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"Hunter" Crew & Rescue Crew KIA - 22 Jan 1971

[Taken from macvsog.cc] Posted on 10/2/15 - by wkillian@smjuhsd.org

Centaur KIA: CW2 Rog Johnson, SP4 Fredrick Vigil, SGT Michael Petty. Four other crewmen from 240 AHC were KIA

There are six eyewitness accounts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

see also: Proud Mary the film and the Proud Mary Discussion page

CPT Richard Toops presentation at memorial for WO William H. Seaborn KIA on that mission.

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On January 22, 1971, a U.S. Army helicopter OH-6A (tail number 68-17337) from D Troop (Centaurs), 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division, flown by pilot CW2 Rog Johnson was shot down near Bear Cat in III Corps. The crew members included SGT Michael H. Petty (Observer) and SP4 Frederick A. Vigil (Crew Chief). They were part of a Hunter-Killer team operating in Bien Hoa Province.

CW2 Johnson had spotted an active base camp through a high canopy. In the process of turning around over the camp for another look, his aircraft was shot down. The Blues platoon later determined both CW2 Johnson and SGT Petty survived the crash through the canopy. After exiting the burning helicopter, they were shot at close range by Viet Cong. SP4 Vigil died in the crash.

An Army helicopter UH-1D (tail number 66-16356) from the 240th Assault Helicopter Company attempted to insert a Special Forces team near the crash site. The Special Forces team had been attending a SOG Reconnaissance Team Leader’s Course in the area at the time of the crash and responded to the call for assistance.

As their aircraft was hovering over a hole in the canopy, and with Special Forces team members on troop insertion ladders, the helicopter received small arms fire causing it to crash. The pilot, WO1 William H. Seaborn Jr., and three Special Forces team members, SSGT Kenneth Lovelace, SGT Frank A. Celano, and SGT Hugh D. Opperman, suffered fatal injuries in the attack. (Taken from vhpa.org)

 

Eyewitness Accounts:

There are six eyewitness accounts for this incident from individuals who participated in the operation:

First account - (Robert N. Taylor, MSGT) On January 22, 1971 at approximately 0945 we were notified that a LOH helicopter was down and help was needed to secure the helicopter. We asked for volunteers to go with us on this mission. I started out with the lead helicopter with CPT Simpson, SFC Monroe, SSGT Hill and SGT Bennett aboard with me. The second helicopter behind us carried MSG Glenn, SSG Lovelace, SGT Opperman, and SGT Celano. We went into the LZ first, which was a small troop ladder LZ, about 20 meters from the crashed LOH.

I talked the pilot down as low as safely possible before dropping the troop ladders and they landed with 4 to 5 rungs on the ground. SFC Monroe, CPT Simpson, SSG Hill and SGT Bennett quickly went down the ladders to the ground, I pulled the ladders back up into the helicopter before telling the pilot to move out as the area was such that I was afraid the dangling ladders would endanger the helicopter in trying to get out. I remained on board for this reason as I had direct communications with the pilot.

As soon as we were safely out, the C&C ship with CPT Markel aboard directed the second ship into the LZ. The pilot seemed to have trouble getting into the small LZ, as he was hovering too high for too long. The people on board had dropped the troop ladders and had climbed down to the end of them but were still too high to jump off.

About this time we heard over our radio that they were under fire and we saw the slick (UH-1 helicopter) move to the right and crash. SFC Monroe had moved towards the crash site when the second helicopter started taking fire and was not sure it had crashed until we told him by radio. We seemed to be the only one in the air that SFC Monroe could make communication with, so we stayed in the area as long as we had fuel.

During this time SFC Monroe and the people with him had located two of the crew in the crashed LOH and moved them to the LZ for extraction. Both were found dead. They located the third member of the LOH in the crash and he was also dead. They then moved to the crashed Huey, finding the pilot dead, and the other three crew members alive but badly in need of medical attention. They did all they could for them while we got Dustoff ships (medevacs) to extract these people first.

MSG Glenn was found alive but with broken ribs or other possible chest injuries. As they extracted the wounded, the team came under fire by B-40 rockets which hit the crashed Huey, seriously wounding CPT Simpson, and also hitting SFC Monroe in the arm and body with small pieces of fragments. They extracted CPT Simpson on the next Dustoff. They then moved the bodies of SSG Lovelace, SGT Opperman, and SGT Celano to where they could be moved out by Dustoff ships. All three were found dead with the Huey crash.

About this time the Reaction Force sent in by the 25th Division finally arrived at the crash site. SFC Monroe requested that we extract him, SSG Hill and SGT Bennett by Stabo rig (harness) as they were too tired to walk out to a secure area to be taken out. We safely extracted them from the crash site. (Submitted by Robert N. Taylor, MSGT, Det B-53, 5th SFGA)

Second account - (James P. Markel, CPT) On 22 January 1971 I was returning from an operation in my command and control helicopter when a call for assistance from the tower requested my helicopter to try and help a downed Light Observation Helicopter. Assistance in securing the chopper was also requested. I flew to the area and saw the downed LOH burning a few kilometers from the airstrip. I requested use of a team and assets from B-53.

