Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

a dawg gets donated to the USMC museum

here is a Vietnam veteran H-34 being delivered to the USMC museum near Quantico, VA

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"God's own Lunatics"

Here is a great short video about helicopter pilots, "God's own lunatics" in Vietnam. The link came to me in an email. Enjoy. Unfortunately, when I viewed it I had to suffer through a 30 second advertisement for Omaha Steaks. I hope you do not have to do this, but if you do, it is worth the wait.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

a snippet about Air America-the last helicopter out of Saigon for some reason the url does not link directly, but if unless you cut and paste it into your search engine, but it will work.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Secret Nest of H-34's

Last August we took Charlie to the experimental Aircraft Association's fly in. (See post for 8/14/1012). While there a pilot wandered up to the old helicopter and said to us, "I was just over in (somewhere west of us.) There is a fellow over there who has a bunch of these things and he flies them all. I had to know more(!!!) How can this be that there are a lot of H-34's flying in my greater neighborhood and I did not know about it? I asked the fellow for more information.

He said a fellow had a helicopter company called XYZ  Helicopters. He flies the helicopters for one reason only, to dry off the cherries in the cherry orchards after spring rain showers. I had to know more; I did an internet search and found the company. I called the owner and talked to him. He invited me to come visit anytime. Sure enough, he has seven old H-34's which he flies only for drying cherries. It is a fact that if the ripe cherries get wet from a spring shower, they split and are worthlesss. By flying over the cherry trees low and slow after a rain shower, the rotor downwash shakes the branches, knocking most of the water off them and helps to dry the rest of the water off. He told me he will pay about $90,000 for a flyable old H-34 and pay for it the first season. The farmers in the area have doubled their crop since he has been drying them. What a great way to make use of these old machines...and make some big bucks, too.

Flash forward to today. Upon returning from a trip to Portland, I decided to detour to this remote airport and see if I could find this owner and his high flying cherry drying service. When I arrived at the the airport all was quiet. Then I saw an object of extreme beauty:
H-19 all decked out in HMR-161 Korean War colors
H-19  HR-4

I knew I was getting close, but there was nothing else in sight.  At first, I saw only one hangar at this small airport and there seemed to be no activity at all.  I began to walk around;  behind a small storage building which was blocking my view, I spotted another H-19.  This one was all decked out in red and black and had a civilian registration, N855TC.

H-19    N855TC
(More accurately, with a civilian designation, this in an S-55)
I have never seen this window configuration on any helicopter.  This one has it on both sides.
It must have been some kind of airliner or sight seeing helicopter at one time, but there was no one around to ask.

I found out an hour later, that the two H-19's/S-55's belong to another company.  They also do cherry drying.  In addition to the two helicopter outside, they had three more in their hangar in various stages of overhaul.  It seems like very simple work--just high hover-taxi over the cherry trees.
Some of the H-19's have been converted to turbine engines.
As I explored further, I saw another hangar further down the field. There were no doors on the end of it facing me. As I walked around to the other end of it I saw something that made my heart glad. Inside this hangar were seven H-34s! It was H-34 heaven!

I explained myself to their very tight security and was allowed to inspect the helicopters. They had a variety of colors and markings. One was all painted up as and UGLY ANGEL of HMM-362, Vietnam fame. I believe it may have actually been in Vietnam with HMM-362, but this will require more investigation to confirm. It was very clean. YL-38 for those of you who know HMM-362. BuNo 148786. Civilian designation N7936C

Here are all seven of the H-34's. The seventh one is tucked into the right corner and is painted white, making it very difficult to see. I took hundreds of pictures and will be posting more soon. One interesting note is that one of the H-34s had the N number of N79AR. I flew that particular H-34 in Alaska in 1983 and 1984 for a company called BRISTOL BAY HELICOPTERS. More on that later, too. I had to climb up into it and sit in the right seat for a while. An old friend and I reunited!

