18th 54th 18th CAC Aviation Association

FORWARD

This Annual Supplement for 1968 to the History of the 54th Utility Airplane Company is respectfully submitted in accordance with the provisions of Army Regulation 870-5, dated September 1968.

The purpose of this Supplement is to report accurately the activities, accomplishments, and problems experienced by the 54th Utility Airplane Company during the Calendar Year 1968.

Where possible, to enable future readers to understand the contents of this supplement clearly and easily, most esoteric military terms have been eliminated and functions and activities have been explained in terms easily understandable to the layman as well as the militarily oriented individual.

CONTENTS

GENERAL – Formation, Missions, Mission Characteristics
COMMAND
PERFORMANCE STATISTICS
AWARDS & DECORATIONS
LOCATIONS OF AIRCRAFT & PERSONNEL
REGULAR MISSIONS
SPECIAL MISSIONS
ENEMY ACTION, FORCED LANDINGS AND PRECAUTIONARY LANDINGS
PERSONNEL & ADMINISTRATION
OPERATIONS & TRAINING
MAINTENANCE & SUPPLY
MONTHLY SUMMARIES OF ACTIVITIES


GENERAL

Formation


The 54th Utility Airplane Company was activated in April 1965 at Fort Ord, California. After appropriate organization and training, the company departed for the Republic of Vietnam arriving at Vung Tau on 20 September 1965. By 15 October, the company had received its U-1A Otter aircraft and was performing its assigned missions.

Missions

The 54th Utility Airplane Company’s call sign is “Big Daddy” and it is well known throughout the Republic of Vietnam. The Company operates a combination scheduled and non-scheduled and an on-call freight and passenger airline service primarily in the III and IV Corps Combat Tactical Zones of Vietnam. These zones cover approximately the southern half of the country. Other missions of varying durations are assigned from time to time.

The commands, units, and facilities served by the 54th are many and varied; ranging from Headquarters US Army, Vietnam, to individual Special Forces units, PSYWAR teams, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and the Joint US Military Advisory Group, Bangkok, Thailand.

Cargo

The variety of cargo carried is tremendous, encompassing such diverse items as mail, PSYWAR leaflets, medical supplies, food, tires, machinery, ammunition, weapons, and complete plane loads of Vietnamese currency for military and civilian payrolls.

Passengers

Passengers transported to include members of all the allied military forces engaged in the Republic of Vietnam, civilians on official business, dependents of Republic of Vietnam military personnel, medical evacuees, and the remains of military personnel killed in action and prisoners of war.

Mission Characteristics

The specific individual missions assigned to the 54th take into consideration the characteristics and capabilities of the U-1A Otter. The Otter is a STOL (short take-off or landing) aircraft capable of getting in and out of short, rough, unimproved airstrips. It can carry six to seven passengers plus a crew of three or 1,000 to 1,700 lbs of cargo.

While the US Army’s larger helicopters can carry far more cargo than the Otter and can certainly operate from far more contained landing areas, the Otter is far less expensive to operate on a pound or person carried basis and requires far fewer hours of maintenance per flying hour than does any helicopter in the Army inventory, and the Otter certainly provides passengers with far greater comfort.

The 54 Utility Airplane Company performs a valuable, economical and efficient service. Without the 54th and its Otters, large helicopters would have to be diverted from actual combat missions to perform Big Daddy’s missions and at vastly increased expense and inconvenience.

COMMAND

From 1 Jan 68 through 11 Jul 68, the 54th Utility Airplane Company was commanded by LTC Merrill T. Peterson.  LTC Peterson started the year off as a major and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel shortly before returning to the United States.

Major James E. Lybrand assumed command of the 54th on 12 Jul 68 and continued in the capacity for the balance of the year.

