Helicopter UH-1H 69-15080


Information on U.S. Army helicopter UH-1H tail number 69-15080
The Army purchased this helicopter 0270
Total flight hours at this point: 00001070
Date: 10/22/1971
Incident number: 711022021ACD Accident case number: 711022021 Total loss or fatality Accident
Unit: 68 MED DET
The station for this helicopter was Chu Lai in
Number killed in accident = 6 . . Injured = 2 . . Passengers = 5
costing 515745
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: C. Stonecipher ()
Summary: After picking up ARVN wounded at night, crashed into mountainside SW of Chu Lai in very bad weather. Only two PAXs survived the crash.
Loss to Inventory and Helicopter was not recovered

Crew Members:
P CW2 MENSEN ANTHONY JOSEPH KIA
AC 1LT LEWIS WILLIAM RUSSELL JR KIA
CE SP4 MORRIS BILLY VANCE KIA
MD SP4 SCHNOBRICH ANTON JOHN KIA

Passengers and/or other participants:
X1 NH DOAN, PAX, D
X2 DEIP MD, , PX, KIA
X2 LONG VK, , PX, KIA
E6 E ADAMS, PAX, D


Accident Summary:

 ON 22 OCTOBER 1971, AT ABOUT 0140 HOURS, AN ARGENT MEDEVAC REQUEST WAS RECEIVED BY THE RADIO OPERATOR ON DUTY FOR THE CO-LOCATED ^54TH AND 68TH MEDICAL DETACHMENTS^ AT CHU LAI, RVN. THE ALERT CREW, ALL ^54TH MEDICAL DETECHMENT^ PERSONNEL, COMPRISED OF ^ANTHONY J. MENSEN, CW2, 472-58-5745,^ AIRCRAFT COMMANDER; ^WILLIAM R. LEWIS, JR. 1LT, 202-38-8629,^ PILOT ; ^BILLY V. MORRIS, SP4, 265-88-5367,^ CREW CHIEF; AND ^ANTON S. SCHNOBRICH, SP4, 516-62-1460,^ MEDICAL ATTENDANT; WAS NOTIFIED OF THE MISSION REQUEST AND THE DECISION TO ACCEPT THE MISSION WAS MADE BY ^CW2 MENSEN^. THE FLIGHT WAS AN AUTHORIZED FLIGHT AND THE WEATHER AT THE POINT OF DEPARTURE WAS WELL ABOVE PRESCRIBED MINIMUMS. THE FLIGHT DEPARTED CHU LAI, RVN, AND PROCEEDED, WITH NO KNOWN DIFFICULTIES, TO ARTILLERY HILL IN ORDER TO PICK UP A VIETNAMESE INTERPRETOR AND A MAC-V ADVISOR. THE INTERPRETOR, ^NGOC HIEN DOAN, WO1, ARVN;^ AND THE ADVISOR, ^EDGAR ADAMS, JR. SSG, 459-70-2624^, WERE PICKED UP AT APPROXIMATELY 0210 HOURS. THE FLIGHT PROCEEDED FROM ARTILLERY HILL TO BINH SON, ENCOUNTERING SOME FOG ENROUTE. AT BINH SON, ARTILLERY CLEARANCE WAS RECEIVED AND THE FLIGHT PROCEEDED ALONG THE BINH SON RIVER TOWARD THE PICK-UP SITE AT TRA BONG. NEAR FSB CHIPPEWAH, REDUCED VISIBILITY WAS ENCOUNTERED AND, AT LEAST ONE TIME, THE FLIGHT PATH WAS ALTERED TO AVOID CLOUDS. WHEN ABOUT THREE MINUTES FROM THE PICK-UP SITE, ONE OF THE PILOTS CALLED FOR ONE GROUND FLARE AND ONE AERIAL FLARE TO BE DEPLOYED TO HELP IDENTIFY THE EXACT LOCATION OF THE PICK-UP SITE AND TO PROVIDE SOME ILLUMINATION DURING THE APPROACH. THE APPROACH WAS MADE WITH NO KNOWN DIFFICULTIES AND THE PATIENTS WERE LOADED ONTO THE AIRCRAFT. THE AIRCRAFT DEPARTED THE PICK-UP SITE AND ONE OF THE PILOTS CALLED FOR ONE AEIRAL FLARE TO PROVIDE ILLUMINATION FOR CLIMB-OUT FROM TRA BONG. ASSO ONE OF THE PILOTS CALLED THE REQUESTING GROUND UNIT AND INFORMED THEM THAT THE PICK-UP WAS COMPLETE. THIS WAS THE LAST RADIO TRANSMISSION RECEIVED FROM THE AIRCRAFT. APPROXIMATELY FIVE MINUTES AFTER THE AIRCRAFT DEPARTED THE LANDING ZONE, THE GROUND UNIT CALLED THE RADIO OPERATOR AT CHU LAI AND TOLD HIM THAT THEY HAD HEARD A CRASH AND BELIEVED THAT THE MEDEVAC HELICOPTER HAD CRASHED. THEY RADIO OPERATOR TRIED TO CONTACT THE HELICOPTER, BUT WAS UNABLE TO DO SO. THE RADIO OPERATOR THEN NOTIFIED THE SECOND ALERT CREW AND INFORMED ^WO1 CHARLES A. STONECIPER, 035-32-8592,^ AIRCRAFT COMMANDER OF THE SECOND ALERT CREW, THAT HE HAD LOST COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE OTHER AIRCRAFT AND HAD REASON TO BELIEVE A CRASH HAD OCCURRED. ^WO1 STONECIPER^ OBTAINED ALL KNOWN INFORMATION ABOUT THE PLANNED PICK-UP SITE AND THE PROBABLE CRASH SITE AND TOLD THE RADIO OPERATOR TO NOTIFY THE COMMANDING OFFICER ABOUT THE PRECEDING EVENTS. ^WO1 STONECIPER^ AND HIS CREW DEPARTED CHU LAI AT APPROXIMATELY 0235 HOURS TO TRY TO LOCATE THE CRASH SITE AND AID ANY SURVIVORS. THE WEATHER AT CHU LAI WAS GOOD AT THIS TIME. ENROUTE TO THE SUSPECTED CRASH SITE, THE RESCUE HELICOPTER ENCOUNTERED RAPIDLY DETERIORATING WEATHER CONDITIONS AND HAD TO CLIMB ABOVE THE CLOUDS TO REACH TRA BONG. ONCE OVER TRA BONG, ^WO1 STONECIPER^ CALLED FOR AERIAL FLARES AND DESCENDED OVER TRA BONG. AT THIS TIME, THE RESCUE HELICOPTER WAS JOINTED BY TWO UH-1 FLARE SHIPS IN AN EFFORT TO LOCATE THE CRASH SITE. HOWEVER, THE WEATHER CONDITIONS CONTINUED TO WORSEN AND THE RESCUE ATTEMPT WAS ABORTED AFTER ABOUT ONE HOUR ON LOCATION. AT FIRST LIGHT ON 22 OCTOBER 1971, TWO SHIPS WERE DISPATCHED FROM CHU LAI DUSTOFF OPERATIONS TO BEGIN THE SEARCH AGAIN. THE CRASH SITE WAS LOCATED AT APPPROXIMATELY 0715 HOURS AND THE TWO SURVIVORS WERE LOCATED ALMOST SIMULTANEOUSLY ABOUT ONEHUNDRED MEMTERS SOUTHWEST OF THE CRASH SITE. THE SURVIVORS WERE HOISTED ONTO THE RESCUE SHIP AND FLOWN TO THE 91ST EVACUATION HOSPITAL, CHU LAI, FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT. THE REMAINING PERSONS, ALL DECEASED, WERE FOUND AT THE CRASH SITE AND RECOVERY OF THE BODIES WAS INITIATED. THE BODIES WERE REMOVED FROM THE WRECKAGE AND HOISTED ONTO THE RESCUE SHIP. ALL BODIES WERE RECOVERED BY 1000 HOURS ON 22 OCTOBER 1971.\\


