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.
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:
Commander: CW2 DORAN JAMES DONALD Pilot: 1LT BEALS STEPHEN CARL
Crew Chief: SP4 ALLING JOHN STEPHEN JR Medic: SP5 GREGG JOHNNY GLEN
Medic: CPL JONES ROBERT ERNEST
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
“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.
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
- 10 May 70-237th Med Det- 4 Crew- 6 Total
Sept 70-237th Med Det-5 Crew-5 Total (Two different aircraft, same
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 19 Oct 68-82nd Med Det- 4 Crew-4 Total
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 firstname.lastname@example.org .
Clearly, the 15th
Medical BN Medevac mission on 26 November 1968 was the most costly
Army Aeromedical evacuation during the Vietnam War.
is dedicated to the memory of those brave men who gave their all on that
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
Following are photos of the KIA’s copied from the Wall
of Faces (http://vvmf.org).
The MEDEVAC Crew:
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.
Vietnam, Volume X, and Phil's other 11 books as well, may be purchased
by going to
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 email@example.com . You may also use PayPal. Phone or e- mail Phil with any questions.
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