Helicopter AH-1G 68-15138


Information on U.S. Army helicopter AH-1G tail number 68-15138
The Army purchased this helicopter 0569
Total flight hours at this point: 00000639
Date: 01/03/1970
Incident number: 70010303.KIA
Unit: 520 TC BN
This was a Combat incident. This helicopter was REPAIRED IN THEATER
This was a Recon mission for Armed Recon
While Enroute this helicopter was at Level Flight at 0800 feet and 130 knots.
South Vietnam
Count of hits was not possible because the helicopter burned or exploded.
Small Arms/Automatic Weapons; Gun launched non-explosive ballistic projectiles less than 20 mm in size. (12.7MM)
The helicopter was hit in the Cockpit
Systems damaged were: PERSONNEL
Casualties = 01 KIA . .
The helicopter Continued Flight.
The aircraft was diverted prior to accomplishing any mission objectives.
TAY NINH recovered the helicopter.
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: Survivability/Vulnerability Information Analysis Center Helicopter database. Also: CASRP, CRAFX, FM385, CALTR (Crash Facts Message. Casualty Report. )

Crew Members:
AC WO1 OLSON GENE JOHN KIA
P WO1 PEELE JOHNNY N WIA


War Story:
Sandy Bauers, a writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, went to the VN helo Pilot Assn website and asked a question about a Snake that is going into the Chester County American Helicopter Museum. I looked up the tail number, noted who was killed in the aircraft, contacted the A Troop 1st Sqdn 9th Cav guys, and they found the guy in the front seat who had to take control when the AC was shot up. The process happened in four days flat. Cobra Pilots for the Truth. MIke Sloniker Posted on Wed, Sep. 01, 2004 Final rest for a Vietnam-era Cobra It is now at the American Helicopter Museum, with some of its history restored. By Sandy Bauers Inquirer Staff Writer There it sits, sleek and menacing. Although it no longer has the crossed gold sabers under the rotors, it's still much the same as on that horrible day in 1970 when Gene Olson was at the controls, swooping low over Vietnam's Tay Ninh province. Here at the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester, amid a hangar of helicopters of every size and shape and function, the Cobra - the U.S. Army's first helicopter designed for attack - certainly stands out. More than 30 years ago, the Cobra marked a turning point in Army aviation. It was a heavily armed aerial race car, a dream to fly, and a demon to any troops in its gun sights. It came to the museum last month, identified merely by the manufacturer's number and the Army's: 68-15138. Little did museum officials know what happened in one small, sad chapter of its history. Gene Olson had already been in Vietnam a few months when John Peele got there. They roomed next to each other in the "hootch" - made from corrugated tin, wood from used ammo boxes, and sandbags. Olson was blond and blue-eyed, with a big smile. He was born in Minneapolis. Shortly before leaving the States, he married his sweetheart, Leslie. On Jan. 3, 1970, Olson had just nine days to go before a rest-and-relaxation trip to Hawaii to see her. The men patrolled the Dog's Head - that's how it looked on the maps - near Cambodia. On hunter-killer missions, a scout helicopter would fly low and slow to find the North Vietnamese, the Cobras swooping in to attack. Eldon Anderson, now of Boise, Idaho, was the operations officer who briefed Peele and Olson that morning. "He'd take any order and do it without flinching, and do it well," Anderson said of Olson. They took off shortly after dawn in No. 68-15138. They'd heard their life expectancy, as Peele recalls, was just 28 days. Cobra pilots were among the elite, with top swaggering rights. They called themselves snake drivers. "They tended to be a different breed of pilot," said Greg McCarthy of Chadds Ford, who flew a Helicopter Utility 1 - a "Huey" - in Vietnam. Olson and Peele's unit was Apache Troop, First Squadron, Ninth Cavalry. The motto on their gold patches: "The boldest cavalrymen the world has ever known." The men of Apache grew handlebar mustaches. They ditched the Army-issue gun belts and wore Western-style holsters, slung low. They wore black Stetsons with gold braid. Most of all, they were young. Olson was 22; Peele was 20. Initially, the Army used Hueys in Vietnam, but they were slow and large - good targets. The Army was developing an attack helicopter, but "as losses started to mount in Vietnam, they realized they couldn't afford to wait," said Jim Williams, a historian at the Army Aviation Center in Fort Rucker, Ala. Bell Helicopter in Texas had built the Cobra as a prototype, and the Army bought it. The first ones arrived in 1967. With the gunner in front and the pilot behind, instead of side by side, the Cobra was a slim target. It was agile. It bristled with weaponry. "It was the hot rod back then," said Lach Brown of Bryn Athyn, who arrived in Vietnam Jan. 4, 1970, a 19-year-old newcomer to Olson and Peele's division. "Meaner than a whip" is how others described it. "We could come in lower, stay longer, get down dirtier," Peele said. At first, the morning of Jan. 3, 1970, was like so many others. They got a target, and Olson "did a wingover and pulled in hard and came straight in on them," Peele said. Olson was known for this. "He was a great pilot," Peele said. "He took the fight to the enemy and never backed off." All they saw was small-arms fire. But they'd been suckered. "When we came back in... it looked like a Fourth of July celebration coming toward us." Only one bullet hit. But it was a .51-caliber round. It went through the map Peele was holding. It went between his arm and ribs, grazing both. Then through his armor-plated seat and the fire wall behind. Through Olson's control stick. And into his right thigh. A piece of shrapnel also hit Olson's forehead. He called to Peele: "I'm hit. I'm hit bad in the head." Then he slumped over the controls. They were diving fast. Peele grabbed his own controls and pulled as hard as he could to overcome Olson's weight. Another pilot, Ron Black, now of Fort Collins, Colo., watched the Cobra wallow. Finally, it climbed. "I still don't know how John got control of that thing and got out of there," Black said. Peele was 45 minutes from the Medevac helipad. "I kept looking at Gene," he said. "You could see the color draining" from his face. With hydraulic fluid streaming from the Cobra and other pilots insisting he'd never make it, Peele managed to land right next to the hospital. Too late. Olson, the artery in his leg severed, had bled to death. "And that's the story of that Cobra," said Peele, now 55, of Orlando, Fla. "Death for us was a pretty common event. We dealt it to the other side every day. And every few days somebody from our side would take it." This one, however, was more personal. "When you share the same bullet that killed someone else, it's tough." Cobras of one sort or another have participated in every military engagement since Vietnam. Today's Marines fly a "SuperCobra." Although the Army eventually retired the Cobra, the National Guard kept some for a while. One of the last places to fly Cobras was the unit at Trenton-Mercer County Airport, where Chief Warrant Officer William S. Tuttle said Cobras flew maneuvers over the Pine Barrens near Lakehurst, N.J. According to records of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, No. 68-15138 was repaired and used in Vietnam for 14 more months. Finally, it was mothballed at Fort Drum, N.Y. No. 68-15138, partly disassembled, arrived in West Chester on Aug. 20 on a flatbed truck. Museum director Greg Kennedy termed it a "major acquisition... an important step in the evolution of warfare." Gene John Olson is buried in Pleasant View Memorial Gardens in Burnsville, Minn. His name is on Panel 15 W, Line 123 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington. Contact staff writer Sandy Bauers at 610-701-7635 or sbauers@phillynews.com .

This record was last updated on 09/01/2004


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