Kaman Rotor Tips logo  November-December 1966-page 13


“Southeast Asia”

 When not braving enemy fire during rescues, HH-43 HUSKIE crews from the 38th ARRSq engage in a variety of other missions, some of an equally hazardous nature and others falling in the "routine" category. Below Capt Clarence N. Cochran gives a sprightly description of a "Day in the Life of Det 1, " and Capt Henry P. Fogg reports on a hazardous mission carried out by a helicopter crew from Det 3.

It's common knowledge that ARRS forces in Vietnam are on the go twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, but once in a while a particular day comes along and the whole book hits the fan, making all the others seem like paid vacations by comparison. Such a day caught up with Det 1, 38th ARRSq at Phang Rang AB recently, and the boys did themselves proud.

The helicopter alert crew, made up of Capt Leonard D. Fialko, RCC; Capt Clarence N. Cochran, CP; SSgt William R. Dunbar, helicopter mechanic; SSgt Charles H. Williams and Alc Clarence E. Prosser, firefighters; and Alc Wayne R. Smith, pararescueman, began the day with an early morning training flight. As the pilots were flying their initial practice GCA, the first emergency occurred. It was a relatively routine crisis - a tactical aircraft inbound with "hung" ordnance. The copter descended to its alert pad, hooked up the fire suppression kit, and climbed out to an orbit position near the active runway. Minutes later the emergency aircraft landed safely.

The HH-43 training flight was resumed, but not for long. One of the crew members caught sight of a gasoline fire near an Army communications tent. The fire had just begun to spread to the tent when the copter arrived to control the flames with rotor downwash while a ground crew applied sand. Only a small portion of the tent was damaged, and the helicopter crew was credited with preventing what might have been a large and costly fire.

Having completed this short but satisfying mission, the crew once more turned to their training flight. Half-way through a practice autorotation, they were advised that an Army H-13 helicopter had made an emergency landing in an insecure area 10 miles from the base. The HH-43 immediately headed for the site and, homing on the H-13's emergency transmission, quickly located the downed aircraft, recovered the two Army pilots and returned them to the base.

Taking advantage of their few minutes on the ground, some crewmembers occupied themselves with paperwork while others poured themselves a cup of coffee - but this short break was suddenly interrupted by the crash phone with word of another hung-ordnance emergency. As the crew scrambled to orbit the active runway, the radio crackled with "MAYDAY" from an F-4C pilot who, with his fellow crewman, was ejecting a short distance from Phang Rang AB. Spotting the F-4C crash, which occurred within seconds, Captain Fialko piloted his HH-43 in that direction. Since no parachutes had been observed, he retained the fire suppression kit in case the interceptor pilots were still with their aircraft. Shortly thereafter, however, when word was received from the F-4C's wingman that he had a good chute in sight, the fire suppression kit and fireman were deposited on the outskirts of a friendly village to lighten the chopper's load. The crew then proceeded at full speed to the crash site, spurred on by a message from the survivor on the ground that he "could hear crashing sounds around him and bullets whizzing through the trees. " Arriving on the scene, the rescue crew went in immediately for the pick-up, discovering much to their relief, that the crashing sounds were caused by a nearby herd of cattle and the "bullets" were shrapnel from the burning aircraft. After delivering the recovered pilot to Phang Rang, the helicopter returned to the crash area to search for the other F-4C crewman, who was later found, deceased, by a ground party.
Applying an old adage, "The busier the day, the faster it goes," Rescuemen of Det 1, 38th ARRSq, look forward to a mighty short year.
(add by Ragay : Mr Jim Burns comment on 22 June 2007 : " might possibly be the F-4C that went down on 14 September 1966 in Ninh Thuan province South Vietnam." ; "I used the book "Vietnam Air Losses" by Chris Hobson to look up the  'possible matches' ")


In Thailand, two HUSKIES from Det 3, 38th ARRSq, Ubon AB, teamed up to save the life of a badly injured pilot who was not only pinned in the wreckage of his F-4C, but sitting in an ejection seat for which the firing sequence had been partially initiated.

The after-midnight search for the downed plane was conducted in complete darkness and with moderate to heavy rainshowers obscuring the treetops, clouds only a few hundred feet above the ground, and no visual horizon. Only by hovering at tree-top level, using team effort and homing equipment, was the wreckage located in a field overgrown with eight-foot high stalks of hemp interspersed with hidden tree stumps and surrounded by tall trees.

While 1stLt Ronald C. Tubbs landed his helicopter and discharged the crew to remove the injured pilot, 1stLt Joseph W. Sprague hovered his HH-43 below the surrounding trees to furnish adequate light for the operation. After the hazardous task of moving the injured man from the plane was completed, and he had been evacuated, the two crews searched for two more hours before locating the missing copilot who, it was found, had not survived an ejection attempt.

With Lieutenant Tubbs were Capt Gerald B. Van Grunsven, copilot; Capt Shelley C. Davis(MC), flight surgeon: and TSgt Benjamin Selph, crew chief. In Lieutenant Sprague's HUSKIE were 1stLt Gordon O. Tooley, copilot; Alc William It. Nilsen, medical technician: Alc William E. Woodford and A2c Raymond E. Stokes, rescue firefighters.   

NOTE BY RAGAY : For pictures taken by  Capt. VanGrunsven  click here


Alc William H. Pitsenbarger, ARRS pararescue medic who was killed in Vietnam while defending wounded soldiers, has been posthumously awarded the Air Force Cross, the nation's second highest award for valor. The presentation was made in the Pentagon recently by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen John P. McConnell to the airman's parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Pitsenbarger of Piqua, Ohio. The parents also received their son's Airman's Medal, Purple Heart and four Air Medals. On the day of his death, the 21-year-old rescueman voluntarily dropped from an HH-43B into a jungle fire-fight to aid the wounded in a squad surrounded by Viet Cong. On several previous occasions while a member of Det 6, ARRSq, Bien Hoa AB, RVN, young Pitsenbarger had performed similar acts of heroism.



last update : 13/04/2017