I remember when....

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This page is devoted entirely to interesting stories provided by former members of the 33rd Trans Co. or 118th AHC. It might be safe to say that the stories are true but in some cases "the names may have been changed to protect the innocent"!!

I remember when......

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Table of Contents

  • DECELERATION = Separation
  • Trail Has To Take What Is Left!!
  • Beetlenut = Revisited
  • 33rd Trans Pilot Eye Witness to Coup...
  • How The 118th Thunderbirds Got Their Name
  • I Flew It--Ban Me Thout
  • Honour-Smith Compound-Cong Ly Street in Bien Hoa
  • The Story Behind "Honour-Smith Compound"

    DECELERATION = Separation!!

    (click photo to enlarge)

    Formation flying and in particular flying in Trail can be rather prone to "ruin your day"!!!

    Reed Kimzey tells the story that goes with the above picture...."It was a rather routine resupply pick-up at the 25th DIV base camp at Cu Chi. This bird was number two in the flight (don't know how many were in the flight). The lead aircraft was a little hot and did a BIG deceleration at the end and the pilot of the bird shown (I honestly don't remember his name) stuck the tail rotor in the ground and knocked it and the gearbox off. When the bird started to spin, the pilot bottomed the collective and permanently "smiled" the skids. No one was hurt (except pride). The Bird did a full 180 degree spin before it hit the ground. I think that is my bird in the background."

    Reed Kimzey
    1st Plt Sec Ldr
    Red Bird 16
    (Table of Contents)

    Trail has to take what is left!!

    (click photo to enlarge)

    How many times have you flown trail in a formation and when lead picked a spot to land, there was not enough room for all the birds. So, trail had to take what was left-over? Well, this story is about such a situation.

    Reed Kimzey was flying trail when lead landed at Dong Tam with the flight. Trail was left with a spot that was very, very soft, almost quicksand, but this was not immediately evident. This was in late 1966 before Dong Tam was the sprawling base camp of the American 9th DIV and the LZ was not PSP.

    Reed tells the story like this......"We landed at Dong Tam, and I was trail. We shut down and started for the briefing when I noticed that my aircraft was slowly being reclaimed by Mother earth!. The crew and I began cutting and throwing branches under the aircraft to keep it from settling to the belly. Since the major portion of the weight is over the rear of the skids the tail began to droop and was very close to the sand. So, we found a pallet to put under the stinger to keep the tail rotor from settling all the way to the sand."

    "After some thinking and discussion, I got back in the cockpit and fired up Blue 10 and slowly and gently lifted the bird up, moved about 30 feet to one side and set it down....more solid and it stayed stable very nicely. I was concerned about mast bumping , but no problem. No other aircraft in the flight had any such problems with soft or quicksand."

    Reed Kimzey
    1st Plt Sec. Ldr
    Red Bird 16
    (Table of Contents)



    (Be and Mot Kha)

    Vietnam was a place of many stories. I have thought about this story more than once over the last 32 years. I wonder how many multiple tour guys have a similar story.

    Most aviators had two tours in Vietnam and no doubt the tours were as different as night and day. Normally, 2-3 years separated the tours. And ,the people you served with as well as the area you flew in was completely different. So were my two tours; one in 66-67 and again in 70-71. However, I did experience one person common to both tours.

    Arriving in Bien Hoa in August 1966, my flight school classmate, Reed Kimzey and I were assigned to the 118th AHC and ended up as roommates in the "villa" on Cong Ly street,a civilian neighborhood within the city of Bien Hoa. Golly, this wasn't so bad! A clean room, mess hall with COLA and a neat bar. Trips to the flight line at the Bien Hoa Air base was via "acquired" USAF bus. Our room was about the size of a motel room and had a private shower and commode. Clothes were stored in the wooden clothes closet with the ever burning light bulb which had to be replaced often due to the varying house voltage provided by the generator down the street. But, at least we had electricity and sun heated water (eat your hearts out Cav guys!).

