281st AHC History



"Death on Call"
excerpt from a book

Vietnam: The Helicopter War

Philip D. Chinnery


Robert W. Mitchell
"Bandit 24"  5/69-5/70
"The Project Delta mission I experienced during 1969 went like this.  Delta had two basic teams I believe, one was all indigenous types dressed in NVA uniforms and the other had some American SF and some ARVN SF.  These teams were only 5-6 individuals.  The BDA team was Chinese mercenaries.  The BDA team was larger and went in after ARCLITES.  There was a Mike Force attached to B-52.  I believe they were only used as security at the FOB.  We put the teams in using two UH-1's and a light fire team as best I can remember.  One UH-1 was a C&C and the other a hole ship.  We were on stand by while the team was on the ground.  I was involved with two Delta Projects during my tour, both were early on and I was still a PP.  You may remember PP's were not privy to all the info that the AC was.

I don't think any other Helicopter Company ever supported Project Delta.  (It seems unlikely that the 1st CAV would have done this anyway.)  I do know that the 5th SFG was made up of A Teams, B Teams and C Teams.  The A-Teams were stationary at A Camps.  We know about B Teams, i.e., B-52 Project Delta,  I have flown into several SF A-Camps in II Corps and we had a FOB set up at A-101 in I Corps for Project Delta.  There was a C Team in Da Nang, I believe that they provided logistical support for the A and B Teams.  I do not remember ever putting an entire A Team in the woods.  They did run recon out of their base camp, but most were small teams."

Robert L. Williams
"Intruder 12"    11/68-11/69
"I don't remember any other units working Project Delta with us.  Although I do remember supporting other units with AA Ops.   I always understood our teams did prisoner snatch, wire tapping, visual recon (VR), and other such things, but I never heard of assassinations. Not that I would expect them to talk about that.

Am I the only one who remembers the 5-ship (Delta) formations we tried where the trail aircraft (with team) dropped from altitude as if forced down and did a false insertion before going NOE to the real LZ?   Steve (Matthews), I think I may have done that with you.  And BTW Steve, weren't you my AC when we hovered over that downed aircraft for about an hour trying to hoist the Pathfinders up? Our engine oil temp was pegged and you just kept on hovering.  I don't know how you held the cyclic still with my knees rattling against it.  I don't remember who the pilot was who was trapped in the aircraft overnight listening to the fire-fight around him.  Do you?  I do remember the Pathfinder who fell from our jungle penetrator and broke his neck.  Sad day!"

Stephen A. Matthews
"Rat Pack 15"  6/68-6/69
"YES!!  I remember hovering for A LONG, LONG time over a hoist to recover a downed pilot that had been out in the jungle overnight.  I remember we had a hell of a time getting it done - getting the hoist down through the canopy at the right spot, (getting the hoist to work if I'm not mistaken), getting the pilot to get on it, getting them back up without tearing off some vital parts, etc.  I don't think I ever hovered that long anywhere, anytime but I knew I had to keep the damn thing still with the hoist down in the canopy - or else.  It was one of those situations that all I could do was concentrate on keeping the AC still, and trust the other guys to get the job done.  We had great crew didn't we!!!!  I don't have any clear memory now of anyone falling off the penetrator, or especially getting killed, but my co-pilot does.  No idea when that was.  It would be good to be able to find a name on the WALL."

Jim Baker
"Rat Pack 15"  11/68-11/69
"About the pilot trapped in the aircraft overnight, I believe you may be talking about Frank Martin.  He went down with Vic Rose in about spring '69 I believe. Somehow Vic was rescued, but they couldn't get Frank out, and he stayed all night along with a guy from an Air Force rescue team. Vic had only been with the 281st about a month-he came from the "Cav"- and was the AC on that day.  He got sent home but, Frank stayed in the company and continued flying after a short recovery. Haven't seen him since Nam, though. Vic retired as a W-4 and lives in Fayetteville, NC, and I see him often."

Robert L. Williams
"Intruder 12"    11/68-11/69
"I'm amazed at how much I've forgotten.  John Korsbeck calls me about every six months and jolts my memory.  He likes to remind me of a mission we flew together where he thought we were lost somewhere south and west of Ban Me Thout.  Of course, my memory tells me I was never "missoriented" my whole tour.  He also talks about his crash with "Ace" Miller up at My Loc.  I remember that one cause it was so funny.  The KY came loose and jammed the pedals at a hover over the little dirt runway.  Ace "ungracefully" passed the controls to John who did a hovering auto, but they had drifted out over a mine field.  No explosions, but they tipped-toed out of there!

That was the same deployment that we were alerted that we were surrounded and we had to evacuate the aircraft to Quang Tri in the middle of the night.  I remember us all jumping in the aircraft, some of us still in our skivies, and taking off to the west with no lights on (black as pitch) and then joining in a long trail formation headed east.  I think the "surrounded" turned out to be water buffaloes or something else just as silly.

That was also the same trip that Ace finally got fed-up with Terry Alford and sent him back to Nha Trang to fly support missions.  He disappeared a few days later [4 Nov 69] along with Jim Cavender, James Klimo, and John Ware somewhere around Ninh Hoa.  Jim had been in country 5 days.  I had gone back to start out-processing by then.  My last flight in country was out looking for them.  Sorry guys.  It's easy to get going once you start talking about all this stuff."

Robert W. Mitchell
"Bandit 24"  5/69-5/70
"I was involved in the SAR for Alford and Crew.  I believe we spent 6 days on it, as best I can recall.  The stinging memory that I have of that incident was the fact that I had to inventory Alford's personal stuff.  I found his 38 revolver in his foot locker.  At the time there was some line of thinking that they may be on the ground alive and I thought, here is a guy out there without his weapon.  He may have had something else with him.  BTW there is a page in the Geocities.com/Pentagon/ area that has the details of that incident and lists these guys as MIA possible POW's.  Klimo's sister says that she recognized him in a picture of POW's that she saw somewhere.  I find that very unlikely, but one never knows."

"Bandit 29" 10/68-11/69
"That was my ship, "512."  Ware was my crew chief and Klimo my door gunner for about the last six months up until this accident.  The flight was returning from Ban MeThout and the weather was not good.  Thunderstorms were everywhere.  The last transmission was "Oh my God, we're inverted, what are we going to do now?"  I had had the day off because I had pulled Duty Officer the night before.  I heard about it while in the O Club and it was near dark.  I ran to the revetment area and was preparing to leave when Major Little came out and actually had to order me not to go.  My only mission in life at that moment was to find them and rescue the crew that had pulled me and whoever was flying with me through many tight situations.  I loved those guys!!  We had a special bond that can't be described in words.  Out of all the memories I have that stands out as the worst day of my life.

The next ten days were spent searching for the wreckage.  C-130's, Chinooks, Slicks from several companies were all involved in trying to find the ship.  I was on a search flight the day I got a call from headquarters to return back to the base to pack and go back to the states because there had been a death in my immediate family.  I followed up with letters to some of the guys in the unit to try to find out what if anything was ever found but it was not to be.  I wrote the families of Ware and Klimo to express my deepest sympathy and my own personal loss of these two guys.  I didn't know Terry very well and had only met Cavender a few days earlier.  We tend to forget the bad times and reflect on the good times.  I'll never forget my crew and must say that it was a pleasure and privilage to have had such a dedicated and capable crew to serve with me over there.  If it hadn't been for  Ware and Klimo I might not be writing this today.  Thanks Guys!!!! God Bless!!!"