PERFORMANCE STATISTICS

During 1968, the 54th Utility Airplane Company’s performance can be summed up in the following statistics:

Total Hours Flown: 12,629:30
Total Passengers Carried: 44,080
Total Passenger Miles Flown:  3,276,478
Total Cargo Tonnage Carried:  2052:14
Total Cargo Ton Miles Flown:  230,312
Total Missions (tasks) Flown:  19,152
Average Number of Aircraft Assigned per Month:  16 2/3

The monthly breakdown of the above categories is:
MONTH / HOURS FLOWN / PAX  CARRIED  /  PAX MILES  /  CARGO TONS / CARGO MILES  /  MISSIONS
JAN    /  1222:00     /    6037         /     410,381     /     244.12      /    23,402             /    1915
FEB   / 930:10         / 3459            / 269,028     /      162.01      /    21,932             /   1355
MAR    / 1102:30        / 1037             / 328,905      /    183.03      /   20,700              / 1529
APR / 1072:30        / 4566             / 312,393      /    178.88      /   22,710              /  1607
MAY  / 1164:35        / 4208            / 276,726      /    167.47      /    24,788             /   1838
JUN  / 1105:55        / 4610             / 318,338       /   168.98      /    18,621             /   1625
JUL / 1055:45        / 4198             / 343,694       /   137.91      /   28,068             /   1465
AUG  / 1019:20        / 3317             / 224,630       /   169.99      /   14,900             /   1563
SEP  / 987:50         / 3040           /   226,400        / 174.55      /   15,640             /   1460
OCT  / 893:65         / 3330            /  185,744  / 167.70       /   19,748             /   1455
NOV    / 1015:10         / 3432              / 203,103        / 169.50       /   11,167              / 1658
DEC  / 1062:10         / 2846            /   177,136        / 128.00        /    8,636              / 1682


The cargo Ton Miles figures, for all months other than December, must be presumed to be high. It was discovered in November that some crew chiefs were computing cargo ton miles incorrectly and producing higher than actual totals.

Assigned aircraft flew an average of 757 hours and 37 minutes during the year.

The average assigned aviator with flying as his principal duty flew between 600 and 700 hours during his one year tour of duty. The average aviator with staff or administrative duty as his primary assignment averaged between 150 and 250 hours.

AWARDS & DECORATIONS

During 1968, members of the 54th U.A.C. received the following decorations:

Bronze Star – 14
Air Medal – 486
Army Commendation Medal – 31
Purple Heart – 1

LOCATION OF AIRCRAFT & PERSONNEL

Company Headquarters – Vung Tau AAF

First Platoon – Vung Tau. Has one aircraft and one crew in Bangkok, Thailand. Balance of platoon aviators are at Vung Tau.

Second Platoon – Can Tho. First section is at Can Tho with three aircraft and seven aviators including the platoon commander. Second section is at Saigon with two aircraft and five aviators.

Aircraft and personnel are rotated among sections and among stations.

Major aircraft maintenance is accomplished at Vung Tau.

REGULAR MISSIONS

III Corps Army Transportation Coordinating Office
Frequency:  Daily Monday through Saturday and frequently on Sundays
Time:  0730 through 1630
Supported from: Vung Tau
Mission: Transportation of passengers and cargo of all types and description to large and small airfields within III and IV Corps Combat Tactical Zones, including mail and supply drops, where landing was impossible or unnecessary.


6th Psychological Warfare Operations Battalion
Frequency:  Daily Monday through Saturday
Time:  0700 through 1730
Supported from:  Vung Tau
Description:  Delivery of psychological warfare pamphlets and posters to Battalion personnel and Republic of Vietnam province chiefs throughout III and IV Corps Combat Tactical Zones. Includes air dropping leaflets over suspected and confirmed enemy controlled or occupied areas.

Headquarters United States Army Vietnam
Frequency:  Daily Monday through Saturday
Time:  0700 through 1730
Supported from: Vung Tau

Description: Transporting staff officers, inspection teams and key USARV military and civilian personnel throughout the III and IV Corps Combat Tactical Zones.


1st Aviation Brigade
Frequency:  Daily Monday through Saturday
Time:  0700 through 1800
Supported from: Vung Tau

Description: Operation of a regularly scheduled airline service for US Army personnel from units which do not have their own assigned aircraft over an assigned route. Assigned route is Vung Tau – Long Binh – Dong Tam – Can Tho – Dong Tam – Long Binh – Vung Tau. The route is flown once every morning and once every afternoon.


G4 IV Corps
Frequency:  Daily Monday through Saturday. Two Aircraft
Time:  0700 through 1500
Supported from: Can Tho

Description: Transportation of supplies, personnel, prisoners of war, and mail throughout the IV Corps Combat Tactical Zone. Includes air dropping of supplies and mail where landing is impossible or unnecessary. Also includes transportation of remains of military personnel killed in action or by accident from outlying points to Can Tho and from Can Tho to Saigon. This is the only support mission flown in the Delta by any unit from Ca Mau south that is accomplished without armed helicopter escort.


Joint United States Public Affairs Office (JUSPAO)
Frequency:  Daily
Monday through Saturday
Time:  0700 through 1630
Supported from:  Saigon

Description:  Transports JUSPAO personnel and supplies throughout III and IV Corps Combat Tactical Zones. Cargo carried includes educational items such as school books, television and radio sets, machinery, farm equipment, technical manuals and a wide variety of other items used by JUSPAO military and civilian advisory personnel in assistance to the South Vietnamese to improve their knowledge, communications, education and standard of living in hamlets and rural areas.


Aerial Photogrammetric Mission for Corps of Engineers, United States Army Vietnam
Frequency:  Daily depending on weather
Time:  0700 through 1700
Supported from: Vung Tau

Description: Production of low and medium altitude vertical aerial photographs of assigned geographical areas, cities, towns, roads, military installations, bridges and other facilities throughout the Republic of Vietnam. The photographs are used for the preparation of mosaics and maps of the scales required by USARV for tactical construction, reconstruction and area development purposes. The project is carried on in coordination with the US Army Map Service. It is the only mission of its kind being performed by US Army Aviators. The pictures produced have been of such high quality that, after the first experimental pictures were produced in January 1968, the mission was given permanent status. The flying is accomplished by specially trained crews of the 54th U.A.C. The camera and the aerial photographer are provided by Asia Mapping Inc., a civilian contractor. Asia Mapping is a subsidiary of Lyons Associates, Baltimore, MD.


Military Assistance Command, Thailand (MACTHAI)
Frequency:  Daily Monday through Saturday
Time:  0700 through 1700
Supported from: Bangkok

Description: Transportation of MACTHAI personnel and cargo throughout Thailand in support of military assistance and area development activities. Personnel carried include members of the Royal Thai Armed Forces.


SPECIAL MISSIONS

During 1968, the 54th U.A.C. was assigned and accomplished a considerable number of special missions lasting anywhere from one day to several weeks.

Typical of these were: 

Furnishing one pilot to fly with the 45th Air Ambulance Company’s U-1A on supply and passenger missions, originating at Vung Tau. The 45th has only one fixed-wing pilot. Flights went to stations in all four Corps Tactical Combat Zones.

Supplying two pilots to the 2nd Signal Group, Long Thanh to assist that organization in maintaining a 24 hour radio relay service with its Otters for the 1st Air Cavalry Division. The mission was supported during November and December 1968.

Furnishing an aircraft and crew during November to the 1st ir Cavalry during its move from Camp Evans and the general area just south of the DMZ to stations close to-and northwest and north of Saigon. The task was operating a passenger and courier service among the 1st Cav’s new duty stations.

On September 18, one aircraft and crew evacuated wounded ARVN soldiers from Long Hai to Vung Tau for hospitalization. Long Hai is a small village on the coast 10 miles east-north-east of Vung Tau.

ENEMY ACTION, AIRCRAFT ACCIDENTS, FORCED LANDINGS & PRECAUTIONARY LANDINGS

The purpose of grouping together the occurrences in the above title is to present a picture of the main hazards encountered by the aviators of the 54th during 1968. There were no mid-air collisions encountered by the aviators of the 54th, although in the crowded air of the Republic of Vietnam, there were a number of near-misses. Because mid-airs are all too frequent, this is considered a tribute to the vigilance of Company aircrews.

Enemy Action

During 1968, there were 31 recorded incidents of hits or near-misses from enemy fire involving “Big Daddy” aircraft. Of the 31 incidents, 28 involved actual hits and three involved near-misses. One incident resulted in the pilot receiving light wounds in the lower legs and two resulted in forced landings.

Many occasions upon which aircraft were taken under fire without hits were entered only in the Pilots Information File to assist pilots in avoiding hot areas and were not permanently recorded. It is certain that “Big Daddy” aircraft were taken under fire a number of times without the crew being aware of it. To be noticed, enemy fire must either result in a definite and audible near-miss or the weapons or tracers from them must be seen.

Crews and aircraft were, during 1968, occasionally on airfields under mortar and rocket fire. Vung Tau AAF was mortared and rocketed twice during the year, once in April and again in October. Although several mortar rounds landed in the swamp near the “Big Daddy” company area, no attacks, wounds, or damage to aircraft were sustained by the 54th from enemy ground attacks anywhere during the year.

Aircraft Accidents

For historical purposes, accidents and incidents are reported herein.

There were eight incidents and one accident during the year. In six, all of which occurred during landing or roll-out, pilot error was a factor. On one occasion, pilot error was involved in landing gear damage sustained during take-off. On another, a foreign object (cotter key extractor) lodged in the right wheel brake assembly causing the locking of the wheel and a swerve on landing. In this case only the brakes pucks were damaged. In one other occasion, a locked brake on landing resulted in tailwheel damage. One incident was wing-tip damage experienced while taxiing with pilot error involved.

In only one case was major aircraft damage involved. The 54th’s safety record is considered superior.

AIRCRAFT LOST AND DAMAGED DURING RECOVERY

During 1968, seven “Big Daddy’s” were recovered by sling loading them under CH-47 helicopters after forced landings, precautionary landings, and accidents for delivery to Can Tho and Vung Tau for repairs. One aircraft was destroyed when the Chinook carrying it encountered a violent thunderstorm and was forced to jettison it only four miles from Vung Tau. Three were damaged as a result of their hitch-hiking, but were repairable.

Forced Landings & Precautionary Landings

The 54th experienced a total of 19 forced and precautionary landings during 1968 that were reported as such. Cases where malfunctions occurred, but were not of sufficient gravity to involve emergency action are not included. Of the 19 incidents, 10 were forced and precautionary landings. One of the forced landings was caused by enemy bullets striking rudder controls and rendering the rudder in-operational.

All forced and precautionary landings were accomplished without injury to personnel or cargo and aircraft damage was negligible.

This extremely favorable record is considered to reflect great credit upon the skill of the aviators in the 54th Utility Airplane Company, upon the Instructor Pilots and upon the Standardization Program.

PERSONNEL & ADMINISTRATION

Strength

The 54th Utility Airplane Company, under TO&E 1-59D, is authorized ten Officers, 28 Warrant Officers and 120 Enlisted Men. It has never functioned at full strength. The organization’s average strength during 1968 was 30 Commissioned and Warrant Officer’s and 99 Enlisted Men.

Major James E. Lybrand, Company Commander for the last half of 1968 says:

“The TO&E under which we operate needs to be modified and augmented In-Country in certain categories. This would be desirable even were the unit to operate at full strength. We are stationed some 60 kilometers from our Battalion Headquarters and no ground transportation link, because of enemy activity on the roads. This creates an additional administrative load. We are called upon to submit a larger number of recurring reports to various headquarters and agencies than we would normally be charged with in the U.S. We have a larger requirement for guards, mess personnel and personnel for details than we would have, were we located in the same area as our Battalion Headquarters and other Battalion units.

