Saber Article Index

2014 Jul-Aug

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

New evidence was found about how MEDEVAC 18 was shot down on 26 Nov 68. I had contacted MEDEVAC 20 Gil Gatto about SP5 Johnny Glen Gregg on that aircraft whose family had inquired to me. Gil replied, "I knew Johnny Gregg very well. He served on my helicopter as both Medic and door gunner. We lived together in the A Shau Valley for twenty-nine days eating C-rations only. He saved a lot of lives.

"I went to his mother's house in Houston to present her with a plaque the MEDEVAC crews had made. I think his brother was there at the time. I have a few pictures of him. I will try to find them for you.

"I was at the scene within a few minutes when they were hit by fifty caliber incendiary rounds which set fire to the aircraft. The helicopter exploded three hundred feet above the ground. There were seven wounded {patients} on board. They just pulled out of a HOT LZ (landing zone). Johnny was killed risking his life to save the wounded. We flew lots of MEDEVACs together."

Thanks to Randy Brewer for trying to remember that incident, which actually happened after he had left Vietnam. He contributed what he best knew that he had heard. I had also heard the story like him, which was mentioned in the last Saber.

Also KIA on MEDEVAC 18 with SP5 Johnny Glen Gregg, were: 1LT Stephen Carl Beals, WO1 James Donald Doran, SP4 John Stephen Alling Jr., and PFC Robert Earnest Jones. As per my request, Randy Brewer sent photos of those he knew, CE John Alling, and also KIA 14 Feb 69 CE Gary Dubach, which I include in this column.

When I asked Gil about what we had heard he reiterated, "No. "They had Cobra escorts. I was monitoring their mission while I was flying back from my mission. They had made their extraction of seven wounded and had cleared the trees. I thought they had made it fine but as they started to climb out there was an enemy fifty-cal position not known and were hit with the incendiary rounds setting them on fire, I heard one of the pilots-I think it was Beals-SCREAM over the radio, 'WE'RE ON FIRE!, WE'RE ON FIRE!'

"I got their coordinates from the gunships who also informed me what hit them as I was a few minutes from their location. Their helicopter exploded three hundred feet above the ground.

"We looked but there was nothing left of the aircraft, and no chance of survivors. Randy Brewer is one of the finest crew members to ever fly MEDEVAC, and usually a hundred percent correct on anything he tells you, but it was fifty-cal not a rocket. I will always remember the screams of 'We're on Fire!, We're on Fire!' It sounded like they were already consumed by the fire even in the cockpit."

Randy clarified when I mentioned Gil's "eyewitness,": "Gil, I don't think I stated flatly that a B-40 rocket got the aircraft. I heard both stories; that they had been shot down and then another story that a B-40 went up the exhaust. I got conflicting stories about what really happened. Since I wasn't there, I was just passing on the two different stories that were related to me in the states.

"I did hear that they were shot down, but did not know that the .51 cal. Chi-com was firing incendiary rounds. Then I heard the B-40 rocket story but had no way to confirm either one. At any rate, 5 VERY BRAVE CREWMEMBERS and their patients met a very horrible death which always leaves a vacant place in my heart for them. Randy"

MEDEVAC 20 Gil Gatto flew in some of the worst places-as if all 1st Cav places weren't the worst-the A Shau, where he and Randy Brewer were together, and then when the 1st Cav moved down to III Corps to clean up an NVA infiltration mess, and screen for the upcoming '69 Tet, so it would not be like the '68 Tet Offensive on Saigon, as elsewhere. I had called Scott Drabant, mentioned by Mike Lober in the last Saber, when Dennis Webster wanted more specific dates. Scott gave his info to me and it has been already corrected. Dennis e-mailed: "Mike, Thanks, Scott Drabant called me and will send in his application. I updated the article with the correct dates and listed him as a Pharmacy Tech instead of a Medic. First Team!"

I forwarded a photo of '68-'69 CE Gary Dubach to Dave Barron, of Peoria, AZ after I received one from Randy Brewer. Dave said, "Mike, Thanks for the picture of Gary from Randy Brewer, damn he's so young!!

