Saber Article Index

2002 May-Jun

MEDEVAC 15th Med\15th FSB
Mike Bodnar
307B N Main Copperas Cove, TX 76522
1704 254-542-1961
E-mail: mbodnar27@juno.com

For the 2002 15th MED Reunion scheduled in Denver, CO, 29 June-01 July, go to the Web site for it: <HTTP: homepage.htm pmartin2237.tripod.com>or contact Pat MARTIN PMARTIN2237@AOL.COM . After that Reunion you can drive down the road to Colorado Springs and attend the 55th Annual First Cav Division Reunion from 03 July-07 July.

Colorado Springs is about 70 miles south of Denver, so if one was thinking about attending both reunions they should keep this in mind as there are places to stay along the I-25 corridor between the two cities. Cameron MARSALA RUGER270BOLT@HOTMAIL.COM from Buffalo, MO wrote, "I was checking out your site, and would like to thank you, for helping getting my brother back home. PFC Christopher MARSALA, C-1/12. Thanks so much."

Murray T. GIBBS MRMADMUR@AOL.COM of Berlin Center, OH signed into the Guestbook: "Hi Guys, I was in the 15th Med Battalion from August 1967 to June 1967. I flew as a door gunner in the Air Ambulance Platoon. I remember Corky WALSH, Terry BALDWIN, Capt LONG, Major GOODMAN, Major NORRIS and more of the guys I flew with. I am Gunner GIBBS and remember LZ Uplift, LZ English, Camp Radcliff and later going up to Camp Evans and the Ashau Valley. The battle of Hue I will never forget because it was very trying times for crews of the MEDEVAC.

"UH-1H Hueys, 453, 454, 455, and the rest, are still numbers that I, and the rest of the guys that flew on them, will never forget. I just recently talked with Roger BOUYER who called me yesterday and told me about the site. I hope I can contribute to the site in the near future.......Later Gunner GIBBS."

Murray goes on to say, "I was a door gunner in the MEDEVAC Platoon 15th Medical Battalion Aug '67 to June '68. Wounded on June 17, 1968 doing a hoist mission close to Ashau Valley."

When I had made contact with him and asked him to submit any stories of his experiences if he wanted to he replied, "Thanks Mike, I was glad to get a response from you. Currently I am at work watching my area on 3.0 hrs overtime. Being a supervisor I have access to the Internet from my office computer. Yes, I will give you some real life testimony of experiences I had.

"The one I would like to write about is about a buddy of mine that was a pilot. I was a Sgt. at the time. His name is Thomas Ronald PURSEL (Warrant Officer). He died on May 19th, 1968. It goes like this:

"On May 19th 1968 I, Murray GIBBS (Gunner GIBBS), and Pilot WO Pursel had lunch together at, I believe, Camp Evans. We were talking about the states and what we were going to do together when we got back. We were very tight buddies.

"As we were talking about what we were going to do once we were back into civilian life a hot mission came. We ran to out to the aircraft, MEDEVAC 454 or 453. I just don't remember. We were in the air in minutes. Mr. PURSEL was co- commander and Major NORRIS was the commander. The Medic was Terry BALDWIN. I don't remember who was the crew chief.

"We flew to the area and requested smoke. The ground unit popped smoke and we identified it. The area was somewhere east of Quang Tri. We came in from the west to the east to land on a rice paddy dike. The ground was on the east side. We had some wounded to pick up from sniper fire.

"I was clearing the right to land and looking at the GIs below. We were about to land on the dike and I just cleared right the second time. The helicopter started to break to the right and I said we are clear right to land on the dike. Major NORRIS said, quote, 'Oh my god, Mr. PURSEL has been shot in the head!' I didn't even feel the change of control.

"Mr. PURSEL was flying the MEDEVAC in and Major NORRIS had taken the controls so smoothly I couldn't feel it. Well I looked over at Mr. PURSEL and saw the blood coming out just under his helmet just behind the left back of his head. The feeling that went through me was a rage of retaliation. I want to kill the VC that did it.

