Talking Proud Archives --- Military

HH-43 SAR pilot’s diary, 1964-1965, Vietnam


November 16, 2013

Introduction

TaylorArchie

It is not often that we get access to a fairly detailed diary of a combat air commander from the Indochina War. We have such a diary written by Lt. Colonel (and earlier major) Archie Taylor, shown here with one of his HH-43 Huskie Search and Rescue (SAR) and Local Base firefighting and crash Recovery (LBR) helicopters. These were superb firefighting machines --- indeed, many crews called them “aerial fire trucks.” They also turned out to be fantastic SAR machines, indeed early in the war, which is where we are with Taylor’s diaries, among the only USAF SAR helicopters. They were nicknamed “Pedro.” I did a story on the Pedros of Vietnam, “Our Pedros, rotors of wood, men of steel,” which I commend to you. Lots of good history on them.

The diaries were found and provided by his son, also named Archie Taylor.

I want to warn you, before you get too settled in your seats or at your printer, this is a very long report. Taylor’s notes are extensive. I chose a strategy that amplified his notes to give you a more complete idea of what he was noting. So you’ll have to be prepared for the long haul here. In my view, it’s worth it. I will conclude with words from General Mark Welsh, the current Chief of Staff, USAF (CSAF), while he was talking about something else, which I will recount at the close. But if you go through this entire report, “Every once in a while (it will) remind yourself of who you are.”

His diary comes in two parts.

HH43BienHoaTakeoff


First, as commander, Det 4, Pacific Air Rescue Center (PARC) during October 1964-May 1965. He, his crews and his HH-43F Pedros were located at Bien Hoa AB, Republic of Vietnam (RVN), located outside Saigon. His notes here were quite legible and understandable to the non-professional airman. He also saved his typewritten reports to higher headquarters which were easily readable. This photo shows a Bien Hoa-based HH-43 taking off, year unknown.

JameswayQuonsetHuts


Second, we have his notes during the period May-October 1965 when he served at the Search and Rescue Center (SAR) located with Air Operations Center (AOC) at Tan Son Nhut AB, Vietnam, outside Saigon. He worked the SAR problem while there. This center was established in 1961, the same year the Military Assistance Command Vietnam, MACV, was established. When three officers and two enlisted men arrived to operate the SAR center, they did not have, phones, chairs or tables. They had to find a way to set up shop in a prefabricated Jamesway Hut such as shown here at an Army outpost. They shared their hut with others who served as a control center for air attacks in Vietnam. Furthermore, in 1961 the US Air Rescue Service (ARS) had no forces in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN). As a result, the SAR Center had to coordinate with the Army to make arrangements.

I want to emphasize that US military forces, especially the USAF, were in no way, shape or form prepared to conduct SAR operations early in the war. It is a sad episode. It’s almost as though the powers to be thought their air forces were invincible. They were not, as you will soon see.

I will call Lt. Colonel Archie Taylor “Archie” from now on so you know about whom I am talking.

For me, Archie’s diaries are a goldmine of first hand observation of the air war in 1964-1965. This was a dynamic period of time in the war.

RollingThunder


The suits in Washington thought they could bomb North Vietnam (NVN) into submission and end the war early. So they organized and executed a massive aerial bombardment campaign from March 2, 1965 through November 2, 1968, known as Rolling Thunder. This arguably became the most intense air-ground battle of the war. However, the main problem with the operation was that it built up gradually, very slowly, from just a few flights against insignificant targets all the way to bombing of Hanoi. USAF, USN and Republic of Vietnam (RVN) Air Force (RVNAF) participated in bombing the north. The Navy largely came from the Gulf of Tonkin, while the USAF largely staged from secret bases in Thailand, flying through Laos to get to their targets in NVN, a perilous flight. The bases in Thailand were secret in that neither Thailand or the US would admit to their existence; the media pretty well knew about them however.

John T. Correll, writing
“Rolling Thunder” for the March 2005 edition of Air Force Magazine, said this:

“In Rolling Thunder, the US attacked the North with all sorts of aircraft, but the worst of the fighting was borne by the F-105s and the F-4s.”

Archie’s notes will bear that out. I would remark, however, that to conduct Rolling Thunder attacks required a host of tankers, SAR aircraft, command and control aircraft, and reconnaissance aircraft, to name a few.

I commend
Correll’s article to you --- it tells it like it was, the decisions, the mistakes, the problems, the courage.

RollingThunderMap

This map shows how the USAF and USN divided NVN for bombing and strafing purposes. You are looking at numbered “Route Packages.” These packages were not formalized until December 1965, but the services were sort of using them earlier.

