Helicopter UH-1H 67-17174

Information on U.S. Army helicopter UH-1H tail number 67-17174
The Army purchased this helicopter 0168
Total flight hours at this point: 00000194
Date: 02/14/1969
Incident number: 69021414.KIA
Unit: HHC/15 MED
This was a Combat incident.
South Vietnam
Small Arms/Automatic Weapons; Gun launched non-explosive ballistic projectiles less than 20 mm in size. (7.62MM)
Casualties = 02 DOI . .
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: War Story as related by a witness. Also: Crew Chief Brian Lee ()
Summary: Shot down while trying to pick up 1/9 CAV wounded.

Crew Members:

War Story:
Aircraft was on medevac mission to pick up wounded soldiers from 1/9 CAV battle when it was shot down. When aircraft hit the ground, the skids broke off causing the helicopter to come to a rest at an angle. The crew chief was hit in the back of the head by the main rotor blade when he ran out to set up a defensive perimeter. The medic was also killed in the same manner when he rushed to crew chief’s aid. By Jeff Grant, DAILY NEWS-SUN PEORIA, Ariz. -- It is an artist’s project to mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and bring attention to the traumas of armed conflict afflicting soldiers long after the last bullet has been fired. But, for two men who nearly died in that conflict almost a half-century ago and the families of two others, a gathering this week in Peoria to launch the “Take Me Home Huey” exhibition has become the unlikeliest of reunions. When Walter McNees and Ralph Tutrani joined the kickoff at the Rio Vista Community Center, it marked the first time the two men have seen one another since their medevac helicopter landed hard under enemy fire in what was then South Vietnam Feb. 14, 1969, killing two crew members and leaving Tutrani with a gunshot wound to one of his hands. The sisters of Steven Schumacher, the flight’s medic, and Gary Dubach, its crew chief, will be there as well. Tutrani, who now lives in southeast Pennsylvania, said a fifth crew member, another pilot, survived but that he and colleagues have lost touch with him. Until late last month, he had not even spoken with McNees, the only other survivor. “The last time I saw him, we were in the jungle. I’m looking forward to meeting them,” said Tutrani, who traveled with his wife to Peoria for the “Huey” exhibition launch. He has never met Claire Johnson, Schumacher’s sister who came from her Minneapolis home on Schumacher’s behalf, or Mesa, Ariz., resident Carol Hewitt, Dubach’s sister. There will be another component to the reunion -- the helicopter itself. “There’s a lot of serendipity in this project,” said Dave Barron of Light Horse Legacy, a Glendale-based organization partnering with Southern California artist Steve Maloney to produce and carry out “Take Me Home Huey.” “I’m excited. These people have not been together in 46 years. They all left together under grave circumstances,” he said. A HARD LANDING The day the Huey helicopter, serial number 67-17174 – known as No. 174 – went down, Tutrani and his four crewmates were flying with the Army’s 15th Medical Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division to pick up wounded American soldiers in Long Bihn. The landing zone was about 20 miles of Saigon, then capital of South Vietnam and now known as Ho Chi Minh City. “As we approached the LZ (landing zone), we started taking fire. The aircraft took hits. We experienced mechanical issues; hydraulic problems, we were losing fuel. The pilot had to put it down. We landed hard; crashed. It was probably less than 30 minutes until another aircraft picked us up,” recalled Tutrani, now 68, a bank vice president, married for 42 years and father of four children. The impact caused the craft to tip over, killing Schumacher and Dubach. At some point, Tutrani was shot in one of his hands. The injury left his hand with full movement but without feeling in two of his fingers. The remaining crew members survived unhurt. Later awarded the Purple Heart, Tutrani’s tour ended there, but continued for McNees and the fifth crew member. The latter had only recently rotated in, and with duty officers’ logs destroyed after the U.S. left Vietnam in 1973, his name wasn’t preserved. PAINFUL MEMORIES Nearly a half century has not dimmed the memory of Carol Hewitt’s feelings the day she and her family learned of Dubach’s death. A resident of Ashtabula, Ohio, a onetime major coal port along Lake Erie about an hour east of Cleveland, Dubach would have turned 20 the year he died. “I had just turned 21,” recalled Hewitt, who moved to Arizona in 1987 and raised three children. “Gary was more like a son than a brother. If he got in trouble, I got in trouble.” Gary Dubach enlisted in the Army on his 18th birthday after quitting school with his parents’ permission. As crew chief, he was responsible for making sure everything was in proper working order for each flight. “We loved each other. It was hard when he died. That was the first time I faced death,” said Hewitt, who would lose one of her own children to juvenile diabetes years later. UNPACKING A PAST Hewitt only learned some details of the 1969 landing earlier this year. Barron and Light Horse -- a 501(c)3 non-profit organization supporting PTSD veterans -- helped her connect with Tutrani. Until she and the former door gunner spoke by phone, she did not know the 1969 landing also claimed Schumacher. Barron said McNees has spoken little about his wartime experiences. Reuniting the former crew of Huey No. 174 was an unintended consequence of a much broader vision by Barron and artist Steve Maloney, who frequently uses repurposed items. Seeking to use the 50th anniversary of the war to highlight the struggles of veterans with PTSD, especially those from the Vietnam era, Barron and Light Horse hit upon the idea of furnishing Maloney with a bone yard helicopter. The most widely used military helicopter, the Bell UH-1 series Iroquois, better known as the "Huey,” was a natural vehicle for the project, said Tutrani. “For the guys on the ground, the helicopters were their resupply, it brought them ammunition, food and additional troops into the battle. It removed the wounded,” he explained. But simply obtaining an old Huey wasn’t enough for Barron. After acquiring No. 174, curiosity drove him to seek the back story. “We weren’t looking for history, just an old airframe we could turn into this artwork. When we found out the history, we learned these guys (Dubach and Schumacher) died in almost obscurity. It kind of made me mad,” said Barron, an Army aviation veteran who served with the 1st Cavalry Division in South Korea during the 1970s. “We were getting a lot of people back from Vietnam. I knew who these guys were; what they went through. I thought, ‘Here’s a family who didn’t know what happened to their brother.’” An exhaustive search that took Barron to the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, the National Archives and the office of Arizona Congressman Trent Franks, R-8th Dist., eventually produced the names of the crew members. “I picked up Ralph’s name first, I went to the 15th Medical Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division Association and found Ralph, who led me to Walter,” he said. Barron then came upon a piece of bonus information: a longtime former crew member of Huey No. 174 who had been rotated out just a month before the crash. Eric Birla, whose tour ended in January 1969, will be with the group this week, joining Tutrani, McNees, Barron and Christian Cooper, readjustment counseling technician/outreach specialist with the Arizona Department of Veterans Services West Valley Vet Center in Peoria for a Friday evening forum on PTSD. The forum will be held 6 p.m. at Rio Vista Community Center, 8866 W. Thunderbird Road, Peoria. TOMORROW: “TAKE ME HOME HUEY” TAKES OFF Contact reporter Jeff Grant at 623-876-2514 or jgrant@yourwestvalley.com.

This record was last updated on 12/08/2017

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Date posted on this site: 11/13/2023

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