Saber Article Index

May-June 2020

Because ‘69-’70 MEDEVAC door gunner Dave Parks uses the e-mail “Shootdown@” I asked him about the times he was shot down. I got a lot of commo from him and did get information about two times he was shot down. There may have been more, but two was all he had time for, and they were involved. Dave said one in Sep ‘69, again in December ‘69, and again in Jan ‘70. Dave said, “There is a fourth one, but for the life of me I don’t remember it! Kind of makes me angry. So, I guess maybe I was only on three ships that were shot down!”

I found posted on the 15th MED Assn website a copy of the Jan-Jun 1970 semiannual newsletter with a lot of information about Air Ambulance Platoon activities, e.g. shoot downs and participants. On 05 Jan 70 MEDEVAC 15 Rich Leonard and his crew were shot down in Tay Ninh on a hot hoist mission. It says Mr. Leonard received a fractured wrist, his co-pilot CPT Jerry Rhodes suffered a compressed fracture of the vertebrae and went stateside, crew chief Rodney Wiley and Medic Bill Keller both received multiple frag wounds, and door gunner Dave Parks was badly shaken up (but survived again).

The first time Dave was shot down was when he was new in the unit and training as a door gunner on a regular pickup. It was 7 SEP 69. Dave said that was the last time they trained that way. After that they trained everyone on admin flights. On 7 SEP 69 two MEDEVAC crew members were killed: SSG James Megehee, who was a crew chief but on that occasion was flying as the door gunner (training Dave), and Medic SP5 Gary Lee Bowdler.

Dave said, “On Sept 7th, ‘69 we were picking up for Black Horse (11th ACR) in An Loc rubber plantation out of Quan Loi. First time in they had the WIAs out of the trees and in an open field. We took them out then returned for a second pick up. This time we went in on the trees. That is when we were hit with the RPG; and of course, crashed! James and Gary were blown out of the ship. From what the tank guys had to say, the ship landed on Gary, so he burned up. The tracks finally got to us. We jumped into the back of an APC. I was asked to run an M-60 on the left side of an APC. I did fire up one guy. Do not know if I hit him or not! Oh well, no biggy. Took a while to get another ship in to pick us up. but there was not room for me, so I spent the night in the back of the APC.”

Dave elaborated: “So when we were hit in the underside below the left seat it blew us over three hundred feet in the air. It rolled on to the left side and fell through the trees. Tanker guys said James fell out when it rolled, and Gary was blown out the left door on fire. And the ship landed on him. I was rolled on to my back in the right-side seat and stayed there till it hit! I then jumped up on the skid. I could not see anything because of all the fire so I just gave a big ass jump and hoped I hit on the ground right. Guess I did.

“When I hit the ground, I was running and headed for Quan Loi. We were just a couple klicks away, but saw the co-pilot lying on the ground so I snagged him by the collar and drug him into a small ditch. He had a broken left arm and wrist.

“Then, Mr. Albright (pilot; MEDEVAC 14) showed up. I have no idea where he had been. But I was glad to see him. So, we just kind of sat there for a few, getting it all together-I guess. Then, they wanted me to go flag down the tanks to come get us. So, I had to part two-inch grass to see where I was going.

“Anyway, got over-by the what was left of the chopper-and stood up; and jumped up and down waving at them. They waved back and came as quick as they could. Me and the AC had to pull the crew chief out of the ship. He was burning up.

“By the time we got him out one boot and his pants were gone. He had some good burns on his butt and legs. We had to run about fifty or so feet to the APC and went in that little sub door on the back. Was crowded as hell in there. Us four plus their crew of four plus a WIA on the floor. That thing looked like Swiss cheese; and saw two more holes appear!”

About that crew chief they pulled out, Dave said, “Oh, btw, the ship we were on was Bobby Pool’s. He was the crew chief, but he went on R&R, so a new guy by the name of Ray Roy, or Roy Ray took his place. Sometime before the shoot down we were talking. I remember he said he had been in country for a couple years. He was way up north. Why he came down to our AO, I have no idea. When we were in the back of the APC, he gave me his watch, and something else. I do not remember the other thing. Said the guys in Japan would take his stuff, so he wanted me to keep it ‘till he mailed me with his home address so I could mail it all to him. Finally, one day I got his letter, so I sent everything to him. I don’t know if he ever got the stuff or not.”

Dave continued later with his story: “Dave here. Hi Mike! Let us see if I can remember where I left off, lol. You know, even after fifty plus years, it is kind of hard to think of these things. Guess we made the APC, and I got to shoot the M-60 on the left side. Was kind of funny. I saw this bad guy in the trees a long way away, not sure how far, but I watched him what seemed like an hour. He was just bopping up through the trees. You know all them trees were in a row (rubber), no matter which angle you looked at them. Anyway, he got kind of close. Then, he unslung his rifle, looked right at me, and smiled. At least it looked like it was me. I toyed with the idea of can I shoot this guy! I guess I got pissed about the two men that were KIA, so I shot at him. And as I said, I do not know if I hit him, but the last thing I saw was an M-60 drop a round on him. A little puff of smoke and dust and that was it.

“Well, we were in the tall trees by then, and they were wondering how to get another MEDEVAC in for the new WIA’s. So, they decided to do a daisy chain of det cord and satchel charges to blow an LZ. Now that was kind of cool, sort of. They ended up with a couple more hurt guys.

 â€œSo, then one of our birds came in. Me and Mr. Albright were handing the WIA’s up to the Medic (I think it was Larry Lund). Not a good idea, as we were knee deep in mud. You know after the tracks had run around a bit! We would just get the ‘s’ shocked out of us when we did that. Static electricity; WOW! A spark would jump to one of us about three inches long. Not sure if I wet myself or not. Not fun. So, we just gave them a toss in the air and hoped the Medic could catch them, and he never missed a lick.

“So, after we got the last WIA on board they said get your asses in here. So, of course we got on. They were pulling too much torque, so they said I had to wait. Yeah, right! Until the next day!

“Anyway, during the night they had a couple mad minutes, and I got to shoot in both. Wippy scippy. Oh, forgot. When they did the boom, it landed on most all the big tracks. Some were trapped for a while.

“A MEDEVAC came in, as I already said, then a Chinook dropped off ammo! So, I spent the night in the back of an APC that leaked like a sieve, was rainy that night! Anyway, the next morning when they came to fetch me, I was one happy dude!

“So, when they set down the left side to me, I jumped out of that APC and ran for the chopper and jumped in on the left side. Lurch was the crew chief. (Dave says “Lurch was a crew chief, was gone by the time you got there. He was about nine feet tall. A big man. And looked just like Lurch on the Addams Family. He had a mustache that looked like the end of a three-inch cable that had been cut off.”) He yelled at me to go to the right side, so I ran through the slimy wash job to the right side and had mud up to my knees. Love it. So got my ass chewed for messing up their clean chopper. You know how it is when you spend a couple hours cleaning the ship. That is when you get a call.

“I do not remember the flight back to Phouc Vinh. But, when we set down everyone was there, even the old guys. So that is how I lost my cherry! You know how it is when you are the FNG. But that day their demeanor changed, and I was one of the guys. Only been in the unit for a month and three days!”

Dave sent more story for me. This next one Dave says was in December ‘69. In this incident the Medic was Dale McGuff. Dale was a platoon Medic in B 1-5 Cav before joining MEDEVAC thinking it was better than in the infantry, while he waited for a rear job. He found out that it was out of the fire and into the frying pan. Dale wrote a book published in 2005 called, So That Others May Live, after the MEDEVAC motto, which I wrote about those many years ago in this column. You can read all my columns from 1999 on the 15th MED Assn Web site: . Back issues of the Saber are also on the 1st Cav Assn website for members. Dale writes in his book that this incident that Dave describes was in October 1969. Dave does not admit to an accurate memory, but he gets close enough. I was jogging it fifty years later.

“Dave here. Well, I have had enough to drink so willing to share some more! This time was in Dec ‘69, at least I think so. Anyway, we got the call, and it was ARVNs, which was kind of scary right off the bat. So, it was a hot hoist and we pulled up to a hover. Oh here, let me tell you the crew first off. CPT Holmes (MEDEVAC 8) was AC, Colby was PP (MEDEVAC 27), Mike Vinyard was the crew chief, Dale McGuff was the Medic, and me. I am always there somewhere.

Charlie Williams“They had a pretty small perimeter and that was not fun. Do not remember just where the JP (Jungle Penetrator on the hoist) was but we took fire. And I mean we took a lot of fire fast. There were all kinds of red lights going off and the only person to take a round was CPT Holmes, ‘bout took his foot off. (Dale writes that it was just a small fragment caught below his knee. Indeed, I saw Charlie Holmes DEROS in 1970 so he did not leave country in 1969.) CPT Holmes kept us from crashing right there.

“Dale said, “I’m hit!” And, when I looked at him, he had a piece of red glass in his hand. (Dale McGuff in his book says the control panel was shot up so bad all the red-light lenses shattered and that is what he caught in his hand thinking it was blood.) Boy was he relieved!

“Vinyard shot all his ammo on the way out. Man, we came so close to balling up on the ground it just was not funny. How he kept that bird in the air was beyond me. But I was happy.

“So, as we got to (LZFSB) Ike they didn’t want to let us land because Holmes didn’t have super control of the bird. He just kinda told them to ‘f’ off, here we come! And that was not a good landing in my book. “I do not remember how we got back to air ops (Phouc Vinh). They did get the bird back to Phouc Vinh and we counted over a hundred bullet holes all in the left side. We just could not figure out why Vinyard did not get hit. His hell hole had most of the holes!”

Always remembering our 1st Cav Troops on duty around the world; over and out.

FIRST TEAM! Garryowen
Mike Bodnar 2\7 '69
MEDEVAC 1-7\70

Bottom border for page.