Helicopter UH-1H 68-15246

Information on U.S. Army helicopter UH-1H tail number 68-15246
The Army purchased this helicopter 1268
Total flight hours at this point: 00000822
Date: 11/29/1969
Incident number: 69112929.KIA
Unit: 11 GS 1 CAV
South Vietnam
UTM grid coordinates: YU069124 (To see this location on a map, go to https://legallandconverter.com/p50.html and search on Grid Reference 48PYU069124)
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: Defense Intelligence Agency Helicopter Loss database. Also: OPERA (Operations Report. )
Loss to Inventory

Crew Members:

War Story:
The first Left Bank bird went down near Song BE in Phuoc Long Province in the Vic of YU 068 113. Two Loachs and a Cobra went down also in the same action. Six good guys died that day. From the 371ST SP4 James R. Smith and PFC Henry N. Heide II died. There was significant action in this whole area as a result of the Left Bank contribution for several days afterwards.

In reference to Tail Number 68-15246 and the action on 29 Nov 69, SP4 James Ronald Smith and PFC Henry Nicholas Heide were O5H's assigned to the 371ST Radio Research Company. O5H's are Radio Intercept Operators. The 371ST RRC supported the 1ST Cav and operated at the time out of Phouc Vinh, RVN. The pilots probably were from B/229TH as the aircraft belonged to the 11Th GS. I would imagine that pilots were drawn from the Division if a shortage occurred.

The aircraft, itself, was configured with radio direction finding equipment and was unarmed except for personal weapons. It had a crew of four, two pilots and the two O5H operators in the back. Their mission was to track the enemy via of intercepting their radio transmissions and then fixing their locations with triangulation. That called for flying slow and easy with many turning patterns and reporting back to HQ what was significant or not. The O5H's were not mere passengers as the report suggests in one part but they were full time crew members of a special electronic surveillance aircraft. Radio Research as it was know in Vietnam was in reality the Army Security Agency and hence the classified mission. It was not what some people called people sniffers.

Concerning the shoot-downs, Left Bank had been making many, many contacts with the enemy in the Fall of 69. "Jaguar Yellow" was the callsign and when they called for fire, all the available Pink Teams responded within minutes. In fact, in the Fall of 69, Pink Teams would shadow Left Bank waiting to pounce. The response could have anything from Arty to Arc Lights diverted in flight. Left Bank found them and then moved out of the way so the guns could do the killing.

The rumor was that the enemy was getting tired of being pounded whenever this funny looking helicopter would show up and so they set a trap. Our guys got bold and went low to spot an antenna and were caught in a crossfire of 51 Cals but it was said that an RPG round through the chin bubble was what brought them down. A Pink Team that was covering them was also caught in the hail of fire and went down. From what I can remember, the Low Bird of a second Pink Team was hit and crashed. That will explain the other friendly KIA's for the day. Fast movers were scrambled and napalmed the area to keep the classified out of enemy hands. Later the Blues of the 1/9 Cav inserted and secured what was left while the area remained hot for several days.

Larry E. North, March 1997,

The individuals listed below were assigned to the 11th General Support Aviation Company at Phouc Vinh. They were in the Project Left Bank flight platoon. On the date their aircraft was shot down, I was the company executive officer. Prior to becoming the XO, I was the Utility Platoon Flight Commander and also flew for Project Left Bank. Project Left Bank was at that time a highly classified mission, performing radio research missions. The EH-1H and current EH-60A/L aircraft are the end product of Project Left Bank. We had three aircraft, all weighing just under 10,000 pounds with a bag of gas. Due to the weight restrictions and fully packed cabin, we were unarmed. The mission Jack Knepp was flying had been scheduled for me as the AC that day; however, Jack approached me that morning and said he wanted to fly the new guy (WO Bogle) and that I always let the warrants stand down their last 2-3 weeks before DEROS and that I should do the same (my DEROS was 14 DEC 69). I then flew a courier mission in an OH-6A down to Hotel 3 in Saigon (a milk run). During my flight back I was notified by our Flight OPS that -246 had gone down to the east of An Loc and diverted me to the scene, which was under heavy fire. Once the grunts were able to secure the site, the only identifiable object was Jack Knepp's head which had been severed during the crash - everything and everyone else had burned beyond recognition (we had WP grenades on board in order to destroy the aircraft in case we went down). I have nothing against B/229th Avn - I was initially assigned to the Killer Spades at Dau Tiang when first arriving in country in Dec 68 to be a flight platoon commander, and left in Jan 69 and assigned to Project Left Bank in 11th GS. I want to set the record straight for Jack's memory. Jack, by the way, was a former Marine who enlisted in the Army's warrant officer flight school program after serving 6 years or so with the Marines.

Phil Rohman CW4 (Ret), Nov 1998.

I was a 98G (voice intercept) and I flew with Left Bank for several weeks, up until about a week before the action on Nov 29, 1969. I know why they were flying low that day. And some research at The Virtual Wall led to learning the names of two "Pink Team" pilots (they were known to us as "Hunter Killer Teams") who were killed that day in conjunction with the Left Bank incident.

The narrative says "...Our guys got bold and went low to spot an antenna and were caught in a crossfire..." The Left Bank crew already knew where the antenna was located -- the Left Bank mission was "ARDF, airborne radio direction finding". The problem was describing the area to the Loach pilots. Left Bank normally operated up high, maybe 3000 feet or more (sometimes we kept the doors open, but sometimes we closed the doors because it was cold). About mid-November we started going down to treetop level to mark direction-finding fixes by dropping a smoke grenade out the window. Various Left Bank pilots had been talking about the difficulty of describing the precise location of a fix to the "Hunter Killer" teams ("Pink Teams"). In much of the AO the triple canopy jungle was like looking at the ocean, with no distinctive features to point out to the Loach pilots to help them zero in on the area of the fix. To make the process easier, one of the pilots suggested that because the Left Bank pilots had been looking at the area for some time while doing their series of "banks" and plotting compass bearings, they could easily drop down low and drop smoke on the right spot. Needless to say, that tactic greatly increased the hazard level for the Left Bank ships, which were heavily-laden and unarmed. Even up high we had to worry about .51 cals -- we saw tracers at least once while I was with them up high at our normal operational altitude. But being down at treetop level made a B40 attack possible, and made it easier for the 51s to hit what they were aiming at. In retrospect, it would have made more sense for the LOH crew to drop smoke in a random location, and then have the Left Bank pilots provide the Loach pilots with compass bearings and range from their smoke.

The narrative also says "A Pink Team that was covering them was also caught in the hail of fire and went down. From what I can remember, the Low Bird of a second Pink Team was hit and crashed. That will explain the other friendly KIA's for the day." Recent research revealed the names of two Cobra pilots who were killed in action related to the Left Bank incident. They were WO1 Kenneth Alan Luse and CW2 Lawrence Joseph Babyak. In the Virtual Wall entry for Mr. Babyak, there is a reference to "Jaguar Yellow Bird", which is a reference to the Project Left Bank aircraft. The information listed on the flyarmy.org website for their AH-1G aircraft, tail number 68-15188, is a bit confusing because it mentions "Cambodia". However, the location is listed as "Grid YU069124" for both the Left Bank aircraft and the aircraft flown by Mr. Luse and Mr. Babyak. Our understanding is that the incident happened west of the village of Song Be, not in Cambodia. It seems likely that they were part of the Pink Team working with the Left Bank ship, saw the Left Bank Huey go down, and immediately went in to try to help them. The Virtual Wall database lists MOS 100B Utility/Observation Helicopter Pilot for both men, but other information indicates they were flying a Snake. Maybe we'll have that sorted by next November 29, 2011.

Above from: David Hewitt

Mr. Knepp and Jim Smith were both friends and co-operators. i was an 05D20 with left bank from April until the day the bird went down.. Several days before, Mr. Knepp volunteered to fly me down to HQ and drop me off to catch the big bird home,that way I wouldn't have to take the convoy.

Jim and I lived in the same tent, with all the Left Bank crews. I had flown numerous missions with both him and Mr. Knepp. in the days before we left, I was talking to Mr. Knepp and Smitty about how I was still debating with myself about extending my tour. I really enjoyed the mission and I knew what we did saved a lot of our guys lives. I just couldn't decide. I felt lucky to have survived as long as I had, and was afraid to press my luck. After they dropped me off , it was only 20 or so minutes that word came in that the bird was down.

Guys were running around the compound reporting all hands were killed. They thought at the time it was a SAM. I ran to the radio room and listened to all the chatter. I was involved in other flights that were hit and damaged and never considered actually crashing and dying. we practiced autorotation regularly and I was confident we would survive. until then we had had several close calls and a couple of crashes, but no fatalities. I decided then it was time to go. I have been thankful and regretful ever since. I made my trip to the WALL in 1995 and looked them up. after reading the account in VHPA I cried for the guys. I had just met Mr. Bogle and didn't know PFC Heide very long. the description of all the things that happened that day has been burned in my mind. i don't know why I was so lucky that day, but I still feel guilty. god bless those guys.

Above from: James Baker

This record was last updated on 03/30/2014

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