Saber Article Index
In the 2014 MAR\APRSaber
“I received a phone call on
February 28, 2014 from Leif Aamot<email@example.com>
who was in 5th of the 7th Cav ‘68-’69 and had made the division move down
south to III Corps. He e-mailed his question in writing: Mike: Here is a
summary of the events and situation that I described to you this morning.
“‘Starting on the 22nd of Nov 1968, Alpha Company, 5-7 Cav was operating
in grid square XT4887, OPCON to 2-8 Cav, B Co 2-8, was also operating in the
same grid. Both companies were working their way to the northwest.
“‘On the 24th, Alpha received log near XT 4888; the log bird received
automatic weapons fire and left the area in a hurry. Alpha and one other
company from 2-8, probably Delta, moved together toward the west.
“‘On the 25th, in grid XT 4687, Alpha encountered a bunker(s) and had
three men killed and another three wounded. The MEDEVAC called in to pick up
the wounded was shot at and returned to LZ Rita. At about the same time and
only 400m away, B 2-8 received mortar fire and a ground attack; they had
twenty-two wounded. Both A 5-7 and B 2-8 utilized artillery support, ARA and
air strikes to break contact. A 2-8 was reportedly within 300m of A 5-7 but
did not encounter the bunkers or enemy activity.
“‘On the morning of the 26th, in the same area, A 5-7 had six more men
wounded and one killed. MEDEVAC was called. Six WIAs and one KIA were loaded
on MEDEVAC 18, from Quan Loi, and it departed. Late in the day we (A 5-7)
were told that MEDEVAC 18 had received heavy automatic weapon fire about
a mile away from where it left us, and it was reported to have crashed
shortly thereafter. C 1-9 Cav sent a bird to locate the downed MEDEVAC,
which it did, but reported erroneous coordinates. By the time we were
notified we were already moving south under orders to vacate the area
because an Arc Light was being called in during the night. By evening we had
moved about two miles to the SW, almost halfway to LZ Billy.
At dawn on the 27th, the Arc Lights went in. C 1-9 Cav conducted BDA of
the two Arc Light boxes, which completely covered the areas we had been in
the previous three days. Many destroyed bunkers were sighted. By noon, A 5-7
had been picked up from a clearing secured by Custer Dodge and airlifted
back to LZ Jake.
“‘On the 28th, A & B companies, 2-8, made it to the crash site and
reported better coordinates. They reported finding and extracting twelve
bodies, all burned
in the crash. The bodies were bagged, and a MEDEVAC
was called in to retrieve them and take them back to Quan Loi.
“‘I am trying to find someone, from either Bravo or Alpha, 2-8, who was
there and recalls some of the events. Alternatively, I’d like to find
someone who had the 2-8 S-2/S-3 Duty Officer Logs that would provide more
details than I’ve found in the 2nd Brigade and Division logs.’
“Leif added, ‘The MEDEVAC that was shot at on the 25th, with three
wounded aboard, might have opted to land at nearby Rita instead of risking
the longer flight back to Quan Loi. It is not clear from the logs.
“‘MEDEVAC 18, shot down on the 26th, crashed about two miles from
our location where it had picked up the six wounded and one KIA. We weren’t
told that it had been shot down until later in the day.’
“The Memory Wall for 1968 on the 15th MED Website lists the names of the
five crew members who died in the crash: 1LT Stephen Carl Beals, WO1 James
Donald Doran, SP5 Johnny Glen Gregg, SP4 John Stephen Alling Jr., and PFC
Robert Earnest Jones.
“I directed Leif to the National Archives for the after action reports
Daily Journals; also, the 8th Cav columnist. Anyone in MEDEVAC then, could
help with what they know; contact me or Leif. I would be interested to know
who was there then, and who knew those crew members.”
The subsequent issues of the Saber in 2014 had MEDEVAC members’ responses
to this writing. I wanted to piece together what was later said, to make one
continuous, comprehensive story, to better remember those crewmembers, and
extracted casualties, who were KIA at that shoot-down in 1968.
One of those MEDEVAC members who commented on the article was former crew
chief SP5 Randy Brewer- MEDEVAC 458/578. “‘After reading in the last Saber
about the crewmen killed in Nov ‘68 Randy said: ‘I just received the
March/April 2014 Saber and saw the article about MEDEVAC 18. I heard about
their being shot down after I got back to the states but did not know the
specifics. I flew with both Doran and Beals and knew John Alling quite well.
Have quite a few photos of him. I was contacted by his family some years ago
seeking information, but I really did not know the circumstances of his
demise. I did make copies of all the photos I had of him and told the family
we were good friends. I have long since lost all contact information I had
with them. I did not know the other two (gunner and Medic) so they must have
come into MEDEVAC after I left Oct.3, ‘68.’
‘I heard about Doran and Beals getting shot down after I got home. I heard
that they were shot down and I also heard that a B-40 rocket went right up
the exhaust on their aircraft.’”