    Probably the greatest luxury Reed and I had was a "hooch-maid"! She was typical; black pajamas, white long sleeved top, barefoot with thongs and of course the most beautiful black teeth!! I never really knew her name, except Mamma-san, until around Christmas. She left Reed and me a Christmas Card on our pillow which was signed very carefully with the name, "Mot Kha" I still have it in my memorabilia box.

    Mot Kha (see picture above) was like a shadow as she arrived and quietly glided around the room making the beds, sweeping the floor with the usual wrapped-handle grass broom. She never talked or showed an expression , unless you said something. Then she would always grin with a big smile of those black teeth. Her day involved cleaning about 5-6 rooms, washing clothes and shining boots. Our fatigues (before jungle fatigues and flight suits) were taken out by Mot Kha and over a couple days were washed and starched(rice starch and washed in rice paddies, no doubt). They looked clean and pressed but, UGH! they smelled terrible!! Her highlight of the day was sitting with the other hooch-maids in a small group outside shining boots, visiting and chewing beetle-nut. Remember how they would listen to some guy's radio and talk and talk and talk all squatted about? Right after Christmas I transferred to the Gun Platoon, the Bandits, and lived in another part of the villa. I had a different hooch maid but, I don't remember her name.

    Prior to my second tour, 70-71, I spent several years performing the obligatory instructing at Ft. Wolters, TX. I attended several schools prior to the return to Vietnam ,including Air Traffic Control Officers Course. Arriving in Bien Hoa and Long Binh in June, I was assigned temporarily to the 120th AHC at Long Binh for a couple months. A transfer to the 125th ATC Co. came through because of my between tour schooling and I soon arrived at the 125th Company area on the north side of the Bien Hoa Air base. I was assigned to quarters with an old head who was short and things were going well.

    After I had been in the 125th ATC Co. for about a week I was walking to the mess hall which was about two blocks away. Walking past several groups of boot shining hooch-maids, the sight was familiar and almost unseen. Just before arriving at the mess hall, I glanced at a group of hooch-maids and guess what? I recognized one of them--it was Mot Kha!! Shocked, I stopped and walked up to the group and said ,"Mot Kha"! She looked up and her face went white as she yelled , "Di We", and jumped up grabbing me around the neck . She jabbered loudly and obviously was as excited as I was to see a familiar face from the past. The last thing I ever expected was to see someone, like her, from the first tour. I was, obviously, very glad that she didn't try to kiss me with those black teeth!

    Well, while I was at Bien Hoa , Mot Kha had to be my hooch-maid. Everyday after she finished her usual hooch-maid duties several blocks away , she came to my room and did my work , too. The regular hooch-maid was not happy, because there was two of us in the room. Mot Kha usually arrived late in the afternoon and it seemed like old times.

    Three years had brought changes not only in the war, but in the atmosphere of the Vietnam wartime society. Several times before I left Bien Hoa to transfer to Phu Bai and take over the 1st Platoon (later A Co.) of the 125th ATC, Mot Kha tried to sell me cocaine and heroine which she had never tried to do before. I declined, of course, and tried to ask her why she was peddling drugs. She never seemed to understand, or acted like she didn't. I never got an answer from her and decided not to press her for one. It was, however, still good to see Mot Kha and, she did the same good job as my hooch-maid three years before.

    Vietnam had changed in the three years between my tours. The people were different. We were different, too. The society and the people had changed. Free enterprise had taken over and drugs were rampant. An innocence was gone and I was sad. Over the years, I have wondered if Mot Kha is still alive and what she might be doing. Maybe, someday I can go back and walk the streets of Bien Hoa to see if she is still there--black teeth and all!