"The aircraft was breaking or turning to the right just above the rice paddy. I tried to shoot at the tree where everyone on the ground was shooting at.

"Well, the aircraft was not in level flight and the bullets from the machine gun just hit the water of the rice paddy. I shot again but the machine gun would only go so high and the bullets hit the water further out. When we were at level flight I could shoot at the area but we were further away. It must have been a good 1000 feet by the time my machine gun could be effective. I fired into that area but at that distance and traveling away I felt powerless. My emotions ran deep, I could not save my buddy and I could not use the power I had when I fired the machine gun in a combat situation and was effective. The sadness I felt, the hate I had, and powerless inability, was something I will never forget.

"Well we flew back to Camp Evans in our horror of a fallen friend and buddy. When we landed I got out of the helicopter and ran around to the front and opened the door of Mr. PURSEL, pulled back the armor plate, and pulled him. HE WAS DEAD. I just froze at that point and the Aid and Dispenser guy took him. It was like the end of the world. I stood there until the main rotor stopped and then got the hook and tied off the rotor to the tail rotor. It seemed like hours

"Major GOODMAN felt bad and wanted the whole crew relieved. Everyone was in a sick mood and didn't want to fly.  I stayed with the aircraft. I believed at the time that day if we had another mission out that way maybe I could get some revenge. It never happened and I hurt inside for a long time after that never revealing my true feeling. Even as I type this there are tears in my eyes asking for forgiveness of not being able to save my buddy...MR THOMAS PURSEL..... SGT Murray GIBBS, 15th MED Battalion\MEDEVAC August 1967 to June 1968." I found the following casualty notation on the Virtual Wall site: THOMAS RONALD PURSEL WO, ARMY, YAKIMA, WA 9/17/1948 - 5/19/1968; THOMAS RONALD PURSEL was born on September 17, 1948 and joined the Armed Forces while in YAKIMA, WA. He served as a 062B in the Army. In 1 year of service, he attained the rank of WO/W1. On May 19, 1968, at the age of 19, THOMAS RONALD PURSEL perished in the service of our country in South Vietnam, Thua Thien Province. You can find THOMAS RONALD PURSEL honored on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Panel 63E, Row 16.

Corky WALSH MEDEVAC454@AOL.COM , Eugene, OR, wrote, "I flew as door gunner and crew chief with MEDEVAC 1967-1968 and I'm proud of the 1st Cav and the men that I flew and served with. Looking for any MEDEVAC personnel."

Richie KRAUS, 15TH MED '68-'69, LKRKMK@AOL.COM from Philadelphia, PA, wrote: "Anyone who served in 'C' Company 15th Medical Bn. '68-'70 please contact me. There are a few of us in contact, looking for more."

Chuck EASTERLING, BITTY54@EARTHLINK.NET , Cambridge, OH, wrote, "I am seeking info about the next reunion; time, date, place and itinerary. I would like to attend. Also cost would be appreciated. Thank you..your comrade Chuck."

Tim HAVERLY TIMHAV@VERIZON.NET writes, "I was in 15th MED from Oct '66 to Oct '67. Was in supply for a few months, then crewed on the MEDEVACs. Mostly at An Khe and nearby."

Bill (Doc) WALSH, C 2\7 Cav, '69-'70, and MEDEVAC Medic '70, CPD9283@AOL.COM Chicago, IL, signed the Guestbook for all to read: "Ricky 'GOODY' GOODSON and myself were sitting in downtown Chicago bullshitting about the old days in MEDEVAC.

"With our 3rd cohort (and old crewmate) Doc BODNAR we came up with a big list of e-mail addresses, half of which are bogus [probably just no longer active]. We have been looking for current e-mail addresses for KIRWAN, TUELL, BRADY, SMITTY, VINSON, 'DEW' WARREN, 'Devil' WILKERSON, and GODSIE, or anyone else flying in '69 and '70. Get back; if you ain't got a computer send your address and phone thru a buddy; appreciate it. Some of us still keep in touch and hang on a yearly basis. Nothing formal, just like siting around the hooch-minus the extracurricular."

