This is from Crew Chief Bob Shipp:
Jim, I think I can help with 67-17166. 6/25/68 was probably the date that we landed into an ambush while flying a MACV support mission in Phan Thiet Province. I believe that Palmer was the AC, don't remember who flew right seat, I was the CC. We got shot up but 166 was repaired and didn't have very much down time and was a real iron horse until I went back into the world on November 30th. Here's what I remember:
As I said above, we were flying a MACV support mission that day and flew from Flanders to Phan Thiet to coordinate with the US Army Captain who was advising the ARVNs in the area. Once we picked the captain and his assistant up, we were instructed to fly to the coast and land next to the beach so that he could meet with the ARVN commander in charge of whatever operation they were on. We made our approach to the meeting site from the North and landed facing South...this was very fortunate because it probably saved our lives.
After we landed and Palmer reduced power to an idle, the captain left to meet with the ARVNS. I was facing the ocean and had twisted around so that I could see what was going on the right side where the meeting was taking place. Suddenly, I see the ARVNs drop to their knees and begin firing to the North behind the aircraft. Then I see a black object go arcing over our rotator blades, land and roll to a stop about 50 feet in front of the AC at about the 12:30 position and explode. Palmer wound the ship up, the captain ran back and jumped in, and we took off. I'm looking all over trying to get a fix on the bad guys but all I could see was a beautiful seascape. As I was looking out, I felt my left boot get moved a little bit to the side...a round had come up thru the fuel bladder and out between my legs, pushing my boot aside as it exited. It's very fortunate that we landed from the North, because Charlie would have had dead-on clear shots of our cockpit had we landed from the South.
Afterward, whoever the DG was, said that a grenade had landed and came to rest under the right front door but was a dud. I think we ended up with around 24 bullet holes, of which couple went thru the fuel bladders, a couple went thru the tail rotor drive shafts, and the rest were around the tail boom area. The MACV captain sustained an arm scratch.
This is from Door Gunner Brian Yee:
“I got to the 92nd around Sept. 68 and worked in maintenance for a month or so before flight duty. My first flight was on 426 with Madrano as crew chief, me as gunner, "Moose" was AC. I remember that day well because we shot up a house in a free fire zone and my M60 shot only one round before the main spring follower fell apart... my first time shooting the 60 in flight. I can still hear "Moose" commenting about that "good shot!". Madrano' s weapon fired flawlessly. I just sat there, embarrassed and jealous. I had later learned that someone was shot in the house but wasn't killed. Madrano later moved to the gun platoon.
I later flew gunner with Bob Shipp on 166 until he rotated stateside and than took over as crew chief. We later lost 166 on a CA working with the 5th Special Forces in the mountains outside of Nha Trang. 166 was shot up with heavy machine gun fire, forced down on fire and burned and exploded on the fringe of the LZ. Everyone got out alive with no injuries. Bob Bowen AC, Gustavson as gunner, and myself as crewchief. I don't recall the co-pilot.
This is from Crew Chief Brian Lee:
Hi Jim I know for a fact that 166 was flying during 69 January 1969. I don't know the exact date that we lost her but clearly remember that other crewchief picking up 166's log book...I know for sure that I did not make any entry of her being lost...I just handed in the book to the operations office and left, mentally traumatized, that very day...because they knew exactly what had happened that day...and they kept the log book records. I know for a fact that they had that info because they totaled my flight hours for my air medal certificate. I still have a copy of the orders of 1st thru 14th oak leaf, 8-68 thru 4-69...I know but it still does not produce the dates and time. It happened soon after I got back from R&R, I spent Christmas and New Year 's eve at home and returned DBT Jan, 2nd...missed the New Year that year!...also I got news from Webber, that Devoe was killed just as I was leaving DBT on Christmas eve. for Honolulu. I figure late Jan.69...the start of the 69 Tet offensive...820 was lost within the week...it was a ship, new to the 92nd, it looked like it just came out of major overhaul with very low hours, had not even had it's 1st 100 hr. inspection. Marr was crewchief, 1st.flt plt. After being moved out to the end of the airstrip at DBT a few weeks later I was told sappers blew her up along with a few other ships in a night attack
This is from Aircraft Commander Mike Palmer:
Fun and games on the beach!
I had forgotten about that grenade, though. I saw it land and watched it as it didn't go off. I guess being a "dud" can be a good thing.
John Coombs was in the left seat. That was when we (sometimes) had 2 AC's flying together. I had taken my AC ride about 2 weeks earlier. I remember that the DG was not Hans. I think it was one of the twins.
The stop on the right side M-60 prevented getting the VC that was in the bushes at about the 5 o'clock position. I remember the cussing on the intercom. The other VC was behind the temple at my 3 o'clock. Every time he stuck his head out, I popped a 38 round at him. Good thing we took off when we did - 6 shots from a revolver was coming up a bit too few to do much damage. I think it was this guy that put the rounds up through the fuel cell. Based on the angle of entry of the rest of the holes, some were probably caused by the VC behind the temple, just as we were taking off. I remain convinced that some of those holes were actually "friendly" fire from the ARVNs that were on the hill behind the temple. Great shots those ARVNs! The round that nicked the top of the 45 degree gearbox housing is still the one that gives me the chills. I teensy bit lower and none of us would be here.
Bob- remember that we had to go back after the Lt. that ran away during the shooting? We found him about a mile down the road behind the sand dune. BTW - If you had been over the gun when that round came up, we wouldn't be having this discussion. It probably would have removed your face.
The wound to the Capt. was mostly his shirt sleeve. I'm not sure he shed any blood.
Long live the "Strawberry Alarmclock"!
This is from Crew Chief Bob Shipp:
Yea, I never did know where they were firing from...I do know Coombs was yelling in the mike wanting to turn around and hunt the VC down. All I had was that beautiful ocean view.
When we finally landed back at MACV headquarters, I had everyone chewing all the c-ration gum we could get our hands on to plug the drain holes containing the fuel bladders. Didn't really work, but it gave us something to do.
This is from Crew Chief Brian Yee:
Hey,hey! Mike Plamer & Bob Shipp It is good to know more about 166, You holding those VC off with that pop gun .38, I can't imagine how helpless and lonely that might have felt!...but the fighting sprit of 166 had a way of getting us safely home and alive to tell her history ...like I've stated before, that she has a brilliant combat history....I've got more to tell but we'll let them iron out some more of those wrinkles on the paper work before moving on. Hey Bob those fuel cells especially that one under the crew chief sure took some battle damage...I'm convinced that the not so volatile liquid jp4 inside that rubber elastic bladder has quite a bit of bullet stopping capability...Maybe gave us a second chance to talk about it!
A few days later while on standby, because we had no ship, Gus and I got shot up again while on dusk patrol on 66-16820. We were shot up on a low level recon flight by a barrage of small arms fire along side a river. After a brief exchange of gun fire from Gus and myself we realized we had 0 xmsn oil press. We quickly decided that night was falling and we weren't going land somewhere in the dark in the middle of Charlestown. So, we high tailed it back to the barn...pucker time for 10mins and a prayer....we made it back! So as not to inconvenience the guys. Dave Ferguson (the AC) taxied up to the maintenance shack where the xmsn abruptly seized. We were dropped from grace immediately. ..to mutha earth with a rather large awakening crash! Yes, everyone there waiting that evening witnessed the incident, they helped count the hits. Fourteen in all including one on the t/r blade grip and the one that shattered the main structure and the xmsn oil line coming up from under my seat through the hell hole... Amundson declared the ship a total loss. I don't recall the exact dates...with in a week after the loss of 166.”
This is from Maintenance Test Pilot Denny Turner:
I remember that transmission seizure well. I was in the maintenance quality control shack when ops telephoned that you guys were on the way in with transmission oil shot out and for us to muster a ship to go out and escort or rescue you guys. Word was you guys were shot up and might have to set'er down outside the perimeter with dark approaching. ~~~ Maintenance could muster a crew, have a ship armed and off the ground in about 10 minutes. Just as I was starting to light the fire in the rescue ship on row 1, we heard you guys reporting in on a long left base for landing south at DBT. That was still too far out for my comfort so I continued the start and told the crew that we would be taking off straight up into a left turn if we had operating RPM before you guys crossed the perimeter wire. Just as we got operating RPM you guys turned onto a short and low final, so I rolled back to idle and sat there and watched you come to a hover right in front of us, ....but as soon as Fergie reduced power to set her down there was a moaning screech I could hear with my helmet on, as your blades made about 3/4 of a full rotation from operating RPM to a dead stop; Heck, your ship didn't even have time to waddle, just fell level and abruptly to the ground into a haze of blue gray smoke that 4 mighty happy guys exited from post-haste! That transmission was so hot no-one wanted to get close until it cooled down a bit, afraid it might spontaneously ignite itself without cooling airflow. Man did that caustic transmission oil smoke burn our eyes ! Took about 30 minutes before the consensus was that it was cool enough to install the ground wheels and roll it off lane 1.