    Tom Payne
    Bandit 32
    118th AHC
    (Table of Contents)


    33rd TRANS PILOT



    The following story is told by CWO George Brummitt who was there:

    "I was a replacement to the original personnel of the 33rd Trans. Company and had arrived in Vietnam in April 1963 at Saigon. Life became interesting during this period as Ngo Dinh Diem, his brother, the Archbishop of Saigon and Ngo Dinh Nhu(husband of the now famous Madam Nhu)would not let the Buddhist flag be raised in the city of Hue among other things This led to many violent reactions within the country and government of Vietnam. Everything from monks immolating themselves in the streets of Saigon(May/June 63)to the downfall of the Diem regime and inflationary pressures raising the Piaster/Dollar rates from 58 P's to as high as 500P's were taking place. We, members of the 33rd Trans. Company were in the thick of these happenings and saw many strange things. Remember, there were no US combat forces in Vietnam at this time only several helicopter units to provide support to the Vietnamese."

    "On the day of the attack on Diem's "palace", I had been assigned to fly a Senior American Advisor Colonel from Saigon to the HQ of a province just south of the Saigon area. The crew and I were told to remain close to the ship after we landed. Then, about noon, the American Colonel(funny nickname of "Coal Bin Willie "Wilson") returned to the CH-21 and told us we had to get back to Saigon, immediately. We took off for Saigon as fast as we could go. When I called in for landing to the Tan Son Nhut tower, they told us where to approach and land to prevent being shot down by "unknown" forces around the area. We touched down and the Colonel jumped out and got in his transportation. We were told to remain with the aircraft, which we did. About 4-5 PM, a jeep came and picked us up. I was taken to a hotel(Caravelle, I believe)where I had a window and ringside seat WATCHING TANKS FIRE ON THE PALACE as the coup-d'-etat took place. I was a bit worried and excited about what was going to happen. The next morning we were allowed to return to Bien Hoa. Later, I learned what we had witnessed was a struggle for power within the Vietnam government and how the US Government was involved in overthrowing the Diem regime."

    "Our 33rd Transportation Company was subsequently renamed the 118th Aviation Company, Air mobile Light(AML). We were never known as the "Thunderbirds" while I was in the unit. Just when and how the name came to be used is a mystery to me. During this period, we outfitted one platoon with machine guns or rocket pods. Almost all my flying was in "slicks" and mostly carrying high ranking officers or US Aid people. On quite a few occasions we carried wounded or dying and once I remember flying into Cambodia to pick up a shot down Vietnamese L-19 piloted by an American who was very badly burned."

    The early years of US Army Aviation and helicopters was a different world than that which developed when US combat troops entered the conflict.

    George Brummitt
    Tacoma, WA
    CWO-3 (Ret.)
    33rd Trans/118th AML (63-64)

    (Table of Contents)

    How the 118th "Thunderbirds" got their name

    It is often interesting and surprising to learn the real story about how an organization or military unit got its nickname. "Thunderbird" brings to mind the image of a "huge flesh-eating bird of war with lightening bolts held in savage claws and surrounded in a vail of myth and mystery!" Now, you might think that. However, as revealed in Ralph Young's book, "Army Aviation in Vietnam, 1963-1966, Vol.2", on page 80, the real true story is told.

    "Major General Bob Brandt, USA Retired,(1LT Commander of the 573rd Trans. Detachment, 62-63)supplied the following regarding the 33rd Transportation Company's call sign and 118th's nickname, as well as the name of the pilots' bar or lounge:

    "The Thunderbird name came from the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas(NV). Joe Henderson (our CO) had a friend that was the public relations fellow at the Hotel and they sort of adopted the unit.They provided party favors, swizzle sticks, napkins with the Thunderbird logo on them to our Company. We named our small Officer's Club at Bien Hoa after the Hotel and 1LT Ken Stanton and myself designed the Thunderbird logo and painted it on the club sign. My machine shop made a metal rendering of the logo(lighted from the rear) and we put it over the club bar. Later the emblem, in white, was placed on the side panels of the new UH-1's and also on the battery covers."

    "Thunderbird Hotel"
    4th Hotel/Casino built on the Las Vegas Strip
    at 1213 Las Vegas Blvd.

    So, you see how some things are not as we might expect. The "Thunderbirds" were no less important in the history of Army Aviation in Vietnam. They still are considered to have been pioneers in the development and testing of the Air Mobility Concept as it unfolded in Vietnam over a 9+ year span. You can be proud of the name "Thunderbird" even now that you know the true story of how the name came to be.

    (Courtesy of Ralph Young, author Army Aviation in Vietnam--1963-1966, Vol.2; and, MG Bob Brandt, USA Retired)


    "Thunderbird Hotel"
    1213 Las Vegas Blvd
    June 25, 2000

    (Table of Contents)




    LT Dick Cacioppe on the job(64).
    (Photo courtesy Frank Zipperer)


    LT Dick Cacioppe on stand-by
    and reading a book.(64)
    (Photo courtesy Pat McLarney)

    (Note: The following story was written in 1969 by 1LT Richard Cacioppe, ' Shot Gun' Platoon Leader in 1964 . It describes an operation that took place during the Montagnard/Rhade Rebellion about 28 Sept 1964 near to Ban Me Thout.)

    Upon my arrival in Vietnam in September 1964, I was assigned to the 118th Aviation Company, in Bien Hoa, as a door gunner on a "Huey" helicopter. A short time after I arrived, the 118th was ordered to Ban Me Thout, a city in the central highlands, to join other aviation companies in an attempt to extricate some eighty Vietnamese soldiers being held hostage by Montagnard tribesmen.

    The long simmering feud between the Vietnamese and these primitive but fierce tribesmen had escalated to the point where it now bordered on open warfare. The Montagnards had executed about twenty Vietnamese soldiers and had threatened to kill all the captured Vietnamese unless their demands for greater autonomy were met.

    The Vietnamese government, in response to the executions, had given the Montagnards an ultimatum to release their prisoners or face massive retaliation from the Vietnamese Armed Forces. Vietnamese armor and air force units had moved into position to carry out the destruction of the rebellious villages if the executions continued.

    The whole situation presented a serious problem to American authorities since U.S.Army advisors were with both the Montagnards and the Vietnamese units. More importantly, however, open warfare between these two groups could only benefit the Communists who had already made serious inroads into this critical area.

    The American military commander, desperately trying to avert a showdown, had asked for one chance to extricate the hostages before the Vietnamese Armed Forces were committed. Grudgingly, the Vietnamese government agreed to hold off any military action until after this U.S. attempt.

    On the day of the attempted extraction we were given a briefing outlining the plan. The plan decided upon was simple but very risky. The senior American advisor for the area, a Colonel, was present in the village. He was to attempt to persuade the village chiefs to release the hostages voluntarily Failing this, he was to open the prison forcibly himself and free the Vietnamese. Our helicopter task force would be circling out of sight. The Colonel's radio operator would notify us when and if we should come in to pick up the Vietnamese. We were especially cautioned against taking any action which might be interpreted as being hostile by the Montagnards.

    After the briefing, we returned to our helicopters and prepared for the take-off. Shortly afterward we were airborne and heading westward to our rendezvous point to await the Colonel's signal.

    As we approached the rendezvous point, I heard a voice over the radio whisper excitedly, "Two Baseball Glove has asked the chiefs, Ikor and 'The Bearded One', to gather the villagers for a meeting." At first I was startled and puzzled by this transmission, than I realized that 'Two Baseball Glove' was the Colonel's code name. Apparently, the pilot had switched our FM radio to the ground frequency and we were monitoring the Colonel's radio operator describing the action at the village.

    "The villagers are gathering in the village square," the voice continued. "Two Baseball Glove is asking for an interpreter. No one is moving. The Colonel is asking for an interpreter again." A slight gasp and then, "Ikor and the Bearded One are leaving the circle and moving back to the village." Then silence. I strained to hear the next transmission while my mind raced ahead trying to anticipate what would happen next. It was like listening to a mystery radio show. I could picture exactly in my mind what the village and Ikor and the Bearded One looked like. "An old woman is getting up to translate for the Colonel," the relief was evident in the radio operator's voice. "Two Baseball Glove is warning the villagers that unless they release the captives, they would be attacked by strong Vietnamese forces." I could picture the old woman, the Colonel's only Montagnard ally, pleading with the fierce tribesmen standing before her unmoved and impassive.