Thomas L. BREAUX TLBREAU@AOL.COM writes, "Looking for information about a wounded Cobra pilot that landed at Charlie Company, 15th Medical Battalion in Quan Loi, VN sometime in early 1969 (March-June). Pilot was the only occupant and was in the front seat. Cobra had taken a .51 cal round that came up between pilot's legs. His left leg was all but amputated. I was one of the Medics that helped pull him from the Cobra and was amazed at how calm and focused he was. To this day, I still don't know how he landed the Cobra. I do not know what unit he was with. This incident has been on my mind for 30+ years, and I need closure. Any information that anyone may have would be greatly appreciated."

Russell L. WARRINER, President BLUE MAX Aerial Rocket Artillery Association P.O. Box 429, Biddeford, ME. 04005-0429 (207)283-4218 BLUEMAX@BLUEMAX-ARA-ASSOC.ORG or BLUEMAX@GWI.NET HTTP://www.bluemax-ara-assoc.com informed me of some closure for Tom BREAUX's request:

"Mike, I will try to clear up as much as I can about Tom. First, as I understand it, he was in C Company 15th MED on the ground. He has made contact with another person from the same unit that assisted him the day this happened.

"The Cobra he thought was from BLUE MAX ARA, but we know now that it was a 229th Cobra. The pilot was in the front seat and it was Thanksgiving day 1968. We know now that it was Robert E. HUNTER who we have found in Ellensburg, WA. "Tom remembers that the pilot lost his leg. True, Bob lost his leg (they took it that day in Nam). After getting a leg and recovering in the states he went back to flying. He jokes of having to keep Velcro on his good leg to keep from loosing his fake leg when flying.

"A special thanks to a BLUE MAX pilot of mine by the name of Major Johnny GRICE, USA Retired, for helping pull this together."

Hank LLYWELLYN supplied the following information to me: Robert E. HUNTER, HUNTERRE@ELTEL.NET (509)933-1771, and I received the following reply to my e-mail to him inquiring why he was reported to have been the only person in the Cobra. I also mentioned that I did not recollect that 229th had Cobras but that I did remember some with shark's teeth on them, if that was them; as well as, I thought that would be logical to free BLUE MAX to cover just units in contact:

"Hi Mike, Thanks for the e-mail. I have talked to Thomas BREAUX and the other Medic also. Thomas was mistaken to think that I was the only pilot of the Cobra. I'm not sure where Bill MCQUADE (the aircraft commander) was after he landed the aircraft. I was in no condition to fly. Had I been the only pilot aboard that day I would have surely died as I passed in and out of consciousness many times after I was shot and before we landed at the 15th MED.

"I can certainly understand, however, how Thomas and the other Medic thought I was the only pilot onboard. Especially if Bill had gotten out of the aircraft as soon as he landed.

"I am very thankful for the care I received at the 15th MED as I am convinced that they saved my life. From all reports I have received, most think I should have died (not necessarily because they didn't like me, but because of the amount of blood I lost).

"As far as the 229th having their own Cobras, from my recollection, it seems I was told that Delta Company of the 229th was the first all Cobra gunship team. Don't quote me on that as my memory is likely to be in error. We were called the 'Smiling Tigers.' "The day I got shot, November 28, 1968, we were on the second support mission of the ARA. The first one had been several hours earlier that morning. Thank you for the contact, Bob HUNTER"

Jim RAMSEY JRAMSEYMSI@AOL.COM from San Antonio, TX (210) 497-0263 wrote to remind us that he was Medic '68-'69, in 15th MED.

Jim CALIBRO MEDEVACCHOPPER@AOL.COM JIMCC4@AOL.COM  of Modesto, CA, comments: "I was on "The First Team" as a door gunner, on a MEDEVAC helicopter, 15th MED Bn., 1st Cav. Div., Vietnam Jun '67-Jun '68. I remember other crewmembers, HASITINGS, WORD, BROWNE, BREWER, to name a few.

"I Spent time at An Khe, Phan Thiet, Camp Evans, and the Ashau Valley. I was also at LZ English, Uplift & Ross, and a few others. Would like to hear from others who were also in the same places."

Larry BIRD <DCSTRNG@EXCITE.COM>wrote, "Glad to see this newer site, lost track after Sherm's (RIP) site, went away (and I lost my e-mail account). Most don't remember me, but I write to Chuck LAWHORN every once in awhile -- my gunner... Anybody from the old site ever turn up Larry LUND or Andy KRAMER???"

Larry L. ASH (LASH) A 2\12 Cav and MEDEVAC door gunner from GA, mentions on the new MEDEVAC\15th MED Web site HTTP://www.15thmedassociation.org : "Just a reminder to our Alumni, we need photos, copies of old orders, names, and last known location of personnel in order to make our family circle complete. Don't forget to register at the hotel for the Reunion the last weekend of June. You will have to use the 800#, because you can't make reservations via computer because they have blocked that particular weekend for us. For more info, go to the Web site and click on 'Reunion.' Thanks, and remember, we appreciate your input."

Larry also posts to inform those who have not heard and remind everyone who already know: "On, or about, October 10th, 1965, 15th MED Pilot, Cpt. Guy KIMZEY and his crew were heading into the Suoi Ca Valley (Happy Valley) to evacuate two wounded solders from the Cav's first major operation. The operation was called Shiny Bayonet.

"On Board Cpt. KIMZEY's bird was a CBS News crew, that included correspondent Morley SAFER, cameraman Jim WILSON and soundman Bob FUNK.

"While landing, five or six sniper shots brought the helicopter down, near the An Khe Pass. The soundman was slightly grazed, but otherwise the crew and their passengers were not wounded.

"The camera crew stayed with the Infantry while other MEDEVAC birds transported the wounded and recovered the MEDEVAC crewmembers, that day. In all likelihood, this was the first MEDEVAC helicopter lost in Vietnam so, historically, it would be a coup to share the details with the world. At the end of the day the helicopter that was disabled, was destroyed by artillery fire that blanketed the area, in support of the ground troops.

"Guy KIMZEY served two tours in Vietnam, in 1965-'66 with MEDEVAC and a second tour in 1968-'69, unit unknown at this time. Unfortunately, Cpt. KIMZEY was killed in 1972, in a small aircraft crash along with his wife, who served as a nurse in RVN. The cameraman, Jim WILSON has, also, passed away. "CBS would very much like to find his crewmembers from that incident to do a follow-up feature. Such a follow-up would be of great import in locating our Brothers of 15th Medical Battalion.

"The producer of the segment is Barbara DURY. Please send any information you have to her at: <BD@CBSNEWS.COM>. You may, also, submit info and comments to LASH at: DOORGUNNER2@15THMEDASSOCIATION.ORG>.

"This is time-sensitive and your expedience in this matter would be greatly appreciated. We would, definitely, like to locate the crewmembers in time for our reunion, to be held the last weekend of June, in Denver, CO."

Joseph LANKELIS M16JOE@AOL.COM who is "from Philly," writes in the Guestbook, "I would like to say thanks to all MEDEVAC. I was with Co. A 2\5TH 1ST. CAV. Infantry Feb '69- '70. THANK YOU FOR saving many of my friends. ALL OF YOU WILL ALWAYS BE REMEMBERED IN MY THOUGHTS."

Thomas R. MACHANDE <TRM0339@AOL.COM>of Davidsonville, MD writes: "I was assigned to the 1st Cav. as a Firefighter, Crash & Rescue at H.H.C. 15th MED from 9/'68 to 8/'69."

Mike "tater" SMITH MVANDCO@AOL.COM from ID, land of the big potato [sic] comments: "Gunner '69-'70 and President of 15th MED Assn. Looking forward to seeing you all at the Reunion. All signs show this one to be the biggest and best yet thanks to some special people (you know who you are). All my thanks and see you all soon 'Clear Right' SMITTY."

Always remembering our 1st Cav troops on duty around the world; over and out.

FIRST TEAM!
Garryowen,
Mike Bodnar C 2\7 '69
MEDEVAC 1-7\70
SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE