My name is Billy Hampton. I am a retired CW-4 and was one of the original members of the Varsity when it formed at Ft. Sill OK. In 1967. I had
been stationed at Ft. Wolters as an instructor when I received orders to join the 154th Avn. Co. at Sill for further assignment to P002(code
name for the 272nd Med. Helicopter Co. My report date was 15 Oct. 1967.The original pilots and crewmen were trained by the 154th in CH-47 B
models. The unit was given the 272nd designation at some point. I don't know the exact date. I have a Ft. Sill Letter Order #U03 giving the
readiness date of 30 Apr 1968 and shipping date of 1 May, 1968.The unit personnel departed Sill in the very early morning of 1 May by bus to
Oklahoma City and then by charter Air to Oakland Calif. In Oakland, we boarded the USS John Pope troop ship and sailed out of that same
day. We arrived in Vung Tau Vietnam on 21 May 68. The unit was assigned to Bear Cat. I was infused, along with several other people to the
205th Avn. Co. at Phu Loi. Within 30 days, I think, the 272nd was reassigned to the 101st or the Americal division. I am not sure which.
I served with Varsity from June 1970 till April 1971. It was nice to hear that the old outfit is still alive .I heard that the 101st had re-organized its
aviation units and I wasn't sure that B-159 still existed. Looks a little different, from battalion to brigade but B Co. is still VARSITY, so that's
what counts. I have a book that was printed sometime in the latter part of 1970 or early 71. It was a yearbook of sorts but it had a short history
of the unit, from the time of it's inception on 1AUGUST 1967 till the time the book was printed. If you don't already have this info let me know
and I'll send it out to you. I don't have a scanner yet or I would have sent it to right away. My wife is the typist of this outfit and she is retired
for the night. Let me know. I can tell you that when I arrived in country in June of 70,we were the only company in Vietnam that had all C or
Super C model aircraft. We re-supplied the entire northern I Corp area, supporting the 101st and the ARVN. We flew into the Ashau Valley on
a regular basis, were involved in the extraction of FSB Ripcord and lost one of our ships there, luckily the crew survived. We were also in on
opening Khe Sahn back up for the ARVN operation LAM SON 719.We flew into Laos and were lucky enough not to lose any aircraft or crew,
although several were shot up. The company was located at Camp Eagle from June of 68 in an area called VARSITY Valley (later nicknamed
Rocket Valley, because we were a favorite target of the "little peoples" rocket and mortar crews) till late August of 70 when we put the
Airmobile concept into practice and moved the entire company to the Phu Bai airfield. We took over the facility of a Marine CH-46 outfit that
had left. I was fortunate enough to have served at a time when we had no casualties; however, we did lose two crews about a month before I
Mike St. John
I flew with B/159 Varsity in 1971 out of Phu Bai and wore the Screaming Eagle proudly. It was a great unit full of characters (enlisted and
officer) who got the job done through the political and personal diversity of the times. I heard many stories of the troops that preceded me. I
never heard anyone or heard about anyone who complained about missions, the AO or what life had dealt them at the time. Many lost their
wives, friends and in some cases their real and mental virginity. They served proudly through the late sixties till their eventual return to
Campbell. Sure you heard the usual stuff about the "green machine" and the other complaints while having a beer or two. But, when it was
time to fly and support--no one hesitated. I do have some personal stories, many more have some more involved ones about Lam Son 719 and
other "fun" things. The bottom line----good unit, with many unsung heroes like the hardworking maintenance guys who kept those baby "Cs"
flying. We did not lose any aircraft to maintenance that I know of.
