War Stories 16

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the Vietnam War's Most Costly Army Aeromedical Evacuation Mission
26 November 1968

By Terry A. McCarl, Historian 15th Medical Battalion Association

During the Vietnam War, the 15th Medical Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division recorded a total of 45 KIA’s, 35 being Medevac personnel.

There were three missions where entire Medevac helicopter crews of five perished: 20 July 1966, 8 September 1967, and 26 November 1968. In terms of lives lost, the most costly of all during the Vietnam War was 26 November 1968 where an entire Medevac crew of five plus six wounded soldiers perished.

The flight left C Co., 15th Medical BN at Quan Loi on the morning of 26 November 1968 to pick up wounded. The crew consisted of:


CPL Jones was listed in the record as a medic (MOS 91A10), but filling the position of door gunner on this particular mission. SP5 Johnny Gregg was the medic for the mission. The location of the pickup was described in coffelt database.org as 8 Km ENE of Bo Tuc (on Rte. 246) in Tay Ninh Province. The aircraft was loaded with six wounded and one KIA when it was hit by 50 caliber enemy fire, crashed and burned. There were no survivors. The following comments by CPT (Ret.) Art Jacobs (then WO1) and a former President of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA) have been extracted from the Incident Report obtained from the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association. (Helicopter or Incident Report 68112666).

“Doran and I were in flight school class 67-17 and attended the Air Rescue School at Fort Sam Houston after graduation from Fort Rucker. Beals was my co- pilot for one month when the Cav was still in I Corps earlier that year. The aircraft went down NNW of LZ Rita, 3Km south of the Cambodian border. They had flown out of Quan Loi.

The unconfirmed story is that when an infantry unit got to the crash site two days later they found 12 bodies (11 burned in the aircraft) and one partially burned on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds and an empty M-16. The conjecture was that he survived the crash and was killed by enemy soldiers on the ground. No one can recall if he was separately identified.”

The following from Leif Aamot, A/5/7 has been extracted from that same incident report:

“There were six wounded plus one dead soldier (Lloyd A. Chess) loaded on Medevac 18, in addition to the crew members (five crew), that left our location that morning. The Medevac reportedly received heavy ground fire about one mile from our position and crashed about two miles SW of our location, roughly three miles south of the Cambodian border. (The initial report indicated the crash site was to our WNW, about one mile from the border; subsequently the location coordinates were corrected.) Lloyd A. Chess was killed earlier that morning.

At the time of the shoot-down, all companies in the vicinity had received orders to move south, or southwest, in a hurry to clear the area for an impending Arc Light (B-52 Bombers) strike.

Two rifle companies were airlifted back to the location of the downed medevac. On the 28th of November (Thanksgiving Day) they located the wreckage and the bodies, confirmed the fatalities and called for recovery assistance. All the bodies were recovered and airlifted back to (Quan Loi).” Not much detailed information is available about the incident or the personnel involved. Fred Deakins of C Co., 15th Med BN remembers having breakfast with CWO Doran the morning of the incident.

The two crew members who had the shortest time until DEROS were Doran (40 days) and Gregg (46 days).

SSG (Ret.) Larry Allen, A Co., 1st/ 9th Cavalry was an Infantryman from the unit next door to C Co., 15th Med BN at Quan Loi, but for several months was assisting C Co. with such matters as communications and identification of KIAs, recalls vividly the grim task of assisting CW2 Hugh McClure in identifying the remains.

It was considered that this incident on 26 November 68 might have been the most costly Army aeromedical evacuation mission, in terms of lives lost, during the Vietnam War. Thanks to the Dustoff Association, on its Web site (www.dustoff.org), there is a list of KIAs with names, units and dates listed. It includes a total of 233 Dustoff and Medevac KIAs. This information was sorted to assemble a list of all missions involving the death of an entire Dustoff or Medevac crew.

