C/16 Stories

The Last KIA - 28 Dec 1972

by Dave Fesmire

Have been thinking about this. Had to pull out the AM w/ V device award and read it to refresh. We were Command and Control Aircraft with the American Advisor to the province and his ARVN counterpart onboard to assist in directing us in where to recon. Myself and my Doorgunner Jim (James C) Willett both this award.
The Crew-Chief, SP4 Ray Berndt and Gunner, SGT Charles Carolus who were on the chase slick that actually landed & picked up the wounded pilot got Bronze Stars w/ V. Makes me wonder what the pilots got. But, that will have to be another story at another time.
We were on a Visual Recon in the Chau Doc Province, 44th Special Tactical Zone.(official)
What I remember is the stageing airfield for us that day was the old base/airfield at Chi Lang, and we were working to the south. At this stage of the war, we had no ready reserve to put into an area if something happened. The operational package consisted of 2 UH-1 slicks, a chase slick to go in and pick up downed aircrews, 2 scouts and 2 guns. Operations were pretty much everybody at low level due to the SA-7 threat. The mission had been pretty uneventful. Then they started to find sign and trails. While reconning by fire John Satterfield's weapon kept jamming. We pulled off station long enough to land away from the area. John and I reworked his 60. I gave him one of the extra barrels I carried. The weapon seemed to be OK after that.
We returned to the target and they found something. While working the find, the aircraft went "inbound with a grenade"(They were going to drop a grenade from the loach onto a target). Things happened very fast then. The next radio transmission as I remember was "34's inbound, there's a loach down!"(The lead Cobra was starting a rocket run to put down suppressive fire because a scout ship had gone down). What I saw was a black cloud coming up from the jungle and only one loach in the air. (I am not really sure of the gunship's callsign) I was putting down suppresive fire, and the chase slick was inbound. they landed at the edge of the trees, probably 100 meters away from the crash. The Aircraft Commander, Crew-Chief and gunner headed into the bush to the right of their ship. During this period, the co-pilot of chase was advising(screaming) that he had people in the trees in front of him. I targeted the area with my 60 and the snakes worked it over. After what seemed like an eternity, the chase crew came out with the scout pilot. Due to knee deep water and not enough manpower to cover there withdrawal and recover the body (John was very dead as the grenade had gone off in his face) they only brought out the wounded pilot,Darkhorse 15 Hal Kolb.
They med-evaced the pilot out. We called for additional resources. At the MACV base at Chi Lang the Advisor got his counterpart to round up an ARVN platoon for insertion. The CO (Maj Fritschie) from the troop arrived with several more slicks. He put my co-pilot off the ship and "took over the recovery". After ARVN was inserted, the loach was secured and the body recovered. There is more to my opinion of Maj Fritschie and his involvement in the events of that afternoon. But, that is another story and he probably got a DFC or something.
My Pilot/AMC was LT Ron Shippee, I am not sure but think CWO Curt Lofstead was the AC of the chase slick. I do not recall who the other 2 pilots involved were. Nor do I know who the gun pilots were. Would like to find out though.

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