The Navy concentrated on 6B, including Haiphong harbor, 4, 3, and 2, targets easily accessible from the Gulf of Tonkin. MACV employed USAF, USN and RVNAF aircraft to strike at area 1 in the NVN close to the DMZ and targets inside the RVN. The USAF had areas 5 and 6A, the latter of which included Hanoi, both of which included numerous transportation links between China and the NVN. And, of course all the services with fixed and rotary wing attack aircraft attacked throughout the RVN.

Lima Sites (LS) were set up in Laos to, among other missions, host USAF fighters and SAR helicopters to help downed airmen in NVN. They played an enormous role in hosting supplies and airlifting indigenous and US special forces to the fight inside Laos. They further worked as key communications and navigation sites. I did a story on one of them,
“LS-36, ‘The Alamo’ in Laos,” which also provides some valuable history on these sites.

I assembled the stories that follow knowing the risks associated with such a long report. I felt compelled to do it this way. Our air forces had a very tough time going into NVN in the early years. The enemy was far better prepared than we expected to defend themselves. This turned out not be a cake walk. And our pilots and crews paid a huge price.

In the early years, the enemy’s most potent weapon was anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) and even automatic weapons. As time went on, they employed more sophisticated radar controlled AAA and surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), all provided them by the USSR and China. Added to all this, the Chinese inserted an estimated 320,000 troops into NVN to operate antiaircraft guns, build and repair roads, bridges, railroads and assemble factories. The Chinese focused a great deal of attention on the highways that connected Hanoi with China, over which an enormous amount of supplies to the NVN flowed. They were well trained and had the very best air defense equipment, and the highways had airfields nearby from which the NVN Air Force (NVNAF) could provide air defense coverage of Hanoi and these roads. To a large extent the Chinese and Soviets protected NVN enabling NVN forces to go south and fight the Americans and South Vietnamese inside the RVN. That’s what our air forces were up against.

And therein lies the value of this presentation --- you see first hand a glimpse of what went on as this war got underway. For those of you who participated in flying combat during the war, these notes and stories will bring back a lot of memories, perhaps some not so much fun to re-live. For those of you who did not participate, it is important that you comprehend the service and sacrifice of our men at war. Perhaps most important, this is history, as told to us by Archie in the best way he could, through cryptic notes jotted down rapidly during the heat of battle, from the scene.

Before we get going, I want to name the pilots and crews I was able to identify after researching Archie’s notes. His notes consisted mostly of call signs, sometimes aircraft type, almost always locations where the aircraft was reported down, and the date and a running time hack. I could not tell whether he was dealing in local time or zulu time (Greenwich Meridian Time), so I just use the time hacks he wrote down. I took this data, searched for the incidents, tried to identify the crews, their units and home bases, and background information surrounding their mission and loss.

These are the crews I was able to identify. While commanding Det 4, PARC HH-43s at Bien Hoa AB, RVN, so Archie naturally concentrated on rescue efforts in that area. Once you get to the section when he served in the SAR Rescue Center at Tan Son Nhut, you will see most of the losses were over NVN.

Det 4 PARC diary
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Lt. Glenn Dyer, USAF, A-1E, 1st Air Commando Squadron, Tan Son Nhut, RVN, October 26, 1964, KIA


1st Lt. K.P. B”Buddy” Roedema, USAF, A-1E, 1st Commando Air Squadron, Bien Hoa AB, RVN, December 1, 1964, Rescued

Capt. Lyal H. Erwin, USA, the pilot, and Pfc. Alton L. Hornbuckle, USA, the gunner, UH-1B, January 15, 1965, KIA

Major George F. Vlisides, USAF, A-1E, 1st Air Commando Squadron, Bien Hoa AB, RVN, January 27, 1965, KIA along with a RVNAF crew member

Capts. Thomas C. McEwen, USAF and Kurt W. Gareiss, USAF, A-1E, 1st Air Commando Squadron, Bien Hoa AB, KIA, February 24, 1965

A1C Robert Doss, USAF, Fireman, Det 4, PARC, Bien Hoa AB, RVN, April 27, 1965, KIA
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SAR Rescue Center notes
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Capt. Carl E. Jackson, USAF, MACV SOG, C-123, at least 3 KIA, probably more

Capt. Marvin Nelson, USAF, 15th TRS, “Fox 23,” RF-101, June 29, 1965, KIA

Capt. Don Ira Williamson, USAF, “Elm 2,” F-105D, 12th TFS, Korat RTAFB, July 7, 1965, KIA or died in captivity

Capt. William J. Barthelmas Jr., USAF, “Pepper 02”, F-105D, 357th TFS, Korat RTAFB, July 27, 1965, KIA

Major Jack G. Farr, USAF, ”Pepper 01,” F-105D, 357th TFS, Korat RTAFB, July 27, 1965, KIA

Capt. Walter Kosko, USAF, “Healy 2”, F-105D, 563rd TFS, Takhli RTAFB, July 27, 1965, KIA

Capt Kile Dag Berg, USAF, 563rd TFS, Takhli RTAFB, July 27, 1965, POW

Capt. Robert B. “Percy” Purcell, 12th TFS, Korat RTAFB, July 27, 1965, POW

Capt. Frank J. Tullo,
“Dogwood 02”, F-105D, 12th TFS, Korat RTAFB, Rescued

Capt. Robert Norlan Daughtrey,
USAF, F-105D, 12th TFS, Korat RTAFB, August 2, 1965, POW

Major Joseph E. Bower, F-105D, 421st TFS attached to 12th TRS, Korat RTAFB, August 3, 1965, KIA-MIA


Pilatus PC-6 Porter, Air America , August 8, 1965, pilot-crew not found in research

Major Dean A. Pogreba, USAF, “Hudson 09,” F-105D, 49th TFS, Yokota, Japan, on temporary duty with the 36th TFS Takhli, RTAFB, August 24, 1965, Rescued

Commander Fred Franke and Lt. Commander R. B. Doremus, USN, “Sundown,” F-4B, VF-21, USS Midway, August 24, 1965, both POWs

Lt. j.g. Richard M. Brunhaver, USN, “Beefeater,” A-4C, VA-22, USS
Midway, August 24, 1965, POW

Capt. Wesley D. Scheirman, USAF, “Elm 1,” F-105F, 67th TFS, Korat RTAFB, August 28, 1965, POW

Lt. Edd D. Taylor, USN, USN, A-1H, VA-152, USS
Oriskany, August 29, 1965, KIA

Lt. Henry S. McWhorter, USN, “Corktip 919,” RF-8A, VFP-63, USS
Oriskany, August 29, 1965, KIA

Capt. James A. Branch and 1st Lt. Eugene M. Jewell, USAF, “Rhino,” F-4C, 15th TFW, Ubon RTAFB, September 4, 1965, MIA

Lt. j.g. Edward B. Shaw, USN, “Firewood 203,” A-1H, VA-165, USS Coral Sea, September 5, 1965, KIA

Lt. James L. Burton, USN, “Elm,” A-4E, VA-164, USS
Oriskany, September 6, 1965, Rescued

Capt. Ricard C. Marshall, USAF, A-1G, 1131st USAF Special Activities Squadron, MACV SOG, and Chief Warrant Officer William J. LaGrand, USA, 197th Aviation Co., 145th Aviation Battalion,
September 6, 1965, KIA

Capt. John T. Clark, Jr., USAF, “Dodge 2,” F-105D, 67th TFS, Korat RTAFB, , September 6, 1965, Rescued

Lt. j.g. Robert David Rudolph, USN, “Corktip 918,” RF-8, VP-63 Det G, September 8, 1965, KIA

Major Edgar Lee Hawkins, USAF, “Elm-2,” F-105D, 67th TFS, Korat RTAFB, KIA

Capt. Phillip Eldon Smith, USAF, F-104C, 435th TFS, Da Nang AB, RVN, POW China

Harvey Quakenbush, USAF, F-104C, 436th TFS, Da Nang AB, RVN, Rescued

Capt. Dale Carlson, USAF, F-104C, 436th TFS, Da Nang AB, RVN, Rescued

Capt. Willis E. Forby, USAF, F-105D, 334th TFS, Takhli RAFB, POW

Capt. Thomas J. Curtis, USAF, “Duchy 41,” HH-43, Detachment 3 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron (ARRS), NKP RTAFB, POW

1st Lt. Duane W. Martin, USAF, “Duchy 41,” HH-43, Det 3, 38th ARRS, NKP RTAFB, escaped, KIA by a villager during his escape

Capt. Joseph Reynes, USAF, F-100D, 481st TFS Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN, Rescued

Lt. j.g. Jon R. Harris, USN, A-4E, VA-72, USS Independence, September 20, 1965, Rescued

Navy E-1B, VAW-12, USS Independence, September 22, 1965, Rescued

Capt. Jack Gravis and 1st Lt. Wylie E. Nolen, USAF, “Grisley Lead,” F-4C, 47th TFS, Ubon RTAFB, September 24, 1965, Rescued

Capt. George R. Hall, USAF, “Dagger 54,” RF-101, 15th TRS, Ubon RTAFB, September 27, 1965, POW

Lt. Cmdr. Carl J. Woods, USN, “Milestone 602,” VA-196, USS Bon Homme Richard, September 28, 1965, KIA

Lt. Colonel Melvin J. Killian, USAF, “Mercury Lead,” F-105D, 334th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, September 30, 1965, KIA

Capt. Chambless M. Chesnutt and his WSO Capt. Michael Chwan, USAF, “Cobra 4,” F-4C, 47th TFS, Ubon RTAFB, September 20, 1965, both KIA

Capt. Charles J. “Chuck” Scharf, USAF (top photo), and his WSO 1st Lt. Martin J. “Marty” Massucci , USAF, “Gator 3” and then “Gator Lead,” 43rd TFS, Ubon RTAFB, October 1, 1965, Scharf KIA, Massucci MIA

Lt. j.g. Richard F. Adams, USN, “Chevy Lead,” F-8E, VF-162, USS Oriskany, Rescued

Major James O. Hivner, USAF, “Panther 3,” F-4C, 47th TFS, Ubon RTAFB, POW

1st Lt. Thomas Barrett, USAF, “Panther 3,” F-4C, 47th TFS, Ubon RTAFB, POW

Major Dean A. Pogreba, USAF, “Mercury 01 (Mercury Lead),” F-105D, 49th TFS Yokota, Japan flying for the 36th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, KIA

Capt. Bruce G. Seeber, USAF, “Mercury 02,” F-105D, 49th TFS Yokota, Japan flying for the 36th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, POW

Capt. Robert Pitt, USAF, RF-101C, 15th TRS, Udorn RTAFB, Crash landing survived

First Lt. John C. Hauschildt, USAF, F-100, 481st TFS, Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN, KIA

Lt. j.g. Richard F. Adams, USN, “Chevy Lead,” F-8E, VF-162, USS Oriskany, October 5, 1965, Rescued

Major James O. Hivner, USAF, “Panther 3,” F-4C, 47th TFS, Ubon RTAFB, POW and 1st Lt. Thomas Barrett, USAF, “Panther 3,” F-4C, 47th TFS, Ubon RTAFB, POW

Major Dean A. Pogreba, USAF, “Mercury 01 (Mercury Lead),” F-105D, 49th TFS Yokota, Japan flying for the 36th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, KIA

Capt. Bruce G. Seeber, USAF “Mercury 02,” F-105D, 49th TFS Yokota, Japan flying for the 36th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, October 5, 1965, POW

“Hawk 1,” EB-66, Takhli RTAFB, October 5, 1965, Attached by MiGs, escaped the MiG attack safely

First Lt. John C. Hauschildt, USAF, F-100, 481st TFS, Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN, KIA

Major James E. Randall, USAF, “Triumph 01, F-105D, 562 TFS, Takhli RTAFB, October 5, 1965, Rescued

Capt. Thomas W. Sima, USAF, “Olds Lead,” F-105D, 36th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, October 15, 2013, POW

Capt. Robert H. Schuler, USAF, “Olds 02,” F-105D, 36th TFS, Takhli RTAFB, October 15, 2013, KIA

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These are the losses that occurred during Archie’s watch about which he knew and took notes for his diary. It is a humbling experience to look at this list, research these men, and write about them, however briefly. Like I mentioned earlier, quoting from the CSAF, General Welsh:

“Every once in a while (it will) remind yourself of who you are.”

RA5CoverVietnam

CoffeeGerald
I’ll conclude this introduction with a poem. It is entitled, “One more roll,” and was written by the Lt. Gerald L. “Jerry” Coffee, USN, while he was a POW in Hanoi. Coffee flew the RA-5C assigned to Reconnaissance Squadron 13 on board the USS Kitty Hawk (CVA-63). On February 3, 1966 he and his navigator Lt. Robert T. Hanson ran a reconnaissance mission over a heavily defended area of the NVN. They were hit by enemy fire, their aircraft exploded and crashed in the water bear the coast of the NVN. No parachutes were observed, but an emergency beeper was heard. Both crew had actually successfully ejected into the Gulf of Tonkin. The NVN sent out several boats and local militia captured Coffee. Hanson was not found and was assumed KIA. His remains were returned to the US by the Vietnamese in November 1988. Coffee served in the POW system until release in February 1973. By the time he was released, he had been promoted to commander, and would eventually rise to the rank of captain. Here is his poem.


One More Roll

“We toast our hearty comrades who have fallen from the skies, and were gently caught by God's own hand to be with him on High.

“To dwell among the soaring clouds they've known so well before. From victory roll to tail chase, at heaven's very door.

“As we fly among them there, we're sure to head their plea. To take care my friend, watch your six, and do one more roll for me.”

— Commander Jerry Coffee, Hanoi, 1968.

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HH-43 SAR pilot’s diary, 1964-1965, Vietnam: Introduction

Section One:
Archie Taylor, commander, Det 4, Pacific Air Rescue Center (PARC), October 1964-May 1965

Section Two:
SAR Rescue Center, Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN, May-October 1965