Saber Article Index

Mar-Apr

In the 2014 MAR\APRSaber
I wrote:
“I received a phone call on February 28, 2014 from Leif Aamot<laamot@yahoo.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.’

“Randy adds: ‘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
Gatto about 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 MEDEVACs together.’

“Thanks to 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 Saber.

“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 survivors.

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 cockpit.’

“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 website.

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 out.

FIRST TEAM! Garryowen
Mike Bodnar 2\7 '69
MEDEVAC 1-7\70
SO THAT OTHERS MAY LIVE

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