Saber Article Index

2012 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

Rick Dailey  rick@racerpops.com from Marion, TX, e-mailed: “I served as a crew chief and helicopter mechanic in the 15th MED from August '69 to August '70.  Just starting to look for folks that I worked with over there. Especially looking for Rodney Wiley from Louisiana.”

I recognized the dates Rick Dailey gives and I should know him so I contacted him to find out if he knew me. For the most part I knew only those I flew with. We just must not have crossed paths; so busy. He replied:

“Mike-Your name seems VERY familiar. I worked in Maintenance 'til about October '69 and then when Sully (black guy that was crew chief on the crash\rescue ship) went home I took over his ship, which was #497. We stayed out at Quan Loi and Song Be most of the time from October to January, but I flew with Gibbons at first, just doing crash rescue and some backhaul. The day (January 6, 1970) that Hodges, Rodney Wiley, and that crew went down over near Tay Ninh, we went over from Quan Loi to get them and ended up getting shot down also. Fred Allbright was my AC and I can't remember my gunner's name, but he was that little guy from Kentucky that stayed drunk all the time. They totaled my ship and I got #459 after that, which was the ship Breeden flew on. I was crew chief on 459 until about April and CW2 Mr. Dykes, the Maintenance Platoon leader, asked me to come back and handle the paperwork\reports in the office after the test flight accident happened that killed SGT Lowendowski, Spec6 Jim Conway, a couple other EM/mechanics, and an AC. I flew some during the Cambodian invasion in May '70, but mostly stayed in Phuoc Vinh flying backhaul until I went home in August of 70.

“I remember the names you mentioned. I had forgotten about Deucy as he went home pretty early during my tour I think. I remember he was a grunt and then moved to the 15th MED as a gunner when he extended. I think he stayed in 'Nam like two and a half or three years. Got an e-mail from Smitty and Hodges last month. I guess they live just a few miles from each other now.

“It has been a long time and I tried to NOT remember a lot of things for a long time, but it is good to know some of the guys that went through some of the same things as I did are still kicking. Stay in touch...Hope things are well for you. I built custom vans for about ten years, worked for Mohawk Commercial Carpet for about twenty years, and then went back to building race cars about the past ten or eleven years. Been down in the San Antonio, TX, area for twenty-five years and I build junior dragsters for kids to race. I think we are about the third largest in the country. My website is www.racerpops.com . Rick Dailey.”

In the last column I included a Guestbook sign in by Larry G. Hatch campingout@comcast.net who just signed,         “Olympia.” Murray Gibbs posted online in the 15th MED newsletter photos by '66-'67 MEDEVAC pilot Larry Hatch. I will show his photos in the ensuing columns.

I received e-mail from Steve Cook currahee67@hotmail.com who was the Team SGT of Team 1, 11th Pathfinders (PF), 1st CAV DIV in 1969-70 that worked out of Tay Ninh, South Vietnam. Steve asked is there any way to know if any of the 15th MED MEDEVACs flew a mission on Jan 21, 1970, into LZ Jamie to extract a wounded Team 1 PF?

"In the early morning hours of Jan 21, 1970, LZ Jamie received a heavy mortar and rocket attack. LZ Jamie was occupied by a battalion of the ARVN Airborne Div.  Both PFs were wounded that night. One had his leg blown off and had to be Medevaced immediately. Because the other PF could still talk on the radio and conduct PF operations, he remained on the LZ. I submitted both for the Purple Heart (PH). The PF that was Medevaced received his but; unfortunately the PF that remained did not receive his PH.

"I submitted the request for the PH to Department of the Army (DA) last year with the required statements. DA told me that there isn’t any record of combat action that night on LZ Jamie and could not award the PH. I resubmitted another packet later and told DA that the ARVNs very seldom kept any records. DA still refuses to award the PH.

"All I need is a statement from the MEDEVAC pilot or anyone from the crew that flew the mission or the battalion S-3 to verify that there was a MEDEVAC mission to LZ Jamie on Jan 21, 1970.  Don’t know if there would be anything in your morning reports.  Any assistance will be appreciated."   

I referred Steve to the National Archives from where I have personally gotten Daily Journals of 15th MED with MEDEVAC activity. I didn't think any pilot or crew member would recall any particular mission so long ago, but anyone could have kept a diary, etc. If anyone has a record, contact Steve.