Supplementing with information from the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association and the Coffelt Database Web sites, the following list was compiled of missions where all crew members were KIA:

  • 26 Nov 68- 15th Med BN 1 Cav Div - 5 Crew-11 Total
  • 20 Oct 70-54th Med Det- 4 Crew-7 Total
  • 10 May 70-237th Med Det- 4 Crew- 6 Total
  • 27 Sept 70-237th Med Det-5 Crew-5 Total (Two different aircraft, same mission)
  • 27 May 68-45th Med Co-4 Crew-5 Total
  • 04 Oct 67-254th Med Det-5 Crew- 5 Total
  • 13 Oct 71- 57th Med Det-5 Crew-5 Total
  • 20 July 66-15th Med BN 1 Cav Div-5 Crew-5 Total
  • 08 Sept 67- 15th Med BN 1 Cav Div-5 Crew-5 Total
  • 20 Feb 71-498th Med CO-4 Crew-4 Total
  • 26 Oct 70-498th Med Co-4 Crew- 4 Total
  • 26 May 70-326th Med BN 101st AB Div-4 Crew-4 Total
  • 05 Oct 69-326th Med BN 101st AB Div- 4 Crew-4 Total
  • 10 Oct 71-326th Med BN 101st AB Div- 4 Crew-4 Total
  • 06 Feb 70- 326th Med BN 101st AB Div-4 Crew-4 Total
  • 05 Feb 69- 45th Med Det--4 Crew-4 Total
  • 06 Oct 67-45th Med Det-4 Crew-4 Total
  • 26 Mar 69- 254th Med Det-4 Crew-4 Total
  • 12 Feb 68- 50th Med Det-4 Crew-4 Total
  • 29 Oct 67-57th Med Det- 4 Crew-4 Total
  • 20 Mar 67-57th Med Det-4 Crew-4 Total
  • 18 Oct 68- 54th Med Co-4 Crew-4 Total
  • 22 May 69- 54th Med Det-4 Crew-4 Total
  • 19 Oct 68-82nd Med Det- 4 Crew-4 Total

Following the first three in the list, the order in which the missions are listed for the five total and four total are strictly random. In the case of some of the incidences, there is not complete agreement among the various sources of information. If any corrections are needed, please contact historian@15thmedbnassociation.org .

Clearly, the 15th Medical BN Medevac mission on 26 November 1968 was the most costly Army Aeromedical evacuation during the Vietnam War.

This story is dedicated to the memory of those brave men who gave their all on that day.

Special appreciation for their contribution to this story is extended to the family of SP5 Johnny Glenn Gregg, consisting of his niece Jamie Gregg Spisak, her husband Tim, her father Leroy Gregg, her uncle Steve Gregg and cousin Glenda Gregg, Johnny Gregg’s daughter, who never knew him, for their diligence in seeking more information about his death than was provided to his mother at the time.

Following are photos of the KIA’s copied from the Wall of Faces (http://vvmf.org).


Wounded from A Co., 5th of the 7th Cav:

The remains of Lloyd Allen Cress were on board.

SP5 Johnny Glen Gregg.


This story is “Mission 17,” in Phil Marshall’s book, Helicopter Rescues Vietnam, Volume X. This is the 11th 15th Medical Battalion Medevac mission included in Phil’s 12 books.

Helicopter Rescues Vietnam, Volume X, and Phil's other 11 books as well, may be purchased by going to Amazon.com .

If you would like a copy signed by the author with a written dedication, any of Phil’s 12 books may be purchased directly from him for $20.00 each, which includes sales tax, postage and handling. Send cash or check (payable to Phil Marshall) for $20.00 per book with instructions on what book(s) you want to order and where to send the book(s) and what, if anything, you would like in the dedication. His address is 1063 Cardinal Dr., Enon, OH 45323, phone is 937-371-3643, and e-mail is dmz.dustoff@yahoo.com . You may also use PayPal. Phone or e- mail Phil with any questions.

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