Kaman Rotor Tips logo  February-March 1965-page 3-4-5-6


"When Disaster Strikes"
(reprinted here is only the Southeast Asia part of this article)

When floods came to Vietnam in November (1964), hard-working HH-43B crews from ARS Detachment 5, PARC (MATS), commanded by Maj Ronald L. Ingraham, flew 63 sorties and rescued 80 persons.
They also delivered 8,500 pounds of food and medicine to those who chose to stay with their pitifully few possessions. This mission account was written by 1stLt John M. Chapman.

DA NANG AB, VIETNAM (OI) - "At 1447, sighted a woman on roof top with two small children. The children were picked up... The woman chose to stay on the house." This entry, taken from the log book of Detachment 5, Pacific Air Rescue Center here, was made at the height of rescue activities during the floods which swept over the northern provinces of South Vietnam. The mission described was flown by Capt James V. Berryhill, Capt Jim F. Hartley, SSgt Homer L. Ramsey, and A2c William J. Flower, all members of Air Rescue Det 5 formed here last month.

In rescue operations, a man should be prepared to meet almost any kind of situation, and after one month in Vietnam, the men of Det 5 are off to a good start. Four continuous days and nights of rain sent the nearby Danang River sprawling out over the lowlands south of this base turning the normally green rice fields into a mammoth muddy brown inland lake. This most unwelcome example of Mother Nature at her worst, set the stage for many tragic scenes which could be only partially compensated for by the all-out efforts of the Det 5 men. They flew their Air Force HH-43 HUSKIE helicopters in and out of the flooded area again and again to deliver food and rescue homeless victims. The disaster couldn't have been avoided. But, were it not for the rescue efforts of the U. S. Air Force, Vietnamese Air Force, the Army, and the Marines, the tragedy would have been much worse.

An estimated 10,000 people did die due to drowning or exposure. Again, the figure would have been higher without the intervention of another HH-43 crew, Captains Bruce M. Purvine and Floyd R. Lockhart, A2c Randolph Smith and Alc Richard H. Syverson.

In nine sorties, this professional crew pulled 43 people from their precarious perches. One of these 43 people was a man who wanted to stay with his dead cow, not out of any particular love for the animal, but because it was meat which still needed to be butchered. Capt Thomas C. Seebo and his crew consisting of 1stLt Donald M. Welsh, SSgt Larry K. Henderson, crew chief, and A2c John A. Moore, paramedic, dropped down into marshy rice paddies just east of the base to pick up another group of people stranded on a bridge. "We couldn't tell what was solid ground and what wasn't," said Sergeant Henderson. "When we did touch down, the water was over the wheels."

Their troubles were just beginning. "All 30 people wanted in at one time." I put my arm across the door to stop them, and they almost broke it. We got 10 inside and Captain Seebo took off leaving me there with the other refugees."

While Captain Seebo deposited the first group safely on high ground, Sergeant Henderson made the best of his predicament and found a refugee who could speak broken English. Through him, he explained to the rest that they would have to leave most of their baggage behind. "Several of them wanted to take their bicycles," related the Sergeant.

The hard working chopper crews not only rescued a total of 80 people; they also delivered over 5,000 pounds of food to people who chose to stay with their homes.

Another entry in the log book reads, " People will be spending the night on roof tops. Most don't want to leave their homes, but all indicate they need food. "

"They would wave the (rescue) basket away, but would motion like they were hungry," explained Airman Flower.

The food delivery missions were coordinated by Chaplains John F. Shea and Wayne L. Stork. Food collected in downtown Danang and food donated by the 23d Air Base Group was delivered to the HH-43 unit personally by the chaplains, and then, still accompanied by the chaplains, it would be delivered to an isolated orphanage or parish church. At one such church, Vien Bien, the food had to be lowered through the roof of an adjacent parish house. Airman Flower was first lowered to the roof of the house. The food was then lowered in the basket, and he passed it to hungry flood victims who were sitting on the rafters just beneath the roof. The water was sloshing midway up the walls on the inside of the house.

The efforts of these highly trained rescue men could easily be described as noble in humanitarian terms without the slightest possibility of exaggeration. However, a small amount of pride in their voice as they talk about their efforts during the flood is the only indication one gets that the officers and enlisted men of Det 5 consider their actions more than what was expected of them.

Others who participated in these mercy flights are: Capt Clyde W. Lemke and 1stLt Joseph P. Phelan, pilots; TSgt William H. Michael, TSgt John G. Regan, Jr., SSgt Philip Arketa, SSgt Dewey A. Kilpatrick, MSgt Lenote C. Vigage, and Alc Jon H. Young.


last update : 11/04/2017