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Rescue of Air Force Pilots - Miller - 2 May 1972

Walter R. "Russ" Miller, Jr. deceased

see article "Rescue of Air Force Pilots - Shelton" by Jerry Sheldon - also see SA-7 Discussion

comments from Richard Parrish

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Walter "Russ" Miller was an F Troop (Air),4 Cav Regiment Cobra pilot. He recalled:

On May 2nd while staging out of Camp Evans we were sent on a mission to extract some American advisors, downed FAC pilots and wounded RVN Marines north of Evans along the highway. We took 2 snakes and 2 slicks.

Cpt Dan Tyner was Cobra lead and CWO William Jesse was slick lead with pilot WO1 John Petrilla (I can’t remember who was flying the other slick, it could have been WO William Rose). We left the little birds at Evans.

As I remember we started taking fire as soon as we arrived. We started normal one snake in followed by the second, at this time we were still flying at 1500 feet (That would soon change). I remember Jesse calling pulling pitch and starting out of the PZ. I was in-bound as he started to turn left. All of a sudden he exploded right beside me. I think I asked my front seat what the hell was that. I continued my break to come around and cover Tyner and heard the second slick reporting taking fire and that he was going down. I couldn’t talk to Tyner because he was in the Cobra with the 20mm and every time you fired it, you lost commo (He loved the damn thing). The second huey was able to fly across the highway toward the beach before he put it down. Tyner and I continued to fire for the downed crew.

My front seat (1LT Richard T. Parrish) kept seeing the NVA coming out of a tree line toward the down bird every time we turned, so we started making slow passes and firing one pair and just a few duper rounds on each pass.

I still couldn’t talk to Tyler so I went to guard and called for help. Luckily one of our little birds was goofing around at Evans.(I think it was CPT Fred Ledfors.) Well he came to the rescue. When he arrived I was out of ammo, ideas and about 30 minutes into a 20 minute light. Because he came alone he had to shuttle the downed crew to the beach.

Finally we got back to Camp Evans and out of nowhere this General appeared and asked if we should go back for Jesse and Petrilla. One of the hardest and most painful decisions I ever made in my 27 years service was to tell that General, NO. Jesse, Petrilla and the others were not recovered until July.

Added Notes:

All on board including crewmembers SP4 Charles Vernon Morgan (Crew Chief), SP4 Dale Kyette Porterfield (Gunner) and passenger CPT Joseph Mike Berkson (ARVN Advisor) were killed.

A second F Troop UH-1H was shot down with the crew being successfully recovered.

Camp Evans was a former U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps base northwest of Huế in central Vietnam.

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1LT Richard T. Parrish: I was in front seat of Russ’s Cobra. The way I remember it, we accompanied the slicks to rescue two Air Force FACs, who had been downed near QL1 highway south of Quang Tri. They were shot down while calling air strikes to break a huge NVA artillery ambush of a large evacuation convoy of ARVN Marines and civilians leaving Quang Tri (3000 plus).

The FACs had gotten hold of an ARVN PRC 25 radio and called for help when they made their way to road. When our UH1 rescue ship made contact, and landed on the highway, we circled overhead .

As they lifted off, I was watching the dust cloud from takeoff, when, at approximately 600 feet, and climbing, I saw a large smoke burst in the brush a hundred yards away, and a smoke plume/contrail going up directly to their bird. When it hit, the aircraft was engulfed in flame, and fell to earth in pieces.

Russ had it right, there couldn’t have been any survivors. That was the last day we ever flew above nap of the earth.

1LT Richard Parrish