Frank T Buzzard
Frank, I was in the valley more then not. I was part of Nevada Eagle -Operations Kentucky Jumper and Massachusetts Striker in March thru 8
May 69. During Massachusetts Striker, along the "Yellow Brick Road" in the Ruong Roung Valley, we found around 100 tons of equipment
that took a week to airlift out - with CH-47's. You maybe? Also, a little later, I was at Dong Ap Bin (hill 937) - June I think? Have operated out of
FB's Bastogne, B ham, Brick, Ripcord and etc - many operations many FBs. (Too much time under the bridge to remember all) T Bone was a
little spot just west of LZ Sally- only commo and mortars with a pad. Last operated out of LZ Sally on Sept 69. Glad you replied! Did not know
the pilots who flew above us but was always thankful to hear the thump of the rotors. Made it back because of those machines and the men
inside. So thank you for your help! Jim
Jim, Now you have started the walk down memory lane!! First Massachusetts Striker--"Yellow Brick Road" in the Ruong Ruong Valley. I think
this was the OP that was in May 69 well south of the Ashau. You guys found many trucks and supplies hidden in caves and camouflaged in
gullies along the highway. I was indeed involved in Hooking out all the "booty". I remember> bringing out a Chinese (about 2 ton) truck and
was directed to deliver it to Eagle Pad for presentation to Maj Gen Melvin Zais, 101 Div Commander. This was the VIP pad in the center of
Camp Eagle surrounded by close buildings and hootches. I was directed to "drop it on the smoke". I called and said this was a heavy load and
the buildings would probably be damaged by the rotor wash. The reply came back, "Varsity 434. Drop the load on the smoke!! Do you
understand?" "No Problem", I reply while thinking, I hope I blow your smart-ass all the way to B'Ham. Sure enough I come in slowly because
this is a heavy mother, and the copilot says there goes the roof on my right!! I put the load right on, and I mean right on the smoke. Turns out
the building was the brand new E8/E9 club and they were not happy that a damn Shit Hook had blown the roof off. A sad, personnel note on
this Op. A fellow pilot and great friend, CW2 Harold Lee Eckart, was killed in a Hook crash hauling out the stuff. They took heavy fire, reported
fuel in the aircraft, and said they were looking for a place to set it down. The aircraft crashed (engines quit from fuel> starvation?) from about a
150-foot hover over a steep clearing. All five killed. Harold was two weeks from DEROS back to the world. I still miss him. I know you must
have similar experiences and I don't relay this one to you to cause sad memories. It is only my way of keeping Harold in my memory as long as
I live. I said I would never forget him. Enough of that, I live in Friendswood, Texas and work for NASA as the Chief Engineer for the
International Space Station (ISS). I just got back from Moscow and Baikonour Cosmodrome after the successful launch of the next major piece
of the ISS. It was the Russian built "Zvezda" (means Star in Russian) which provides the living quarters, air processing equipment, power, and
propulsion for the ISS. It launched on a Proton (big, big mother) rocket. When we get it docked on July 26th, we will continue assembling the
ISS with seven US and six Russian launches in the next year. The first US/Russian crew will launch in late Oct from Russia on a Soyuz Rocket--
same design that Yuri Gargarin used in early l961, although significantly upgraded to carry more payload. The two fellows in the .cc list are
also Varsity, B Co. 159 ASHB, 101ABN Div Hook Driver Veterans. Both of them flew all over the areas you served in. They are great guys and
would be happy to hear from a Screaming Eagle Vet. Tom H works for Boeing in Seattle, and Earl D is teaching helicopter pilots at Ft. Rucker,
Alabama as an instructor. I'll bet he could teach a monkey to fly a Lawn mower--he's that good. Again, welcome back and stay in touch. We
Varsity guys were glad to help as part of the team. Glad you made it off of Hamburger Hill. I flew two damaged aircraft out of there. Nasty
Frank T. Buzzard
Funny you should mention it. I did practice with the SAS off regularly. Learned it the hard way at Chinook transition at Rucker summer of 68.
We graduated at Rucker June 4, 68 as a Wobbly One (68-505--I was a gray hat, 8th WOC, at Wolters in 68-3 but got held over 6 weeks after
graduating Dec 67 at Wolters to join 68-505 at Rucker) and headed north to Fairview, Pa to see my folks. I remember that night because
somewhere in N. Ala. the radio breaks in and reports Robert Kennedy had been shot in LA, CA (Ed: notice how I honored your Lower
Alabama acronym with a clarification!!). I'm married to Jane by now (met her at the Mineral Wells Dairy Queen in June 67). Oct 27, 67 wedding
at the Ft. Wolters Chapel where we departed the chapel under a WOC honor guard holding up crossed OH-23 Tail Rotor Blades instead of
sabers. (I love it when I get those moments of ironic inspiration!!). I was the Distinguished Graduate and a smiling, young Mexican American
from Refugio, Texas by the name of Onofrie Orosco, Jr. (you would know him later as Nonie in Varsity. He started with Pachyderms and
infused over to Varsity in early 69) graduated second in our class. We both got Chinook transition before going to Nam. So I'm flying a beat up
"A" model the second day of Hook transition and overshoot base to final (strong tail wind on base). The IP who must have trained you later at
MOI (what does that mean?) says, "Son, you shouldn't bank a Chinook more than 45 deg in case the SAS fails". Right, I think. What's a SAS?
