Operation Jeb Stuart

Soldier of the 2nd Platoon, Company “D”, 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 9 March 1968 Vietnam.

Operation Jeb Stuart was a U.S. Army operation during the Vietnam War that took place in Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên Provinces from 21 January to 31 March 1968. The original operation plan to attack People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN) base areas was disrupted by the Tet Offensive and instead it saw the U.S. Army units fighting in the Battle of Quang Tri and the Battle of Huế.

Operation Jeb Stuart was part of Operation Checkers, to increase the number of manoeveure battalions in I Corps in order to support the besieged Marines at Khe Sanh Combat Base and defeat any other PAVN attack across the DMZ.

On 21 January, COMUSMACV General William Westmoreland ordered General John J. Tolson to move the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division from Landing Zone El Paso to Quảng Trị City in order to relieve the 3rd Marine Regiment and to move the 3rd Brigade from the Quế Sơn Valley to Camp Evans, to relieve the 1st Marine Regiment. To replace the 2nd Brigade which was involved in Operation Pershing, Tolson was also given operational control of the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, which flew into Phu Bai Combat Base from III Corps. When all three brigades were deployed Westmoreland instructed Tolson to commence Operation Jeb Stuart with the goal of locating and destroying PAVN units operating in Base Areas 101 and 114 to the west of Quảng Trị City and Huế.

Men of the Division deplane at Phu Bai during the unit’s movement to Camp Evans, 22 January 1968
On 22 January the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division commanded by Colonel Donald V. Rattan began deploying by helicopter to Quảng Trị, establishing its headquarters at Landing Zone Betty (16.718°N 107.194°E) two kilometers south of Quảng Trị, with the bulk of its force at LZ Sharon, another kilometer south, in order to launch attacks on Base Area 101 roughly 15 kilometers (9.3 mi) to the southwest.[3]: 273

On 23 January, the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, commanded by Col. John H. Cushman, began arriving at Landing Zone El Paso, where Cushman established his temporary headquarters. While the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment remained to defend LZ El Paso, Col. Cushman sent his 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, to LZ Betty on 27 January to defend the facility, while the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry conducted operation against Base Area 101. On 30 January Cushman sent his 1st Battalion, 501st Infantry Regiment, to LZ Jane 10km southeast of Quảng Trị near Highway 1 and Hải Lăng town, to assist the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry operations against Base Area 101.

On 25 January the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division commanded by Col. James O. McKenna began arriving at LZ El Paso and was then moved by helicopter and truck to Camp Evans.

On the night of 30/31 January the PAVN and Vietcong (VC) launched their Tet Offensive attacking targets across South Vietnam.

The Giant Killer book & page honors these incredible war heroes making sure their stories of valor and sacrifice are never forgotten. God Bless our Vets!🇺🇸🇺🇸

Sergeant Major Stan Parker tells the Story of the Little Giant Killer.

101st Airborne’s Sergeant Major Stan Parker tells a great story about meeting the smallest soldier, Green Beret Captain Richard Flaherty.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting then 2nd Lt Richard J. Flaherty back in early to mid-October 1967 at Ft Campbell, KY. I would like to provide to you the info of what a remarkable man that Lt Flaherty was and my highly regarded first impression that he made on me, not just once but also on several occasions thereafter.

That particular early morning of my first encounter with 2nd Lt Flaherty in Oct 1967 while myself and another 600 plus paratroopers of the 1st Bn (Abn) 501st Inf (101st Abn Div) were all rigged up ready to make a parachute jump on one of the many DZ’s (Drop Zone’s) located on Ft Campbell.

I was a young PFC (Private First Class) assigned to Recon plt of Echo Company, 1/501. Recon platoon was already at the paratroop loading area of Ft Campbell Army Airfield within Ft Campbell proper. All of the jumpers/sticks in Echo Company were rigged and sitting waiting to board one of the half dozen C-141 Starlifter jet aircraft parked nearby. Shortly after Recon arrival more sticks of endless lines of jumpers came walking penguin style from being loaded down with 150 to 200lbs of parachute and equipment. Penguin walking in parachute harness and equipment was the only mode of movement toward one or more of the various C-141 aircraft sitting already prepped for jumpers close by.

