145th Aviation Platoon
145th Aviation Battalion
Phan Thiet, RVN
52nd Aviation Battalion
Pleiku, RVN
10th Aviation Battalion
Nha Trang, RVN.
281st Assault Helicopter Company
Nha Trang, RVN.


WO1 Daniel E. Bishop, April 19, 1965

WO1 Josef L. Thorne, April 19, 1965

(Both men were flying a 145th Avn. Plt. gunship when they were killed. 
The 145th was assigned to the 52nd Avn. Bn. at the time of their deaths.)

        CPT Robert E. Laya assumed command of the 145th Aviation Platoon in November, 1964, prior to the unit being assigned to the 52nd Aviation Battalion on 5 January, 1965.  The unit had 17 UH-1's and 39 officers, and dedicated 7 aircraft to MACV daily.  In January, 1965, we were transfered from the 145th Avn Bn and assigned to the 52nd Avn Bn at Pleiku. When the 145th Platoon moved to Nha Trang, its mission changed in that it was dedicated more to 5th Special Forces.

        Jerry Stanfield was one of the original door gunners trained at Schofield Barracks, HI, and assigned TDY to support aviation operations in Vietnam. His pictures were taken in Nha Trang between March and mid-June 1965, prior to the 145th Platoon being assigned to the 281st AHC.

        CPT Kevin E. Murphy assumed command of the 145th Aviation Platoon in July, 1965. The unit was located in Nha Trang. The following are his recollections.

        A recent call and subsequent messages "really started the memory rolling, both concious and sub-concious. The wife was shaking me awake wanting to know what *&^%$#@! I was talking about that was shooting at us, and who the hell is "us?" Couple nights later she found out what pilots are saying when they're trying to get that last ounce of power out of their bird (come on, you --- of a -----, FLY!!). Bernie and I have only been married 20 years, and she was never introduced to the military jargon, attitude and patiotism that becomes a part of those who served in units like the 145th/6th/281st. Those units may only be numbers to the uninitiated, but nothing clears your sinuses quicker than making a "Mcguire/Murphy" lift under fire!!! (More about that later)

        What sketchy records, email and memory I can summon indicate that Bob Laya had the 145th from Sept 64-Mar 65, Dan Smith from Mar 65-July 65, Yours Truly from July 65-Apr(May?) 66, ??? Griffith Apr/May 66-??? [June 4, 1966 when the 281st Avn Co (AML) closed on Nha Trang, RVN.]

        I took over at Nha Trang, and with the exception of a pair of gun birds TDY to Vung Tau for a month, we were flying VIPs from Gen Swede Larson's new Field Force Victor. After several years of VIP work at Davison and other avn detachments, this didn't thrill me!! This is combat??? Apparently Bill McKean (Bulldog 6) CO 5th SF, got tired of my whimpering and complaining about what a job we could do for the SF if he would get us assigned. Approximately 1 Dec '65 we were placed under OPCON [operational control] to 5th SF. Our main job was support for Project Delta, but since I out ranked Charlie Beckwith, we were OPCON to 5th SF.

        Approximately Feb '66 we were placed under 10th Avn Bn and the 6th Airlift Plt was placed under my command also. The 6th was receiving all new machines and all their personnel were in transition training. (Were these E models? You really had to be careful to keep under the RPM red line on approach.) The 6th stayed at their old station (Ben Hoa?) and continued their former mission until Maj Griffith arrived (Apr-May) with his Company Hq people.

        After command transition, I was given the task of training the 6th pilots to fly the same missions under Project Horse that 145th was flying for Delta."

Kevin E Murphy
Mardi Gras 6 (still sounds GOOOOD!!!)

Jim Jackson wrote:

        "We had 6 UH-1B slicks and 4 UH-1B guns Maj. Smith was the CO when I got there in July 65, Bob Laya was the XO. Almost everyone rotated in Aug '65. The senior person in the unit had been in country 2 months. The 145th was the first unit in country to get UH-1B models. They were assigned VIP missions in Saigon. They went to Ben Hoa in April or May '65, then almost immediately to Nha Trang. When they got to Nha Trang they were assigned to 52d CAB. In July '65 we were the Vietnam Iroquois, and in Aug or so we changed to Mardi Gras.

       July and August we flew all kinds of missions, and in Aug '65 we were assigned to support 52d CAB at An Kae. When the 1st CAV came in country about the same time, we had one ship used by the 1st Bde of the 101st ID. In Sept we started with Delta and we trained 6 teams; some all US some 3 [US SF] and 3 [RVN]. The number 6 was decided on because it was all we could carry. We had two O-1 FACS assigned in Oct or Nov that were Air Force. We started to pick up UH-1Bs(540) it late '65. We crashed the first one we got the first mission. We didn't know they wouldn't hover like a UH-1B."

Jim Jackson
"Mardi Gras   " 7/65-7/66

Jack Green wrote:

        "Jim, Thanks for the reply. That's sounding about how I remembered the number of ships assigned. There was a "Hog" in the gun section with the other 3 being regular rocket/gun install.

       My first flight was recorded on 22 August 1965 in a B model. My records dont show when we got the 540 system in that they were B models all along. My 759 shows a D model flight April 18, 1966. We still must have retained some of the "slick B models" because I show a flight on 8 July 66.

       You stated we started training Delta in Sep of '65. The training must have been sparadic in that I show alot of trips all over VN doing the months Oct, Nov, Dec. This was the ash and trash type missions that 5th had us doing. Alot of the training was done out on the island.

       The first Delta Mission was done southwest of Binh Hoa in that province. We assembled in an area that was some headquarters of the 1st Inf. Div. They put us in tents that were right next to a 175mm battery and they kept firing all nite long. This Delta mission was what Delta calls 66-01 and it was in the 01/08/66-01/12/66 time frame. The only way I remember this is because I got a little write up about the extraction there. But that's all I remember about 66-01."

John W. Green III "Jack"
"Mardi Gras 26" 8/65-8/66

Kevin Murphy wrote:

       "Jim 'N Jack........Let's see, where do I start. There were no 540's assigned to 145th when I turned cmd over to Griffith (May 66 ??) They were assigned to the 6th Plt. The 540 crash was north of Ban Me Thout on the first insertion of the first mission (also, I think, the last for Project Horse). The pilot was the Plt Cmdr, I was flying C&C that night. No one except me and 6th Plt were involved. Had to be June '66.

       If you boy's scratch your head a minute, you'll probably remember that we were in our first McGuire recovery training when Bob Hope was having his '65 Xmas program. In fact, we were mentioned from the stage a couple times. Hope couldn't believe those were people on the ends of the ropes!!

       The original McGuire rig was designed for H-34's and used a cylindrical tube hanging over the door to uncoil the climbing ropes. Since this was unworkable in the Hueys, I came up with the 2'X 3' plywood plate with saw slots every inch or so on the sides and rubber bands in the slots. We wove the climbing ropes back and forth, sticking a loop under the band on one edge then the other. I think it was Bo Baker, Ops Off for Delta who called it the McGuire/Murphy rig. I also remember the first trial we used sand bags. The rig worked better than we hoped but the whole aircrew had sand in their eyes. Thereafter it was rice, not sand!!

       Didn't we have an Engineer pilot named Leach?? He kept the fuses working in the 'ville. Jack, you're right on about our first Delta mission."

Kevin E. "Murph" Murphy
"Mardi Gras 6"   '65-'66

Jack Green wrote:

       "Got the 540's (I think) around May or June: about the same time we got the D-models. Wasn't the unit all combined about that time into the 2d Plt/171st Avn Co? The following is how my 759's refer to units and ships.
08/22/65-09/13/65 Task Force Alpha (FFV) B-models
09/13/65-12/31/65 145th Avn Plt (Airlift) B-models. D-model qualified 11/24/65
01/01/65-04/30/66 2d Plt/171st Avn Co. B-models
05/01/66-08/03/66 281st AHC B-models in May.
1st D-model mission 05/18/66
Flew a couple of missions 07/02/66-07/08/66 in B-models (540).

       Somehow I got to go to that Bob Hope show. Must have pulled rank (7 months in grade as Cpt.) I remember our guys distracting the show. Yes there was a 1st Lt. Ed Leach. There is also a Jack Serig on the list, an Otter pilot and 281st member."

John W. Green III "Jack"
"Mardi Gras 26" 8/65-8/66

Dave Bitle wrote:

        "Gentleman, I would like to add my 2 cents worth, It might help to clear things up a little. However, odds are in favor of confusing them more. In Sep. 65, 15th I think, there were 24 or 26 enlisted men from the 25th Avn Bn, 25th Inf Div. that had voluntered for a program called "SHOTGUN." Many of them had spent a year or more at the 25th Avn Bn. and me having a H-21 & UH1 M.O.S. got the job of teaching, (at Makua Valley) 11B's,(basic Inf man) how to shoot a M-60 machine gun from a moving platform and hit a stationary or moving target on the ground. Those 11B types were on the "TDY to MACV 90 Days" program called "SHOTGUN."

       I myself having an H-21 M.O.S. as crew chief of which there were 30 or 40 of us and only 3 or 4 H-21's a person only got to practice being a crew chief for 6 or 8 hrs, a month. Every month I submitted a 1049 (request for transfer) only to have it kicked back at Bn. Denied-reason "too valuable at unit." I was a Sp5 and having just re-enlisted, spent my bonus on a used Corvette. My Company Commander in a weekly EM Instruction class stood on the platform at the base theater and in front of the entire company made the statement that he felt that an enlisted man should not drive a car that an officer could not afford. Thus his and our 1st Sgt.'s attitude towards me was not the best. Being a Sharp Soldier I stayed one step in front of the bust brigade. Finally, after a year or so of this B,S. and knowing that because of my rank it took a Col. or above to reduce me, I stumbled over a log of my own creation and CO of my company and my 1st Sgt with tears of glee, sent me to Bn. and a Col. that asked "Is Specialst Bitle crewing" before he chose which aircraft he went to get his monthly time in.

        Anywho, when I went before him for reduction his only words were "Bitle what the hell are you doing in here?" My answer was simple and to the point. "Sir, every month I submit a 1049. In fact there is one in your Sgt. Maj.'s IN box now. I'll trade you. That was how I was able to get to the RVN, on the last Shotgun program #13, TDY for 90 days. I had to put my 11B as my primary and my 67 as secondary, a very dangerous move. Upon arrival in Saigon after a flight of 42 hrs in a C-119? one of those small double decker's, we proceeded to Nha Trang. As we got off the Caribou, the door gunners we were replacing were geting on, going back to Hawaii and the 25th Inf. Div.

        I remember some Conex containers with corrugated tin roofing overhanging for our Maint. area, weapon's cleaning, etc. etc. and a 30 year soldier with a few months before retirement. If I remember right there were 6 UH-1B's, slick's and 4 UH-1 B gunships of which one was always missing, mainly for maint. I was assigned as a doorgunner on a slick and most of my flying was taking the 5th SF XO (a Lt. Col. Moore), around to all A, B and C teams. Also to some Montanguard village's. I enjoyed all this "sightseeing"? learned a lot. Even got in some RON's and a few night patrols, enough for a CIB if I had wanted.

        I think it was at Bong Song and every Recon team Delta had made contact at the same time and the weather closed in. Charlie Bekwirth did not listen about inserting ALL of Delta's teams at the same time. We did not have enough A/C for one thing, oh yeah if we need more the 1st Cav will send some up from their blocking of the river and the valley (Happy?) farther souh, never did see any of them. I think it was four or five trips up the valley to where Recon team's were getting shot up.

        Monroe's MIA and his walking south until he arrived at Nha Trang, hovering over? an LZ? to extract the only survivor of a team, having to use a rope ladder and as a troop took a step up on the ladder the chopper went down a step and half. Finally with the rotor blade's playing lawn moyer I quit fireing at the 360 deg NVA and reached my hand out the door and pulled the Recon SF type in. With the rpm falling we did a 180 DOWN the hillside with the ladder hanging out Recon pulling as fast as he could and myself expeling as much ammo as I could, at the same time checking the upcoming tree line judging distance and rate of climb, yeah I know that's "the pilots job." I immediatly handed Recon an axe designed to cut aluminum and he begun cutting holes in the floor trying to hit where that ladder was attached. He must have cause we made it out with tree branches in the skids and busted chin bubbles.

        The next trip up the valley, after rearming and shi.ing my pants, puking my guts out and pumping gas all at the same time, there was still room for thinking "God I got to go back up that valley AGAIN!" I was not scared, I was TERRIFIED! Upon arrival in the north of that valley the loudest sound I ever heard went thru the cabin, the pilot, co-pilot, crew chief and door gunner all looked at each other and never said a word, until today as far as I know. Anyway I remember thinking David--you got to get a Bigger Gun! I switched to Gunship's not too long after that. But I know that our slicks were B or C models and the guns were Bs, shortly to become Cs when the 281st arrived and we went to 10 C-model Gun Ships. Before that I informed Company HQ that I was really a 67N primary and a 11B secondary. Which caused me to move from the right door to the left door (more importanly, it removed the possibility of being reassigned as a grunt!)"

David L. Bitle
"Wolf Pack 36 Yankee"

Kevin Murphy wrote:

        "My God, Bitle, You've gotta be talking about pulling in Wylie Gray, the only really quiet southerner I've ever met (West Va?)!! Wylie had been running solo for 3-4 days, with the locals in hot pursuit. He flashed a panel when in desperation I put search teams out ( 1 gun, 1 slick) flying at 500 feet to let the survivors know we were there for them, and could drop in quick. I was flying 1 slick with Joe Thurston in trail. We'd just taken some serious ground fire (serious in that 5 rds hit my seat pan, threw me against the harness so hard I was black and blue from shoulder blades to tits). Who was flying your bird?? I remember the call from the pilot that they had a flashing panel, "going in to check." About 2-3 lifetimes later, the pilot answered my 4 or 5 calls with "we have one SF on board, and I think we're gonna make it." God, how'd I get involved with you crazy bastards again?? I haven't thought about that pick up in years!!! Great job, Bitle!!

        Maybe you remember our maint plt sgt who always flew door gun for me. Kinda short, blond, on 2nd or 3rd extension, a real WETSU!! If so, please let me know."

Murph, Mardi Gras 6