DO NOT make an impromptu visit to this area and try to find these helicopters.  I was fortunate that I was able to talk myself past security, but usually visitors are highly discouraged and security is tight!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Big Snake at Khe Sahn

Yesterday I won the First Prize in the Idaho Writers League annual writing contest, short humor category, for this short story about Vietnam: THE SNAKE The recon Marines patrolling the jungle out of Khe Sahn, Viet Nam, in the summer of 1966, encountered a large snake of the boa constrictor variety. They decided it would make a great pet, so they brought it back to base for a mascot. They cleaned out a fox hole, covered it with wire mesh to keep the snake in, and placed sandbags around the hole on the wire to keep the snake contained. They put up a small sign: "Beware of the Snake!" After a few days, they realized that the snake would have to feed, so they went to the nearby Montaignyard village and bought two ducks to feed to the snake. The marines lifted the wire, threw the ducks in, expecting to see the snake immediately pounce upon one of the ducks and devour it. Apparently the snake was not hungry just yet, so nothing happened right away. Later that night, after all had turned in, there arose a great ruckus from the snake pit. There was lots of quacking, hissing and thrashing about. Everybody assumed that the snake had eaten one or both of the ducks. The next morning, when they went out to see the well-fed snake, it was dead. The ducks had pecked out its eyes and killed it. Later that day there was a new sign: "Beware of the Ducks."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

looking down the barrel...

This is the view from landing on what I believe was a battle cruiser.  it was just a bit uncomfortable looking down the barrel of those huge guns.  "Just what if...someone decides to shoot one of these about now?

USN and USMC Carrier Qualifications--landing jets on an aircraft carrier.

All Naval aviators must land on an aircraft carrier to get their "Wings of Gold." All Marine Corps pilots are Naval Aviators because they go through Navy Training. Here is a short video of what it is like to make those very first exciting landings on an aircraft carrier. This brought back some great memories of when I landed my T-28C fighter bomber on the U.S.S. Lexington in September of 1965 in the Gulf of Mexico off Pensacola, Florida. This was one of the most exciting days of my life. That anniversary is coming up. 48 years ago! After that, it was off to helicopter training where I learned to fly the H-34. Like some of the Marine pilots in this video, I never again landed an airplane on a carrier. I did however, land my H-34 on three carriers off Vietnam. I landed many times on the Princeton, the Iwo Jima and the Valley Forge. I have to admit, landing a helicopter on a carrier is a lot easier than landing an airlane, having to catch a wire. I also landed on LSD Chicago and a battle cruiser--right in front of her huge guns! (see above post) Of course we landed many times on the hospital ship USS REPOSE many times, too. In civilian life in Alaska in 1969, the Aleutian Islands, I landed on a tender with a H-19, the predecessor to the H-34.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Helicopters and Infantrymen

(Thanks to COL.Keith Nighting gale for writing this.) This is a good one for recalling that whoomp whoomp whoomp. Taste the smoke, hear the bang, take a trip.... For those of us who served in Vietnam as infantrymen, helicopter pilots / crew chiefs / door gunners, forward observers attached to infantry units, or combat medics the following will bring back vivid memories. For others on my distribution list, if you care to read, it will give you a gripping view what it was like to be associated with those folks who were there. What an interesting job the author did in capturing those memories! ------------------------ The Sound that Binds Unique to all that served in Vietnam is the UH1H helicopter. It was both devil and angel and it served as both extremely well. Whether a LRRP, US or RVN soldier or civilian, whether, NVA, VC, Allied or civilian, it provided a sound and sense that lives with us all today. It is the one sound that immediately clears the clouds of time and freshens the forgotten images within our mind. It will be the sound track of our last moments on earth. It was a simple machine-a single engine, a single blade and four man crew-yet like the Model T, it transformed us all and performed tasks the engineers and designers never imagined. For soldiers, it was the worst and best of friends but it was the one binding material in a tapestry of a war of many pieces. The smell was always hot, filled with diesel fumes, sharp drafts accentuated by gritty sand, laterite and anxious vibrations. It always held the spell of the unknown and the anxiety of learning what was next and what might be. It was an unavoidable magnet for the heavily laden soldier who donkey-trotted to its squat shaking shape through the haze and blast of dirt, stepped on the OD skid, turned and dropped his ruck on the cool aluminum deck. Reaching inside with his rifle or machine gun, a soldier would grasp a floor ring with a finger as an extra precaution of physics for those moments when the now airborne bird would break into a sharp turn revealing all ground or all sky to the helpless riders all very mindful of the impeding weight on their backs. The relentless weight of the ruck combined with the stress of varying motion caused fingers and floor rings to bind almost as one. Constant was the vibration, smell of hydraulic fluid, flashes of visionary images and the occasional burst of a ground-fed odor-rotting fish, dank swampy heat, cordite or simply the continuous sinuous currents of Vietnam's weather-cold and driven mist in the Northern monsoon or the wall of heated humidity in the southern dry season. Blotting it out and shading the effect was the constant sound of the single rotating blade as it ate a piece of the air, struggling to overcome the momentary physics of the weather. To divert anxiety, a soldier/piece of freight, might reflect on his home away from home. The door gunners were usually calm which was emotionally helpful. Each gun had a C ration fruit can at the ammo box clip entrance to the feed mechanism of the machine gun. The gun had a large circular aiming sight unlike the ground pounder version. That had the advantage of being able to fix on targets from the air considerably further than normal ground acquisition. Pears, Apricots, Apple Sauce or Fruit Cocktail, it all worked. Fruit cans had just the right width to smoothly feed the belt into the gun which was always a good thing. Some gunners carried a large oil can much like old locomotive engineers to squeeze on the barrel to keep it cool. Usually this was accompanied by a large OD towel or a khaki wound pack bandage to allow a rubdown without a burned hand. Under the gunners seat was usually a small dairy-box filled with extra ammo boxes, smoke grenades, water, flare pistol, C rats and a couple of well-worn paperbacks. The gun itself might be attached to the roof of the helicopter with a bungi cord and harness. This allowed the adventurous gunners to unattach the gun from the pintle and fire it manually while standing on the skid with only the thinnest of connectivity to the bird. These were people you wanted near you-particularly on extractions. The pilots were more mysterious. You only saw parts of them as they labored behind the armored seats. An arm, a helmeted head and the occasional fingered hand as it moved across the dials and switches on the ceiling above. The armored side panels covered their outside legs-an advantage the passenger did not enjoy. Sometimes, a face, shielded behind helmeted sunshades, would turn around to impart a question with a glance or display a sense of anxiety with large white-circled eyes-this was not a welcoming look as the sounds of external issues fought to override the sounds of mechanics in flight. Yet, as a whole, the pilots got you there, took you back and kept you maintained. You never remembered names, if at all you knew them, but you always remembered the ride and the sound. Behind each pilot seat usually ran a stretch of wire or silk attaching belt. It would have arrayed a variety of handy items for immediate use. Smoke grenades were the bulk of the attachment inventory-most colors and a couple of white phosphorous if a dramatic marking was needed. Sometimes, trip flares or hand grenades would be included depending on the location and mission. Hand grenades were a rare exception as even pilots knew they exploded-not always where intended. It was just a short arm motion for a door gunner to pluck an inventory item off the string, pull the pin and pitch it which was the point of the arrangement. You didn't want to be in a helicopter when such an act occurred as that usually meant there was an issue. Soldiers don't like issues that involve them. It usually means a long day or a very short one-neither of which is a good thing. The bird lifts off in a slow, struggling and shaking manner. Dust clouds obscure any view a soldier may have. Quickly, with a few subtle swings, the bird is above the dust and a cool encompassing wind blows through. Sweat is quickly dried, eyes clear and a thousand feet of altitude show the world below. Colors are muted but objects clear. The rows of wooden hootches, the airfield, local villages, an old B52 strike, the mottled trail left by a Ranchhand spray mission and the open reflective water of a river or lake are crisp in sight. The initial anxiety of the flight or mission recede as the constantly moving and soothing motion picture and soundtrack unfolds. In time, one is aware of the mass of UH1H's coalescing in a line in front of and behind you. Other strings of birds may be left or right of you-all surging toward some small speck in the front lost to your view. Each is a mirror image of the other-two to three laden soldiers sitting on the edge looking at you and your accompanying passengers all going to the same place with the same sense of anxiety and uncertainty but borne on a similar steed and sound. In time, one senses the birds coalescing as they approach the objective. Perhaps a furtive glance or sweeping arc of flight reveals the landing zone. Smoke erupts in columns-initially visible as blue grey against the sky. The location is clearly discernible as a trembling spot surrounded by a vast green carpet of flat jungle or a sharp point of a jutting ridge, As the bird gets closer, a soldier can now see the small FAC aircraft working well-below, the sudden sweeping curve of the bombing runs and the small puffs as artillery impacts. A sense of immense loneliness can begin to obscure one?s mind as the world?s greatest theatre raises its curtain. Even closer now, with anxious eyes and short breath, a soldier can make out his destination. The smoke is now the dirty grey black of munitions with only the slightest hint of orange upon ignition. No Hollywood effect is at work. Here, the physics of explosions are clearly evident as pressure and mass over light. The pilot turns around to give a thumbs up or simply ignores his load as he struggles to maintain position with multiple birds dropping power through smoke swirls, uplifting newly created debris, sparks and flaming ash. The soldiers instinctively grasp their weapons tighter, look furtively between the upcoming ground and the pilot and mentally strain to find some anchor point for the next few seconds of life. If this is the first lift in, the door gunners will be firing rapidly in sweeping motions of the gun but this will be largely unknown and unfelt to the soldiers. They will now be focused on the quickly approaching ground and the point where they might safely exit. Getting out is now very important. Suddenly, the gunners may rapidly point to the ground and shout “GO” or there may just be the jolt of the skids hitting the ground and the soldiers instinctively lurch out of the bird, slam into the ground and focus on the very small part of the world they now can see. The empty birds, under full power, squeeze massive amounts of air and debris down on the exited soldiers blinding them to the smallest view. Very quickly, there is a sudden shroud of silence as the birds retreat into the distance and the soldiers begin their recovery into a cohesive organization losing that sound. On various occasions and weather dependent, the birds return. Some to provide necessary logistics, some command visits and some medevacs. On the rarest and best of occasions, they arrive to take you home. Always they have the same sweet sound which resonates with every soldier who ever heard it. It is the sound of life, hope for life and what may be. It is a sound that never will be forgotten. It is your and our sound. Logistics is always a trial. Pilots don?t like it, field soldiers need it and weather is indiscriminate. Log flights also mean mail and a connection to home and where real people live and live real lives. Here is an aberrant aspect of life that only that sound can relieve. Often there is no landing zone or the area is so hot that a pilot?s sense of purpose may become blurred. Ground commander?s beg and plead on the radio for support that is met with equivocations or insoluble issues. Rations are stretched from four to six days, cigarettes become serious barter items and soldiers begin to turn inward. In some cases, perhaps only minutes after landing, fire fights break out. The machine guns begin their carnivorous song. Rifle ammunition and grenades are expended with gargantuan appetites. The air is filled with an all-encompassing sound that shuts each soldier into his own small world-shooting, loading, shooting, loading, shooting, loading until he has to quickly reach into the depth of his ruck, past the extra rations, past the extra rain poncho, past the spare paperback, to the eight M16 magazines forming the bottom of the load-never thought he would need them. A resupply is desperately needed. In some time, a sound is heard over the din of battle. A steady whomp whomp whomp that says; The World is here. Help is on the way. Hang in there. The soldier turns back to the business at hand with a renewed confidence. Wind parts the canopy and things begin to crash through the tree tops. Some cases have smoke grenades attached-these are the really important stuff-medical supplies, codes and maybe mail. The sound drifts off in the distance and things are better for the moment. The sound brings both a psychological and a material relief. Wounds are hard to manage. The body is all soft flesh, integrated parts and an emotional burden for those that have to watch its deterioration. If the body is an engine, blood is the gasoline.-when it runs out, so does life. It's important the parts get quickly fixed and the blood is restored to a useful level. If not, the soldier becomes another piece of battlefield detritus. A field medic has the ability to stop external blood flow-less internal. He can replace blood with fluid but it’s not blood. He can treat for shock but he can't always stop it. He is at the mercy of his ability and the nature of the wound. Bright red is surface bleeding he can manage but dark red, almost tar-colored, is deep, visceral and beyond his ability to manage. Dark is the essence of the casualty’s interior. He needs the help that only that sound can bring. If an LZ exists, its wonderful and easy. If not, difficult options remain. The bird weaves back and forth above the canopy as the pilot struggles to find the location of the casualty. He begins a steady hover as he lowers the litter on a cable. The gunner or helo medic looks down at the small figures below and tries to wiggle the litter and cable through the tall canopy to the small up-reaching figures below. In time, the litter is filled and the cable retreats -the helo crew still carefully managing the cable as it wends skyward. The cable hits its anchor, the litter is pulled in and the pilot pulls pitch and quickly disappears-but the retreating sound is heard by all and the silent universal thought-There but for the Grace of God go I-and it will be to that sound. Cutting a landing zone is a standard soldier task. Often, to hear the helicopter's song, the impossible becomes a requirement and miracles abound. Sweat-filled eyes, blood blistered hands, energy-expended and with a breath of desperation and desire, soldiers attack a small space to carve out sufficient open air for the helicopter to land. Land to bring in what’s needed, take out what’s not and to remind them that someone out there cares. Perhaps some explosives are used-usually for the bigger trees but most often its soldiers and machetes or the side of an e-tool. Done under the pressure of an encroaching enemy, it’s a combination of high adrenalin rush and simple dumb luck-small bullet, big space. In time, an opening is made and the sky revealed. A sound encroaches before a vision. Eyes turn toward the newly created void and the bird appears. The blade tips seem so much larger than the newly-columned sky. Volumes of dirt, grass, leaves and twigs sweep upward and are then driven fiercely downward through the blades as the pilot struggles to do a completely vertical descent through the narrow column he has been provided. Below, the soldiers both cower and revel in the free-flowing air. The trash is blinding but the moving air feels so great. Somehow, the pilot lands in a space that seems smaller than his blade radius. In reverse, the sound builds and then recedes into the distance-always that sound. Bringing and taking away. Extraction is an emotional highlight of any soldier’s journey. Regardless of the austerity and issues of the home base, for that moment, it is a highly desired location and the focus of thought. It will be provided by that familiar vehicle of sound. The Pickup Zone in the bush is relatively open or if on an established firebase or hilltop position, a marked fixed location. The soldiers awaiting extraction, close to the location undertake their assigned duties-security, formation alignment or LZ marking. Each is focused on the task at hand and tends to blot out other issues. As each soldier senses his moment of removal is about to arrive, his auditory sense becomes keen and his visceral instinct searches for that single sweet song that only one instrument can play. When registered, his eyes look up and he sees what his mind has imaged. He focuses on the sound and the sight and both become larger as they fill his body. He quickly steps unto the skid and up into the aluminum cocoon. Turning outward now, he grasps his weapon with one hand and with the other holds the cargo ring on the floor-as he did when he first arrived at this location. Reversing the flow of travel, he approaches what he temporarily calls home. Landing again in a swirl of dust, diesel and grinding sand, he offloads and trudges toward his assembly point. The sounds retreat in his ears but he knows he will hear them again. He always will. About the Author Keith Nightingale COL Nightingale is a retired Army Colonel who served two tours in Vietnam with Airborne and Ranger (American and Vietnamese) units. He commanded airborne battalions in both the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the 82nd Airborne Division. He later commanded both the 1/75th Rangers and the 1st Ranger Training Brigade.


