Tag Archives: loach

Helicopters in the Vietnam War


The New Cavalry

During the Vietnam War, the United States relied on the helicopter as never before. The helicopter’s role in combat expanded enormously in this conflict as thousands of “choppers” rapidly transported personnel throughout the war zone. Heavily armed helicopters offered a fearsome component to ground operations as close air support.

From March 1970 to April 71, I had the honor of serving with Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division (Airmobile) in Vietnam. We were 100% mobile and made up of three platoons, aero scouts (White platoon) aero weapons (Red platoon) and aero rifle (Blue platoon).

My first duty was radio guy (Blue India) in the bush for the Blues…

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UH-1 ‘Huey’
Lift platoon

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OA-6A ‘Loach’
Scout platoon

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AH-1G Huey Cobra ‘Snake’
Aero Weapons platoon

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Maintenance hanger and flight line at Phuoc Vinh Airfield

The Maintenance platoon’s main job was to keep Charlie Troop’s aircraft running in tip-top condition, which was critical for the success of our missions.

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ZIT


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.

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Pink Team


Hunter-Killer Team

These were a group of two helicopters a Loach, White platoon and a Cobra gun ship, Red platoon. The concept was the Loach would fly low and in tight circles to draw enemy fire. Then when the enemy was spotted the Cobra would use their fire power (miniguns and rockets) to attack.

When the situation warranted, the Blues would be inserted to fix the enemy until a larger force could be committed to the area. The Blues would also search out bunker complexes, possible cache sites, and conduct ground reconnaissance.
The Pink team would provide air cover for the Blues at all times while on the ground.

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WO Randy R. Zahn (Cobra pilot) & WO Walker A. Jones (Loach and Cobra pilot)
Gunner SGT Ford (back)
Photo by Walker A. Jones

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I recently purchased Randy Zahn’s book “Snake Pilot”. As I read it, I felt right back in the thick of things because Randy flew ‘high bird’ on many missions while I was on the ground with the Blues. As Blue India I had direct radio contact with him on numerous occasions. He gives a very detailed account of events as they unfolded before and during his Vietnam tour. He arrived in Vietnam shortly before the 1970 U.S. Invasion of Cambodia and was a Cobra pilot in Charlie Troop, 1/9th.

Zahn writes with authority about the duties and responsibilities of the high bird in a Pink team, the armed helicopter from the troop’s Red (weapons) platoon that kept watch over the Loach (light observation helicopter) from the white (scout) platoon. As a 19-year-old, fresh out of flight school, he went through a five-month apprenticeship in the front seat to qualify as an aircraft commander (AC). As an AC, he had responsibility not only for his own aircraft and the life of his front seater, but also for the little bird and its crew, the Hueys from the Lift platoon that inserted the Blues of the aero-rifle platoon and the Blues themselves once they were on the ground…

3997102407_2f49736199_mOn March 12th, 2000 Walker A. Jones started the Charlie Troop 1/9th message board on Yahoo, which currently has 130 members. It is a way for current and former members, family and true friends of Charlie Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), Vietnam, 1965-71 to communicate with each other. Walker moderated the message board for many years from his distant home in France almost daily and recently moved back to the States.

This board has reconnected many men who served together while with Charlie Troop 1/9th during the Vietnam War. Many thanks to Walker for his dedication in keeping Charlie Troop spirit alive…

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Phuoc Vinh Airfield


Largely a Support Airstrip

Phuoc Vinh
Click on map to enlarge…

Phuoc Vinh Firebase

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Photo courtesy of Jordan Green

Photo by Terry A. Moon
1st Cav Photographer 1968-1969

Photo by Terry A. Moon

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NW Approach

Photo courtesy of Richard Lamb, crew chief C Troop early August until late October 1968. Transferred then to HQ Troop as crew chief on the Squadron check-out LOH.

This is a Walker Jones aerial photo of Phuoc Vinh firebase provided to me by Frank McKinnon (HQ Troop 1/9th). Charlie Troop and HQ areas are top/center. Click on photo to enlarge…

Sunset over Phuoc Vinh
Photo courtesy of Peter Guthrie (1LT Blue Plt Ldr 1968-69 ‘Cavalier Blue’)

Photo courtesy of Stan Edington

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AH-1G Huey Cobra ‘Snake’

Cobra on the refuel pad
Photo courtesy of Chris Bussells

Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt Dave Roger

Photo courtesy of Dave Roger

Photo by Mike Thompson (crew chief) 228th Assault Support Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, 1970-71
Courtesy of Jordan Green

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Control Tower

Looking down from the control tower (generator in the center)
Photo courtesy of Stan Edington

Some of our high tech communication systems in the tower

Stan Edington (air traffic controller from December 69-November 70)

Control tower in dubious weather conditions
Photo courtesy of Chris Bussells

Photo courtesy of Jordan Green

Photo courtesy of Chris Bussells

Photo courtesy of Stan Edington

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Photo courtesy of Dennis Junger

Photo courtesy of Chris Bussells

Photo courtesy of Chris Bussells

Each morning the Blues picked up ammo for their daily mission from a conex in this area.

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Photo taken as we departed from Phuoc Vinh heading to Fire Support Base Buttons early one morning.

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UH-1 ‘Huey’

Tom Stokesberry (Charlie Troop crew chief, 1969)
Photo courtesy of Jim Delp

Helicopter Maintenance Hanger

Spec 5 Dennis Junger

Photo courtesy of Jordan Green (Charlie Troop Maintenance, 1969-70)

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Light Observation Helicopter ‘Loach’

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Photo courtesy of Dennis Junger

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C-130 Cargo Planes

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C-123 Caribou
Photo courtesy of Mike Logson (1969)

Photo courtesy of Jim Delp

CH-47 Chinook

Photo by Mike Thompson (crew chief) 228th Assault Support Helicopter Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division, 1970-71
Courtesy of Jordan Green

Part of the HHC 31st Eng Bn company area taken from top of the radar tower.
Photo courtesy of Chris Bussells, 31st HHC

Photo courtesy of Chris Bussells

Photo courtesy of Jordan Green

Photo courtesy of Jordan Green

Volleyball game in the rubber trees at Quan Loi
Photo courtesy of Chris Bushels

Captured VC flamethrower
Photo courtesy of Chris Bussells

Radar unit on the wooden tower was used to pinpoint the origin of incoming rounds for retaliation purposes.
Photo courtesy of Chris Bussells

What a mortar round does to a sandbagged roof
Photo courtesy of Chris Bussells

Howitzer near Phuoc Vinh perimeter
Photo courtesy of Chris Bussells

31st HHC main street
Photo courtesy Chris Bussells

Sky Crane

Photo courtesy of Jordan Green

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Photo courtesy of Dennis Junger

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1st Lt Ralph Diaz
C company 31 Engr. Bn. 79 GP 20th Eng. Bde.

Ralph was the project engineer for the Phouc Vinh airfield up grade, ran the soil cement soil stabilization plant, and also did the asphalt cap on the runway.

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Photo courtesy of Ralph Diaz

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Photo courtesy of Ralph Diaz

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Photo courtesy of Ralph Diaz

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Photo courtesy of Ralph Diaz

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Photo courtesy of Ralph Diaz

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Photo courtesy of Ralph Diaz

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Photo courtesy of Ralph Diaz

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Photo courtesy of Ken Piotter (31st Engineer Battalion HHC)
Ken was a construction surveyor on the main airfield from January to April 1969 putting down the pierced metal run way.

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Photo courtesy of Ken Piotter

Late 60’s aerial photo of Phuoc Vinh

Photo taken as we departed from Phuoc Vinh heading to Fire Support Base Buttons early one morning.

Photo courtesy of Bob Powers (HHC 31st from April 69 to March 70)

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Photo courtesy of Dennis Junger

Photo courtesy of Bob Powers

Photo courtesy of Bob Powers

Photo courtesy of Bob Powers

Photo courtesy of Jordan Green

Photo courtesy of Bob Powers

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Puff the Magic Dragon was a WW2 Cargo plane (C-47) adapted with M-60 Gatling guns.
Photo courtesy of Mike Logson (1969)

Frank McKinnon (HQ Troop 1/9th) was Col Booth’s crew chief
Photo courtesy of Frank McKinnon

Photo courtesy of Frank McKinnon

Photo courtesy of Frank McKinnon

Ted Hall, unknown & Frank McKinnon
Photo courtesy of Frank McKinnon

Photo courtesy of Frank McKinnon

James Herder
Photo courtesy of Frank McKinnon

Back side of maintenance hanger
Photo courtesy of Jim Delp

Mess hall in flames (1969)
Photo courtesy of Jim Delp

New mess hall (right)
Photo courtesy of Jim Delp

Double Whammy
Photo courtesy of Jim Delp

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Photo courtesy of Ralph Diaz
1st Lt, C company 31 Engr. Bn. 79 GP 20th Eng. Bde.

Enemy rocket lands on Phuoc Vinh Airfield
Photo courtesy of Jim Delp

Aftermath of rocket attack on Phuoc Vinh air strip
Photo courtesy of Jim Delp

Photo courtesy of Jim Delp

Jim Delp (HQ Troop 1/9th, 1969)

Jim holding remnants of 122 mm rocket.

Hand signals were frequently used by the troops.

Jim Delp holding tiger brought in by the ‘Blues’

Photo courtesy of Jim Delp

‘Charlie’ scores a couple direct hits on HQ hoochs.
Photo courtesy of Jim Delp

Photo courtesy of Jim Delp

Photo courtesy of Jim Delp

Photo by Richard Lamb (Crew chief) C Troop early August until late October 1968. Transferred then to HQ Troop as crew chief on the Squadron check-out LOH.

Photo courtesy of Richard Lamb

‘Asian Girls gone Wild’
Photo courtesy of Dennis Junger

Working girl of Phuoc Vinh
Photo courtesy of Dennis Junger

Photo courtesy of Chris Bussells

Co. H (Ranger) 75th Infantry

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Photo courtesy Craig Stedman
595th Signal Co

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Photo courtesy Craig Stedman

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