War Story:
Aircraft Commander Tony Mensen was literally in the last few hours of his operational tour of duty in Vietnam when he took off from Chu Lai for a night mission into the mountains to the southwest. He had another week or two to go before heading home, but he was pulling his last operational stint of being "first up" for Dustoff missions. I was aircraft commander of the "second up" crew that night, and barely woke up as Tony's crew was roused at about midnight and headed out to their aircraft. The dispatcher shook me awake an hour or so later, saying that he'd lost contact with Tony shortly after getting a radio call that the patient pickup had been made and the aircraft was returning to Chu Lai. In the radio shack the RTO and I got through to the ARVN base where the pickup had been made, and were told that shortly after the Dustoff had departed there had been a loud noise heard in the distance -- possibly a crash or explosion, they said. I, and the rest of the "second up" crew, ran out toward our aircraft, and were immediately struck by how miserable the weather was. It was windy, raining heavily, and absolutely pitch black. We flew toward the pickup site via a dogleg over a fire support base on the coastal plain that was about even with the mouth of the narrow canyon leading through the mountains to the ARVN base. We asked for mortar flares from both bases to help us find our way in the driving rain, and by lining up with those flares worked our way back into the canyon and began repeated passes looking for any sign of the missing helicopter. Periodically there would be a pause in the rain and we would work as close to the heavily-forested sides of the mountains as we could by the swaying light of the ARVN mortar flares. We also fired some flares of our own from an M-79 "Chunker," but they were of very little use. We could see no lights on the ground, and were getting no answers to our radio calls, on either the Dustoff or emergency frequencies. The flying conditions were horrible, and after awhile the ARVN flares started to become more and more intermittent, despite our pleas to keep one in the air constantly. Between flares it was impossible to see anything, and orbiting in the narrow canyon was nerve-wracking. We called back to Chu Lai for help, and a flare ship soon joined us. Since there was no room for any more aircraft to safely maneuver at night in the canyon, we continued to fly alone up and down the flanks hoping to see some signal. Finally, everything pretty much ran out at once: our fuel, and our ability to keep functioning in the tight confines of the canyon in the thick IFR conditions. At one point I felt my one and only lifetime experience with vertigo, while in a hard turn on instruments waiting for another flare to reveal how far away the mountainside was. My co-pilot, 1LT "Bo" Zimmer, had been staying on instruments the whole time, and I was happy to turn the aircraft over to him and have him climb straight up into the soup above the mountains and head back to Chu Lai. Our acting detachment commander, CAPT Byron Halstead, radioed to ask if the time was right to launch a bird to replace us, but I had to tell him that I did not think it was safe enough to warrant the try. We would have to wait until dawn or risk losing another aircraft. I had scared myself pretty thoroughly, and didn't think anyone else would have much of a better time of it. At first light we were back with several ships, and eventually found the broken trees that marked the site of the crash, about two-thirds of the way up the side of the north flank of the canyon. Despite there being no gun cover, my medic (whose name I have sadly forgotten) volunteered to go down on our hoist to check for survivors. We lowered him and then orbited until, within minutes, he radioed that the entire crew, along with the patient and interpreter, were dead. A ground security team was later inserted and the bodies were recovered. Later that same day, a Special Forces trooper who had been aboard when the crash occurred walked into an ARVN position on the valley floor. He had been sitting in one of the "hell hole" seats by the transmission, and had been the sole survivor. He had decided to leave the crash scene immediately after determining that everyone else was dead, fearing that the loud noise of the crash would draw the enemy, and had stumbled down the mountainside all night. He had seen and heard the helicopters searching, but had no way to signal. In all, the loss of this aircraft seems attributable not only to the extremely bad monsoon weather, but also to the aggressive, mission-oriented spirit of the crew, who pushed on in conditions that easily justified a "scrub." That same spirit is, I suppose, what we still honor and cherish through our association with the VHPA. Submitted to the VHPA in November 2002 by Charles Stonecipher. I was stationed with D Trp 1/1 Cav at the time in Chu Lai. 1Lt Lewis and CW2 Tony Mensen crashed their White Elephant in the Song Tra Bong Valley (sp?). They were on a very early morning Dustoff mission (before sunrise) just before Typhoon Hester hit the area. My crew recovered 4 ARVN soilders and flew them to the hospital. D Trps Night Hawk crews (WO1 Bob Lane and possibly WO1 Daryl Osberg, I believe???) were up in the clouds (IFR on a TAC ticket) dropping flares to light up the search area. The search aircraft would have them fly various headings to keep the flares over the search area. I think they eventually came in on an ASR approach to Chu Lai....not positive though. I also think the crash was ruled as a weather accident by the accident investigation board (Lt Ray Burchett, 236 Med Det was the President of the Board). Side notes. This was to be Tony Mensen's last day on duty be for going home a week later. I also believe we (not sure which aircrew) picked up one crewmember alive but covered with jet fuel and took him to the hospital. Roy D. Barnes and his crew lost their lives later in the day when they went inadvertent IMC on the North side of Pinapple Peak on a resupply mission preping for Hesters arrival. Four personnel were recovered alive I believe late in the afternoon the day after Hester moved out and after we were able to get a flyable Huey in the air. Earlier in the week a crew flying the Chu Lai perimeter during the night an aircrew went inadvertent IMC over the water and crashed. All in all it was a bad week for our aviation crews. Like I indicated earlier the memory is getting thin in areas. Hopefully this will shed a little light on activities in the Chu Lai area. From: Russell C Wingate Wingate.Russell@dol.gov & rcwingate@mindspring.com

This record was last updated on 05/29/2003


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Date posted on this site: 09/23/2017


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