    "No one is moving," the radio confirmed what my imagination had already told me. "Two Baseball Glove has picked up a crow bar and is holding it up. He's telling the villagers he is going to break the lock of the prison. He's walking to the prison with the crowbar. The voice was getting lower as the drama below built to its climax. "He's breaking the lock. No one is moving. He's warning the Vietnamese captives to follow him slowly. He's saying that under no circumstances should they run since this might set off a reaction amongst the tense Montagnards who were blocking the route they must take."

    "OK, here we go," the radio announced. Suddenly, I realized that it was the pilot's voice I had heard and we were going in to pick up the Vietnamese. It took me several seconds to realize that we now were about to become a part of the drama I had been listening to so intently.

    As we approached the village, I could see two long rows of Montagnards, each one grasping the trigger of the weapon he held across his body. Between these two lines a straggling mass of men moved uncertainly toward the landing zone outside of the village.

    The village looked just like I had pictured it. The Montagnards with their weapons at the ready and bandoleers of ammunition slung across their bodies were even more fierce looking than I had imagined.

    I checked to make sure my machine gun was still pointing straight down and put on my friendliest smile so that the Montagnards would have no misunderstanding as to my intentions. The Vietnamese prisoners were just approaching the landing zone as our flight of helicopters settled to the ground. Timing had been perfect, and in just a few minutes we would be out of there.

    Suddenly, one of the Vietnamese bolted for the nearest helicopter and instantly the entire group was running across the landing zone. I quickly looked at the long line of Montagnards to determine their reaction. There was none, they stood as impassively as statues, defeated yet still proud.

    The Vietnamese scrambled aboard dirty and scared, some still dangling ropes from their hands and feet. We quickly took off and in a few seconds were 2000 feet above the village. The Vietnamese who had been silent, now were jabbering excitedly.

    The newspapers at home hardly mentioned the whole incident. Within a few weeks it was all but forgotten even in Vietnam. Because of the implications of the confrontation, it had been hushed by the authorities. But for those of us who had been there, it had been quite an achievement. To proclaim our participation, we had buttons made in Saigon that proudly told the story.

    The buttons said simply, "I flew it-Ban Me Thuot."
    (Above photo of the button courtesy of
    Pat McLarney, who still has one! )

    Richard C. Cacioppe
    "Shot Gun" Platoon Leader
    118th Aviation Company
    Granger, IN


    (Table of Contents)




    (Cong Ly Street in circle)


    Cong Ly street and home for the 118th Aviation Company(AML)
    in late 1964. Note Song Dong Nai river in background.
    (Photo courtesy Joe Newsome)


    Entrance to Cong Ly Street.
    Note snappy salute by guard at left as one on right raises bar after using mirror on stick to look for bombs under the jeep.(1966)
    (Photo courtesy Tom Payne)
    Bunker for "White Mice" police at the NE entrance to Cong Ly Street, with commute vehicle against wall. (1967)
    (Photo courtesy Marvin Marchman, MD)

    Sometime in June 1964, the 145th CAB moved all its HQ officer personnel and the officer personnel of its subordinate units(68th, 118th, 197th, A/501st or 71st)from the Bien Hoa Air base to Cong Ly Street within the city of Bien Hoa. This was about the time II Field Forces was organized and several BOQ's of their staff officers was also housed on Cong Ly Street. In effect, the street became an American BOQ compound and was cordoned off from the civilian population of the city of Bien Hoa with high walls and barbed-wire.



    Looking in 118th Villa gate from across the street. Building
    to right was where CO and XO lived upstairs. Bar, library,
    pool table and office were downstairs. Balcony to left is
    3rd Platoon "Bandit" rooms and below
    was 1st Platoon, "Scorpions".(1966)
    (Photo courtesy Tom Payne)




    118th Villa entrace on Cong Ly street.
    L to R: Ted Jambon and Al Phillips on day off.(65)
    (Photo courtesy Ted Jambon)







    Another view of Cong Ly street entrance to 118th Villa.
    Note guard shack which was manned by "white mouse"! (66)
    (Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)





    Cong Ly Street was about 2 blocks long and very narrow. It was so narrow that it was restricted to one-way traffic from NE to SW to prevent traffic problems. Along its route were walled "Villas" or apartment houses for each of the units. Each villa had a separate mess hall, water and power generation plant. These plants were manned by Korean nationals who were employees of RMK, a US contractor in Vietnam that many rumored was owned by Lady Bird Johnson!


    1st Platoon on Cong Ly Street


    1st Platoon bar being constructed under tin roof.
    Looks like wood is mahogany, which was
    available in the town of Bien Hoa.(67)
    (Photo courtesy Charles Milan)

    1st Platoon Officers quarters on Cong Ly Street on the first floor.
    The 3rd Platoon, Bandits, lived upstairs.(67)
    (Photo courtesy Charles Milan)

    Cong Ly Street Villa Courtyard. Looking out to street.(67)
    (Photo courtesy Charles Milan)

    A rare day when there was no flying. L to R. 1LT Paul Stimpson,
    CWO Dan Hart, MAJ. Bill Benton and CPT "Doc" Marchman,
    Flight Surgeon, having some refreshment in Cong Ly courtyard area.(67)
    (Photo courtesy Charles Milan)

    Close-up of the refreshments as seen in photo above.(67)
    (Photo courtesy Charles Milan)

    118th villa on Cong Ly street Bien Hoa
    Other units lived on Cong Ly street-- 145th HQ , 334th AWC, 68th AHC"Top Tigers", 71st AHC"Rattlers" and IIFFV BOQ. Not bad accommodations. (1966)
    (Photo courtesy Tom Payne)




    Here he is, the water plant forman/watchman. This fella (normally Korean) worked for RMK and ran the water purification system for the 118th Cong Ly villa. No one seemed to check on him and no one ever spoke to him. About the only thing he did was READ! But, the water seemed OK and didn't taste too bad. (1967)
    (Photo courtesy Tom Payne)





    Not being on the Bien Hoa Air base, Cong Ly was seldom bothered by rocket or mortar attacks and thus was a nice place to live, for a war zone. Local Vietnamese Police(White Mice) manned a guard shack at the entrance and exit to control and search entrance and departure traffic. Life was good, for sure, for the officers and pilots of the 118th. Driving military vehicles(as well as mysteriously acquired vehicles and busses), the pilots went to and from the Bien Hoa Air base, a distance of about 2 miles each day.



    118th Villa Mess hall on Cong Ly. Tommy Thornton holding red Kool-Aid while Vietnamese waitress, "Baby-Son" looks out serving window. (65)
    (Photo courtesy Ted Jambon)






    118th Officers' Villa Dining Room. "Cookie" the
    Chinese cook looking out window. Girl at
    right we called "Baby-son", Boy at right with
    back to camera and hat, we called "Zero". Girl
    in front of door was just called, "Girl". Food
    was combination of Class 1 for meats and
    staples and milk and locally purchased
    vegetables and bread. The Club
    officer bought the bread(including weevils)
    and some vegetables on the economy. Officers received
    C.O.L.A which went to Club officer to pay for food,
    supplies and Vietnamese help and maids. (1966)
    (Photo courtesy Tom Payne)



    Several pilots waiting for ride to flight line on
    Bien Hoa Air Base. L to R. Kimzey, Milan,
    Kaigan and Van Duzee, a trainee from
    9th DIV. (1967)
    (Photo courtesy Tom Payne)





    Looking to the S.W. down Cong Ly Steet toward
    the exit. Note 145th CAB, HQ to the right
    and ambulance in front of
    Bn Dispensary(68)
    (Photo courtesy Don Hayes)





    View showing rice paddies behind the Cong Ly Villas.(68)
    (Photo courtesy Lewis Lorton, DDS)








    Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. Following the Tet Offensive of 1968, the entire 145th CAB, including 118th "Thunderbirds", moved back to Bien Hoa Air base in May 1968. The 145th's new home became the Woodson Compound, named in honor of the USAF captain who had been killed nine months earlier.

    (Table of Contents)



    HONOUR-SMITH COMPOUND, Cong Ly Street, Bien Hoa City, Bien Hoa Province
    Woodson, Richard E., CAPT, U.S. Air Force
    WOODSON COMPOUND, Bien Hoa Air Base, Bien Hoa Province

    HONOUR-SMITH/WOODSON COMPOUND, Bien Hoa Air Base, Bien Hoa Province

    The Honour-Smith Compound, a villa on Cong Ly Street in the city of Bien Hoa, was named in memory of two U.S. Army officers killed in action on 18 February 1966. Lieutenant Colonel Charles M. Honour, Jr.(145th CAB, CO) and his copilot Captain Albert M. Smith participated in numerous combat actions, including the evacuation of the Boi Loi Forest on 4 November 1965.

    Honour and Smith served as the command element to a sixty-seven helicopter assault force against a Viet Cong battalion near the Boi Loi Forest. In the operation, the men were repeatedly exposed to small arms, automatic weapons and antiaircraft fire. Elements of 145th Aviation Battalion were to extract the friendly forces in a mass helicopter airlift just before dusk. The plan went awry when the superior numbered enemy force blocked the route to the designated landing area.

    Determined not to abandon the 350 South Vietnamese troops, Honour and Smith scoured the surrounding jungle, systematically looking for an alternative site before nightfall. Honour decided on a small open area, about one quarter the size needed -- requiring four airlift operations instead of the one rapidly executed mass airlift originally planned.

    As dusk fell, the airlift began with the command helicopter hovering over the field, directing the operation. Although drawing heavy enemy fire, the first three lifts were successful, but when the last lift was unable to locate the landing area because of total darkness, Honour exposed his helicopter by illuminating the landing zone with his searchlight. It was only after the last soldier was safely in the air that the crew of the command helicopter pulled out of the Boi Loi Forest.

    Before dawn, 18 February 1966, Colonel Honour, Captain Smith, Crew Chief Gary Artman, a gunner known as "Chris Lantz", and two nurses of the 3d Field Hospital, Carol Drabza and Elizabeth Jones, departed Tan Son Nhut on a routine administrative flight to Bien Hoa. Although Colonel Honour had issued a directive prohibiting "tree-hopping," it was reported that the unarmed slick flew precariously fast and low.

    Thirty minutes later, UTT controller SP4 George Ridgeway responded to a call from a heavy fire team of the 197th. Final notes in Vietnam Military Lore . . . .Another Way To Remember explained that, On 16 February, the following radio conversation took place between Specialist Ridgeway (Little Joe Four-O) at Tan Son Nhut and a chopper pilot (Dragon Three-Four) of the 197th Aviation Company;

    "Little Joe Four-O, this is Dragon Three-Four, reporting what appears to be a burning aircraft. Over."

    "Dragon Three-Four, request you verify. Understand burning aircraft. Over."

    "Little Joe - Three-Four. We have a downed aircraft. Over."

    "Three-Four - Little Joe. Can you identify and give location? Over."

    "Uh. . . . . .(long pause). . . .Roger, Little Joe. Can't get too close, aircraft is burning. There are power lines in the area. Over."

    "Little Joe - Three-Four. I read zero, one. It's hardly recognizable. Can hardly read numbers. Tail section intact. Coordinates XT950020. Over."

    "Roger. Understand, zero, one, eight. Do you see any survivors? Over."

    "Negative on survivors. Over."

    "Dragon Three-Four - Little Joe. Roger. Will send help. Request you remain on station. . . ."

    Zero-One-Eight was the commander's aircraft. Honour and Smith's helicopter was downed and in flames. There were no survivors. The aircraft, while in low-level flight, was cut in two when it hit high-tension wires.

    After their deaths the new compound on Cong Ly Street in Bien Hoa was unofficially named in memory of Honour and Smith.

     Tom Payne remembers: "I was just finishing up Advanced training at Ft. Wolters, TX. As a married 2LT officer, I had been able to obtain family housing on Ft. Wolters and we lived at 313 Magruder in a duplex. In the other side lived 1LT George I. Jones who was an IP, and his wife Sue. On 19 February, 1966, I returned from flying in the afternoon and my wife told me that our next door neighbor, 1LT George Jones' sister had been killed in a helicopter accident in Vietnam. She was a nurse and her name was ELIZABETH ANN JONES! It was a very hard time. I remember it was then that Vietnam and the dangers I would be facing soon began to soak in. Little did I suspect that a mere 6 months later I would be living in Honour-Smith Compound on Cong Ly street in Bien Hoa, Vietnam."

    On 1 August 1967, USAF Captain Richard E. Woodson, assigned to a tactical fighter wing at Bien Hoa, scrambled his F-100. As he was strafing enemy positions, his aircraft was hit by hostile ground fire. The F-100 exploded and Captain Woodson was killed. The Woodson Compound was named in his honor shortly after his death.

    In May 1968, the 145th Aviation Battalion cantonment was moved to Bien Hoa Air Base. The 145th's new home was the Woodson Compound, named in honor of the USAF captain who had been killed nine months earlier.

    The men and officers of the 145th wanted to change the name of the compound to Honour--Smith Compound and filed the appropriate paper work. The request was approved at the lst Aviation Brigade level, but MACV disapproved the name change. The official reason given for the denial was that "no formal memorialization was ever submitted for the compound at Cong Ly in Bien Hoa City." However, it is believed that the actual reason for denial was that the location was already a "named" installation.

    Undaunted by official army regulations, and with no objections from the air force, the men of the 145th erected a sign at the main entrance to their compound which read "The Honor-Smith Compound." The unofficial removal of Woodson's name from the compound was not intended to diminish the honor bestowed upon the fallen US Air Force captain but was a simple act of unit pride on the part of the men of the 145th. They also named their officers' club the Honour-Smith Officers' Open Mess.

    The compound remained the "Woodson Compound" on official MACV records. As of the author's 1988 writing, for the first time, the compound was referred to as it probably should have been all along, the HONOUR-SMITH/WOODSON COMPOUND, in honor of all three men.

    SP4 Gary Ray Artman was born on 9 March 1946. His home of record was Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was killed in Vietnam, 18 February 1966. His name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the east wall, panel 5E, line 44.

    2LT Carol Ann Elizabeth Dazbra was born on 11 December 1943. Her home of record was Dunmore, Pennsylvania. She was killed in Vietnam, 18 February 1966. Her name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the east wall, panel 5E, line 46.

    LTC Charles M. Honour, Jr. was born on 7 January 1926. His home of record was Norcross, Georgia. He was killed in Vietnam, 18 February 1966. His name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the east wall, panel 5E, line 47.

    2LT Elizabeth Ann Jones , Jr. was born on 12 September 1943. Her home of record was Allendale South Carolina. She was killed in Vietnam, 18 February 1966. Her name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the east wall, panel 5E, line 47.

    SP4 Christopher Joseph Lantz was born 11 April 1947. His home of record was East Cleveland, Ohio. He was killed in Vietnam 18 February 1966. His name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the east wall, panel 5E, line 47.

    CAPT Albert Merriman Smith was born on 29 June 1938. His home of record was Washington, D.C. He was killed in Vietnam 18 February 1966. His name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the east wall, panel 5E, line 49.

    CAPT Richard Eugene Woodson was born 10 October 1938. His home of record was Winchester, Illinois. He was killed in Vietnam 1 August 1967. His name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the east wall, panel 24E, line 65.


    (The above story was reprinted from an internet site named:
    "Military Lore Memorialization Project and Books", by MSG Ray Bows, Ret)


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