In 2014 JUL/AUG Saber I wrote: “New evidence was found about how MEDEVAC
18 was shot down on 26 Nov 68. I had contacted MEDEVAC 20 Gil
SP5 Johnny Glen Gregg on that aircraft whose family had inquired to me. Gil
replied, ‘I knew Johnny Gregg very well. He served on my helicopter as both
Medic and door gunner. We lived together in the A Shau Valley for
twenty-nine days eating C-rations only. He saved a lot of lives.
“‘I went to his mother’s house in Houston to present her with a plaque
the MEDEVAC crews had made. I think his brother was there at the time. I
have a few pictures of him. I will try to find them for you.
“‘I was at the scene within a few minutes when they were hit by fifty
caliber incendiary rounds, which set fire to the aircraft. The helicopter
exploded three hundred feet above the ground. There were seven wounded
(casualties) on board. They just pulled out of a HOT LZ (landing zone).
Johnny was killed risking his life to save the wounded. We flew lots of
Randy Brewer for trying to remember that incident which actually happened
after he had left Vietnam. 4He contributed what he best knew that he had
heard. I had also heard the story like him, which was mentioned in the last
“Also, KIA on MEDEVAC 18 with SP5 Johnny Glen Gregg, were: 1LT Stephen
Carl Beals, WO1 James Donald Doran, SP4 John Stephen Alling Jr., and PFC
Robert Earnest Jones.
As per my
request, Randy Brewer sent photos of those he knew, CE John Alling, and KIA
14 Feb 69 CE Gary Dubach, which I include in this column.
“When I asked
Gil about what we had heard he reiterated, ‘No. They had Cobra escorts. I
was monitoring their mission while I was flying back from my mission. They
had made their extraction of seven wounded and had cleared the trees. I
thought they had made it fine but as they started to climb out there was an
enemy 50cal position not known and were hit with the incendiary rounds
setting them on fire. I heard one of the pilots-I think it was Beals-scream
over the radio, ‘WE’RE ON FIRE! WE’RE ON FIRE!’
“‘I got their coordinates from the gunships who also informed me what hit
them as I was a few minutes from their location. Their helicopter exploded
three hundred feet above the ground.
“‘We looked but there was nothing left of the aircraft, and no chance of
Randy Brewer is one of the finest crew members to ever fly MEDEVAC, and
usually a hundred percent correct on anything he tells you, but it was 50cal
not a rocket. I will always remember the screams of ‘We’re on Fire! We’re on
Fire!’ It sounded like they were already consumed by the fire even in the
“Randy clarified when I mentioned Gil’s ‘eyewitness,”’ ‘Gil, I don’t
think I stated flatly that a B-40 rocket got the aircraft. I heard both
stories; that they had been shot down and then another story that a B-40
went up the exhaust. I got conflicting stories about what really happened.
Since I was not there, I was just passing on the two different stories that
were related to me in the states.
“‘I did hear that they were shot down but did not know that the .51cal
Chi-com was firing incendiary rounds. Then I heard the B-40 rocket story but
had no way to confirm either one. At any rate, 5 VERY BRAVE CREWMEMBERS and
their patients met a very horrible death which always leaves a vacant place
in my heart for them. Randy’ “MEDEVAC 20 Gil Gatto flew in some of the worst
places-as if all 1st Cav places weren’t the worst-the A Shau, where he and
Randy Brewer were together; and then, when the 1st Cav moved down to III
Corps to clean up an NVA infiltration mess, and screen for the upcoming ‘69
Tet-so it would not be like the ‘68 Tet Offensive on Saigon, as elsewhere.
“I got e-mailed, ‘Hi Mike. My name is Weber Borrell, and I was SP5
Gregg’s First Sergeant in Nam ‘68-’69. I was the First Sergeant of Co A 15th
MED. I did know him very well. He spoke to me about going to MEDEVAC in the
early part of ‘68.
“‘I do remember the day that the MEDEVAC was shot down and that was a sad
day for all of us that knew him. I saw the article in the Saber in March
2014. I may have met you when we had the Reunion in Miss. I have not been
able to make any other Reunions. You probably remember Dr. Barton who was my
company commander. I know that he has made several Reunions.
“‘I do have many photos mostly of locations of Company A ‘68-’69. I would
be more than happy to send them to you if you would like to put them in the
Saber. Thank you very much for your time, I look forward to hearing from
you. Weber J Borrell, Sr., SGM (Ret) U.S. Army, Lafayette, LA.’
” I had put some of Weber’s photos in the Saber after he had sent them to
me. They are best viewed in those past Saber issues. He had sent photos of
photos, taken with his cell phone, so the reproduction was poor. Either
access past Saber issues at the 15th MED Assn website, or the 1st Cav Assn
The 15th Medical Battalion Memorial Wall: <https://15thmedbnassociation.org/Memorial-wall/15th-med-bn-association-memorial-wall.aspx>
Always remembering our 1st Cav Troops on duty around the world; over and
FIRST TEAM! Garryowen
Mike Bodnar 2\7 '69
SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE