with an unknown Door-gunner. If anyone knows who that Door-gunner was please let me know. (I think Sondey was the Crew chief for Hayes' chopper along with an unknown Pilot and Door-gunner).

Update: We now know who the unknown Door-gunnner was... (info coming soon).

Update: February 02, 2018. I got a call from David Miller saying he was the unknown Door-gunner that day. He tolled me he worked in armament and was on the mission in support of the gunships. I had already flown back to Dau Tieng so this had to be the last flight of the day for my chopper. According to David it was. David toll me he flew as Door-gunner for the last flight and then was going to go back to Dau Tieng. It was during the last flight that SP4 Sondey was shot as he helped load wounded on board . He was hit in the buttocks. The aircraft received well over 40 bullet holes through the day (one report said 80). I don't know how the chopper even flow. The last flight a bullet to the hydraulic line did her in. Pressure was dropping and it was getting harder to control. With both pilots at the controls doing everything to make it back to Cu Chi as told to me by David along with a picture of the shot up hydraulic line.

 

This paragraph is from a letter sent to me by David Miller on February 02, 2018. Thanks David.

We had been shot up pretty badly and on the way back to Cu Chi the pilots noticed our hydraulic pressure was dropping. By the time we got there both pilots were grunting trying to get the damn ship to respond to anything. They finally got us lined with the runway (PSP). We did a long, low, very fast approach with both pilots bitching and moaning like hell because we had lost almost hydraulic power by then. We skimmed just above the PSP at high speed while both pilots were almost bending the damn collective trying to get a little pitch to slow us down. We finally touched the PSP and skidded for what seemed like forever in a shower of sparks and noise. We did not nose over but it was close when we finally stopped. On inspection there was a hydraulic line that that had taken a bullet. A horrible landing saved only by good pilots. I think I took a picture of it later. I think they Chinooked the ship back to Dau Tieng. This that picture. I now wonder if that was the landing of your ship after that third mission?

 

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August 30, 2017 was 50 years since that day at the horseshoe. Some have chosen to forget that day for one reason or another. And there are others who can never forget.

 

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Some information was retrieved from:
BATTLE OF THE HORSESHOE AT THE SAIGON RIVER

By: Bill Fitch

Website: http://www.manchu.org/country/horseshoe/fitch.htm