I left the area to refuel and returned to B-53 to brief the team leader. After briefing MSG Glenn, I returned to the downed LOH. About 5 minutes later 2 UH-1H’s with the teams on board arrived in the area. The first helicopter was inserted and the team went down the ladders with no problem. The second ship came in, dropped it’s ladders and 4 men started descending. At this time the ship received small arms fire. The ship lifted slightly and then nosed into the ground. I then requested another team to standby.

They were not used because a company was inserted 500 meters away. A command and control from the ground assumed control. After contacting SFC Monroe on the ground, and briefing the new command and control on the situation, I returned to B-53. (Submitted by James P. Markel, CAPT, Infantry, Det B-53, 5th SF Gp (Abn), 1st SF)

Third account- (Martin T. Bennett, SGT) On 22 Jan 71 at approximately 0900 hours, MSG Glenn came up to our class and asked for volunteers to go out and secure a downed helicopter. CPT Simpson, SSG Hill, SGT Opperman, SGT Celano, and SGT Bennett offered our assistance. The first chopper load consisted of SFC Monroe, CPT Simpson, SSG Hill, and SGT Bennett. The second chopper had MSG Glenn, SSG Lovelace, SGT Opperman, and SGT Celano.

The first chopper went into the LZ, hovered, dropped the ladders, and we went down and set up security. The second chopper came in, hovered, for approximately 5 minutes and then took fire from about 3 AK-47’s. The chopper swerved to the right and its main rotor struck a tree. Somewhere between the time that the shooting started and the chopper hit the tree, MSG Glenn jumped from the ladder. After the chopper hit the tree, I saw it climb out of control and then spin. I really didn’t think that it had gone down even though I could hear the whine of the engine after it had crashed, there was just too much happening.

When the ground fire started, SFC Monroe pulled us all together to tighten our security. We weren’t sure where the LOH was. He got an azimuth from one of the choppers overhead and we started moving. CPT Simpson started out on point with me behind him, then SFC Monroe, MSG Glenn, and last SSG Hill. Somewhere between where we started and the LOH, I ended up as point. It was about 25 to 35 meters.

We crawled up to within about 10 meters of the LOH, which was burning, and I saw a bunker. I saw one of the pilots and made my way up to him to see if he was alive. He wasn’t. At this time I saw the other pilot piled up in the door of a bunker. It looked as though the two had been thrown from the aircraft upon impact due to the fact that the instrument panel and other parts of the aircraft were between the wreckage and where I found the pilots. The second pilot was also dead.

CPT Simpson and myself, upon command from SFC Monroe, proceeded to drag the bodies back to the LZ. When we got them to the LZ we tied them together and were awaiting a dustoff. When the dustoff arrived, it hovered about 30 meters from our position and started lowering the rescue seat. We popped a signal panel and the door gunner saw us, but they wouldn’t move to our position. It was at this time that we were told that the second chopper had gone down.

SFC Monroe told us to forget the bodies and move out in the direction of the dustoff. I again took up the point position. Moving along I came up on the bunker that I had found before. I stopped and asked SFC Monroe what I should do. He said just run across the top of it, so I took off. We ran across another bunker about 10 to 15 meters from the first, crossing it in the same manner. Right after we got across this second bunker and broke out of the brush we saw the downed Huey. There was a dustoff medic coming down to it and when we got up to the chopper I saw SGT Celano still entangled in the ladder. I hesitated and SFC Monroe hollered at me to get around to the other side of the chopper and set up security. When I got around to the other side I found SGT Opperman’s body like Celano’s, still entangled in the ladder. As near as I could figure it, neither of them really knew or thought that it was going to crash, and just held on and rode it into the ground. I told SFC Monroe that I had found another body and he said not to worry about it until we got the wounded medevaced.

SFC Monroe, CPT Simpson, and MSG Glenn were on the right side of the chopper giving assistance to the medic, keeping commo going, and keeping up security while SSG Hill and myself were on the left side for security. After we got the wounded out, SFC Monroe came over to me and said, “Let’s go find Lovelace, he’s not here.” We moved about 30 meters to the rear of the chopper and found his body under a bunch of brush. We then drug him over to the chopper and put all of the bodies together in a group. I went back to security and a short time later SFC Monroe called me over to have me go check out a bunker, off about 20 to 25 meters that looked like it had a man on top of it. I had seen this same bunker from my position when we were at the LOH, and I figured what he thought was a man was actually a big sheet of canvas on top of a bunker that had rolled up from to the chopper wash. I conveyed this to SFC Monroe and he accepted my word.

The medic mentioned that we should get the radios out of the chopper. I was behind him and about 10 meters from SFC Monroe when a terrific explosion went off between SFC Monroe and myself. It knocked me about 6 to 10 feet off my feet into the underbrush. When I hit the ground I started crawling towards SSG Hill and the medic. SFC Monroe was hollering get away and then a second explosion went off in approximately the same area. I thought it was a B-40 and that SFC Monroe and everyone on his side of the ship was dead. I didn’t hear him hollering and I could just barely hear anything anyway. I got to SSG Hill and the medic and we lay there thinking that everyone else was dead and we had lost our commo. We were waving at the gunships which were flying at about tree top level trying to communicate, but it didn’t do any good. Finally, I decided that I should make my way to the other side of the chopper with SSGT Hill covering me and try to retrieve the radio. At about the time I got even with the nose of the chopper I saw some movement from the bushes and it was SFC Monroe. I called out to him and he answered. I called to Hill and the medic to come on. When I moved to where SFC Monroe, MSG Glenn and CPT Simpson were, I saw that CPT Simpson had been injured by the blasts. The medic went to work on him immediately and we moved away from the chopper over to where we had left the LOH pilots on our LZ. We were there for about five minutes before the reinforcements arrived.

We then fell back to the center of their perimeter and proceeded to move all of the bodies to the LZ. SFC Monroe, SSG Hill and myself were eventually extracted after being on the ground for seven hours. (Submitted by Martin T. Bennett, SGT)

Fourth account - (Alton E. Monroe, SFC) At approximately 0945 hours on January 22, 1971, CPT Simpson, SGT Bennett, SSG Hill, and myself were dispatched by helicopter to the site of a downed LOH to secure the area. Upon arriving at the site of the downed LOH we dropped the ladders and climbed down. We set up security on the LZ so the second chopper could come in and drop their ladders. Four people climbed down. This chopper was hovering too high and the people who had climbed out on the ladders were approximately 30 feet off the ground. At this time the chopper started receiving fire from the ground and it looked to me as though the chopper pulled pitch and started to fly away. About the time the chopper started to move away, one of the four men on the ladder dropped off. I did not know at this time that the pilot had been hit and that the chopper crashed.

We then moved off the LZ and headed for the downed LOH. Upon finding the LOH we realized that we were in a base camp of some type. We found bunkers, food, clothing, water containers and numerous other items throughout the area. We also found two bodies from the LOH. We secured the bodies and their equipment and moved back to the LZ for extraction.

Upon reaching the LZ we were told that the second chopper had also crashed a short distance away. I told the other people to move to the site of the second chopper. We had to move back across the bunker complex to reach the crash site. When we got there, I positioned the people around the crashed helicopter and started looking for the crew and passengers. We found the bodies of the pilot and two of the men who were on the ladder when the chopper crashed. I got SGT Bennett and we started looking for the third man who was on the ladder. We found him dead about 30 meters from the crash. The other three crew members and MSG Glenn, the one who jumped from the ladder, were alive but in need of immediate medical attention. We gave what attention we could and called for a Dustoff to extract them.

About this time two explosions occured near the crashed chopper. CPT Simpson was wounded as a result of these explosions. The Dustoff came in and we began extracting the wounded. It took several Dustoff helicopters to get all the wounded and dead out. About this time a Reaction Company from the 25th Infantry Division arrived at the scene. They secured the area and we were extracted and taken back to CLT. (Submitted by Alton E. Monroe, SFC, Det B-53, 5th SFGA)

Fifth account - (Joseph B. Hill, SSG) On January 22, 1971 at approximately 0900 hours, MSG Glenn came up to our class and asked for volunteers to go out and secure a downed LOH chopper. CPT Simpson, SGT Bennett, SGT Opperman, SGT Celano and myself, SSG Hill, offered our assistance. The first chopper load consisted of SFC Monroe, CPT Simpson, SGT Bennett, SSG Hill. The second chopper had MSG Glenn, SSG Lovelace, SGT Opperman and SGT Celano.

The first chopper went into the LZ hovered, dropped the ladders and we went down and set up security. The second chopper came in hovered, dropped the ladders, but they didn’t reach the ground. People were on the ladder but it was not low enough to get off, so it hovered for about 5 minutes and then took fire from approximately 3 AK-47’s. I opened up in the direction that the fire came from. The chopper swerved to the right and its main rotor struck a tree. That’s when I started looking away from the chopper.

After about 2 minutes, SFC Monroe called us in closer for more security and at that time I saw MSG Glenn. He had jumped off the ladders when the chopper was fired at. We weren’t sure where the LOH was. SFC Monroe got an azimuth from one of the choppers overhead and we started moving. CPT Simpson started out as point with SGT Bennett behind him, then SFC Monroe, MSG Glenn, and myself.

The LOH was about 25 to 30 meters from the LZ, so we started crawling up to within about 10 meters of the LOH which was burning, and saw one of the pilots. He was dead. About 4 meters away we saw one more body. It looked as though the two had been thrown from the aircraft upon impact, due to the fact that the instrument panel and other parts of the chopper were among the wreckage.

CPT Simpson and Bennett, upon command from SFC Monroe, proceeded to drag the bodies back to the LZ. When we got them to the LZ we tied them together and were awaiting a dustoff. When the dustoff arrived it hovered about 30 meters from our position and started lowering the rescue seat. We were popping a signal panel when the door gunner saw us, but they didn’t come to our position. At this time we were told that the second chopper had gone down.

SFC Monroe told us to forget the bodies and move out in the direction of the dustoff. Bennett took up the point position at this time. When we came upon the bunker that Bennett found, he stopped and asked SFC Monroe what he should do. He said just go across the top of it, so he took off. We ran across another bunker about 10 to 15 meters from the first and we couldn’t cross it the same way. Right after we crossed the second bunker, we broke out of the brush we saw the downed chopper. There was a dustoff medic coming down to it and there were approximately 3 people sitting outside of it wounded. We moved in and when we got up to the chopper I saw SGT Celano still entangled in the ladder

I then went around the chopper to set up security. At this time we found one more bunker but all I was concerned with was security. SFC Monroe told us to set up the M-60, so I did. I was on security off on the left side of the chopper about 15 minutes where Monroe and CPT Simpson and Bennett were getting the bodies together. At this time there was an explosion, so I hit the ground. A second explosion went off in the same area. I thought it was a B-40 and that SFC Monroe and everyone on the other side of the ship were dead. I didn’t hear anyone hollering and could just barely hear anyway. SGT Bennett came up to me and the medic and we lay there thinking that everyone else was dead and there we were without any commo. We were waving at gunships which were flying at about treetop level trying to communicate with them, but it didn’t do any good. Finally we decided that we should make our way to the other side of the chopper to retrieve the radio. At about this time we got up even with the nose of the chopper we saw some movement from the bushes and it was SFC Monroe. We called out to him and he answered.

When we got up to SFC Monroe, MSG Glenn and CPT Simpson, we saw that CPT Simpson had been injured by the blast. The medic went to work immediately and we moved away from the chopper area to where we had left the two dead LOH Pilots on our LZ. We got a dustoff in and MSG Glenn and CPT Simpson were evacuated. We were there for about five minutes before the reinforcements arrived and when they did we just fell back to the center of the perimeter and proceeded to move all of the bodies to the LZ.

SFC Monroe, SGT Bennett, and myself were finally extracted after being on the ground for seven hours. (Submitted by Joseph B. Hill, SSG)

Sixth account - (Verlin R. Glenn, MSG) On January 22, 1971 at approx 0900 hours, I was informed that a LOH was down in the Tbai AO, and as the reaction force team leader, I was to prepare for a Brightlight (rescue mission) team insertion on the downed helicopter. At that time, both indigenous Brightlight teams were being used on another mission. One team was on security of the DZ during an airborne training operation, the second team on standby for a PW capture team that had already been inserted into our AO.

I advised the S-3 of this situation and was given permission to form an emergency Brightlight team from combat experienced U.S. cadre and Recon Team students. This I did by asking CPT Simpson, and the RT students, for volunteers. CPT Simpson, SGT Bennett, SSG Hill, SGT Celano, and SGT Opperman immediately volunteered when told of the situation. They were ready within three minutes after volunteering. SFC Monroe, SSG Lovelace, and myself were from the cadre.

I assigned SFC Monroe to lead one team and one chopper, and I took charge of the other team. The CO gave us a check over and all the information that was available, then gave us the lift off sign. We arrived at the downed LOH site within approximately four minutes. SFC Monroe made his insertion into an LZ that was within thirty-five meters of the downed LOH. SFC Monroe and his team inserted into the LZ by ladder with no difficulty.

My chopper approached the LZ and lowered down toward the LZ. The chopper pilot was taking entirely too much time in descending. I immediately gave him the signal to drop down thirty five feet and to move over to his left approximately five meters. He started his descent and then turned his chopper 180 degrees. His descent was very slow. SSG Lovelace and I then kicked our ladders overboard. The pilot was descending slowly as we went over the side and down the ladders to the end rungs. SSG Lovelace and SGT Celano were on the left ladder while SGT Opperman and I were on the right ladder. The pilot lowered us to within approximately 10 feet off the ground, right above a small tree. At this time I gave the signal to SSG Lovelace for he and I to jump because we were taking too much time hovering over the LZ and the pilot was not lowering the chopper down. Also we had only four men on the ground at the time.