Next trip around the pattern I do the same thing (tail wind got stronger OR I'm a slow learner). I don't see him, but he reaches over and flips the
SAS off. Immediately that darn Hook tried to swap ends in a fifty degree bank (never thought to look at the EGT to see which end is forward!!).
I get the pointy end forward--a Rocket Scientist trick I apply later in life--and wobble to the stage field. He never says a word, but knows I have
learned the point very well indeed. No doubt this is why I got so tensed up with Hal B later.
Fast forward to Spring 69 and I'm flying a sortie without SAS--just did it but didn't mention anything--when I say to Nonie, "You got it. Need a
smoke". He takes the controls and we are going sideways at 90 knots in a heartbeat!! His eyes go as big as basketballs as he gets the beast
under control. Big Grin as I look over and flip the SAS back on. "Sorry Roomie. I forgot (yeah right!)". We spent the rest of the day practing
without SAS. (Ed: I haven't heard from Nonie since the early 70's. He went to White Sands, New Mexico and flew Hooks at the Army Missile
Range after Nam). Just like you, a little practice makes perfect.
Speaking of photos, I went thru box 2 of Nam slides (box 1 is MIA and I'm going nuts till I find them) and sure enough there is fellow Pa.
brother Earl Doty. I'm making prints out of two of them and will put 'em on the scanner and email to you in Jan. The first slide shows young
Earl standing on a box in front of the Hue INN with a hangman's noose around his neck. Lt. Edwards (I think) is holding the end of the rope in
his hand. No way you remember this, of course, because I think it was a night of strawberry daiquiris!! Can't wait to get your photos! I also
picked about ten to digitize and send to Tom Hirschler for the Varsity Web page.
Jane is stirring so I sign off for now. Will follow up later with a story of water skiing on Lake Tholoco behind a Hook your note reminded me of.
May the Lord bless you both in the next Millenium.
Frank T. Buzzard
Damn right I remember Vandergriff Combat Base and the Marines. Feb-Mar 69 and Operation Dewey Canyon. Did we fly together up there? I
can't remember. I do remember a dusk resupply to LZ Neville a couple Kliks S of the DMZ. CW3 Frank Bonn and I had been flying all day and
were refueling the last time at Vandy POL. They called us and said LZ Neville needed an emergency resupply and medevac. Their LZ had just
broken into the clear above the clouds. They had been under attack by an NVA Bn for three days without helo support. Bonn and I and Gary
Stride in the other Hook picked up our slingloads and headed out with a pair of Marine Huey gunships. South out of Vandy, west along the
highway to Khe Sanh, turned north over the abandoned airstrip and climbed up thru the clouds. Broke clear and headed for Neville. I went in
first with a piggy back load of food and water buffalo. Dropped the load and moved over to pick up wounded. Had to put the back wheels only
on the LZ because it was too small to land a Hook. In the front seat I was hovering with two wheels on the ground and looking straight down a
thousand foot cliff to the jungle while the NVA peppered the LZ with mortars. Ramp down and the grunts loaded 5 KIA and 20 WIA in record
time. Off we go-hard break right away from the bad guys. I climb above the LZ and Gary goes in with a load of Class 5. Dropped it right on the
smoke without ever coming to a Hover!! Flare, Drop, Forward cyclic and out of there. "TINS". The weather closed in, night had fallen, and I
had severely wounded on board. I convinced Gary to head for Quang Tri--major medical facility, a VOR, and GCA. We both shoot a night GCA
in blinding rain to QT airstrip. Frank Bonn takes over (thank the lord because I was exhausted by now) when we break out at about 300 feet
and lands. He hovers over to the medevac pad and they are waiting for us with everything they had. A young walking, wounded Marine with
his IV held over his head sticks his head in the cockpit and says, "Thanks Army". I look back, see body bags and stretcher cases. I choke up
and say, "Our pleasure Marine. You take care now." Never forget it. ANTOS--Here is my definition. Anti-Tank and Other Shit. Darn things
kept us up all night the first week until I figured out it was outgoing. Sam George--ringing bells, but I'll have to look at the slides and see if I
can put the face with a name. I do remember Edward McConnell. He used to wear his hat at a forty five degree angle. One day Maj. John Boles
the CO walked by and said, "Straighten up that hat, mister". Mac rotated his head 45 deg until the hat was heading fore and aft and just kept
walking!! Laughed so hard I thought I was going to pee my pants!! I used to call him "Mad Mac the Meticulous Mercenary". Hal B. also flew
with us when we worked with the Boxcars at Chu Lai. I was sitting on the beach when Hal came by with a Huey slung below him heading
south just feet wet about 500 feet AGL. All of a sudden the damn Huey goes unstable, swings back and stabs the tail rotor in the belly of the
Hook. Starts forward and Hal punches it off. Huey does a half gainer with a half twist and drops like a rock nose down straight into the water.
