Saber Article Index
After correcting Art Jacobsâ€™ Vietnam first tour in country dates, as a MEDEVAC pilot, on the 15th MED Assn website just to make sure, Art
confirmed, â€œYes, Dec 67 to Dec 68.â€ Many more MEDEVAC pilot call signs and
dates with them have been updated.
I got inquisitive and asked Art about his call sign, MEDEVAC 21, because
the only other MEDEVAC 21 who shows on that web page is Ray Zepp, whom I
flew with a lot in 1970. Art said, â€œI do not know who had the call sign
before or after me.â€ Art also said, â€œThe odd part was that â€˜21â€™ was my
high school football, baseball, and basketball number. Itâ€™s a strange
world of coincidences!â€
I asked Art who gave that call sign to him and he said the MEDEVAC
Platoon Leader. Art said, â€œMAJ Goodman was the Medevac Platoon Leader. I
believe it was him when I arrived.â€ That got me more inquisitive because
I saw on that web page a Goodman-with no first name nor rank- listed as
MERCY 53. I thought MAJ Goodman may have been the first MEDEVAC 6-as â€œ6â€
in units usually designated the CO, and some â€œMEDEVAC 6â€ call signs and
individuals as MEDEVAC Platoon Leader were listed, but not him.
Because the Air Ambulance Platoon was just that size, Art added, â€œYes, it
was only a platoon, but because there were many Captain MSC officers
flying, the slot was for a Major or senior Captain.â€ Art also confirmed,
â€œMAJ Goodman did use Medevac 6 - I remember hearing him on the radio!â€
Until 1967, when Art Jacobs joined the Air Ambulance Platoon, all the
pilots are listed with the call sign designation: â€œMERCY.â€ So, I think
that is when they transitioned over to the pilot call signs designated as
â€œMEDEVAC.â€ That is why there was no MEDEVAC 21 before Art Jacobs.
I asked Air Ambulance Platoon â€˜66-â€™67 pilot Larry Hatch about that. Larry
said he never transitioned from MERCY 11 during his time Nov 1966 to Nov
1967. 15th Med Assn webmaster Ron Huether updated the â€œMEDEVAC Pilots and
Their Callsignsâ€ page to reflect all the most recent information. 15th MED
Assn and 1st Cav Historian Terry McCarl also volunteered to research a
lot of blank spaces and dates, so, the list is much more accurate now.
Thanks to them both because I, for one, like to refer to that page.
I had heard, or read, that U.S. Army pilots had a choice when they got to
Nam if they wanted to put in for medical evacuation. I asked Ron Huether
about that, and he said he wasnâ€™t given a choice, he was assigned that
way. It resulted as something he did passionately.
I asked Art Jacobs if he had either of those experiences. He said, along
with Jim Doran, he went through medical evacuation training before going
to Vietnam. I asked if anything like that was proposed to him stateside,
as a new pilot, and why he took that training course, or if he was just
assigned that way.
Art said, â€œToward the end of flight school in formation one day, they
asked for volunteers to fly medical evacuation missions. There were eight
of us from my class that volunteered. They sent us to Fort Sam Houston
after flight school for the five-week course (called AMEDS - which I
think stood for Aviation Medical School, but not sure). Out of the five of
us, three were killed.â€
Art included a photo of himself, and Jim Dornan taken at LZ Sharon after
their compound was hit by a Russian 122mm rocket. He said, â€œPart of the
rocket body in my hand, and Jim is holding the rocket motor housing. There
are some other rocket fragments on top of the sandbags.â€
Thinking Art may have
become an MSC Officer after flying MEDEVAC he surprised me when he said,
â€œI was a Warrant Officer on my first tour. In between tours I was
selected to be a pilot for the 10th Special Forces Group. The CO, a full
bird, liked me and wanted to make me the Assistant S-3 Air, so he got me a
direct commission to 1LT. I was promoted to Captain and went back to Vietnam
and flew Cobras.
â€œBecause my enlisted MOS was Field Artillery, that was my commissioned
branch. I spent my first two years in the Army as an EM (served a year in
Korea with an artillery battery on the DMZ and made E-5 before coming
back home and applying for flight school)- 2 yrs. enlisted, - 1 yr.
flight school- 2 yrs. warrant- 2 yrs. commissioned. I got out the end of
1971 and went back to college
for a B.S. and an M.B.A.â€
I asked, â€œâ€˜Whom did you fly Cobras for? And commented, you went from
saving lives by bringing them in, to saving lives by firing support.â€ Art
replied, â€œI was a Platoon Leader (Gunrunner 16) with the 238th Aerial
Weapons Company of the 1st Aviation Brigade. Our home base was Tuy Hoa,
but we dispatched for missions all over II Corps from Ban Me Thuot, to
Pleiku, to Kontum and Dak To.
â€œTwo Purple Hearts first tour, one Purple Heart second tour. The irony
was that it was safer to go looking for people to kill than to go out
trying to save people. â€œIn 1968 I flew during Tet. In 1971 our unit flew
in Laos during Lam Son 719!â€
I asked, â€œYou say you flew â€˜68 Tet. That was still MEDEVAC? I can see a
break after â€˜68 and a return in â€˜71 if thatâ€™s correct.â€ Art answered, â€œYes,
â€˜68 and â€˜71 in Vietnam, and in between 10th Special Forces and Cobra
Art had emailed, â€œSP4
Jerry Dick was my door gunner on a hoist mission west of Camp Evans in
the mountains on 24 July 1968 to rescue wounded Soldiers from B Co 2-8
Cavalry. He was struck in the head by a bullet, and after over a year of
hospitalization in critical condition he was able to be cared for at home by
his family but spent the remainder of his life 100% disabled, confined to a
wheelchair with TBI. Jerry lived in Riverton, Wyoming. His long battle from
being wounded ended when he died on 8 April 2015.
â€œI visited Jerry in Wyoming several times over the years, it was always
great to see his cheerful outlook on life despite his debilitating
condition. I have been to see Jerryâ€™s family twice since his death, and
the picture above was from the 4th of July weekend this year.
â€œYou will notice the
helicopter donated by a local metal craftsman, and a bottle of Pepsi
(Jerryâ€™s favorite drink) left by one of his nephews. Itâ€™s strange how
numbers can have odd coincidences; Jerry was supposed to DEROS on 15
September 1968 (my birthday), and he died on 8 April (my motherâ€™s birthday).
â€œWe flew two more hoist missions to that location that day, and on that
third one I was wounded, our engine failed from the intense ground fire, we
crashed in the mountains, but were rescued by another 15th Med helicopter an
â€œBy the way, two of my other crew members that fateful day
were 1LT Stephen Beals and SP4 John Alling, both killed on 26 November 1968
along with my flight school classmate CWO James Doran.
â€œI have copied in two of the Soldiers from B Co who were on the ground
underneath those three aircraft, Steve Bird (the company medic), and Pete
Genecki (an M-60 gunner) who may care to comment on our ill-fated attempt
to get the wounded out.â€
Peter Genecki email@example.com wrote, â€œArt, Jerry Dick will always
be in my prayers. I donâ€™t believe most people, including the Grunts on
the ground, realize that Medevac crews are all volunteer, and that they
have the option of returning to base if the conditions are too dangerous.
I never saw that happen,
and on July 24, 1968, Medevac 21 would have been
completely justified in doing so. It was raining and extraction was in
triple canopy jungle terrain. The NVA concentrated their fire on the
extraction, and I could hear rounds hitting the aircraft. We had heard
that one of the crew was seriously wounded. How Jerry survived is a
miracle. His wonderful caring family cared for Jerry for decades until
the Good Lord called him home. I did contact his relatives many years later
to thank them on behalf of B 2-8.
â€œMedevac crews hold a special place in the hearts of we Grunts. Knowing
that no matter how bad it gets on the ground, those guys would come if
you were hit. It makes a big difference in the minds of the Infantry
Soldier. Jerry Dick suffered a horrendous injury to help a bunch of guys
he never met, or knew anything about, and that takes a very special kind of
â€œMedevac 21 came back two more times, despite the odds, and got one of
our wounded back to safety. Hill 724 was a horrible place for us that
day, but the efforts of those brave flight crews were a bright spot on a
dark day. Take care, Peteâ€.
Stephen â€œDocâ€ Bird firstname.lastname@example.org , the B 2-8 Cav medic wrote,
â€œMike: Art Jacobs has told me you are going to do an article on the late
Jerry Dick for your column in the Saber. I was one of the three medics on
the ground, serving as the medic for our Blackfoot Platoon, on that
fateful day, throughout my life, I have never allowed the heroism of
Jerry and the crew of Medevac 21, to be far from my conscious thoughts.
â€œAt about 8:15 that morning, our company came under an intense ground
attack by a regiment sized NVA force. They had skillfully used the intense
jungle cover and heavy rain that was falling to maneuver right up to our
perimeter. An intense firefight ensued, and we sustained several WIAs and
KIAs in the first moments of the attack.
â€œOur Blackfoot machine gun position appeared to be the initial focus of
the NVA attack. It quickly became apparent that the five Troopers in that
position needed my help. â€œWhile attempting to maneuver to their position,
I was caught in the open and wounded myself by an AK47 round to my left
shoulder. Some of my fellow Soldiers came to my aid and got me to some
â€œI was able to continue to function and do my job. One of the other two
medics, Leonard Lewis, and I, began treating the numerous casualties. We
knew that Medevac 21, with Jerry manning the right-side door gunner seat,
was on the way. â€œFor a few moments, it appeared we had been able to
repulse the initial attack. I had allowed Leonard to give me a shot of
morphine, since I was confident, based on history, that the Medevac guys
would soon have me on the way to a hospital.â€
This is where Art and Pete concurred to correct the next sequence of
events described by Steve. After all, Doc Bird was wounded as well as
busy taking care of casualties. Art said, â€œSteve: Jerry was wounded on
the first mission, along with my co-pilot 1LT Stephen Beals. We never
even got to a hover; the fire was so intense. With warning lights and
damage to our transmission, we had to abort.
â€œMission two was when we got
the cable down to get that one guy out who was shot again just as he got
to the skids. Again, severe damage, and warning lights, we aborted.
â€œMission three was even worse. I was shot, even more warning lights, and
then a complete engine failure just after we departed. One hellofava day,
bad guys took out three of my helicopters.â€
Peter Genecki confirmed, â€œGuys, what I remember is that, as Art said, the
first mission, all hell broke loose. I canâ€™t honestly say that I saw
green tracers (51 cal.), we were busy trying to put out suppressive fire.
â€œI do remember all three birds being hit because the sound of the rounds
hitting the birds are distinct. We honestly didnâ€™t think the chopper
would make it back. â€œSecond lift I saw our guy get hit, looked like hand. And, again, didnâ€™t
think the ship would make it. â€œThe third rescue attempt seemed to
resemble the first. The gooks gave everything they had, and we did our
best to respond, but they continued to improve their position just in
case someone was crazy enough to come back.
â€œI was near a radio, so we knew the bird went down, and when the rescue
made it to Medevac 21. Iâ€™ve always said that I had the hardest working
guardian angel, but Art yours might be close. Take care brothers, Pete.â€
Art added, â€œPete: Your recall of events is accurate, my friend,
especially the bullets hitting our ship each time. I was so torn that
â€œI desperately wanted to lift more guys out, but finally with all the
warning lights, you realize that a dead crew can rescue no one. I didnâ€™t
want to leave but had to. Itâ€™s a balancing act sometimes, rolling the
dice and on mission three I lost the bet by lingering twenty seconds too
long. It almost cost me everything. Strange, looking back, I wouldnâ€™t
change a thing. Art.â€
Steve â€œDocâ€ Bird continued in his email to me: â€œAs you probably know,
Jerry was in a coma for months and had been eventually moved to a VA
Hospital in his home State of Wyoming. His family never gave up on him,
and he eventually regained consciousness and improved to the point where
they could take him home. Jerryâ€™s injuries were severe, but he used what
he had to make the most of what his physical limitations would allow.
â€œWith the help of Art, I was able to keep in touch by email, with both
Jerry and his brother Wayne, who became Jerryâ€™s primary care giver after the
passing of their parents. When learning of Jerryâ€™s passing several years
ago, I decided that I would make all efforts I could to get Jerryâ€™s name
where it deserved to be, on the Vietnam Wall in D.C.
â€œI knew there was precedent for adding names when it was established that
they subsequently died from wounds received in Vietnam. It was a slow slog
over several years working within the bureaucracy to make any progress. I
was finally contacted by a case officer, and she told me it was her job
to prepare a case packet to go up the chain of command. She needed to get
permission to access Jerryâ€™s medical records. That permission could only
come from Jerryâ€™s family, so I put her in touch with Wayne.
â€œThe family provided the permission and was fully supportive of my
efforts to get Jerryâ€™s name where it rightfully deserved to be. It seemed
the case was finally moving on, but the original case worker was
reassigned. Her replacement seemed to drop the ball. I couldnâ€™t even get
her to return my calls or emails when I requested updates. Out of
frustration, I contacted the entire US Congressional delegation from WY.
Jerryâ€™s family was well known in Riverton, WY and my pleas to the
politicians appeared to finally bear fruit. Eventually, I was contacted
by a staffer from Rep. Cheneyâ€™s Office for additional information on what
had happened to date.
â€œWayne Dick then received a letter from the Department of the Army that
they had rejected the request to have Jerryâ€™s name placed on the Wall.
Their claim was that the cause of death reported for Jerry, heart
failure, could not be directly linked to his Vietnam injuries. I was
incredulous to say the least! A Soldier gets shot in the head on a combat
mission, is in a coma for many months, and spends the rest of his life
severely physically impaired in a wheelchair, but they canâ€™t see this as
a factor in passing in his mid-sixties!
â€œMy intent was to further appeal this finding, but Wayne thanked me for
all my efforts and asked me to just let it go. It remains one of the
biggest disappointments of my life that we were unable to get Jerryâ€™s name
on that wall of heroes in D.C. If I can provide any additional information
for you, please donâ€™t hesitate to ask. â€œAfter serving a little over nine
months as a Combat Medic with the 2-8th Cavalry, I had been wounded twice,
and had just had a younger brother come in country with the Navy Seabees. I
was determined that it was time to get me to a little safer place.
â€œIronically, I got reassigned to B Co of the 15th Med in Quan Loi. I
served my remaining three months there without incident. My time there
gave me an even bigger appreciation for the routine heroism of guys like
Jerry and all the Medevac crews. One of my biggest regrets is that I
never did, as Art did several times, visit with Jerry on his home ground!
I read and enjoy your Saber column. Thanks for giving me an opportunity
to contribute to Jerryâ€™s story! Steve (Doc) Bird.â€
Just to be able to locate on my Vietnam maps all the locations mentioned,
I asked Art from where he flew to the battle on 24 Aug 68. He said
Charlie Med at Camp Evans. Thatâ€™s when I started to realize what I had
never thought about; the 1st Cav was spread out all over I Corps. So, I
asked Art where everything else was.
Art answered, â€œMike: Things changed sometimes, but at that time in 1968,
A Med was at LZ Sharon just south of Quang Tri. B Med was at LZ Jane
between Evans and Sharon. C Med and HQ Co were at Evans. Medevac was a
platoon inside HQ Co. Two crews were assigned each Med Co and rotated
periodically. The crews not with one of the companies flew back haul
missions, ash, and trash, were on rest, and filled in when anyone with
one of the Med companies was a casualty. When our engine quit from the
enemy fire on mission three, it was a crew from HQ that came out to get
us because I had used up all the ships at C Med and one from HQ.â€
Because of the 1st Cav I Corps presence I asked Art if he ever flew to
Khe Sanh, like when they launched Operation Pegasus. Art informed me,
â€œWhen I was at Sharon, I flew a couple of missions to and around Khe Sanh.
We also flew many missions for the Marines in the DMZ.
â€œOn my second tour in 1971, I found myself back at Khe Sanh for the
Laotian invasion (Lam Son 719). Deja vu. â€œOne of my biggest regrets from
Vietnam was not keeping a daily journal of the missions I flew, the
number of wounded, and life on an LZ. What a treasure that would be
today! Lots of flights were hairy, but the night missions in the
mountains were very dangerous, even without enemy fire. Artâ€
That type of flying was proven later when 1st Cav MG Casey and his crew
were killed in 1970. Proven not to be taken lightly.
Art told me to ask the 2-8 guys for their exact location on the map.
Steve Bird referred me to
which quite thoroughly mentions all the events then around their LZ Carol.
The information contained doesnâ€™t get better than that.
I quote from that web page at the end of the introduction: â€œThe following
information on the 22-26 July operations is based on the official 2nd Bn,
8th Cav Regt Staff Journals and accounts from former Troopers who served
with B Co during this period. To set the scene, a few words about this
operation are needed. Although we spent a year fighting in various
regions of Vietnam, we could still recognize and appreciate the beauty of
much of the countryside. But when you read the following accounts of
combat operations in the mountainous jungle surrounding LZ Carol, keep in
mind this poignant description by one of our Troopers - THE ENTIRE AREA
WAS JUST EVIL!â€
Steve also wrote, â€œMike: â€œWhen I was fortunate enough in 2018 to be
selected by the VFW for a two week all expenses paid trip to Vietnam, I
took a side trip from Da Nang out to the A Shau Valley. Very different
now. â€œThe Ho Chi Minh Highway, connecting Saigon and Hanoi runs right
through the valley. One of the guys with me was a Veteran of the 101st
and fought in the battle for Hamburger Hill. We climbed to the top.
â€œThe Northerners had erected a memorial to their â€˜heroic victoryâ€™ over
U.S. Forces there! My traveling companion found it laughable that a
devastating loss of 2-3000 NVA troops to our less than 100 KIAs, was
considered a heroic victory by the NVA! â€œI stood on the hill, realizing
that LZ Carol was probably in my field of vision from that vantage point.
If you are interested, I did a blog on my day-to-day activities on the
trip. It includes pictures. You can view it at
. Let me know if you have difficulty locating or reading it. Doc Birdâ€ Steve
is a good writer, so his blog is a good read, and educational.
FIRST TEAM! Garryowen
Mike Bodnar 2\7 '69
SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE