Helicopter recovery of downed aircraft in Vietnam

Discussion in 'Vietnam' started by David Layne, Feb 10, 2012.

  1. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    I was in the 539th Transportation Company from June 1969 to June 1970; I was stationed at Phu Loi Vietnam which is located 25 miles north of Saigon.. We were part the 520th Transportation Battalion. The Battalion's mission was the Maintenance and Supply of in excess of 1000 Army Aviation Aircraft throughout III Corps.

    Towards the end of my tour I was transferred to the Battalion's "glamour boys" "Pipesmoke.”
    Pipesmoke’s mission was to perform field extractions of crashed and combat damaged aircraft. When I was assigned to “Pipesmoke” they had already recovered 2700 aircraft from the field.

    Pipesmoke was our call sign which was taken from a commander who before my time with the outfit smoked a pipe. During it’s time of operation Pipesmoke performed thousands of operations for all branches of United States Forces and Free World Forces, to include the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, The Royal Thai Regiment and the Royal Australian Air Force.

    When we went on an aircraft recovery we usually went as a team of two. Our duo would consist of Huey who, along with its usual crew carried a team that would secure the downed aircraft and rig it for extraction. The second aircraft of the team was a Chinook that would carry out the extraction itself.

    On one of these flights I took my camera along and will post the results here. This may take a day ot two to complete the story;

    [​IMG]

    This is our Chinook. As can be seen from the images on the side she has carried out many extractions.
     
  2. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    [​IMG]

    Here is a young G.I.waiting for the off, and eventually the call comes. An O1 Bird Dog is down and we are to retrieve it.
     
    Owen likes this.
  3. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    [​IMG]

    Our Huey is the first off, followed soon after by the Chinook.

    [​IMG]
     
    Owen likes this.
  4. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    [​IMG]

    We settle down for the flight,

    [​IMG]

    And pass over this outpost in the boondocks. How those Infantry types managed to survive a year in such a place is beyond my comprehension.

    [​IMG]
     
    Owen likes this.
  5. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    [​IMG]

    We arrive at our destination and in making a pass we see our Huey is already there.

    The O1 has come down in the area cleared around a base camp, in the background another Huey can be seen, probably on a resupply mission.

    [​IMG]

    We put down in a flurry of dust along side the Huey.

    [​IMG]
     
    Owen likes this.
  6. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    We are there!

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Owen and Slipdigit like this.
  7. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    It was on an operation similar to this that I was nearly responsibly for a friendly fire incident. I was on the front M60, right hand side of a Chinook when we landed in a jungle clearing for an extraction.

    The pilot in command had warned us to be extremely vigilant, so consequently when I saw movement in the jungle my first instinct was to open fire. Fortunately for all concerned I recognised in time the movement to be that of an Infantry soldier who's platoon had arrived on the scene just prior to us.

    It was a close thing and something I have never discussed before now, nobody else ever knew it had happened.
     
  8. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    We enlist the help of some of the guys from the compound to pull the wings off and stow inside the Chinook.

    The officers (pilots) can be seen congregating on the left offering constructive criticism.
     
    Owen likes this.
  9. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    David, brilliant photos.
    I found this in 'Vietnam Helicopter Handbook' (Barry Gregory, Pub. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-85260-024-1). No mention of your unit unfortunately.
     

    Attached Files:

  10. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    While we were there a Chinook bought this artillery piece in and another carried in some supplies.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Owen likes this.
  11. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    Everything and everyone loaded the Chinook hovers over the Bird Dog while it is being rigged. This was the most dangerous part of the mission with the rigging crew working in hurricane force winds from the helicopters downdraft and the helicopter itself a sitting duck as it hovered and commenced the lift.

    [​IMG]

    We pick her up

    [​IMG]

    And away we go, grateful to get away from that base camp and grateful that we will have a hot shower and a meal awaiting us, goodness knows what those fellows left at the base camp had to look forward to.

    It looks like in the last photograph that we are flying over a rubber plantation that has had a taste of Agent Orange. The entire III Corp area had 4,086,229 gallons of Agent Orange sprayed on it. Phu Loi area had 79,000 of Agent Orange and 83,430 gallons of Agent White from 1965 to the end of the war

    [​IMG]
     
    Owen, Slipdigit and Drew5233 like this.
  12. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    Superb photo story.
    Cheers for sharing.
     
  13. nicks

    nicks Very Senior Member

    Interesting thanks for sharing.
     
  14. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique MOD

    David - absolutely amazing photos and thank you so much for sharing them.

    By the quality I'd say you must have used a fairly decent camera rather than the usual Polaroids one sees from the VN period.
     
  15. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Many thanks David-Great Pics
     
  16. Jakob Kjaersgaard

    Jakob Kjaersgaard Senior Member

    Great post David. Thanks!
     
  17. Kbak

    Kbak Senior Member

    great photo's and story David
     
  18. Mike L

    Mike L Very Senior Member

    David, another picture from the same source - an even heavier recovery.

    I remember reading in 'Chickenhawk' that some helicopter mechanics could carry out significant power upgrades of turbine engines in theatre.
    Did you ever experience anything like that?
     

    Attached Files:

  19. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    David - absolutely amazing photos and thank you so much for sharing them.

    By the quality I'd say you must have used a fairly decent camera rather than the usual Polaroids one sees from the VN period.


    [​IMG]


    Paul this is the camera I used. I think it was a Yashika and as I recall I flogged it to a friend in England.
     
  20. David Layne

    David Layne Well-Known Member

    David, another picture from the same source - an even heavier recovery.

    I remember reading in 'Chickenhawk' that some helicopter mechanics could carry out significant power upgrades of turbine engines in theatre.
    Did you ever experience anything like that?


    Mike we could carry them big 'uns too.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
    Owen likes this.

Share This Page