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Western Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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On May 19, 1968, Captain James M. Basta interviewed SGT E5 Henry Jackson, US53447935, Trp A, 7/17 Cav, at the 71st Evacuation Hospital, Pleiku, RVN.  The taking of SGT Jackson's statement by Captain Basta was necessitated because of the incapacitating wounds he received one day earlier.

  SGT Jackson died from these wounds in 1971, while a patient at a VA hospital in Pineville, Kentucky.  His name was not listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, until May 31, 1999.  Charles R. Rayl, Troop A Commander at the time of the shootdown, and later president of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association, was instrumental in correcting this oversight.   

"On 18 May 68, CW2 Douglas A. Walker, W3154720, and I were flying an OH-6A helicopter serial no 66-7806 in the area of operations 20 kilometers West Northwest of Dak To, RVN.  As we hovered along a trail we started receiving intense automatic weapons fire. CW2 Walker made one call that we were receiving fire and then was hit.   

...the aircraft started to roll and burst into flames.  When the aircraft came to rest my uniform was on fire and I released my safety harness and left the aircraft.  After rolling in the dirt to put out the flames I returned to the right side of the aircraft.  CW2 Walker was already dead and the aircraft was in total flames at this time.  I believe that CW2 Walker was dead prior to the aircraft hitting the ground...

The entire time I was on the ground the enemy continued to fire at the aircraft trying to make the recovery."

SGT E5, US53447935
Trp A, 7/17 Cav

Aerial Scout Platoon Commanderís Memories of his wing man CW2 Douglas Alexander Walker 
by Charles R. Rayl, Tornado Red

Story No. 1

CW2 Douglas Alexander Walker exemplified the tenaciousness and valor expected of an uncommon Scotsman. Scotty Walker immigrated to this country from Scotland and became a United States Army Aviator.

I first met Scotty Walker in June of 1967 at Fort Knox, Kentucky, when we were both assigned as Aerial Scouts of Troop A, 7th Squadron, 17th Air Calvary. My first impression of Scotty was that he was different. Scottyís language, his accents and his mannerisms reflected his Scottish background. Scotty had a unique and dry sense of humor.

After we were shipped to Vietnam aboard the U.S.N.S. Walker, a 20-some day trip at sea, we were trucked to the Central Highlands of Vietnam at Camp Enarie near Pleiku.

One of the missions that I remember with having Scotty Walker as my wingman occurred near Ban Me Thuot, a Vietnamese Providential Capital. Scotty was flying my wing and we were in support of an American Advisor with his Montagnard soldiers. The American Advisorís call sign was Waric Blends. Scotty and I had been searching low level, flying our OH-6 "Loach" helicopters, barely clearing the trees. We were flying as part of A Troop, 7/17th Air Cavalry. We commonly flew with two Loach down low and two Charlie Model Huey Gun Ships overhead for our protection. We would have an infantry Air Calvary Platoon from A Troop on standby to be inserted for one of its two missions, ground combat or for rescue and recovery of downed helicopter crewmembers. On this particular day my crew was Platoon Sergeant Billy Bright as Scout Observer and Specialist Eberhart as my Crew Chief/Door Gunner. Billy Bright was a career soldier of mixed ancestry being part Puerto Rican, Irish, and Portuguese. Billy Bright was well respected by both the officer corps and his enlisted soldiers. He sported two Blue Bird Tattoos, one on each breast. Billy Bright took great delight in making the Blue Birds fly by flexing his chest muscles. My Crew Chief/Door Gunner was Specialist Five Eberhart, the line crew chief for the Aerial Scout Platoon. Eberhart was a freckle faced smart guy who took a great deal of pride in his technical expertise in repairing and keeping our OH-6's flying. Walker and I began our search for bad guys flying at treetop level at slow speeds. As I recall, we had made several search patterns when suddenly we come upon a set of freshly dug foxholes and numerous North Vietnamese Army Regulars (NVA) who had dug the positions. The NVA were just as surprised as we were, because they were out in the open and not in their foxholes. Eberhart began firing his M60 machine gun out the right rear door of the Loach. The NVA were less than 20 feet below us. They recovered their composure and started firing at us. Eberhart announced on the intercom, "I am hit". He continued to fire a volume of fire with his M60 machine gun. I immediately pulled maximum power on the helicopter to start a climb and to gain air speed to get away from the NVA firing positions. As I looked out of my right windshield, Scotty Walker pulled in front of me firing with his minigun to keep the bad guys from further damaging our helicopter and knocking us out of the sky. Scotty placed his helicopter between my helicopter and the NVA to protect his flight lead. As a result of Scotty Walker's quick thinking and firing his minigun accurately, I was able to pull off target. A couple of second later I turned to look in the back and looked at Eberhart and he was an ashy-gray sickly color. His normal freckle faced red complexion had turned into a solemn almost deathly color. He was covered with hot transmission oil, which had escaped from the bullet holes in the transmission, which is situated over his left shoulder. He had been wounded in the right side underneath his right shoulder. In this situation he relied upon his technical expertise to advise me as his pilot that my oil pressure light would come on and that I should fly the helicopter until the temperature light appeared. Eberhart's rationale was that the pressure warning light would come on immediately and then it would be awhile before the oil and the transmission got hot enough to illuminate the temperature warning light. We continued to fly southbound toward Ban Me Thuot, which was about a 15 minute flight. Scotty Walker accompanied me flying close wing on me, anticipating that at any moment that we could have a transmission seizure and crash the helicopter. We flew into Ban Me Thuot, and while en route I made the radio contact with a Dust Off Unit, one of my flight school classmates who had a hoist on board of his helicopter, who answered my call and flew out from Ban Me Thuot to meet us coming in toward Ban Me Thuot. All the way in route Billy Bright hung onto the hand of Eberhart encouraging him to survive. Eberhart continued to express his thoughts about the technical aspects of the helicopter having a transmission seizure and its capabilities. We landed at Ban Me Thuot and were met by a ground ambulance and a gurney. As Bright and I exited the helicopter to put Eberhart on the gurney, the rotor blades ceased to turn. The transmission had ceased and frozen from the lack of oil. Two factors stand out in this vignette. The first was Scotty Walkerís uncommon valor to place his helicopter immediately between his flight lead and the enemy, who had already opened fire and hit his flight lead. Walker placed a high volume of minigun fire on the enemy. He was pugnaciously in the thick of the fight. He was so close to me with his helicopter that I had to divert to my left to avoid a midair collision. Walker exemplified the sacrifices and willingness to risk all to protect his flight lead. Second, was the technical expertise espoused by Eberhart, the Crew Chief of the aircraft, who had to be under intense pain from his wounds and in shock, because it collapsed one of his lungs and did other internal damage. Eberhart remained conscious and continued to provide information to me, his pilot, to enable me to continue to fly the aircraft rather than to crash it through the trees in hostile country. The choices after we had received fire were either to try to put it down through the trees or to fly it to Ban Me Thuot some fifteen minutes away. Due to the technical expertise and intelligence and perseverance of Eberhart, his crew was saved.

