by Paul Silva
On a Fall morning in 1967 two 1st Air Cavalry Chinook aircraft took off from their small base near Phan Thiet on the coast of South Vietnam. I was the FE ( Flight Engineer ) on one of those aircraft 66-00070, the other aircraft was 64-13107. This is my recollection of the events that took place on that day, others may remember it differently. I am also the person who shot the 8mm footage of the downed aircraft. (See it on our You Tube Channel.)
Our Ch-47 A-model Chinooks headed inland on this tandem mission toward the Black Forest, located north of Saigon. This area was a enemy stronghold, and the route of one of the major arteries of the Ho Chi Minh trail. I had flown combat mission all of 1967, I knew we were flying into one of the most dangerous locations I would fly to during my 14 month tour.
Any mission flown in a combat zone can be hazardous; today’s mission would be a tough one. It was to be a extraction of a 105 mm howitzer fire base located in hostile territory. A extraction is not a “standard” mission, it is under duress, and usually time sensitive. The firebase, though not under direct attack, was surrounded by enemy troops. We were tasked with relocating the fire base to a more secure location before sunset. As we would soon find out, the enemy had no intention of sitting back idly.
We began taking small arms fire during the first sorties into the hilltop fire base, always being careful to vary a our flight paths in or out, never following the other aircraft. Unfortunately this did little to prevent the enemy troops from harassing us with small arms at every opportunity, which led us to the conclusion that the firebase was, in fact, surrounded.
22 infantry were providing perimeter security, but on this day we had no gunship support, though each of our Chinooks were armed with two 30 cal. door guns. We flew multiple sorties relocating 105’s & ammo, fire crews and supplies. The next sortie into the firebase would be the last for both aircraft.
On that last sortie 64-13107 went in first, they would sling load the remaining 105 mm out. When they lifted off, they had only the 5 Chinook crew members on board, a fact that proved crucial in the next few minutes. We landed and the 22 infantrymen pulled back from the perimeter and boarded my aircraft 66-00070, when the last grunt made his way passed me up the ramp, I took one last look at the firebase, raised the ramp and let the command pilot WO Gary Lineberry know, “ramp up, go”. At that point the fire base was abandoned.
As we lifted off, I recall looking ahead of us at the other aircraft– they must have been 1/2 to 3/4 miles ahead of us grabbing some altitude. After receiving small arms fire all day going in and out of the fire base, we certainly expected more, but on this last sortie they took some of the heaviest small arms fire that I personally witnessed in the year I was flying combat missions. It was like the enemy had been watching closely and realized this was their last opportunity to take one of us out. 64-13107 caught fire almost immediately, this was one of the worst fears of a a flight crew, Gary Lineberry did not hesitate; we were right on their tail following them down, Gary was also on the radio calling for gunship support. I notified the Infantry Lt. sitting next to me near the ramp of the situation, where we would set them down, and to the best of our knowledge where the enemy might be, so they could defend the downed aircraft. We would place the infantry in the rice paddy between the downed Chinook and a tree line several hundred meters away.
We handled this troop insertion as we would any combat assault; the flight crew, the infantry, everyone was calm and focused. The big difference, still no gun ship support. Several hundred feet above our intended landing site, I could see the crew of downed Chinook had safely exited the aircraft. As I lowered the ramp for the infantry to move into the rice paddy I saw the rear pylon of 64-13107 separate from the airframe, they were on the ground for less than one minute when they experienced structural failure, that’s how close the crew came to not surviving.
With the troops on the ground we lifted off, grabbed some altitude and kept a close eye on the rice paddy and trees line near the downed Chinook. A few minutes later a Huey gunship came to the rescue, hammered the tree line with rockets, and things calmed down.
If 64-13107 had had the 22 infantry on their aircraft, it would have been a really bad day, the fire would have had men jumping out before they reached the ground, of that I have no doubt. In war it is sometimes better to be lucky, rather than good.
Only after the area was secured, (I was much too busy when we were following them down) I picked up the 8 mm camera that I kept near the ramp and starting taking some pictures of the burning Chinook below. We landed, picked up the flight crew of 64-13107, leaving the infantry to secure the area. Yes, we did lose a aircraft, but the crew survived, that’s a good day in war.
At the beginning of the video that is me on start-up of 66-00070, at our small Phan Thiet base. You can see the South Chin Sea just beyond the aircraft. Phan Thiet is a important city in Southeast Asian and Vietnamese history. It has a beautiful river winding through it. We would life off, fly over the cliff about the ocean, it was always a beautiful site, a few moments of peace in the middle of carnage.
Several weeks later Gary came to me and said the Army wanted to present us medals for our heroism that day, having risked our lives extracting the firebase, and assisting the crew of 64-13107. He told them not to bother, we were just doing our job, and they would have done the same for us. WO Gary Lineberry was a exceptional Command Pilot, it was a privilege to be on the same flight crew with him.
One month later, flying in the same area, we got shot down in 66-00070 and were very lucky to survive. 6 or 8 rounds came through the bottom of the aircraft and missed me by 2′, hit our flight control hydraulic pumps, fortunately no fire, barely made it to the ground. Again, luck, not a bad thing.
228th Assault Support
1st CAVALRY DIVISION
For more information on this event, check out www.228th.org
228th ASHB was the 1st Cavalry Division’s Chinook Battalion. The Bn had three companies of CH-47 aircraft. Each company had 16 “Hooks.” The Battalion Headquarters (HHC) had a UH-1D/H “Slick” and one OH-6A “Loach.” Guns-A-Go-Go was originally the 53rd Aviation Detachment and became the 1st Aviation Detachment when it was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in November 1966.
Wade O. Kane (Crew chief, A Company, 228th ASHB, 1st Air Cavalry, June 67 to June 68) writes: “64-13107, it caught fire in the air – some pilot in another Hook took an 8mm movie of it going down. The draft in a Hook is aft to forward, and as flames filled the cabin, the gunner, Crew chief (CE) and Flight Engineer (FE) put down the front step, and rode down out on the step. Either the FE or the CE was Curtis Parks, who got an air medal for the flight, and an article 15 because he hadn’t worn his gloves and burned his hands getting the 60s out of the burning wreck. The crew said they almost got hit by the pilots door when he jettisoned it. Mr. Manuel was Pilot in Command (PIC), and got burns on his face when he looked back into the cabin when they landed. He sure was relieved when he got out and the crew was alive and well. The aft pylon melted off about 30 seconds after it hit. They had a 105mm sling load, and it would not punch off, so they landed on the howitzer. All this is from talking to the crew afterwards. This was down near Phan Thiet, where the Cav had a small operation. I never did understand the deal about that, as it wasn’t near the Cav Area of Operations (AO) at all.”
64-13107 was lost due to enemy action in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) while conducting a mission in support of a brigade element of the 1st Air Cav which had been deployed to the Phan Thiet area temporarily. While assigned to A Company – “Wildcats”, 228th Assault Support Helicopter Battalion (ASHB), 64-13107 was struck by small arms fire in the crossfeed fuel valve and caught fire in flight. The entire crew received Purple Hearts for burns sustained in the incident.
The last known location of 64-13107 was in the Republic of Vietnam.
Aircraft status: Shot down in combat.
This aircraft was piloted by:
CW3 Jerry Manuel, AC, 1967.
WO1 Garry L. Daniel, PI, 1967.
This aircraft was crewed by:
SP4 Kenneth D. Crews, FE, 1967.
UNK Tony Fraiser, CE, 1967.
UNK Curtis Parks, DG, 1967.