At approximately the same instant I prepared to jump, three AK-47’s opened up from the ground on us. One AK was shooting at us hanging on the ladders, while one was shooting at the chopper, and one was shooting at the tail rotor. The pilot was shot and the chopper started upward and to the right. I immediately jumped from the ladder, as we were about thirty to thirty five feet in the air at that time. SSG Lovelace and the others did not jump.

Just as I was departing the ladder one AK round hit one of the ladder rungs that I was on, and another creased the left side of my chest. On hitting the ground, a very hard pain hit me in my left side. I knew I had been hurt but how bad I didn’t know. I was interested only in getting to the other four men on the ground.

After crawling over to the other four men already on the ground, I let SFC Monroe know that I had been hurt and that he was to take over the radio because it was difficult for me to speak. I could still hear the turbine whine of the chopper engine that had crashed. I also heard automatic fire, then it stopped. I told Monroe to get the men together and get going toward the downed chopper that I had come in on. This he did and he had only gone approximately twenty to twenty five meters when he came up on the downed LOH chopper and four large bunkers.

Bennett spotted two pilots from the LOH and proceeded to check to see if they were alive or not. Both were dead. Monroe told him to drag the bodies back to the LZ and tie them together for an extraction along with the M-60 machinegun from the LOH. We then proceeded over the top of the bunkers after looking around for the third LOH member. We did not see him, as he had burned up in the LOH. At that time the LOH ammo started exploding, preventing a search. We backed off quickly and proceeded toward the downed Huey chopper

During this search I had checked my emergency radio and found it was inoperative. It had been damaged in my fall. I then used the PRC-25 while Monroe was supervising the removal of the bodies from the LOH. It was then that we were given approximately direction to the Huey (UH-1 helicopter). Actually we were only about twenty meters away but the jungle floor was very dense with undergrowth.

We then proceeded to the downed Huey and found a medic being lowered into the crash site. I told Monroe to form security around the Huey and start to work on the wounded. This was done and the wounded were evacuated out. Then we started on the dead.

At this time a B-40 rocket hit among us and it contained CS (tear gas). We started to move away from the area when another B-40 rocket hit among us and wounded three of us, of which CPT Simpson was the most seriously injured. Monroe and I received minor wounds.

Prior to this all, the dead and weapons had been assembled and were ready to be evacuated out when the rockets came in. At this time we started to move out of the immediate area and back to the LZ to extract the two bodies from the LOH and get CPT Simpson out. We made it back to the LZ and called for the Dustoff. It came in and Monroe asked me to go out too because I was having difficulty in breathing and moving. He also stated that the link up forces were just outside our perimeter.

CPT Simpson and I were extracted to the 93rd Medical Evacuation Hospital at Long Binh. In closing my statement I would like to say that all the men that were with me performed their job under the most difficult situation like hard core Special Forces men should. They strictly volunteered for the mission, well knowing their chances. Some lost their lives in trying to save others. Let’s hope that these men are not forgotten so soon. I know we won’t forget them. (Submitted by Verlin R. Glenn, MSG, Det SGM, Det B-53) [Taken from macvsog.cc] Posted on 10/2/15 - by wkillian@smjuhsd.org

 

Memorial Presentation for WO William H. Seaborn Jr. - 240th AHC - 2017

This is a portion of a memorial presentation that tells details of the mission where Seaborn and the others were KIA.

Presented by CPT Richard Toops (240th AHC) in 2017.

 

On 22 January 1971 around 0900 Hrs The White Flight Platoon (2 helicopters) the Huey flown by Bill Seaborn and I, and our other ship flown by Warrant Officer Roger Moyer and his co-pilot, of the 240th Assault Helicopter Company (Greyhounds) 222nd Aviation Battalion, 1st Aviation Brigade, were refueling at Bearcat Vietnam following a morning mission with the 11th Special Forces (SF) at Long Than North, South Vietnam.

Onboard our UH1 Huey) helicopter (SN 66-163-56). Our Aircraft Commander was WO William H. Seaborn Jr., our co-pilot, myself, CPT Richard D. Toops, our crew-chief was SP4 Jimmy Lance, our gunner was SP4 William (Bill) Barker. Both these guys I had flown with and I liked them and respected them very much, and both I am thankful to say.... survived our crash. In Vietnam helicopter pilots know the crews are their lifeline and we treated them as equal brothers, they kept our Huey's flying, and in the field they guided us into tight landing zones, and protected us with their M-60 machine guns.

While Bill and I were refueling our Huey after our first morning mission, which went great without a hitch, we received an urgent and life threatening call from the Bearcat tower requesting our assistance to extract the crew of a crashed Light Observation Helicopter (Loach), belonging to D Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division. The tower operator had received the call from CW2 Hugh McLeod, the pilot of the Cobra gunship accompanying the crashed loach. He was requesting aid for the crew of the crashed helicopter. The crew was Warrant Officer Rog Johnson, SGT Michael Petty, and SP4 Frederick Vigil. A rescue mission for fellow aviation crew members. Bill and I did not have to think about what we were going to do we looked at each other and just said.... let's go. Any and all helicopter crews would have done the same thing. Bill and I were going on a rescue mission. We were going and nobody was going to stop us.

As the Assistant Flight Commander and ranking member on the mission I contacted our Operations Office by FM radio and apprised them that we were going on a rescue mission to get the crew to safety. There were no Officer's present in Operations, ......."Go getum, and do it ASAP", I said to the Spec 4 on duty, "tell them what our plans are." We are going on a rescue mission. I told Bill "whether we get approval or not we are going," he echoed those words at the same time as I said them. He was on go as I was. We finished refueling and flew to Long Than North to pick up the Special Forces rescue team that would be inserted to rescue the downed crew, Long Thanh North was just a few thousand meters from Bearcat. Bill and I were starting to get pretty quiet, we tried some small talk but it fell flat.....unusual...no......just getting in the serious mode....We picked up 4 Special Forces troops in our helicopter, MSGT Virgil Glenn, SGT Hugh Opperman, SGT Frank Celano, and SGT Kenneth Lovelace. Warrant Officer Roger Moyer and his co-pilot picked up 4 as well. CPT Simpson, SFC Alton Monroe, SFC Martin Bennett, and SSG Joseph Hill. I had flown with Roger many times and I felt good that Roger, an experienced Aircraft Commander was with us that day.

While Bill and I waited for the guys to load, Bill looked at me, ........actually he was staring intently at me,......and he asked me to put my chicken-plate on, a chicken-plate is a 22 pound piece of ceramic sheets glued together, with a nylon covering (mine had no cover). It's a bullet proof vest sorta,........ I told him "I never wear it, you know that Bill, too hot" ......I said "I'm not wearing it Bill,"............ I had a God given vision in early 1970 before I went to Vietnam that I would sustain an ankle injury in Vietnam so I never really thought my chicken-plate was needed. I just put it under my seat. I had only worn it the first few weeks I was in country, many had tried to get me to wear it but to no avail. After all I outranked them and could do as I wanted. I told Bill, you didn't worry about me wearing it on our morning mission. ...... Well, Bill looked at me as serious as I had ever seen him, ......... the truth is .....he is staring me down again, .....and Bill said in a very somber way " do it for me. ".......can you imagine that, now using his personality on me........"do it for me" .....so I did. ..I knew at this point Bill was truly concerned, and as I said Bill had a way of getting others to do what he wanted. ....Pause.........I put the chicken plate on over my chest resting on my lap underneath my restraint harness, covering me from my neck to my lap. I was a little bothered to be frank, Bill knew my views on the chicken-plate, we had talked about it before, many times, but hey...he musta sensed something, ......he cared more about my safety and he knew...... he could get me to wear it......This one seemingly simple act by Bill, thinking of me as his friend was what I felt saved my life that day.

The Special Forces men had rigged the ships with ladders previously that morning during our original mission. We then flew to the crash site which was very close to Bearcat, within minutes away. We were following Roger in a loose staggered trail formation. I said a prayer to myself, something short, something I had done before, "Lord, we are in your hands"..... nothing unusual.... Upon arrival at the crash site from a distance we could see the crashed loach smoking. My attention and I think Bill's as well were heightened. At this time we did not know the loach helicopter had been shot down and crashed into a Vietcong base camp, strewn with hidden enemy bunkers..... I later learned from Special Forces statements that one of the crew died in the crash the other two survived only to be captured and killed execution style.... at close range ....by the Vietcong.....only minutes before we arrived. In retrospect I am glad Bill and I did not know this at the time. ...

In front of, and just short of the crashed Loach approximately 20 meters was an opening in the tree canopy separated in the middle by a couple of taller trees. Down below was the darker green of thick jungle vegetation, and the unknown. Roger Moyer went in first and dropped his ladders and troops on the left side of the opening, then pulled out, nothing happened....nothing at all happened.... so I felt a new sense of security. Our Huey went in next piloted by Bill, as the Aircraft Commander and I his Co-Pilot.. We came in and hovered about 30 feet up and over the right side of the canopy opening, approximately 5-10 meters laterally from the first insertion and a few meters closer to the downed loach, and un beknowst to us directly above the Enemy. We had lowered our helicopter down into the opening in the trees, go left, go right, forward a bit, go left etc, our helicopter with Bill's hands guiding our ship through the jungle canopy. We maneuvered through the tree branches as far as we could go down.

Our ladders had been dropped, and we began to wait for the Special Forces team to descend the ladders...while hovering our 4 Special Forces troops, Glenn, Celano, Opperman, and Lovelace were descending down the ladders when we came under attack, intense and heavy fire from small arms, AK-47s. A weapon that has a very familiar sound. MSGT Verlin Glenn, The only one of the four Special Forces soldiers on our helicopter who survived later stated that we were receiving fire directed at the Special Forces troops on the ladders, fire directed into our cockpit and fire directed at our tail rotor. MSGT Glenn, was shot in the chest and his ladder rung was shattered by bullets and he jumped from the ladder on our helicopter, landing in a thick bunch of vegetation, saving his life. The other three, .....were shot and killed as they were climbing down the ladders.

At the time of receiving the hostile fire we had been onsite for only a minute or so. Bill and I both knew our crew chief and gunner were in a tough predicament as they could not fire back with our M-60 machine guns unless they could clearly see where the enemy fire was coming from, as we now had 7 American soldiers on the ground and 4 more of our men going down our ladders below us. A total of 11 soldiers. And the chance of hitting our own men was just too great. .....We were hovering in and among the trees and with men going down our ladders and were now a stationary target for the enemy below.... Bill was at the controls, and I had my left hand on the hot mike switch on the radio control switches located on the center console between both pilot seats and my right hand loosely around the cyclic control as was our normal protocol entering and exiting Landing and pickup zones. At this time Bill and I were not talking to each other, only listening to our crew talking through the intercom in our helmets and keeping us from hitting the rotor blades on the trees on both our sides. When the Enemy fire started. Loud, very very loud bullets coming into the cockpit at a heavy rate, it was very violent, everything in the cockpit was being hit and was being shredded and destroyed, my left hand was blown into the air, and off of the radio switch, as bullets started penetrating and destroying the radio console between Bill and my seats. Because of this I was unable to contact Rogers ship, the Command and Control ship or any of the gunships overhead. We were all,.... now alone.

The firing continued without letup. Everything in our cockpit, the dash, bubble of the helicopter, radio console, my chicken plate were being ripped apart and spraying shrapnel everywhere. The inside of our cockpit was disintegrating. .... When bullets go by you in the open you hear a ........wherrrr sound, thats all, but inside our ship they were not going by they were hitting things, destroying everything they hit. It truly sounded like we were being hit by bricks or cannon balls flying at a 1000 ft per second, and it was oh so loud. Deafening.... Bullets were ricocheting their way across my chicken-plate and splattering me with shrapnel, but thanks to Bill insisting I wear my chicken-plate, were not going into my chest.......At what seemed now like an unending attack, With tremendous noise and destruction something happened, ......Bill and I at the very same time turned our heads and eyes just slightly towards each other and exchanged a quick look....... I know we both needed some comfort from the other.......some form of brotherly reassurance that this nightmare would end soon,... Something, anything to stop the noise and devastation......our communication system was gone and we could not communicate via intercom or radio. .......And as we both caught one another's eye's.... Bill was struck and killed instantly..........
I knew it, ........immediately I knew it, ...........I was looking in Bill's eyes when it happened, ........I could not think any differently. .....he did not suffer....... I gasped for air....Oh My...... it was such a terrible feeling, I was so sad with deep sorrow,.... then I felt alone, ......then I was just so mad....very mad...all these different thoughts in less than a second.....my head was exploding with emotion.....I just wanted to go down there and kill um all with my bare hands.......Just let me at um, please......but I couldn't do that......Looking back I'm glad Bill's final moments were with me, his friend, a fellow Christian.....We were not alone......Jesus was with us. We never were alone.

But time does not stop....my military training took over from my emotions........The ship was starting to feel the effects of the onslaught. It was getting unsteady. I had taken all the controls now and my mind was telling me keep it together Richard, ......Come on, just get us outta here. I was going to try and bring us straight up, I did not know if the guys were still on the ladders or not, but I knew if they were they would hold on. .... Some months earlier we extracted two Special Forces troops from contact with the enemy in War Zone D we had to carry them several miles with them hanging on the ladders, while we escaped the hostile fire. Today I would have to clear the trees before we could go forward and get outta there. The Helicopter then lurched violently, the nose turned down and the ship starting rotating to the right. As this happened the tail of the ship started to rise up. I pulled additional collective and then pulled the cyclic back with my right hand to try and regain some control, I pushed the pedals as I tried giving more power, but I received no response and we started quickly spinning towards the trees on our perimeter. The engine was still operating, and by our helicopter-spin to the right I knew our tail rotor must have been hit by enemy fire and rendered inoperative. I saw the trees we were about to smash into, coming towards us ......and, I knew I was not in control, there was nothing I could do, ....Our helicopter had taken too much damage.... and I then knew..... the controls are gone, my options were gone,..... my friend was gone....at this time I had no idea the fate of Jimmy and Bill Barker. We had no communication equipment, so I could not talk to them .....And as I saw the trees coming, I said Lord.....just make it quick. I was resigned to crashing,... We then crashed very very violently into the trees and I was immediately knocked unconscious.