Story No. 2

March 8, 1968, Scotty Walker and I had headed out west of Kontum, the providential capital of Kontum providence of Vietnam, flying west across the river to the first mountain ridge. We were on a hunter/killer team. Scotty and I were the hunters and we were followed by a pair of Charlie Model Gun Ships from A Troop 7th of 17th Cav. Walker and I had established a search pattern of the mountain ridge fingers. We would usually search the top of the ridges first and then work our way down to the valleys. The idea behind searching the ridge lines first was to find any enemy that might be overlooking us, who could fire down upon us from the ridge lines as we would later search the valleys. Members of my crew were Bob Evander, Scout Observer, sitting in the left seat of the helicopter armed with an M16 rifle, and Louis Vega, Crew Chief, who was sitting and acting as the door gunner out the right rear door of the OH-6A. Scotty and I had been searching a few minutes for the enemy. I flew over a ridge line and could smell cooking odors coming up through the trees. The NVA cooked a foul smelling mixture of seasonings and foods, which would ascend out from the trees into the air, and you could smell them in the cockpit. We search more intensely in a smaller area and came upon the enemy as they were engaged in cooking and preparing their breakfast. We fired at them from our OH-6As and directed the Charlie Model Gun Ships into the area after popping a colored smoke for them to shoot at our marked target. The Charlie Model Gun Ships expended a considerable amount of ammunition and rockets on this target. We received a call from our command and control requesting that we provide them with a bombed damage assessment of the area to get a body count on the numbers that we had killed. I protested that I thought we hadnít adequately killed sufficient numbers of the enemy before we went back in as the scout pilots to make the assessment. I was overruled. I proceeded to go in for a body count on the enemy and received a high intense volume of fire, which struck my helicopter aft of the engine compartment and disabling our tail rotor system. I dove the helicopter over the side of the mountain and made my radio call to Scotty Walker, "Tornado Red 17 this is Tornado Red May Day May Day, I am going down," and his response on the radio was, "Roger Red your bloody well cleared to crash". Scotty Walker exhibited a bit of dry Scottish humor, interjected into a tense combat situation. I continued flying down the mountain and, recognizing that I was not going to be able to salvage the aircraft, I picked out a site and proceeded to crash. Once on the ground I gathered my crew. We could hear the NVA talking excitedly very close to our crash site. All of us were dinged up and had suffered some injuries due to the impact of the helicopter. I looked overhead and Scotty Walker was setting in his helicopter at a hover overhead, protecting us from the NVA, who were excited about trying to capture us. He continued to place a high volume of minigun fire on the enemy. Scotty pointed for us to move to the east, down the mountain, and we proceeded to travel in an easterly direction in the tall Elephant Grass. Scotty arranged for a Huey to come pick us up. The three of us on the ground were in a very vulnerable position in that we only had a pistol and one rifle between the three of us. Scotty Walker was instrumental in providing protective fire to keep the enemy at bay as we egressed from the crash site through the fifteen or twenty foot-tall Elephant Grass. Walker stayed over the top of us till he was able to call in and direct a Huey Helicopter overhead to rescue us. The three of us moved down the side of the mountain as Scotty was directing us and was positioning the Huey overhead. The Huey hovered overhead and the rather large crew chief reach out and grabbed our wrists and pulled each one of us into the helicopter for our rescue. The Huey transported us to the hospital at Pleiku. Scotty Walker exhibited great courage in placing his helicopter in harm's way between our downed helicopter crew and the enemy, and protected us from being captured.

Col. Charles R. Rayl (Ret.)
Strong City, KS

July 27, 2009

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