Helicopter AH-1G 68-15077

Information on U.S. Army helicopter AH-1G tail number 68-15077
The Army purchased this helicopter 0369
Total flight hours at this point: 00000921
Date: 03/18/1971 MIA-POW file reference number: 1729
Incident number: 71031810.KIA
Unit: D/101 AVN 101 ABN
This was a Combat incident. This helicopter was LOSS TO INVENTORY
This was a Rescue and Recovery mission for Rescue or Rescue Support
While in PickUp Zone this helicopter was Attacking at UNK feet and UNK knots.
UTM grid coordinates: XD469397 (To see this location on a map, go to https://legallandconverter.com/p50.html and search on Grid Reference 48QXD469397)
Unknown groundfire.
Systems damaged were: MULTIPLE, PERSONNEL
Casualties = 02 MIA . .
The helicopter Crashed. Aircraft Destroyed.
Both mission and flight capability were terminated.
Original source(s) and document(s) from which the incident was created or updated: Defense Intelligence Agency Reference Notes. Defense Intelligence Agency Helicopter Loss database. Survivability/Vulnerability Information Analysis Center Helicopter database. Also: 1729, CASRP (Casualty Report. )
Loss to Inventory

Crew Members:

REFNO Synopsis:
Lam San 719 was the last major operation of the Vietnam War. It involved American multi-service support of ARVN troops in an invasion of Laos. The targeted area began around the city of Tchpone and extended south along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The operation was a concentrated attempt to halt North Vietnamese troop and supply movements. After the ARVN successfully took Tchpone, they elected to withdraw. American Marines and Army aircraft helped them withdraw back into Vietnam. All the while, NVA troops followed, and withdrawal, at times, was very difficult. As the last of the ARVN 4/1 were being assisted back to Vietnam, and had been trapped in a crater, Capt. Keith Brandt came on station leading a flight of Cobra gunships in response to Command & Control request for assistance to all helicopters. The ARVN on the ground radioed Brandt, "We're completely surrounded", and asked him to expend his ordnance on his smoke (a detonated smoke grenade, used to mark location). For the rest of the afternoon, Brandt and his crewmember, Alan Boffman stayed over the ARVN, returning to Khe Sahn for refueling and rearming three times. He expended ordnance as directed by the ARVN sergeant on radio and dodged NVA fire on low-level flights to pinpoint the exact ARVN location and calculate the best approach route for rescue helicopters. At nearly five in the afternoon, the 173rd Robinhoods began coming in from the east to extract the beseiged ARVN. Brandt was still circling, and volunteered to lead the helicopters in, as the ARVN had expended their last smoke grenade some hours earlier. He radioed, "This is Music One-six. Follow me, Robinhood Three, and I'll lead you to the friendlies." As they moved in, NVA fire exploded around them. Brandt's Cobra shuddered and he radioed, "I've lost my engine and my transmission is breaking up. Good-bye. Send my love to my family. I'm dead." Then, the Cobra became a ball of fire and crashed in the trees. With knots in their throats, the extraction helicopters continued their mission. Of the original 420 ARVN who entered Laos, only 88 were left. They had fought hard for 6 weeks. The helicopters were clearly overloaded, and some had great difficulty staying airborne on the trip back to Khe Sanh. ARVN were hanging from the skids of the aircraft in a desperate attempt to reach the safety of Vietnam. Many fell, some were injured on landing. Of the 88 at the crater, only 36 made it back to the safety of Khe Sanh.

War Story:
Below is from the July/August 2021 VHPA Aviator letters to the editor:

A communication sent to Carl (Skip) Bell

I was not a Cobra pilot, but I did witness a Cobra Crew from the 101sr Airborne Division do an impossible feat. The 223rd Aviation Battalion was charged with withdrawing the remaining elements of the 1st ARVN Division. I was flying in the command and control UH-1H with LTC Gerry Kirklighter that day in March or April of 1971. We initially attempted the pickup in the morning, but ran into stiff NVA resistance along the Ho Chi Minh Trail near the town of Tchepone in Laos.

The fire was coming from a slope west of the pickup zone, and Hillsborough, the USAF command and control aircraft that was on station 24 hours a day heard our discussion and said that an Arc Light was inbound, and with all the electronic gadgetry on board that aircraft, Hillsborough pinpointed our location and the hillside where all the fire was coming from. We monitored the radio transmissions between Hillsborough and the B-52 crew, and Hillsborough advised us to remain in orbit east of the site. we heard the B-52 crew state that they were turning on the bomb run, state that bombs were on the way, and in minutes the whole world seemed to explode a half mile from our orbit. We had to return to Khe San to refuel and briefed the lift commander of the mission. Then we were back on station.

A Cobra Crew led by a Captain whose name I do not know, his call sigh was Music 16, prepped the PZ and then picked up the inbound lift ships and Music 16 said I will fly over the PZ so you can ID it. He said, I am over it right now, the lead lift ship said I don’t see it, I don’t see it. Music 16 said, I am hit, I have lost hydraulics but I will try to fly over once again. Music 16 flew over the site and lift lead said I got it. Music 16 departed to land on the Ho Chi Minh Trail when he stated, that his engine has quit, and we are going in straight ahead. With his hydraulics out, he could not lower the collective for autorotation and I watched the rotor get slower and slower until the Cobra stopped flying and Music 16 said, we are gone, tell our wives we love them, and they hit in an explosion. It was evident that Music 16 and his gunner did not survive the impact and fire.

Several years later, their remains were recovered and returned to the USA. I do not know the names of that crew, but they could have gone to the trail when the hydraulics were shot out rather than go around again, but go around they did and the result was the ARVN troops were withdrawn.

Perhaps someone can fill in the names. I hope so, because these two Cobra drivers should get recognized at Cobra Hall.

Duane “Banjo” Davis

This record was last updated on 07/31/2021

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Date posted on this site: 11/13/2023

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