Vietnam Veteran and his Helicopter Reunited

Nate Shaffer and Bruce Campbell at their assigned positions

Nate Shaffer has restored a Hughes OH-6A Cayuse helicopter. Shaffer, 63, rode in the military helicopter as a door gunner with Charlie Troop 1/9th, 1st Air Cavalry while serving in Vietnam.

The restored helicopter will be dedicated May 19th 2012 at 10:00 am at Motts Military Museum in Groveport Ohio.

Pat Bieneman and his wife Carol was on-hand Saturday for the dedication of ZIT. He posted a report of the event in his blog.

May 1970, Nate Shaffer re-upping 2-months for Charlie Troop 1/9th Scouts, 1st Air Cavalry Division

October 1970, Nate Shaffer (door gunner) Bruce Campbell (pilot) Rae Bailey (observer)

The OH-6A (Loach) along with it’s pilot, observer and door gunner armed with a M60 machine gun, worked in cooperation with the larger Cobra (helicopter gunship) to form a Pink team. It was agile and could fly up to 150 mph.

1970 990 ZIT, ? (observer) Barney Vestal (pilot) Nate Shaffer (door gunner)

Nathan “Nate” Shaffer
Charlie Troop 1/9th Scouts door gunner 1970

With the help of John Hairell, Robert Wisler, Gary Roush and the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, Nate found out the 990 left Vietnam in 1972. After that it served with 5th Army Reserve in Chicago for a short time, then to a National Guard unit in New York. Then Boarder Patrol in Texas. Sometime later it went to Border Patrol in Arizona, after which Border Patrol became Homeland Security.

Proof that N 6186Y is 990 ZIT

In 2008 Nate traced 990 ZIT to Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista, Arizona. Nate’s children, Misti Wilson and Ben Shaffer, arranged for Nate to go out to Fort Huachuca as a 60th birthday present. The trip resulted in a reunion of the former war bird and it’s door gunner. Nate was offered the opportunity to take a ride in the helicopter for old time’s sake, an offer he happily accepted.

The helicopter was later transferred to the Department of Agriculture in Utah, where it was eventually retired. It flew as late as 2011.

Now that #990 was located, Nate continued to track it’s travels, and when it was regulated to the ‘bone yard’ for unused aircraft, it became available for claim by organizations wanting to obtain that type of machine.

Nate learned ‘his’ helicopter had been donated to Motts Military Museum in Groveport, Ohio, located just outside of Columbus.

Transporting the helicopter to it’s new home became a problem, because the military aircraft transports which are able to handle the helicopter are all serving overseas.

Nate volunteered to drive to Utah to pick up the helicopter and bring it to the museum, but first make it presentable before delivery. That was an offer gladly accepted by Motts Museum.

10/17/2011 Picking up 990 ZIT at Parowan, Utah at the airport

Packed up and ready to move

10/19/2011 Picking up main rotor blades from Kevin Grant and Phil in Wichita, Kansas

10/20/2011 Arriving home Spencerville, Ohio

The helicopter was taken to the home of Bob Dresen, a long-time friend of Nate’s, where the duo began the challenging process of making the helicopter look as it had in Vietnam.

Looking at Nate and the helicopter, Dressen remarked “I’m sure glad you weren’t in the Navy and didn’t serve on an aircraft carrier.

As word of the helicopter’s arrival got out, friends began to show up to look at
and help reconstruct the stripped helicopter.

10/21/2011 Starting to work on restoring 990 ZIT

10/21/2011 Working to restore 990 ZIT

Floor of 990 ZIT being replaced due to removal by government at Davis-Monthon A.F.B.

Parts of the floor that had been removed

Making a pattern for the floor (Note where cardboard had come from)

Starting to repair the floor

Working on the main rotor

L to R Nate Shaffer and Art Fleck working topside

Sanding 990 ZIT prior to painting

L to R Bob Dresen and Art Fleck

Bob Dresen

Some of the sanding discs used for removal of paint

Holes in the engine cowing that need to be repaired

L to R Bob Dresen, Roger Dillon and Art Fleck

Door for 990

Tiz Shaffer removing plexaglass from doors; she was Nate’s girlfriend (now wife) while he was in the service. He named the helicopter ZIT, TIZ backwards.

L to R Nate Shaffer and Ted Croft building up the floor

Masking off Plexaglass

Nate Shaffer Painting

Back to the original

Floor installed and primed

Finished floor

Masking off to paint white

Nate Shaffer painting white

George McManus laying out crossed-sabers

Darlene Dresen laying out lettering

Crossed-sabers painted

11/08/2011 Getting ready to deliver to Motts Military Museum, Groveport, Ohio

11/08/2011 On the way to Motts Military Museum with motorcycle escort

Escorted by a contingent of approximately ten smiling friends on motorcycles, Nate and #990 hit the road bound for the helicopter’s final landing in Motts Military Museum. Trailing the convoy on his Harley is Bob Dresen, who played an instrumental role in the refurbishing of the helicopter.

11/08/2011 At Motts Military Museum
Nate Shaffer and Warren Motts Military Museum Director

L to R Bruce Campbell (Charlie Troop Scout Pilot) Nate Shaffer and Warren Motts

L to R Nate Shaffer and Bruce Campbellat their assigned positions

L to R Congressman Steve Stivers, Nate Shaffer and Warren Motts

Congressman Steve Stivers and Nate Shaffer

Mission Completed-990 crew and escort

The tail rotor and main rotor blades are on. ZIT looks like she did in Vietnam over forty years ago. Ready for the dedication May 19th.



Filed under Vietnam War

11 responses to “ZIT

  1. stephen monger

    From gunner to gunner this is Monger, good job on your bird . Glad you and Cambell made it ,with hopes for you cotinued good health. Have a good life. Steve

  2. Roger Searcy

    Roger Searcy here…as of late Slick A/C turned Loaches, B Trp 3/17 Cav 1971,Phu Loi….Flew 990 when it came to B Trp from 1/9..Former A Trp(I believe) pilot Bob Fortin was kia in this ship in Sept 1971…one shot to the head…990 survived….good job and proud of you guys…
    Stogie 18

  3. Nate Shaffer

    Just seen your post about 990-Zit. I would like to talk to you about ZIT’s time with B Trp. 990-Zit was my bird in Nam.
    Rob, Thanks for all you do in Remembrance or our service. Fantastic site!
    Nate & Tiz Shaffer

    Is meaningless without remembrance
    Nate & Tiz Shaffer

  4. Francis Mandewah

    Hello Capt. Shaffer –
    My name is Francis Mandewah. Did you ever know while serving in the Vietnam war in the 1970’s – my dear friend Capt. Thomas Johnson, W01 100B Trp A 2nd Sqdn (Ambl) 17th Cav (WAB0A0) APO SF 96383 AV, from Milaca Minnesota?? (now deceased). He too was a OH-6A helicopter pilot in Vietnam in 1970.

    On July 28, 1970, when a helicopter was downed by enemy fire, Warrant Officer Johnson flew OH-6A light obeservation helicopter to search for survivors near the Laotian border despite intense enemy anti-aircraft fire. He proceeded to mark the hostile positions with smoke, despite intense enemy anti-aircraft fire. His effective location of insurgent emplacement enabled the enemy to be routed and the mission to be successfully completed, says his award.

    For his heroism, he was given the AWARD OF THE DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS on September 20, 1970 by Col. Hugh A. MacDonald, GS, Chief of Staff of the US Army. The award is signed by THOMAS E. MINEX, LTC, AGC, Adjutant General, with following distributions;
    13 – AVDG-AGP-B
    5 – A/2/17th Cav
    5 – 2/17th Cav
    2 – AVDG-IN
    2 – AVDG-AGP-0
    1 – TAGO ATTN: AGPF-F Wash, DC 20310

    I have my friend’s Capt. Thomas F. Johnson’s original award in my possession, if you would like to examine it.

    Thank you,
    Francis Mandewah

    • Nate Shaffer

      Francis, Sorry to say that I did not know your friend Capt. Johnson. I was with another Troop in Vietnam. I was only an E-5 then and a door gunner with Charlie Troop 1/9 th Cavalry in Scouts. If you can send me more details about his unit and years in service I’m sure we can locate someone that knew him. Thanks Nate Shaffer

  5. Officer Shaffer,
    I have all of my friend Capt. Thomas Johnson’s flight logs from when he came from Vietnam. If you need them I will send them to you. I also have some pictures of him. I just published a new book, a memoir titled – FRIENDSHIP: A True Story of Adventure, Goodwill, and Adventure – a remarkable story of how Tom changed MY LIFE; the impoverished African boy (me) he met when he was employed as a pilot to fly boxes of gems and alluvial diamonds in Sierra Leone from Yengema to Freetown, where a British Airways jet would fly the gemstones to London 10 years before the rebel war and before the Hollywood movie Blood Diamond.

    I am forever grateful to my dear friend and benefactor Tom Johnson for his altruism and generosity for changing my life for the good.

    Francis Mandewah

  6. Outstanding-Hooah! You fellas did an outstanding service, and wonderful restoration there. Mark Stone (I have a web site the-military-mark.com) with several 1-9 flight uniforms to represent ye guys. (I never served, but have huge respect for all our soldiers).

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