One of the jumpers (Lt Flaherty) waddling by Recon plt immediately caught the eyes of all those who did not know of his existence within the battalion due to his tiny size. My immediate thought was that he must be the son of an NCO mixed in to make an unapproved, unauthorized jump with us.

Immediately the one loudmouth within the ranks of Recon plt started to heckle, insult, belittle the small boy’ish figure. I immediately told the arrogant Recon individual to shut his loud insulting mouth or I would shout it for him as I slowly trudged to my feet and sluggishly penguin walked in full jump gear toward the discourteous Recon individual. Suddenly from out of nowhere a stern, authoritative, commanding male voice appeared to come from the extremely small waddling jumper directed toward me.

The soon to be identified, Lt Flaherty yelled! “PFC, jumper moving to address the out of line despicable jumper stand fast” as he extended his left arm out into my path to block my movement and stated! “I will handle this unruly, unprofessional military situation.” The boy’ish figure stopped his penguin waddle directly above the sitting distasteful Recon trooper. The totally self-composed little individual pulled his right collar from beneath his parachute harness, exposing a surprisingly butter bar rank of a 2nd Lt. The youthful, but commanding voice then instructed the obnoxious Recon individual to get to his feet and assume the position of attention. With eyes of piercing authority and a well-regulated voice of controlled demeanor for all ears within a 25ft radius to hear.

2nd Lt Flaherty ripped the insubordinate Recon individual a new butthole, never once using a curse word or improper personal insulting word toward the soldier. Then Lt Flaherty in a very professional officer attitude ordered the obnoxious trooper to stay at the position of attention until time to board his jump aircraft then directed his attention toward me and stated. “PFC,” with a pause. I quickly said Parker, sir, PFC Parker. Lt Flaherty then said, “PFC Parker, you should be a buck sergeant not a PFC, objecting and attempting to stop the insulting unethical situation from escalating into a UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) situation. Lt Flaherty then thanked me, I saluted him, he returned the salute turned and waddled over to his nearby stick of jumpers. All of whom were smiling ear to ear in total approval of the short boy’ish Lieutenant of being “their” platoon leader. -Stan Parker.

To learn more about the smallest man to ever serve in the US military 4′ 9″ 97lb Green Beret Captain Richard J. Flaherty – Silver Star, 2 Bronze Stars, & 2 Purple Hearts please check out, “The Giant Killer” book available as a Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook on Amazon.

Just a little something to brighten up your day.

I just want to take a moment and recognize this sweet fella that lives across the street from my parents. He checks on them every day and has grown to love and care for them deeply. He rides with Dad to the store, helps him shop and brings the groceries in.. he cuts the grass and whatever they may need. Not many 15 yr olds would take the time to care and be there for elderly neighbors.
When he saw Mom today he busted out crying and just held her tight.. what a blessing and just wanted to pass on something heartwarming instead of the sad news we see and hear every day❤️

There are still some good people in this old world.

Rest in peace soldier.

RIP hero…
Sgt. Aaron M Kenefick, USMC GY SGT Died on September 8, 2009 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom. Kenefick, was ambushed by 100 to 150 Taliban forces in the Ganjgal Valley, Kunar Province Afghanistan. This tragedy is tied to two living Medal of Honor Recipients.
Kenefick was a member of a combined Marine and Afghan patrol that led the way into Ganjgal village to visit with village elders. As the patrol entered the village, it was ambushed.
Kenefick, took cover near a retaining wall and returned fire. When the team leader directed his Marines and the Afghan soldiers to attack and seize the house from which they were receiving fire, GY SGT Kenefick boldly led the Afghan soldiers forward under fire and cleared the house.
The enemy then attempted to encircle the teams position while subjecting the team to a hail of machine gun and rocket fire. Despite being pinned down, Kenefick fought with bravery and determination while demonstrating unwavering courage in the face of the enemy.
By his extraordinary guidance, zealous initiative, and total dedication to duty, GY SGT Kenefick reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service. He earned the Bronze Star with V.

The Giant Killer book & page honors these incredible war heroes making sure their stories of valor and sacrifice are never forgotten. God Bless our Vets!🇺🇸🇺🇸

Mr. Gary Wetzel league of his own.

Our page highlights some of the bravest men & women that served their countries but when it comes to toughness, Mr. Gary Wetzel is in a league of his own!

After losing his arm with severe wounds to his right arm, chest, and left leg, Wetzel returned to his gun-well and took the enemy forces under fire. His machinegun was the only weapon placing effective fire on the enemy at that time saving numerous lives!

The Medal of Honor Recipient Gary G. Wetzel:

“Sp4c. Wetzel, 173d Assault Helicopter Company, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life. above and beyond the call of duty. Sp4c. Wetzel was serving as door gunner aboard a helicopter which was part of an insertion force trapped in a landing zone by intense and deadly hostile fire. Sp4c. Wetzel was going to the aid of his aircraft commander when he was blown into a rice paddy and critically wounded by 2 enemy rockets that exploded just inches from his location. Although bleeding profusely due to the loss of his left arm and severe wounds in his right arm, chest, and left leg, Sp4c. Wetzel staggered back to his original position in his gun-well and took the enemy forces under fire. His machinegun was the only weapon placing effective fire on the enemy at that time.

“Through a resolve that overcame the shock and intolerable pain of his injuries, Sp4c. Wetzel remained at his position until he had eliminated the automatic weapons emplacement that had been inflicting heavy casualties on the American troops and preventing them from moving against this strong enemy force. Refusing to attend his own extensive wounds, he attempted to return to the aid of his aircraft commander but passed out from loss of blood. Regaining consciousness, he persisted in his efforts to drag himself to the aid of his fellow crewman. After an agonizing effort, he came to the side of the crew chief who was attempting to drag the wounded aircraft commander to the safety of a nearby dike.

“Unswerving in his devotion to his fellow man, Sp4c. Wetzel assisted his crew chief even though he lost consciousness once again during this action. Sp4c. Wetzel displayed extraordinary heroism in his efforts to aid his fellow crewmen. His gallant actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and reflect great credit upon himself and the Armed Forces of his country.”

“After Wetzel and the other survivors were rescued the next morning, he spent a week on the critical list. His arm was amputated in a field hospital, but he had to undergo another surgery in a Tokyo hospital because of infection. After about five months in hospitals, Wetzel began to learn how to live a productive civilian life with a prosthetic arm. …

“When asked what the medal means to him, Wetzel replied, ‘When I was in the Tokyo hospital, where the doctors took out more than four hundred stitches, some of the guys I pulled out who were recovering from their wounds found out I was there. They would walk up to my bed and ask, “Are you Gary Wetzel?” And I’d say, “Yeah,” and they would pull out pictures of their wives, kids, or girlfriends and say, “Hey, man, because of you, this is what I’ve got to go back to.” And then Wetzel would reply, “I’m not Superman. I was just a guy doing his job.”‘

GARY GEORGE WETZEL
DETAILS
RANK: PRIVATE FIRST CLASS (RANK AT PRESENTATION: SPECIALIST FOURTH CLASS; HIGHEST RANK: SPECIALIST FOURTH CLASS)
CONFLICT/ERA: VIETNAM WAR
UNIT/COMMAND:
173D ASSAULT HELICOPTER COMPANY, 11TH COMBAT AVIATION BATTALION,
1ST AVIATION BRIGADE

The Giant Killer book & page honors these incredible war heroes making sure their stories of valor and sacrifice are never forgotten. God Bless our Vets!🇺🇸🇺🇸

Hollerin’ From the Holler

Hollern’ From The Hollar ©
By R. Eugene Wallace

I was a-talkin’ to this lady from near Oak Forrest one day and she said she didn’t reckon I was from around there. I told her I was from that McGhee clan that came from Vinton, not too far from McArther town, near Welston. She wasn’t haven’t no part of it and wanted to know more about my family, so I asked her if she ever known my uncle, Dan Evans? She said, “You mean that big sausage guy from Rio Grande”? I said, “Well yes and no, we weren’t related to that Evans family but my uncle Dan’s mom was married to one of them and he wound up with the same name”. She did say she had gone to school with a girl named Ellen Evans and I told her that was my cousin. I could tell she was starting to believe me now and said she never knew about Ellen’s father, Dan. I tried to fill her in about my uncle Dan.

Dan was a good ole boy and had a great eye for huntin’. He was hard of hearing and spoke real loud. I guess from trying to hear his own voice but when he was out hunting, he could hear a deer walking a hundred yards away. We always had meat on the table and sometimes he would take game to families that had no way to purchase any food and everybody liked him, really well. Then the war broke out and Dan went and joined up. He came home in his uniform and looked real good, said they were going to send him to some place in Germany to fight “Huns”. I guess him and some guy named York captured a couple hundred prisoners and since they didn’t have enough ammo to shoot them, made them march all the way back to headquarters. A few months after that, they sent him home and he went around dressed up and helped people buy “war bonds”. They gave him a bunch of medals and a lifetime pension, so he would never have to work again. I was about six then and would play with my cousin Ellen whenever we visited. Uncle Dan was a little strange after he came home, he still was hard of hearing and talked loud but had grown real tall and would sometimes just set and stare off into the distance. He was a good looking and handsome man and with his pension, had no problem finding women who wanted his company. He met my Aunt Donna at a club where she had been singing and waiting tables. Donna had a wonderful voice and sang at weddings, clubs and even in church. But something happened to Uncle Dan and he grew distant and quiet, then decided to go to school. He hadn’t had much of an education before going to the Army but with his war record he made it into the university up in Cowtown. He disappeared for a few years and my aunt Donna started dating a Navy guy from Indiana. My Uncle Dan never got over how my Aunt Donna left him and later became what we call an Extension Agent for the State of Ohio. I never saw Ellen for several years but sometimes we met at family reunions and we would catch up on things.

My Uncle Dan would tend to our relatives and insure that they were all buried properly on a big hill in Vinton, called McGhee Hill. It’s all but forgotten now, since room ran out for dead newcomers and most of the modern family are all buried at Memorial Cemetery in Vinton. Uncle Dan lived a quiet life, he never married after Aunt Donna ran away and lived to the ripe age of ninety three. Ellen sent me the clipping where he had passed from a self-inflected gun shot to the head. He had cancer and was frail and weak and died in uniform. I always liked Uncle Dan, he served his country, worked hard, became educated and helped people. I think he deserved a lot more than he ever took from life! ###

One of the tools we used. Loved and hated at the same time.

M60 Machine Gun Was Loved, Hated by G.I.s:
It was a fixture in Vietnam. Second only to the Huey helicopter as the “most recognizable” weapon of its era according to a poll by the trade journal Army Times, the M60 machine gun was everywhere in the Southeast Asia conflict.

American soldiers loved it and hated it.

They loved its reliability and rate of fire but disliked its bulk, which earned it the nickname “the Pig.” Changing the barrel on an M60 was an awkward, cumbersome task, all but impossible in the heat of battle.

Former U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Steve Beasley, a firearms authority, said the M60 is “iconic as a general-purpose light machine gun,” but had many flaws.

“It had some good features,” said Beasley in a telephone interview. “It had many that weren’t so good.”

The Army was enthusiastic when the M60 was being developed in the Cold War 1950s. Its inspiration was the German MG-42 machine gun of World War II — often called a better crew-served weapon than anything the Allies had. An attempt to build an American copy of the MG-42 stumbled on political and technical obstacles, but in the 1950s, the United States developed its own T-161 machine gun, which employed a 7.62 mm ammunition belt patterned from the German template.

The T-161 looked promising. It could be shouldered or fired from the hip if its operator was strong enough. The recoil would quickly make aiming impossible when it was used that way, but as a two-soldier weapon operated by a gunner and assistant gunner it seemed almost perfect. When it went into production, the T-161 was redesignated the M60.

he Army standardized on the M60 in February 1957 as a companion to the M14 rifle. Both were chosen because they handled the 7.62 mm (.308 caliber) cartridge adopted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In service, the M60 replaced the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR), M1919A6, and the water-cooled M1917 machine gun. It was touted as the first U.S. machine gun with a true quick-change barrel system although, as noted above, a change didn’t usually happen very quickly.

C.G. Sweeting, an author of books on guns and combat equipment, said in an interview that the M60, “showed that as late as 1960, we were still adapting our armed forces with the kind of technology the Germans had pioneered 15 years earlier.”

In Vietnam, the M60 dangled from helicopter doorways, stood guard on bunkers, and accompanied squads into combat. It became the “Hog” or the “Pig” to American soldiers because its report sounded like the grunt of a barnyard hog.

COMFORTABLE SHOOTER
Using its bipod, the M60 had a maximum effective range of 800 meters (the measurement used in U.S. manuals). Typically, every soldier in a rifle squad carried a supply of 200 linked rounds of ammunition for the M60, a spare barrel, or both. Ammunition fed into the weapon from a 100-round bandolier containing a disintegrating, metallic split-link belt.

Said Beasley: “The rubberized fore-grip was very comfortable — something its replacement, the M240, didn’t have when it was introduced. The M60 was easy to carry. The pistol grip was easy to use. It had a good sling mount. Disassembly was not difficult.”

Beasley added: “The rate of fire was another positive: It was easy to control how many rounds you were firing. The sights on it were good but not great; they were pretty durable which is good because in the infantry guys are good at breaking things.”

Former Spc. 4 Sidney S. Reeder, who operated the M60 with the 1st Cavalry Division in South Vietnam, said in an interview that the weapon had other strengths and weaknesses. “It had gas system components which would work loose, resulting in a sluggish or runaway gun,” he said. “It had operating rods made out of substandard metal. But it had a really decent rear sight, which was easily adjustable for windage and elevation.”

The standard ammunition mix for the M60 was four ball-type (M80) rounds for each tracer (M62) round. The four-and-one mix allowed the gunner to adjust fire while observing results. The weapon could also accommodate armor-piercing (M61) rounds.

There were numerous models of the weapon and other names for it. To the Navy, it was the Mk. 43 series of weapons, including the M60E4/Mk. 43 Mod O used for many years by Navy SEALs. Versions of the gun are in service in about 30 countries around the world. The figures below are for the standard, Vietnam-era M60.

In the 1980s the Army began replacing the M60 with the 5.56 mm M249 Squad Automatic Weapon and, soon afterward, the M240 7.62 mm machine gun.

M60 MACHINE GUN
Length: 3 feet 7 inches (110 centimeters)
Width: 5.9 inches (15 centimeters)
Weights: Empty, 23 pounds (10.43 kilograms); loaded 28 pounds (12.70 kilograms)
Range: From bipod on an area target, 800 meters; from M122 tripod on an area target, 1,100 meters
Cyclic rate of fire: 550 rounds per minute

The Giant Killer book & page honors these incredible war heroes making sure their stories of valor and sacrifice are never forgotten. God Bless our Vets!🇺🇸🇺🇸

Story by Robert F. Dorr

Why does your vax not come as all others?

All prescriptions come packaged with a use and contraindications fine print document; we need legal action to enjoin all medical personnel from injecting into the body of WE THE PEOPLE, any substance not finally approved by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) as being safe and effective, either as a booster to any prior injection, or to diagnose, treat, or to cure, any illness, malady, pandemic, or as a vaccination against the risk of any future transmission of any illness, WITHOUT ALSO PROVIDING to own and to keep, the pharmaceutical use and contraindications FDA documentation THAT IS REQUIRED FOR AN INFORMED CONSENT, ON BEHALF OF A PATIENT, to include an identification of the pharmaceutical manufacturer, date and place of manufacture, batch number and code, and the name and address of the prescribing physician or nurse practitioner, along with an affirmation under penalties of perjury, that the pharmaceutical product was administered to the patient because it was medically necessary to do so, and that the health benefits definitely outweighed the health risks being assumed by the patient trusting in the honesty, competence, and full faith and confidence invested by the patient in the administering physician or nurse practitioner, who is believed by the patient to be acting in good faith without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, to first do no harm to the patient, or to the general public who may be exposed to any virus introduced into the body of the patient, by the injection of any substance not finally approved by the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) as being safe and effective, or as a booster to any prior injection, or to diagnose, treat, or to cure, any illness, malady, pandemic, or as a vaccination against the risk of any future transmission of any illness, disease, or pandemic, including the Covid 19 otherwise known as the “WUHANIC PLAGUE!”

All about where a lot of my post came lately.

The Giant Killer book is the true story of a 4′ 9″ man that was too small to be accepted into the military until he finally obtained a congressional waiver. He then went on to become a Green Beret Captain and highly decorated war hero. This is a new story of a gentle giant of a man who was also initially refused entry into the military due to his size who became a hero by refusing to leave two lost soldiers behind.

N.Y. Giants pro football player and WWII hero, 2nd Lt. Alfred C. Blozis at close to 6′ 7″ 250 lbs was initaially kept out of the military until late 1943, when, after repeated attempts, Blozis finally persuaded the Army to waive its size limit and accept him. It took further persuading to get from a desk job to the front lines.”

2nd Lt Alfred C. Blozis (Garfield, New Jersey), an American hero who died while trying to rescue two of his men. Alfred was a gentle giant (6 feet 7 inches tall, 250 pounds) with a heart of gold. His exceptional athletic skills led him to become an incredible American football player. Drafted by the New York Giants in 1942, Alfred had a promising career ahead of him, but nothing was more important to him than his beloved country. So in 1943, he joined the U.S. Army and became a proud member of the 110th Infantry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division. Two years later, on January 31, 1945, Alfred was in the Vosges mountains (eastern France) when he learnt that two of his men had failed to return from a patrol. Abandoning them was out of the question, so he told the rest of his unit to wait for him, and all alone, he went looking for the two missing soldiers. Alfred knew the Germans were everywhere, waiting for an easy target, but he kept searching. Suddenly, a short blast of German machine-gun fire was heard by his men, who all understood that their leader had been killed. Alfred’s body was found three months later and was buried at the Lorraine American Cemetery in France. To honor and remember this true American hero, the New York Giants retired the number 32, which Alfred had proudly worn during his short career.

The Giant Killer book & page honors these incredible war heroes making sure their stories of valor and sacrifice are never forgotten. God Bless our Vets!🇺🇸🇺🇸

So many faced certain death to save others. This is one of many.

Vietnam War helicopter pilot who braved enemy fire to rescue soldiers is awarded the Medal of Honor:

The bullets came in fast and furious, a hail so thick it seemed like rain with a fog of green tracers. The men of the 176th Aviation Company were used to hot landings after months in the highlands of Vietnam, but this, this was something else.

A battalion’s worth of fire — small arms, mortars, grenades — seemed to be trained on the Hueys all at once, clipping rotors, windshields, fuel lines. Still the pilots flew, their blades whirring and thunking as they approached the landing zone. They had been flying back and forth all day, bringing in fresh troops and ammunition, taking out the wounded as the battle went from bad to worse. Forty-four Soldiers were on the ground, outnumbered, outgunned and desperate.

It would take a hero — several heroes, actually — to rescue them, to get them home safe to their parents, wives and children.

It would take daring, bravery and guts. It would take someone like now-retired Lt. Col. Charles Kettles, who led the rescue — and then went back again — and will receive the Medal of Honor for it in a White House ceremony on Monday, July 18.

Kettles was born to be a pilot. His Canadian-born father served in the British Royal Air Force during World War I and the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. He raised his son around planes, and Kettles grew up assuming “everyone would want to fly.”

So when Kettles received a draft notice at the close of the Korean War, he was excited. It was an escape from two full-time jobs and an opportunity to “sleep in to as late as 6 in the morning.” It was also a chance to fly.

He served in post-war Korea, Japan and Thailand. He married and had children, one of whom would eventually fly for the Navy. He opened a Ford dealership back home in Michigan with his brother. Then he volunteered for Vietnam.

“The Army was in need of pilots,” he explained. “They had spent a great deal training me. … I think we all have an obligation in this country to respond where the need may be. … It’s your country. It’s up to you to protect it.”

Then-Maj. Kettles deployed to Vietnam in early 1967 as a platoon leader and aircraft commander with the 176th, part of 14th Combat Aviation Battalion, Americal Division. “You questioned why anyone would be at war,” he remembered. “They had so much territory that seemed to be unused. … It was an absolutely beautiful country.”

Flying a helicopter was the best way to see it, too, added Kettles’ gunner, Spc. Roland Scheck. Up a thousand feet or so, above the jungle canopy, the humidity decreased. Crews flew their helicopters with the doors removed, a weight-saving measure that also made for some free air conditioning.

“It was wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” said Scheck. “It was like a motorcycle in the sky, going 160 miles an hour. … It wasn’t so gorgeous if you were down there working in one of those rice paddies, but if you flew over it, it was wonderful.”

The war started for the company in earnest a few months later when it was assigned to support the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. The infantry unit always seemed to be in some sort of contact and it was the pilots’ job to transport and supply them.

“Whenever we were told, ‘tomorrow we’re going to fly for the 101st,’ all the gunners and crew chiefs said, ‘Oh s—,'” said Scheck. It meant trouble was sure to follow.

Then-Sgt. Dewey Smith was in the weapons platoon of B Company. His unit spent two, three, even four weeks straight in the field. “Somebody in the brigade was continuously fighting each day, and if you weren’t in contact, then somebody was stepping on a landmine,” he said.

“They were always in action,” said retired Lt. Col. Ronald Roy, then a pilot and warrant officer. Pilots typically flew 10 hours a day, although 16 or 17 hours wouldn’t be unusual. “Being shot at or having an aircraft shot up was routine every day. That was one tough unit and if they were there, we were there. … It was like brothers taking care of each other.”

By the second week of May, things got “pretty hairy,” near Duc Pho in the highlands, said Smith. His platoon confronted more than 100 enemy soldiers on the May 13. Another company was overrun the next day, while six other Soldiers found their reconnaissance patrol compromised. Kettles and another pilot managed to rescue them from a B52 bomb crater minutes before another bomb strike.

Kettles earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions, an award that would be overshadowed by events the very next day, May 15.

That’s when the 176th inserted another reconnaissance patrol in a valley Soldiers nicknamed “‘Chump Valley,’ because someone said only a chump would go there,” Kettles remembered. The men soon confronted a large enemy force, and Smith’s weapons platoon and his company’s 3rd platoon were called on as reinforcements.

The enemy “really opened up on us. It was just continuous,” Smith said. The battle seemed hopeless from the beginning: 80 versus a battalion-sized force with only a small, shallow creek and a few trees and bushes between them. “I’m not going to say that I was afraid, but I was extremely apprehensive.”

The battle raged for hours, and even heavy artillery and airstrikes couldn’t dislodge the enemy, who would simply duck into bunkers and wait for the explosions to end.

Pilots from the 176th made several trips, bringing in ammunition and reinforcements and evacuating the wounded. There was only one direction they could use to approach the landing zone, Roy recalled, and North Vietnamese forces poured hellfire on them in what he still believes was an ambush. It was certainly some of the most dangerous flying he ever saw in either of his tours in ‘Nam.

“It was like rain … coming straight up out of the wood line,” described Roy, who earned a Silver Star. “Without hesitation, we flew through it. … We got shot at every day, and you’d lose a rotor blade or whatever, but never to this intensity.”

“You saw those green tracers coming at you,” said Scheck. “They looked like each of them was going to get you right between the eyes.”

The fire was so withering, Roy continued, that Soldiers couldn’t even leave the limited safety of the trees to deliver the wounded to his helicopter, which touched down in the middle of the LZ. They would have been mowed down in seconds. He maneuvered his helicopter closer, but a mortar struck between the rotor blades, severely damaging the aircraft, wounding Roy’s copilot in the leg and turning the four crewmembers into infantry Soldiers.

Meanwhile, two wounded Soldiers had dived onto Kettles’ helicopter just as a volley of bullets sprayed the aircraft, leaving about 30 rounds throughout the Huey. They made it back to Duc Pho trailing fuel, but Scheck was wounded in the arm, chest and leg, which he ultimately lost above the knee. He would receive the Distinguished Flying Cross in addition to the Purple Heart.
“I was the first guy whose life he saved,” said Scheck.

By late afternoon, the 176th Aviation Company was down to one working helicopter and 44 Soldiers who were fighting for their lives in Chump Valley. Scheck and Roy both remember hearing from multiple people that commanders ordered Kettles to stand down.

He coordinated with the 161st Aviation Company to obtain more helicopters and crews, scraping together six helicopters. It was another hot landing, but the gunships and the artillery provided enough suppressive fire for the Soldiers to board.

The last pilot in the formation confirmed they had all the Soldiers, and the helicopters took off. But he was wrong, dead wrong, someone from the command and control aircraft yelled over the radio. Eight Soldiers had been fighting a bit of a rearguard action and had been left behind.

From the ground, Smith watched the last helicopter take off: “If it’s possible for your heart to fall into your boots, that’s what mine did. I had three rounds left in my rifle. … My first thought was that I was going to have to start hauling boogy down the side of the creek and try to lose myself in the brush to start escape and evasion.”

Horrified, Kettles turned his helicopter around. He only had one “ground pounder” aboard whereas the other Hueys were full. “You’ve got eight troops there,” he explained. “I happened to be there, available, with the equipment to do it. If you left them for 10 minutes, 15 minutes, they would have been a statistic somewhere, either dead or prisoner of war.”

The gunships were gone, the Air Force had been called off and the artillery was silent. Armed only with two machine guns, a couple of revolvers, a lot of nerve and the element of surprise, Kettles “ratcheted up into a steep, left descending turn. It falls like a rock, and touched down.”

Smith thought for sure the helicopter would either be shot down or be forced to turn around. The hail of machine-gun tracers and mortars was that intense, but Kettles never flinched, even when one “mortar round went off almost immediately off of the nose and took out part of each windshield and the chin bubble” and another damaged the tail.

“The emergency panel was still cold, no red lights,” Kettles continued, joking that “the air-conditioning was good, with ventilation through the windshield and the chin bubbles.”

The GIs sprinted to the helicopter “pretty dog-on fast,” Smith remembered with relief. “All eight of us, we were hauling boogy. Nobody wasted any time. It was quick, seconds.”

They were still under fire, and now they were at least 600 pounds overweight. The Huey fishtailed.

“I had to lower the collective to get my rotor [revolutions per minute] back up,” said Kettles. “Leaving the nose of the skid on the ground, I put the RPM back up again. I’m trading that RPM for forward speed to put it in translation lift, which will give me clean air. If it’s going to go, it will go at that point, or we’re all 13 of us going to be infantry again.

“I didn’t know whether we were going to get out of there, but I was going to give it my best try. After about five or six of those down the riverbed, it did fly — like a two-and-a-half ton truck.”

When the men finally made it to safety, mechanics counted almost 40 holes in the aircraft. Smith was numb, so shell-shocked at first that he didn’t even recognize a buddy. For his part, Kettles assumed, “That’s just what war is. … We completed the thing to the best of our ability, and we didn’t leave anyone out there. Let’s go have dinner.”

Much to his disgust, Kettles’ commander moved him into flight operations, asking Kettles what they were supposed to do without any helicopters. (In reality, the company managed to get back in the air very quickly.) Then Kettles became the brigade aviation officer, but he didn’t want to be behind a desk. He wanted to fly.

Kettles reluctantly accepted a Distinguished Service Cross for actions he didn’t think were anything special and moved on with life. He returned to Vietnam two years later, commanding the 121st Assault Helicopter Company in the delta. He eventually found his childhood sweetheart again and got remarried. He retired from the Army, went back to school and helped found the aviation management degree program at Eastern Michigan University.

And then a local historian came to interview Kettles for the Veterans History Project. He dragged the story out of Kettles. He wanted to know more. He thought Kettles deserved more than the nation’s second-highest honor. He believed Kettles deserved the Medal of Honor, and he started contacting Kettles’ old battle buddies for statements. He got Congress and the Army to reopen Kettles’ file.

“He definitely deserves the Medal of Honor,” said Smith, who left the Army as a staff sergeant decorated for valor after three consecutive tours in Vietnam. He noted his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have Kettles to thank for their lives too. “I really can’t express how much respect I have for him. I’m sure it had to take a lot of courage. He might have been doing his job, but he did a hell of a good job.”

Kettles, who credits the helicopter instead of his flying skills, prefers to see the medal as recognition for everyone who fought that May 15.

“The Medal of Honor is not mine alone,” he said. “You’ve got 74 crewmembers out there. … It belongs to them as much as it belongs to me.

“The bottom line on the whole thing is simply that those 44 did get out of there and are not a statistic on the wall in D.C. The rest of it is rather immaterial, frankly.”

The Giant Killer book & page honors these incredible war heroes making sure their stories of valor and sacrifice are never forgotten. God Bless our Vets!🇺🇸🇺🇸

Story by Elizabeth Collins