Our ship, Bill, myself, Jimmy and Bill Barton, we fell to the jungle floor as one big awkward, mangled mass of machine and men......metal breaking bones and tearing flesh as we slammed through the trees until we hit the jungle below. Our turbine jet engine still eerily humming away. But our plight was not over. Not yet......we were now no longer above the enemy ......we were now in the enemy's living room.
I awoke from unconsciousness lying in the jungle in the middle of a Vietcong basecamp not knowing how I ended up out of the ship, and had the fleeting thought that maybe I was wrong .....that Bill was down here with us alive...and that what I had seen was not real, shoot, I thought, I have been wrong many times in my life, Lord...just let this be another one of those times.

Then My concern shifted to our guys in the back, were Jimmy and Bill Barton alive, Since our intercom system had been severed when the firing had started....I did not know. I later learned that Jimmy had been thrown out over the M-60 machine gun mount upon crashing and his torso and stomach had been split open. Bill Barton suffered broken bones and other injuries, as he was thrown out of the helicopter as well, ....and he was the one,......although terribly wounded, risked his life to pull Bill and myself out of the crashed Helicopter.

While on the ground I groaned in excruciating pain....My body hurt so bad, I could only see shapes and it seemed so dark. I was slammed in the back by what felt like the butt of a weapon, and told in a low but forceful tone to shut up and I went back into the security of my unconsciousness. (the guys from Rogers ship had come to our aid after finding the loach crew all dead and were now fighting for us.) The bad guys were still there. ..... I learned from Captain Tom Brown, Maddog 6, our gunship leader that upon hearing of our crash that every gunship pilot and ship available at Bearcat was flying to our location to help us, to help us...to give us security...protection, to rescue us, ....Everyone of them wanted to help us so much any way they could. Tom Brown said our gunship pilots were ready to light up the jungle.

The Special Forces troops and our aircrew performed their mission with great courage, valor, selflessness, and dedication. John Kennedy once said in his book Profiles of Courage "A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality.” I am proud of all these guys.......... And Bill for making me wear my chicken plate on this mission, he was my friend. And I was his friend and he took great care of me. I know he saved my life.......not a doubt in my mind. Not a doubt. Our Gunner Bill Barker saved my life a second time, in spite of his injuries and with the enemy all around us, he at his own risk pulled Bill and I from the helicopter after we crashed and before our chopper was hit by an RPG shell, as our chopper lay in a twisted mass.... My life was saved a third time as the Special Forces troops from Roger's ship surrounded our crashed chopper to protect us, Capt Simpson and SFC Monroe were wounded as they were hit by shrapnel from the RPG round that struck our Huey on the ground. I was saved a fourth time a few weeks later in a Hospital in Japan from internal bleeding. 7 American heroes were killed that day and 6 American heroes were wounded... .....three of those killed were from the 25th Division Loach we were trying to rescue, four Were killed from our ship, and 4 wounded, and another 2 Were wounded from Roger Moyer's ship.

We lost 2 helicopters and I was told the first medivac helicopter that came to get us out for medical attention took fire and was hit and had to withdraw. Ultimately, the 25th Infantry Division sent in a company of 150 to 200 infantry soldiers in a nearby LZ to come to our rescue. Our mission was finally over.

As I lay there on the jungle floor, my body in pain, for those of you that have asked me to give my injuries they were, ..........my ankle had been shot, my ankle bones were all shattered, and ultimately would be fused together, ... .....my toes on one foot were all broken and would never regain movement, my tibia in my leg was broken, my femur was broken and twisted, and in putting my leg back together it was an inch shorter, I had a deep hematoma on the inside of my legs that ran from my knee to my upper thigh, My knee was badly damaged and had to be replaced, only regaining limited movement. I was shot in the back, the bullet barely missing my spine, my chest was bruised and beaten from bullets, but nothing....I repeat nothing, got through my chicken-plate, my hand sustained shrapnel wounds from the bullets coming through the radio console, my face was smashed in like it had been hit with a sledge hammer from the crash, my orbital bone, my nose, my septum and my jaw were all broken and flattened. My septum had a hole in it. My skin above my brow had been-peeled back. My eyes were hemorrhaged, and it would be many days before I could see more than a few feet, my face sustained shrapnel wounds and would take over 50 stitches to sew up. ......But I was alive......God was with me through all those brave guys around me.

For the next 5 1/2 months of hospital and 2 months of rehab I learned to eat again, to walk again and then get the news that I would never be able to fly again and my military career was over. ......of all my injuries....The only injury that prevented me from flying again was the destruction of my ankle, limiting the movement necessary for controlling the anti- torque pedals in a helicopter. I realized my vision from God some months earlier regarding my ankle injury was not the only injury I would receive in Vietnam as I had thought, but rather the injury that would end my military career. The only thing I ever truly wanted to do in life was now gone. They medically retired me from the Army. But......I would have gladly traded all that to have my friend Bill back a thousand times over ....................................