Here we have pictures of the Sikorsky H-37 Mojave. 
The USMC had a detachment of these in Vietnam during 1966-67.
They were a great lumbering beast that made a horrific noise with their two huge 18 cylinder engines in pods out from the body.
Their call sign was  "Junkman."

This last picture is of the H-37 with its massive front clam-shell doors wide open to receive or discharge cargo.  This beast could swallow a jeep.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

AMAZING Radio Controlled Helicopter

This guy has amazing control over this little radio controlled helicopter.
A real helicopter could never do these things.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Some humor about pilots and flying.


Pilots: People who drive airplanes for other people who can't fly.
Fighter Pilots: Cold, steely eyed, weapons systems managers who kill bad people and break things. However, they can also be very charming and personable. The average Fighter Pilot, despite sometimes having a swaggering exterior, is very much capable of such feelings as love, affection, intimacy and caring. These feelings just don't involve anyone else.
Words of Wisdom From Aviators:
·Flying is a hard way to earn an easy living.
·Both optimists and pessimists contribute to society. The optimist invents the airplane; the pessimist, the parachute.

If helicopters are so safe, how come there are no vintage helicopter fly-ins?
Death is just nature's way of telling you to watch your airspeed.
Real planes use only a single stick to fly. This is why bulldozers and helicopters­ (in that order) ­need two.
There are only three things the copilot should ever say:
1. Nice landing, Sir.
2. I'll buy the first round.
3. I'll take the fat one.
As a pilot only two bad things can happen to you and one of them will:
a. One day you will walk out to the aircraft knowing that it is your last flight.
b. One day you will walk out to the aircraft not knowing that it is your last flight.
There are Rules and there are Laws:
The Rules are made by men who think that they know better how to fly your airplane than you.
Laws (of Physics) were ordained by God.
You can, and sometimes should, suspend the Rules, but you can never suspend the Laws.
About Rules:
a. The rules are a good place to hide if you don't have a better idea and the talent to execute it.
b. If you deviate from a rule, it must be a flawless performance (e.g., If you fly under a bridge, don't hit the bridge.)
The ideal pilot is the perfect blend of discipline and aggressiveness.
The medical profession is the natural enemy of the aviation profession.
Ever notice that the only experts who decree that the age of the pilot is over are people who have never flown anything? Also, in spite of the intensity of their feelings that the pilot's day is over, I know of no expert who has volunteered to be a passenger in a non-piloted aircraft.
Before each flight, make sure that your bladder is empty and your fuel tanks are full; check T/O wt....
He who demands everything that his aircraft can give him is a pilot; he that demands one iota more is a fool.
There are certain aircraft sounds that can only be heard at night.
The aircraft limits are only there in case there is another flight by that particular aircraft. If subsequent flights do not appear likely, there are no limits.
Flying is a great way of life for men who want to feel like boys, but not for those who still are.
"If the Wright brothers were alive today, Wilbur would have to fire Orville to reduce costs." President, DELTA Airlines.
In the Alaskan bush I'd rather have a two-hour bladder and three hours of gas than vice versa.
It's not that all airplane pilots are good-looking. It's just that good-looking people seem more capable of flying airplanes.
An old pilot is one who can remember when flying was dangerous and sex was safe.
Airlines have really changed, now a flight attendant can get a pilot pregnant.
I've flown in both pilot seats, can someone tell me why the other one is always occupied by an idiot?
Son, you're going to have to make up your mind about growing up and becoming a pilot. You can't do both.
There are only two types of aircraft­ - fighters and targets.
The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline baggage.
You define a good flight by negatives: you didn't get hijacked, you didn't crash, you didn't throw up, you weren't late, and you weren't nauseated by the food. So you're grateful.
They invented wheelbarrows to teach FAA inspectors to walk on their hind legs.
The FAA Motto: We're not happy till you're not happy.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Thomas Paine on war, 1778

"If there is a sin superior to every other, it is that of willful and offensive war....he who is the author of war, lets loose the whole contagion of hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death."
Thomas Paine March 21, 1778 in his pamplet "The Crisis"

Courtesy of Amy Goodman in her "Democracy Now!" column today, 5/24/2013.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Harry Reasoner on helicopter pilots:

The thing is, helicopters are different from planes.  An airplane by it's nature wants to fly, and if not interfered with too strongly by unusual events or by a deliberately incompetent pilot, it will fly.  A helicopter does not want to fly.  It is maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each other, and if there is any disturbance in this delicate balance the helicopter stops flying immediately and disastrously.  There is no such thing as a gliding helicopter.  This is why being a helicopter pilot is so different from being an airplane pilot and why, in general, airplane pilots are open, clear eyed, buoyant extroverts, and helicopter pilots are brooders, introspective anticipators of trouble.  They know that if something bad has not happened, it is about to.

Harry Reasoner, February 16, 1971
ABC Evening News during the Viet Nam War

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Charlie gets exciting gifts!

Last May I attended the Air America reunion in San Diego. It was a good time and I saw a lot of old H-34 and Huey pilots I flew with in Laos, 1970 thru 1973. I also visited the Marine Corps air museum and spent a few wonderful hours aboard the USS Midway museum. 
see a previous post about my sitting in the pilot's seat of an Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

At the reunion, I was approached by a fellow, Gary A, who is interested in H-34 Charlie and follows this blog. He said he had a couple of items I might be interested in;  H-34 bits.

Some people have scrap books; I even loved a girl named Barbara once who admitted to having a scrap trunk to store her many keepsakes.  Gary has a scrap-hangar! He has collected aircraft parts for decades.

In his hangar, Gary has a most perfectly and beautifully restored  L-19. He has applied extreme attention to detail to make this L-19 as authentic as possible. GOOD JOB Gary! Yes, it is flyable; he flies it regularly. He also has every possible rating/license for repairing aircraft.  He is truly a master mechanic.

Gary A.  and his perfect L-19.

But, after showing me around his hangar, Gary showed me why he invited me over
to his hangar at Whiteman Field airport, Pacoima, CA, near Burbank, CA.
Somewhere, somehow, Gary  in his travels and collecting, acquired an H-34 tail rotor blade which he donated to Charlie.  Charlie now has one genuine tail rotor blade. That blade will soon replace one of our plastic replicas on our venerable old H-34, and will help people understand more about the machine.

But, the very best part of all, was Gary had an actual, authentic data plate from an old H-34, which he also gave to Charlie.  Technically, legally, we could rebuild Charlie around this bit of metal and make her legally flyable with this old data plate. This data plate is from an H-34 that was built in France under license from Sikorsky; it data plate is real and it is authentic, and it is legal.
Not too many years ago Gary says he was offered $5000 for this data plate, but he refused it. 
Much to our benefit.
Gary C, you are a hero to the cause.  you have lifetime rights to visit Charlie anytime.  If you come up to Sandpoint, Idaho during the 4th of July, you can ride in Charlie for the annual 4th of July parade!

THANK YOU Gary for your extreme generosity.
You have earned an H-34 Charlie CREW hat with H-34 device. It will be in the mail soon.

Now it looks like we have a "frog" dog.

All we need is money and we could make Charlie flyable for about half a million dollars.  I know
a few old broken-down "dog drivers" who might come out of retirement for one more flight.
Anybody got a spare half mil lying around?  Please don't bother.
I know we could purchase a flyable H-34 for less than 100k.

However, we could still use an occasional bit of pocket change to help the project along. 
Please send a small check to:
Vietnam Veterans of America
P.O. box 2014
Sandpoint, ID  83864
All donations are tax deductible, just make a check out to:  V V A/Charlie

Monday, February 11, 2013

VIET NAM WALL statistics

Here are some very interesting stats I got from a friend in an email today.

Interesting Veterans Statistics off the Vietnam Memorial Wall

There are 58,267 names now listed on that polished black wall, including those added in 2010.The names are arranged in the order in which they were taken from us by date and within each date the names are alphabetized. It is hard to believe it is 36 years since the last casualties.

The first known casualty was Richard B. Fitzgibbon, of North Weymouth , Mass. Listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as having been killed on June 8, 1956. His name is listed on the Wall with that of his son, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Richard B. Fitzgibbon III, who was killed on Sept. 7, 1965.

There are three sets of fathers and sons on the Wall.

39,996 on the Wall were just 22 or younger.8,283 were just 19 years old.
The largest age group, 33,103 were 18 years old.
12 soldiers on the Wall were 17 years old.
5 soldiers on the Wall were 16 years old.
One soldier, PFC Dan Bullock was 15 years old.
997 soldiers were killed on their first day in Vietnam ..
1,448 soldiers were killed on their last day in Vietnam ..
31 sets of brothers are on the Wall.
Thirty one sets of parents lost two of their sons.

54 soldiers attended Thomas Edison High School in Philadelphia . I wonder why so many from one school.
8 Women are on the Wall. Nursing the wounded.
244 soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War; 153 of them are on the Wall.
Beallsville, Ohio with a population of 475 lost 6 of her sons.
West Virginia had the highest casualty rate per capita in the nation. There are 711 West Virginians on the Wall.
The Marines of Morenci - They led some of the scrappiest high school football and basketball teams that the little Arizona copper town of Morenci (pop. 5,058) had ever known and cheered. They enjoyed roaring beer busts. In quieter moments, they rode horses along the Coronado Trail, stalked deer in the Apache National Forest. And in the patriotic camaraderie typical of Morenci's mining families, the nine graduates of Morenci High enlisted as a group in the Marine Corps. Their service began on Independence Day, 1966. Only 3 returned home.

