Helicopter CH-47B 67-18493
Information on U.S. Army helicopter CH-47B tail number 67-18493
The Army purchased this helicopter 0268
Total flight hours at this point: 00001766
Incident number: 710206091ACD Accident case number: 710206091 Total loss or fatality Accident
Unit: 178 ASHC
This was a Accident incident.
The station for this helicopter was Chu Lai in South Vietnam
UTM grid coordinates: AT908230
Number killed in accident = 8 . . Injured = 0 . . Passengers = 2
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: Defense Intelligence Agency Helicopter Loss database. Army Aviation Safety Center database. Also: OPERA (Operations Report. )
Loss to Inventory
P CPT KERL MICHAEL JAMES KIA
P CPT ALEXANDER DAVID LEE KIA
FS CPT AARON RICHARD ALAN KIA
CE SP4 WILLIAMS CURTIS LELAND KIA
G SP5 ROGERS ROBERT JAMES KIA
Passengers and/or other participants:
SP4 JACQUES ROBERT PAUL, AR, PX, KIA
CPL BONESTROO KENNETH WAYNE, AR, PX, KIA
AIRCRAFT ^67-18493^ WAS INITIALLY LAUNCHED FROM THE ^178TH ASHC^
RAMP AT CHU LAI EAST AIRFIELD AT 1245 HRS, 6 FEB 71, TO WORK
MISSIONS FOR NORTHERN DIVISION ARTILLERY. THE AIRCRAFT HAD
ORIGINALLY BEEN SCHEDULED FOR A 0730 HRS TAKEOFF, BUT IT WAS HELD
DOWN DUE TO WEATHER IN ITS AREA OF OPERATIONS. AIRCRAFT ^493^
ARRIVED AT HAWK HILL AT 1302 HRS AND DEPARTED AT 1313 HRS. THIS
WOULD HAVE BEEN SUFFICIENT TIME TO TOP OFF WITH FUEL; HOWEVER
THIS COULD NOT BE VERIFIED. AIRCRAFT ^493^ CARRIED A LOAD OF
CLASS FIVE TO LZ SIBERIA ARRIVED BACK AT HAWK HILL AT 1345 HRS
WITH A BACKHAUL OF WATER BLIVETS FROM LZ SIBERIA ^AS RECORDED ON
THE BACKHAUL SHEET^, THEN DEPARTED HAWK HILL AT 1352 HRS WITH
ANOTHER LOAD OF CLASS FIVE FOR LZ SIBERIA. AFTER DROPPING OFF THE
CLASS FIVE AT LZ SIBERIA, AIRCRAFT ^493^ FLEW TO TIEN PHUOC AND
PICKED UP A WATER TRAILER FROM THE ^3/16TH ARTY^ AND TOOK IT TO
LZ SIBERIA. AFTER DROPPING OFF THE LOAD, IT DEPARTED FOR LZ WEST
AND PICKED UP A BACKHAUL OF AN EMPTY WATER TRAILER. AFTER
DROPPING THE WATER TRAILER AT TIEN PHUOC, IT WAS FLOWN TO HAWK
HILL, ARRIVING AT 1440 HRS. AIRCRAFT ^493^ WAS AT HAWK HILL FOR
THIRTY MINUTES, ALLOWING TIME TO REFUEL AND SHUTDOWN FOR A
MAINTENANCE CHECK. ALTHOUGH THERE IS NO CONFIRMATION THAT THIS
TOOK PLACE. THE POL OPERATOR AT HAWK HILL STATED THAT POL WAS UP
THE ENTIRE DAY. AIRCRAFT ^493^ DEPARTED HAWK HILL AT
APPROXIMATELY 1510 IN ROUTE TO LZ SIBERIA. THE RTO AT LZ SIBERIA
STATED THAT HE RECEIVED A CALL FROM ^BOXCAR 20^ SAYING HE WAS
INBOUND WITH A LOAD OF WATER BLIVETS AND A GENERATOR. THE RTO
STATED THAT NOTHING WAS INDICATED TO BE WRONG DURING THE
CONVERSATION. AT 1525 HRS, 6 FEB 71, AIRCRAFT ^493^ MADE AN
APPROACH TO LZ SIBERIAL LANDING 090DEG. IT WAS AT A SLOW AIRSPEED
AND AT AN ALTITUDE OF APPROXIMATELY 150-200 FEET AGL, WHEN A
CHANGE IN THE NORMAL TONE OF A CHINOOK ON AN APPROACH ALERTED
PERSONNEL ON THE GROUND TOWARD THE AIRCRAFT. THE NOSE OF THE
AIRCRAFT DROPPED DOWN TO THE RIGHT. THE AIRCRAFT IMPACTED
SLIGHTLY NOSE LOW ON ITS RIGHT SIDE ALONG THE PERIMETER LINE ON
THE WEST SIDE OF THE LZ. THE AIRCRAFT, HITTING ON A RIDGE CREATED
BY THE PERIMETER TRENCH LINE, BROKE IN HALF ALLOWING THE WEIGHT
OF THE AFT SECTION TO CARRY THAT SECTION SLIGHTLY DOWNHILL AND
ORIENTED AT APPROXIMATELY 150DEG. THE SECTION OF THE AIRCRAFT
FROM STATION 240 FORWARD WAS NOT DESTROYED BY THE INSUING FIRE.
THIS SECTION CAME TO REST ON ITS RIGHT SIDE POINTING IN A
DIRECTION OF 190DEG TO 200DEG. THE LEFT FORWARD LANDING GEAR WAS
JUST FORWARD OF ITS NORMAL POSITION INDICATING SOME FORWARD
AIRSPEED OR A SLIGHTLY NOSE LOW ATTITUDE; HOWEVER, THE RIGHT
FORWARD LANDING GEAR WAS BURIED IN ITS PROPER POSITION RELATIVE
TO THE AIRCRAFT. IT WAS BENT INBOARD INDICATING MOVEMENT DIRECTLY
TO THE RIGHT WHICH WAS DIRECTLY DOWNWARD. A SEEMING CHANGE IN
ROTOR RPM IS INDICATED BY A TAPE RECORDING MADE APPROXIMATELY ONE
HUNDRED FEET AWAY FROM THE CRASH, THE CONDITION OF THE BLADES AND
THEIR POSITION RELATIVE TO THEIR POINT OF IMPACT WITH THE GROUND
ALSO INDICATE A POSSIBLE LOW ROTOR RPM. ADDITIONAL STATEMENTS BY
WITNESSES INDICATE A SLOWING OF THE ROTOR BLADES. IT IS ASSUMED
THAT ^LT KERL^, SITTING IN THE RIGHT SEAT, WAS FLYING SINCE ^CPT
ALEXANDER^ HAD BEEN THE ONE WHO CALLED HAWK HILL FOR DEPARTURE.
IT IS UNIT STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE THAT ONE MAN FLIES AND
THE OTHER PILOT MAKES ALL THE RADIO CALLS FOR AN ENTIRE LOAD AND
THEN THE PROCESS IS REVERSED. THE PILOT IN THE LEFT SEAT, ^CPT
ALEXANDER^, WAS ALIVE WHEN REMOVED FROM THE WRECKAGE, BUT HE WAS
DEAD ON ARRIVAL AT THE HAWK HILL MEDICAL FACILITY. GROUND
ELEMENTS CALLED FOR DUSTOFF AND NOTIFIED THEIR HIGHER ELEMENTS
WHO IN TURN CALLED THE ^123D AVIATION BATTALION^ AND THE ^178TH
He Didn't Look Much Like a Soldier
by Kevin T. Mason, COL, MC, MFS, January 2000
"He didn't look much like a soldier, but he was a professional and a fine flight surgeon." This is what an aviation commander said at a battalion staff meeting somewhere in the Quang Tin Province in I Corps area of South Vietnam the day their battalion flight surgeon died.
For a decade, I have been chasing a ghost without a story. Here and there, I have come across vague accounts of a flight surgeon, maybe two, dying in Vietnam. Nobody could remember names, dates, places, or units. The accounts varied from "A mortar round hit his bunker..." to "He jumped on a hand grenade..." and "A Chinook blade chopped off his head."
Then it was like a solitaire game, where the game progresses slowly card by card, with no certainty of the outcome until you uncover a key card. After that, all falls into place with a cascade of automated moves. Such was the case with my search for this deceased flight surgeon without a story.
The first lead came from a silent black circle pasted on a flight surgeon course registration card. CPT Richard Alan Aaron, social security number, home address, DOB 2 Jan 43, and headed for Vietnam, date 1970. COL (RET) N. Bruce Chase, former DASG Aviation Medicine Consultant, recalled the black circle meant, "deceased." He recalled seeing two cards like that. Well, we found one of them.
A letter to the Washington, D.C., home address returned "undeliverable." A call to directory assistance searching for the father's name resulted in "name not found."
Records from St. Louis (an incomplete 201 file) confirmed his flight surgeon badge. CPT Aaron liked tennis, travel, and bike riding. He graduated from Georgetown Medical School in 1968. He started a civilian internal medicine residency, but apparently was drafted into the reserves in 1969, and was then called to active duty September 1970. He took the AMEDD Officer Basic Course, followed by Basic Aviation Medicine Officer Course in October 1970. CPT Aaron arrived in South Vietnam on 18 Dec 70 and was assigned to a replacement company. A Bronze Star citation was generic boiler-plate, without details. A note did say the family declined to formally receive the medal. He was listed as deceased, but there was no casualty report or unit of assignment. I am not getting very far with this case.
AMEDD Historian had no information. Letters to Vietnam-era Army flight surgeons returned no new leads. Vietnam War Memorial provided his religion, Jewish.
I sent a letter to the editor of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association newsletter. Finally the key card, a letter and phone number from CPT Aaron's battalion commander, LTC (RET) Martin R. Vissers. Now we know CPT Aaron was actually assigned as a flight surgeon to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 123rd Combat Aviation Battalion, 16th Aviation Group, 23rd Infantry "Americal" Division.
From afar, LTC Vissers recalls watching the arrival of CPT Aaron, "He didn't look much like a soldier. His hair was too long. His uniform wasn't quite right. I instructed my First Sergeant to square him away before he reported in to me.
Gary B. Roush of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association provided an account of an aviation mishap in Vietnam. It was 6 Feb 71. The weather was bad that morning delaying the departure of the Boxcar 20 (Chinook 67-18493) from 178th ASHC ramp at Chu Lai East Airfield until 1245. CPT Aaron was onboard as a flight surgeon. LTC (Ret) Donald E. Long of B Company, 123rd CAB, thinks it was CPT Aaron's first flight to get his flight time. Boxcar 20 headed for a support mission in the northern division artillery area near Hawk Hill. Working various LZs, Boxcar 20 hauled water, munitions, and supplies. At 1510 hours, the RTO at LZ Siberia received a routine call, "Boxcar 20 inbound with a sling load of water blivets and a generator." At 1525, Boxcar 20 made the approach to LZ Siberia to the east. At an altitude of 150-200 feet, witnesses heard the tone of the Chinook's engine change and watched the rotor RPM drop. Aircraft 493 fell vertically with slight forward airspeed, nose low and to the right. It hit a berm on the perimeter trench line, breaking in half. The aft section slid down hill consumed in fire and the forward section lay on its right side free from the fire. CPT Alexander, LT Kerl, CPT Aaron, SGT Rogers, SP4 Williams, and four PAXs died in the mishap. LTC Vissers recalled that CPT Aaron had been standing in the forward cargo area. His head, though protected by a helmet, hit the radio rack, fatally breaking his neck.
That night at the battalion staff meeting, LTC Vissers announced the death of their flight surgeon. Breaking the somber mood, LTC Vissers recalls saying, "I thought it was appropriate to acknowledge his absence by saying something to the effect, 'He didn't look much like a soldier, but he was a professional and a fine flight surgeon.'"
"He didn't look much like a soldier."
LTC Vissers pondered over that comment. He thought, "Just what is the definition of the word 'soldier'?" He recalled a Time magazine account of a "soldier" in the 5th Mech Division. When asked about the war, the man said, "We are the unwilling, doing the unwanted, for the ungrateful."
LTC Vissers and Rabbi Chaplain Edward Kraus presided over CPT Aaron's memorial service on 10 Feb 71 in the 16th Combat Aviation Group Chapel. >From LTC Vissers' notes: "Captain Doctor Richard A. Aaron. I can't say I knew him well. He hadn't been here but two months. I can't say I knew him intimately, because I didn't see that much of him. I did have a long talk with him when he reported in. I think that we established a bond of mutual trust and respect. We spoke honestly and frankly with each other. He told me that he didn't approve of the war in Vietnam, but he was here to do his job, and he did it. He was socially concerned. He worked hard with the men that had drug abuse problems. He was proud of the fact that he found a man who wanted to be a social worker and was able to encourage him."
LTC Vissers then shared the Time magazine quote. He said, "Doctor Aaron personally made a lie of that Time magazine quote by his presence. I'm sure he could have avoided his RVN tour, but he didn't. He provided a valuable service to this battalion, the people in it, and consequently to his country. I am personally grateful. I believe he was a soldier in the truest sense of the word, even though he might have been the last to recognize it." Prayers and blessings followed, and the service ended.
The family never answered LTC Vissers' letter. "Not an unusual turn of events in those days. It just doesn't seem possible that it was 23 years ago," LTC Vissers added.
Today I added CPT Aaron's name plate to our society's memorial to Army flight surgeons who died in the line of duty, which is located at the entrance to the U.S. Army School of Aviation Medicine, Fort Rucker, AL. I sat down and wrote this memorial nomination. Most passing the memorial will not know the story behind the name, unless we tell them.
His casualty report, DD Form 1300, was finally found at St. Louis, giving the complete name of both parents. I only hope that I can find his family to respectfully inform them of our memorialization. I want them to know that even 23 years later, soldiers like LTC Vissers respected their son, his efforts, and are still deeply moved by his death.
This record was last updated on 01/16/2000
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