117th Aviation Company History

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Don Colson

Move to Dong Ba Thin 1965

March 1, 2019 "Move to Dong Ba Thin" from Don Colston           There was nothing but a clear spot in the jungle when we arrived. This time was around mid-August 1965, and my DROS was in early November. There was no water or electricity. Squad tents, and c-rations were the norm until a field mess kitchen was established. Some NCO's got a brand new 10kw diesel generator and burned out the starter not knowing how to start it. This was about two weeks after we got there. I went to 1st Sgt Erickson and asked him if he wanted me to start the generator. He asked me if I knew how! I went to diesel mechanic school! Took a starter out of an old gas generator that didn't work, got the fuel pumps pumping and away it went. Boy they all come a running. Erickson told me from that day forward my job was to keep that generator fueled, running, and get power to the CO's tent. We had choppers to be attended to also. It all worked out.

We slept on the ground under the squad tents for a few weeks before we even got cots. A shower was built out of 55 gal drums up on timbers. It was a bare bones outpost. When I left there in early November it was a huge mud hole, the generator was still on a trailer, and I told the fellow who replaced me about the agreement I had for the fuel truck to fill the two barrels each time he brought fuel in. It was a ramshackle outfit for sure. It really must have been built up in a year or more between when I left and when you arrived. I heard about Cam Ranh Bay, but had no idea where it was from the mud-hole. 

I was looking for a picture of the sign I had that said "Dong Ba Thin International Airport" stuck on a sign showing the tents and the mud!! One of the pilots made it. I'll find it and send you a copy!

Will get my check in the mail next week. Been snowing here every other day!! Got 5" today. We have had 44" in the yard since Feb 4th!! Record snowfall. Goes down below zero every night. Don't know when it all is gonna melt, but the ground is frozen down to 3' so its gonna run off. I fear there is gonna be an awful lot of flooding in April.

Take care,

Don

Keith Alleger

1968 Aircraft Crash -  Tay Ninh

Keith Alleger

Yesterday at 2:08 PM 2018

50 years ago today 595 was shot down NW of Tay Ninh near the Cambodian border. On board were AC 1LT Tom Frame, PP WO1 Martin Bixler, CE SP4 Roger Smith, G Sp5 Michael McCafferty and two SF Pax CPT Mann and SFC Davis. At the time they were hovering above the canopy attempting to resupply ammo to a B-36 Battalion that was in a fire fight with an NVA Unit. The aircraft rotated as it fell through the trees landing on its left side. Smith and Mann were killed in the crash. Frame sustained a bad concussion, Davis had severe wounds, Bixler and McCafferty got out of the aircraft unscathed. LT Frame and SFC Davis were rescued by SF personnel, WO Bixler and SP McCafferty were captured by the NVA. Their bodies were later discovered, their hands and feet were bound with commo wire, they had been shot in the back and were decapitated with some kind of explosive. I was scheduled to fly with Lt Frame that day but when the resupply mission was planned, in the wee hours of the morning, LT Frame woke up Bixler instead of me. Martin Bixler's death has haunted me ever since.

From VHPA Magazine

This article From VHPA

I pulled these "factoids" from the VHPA site. So, many thanks for all the effort to acquire them. A number of years ago I decided that I would write my recollections of my time in the Army, for my children and to exorcise my demons. I pulled information from many places to flesh out my story. If anyone asks about the war in Vietnam, what it was like for those of us who flew...these statistics are a mouthful.

Helicopter Losses During the Vietnam War

There were about 12,000 helicopters that served in the Vietnam War (we have specific tail numbers for 11,827 from
all services). See below for losses.

Bell Helicopter built 10,005 Hueys from 1957 to 1975. Prior to 1957, there were three XH-40 prototypes and six
YH-40 test helicopters manufactured. Of the 10,005 production Hueys, the first 732 were designated HU-1A and
HU-1B. 9,216 of these went to the U.S. Army, 79 to the U.S. Air Force, 42 to the U.S. Navy, and 127 to the U.S.
Marine Corps. The rest went to other countries.

Our records show that 7,013 Hueys served in the Vietnam War. Almost all were Army.

KIA KIA
served destroy pilots crew

UH-1 80 80 36 17
UH-1A 8 1
UH-1B 729 376 139 144
UH-1C 696 415 167 158
UH-1D 1,926 1,028 224 247
UH-1E 156 100 39 41
UH-1F 31 18 4 5
UH-1H 3,375 1,285 457 487
UH-1L 2
UH-1M5 5 3
UH-1N 2 2
UH-1P 3 3 1

7,013 3,305 1,074 1,103 = 47% destroyed

Total helicopter pilots killed in the Vietnam War was 2,202. Total non-pilot crew members was 2704. Based on a
database I got recently from the Pentagon, we estimate that over 40,000 helicopter pilots served in the Vietnam War.

To help in understanding the above numbers, the first 80 Hueys are missing a letter for some unknown reason. UH1Ds
were upgraded to UH-1Hs. That is why you see a higher percent of losses for UH-1Ds. They were destroyed
before they were upgraded to Hs. They were both used as slicks so they should be counted together when making
any conclusions. UH-1Bs were upgraded to UH-1Cs then to UH-1Ms. Most of the UH-1Bs and nearly all of the UH1Cs
were used as gunships. The UH-1E, F, L, N and P were typically non-Army.

2,709 people were killed while in Hueys.