Saber Article Index

2018 Nov-dec

I briefly spoke with James Odum on the telephone since the last column. James said that he didn’t remember who was on the crew when he was awarded the DFC, but that the flight was out of Phouc Vinh. He said that it was just a routine pickup, in other words, not urgent. All that getting shot up should have been unnecessary for a routine pickup, but the pilots made the decision.

James recalled an incident where one of the MEDEVAC Hueys was on a maintenance flight check and crashed. James said he himself had redlined that helicopter. Listening to James describe it, more caution should probably have been taken flying it and it went down killing the three maintenance personnel on board.

I just happened to be the flight Medic on the MEDEVAC that brought in SP6 Conway. He was seized up probably from a concussion, or which is commonly referred to in the most recent wars, traumatic brain injury. There was nothing that I could do for him that I could see. No bleeding, no obstructed airway, no gasping for breath, just seized. It was a short ride from the rubber trees where they crashed, to the 15th MED in Phouc Vinh.

Looking up SP6 Conway on Google I found some- one had posted on the Virtual Wall-no name given the following: “02 Jan 2004 NEVER FORGOTTEN WO Rodney K. Arnold, SFC James H. Brooks , and SP6 James T. Conway, all assigned to Headquarters Company, 15th Medical Battalion, were lost when their UH-1H (tail number 68-16429) crashed during a post-maintenance test flight.”

“I served with James Conway when I was a flying crew chief for UH1H tail number 68-16429 in the MEDEVAC Platoon and he was working in the Maintenance Platoon for 15th Medical Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Division.”

“In April 1970 I was hospitalized after being bitten by a rat at Quan Loi where my helicopter was stationed to make emergency pickups. While I was in the hospital, the MEDEVAC helicopter on which I was the assigned crew chief crashed during a maintenance flight check, killing all aboard including James, SFC Brooks and WO Arnold.

“I remember James Conway was married with two kids and one on the way. It was his second tour in Vietnam. He thought being in helicopter maintenance was safer than flying MEDEVAC missions like me. He had done his first tour flying as a crew chief. He loved his family and the only thing he wanted was to return to them. But, as fate would have it, I survived the war and he didn’t, dying in the helicopter I should have been in. I will always be eternally grateful to James for doing his duty. He made the ultimate sacrifice. I will never forget him.” Again, this author gives no name that I see.

SP6 James Thaddeus Conway died 25 Apr 70 at 15th Medical Battalion (1st Cav). Home of Record (official): Tuscarawas, OH. Maintenance Sergeant SFC James Harrison Brooks, Jr. was from Itmann, WV. WO Rodney Keith Arnold was from Milwaukee, WI. All three died together 25 Apr 70. The crash was near the Song Be Bridge, a few kilometers south of the Phouc Vinh Base Camp.   “Helicopter UH-1H 68-16429
Information on U.S. Army helicopter UH-1H tail number 68-16429:
The Army purchased this helicopter in 1169
Total flight hours at this point: 00000417
Date: 04/25/1970
Incident number: 700425101ACD Accident case number: 700425101 Total loss or fatality Accident
Unit: 15 MED 1 CAV
The station for this helicopter was Phouc Vinh in South Vietnam
Number killed in accident = 3... Injured = 0... Passengers = 3 costing 395145
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: Defense Intelligence Agency Helicopter Loss database. Army Aviation Safety Center database.
Also: OPERA (Operations Report.)
Loss to Inventory
Crew Members: P WO1 Arnold Rodney Keith KIA
Passengers and/or other participants:
SFC Brooks James Harrison JR, CMP, A
SP6 Conway James Thaddeus, CMP, A

Accident Summary: The crew of UH-1H, SN: 68-16429 was performing a test flight. The purpose of the test flight was to perform an N1 topping check. The aircraft departed Phuoc Vinh at approximately 1030 hours and proceeded to the unit’s test flight area south of the Song Be Bridge, RVN. At approximately 1100 hours, according to witnesses on the ground, aircraft 68-16429, which was heading in a northeasterly direction, began violently spinning to the right at an altitude of approximately 1200 feet above ground level. Witnesses also stated that at approximately 700 feet above ground level the aircraft began to recover from the spin and that at approximately 400 feet above ground level the aircraft again began to spin, finally crashing in a rubber plantation 8,000 meters to the southwest of Phuoc Vinh. The aircraft was found resting on its right side heading approximately 120 degrees with the tail boom still attached. Although remaining attached to the main body of the aircraft, the tail boom was bent approximately 60 degrees from its normal position and leaning against a rubber tree. The complete tail rotor section with half of the 90-degree gearbox attached was found approximately 15 meters northwest of the aircraft. The detached tail rotor section was found undamaged except for the 90-degree gearbox which was split in half. The remaining half of the 90-degree gearbox remained attached to the tail boom section. Impact with the rubber trees and found approximately 5 meters south of the main body of the aircraft. Small portions of the main rotor blade were found scattered throughout the crash site area. All three occupants survived the initial impact of the crash but died due to injuries after the accident.
This record was last updated on 09/20/1998
Additional information is available on CD-ROM.
Please send additions or corrections to:
The VHPA Webmaster Gary Roush.
Date posted on this site: 09/23/2017
Copyright © 1998 - 2017 Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association”

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

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