Explodes on impact--not a big explosion--but surprised me none the less. Hell of a day!! I went back to my beer.
Frank T. Buzzard
Here's something from our A.O. By Denis D. Gray The Associated Press
A S H A U V A L L E Y, Vietnam, April 28 -
Today, it's a nondescript hill in a remote mountain valley ringed by the rice fields of dirt-poor peasants. To many Americans who fought
there, Hamburger Hill seemed a useless lump of terrain in the back of nowhere. Definitely not worth dying for. But the military brass deemed
otherwise. So the taking of Hill 937 proved one of the most brutal battles of the Vietnam War - and because of the casualties, circumstances
and timing, it sounded an early death knell for America's engagement in this Southeast Asian nation. Passionate Debates, Terrifying Images
Twenty-five years after the end of the war and 31 years after the battle of Hamburger Hill, it still ignites passionate debate - and terrifying
nightmares among survivors. Charles Vander Luitgaren was a squad leader wounded in one of the dozen assaults up the hill along with
everyone else in his company. In short, staccato phrases, he recalls a machine gunner buddy torn apart by a rocket grenade, a captain killed by
friendly fire, rain turning slopes into vast mud slides and himself regaining consciousness in the dark after being riddled by shrapnel and
thinking he had died. "Was it worth it?" asks the retired 52-year-old veteran in a telephone interview from Buchanan, Tenn. "Definitely not.
We should have done anything else but charge up that hill. We could have blown it apart. "Another survivor is 61-year-old Ho Khoa, a major
with North Vietnamese defenders whose unit lost 20 out of 100 men in the battle on May 10-20, 1969. Now retired, he lives in the shadow of Ap
Bia, the Vietnamese name for the hill, along the Laotian border in central Vietnam. "We felt isolated, we could not retreat or advance. We were
most afraid of aerial bombardment, which killed us but also the Americans," he says. "It was a very special, intense battle. We call it the battle
of 'thit bam' [the meat chopper]. "Over One Thousand Downed when it was over, 46 Americans had been killed and some 400 wounded. At
least 633 North Vietnamese, by American accounts, lay strewn across the battlefield. There were bloodier battles in the Vietnam War, but what
sparked a furor was the meat-grinder image of soldiers being ordered up a hill again and again under withering fire, and the abandonment of
the hilltop to North Vietnamese forces just two weeks later. At the time, U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy called the assault "senseless and
irresponsible ... madness. American boys are too valuable to be sacrificed to a false sense of military pride." Many Americans agreed. "It was
the last hurrah of American engagement," says Michael Blecker, who was a 19-year-old infantryman in the Hamburger Hill operation. "It took
that portion of the silent majority and turned them sour in a very dramatic way against the war. That was the death knell." Blecker, 50, who
works with poor and homeless veterans in San Francisco, said that after Hamburger Hill, the American public could no longer stomach major
American casualties no matter how they were justified. Most historians agree. The orders of the day became: Keep the casualties low, let the
South Vietnamese do more of the fighting and seek a way out of Vietnam. "It was a turning point because people said the Vietnam War was no
longer worth the American lives," Blecker said in a telephone interview. "It was just one more hill. What was one more hill from another in the
AShau Valley?" What Were They Thinking? Commanders at the time had a different perspective, which some maintain to this day: the battle
was part of Operation Apache Snow, which attempted to clear the 28-mile A Shau Valley. The valley served as an important terminus of the Ho
Chi Minh Trail, the vital North Vietnamese supply line. And it was an ideal staging ground for attacks against Hue and other coastal cities. The
North Vietnamese, who launched a strike against Hue, the former imperial capital, during the Tet Offensive a year earlier, were massing again.
They had to be rooted out, and the 187th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division was ordered to do it. Luitgaren, who still relives the combat
in nightmares, said he attended a reunion of veterans who fought at Hamburger Hill last year. It was held at Fort Campbell, Ky., home of the
187th, to mark the 30th anniversary of the battle. "A lot of guys took it pretty hard," he says. "The loss of life on both sides was tragic. "Khoa,
the Vietnamese veteran, agrees, pointing one quiet afternoon past a carpet of green rice paddies, towards denuded foothills, to Hamburger Hill.
"We could not understand why the Americans chose to fight at Ap Bia, "he says.
Frank T. Buzzard
Do you remember the night; the Gork amphitheater took a direct hit from a rocket?
The back of it was pretty shredded. I was new to B co. and had just made it into the bunker that was near the theater, when it hit. I remember a
warrant right behind me that took a small bit of shrapnel in the cheek.
Hi. My name is Jim Morphew and I served with C Company 1/502 Abn in Vietnam. My home base was LZ Sally during the years of 1968 and
1969. Really do not know of you, but was curious if you remember having any flights from LZ sally or from firebase T-Bone.
Jim, I flew quite a few Chinook missions out of LZ Sally and Camp Evans in ate 1968. I remember them very well. Both where right on Highway
1 north of Hue. I was stationed at Camp Eagle with Varsity. We had our Chinooks in a little valley in the middle of camp Eagle. I don't remember
firebase T-Bone. I think they closed down LZ Sally in early or mid 69, but Evans stayed open for quite a while and was the 3rd Brigade HQ. Did
you get into the Ashau Valley in early 69 (April ?). I flew a lot of ammo, food, and artillery into and above the valley during that time. Glad you
made in back Jim, and thanks for your service when the country asked us to serve.
My name is Mike Cowick. I was a flight engineer in B Company, 159th Avn Bn,101st Abn Division at Phu Bai,Viet Nam November 1970--Nov
1971. I have many stories and several pictures if I can get them scanned. I just had an informal reunion with 4 other varsity guys (Wayne
Beheler, Mike Karr, Rick Snyder and Abel Garcia) in Houston Texas in September 2000. Will send a more detailed email in the near future. BTW
I have tracked my helicopter (6815868) to B Company, 2nd Battalion ,52nd Aviation Regiment in Korea (still humping)Am trying to find an
email link with this company to send them a little history about this fine old chopper.
Was looking at your photo gallery. one was picture of gork ampitheater (named after the officers pet pig) the night of the attack. The movie
had just started the title of the film flashed on the screen. The title was a time for killing. A round hit somewhere on base everyone ran for
cover when second round hit the amphitheater. The name of the film has always stuck in my mind through all these years.
This is one of those war stories we laugh at now that it's over and actually a story in a story.
I arrived in Varsity Valley one day in May and to my surprise bumped into an old friend from my first tour. His name was Mike Lyons and here
is where the fun began. Mike had turned up at our little 3/4 Cav troop and the first question was "do you guys get hit much" I told him no and
wouldn't you know it, we were hit with over 200 rounds of various size mortar rounds that very night. Well, I thought why not start the
conversation with that little reminder. He said no and this is where the second story begins. It seems all new arrivals had to stay in the transit
room till a better room becomes available. They called this room Strange Stride and weird Harold's room. It was painted flat black, floor, walls
and ceiling. You could not see your hand in front of your face at night. So the first night (yes, you're right) we got hit. I had a room mate but
for the life of me I can't remember his name.
Anyway after the first explosion he jumps up and ran out the door. I found myself alone missing two important bits of information. What we
were be hit with and where is the door. I knew where the bunker was. My first tour I was only mortared and as you all know they come all at
once for a continuous period of time. The best place to be was flat on the ground as mortar were supposed to blow up. So there I was crawling
on the floor totally disoriented and no explosions. So I laid there for a while and decided it was over. I stood up and immediate another
explosion occurred, closer this time. So down I went still looking for the door. This routine occurred another time before I
decided that there was at least a minute between explosions. So I jumped up and started bouncing off the walls till I by luck found the door.
When I arrived last to the bunker I found Mike and he was laughing. His comment was I forgot to till you about the rocket attacks that happen
So there is my story in a story about my arrival to Varsity valley.