Casper aviation platoon Casper Platoon Story

Copters Rescue 11 Stranded GIs

This site was last updated: 2/15/15


By SGT. ROGER NEUMANN, Staff Correspondent

Stars and Stripes Newspaper, December 14, 1968

SAIGON - U.S. Air Force and Army helicopters dodged through heavy enemy fire Wednesday to pluck 11 soldiers from a mountainside in South Vietnam’s Central Coastland in what Air Force spokesmen called one of the largest rescue operations of the war.

The soldiers - five of them wounded - were stranded on the 60-degree slope after their UH1 “Huey” helicopter from the 173rd Airborne Brigade was shot down at 10:45 a.m., 18 miles northeast of An Khe in Binh Dinh Province.

Within 15 minutes, three HH43 “Pedro” rescue choppers from the 38th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Sq. detachments at Phu Cat and Pleiku AB were on the scene to begin the nine-and-a-half hour operation. Two of the helicopters were heavily damaged immediately when they dove through a stream of Communist gunfire. There were no casualties among the rescue crews.

Army chopper gunships pelted and silence enemy guns while the “Pedros” and an Army helicopter went in for the Americans. The Air Force crews rescued nine, and the Army copter pulled out two more.

Footnote: Casper 721 crew members Cliff White, Co-Pilot and Ned Costa, Crew Chief were rescued first by the Army helicopter, ship 711. This Army Huey was from the 189th Ghostriders. Both Walt Henderson, Aircraft Commander and John Steen, Door Gunner were later rescued by the Airforce Rescue team.

Also on the scene was the crew of Casper 031. They arrived with the Brigade Flight Surgeon to help free Walt from the wreckage and later helped extract members of the rescue team. Crew members were Larry Kahila, Aircraft Commander and Terry Gallagher, Crew Chief.