Saber Article Index

2019 May-Jun

Mike Bodnar

307B N Main

Copperas Cove, TX 76522



I received an e-mail from Glenn Beckett in response to my last column, who was an RTO in Cheyenne Platoon B 2-8 Cav. Glen wanted to confirm about the incident on 05 Sep 69 when 1LT John Kuulei Kauhaihao was MEDEVACed. Glenn thought I was skeptical about that, but I just wanted more information. He told me about a book to refer to by Phil Marshall “Helicopter Rescues Vietnam” Volume III.

I did research the book by Phil Marshall on my Amazon Kindle and downloaded free samples of all of his books, for starters. He has written over eight books. I did buy the one containing the information I was looking for. On Kindle I get an extreme discount so getting them all if I want to would not be expensive. I asked MEDEVAC 2 Ron Huether if he knew Phil Marshall. Ron said that he was a speaker at one of the 15th MED Assn Reunions. Ron said he, himself, was written about in one of the books.

Phil Marshall was a DUSTOFF pilot so has the inclination to write about these U.S. Army Aeromedical Evacuation missions, and has the credibility to get interviews with the participants. Immediately I noticed that Phil Marshall’s method of writing improved on those writers I had mentioned in the last column who did many interviews, but interpreted them in their own way. This author Marshall, prints the words of the interviewees and shows them in comparison, because each person interviewed has their own view and recollection. Thus, the reader can draw their own conclusions.

This incident with B 2-8 Cav on 05 Sep 69 when a MEDEVAC was shot down starts with the details by the aircraft commander, MEDEVAC 19 Dan Toothman. When I had seen during writing the last column that a MEDEVAC crew chief, SP5 Louis De Bari, was KIA 05 Sep 69, I suspected it was the mission for B 2-8 Cav. In the book it says the copilot of MEDEVAC 2-2 was also interviewed. I have to quote the book because to me it is confusing. Any other reader may not be confused, which I’ll explain. The book reads, “WO Ray Zepp and myself, Jon S. Richards, Peter Pilot, were the assigned MEDEVAC ship at Tay Ninh on that day., MEDEVAC 2-2; normally we would have flown that mission. However, we were called to FSB Ike early that day to pick up some urgent patients due to the base being mortared. As we started our spiral descent about half a click north of the base some lucky gook on the ground opened up on us with machine gun fre. We were hit by two rounds, one killed crewchief Di Bari, and the other seriously wounded the medic in the leg. We couldn’t tell how serious the ship was hit so we aborted the mission and flew directly back to the 45th Surgical hospital in Tay Ninh. We called in to our Headquarters in Phouc Vinh and the mission to Ike was completed by our platoon leader. Another ship brought us a new crew and it was determined our ship was still flyable.” That is a direct quote from the book with all misspellings and incorrect formats if there are any.

So, it sounds like Jon Richards was speaking about WO Ray Zepp and himself, as Peter Pilot. It’s confusing to me because it says the account was from the copilot of MEDEVAC 2-2. The writer is quoted as saying he and WO Ray Zepp were assigned as MEDEVAC 2-2. Mr. Zepp-whom I flew with a lot in 1970-was MEDEVAC 21. I have read a lot of 2-7 Cav Daily Staff Journals, DA 1594, that mention MEDEVAC 21 picked up for them around that time in 1969. 2-7 Cav was on LZ\FSB Jamie in Tay Ninh Province at that time, ten clicks east of Ike, where 2-8 Cav was. There never is any mention of a MEDEVAC 22 in the 2-7 Cav Daily Journals. Only mentioned are MEDEVAC 21; and MEDEVAC 4 picking up for CIDGs further out in the AO. Jon Richards was MEDEVAC 22 ‘69-’70. As quoted, that Tay Ninh crew would normally have been assigned the B 2-8 pickup but were called to FSB Ike earlier when it had urgents because of a ground attack. As stated, their MEDEVAC got shot at while descending, killing the crew chief Di Bari, and wounding the Medic. They had to abort and flew back to the 45th Surg in Tay Ninh. I had never heard of the 45th Surg there, and thought we always flew wounded back to A 15th MED in Tay Ninh.

Probably the standby crew from Phouc Vinh with AC Toothman did the mission later for B 2-8 Cav. Dan Toothman mentions that the door gunner, Leo Williams-said to be on his very first mission-and his assigned Medic had never been under fire on MEDEVAC before, so I’m assuming that was the standby crew with two newer members. The crew chief was Jack Dalman and copilot was Ken Colby.

MEDEVAC 19 went in. Dan Toothman says that the ground unit-B 2-8-was in a defoliated area with one hundred seventy-five foot dead trees but a lot of thick understory, which is why he thinks the NVA could get so close to them undetected. He says that they as S.O.P. picked out a backup landing site on the way, in the event they had to go down-and they did.

poleless semirigid litterAfter about a minute or so they took fire. Dan Toothman said he thought he was hit and gave control over to his copilot. One infantryman with a leg wound had already been hoisted. They apparently did not break off - i.e. leave until it became more secure-and started hoisting the more urgent lieutenant in a poleless semirigid litter litter. Glenn Beckett is then quoted in the book with his story. He says the MEDEVAC caught fire above them after their loading up the lieutenant on the hoist, and it had to take off without fully hoisting the poleless semirigid litter litter, which brushed the trees as they were leaving. Glenn says that he thought the lieutenant was already dead or very near death when they loaded him-either in the poleless semirigid litter litter or hooked him up. He said it was a frantic time for them-because of the contact. He says they later learned the MEDEVAC crash landed but did not know anyone’s outcome except that the lieutenant did not survive.

Crew Chief Jack Dahlamn says there was a perception that the lieutenant in the poleless semirigid litter litter was dragged through the trees. He said they did not leave until he was free from the trees. Dan Toothman states that his policy was they would not sever the hoist cable if the casualty was still on it. They would either fully hoist or lower back down.

They tried to descend into a clearing but lost all control due to the enemy damage and Jack Dahlman said the casualty ended up in a tree. Dan Toothman wanted to go get him from the ground where they were but he was told that a LOH had picked him up.

There is even input from a Cobra commander who was covering the operation. He said there were a lot of NVA in the area. He disputes the mention of an LOH and said none were in the area. He said they couldn’t do that procedure even if there was one there. He says he saw the poleless semirigid litter litter bounced along the ground and was concerned it would entangle in the tail rotor.

Those from the downed MEDEVAC all exited the aircraft and walked over to a possible helicopter landing site a distance away. A command and control helicopter landed there and everyone boarded and went to FSB Ike. The LTC on the C&C said he saw it all happen and directed the Quick Reactionary Force to recover the lieutenant’s body from the crash site.

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



Mike Bodnar 2\7 '69 MEDEVAC 1-7\70


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