The National Archives should be the most accurate. 15th MED MEDEVAC flight ops probably was much less complacent than those Daily Journals I've seen from 2-7 Cav, which seem to deteriorate in accuracy with time that we were out in our A.O., which I perceive produced a jadedness.

The second installment from Al Joy is as follows:  “Encounter with the VC ( Joy and Tex) By Al Joy; We were on the perimeter near what was called the ‘Tea plantation’ near Pleiku. It had been another uneventful night without any enemy activity. The night was the only time the VC had a chance of penetrating our defense, and with positions set up every twenty-five or thirty-five yards, there wasn’t much chance of that. We pretty much ruled the night.

"There were snipers set up every two hundred yards or so with night light scopes, helicopters circling the perimeter with spotlights, and aerial flares being set off every half hour or so. The jungle had been cut back two hundred yards or more in front of us and concertina wire ( coiled barb wire) barriers every thirty to fifty yards. Even a camouflaged jungle cat would have trouble sneaking up on us undetected.

"It was another half hour before the breakfast wagons would be there. The breakfast wagons were army mules (flatbed vehicles with an engine in the rear and a basket hanging over the front with the controls in it) loaded with canisters of scrambled eggs, soggy toast, sausage, and bacon. SOS was a real treat. This was usually served to us by topless hooters girls, or guys in dusty fatigues, whichever was available.

"While we were waiting, we used the time to prepare for the coming day. We would hang up our bedding, dry out our clothes, bail out water from our foxholes, gather wood for fires, and clean up. The trooper (Tex- don’t remember his name, just that he was from Texas) in the foxhole next to ours was shaving, using his helmet for a basin, and a mirror hanging from a small tree. He had stripped down to the waist and had left his rifle, flak jacket, and ammo by his foxhole about twenty-five feet behind him.

"Looking past his mirror he saw five VC inside the perimeter, emerging from the jungle. Somehow during the night they had gotten through our ‘impregnable’ defense and it had gotten light on them before they made it back. Seeing the gooks were armed with SKS rifles and were ready for action, knowing he couldn’t make it to his M-16, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his seven shot 25 automatic and emptied it at them.

"As soon as the first shot was fired, the line came alive and began firing into the jungle behind the perimeter. Since we weren’t well versed on the concept of controlled fire and three round bursts, everyone let loose a twenty round magazine of ammo on full auto. Because the gooks had been taken by surprise, they probably figured they were in the middle of a well-planned ambush and immediately threw down their weapons and surrendered.

"Whether they thought they had encountered a platoon of Rambos or whether they were just tired of fighting and wanted to enjoy a little rest and relaxation, they were captured without having returned fire.  Even though this was the first encounter we had with the enemy up close, we knew how to handle POWs.

"We immediately bound them, searched them, and prepared them for transport by pulling their shirts up over their heads, and their pants down around their ankles tying them with the hems. After we had checked the jungle to make sure there were no more enemy, we sat our prisoners down and waited for the MP’s. "Not a bad way to work up an appetite for breakfast. Although we had captured five VC, we realized that though we thought we owned the night, it had only been dumb luck we had survived intact. From then on we never underestimated the importance of perimeter duty and how, because someone had been sleeping or inattentive, our line had been breached.

"A reevaluation of our position, being two hundred yards from unrestricted enemy movement, brought the realization that most of us could cover a quarter of a mile in a minute without anyone shooting at us, and that the flares being dropped every half hour was not much help. The fact that even the best sniper would be hard pressed to hit six moving targets in less than a minute and the helicopters would be about five minutes late giving us any support, we never forgot that when and if anything happened, we would only have about two minutes to repel a full scale attack.

"In the remaining fourteen months I was there I never again encountered a breech, or exchanged fire while on perimeter duty. But, as an E-5, every time I was in charge of troops on the line, I would point out these facts, and made sure when they were relaxing and taking breaks they might have to be ready to rock and roll at a moment’s notice.

"Without a doubt, this was the one incident, because it was my first, that changed my perception of what could happen when it was least expected. And, may be the reason, I never got into any other tight situations that required fighting my way out of."

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