"In working to find family members of Gary and Steve Schumacher, I've had contact with the local Ashtabula, Ohio paper, the Star Beacon. Ashtabula is Gary's home town. Devastasha Beaver is a reporter and is working up a story for the Memorial Day edition. She is copied on this e-mail.

"Is it possible for the paper to use the picture of Gary that Randy sent? I'm sure Devastasha would like more information about Gary if Randy is comfortable providing it. He can call me if he wishes or e-mail. She can be reached at (440)998-2323 ext 275.

"I gotta tell you, as an ex-Army Aviator and Cavalryman it was a slap to the head when I looked up www.armyaircrews.com and saw Gary and Steve's names listed as KIA with 'no details' where the story should be told. I'm on a mission to fix that. Now that I hear how Steve left a cush job in-country as the Division Club's bartender to fly mission in his primary MOS, and Gary's last moments under fire. These men are overdue their place in 1st Cav history and their families deserve to know what bravery walked among them.

"As a Scout Crew Chief, albeit in Korea's DMZ, not a hot zone I know Randy and everyone else who also flew these missions deserve to be recognized for the people alive today because they did their duty, like Steve even when they had other choices. REAL CAV! Dave"

Dave later said, "Mike, "I talked to Gary Dubach's sister and brother today. The family was devastated by his loss, a story you're all too familiar with. Carol Hewitt is here in Mesa and is coming out to see the ship Sunday morning. We had a good talk and she is bringing pictures and documents to help tell the story. Fred, his brother, is in Ohio and is offering what he can, and providing his material to the story. Sadly he is not going to make the end of the year. Both are proud of their brother's service and grateful that he is being taken from obscurity and having their story told.

"Question: who would put these men in for an award posthumously and where typically did it get bottled up? If there is a recommendation in the files I'll be pushing the issue.

"I'll keep you abreast of what is occurring. I have some records from the National Archives I got in today's mail. I'll scan them in and get them to you. I couldn't have gotten to the family without your help. Thank you so much."

I got e-mailed, "Hi Mike. My name is Weber Borrell and I was SP5 Greg's First Sergeant in Nam '68-'69. I was the First Sergeant of Co. A 15th MED. I did know him very well. He spoke to me about going to MEDEVAC in the early part of '68.

"I do remember the day that the MEDEVAC was shot down and that was a sad day for all of us that knew him. I saw the article in the Saber in March this year. I may have met you when we had the Reunion in Miss. I have not been able to make any other Reunions. You probably remember Dr. Barton who was my company commander. I know the he has made several Reunions.

"I do have many photos mostly of locations of Company A '68-'69. I would be more than happy to send them to you if you would like to put them in the Saber. Thank you very much for your time, I look forward hearing from you. Weber J Borrell, Sr., SGM RET US ARMY, Lafayette, LA."

I got a phone call from Richard Schroder, (MSG, ret.); Viet Nam duty: November, 1969 to October 1970; Unit: B Company 15th MED; Location: FSB Buttons, Song Be; MOS: 91C; Time in Service: 26 years; Civilian Profession: Registered Nurse, retired.

We talked at length about everything Nam, and U.S Army MTC. Richard says he recently rediscovered the 1st Cav Assn. and saw my number in the Saber.

I sent him photos of LZ Buttons, Song Be I had previously included in the column. One of which was the B Co. treatment bunker he said they dug up from safely underground to a bright and shiny silver target above ground.

More e-mail: "Enjoy your 15th MED update in the Saber. You mentioned a conversation with a Mike Lorber whom you said was the clerk for HHC 3rd Bde., 1st Air Cav during 1967-'68. I was one of the Medics in the S-5 section during that time period. This is as close as I have come to finding someone who was there with me at that time. I am wondering if you could give me contact information as I think it would be great to share some past experiences with him. Thank you, Larry Tessmer CWO 3 Ret."

I did not have Mike's e-mail then. Now, I do: lorber4819@yahoo.com , and sent it to Larry.

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