The Buddies of Midvale - LeRoy Tafoya, Jimmy Martinez, Tom Gonzales were all boyhood friends and lived on three consecutive streets in Midvale, Utah on Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues. They lived only a few yards apart. They played ball at the adjacent sandlot ball field. And they all went to Vietnam. In a span of 16 dark days in late 1967, all three would be killed. LeRoy was killed on Wednesday, Nov. 22, the fourth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination. Jimmy died less than 24 hours later on Thanksgiving Day. Tom was shot dead assaulting the enemy on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

The most casualty deaths for a single day was on January 31, 1968 ~ 245 deaths.
The most casualty deaths for a single month was May 1968 - 2,415 casualties were incurred.

For most Americans who read this they will only see the numbers that the Vietnam War created.
To those of us who survived the war, and to the families of those who did not, we see the faces, we feel the pain that these numbers created. We are, until we too pass away, haunted with these numbers, because they were our friends, fathers, husbands, wives, sons and daughters.

There are no noble wars, just noble warriors.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

a perilous medevac...Fall 1966

A true story about a night medevac in Viet Nam, Fall 1966.

 “…there is just something about the H-34 that just makes you feel an allegiance to it. Kind of like an old sweetheart you never got over.” Fred Williams, USMC, former H-34 crew chief.

          To the troops in the field, helicopters were everything. They were the source of food, water, ammunition, new uniforms to replace those rotted off by the jungle, medicine, reinforcements, mail and cookies from home, and, eventually, an escape from the dangerous combat environment in the jungles of Viet Nam. Most importantly, the troops always knew that when they were wounded, the H-34 pilots would risk death to carry them out as soon as possible whenever they needed a medical evacuation. It is no wonder the troops loved to see us coming. From the pilot’s point of view, we were there for the troops.
          Sometimes it got a bit hairy.
          One night, late September 1966, I was co-pilot for a senior first lieutenant on a perilous medevac in the hills northwest of Dong Ha known as “Mutter Ridge.” As we hovered ninety feet above the trees in darkness, the only horizontal reference we had to relate to for hovering purposes was the geometric plane defined by tracers, red for the marines, green for the enemy, whizzing back and forth beneath us. But that plane of reference was about 30 degrees off from level. This made it most difficult for the lieutenant to hold the helo in a stable hover. If we drifted too far in a northerly direction, we might drift into trees on the upslope.  The enemy held that high ground. Occasionally a tracer would rise vertically, passing uncomfortably close to the helo. Each tracer represented four or five bullets.
          Losing the fight to keep the helo in a stable hover, the lieutenant realized the solution.  He asked me:  “Bill, do you know where the hover/flood light switch is?” My first thought was that there was simply no way he was going to ask me to turn on those lights. To do so was for us to die instantly. I answered him with a relaxed, “Yes, sir” wondering why he even asked. A millisecond later that I realized, omygod, he is going to have me throw that switch!  When those lights flash on, we are going to be the biggest target in the province, hovering over who-knows-how-many hundreds or thousands of NVA. This is it. I am going to die in this war, right here, right now!  I only hoped that I would get shot and die quickly and not be cremated alive as the thrashing, crashing, flopping, chopping, slicing, dicing, whirling ball of flaming, exploding, helicopter tumbled through the trees.
           “Bill, when I tell you, you turn on those lights.”  I knew I was done, but what could I do?  Refuse an order?  “Death before dishonor,” was our creed. I was a Marine Corps pilot, duty bound to do what my pilot in command told me to do, even if it meant my immediate fiery death.
          I threw that switch.
          The results were amazing!  Every combatant on the ground, enemy and friendly alike must have thought he, himself, was the most exposed fellow on the planet. Each man must have thrown himself into the nearest foxhole or behind the nearest tree. The battle came to a complete stop for at least 30 seconds while we hovered there fully lighted up like Friday night high school football game! It seemed like forever.
          Nothing happened. Nothing!
          We hoisted the wounded marine aboard, turned off our lights and flew him to the hospital.

          Captain Bill Collier not only survived the Vietnam War, but continued to fly helicopters commercially for another 29 years. His last flying gig was senior pilot for the Orange County Fire Department in Southern California. In 2008 he retired to Sandpoint, ID. He recently had opportunity to rescue on ancient H-34 from the scrapyard, and blogs about it at: