Welcome to Charlie Company

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Welcome to Charlie Company website.  This site is dedicated to the fine men that served with Charlie Company 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam from 1966 to 1972.

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Helicopters in Vietnam

The average infantryman in the South Pacific during World War II saw about 40 days of combat in four years. The average infantryman in Vietnam saw about 240 days of combat in one year thanks to the mobility of the helicopter.

The helicopter ushered in a radically different way of fighting a war: instead of armies engaging each other across vast fronts, advancing slowly, and holding ground, the U.S. Army would quickly carry troops into hostile territory and deploy them, then removing them after the fighting ended. While the overall strategy was questionable—no territory was ever really held—the tactic was often very successful. Helicopters offered high mobility for troops and a tremendous element of surprise. An enemy that had been sitting unchallenged for days or weeks could suddenly, without warning, find itself under assault from troops brought in by helicopter. Large troop transport helicopters like the CH-47 Chinook were developed for this purpose, but the workhorse UH-1 Huey became the most popular helicopter for moving troops into and out of battle.

The Army also used armed helicopters to support ground troops, eventually fielding dedicated helicopter gunships like the AH-1 Cobra. A helicopter could be equipped with guns, grenade launchers, rockets, or even guided missiles, and provide rapid and wide-ranging fire against an adversary on the ground. By the middle of the war, the helicopter had become as important to the Army as the tank, the armored personnel carrier, and the jeep, and the Huey was the most symbolic weapon of the Vietnam War.

“Air mobility” came at a heavy price, however. During the Vietnam War, between 1962 and 1973, the United States lost 4,869 helicopters to all causes (with more than a thousand lost in 1968 and another thousand in 1969). Fifty-three percent of these losses were due to enemy fire (including enemy attacks on airbases). The rest resulted from operational accidents. The high rate of operational accidents occurred largely because helicopters are prone to mechanical breakdown if not regularly maintained, and during a war, maintenance often suffers. Vietnam’s heavy jungle canopy also made helicopter operations difficult, with few places to land a stricken helicopter.

MEDEVAC helicopters flew nearly 500,000 missions. Over 900,000 patients were airlifted (nearly half were American). The average time lapse between wounding to hospitalization was less than one hour. As a result, less than one percent of all Americans wounded who survived the first 24 hours died. [VHPA 1993]

The helicopter provided unprecedented mobility. Without the helicopter it would have taken three times as many troops to secure the 800 mile border with Cambodia and Laos (the politicians thought the Geneva Conventions of 1954 and the Geneva Accords or 1962 would secure the border) [Westmoreland]

Approximately 12,000 helicopters saw action in Vietnam (all services). [VHPA databases]

Army UH-1’s totaled 9,713,762 flight hours in Vietnam between October 1966 and the end of American involvement in early 1973. [VHPA databases]

Army AH-1G’s totaled 1,110,716 flight hours in Vietnam. [VHPA databases]

It is believed that the Huey along with the Huey Cobra had more combat flight time than any other aircraft in the history of warfare assuming you count actual hostile fire exposure versus battle area exposure.  As an example, heavy bombers during World War II most often flew missions lasting many hours with only 10 to 20 minutes of that time exposed to hostile fire.  Helicopters in Vietnam seldom flew above 1,500 feet which is traffic pattern altitude for bombers and were always exposed to hostile fire even in their base camps.

Echo Taps

Our Master of Ceremonies for Flames of Remembrance, Bud Roach, does a fantastic job.

He has done this for the past four years and each year is better than the previous.  This year was spectacular.  It was held at VFW Post 76 in San Antonio Texas.  The VFW provided us with a lunch, posting of the colors, singing of the national anthem prior to our ceremony.

This year we lit candles for 55 casualties of Charlie Company between 1966 through 1970.  Special candles were lit for Ann Konermann, and our deceased brothers who made it home from Vietnam.

After the ceremony, the Post 76 Honor Guard gave a 21 gun salute to honor our brothers.

21 Gun Salute for our fallen comrades

Then there was the playing of Echo Taps by the “Taps For Vets”, a not for profit organization.

Playing of Echo Taps

The following email was recently received:

Dear Bud Roach,

“Taps For Vets”  organization and myself would like to thank you for your generous donation of $150.00 to our organization.   It is because of people like you that keeps us going and moving in the right direction.   Since we are not for profit, we have to buy our own uniforms, shirts, gloves, shoes and any other necessary items for us to continue doing our services.   We will use this money to provide us with necessary equipment for our organization.   Again, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.   I hope that everything was to your satisfaction.

Thanks.

Taps For Vets/Bugler Services; Sgt. Ray Gutierrez- U.S. Army Veteran/ Bugler; “Veterans Honoring Veterans”

Thanks again, Bud, you are a good man.

Hand Salute

Military Mottos – Unofficial

Funny “unofficial” Military Mottos
These “mottos” are NOT meant to offend anyone.
They are just jokes…
                       

“The last to know and the first to be blamed”
– Communications Division

“YOU CAN TALK ABOUT US, BUT YOU CAN’T TALK WITHOUT US!”
– Signal Corps

“The best care anywhere”
– 4077 MASH (TV show)

“Nothing happens until something moves”
– US Army Transportation Center.

“You have to go out out. You don’t have to come back.”

“Support Search and Rescue, get lost”

“When you have a Target that has to be Suppressed, Neutralized or Destroyed – Right Now!”
“You Yell, We Shell”
– Unofficial Motto – Fire Support Element, 40th ID (M)

“You didn’t see me, I wasn’t there, and I’m not here now!”
– U.S. Navy Communication Technicians (spooks)

“What are they gonna do? Send us home?”
– 6th Communication Battalion

“Without Weapons, It’s just another airline.”
– USAF Weapons, Air Force Weapons troops are known as Load Toads

“We may not be the ‘Pride of the Air Force,’ but without us; the Pride don’t Ride!”
“No Excuses! No Second Chances! If being a Vehicle Operator was fun, everyone would want to be one!”
“You’re not ‘Miss Daisy;’ so don’t call me ‘driver.'”
“They have taught monkey’s to fly, but they never taught them to drive!”
“Nothing happens until something moves!”
– USAF Vehicle Ops, Air Force Vehicle Ops troops are known as Roadwarriors

“Box Kickers & Label Stickers.”
– USAF Supply

“WITH LOVE FROM A RUBBER GLOVE”
– 314 MEDICAL GROUP LITTLE ROCK AFB AR

“You can talk about us, but you can’t talk without us!”
“No Comm, no Bomb!”
– 37th Communications Squadron, Lackland Air Force Base Texas

“The US Coast Guard has done so much with so little for so long, that We can do everything with nothing, forever.”
– US Coast Guard

“Drive it like you stole it”
– Transport Units

“It takes a college education to fly it but a high school education to fix it!”
– Army Aviation

“What are they going to do, send me to the field?  I am in the field”

– SP4 Fast Freddy

“Spooky”

The Douglas AC-47: Puff the Magic Dragon, Vietnam Gunship

AC-47 Vietnam Call Sign: “Spooky”

Background

In the early-1960s, the Air Force Systems Command began experimenting with fixed-wing, side-firing weapons systems for possible use in Vietnam. By 1964, the first gunship conversion of a World War II Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport was completed under the Project Gunship I program. Initially designated FC-47D (Fighter-Cargo), it was later changed to AC-47D (Attack-Cargo).

On 15 December 1964, the AC-47D, using the call sign “Spooky”, was introduced into combat in Southeast Asia. It was an instant success in breaking up enemy attacks on hamlets and other defensive positions, and within a year, substantial numbers of the rehabilitated “Gooney Birds” were in action throughout the region.

Following the highly successful Project Gunship I combat test program, the U.S. Air Force created the 4th Air Commando Squadron (ACS) in August 1965 as the first operational unit equipped with “Spooky” gunships. Although the 4th ACS was based at Tan Son Nhut AB, it deployed from several forward operating locations throughout South Vietnam (Bien Hoa, Pleiku, Na Trang, Da Nang and Can Tho). In November 1965, the 4th ACS (tailcode EN) was assigned 16 operational aircraft with four more assigned as “advanced attrition” aircraft. Within two years, the 4th ACS and the newly formed 3rd ACS (tailcode EL) were serving under the 14th Air Commando Wing (ACW). In August 1968, the unit designations were changed from “Air Commando” to “Special Operations” (SOS/SOW).

A total of fifty-three C-47Ds were converted for use as gunships during the Vietnam War. Although the AC-47D “Spooky”, commonly referred to as “Puff” (as in “Puff the Magic Dragon”), was an effective attack system, it was also vulnerable to enemy fire. Fifteen aircraft were lost between December 1965 and September 1969.

Features 

The AC-47D was equipped with three 7.62mm SUU-11A Gatling Miniguns mounted in the fifth and sixth windows on the port side of the fuselage and in the aft passenger/cargo door area. Approximately 16,500 rounds of ammunition was carried on a typical mission. Note: The SUU-11As were later replaced by specially designed 7.62mm General Electric MXU-470/A Gatling Miniguns.

For night missions, the aircraft carried approximately 48 MK-24 Mod 3 flares. Each flare could last up to three minutes and produce a light magnitude of two million candlepower. The delivery system was extremely simple, the loadmaster armed and dropped each flare out the cargo door when the pilot signaled by flashing a cargo compartment light. Note: Initially, 30 MK-6 flares of 750,000 candlepower were carried before the MK-24 flares were available.

Airspeed during attack maneuvers was normally 120 knots indicated air speed (KIAS). With the Miniguns firing at a rate of 6,000 rounds per minute, aerial coverage was provided over an elliptical area approximately 52 yards in diameter, placing a projectile within every 2.4 yards during a three-second burst.

A modified adaption of the Douglas C-47 Cargo plane by fitting it with 7.62 mm mini guns that could fire up to 6,000 rounds per minute. The convenience of cargo space allowed for the gunship to carry 54,000 rounds.

While other aircraft would eventually succeed the C-47, such as the C-119 and C-130 with their larger capacity and features, the C-47 pioneered the development of gunships with the first AC-47 during the Vietnam war. It’s Call Sign was “Spooky”.

The AC-47 was capable of putting a highly explosive bullet into every square yard of a football field size target in 3 seconds, and it could do this intermittently while loitering over its same target for hours as long as it had the ammo on board.

It didn’t take long for it to earn the nickname “Puff, the Magic Dragon”, or “Dragonship”. Impressive from a distance, it appeared to roar as never-ending blazes of bright red tracer rounds from its mini guns shot to the ground against a dark background of night.

Enduring and Deadly

In early February of 1965, one Spooky fired 20,500 rounds into a Vietcong position while flying over the Bong Son area, killing some 300 Vietcong troops during a four-hour period.

From the ground at night, the sight resembled that of a fire-breathing dragon, to which the enemy began to refer to as “dragonship”,  and our US troops affectionately nicknamed “Puff the Magic Dragon” or just “Puff”.

Through the years, the military has updated, modified, recreated, and devloped more efficient Gunships.  Modern technology will continue to change, replacing yesterday’s “outdated” machines, but in my mind, “Puff” will never be forgotten and no other gunship will have the pulse racing, fear inducing, state of mind to an enemy that it did, nor the chest swelling pride from people like me.

Spooky saved our butts several times.  It was a fantastic spectacle with its cone of light.  It looked like a stairway.  When we were really in a sh**storm it was comforting to see Spooky in the sky above.

Below are two great videos of “Spooky”

My AC-47 Gunship (Spooky13) Aircraft and Crew

Douglas AC-47 Spooky aka Puff, the Magic Dragon

Now, here are some pictures

Short

Vietnam Veterans know what “short” means – but for those who are not vets, here is the jargon.

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Short: a term used by everyone in Vietnam to tell all who would listen that his tour was almost over

Short-timer: soldier nearing the end of his tour in Vietnam

Short-timer’s stick: when a soldier had approximately two months remaining on his tour in Vietnam, he might take a long stick and notch it for each of his remaining days in-country. As each day passed he would cut the stick off another notch until on his rotation day he was left with only a small stub.

“I am so short I don’t have time for a long conversation.”

“I am so short, I can play handball against the curb.”

“I am so short I left yesterday.”

Outrageous War Quotes

“I’d rather go down the river with seven studs than with a hundred shitheads”

– Colonel Charlie Beckwith

“We ain’t making no goddamn cornflakes here.”

-Col. Charlie Beckwith, founder of Delta Force

“Tanks are easily identified, easily engaged, much-feared targets which attract all the fire on the battlefield. When all is said and done, a tank is a small steel box crammed with inflammable or explosive substances which is easily converted into a mobile crematorium for its highly skilled crew.”

– Brigadier Shelford Bidwell

“War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.”

– Ambrose Bierce

“I do not like this word “bomb.” It is not a bomb. It is a device that is exploding.”

French ambassador to New Zealand Jacques le Blanc, regarding press coverage of France’s nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific

“Give a man fire, and he’ll be warm for a day, light a man on fire, and he’ll be warm the rest of his life”

-Staff Sgt. Timothy A. Breen

“Gentlemen, we are being killed on the beaches. Lets go inland and be killed.”

– General Norman Cota: Omaha Beach, 1944

“We are outnumbered, there is only one thing to do. We must attack!”

– Admiral Andrew Cunningham, 11 November 1940. Before attacking the Italian fleet at Taranto

“Army: A body of men assembled to rectify the mistakes of the diplomats.”

– Josephus Daniels

“Onward we stagger, and if the tanks come, may God help the tanks.”

– Col. William O. Darby, U.S. Rangers

“When you men get home and face an anti-war protester, look him in the eyes and shake his hand. Then, wink at his girlfriend, because she knows she’s dating a pussy.”

– Attributed to General Tommy Franks

“War is hell, but actual combat is a motherfucker.”

– Colonel Dave Hackworth’s response to a reporter’s attempt to interview him about a battle

“I never trust a fighting man who doesn’t smoke or drink.”

– Admiral William Halsey

“I was provided with additional input that was radically different from the truth. I assisted in furthering that version.”

Colonel Oliver North, from his Iran-Contra testimony

“Paper-work will ruin any military force”

– Lieutenant-General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller

“Just drive down that road, until you get blown up”

– General George Patton, about reconnaissance troops

“We should declare war on North Vietnam. . . .We could pave the whole country and put parking strips on it, and still be home by Christmas.”

– Ronald Reagan, 1965

“When I joined the military it was illegal to be homosexual, then it became optional, and now it’s legal. I’m getting out before Obama makes it mandatory.

– Gy. Sgt. Harry Berres, USMC

Air America

Air America was an American passenger and cargo airline established in 1950 and covertly owned and operated by the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Special Activities Division from 1950 to 1976. It supplied and supported United States covert operations in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War.

Organization

In August 1950, the CIA secretly purchased the assets of Civil Air Transport (CAT), an airline that had been started in China in 1946 by Gen. Claire Lee Chennault (of Flying Tigers fame) and Whiting Willauer.

In 1951, the parent company of Air America’s forerunner, Civil Air Transport (CAT), was reorganized. The owner, Chennault, was approached by the CIA, who bought out the company through a holding company, the American Airdale Corporation. Under this agreement, CAT was allowed to keep its initials and the company was reorganized as Civil Air Transport, Inc.

On 7 October 1957, American Airdale was reorganized to add another layer of obfuscation to its ownership. The new Pacific Corporation became a holding company for Air Asia Company (Air Asia (Taiwan)), Ltd; Air America, Inc; Civil Air Transport, Inc; Southern Air Transport; Intermountain Aviation; Bird and Sons (known as BirdAir); and Robinson Brothers. CAT attempted to change its name to Air America at the same time, but objections from Air France and American Airlines delayed the name change for two years.

Air America’s slogan was “Anything, Anywhere, Anytime, Professionally”. Air America aircraft, including the de Havilland Canada DHC-4 Caribou and Fairchild C-123 Provider, flew many types of cargo to countries such as the Republic of Vietnam, the Kingdom of Laos, and Cambodia. It operated from bases in those countries and also from bases in Thailand and as far afield as Taiwan and Japan. It also on occasion flew top-secret missions into Burma and the People’s Republic of China.

Air America’s headquarters moved several times during its existence, 808 17th St. NW, (1964), 801 World Center Bldg, (late 1964), 815 Connecticut Ave NW, (July 1968), and 1725 K Street NW, (1972), all in Washington, DC. Marana, Arizona was the principal continental United States maintenance base for Air America of which was located at Pinal Airpark.

Operations during the Vietnam War (Second Indochina War)

From 1959 to 1962 the airline provided direct and indirect support to CIA Operations “Ambidextrous”, “Hotfoot”, and “White Star”, which trained the regular Royal Laotian armed forces. After 1962 a similar operation known as Project 404 fielded numerous U.S. Army attachés (ARMA) and air attachés (AIRA) to the U.S. embassy in Vientiane.

From 1962 to 1975, Air America inserted and extracted U.S. personnel, provided logistical support to the Royal Lao Army, Hmong army under command of Royal Lao Army Major General Vang Pao, and combatant Thai “volunteer” forces, transported refugees, and flew photo reconnaissance missions that provided valuable intelligence on NLF activities. Its civilian-marked craft were frequently used, under the control of the Seventh/Thirteenth Air Force to launch search and rescue missions for U.S. pilots downed throughout Southeast Asia. Air America pilots were the only known private U.S. corporate employees to operate non-Federal Aviation Administration-certified military aircraft in a combat role, although many of them were actually military personnel who had been transferred to the airline.

By the summer of 1970, the airline had some two dozen twin-engine transport aircraft, another two dozen short-take off-and-landing aircraft, and 30 helicopters dedicated to operations in Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos. There were more than 300 pilots, copilots, flight mechanics, and airfreight specialists based in Laos and Thailand. During 1970, Air America delivered 46 million pounds (21,000 metric tons) of food in Laos. Helicopter flight time reached more than 4,000 hours a month in the same year.

Air America flew civilians, diplomats, spies, refugees, commandos, sabotage teams, doctors, war casualties, drug enforcement officers, drugs, and even visiting VIPs like Richard Nixon all over Southeast Asia. Its non-human passengers were even more bizarre on occasion; part of the CIA’s support operations in Laos, for instance, involved logistical support for local tribes fighting the North Vietnamese forces and the Pathet Lao, their local opponents. Forced draft urbanization policies, such as the widespread application of Agent Orange to Vietnamese farmland created a disruption in local food production, so thousands of tons of food had to be flown in, including live chickens, pigs, water buffalo and cattle. On top of the food drops (known as ‘rice drops’) came the logistical demands for the war itself, and Air America pilots flew thousands of flights transporting and air-dropping ammunition and weapons (referred to as “hard rice”) to friendly forces.

When the North Vietnamese Army overran South Vietnam in 1975, Air America helicopters participated in Operation Frequent Wind evacuating both US civilians and South Vietnamese people associated with the regime from Saigon. The iconic photograph depicting the final evacuation from the “U.S. Embassy” by Dutch photographer Hubert van Es was actually an Air America helicopter taking people off of an apartment at 22 Gia Long Street building used by USAID and CIA employees.

Alleged drug smuggling

Air America allegedly transported opium and heroin on behalf of Hmong leader Vang Pao. This allegation has been supported by former Laos CIA paramilitary Anthony Poshepny (aka Tony Poe), former Air America pilots, and other people involved in the war.

University of Georgia historian William M. Leary, writing on behalf of Air America itself, however claims that this was done without the airline employees’ direct knowledge (except for those employees that said they did know about it) and that the airline itself did not trade in drugs. Curtis Peebles denies the allegation, citing Leary’s study as evidence.

After the war

After pulling out of South Vietnam in 1975, there was an attempt to keep a company presence in Thailand; after this fell through, Air America officially disbanded on June 30, 1976, and was later purchased by Evergreen International Airlines, which continues to provide support for U.S. covert operations.

Airfleet

During its existence Air America operated a diverse fleet of aircraft, the majority of which were STOL capable. There was “fluidity” of aircraft between some companies like Air America, BOA, CASI and the USAF. It was not uncommon for USAF and US Army aviation units to loan aircraft to Air America for specific missions. Air America tended to register its aircraft in Taiwan, operating in Laos without the B- nationality prefix. Ex US military aircraft were often used with the “last three” digits of the military serial as a civil marking, sometimes with a B- prefix. The first two transports of Air America arrived in Vientiane, Laos on 23 August 1959. The Air America operations at Udorn, Thailand were closed down on 30 June 1974. Air America’s operating authority was cancelled by the CAB on 31 January 1974.

Source: Wikipedia

Air America (film)

Air America is a 1990 American action comedy film directed by Roger Spottiswoode, starring Mel Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. as Air America pilots, during the Vietnam War, flying missions in Laos. The protagonists discover their planes are used by other government agents to smuggle heroin; and then, they must avoid being made patsies in a frame-up.

The plot is adapted from Christopher Robbins’ 1979 non-fiction book, chronicling the CIA financed airline during the Vietnam War to transport weapons and supplies within Laos and other areas of Indochina subsequent to the North Vietnamese invasion of Laos. The publicity for the film—advertised as a light-hearted buddy movie—implied a tone that differs greatly with the tone of the actual film, which includes such serious themes as an anti-war political spin, focus on the opium trade, and a negative portrayal of Royal Laotian General Vang Pao (played by actor Burt Kwouk as “General Lu Soong”).

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