“While it is true that some of the slots in the unit which are unfilled call for control tower operators, GCA operators and other technicians, many of the unfilled slots are for people in specialties we are very short in and, to meet our higher than normal guard, mess and administrative commitments, just having the extra bodies would be welcome. Unfortunately, when we must have people to take up the slack in details, mess and administration, the only men we can utilize are maintenance people, because there are more of them. Doing so, hover, hits us where it hurts, because we are always under strength in these people and our old Otters require a great deal more maintenance effort now than they did when they were new.

“One in-Country augmentation I recommend is the addition of a slot for a full-time administrative officer and the addition of one more clerk slot in Company Headquarters. We have three clerks working full-time to keep up with the load and both the full-time Executive Officer and the extra-duty Administrative Officer find their time fully occupied. The Administrative Officer spends most of his time in the capacity and relatively few hours in the air.

“Concerning recurring reports: I recommend that they be carefully studied by higher Headquarters and duplication eliminated.”

First Sergeant J. L. Willard Says:

“It hurts us to be understrength overseas. We have many special jobs to do which are not required in the States. For instance, two guards for the Officers in Vung Tau are required daily and the Officers mess, which requires two separate men to supervise Vietnamese Nationals in the preparation of food and sanitation. Two duty drivers are required to transport aviators and guards between the airfield and the Officers quarters. Three guards are supplied for perimeter security every night and therefore are off the morning of the next day.

“Maintenance is always the most critical area in an aviation company and it is no exception with us. Since the normal tour is 12 months, the turnover of personnel constant, and experience men are scarce, so it really hurts when we must pull mechanics and put them to work as, for example, guards, clerks and drivers.”

Discipline

Although the 54th U.A.C. is stationed in Vung Tau, a famous old French resort town and a current in-country R&R center for Enlisted Men, the Company’s disciplinary record is excellent. During 1968, there were only two special courts marital and no general courts martial. The two special courts involved sleeping on post, breaking restrictions and short-term AWOL.

The exceptionally creditable conduct has several causes. First, the caliber of the men assigned to Army Aviation units is, in general, higher than that of the average non-aviation unit. Second, our Company’s disciplinary policies are designed to prevent serious trouble from occurring rather than to punish offenders after trouble has occurred. The Senior NCO’s counsel the men and keep many young and inexperienced soldiers from getting started on the wrong foot in the beginning.

“By using Article 15 in preference to courts martial, the 54th is able to correct the conduct of individuals and salvage them for useful service without damaging their records and reputations. Then too, Article 15 discipline can be brought to bear swiftly in the forms of reduction in rank and forfeiture of pay to provide immediate examples of the results of misconduct.”

First Sergeant Willard reports:

“The relationship of the members of the 54th with the civilian population of Vung Tau is as good as generally found in the States. Vung Tau itself, with its many opportunities for getting into trouble, is sometimes a problem with new men, but not as much as might be thought. Most men simmer down after a few trips to the bars in Vung Tau. The men have been here a while find their recreation at the service clubs, the Beachcomber Club at the Back Beach and at our own Uncle Harvey’s Saloon, making only occasional trips into town and, on those, spending very little time or money in the bars and on Saigon Tea.”

Promotions

Promotions made during the year are listed in the Monthly Summary section of this report.

Awards & Decorations

Awards & Decorations received during the year are listed in the Monthly Summary section of this report.

Public Information

In August of 1968, the 54th initiated an active public information and public relations program, in addition to the Home Town News Release Program which had been operating up until August. The augmented program consists of the following:

1.      Home Town News Release Program:  Releases are submitted upon the arrival of each man at the 54th and upon the reception of all promotions, decorations and awards.

2.      Every time a man is promoted the P.I.O. (CW2 Bishop White) photographs the presentation ceremony. The same is true of the presentation of decorations and awards. The P.I.O. then develops the film and makes three prints of each picture. One copy goes to the Home Town News Center with the release, the second is sent by the Commanding Officer along with a command letter of congratulations to the individual’s wife or parents, whichever is appropriate. The third copy goes into the files for possible use in a future release. This program has been very successful and the Commanding Officer has received numerous replies to the letters of congratulations he has sent out.

3.      Major releases forwarded to Battalion for further action. From time to time, events occur which warrant special news releases and picture coverage. The P.I.O. furnishes the pictures and writes the stories and forwards them to the Public Information Officer, 210th Combat Aviation Battalion, who accomplishes distribution to the appropriate news agencies and publishers.

It is worth noting that, while USARV, Brigade and Battalion regulations and directives call for an aggressive public information program at Company level, no provision is made for furnishing the Company with a camera, film or photographic paper. As a result this activity is supported through unit funds and through the charity of individuals.

OPERATIONS & TRAINING

This report has stressed elsewhere the flying accomplishments of the 54th Utility Airplane Company. Discussed here are the organization and operation of the Operations & Training Section. The problems encountered, the manner of solving them and the recommendations for alleviating them.

During 1968, the 54th supported its assigned missions reliably, effectively, efficiently, and safely solving a number of operational problems through extra hours of hard work and by maintaining a professional attitude and a high level of individual proficiency among flying personnel. The organization conducted during the year an active and aggressive Flying Safety Program and, under the direction of Standardization Instructor Pilot, CW2 Roy Brown formulated a new and extremely thorough Standardization Program complete with a new Standardization Guide, copies of which were distributed to all aviators. Both these programs received commendations from higher headquarters.

In an effort to evaluate the efficiency of flight operations and to insure proper coordination with the various agencies served on regularly scheduled missions, a program of reporting what occurred on each flight was instituted. Aviators logged on the mission sheets times of departure and arrival at assigned stops, number of passengers picked up and dropped-off, no-shows, cargo picked up and dropped off and delays and their causes. Armed with this information the Operations Officers were able to pinpoint weaknesses in scheduling and in coordination with scheduling agencies and effect their correction. Toward the end of the year, aircraft flew with fewer empty seats than previously and better overall utilization of aircraft on a per-hour basis was being achieved. As this report is being written the performance figures for early 1969 are reflecting this more efficient utilization.

Captain Donald R. Knippers, Operations Officer for the 54th during the last quarter of 1968, makes these comments:

“One real problem we have to face and solve is our chronic shortage of experienced pilots. Generally we have no more than eight pilots at one time who have more than 600 hours, yet we must maintain high standards of efficiency, safety and skill. Many pilots are assigned directly out of flight school and without having been transitioned in the U-1A. These factors impose a heave lead upon the experienced pilots and upon the ISs and ACs, and they require an unreasonably large number of aircraft to be diverted from our assigned missions to training missions. Naturally an additional load is placed on maintenance, too.

“We have solved this problem in the only possible way and that is by prevailing upon the dedication and good nature of our flying and maintenance personnel and asking them to put the necessary additional duty hours to keep us in business.

"Occasionally, higher headquarters have attempted to assign us more permanent missions than we could handle safely and without running the aircraft into the ground and then being unable to support the missions. However, once we explain our situation, we find that it is easily understood. We can handle extra missions over short periods of time and do so frequently, but there is a limit to the number of regularly assigned missions we can support efficiently.

“We are called upon from time to time to supply other units with aviators on a TDY basis. This can and has hurt us, because we are chronically short of aviators and it is Company policy to limit pilots to 90 hours in any 30 day period, with additional hours permitted only upon replacement aircraft such as C-7As or, wishfully, Twin Otters. Both of these types do the same job as the Otter does it more efficiently, more safely, and more economically. The Caribou, for instance, can carry 25 people into the same place the Otter can carry five and it can get off and over obstacles from a 500 ft. strip with a 10 know headwind. Our Otters cannot. The Otter is obsolete and maintenance is a constant problem primarily because of the unsatisfactory Spartan rebuilt engines.

“It is well realized that aviators always want the latest and best equipment and we in the 54th are no exceptions, nevertheless we meet our commitments exceptionally well with what we have.”

MAINTENANCE & SUPPLY

First and Second Echelon Maintenance is done by the Maintenance Platoon of the 54th U.A.C. Third and Fourth Echelon Maintenance is accomplished by the 255th Maintenance Detachment (Acft Rep).

The 255th Transportation Detachment was organized at the same time as the 54th Utility Airplane Company and for the express purpose of support the 54th. The 255th was deployed overseas along with the 54th in 1965 and has served the 54th ever since.

For historical purposes only, two factors concerning maintenance are significant. First, the 54th would not have been able to support its missions had not maintenance personnel worked many extra hours to keep the aging Otters flyable. Second, the problems encountered are of historical interest.

Major Lybrand:

“The quality of the Spartan rebuilt engines (R1340-61) we receive is poor. Average engines have a life, over the past seven months, of 267 hours. The TBO (time between overhauls) calls for 1300 hours.

“This poor performance caused us to take steps to improve this situation. We submit an EIR (equipment improvement report) on each engine removed from an aircraft prior to estimate TBO documenting the reasons for removal. On 27 December 1968, I requested civilian technical assistance and have been assured as of January 1969, that we will soon have the services of a Pratt & Whitney civilian technical representative.

“At the same time we requested technical assistance, we requested that steps be taken to improve quality control at the Sparton shop. USAAVCOM (US Army Aviation Command) replied to our request stating that they were recommending that the engines be rebuilt to higher standards and that they be equipped with 100% new valve guides, 100% new cylinders and 100% replacement of exhaust push-rods. USAAVCOM assured us that specific emphasis has been placed on quality assurance at the contractor’s plant.

“It is mandatory that conditions improve. The maintenance men do their best, but the engines have been of such poor quality that they have felt their efforts wasted and have suffered frustration. They also feel put-upon from having to correct the same old deficiencies over and over again, spending extra hours of their own free time in the process.”

CW2 Alton F. Livingston, Assistant Engineering Officer, says:

“The Spartan rebuilt engines are very poor………at the end of 1968 we had one Pratt & Whitney rebuilt and it had 700 hours on it and was still operating wonderfully. We had two Pratt & Whitney’s rebuilt earlier this year and they both went over 1150 hours.

“We get Spartans with push-rods too short or too long. We get engines once used in CH-19 helicopters shipped to us without the internal holes drilled to permit oil to go to the propeller pitch changing mechanism. These are but two of examples of the deficiencies we have discovered.

“We also have to live with the fact that there are 2,000 faulty push rods in the system and they can’t be identified until they break.

“To forestall engines failures and preserve engines, the 255th, with our help, pulls engine conditioning checks on all engines at the first PE (Periodic Inspection) (every 100 hrs) and at every PE thereafter. This check is normally pulled at 600 hours for the first time. By making these checks, we saved three engines in December alone, by catching defects which would have resulted in forced or precautionary landings.

“I feel that towards the end of 1968, our maintenance picture improved greatly with attitude, morale and leadership on the upswing, because we were “whipping” the engines. Of course, each engine conditioning check requires three extra work-days and more time when defects are found, but our incidence of engine trouble is down.

(NOTE: To support eight aircraft on regular missions plus training flight, the 54th keeps three aircraft continuously in PE. As of 31 Dec 68, the 54th had 17 U-1A’s, one of which was undergoing major repairs at the 330th Transportation Company, Heavy Aircraft Repair.)

“One reason why maintenance personnel have high morale and efficiency at present, is that we have gotten over the problem which every October brings; which is a heavy turnover of personnel and it takes some time for the experienced people remaining to break in the new men who generally come to us right out of school and with MOS’s of 67B (U-6, O-1), 67H (Mohawk) and 67G (U-8, U-21). We find that it takes about four PE’s for a good man to learn to maintain the Otter.”

(NOTE: The 54th pulled 138 PEs in 1968. Average strength of maintenance platoon for work on aircraft was 10 mechanics plus one T.I. plus senior noncoms. Other personnel were absorbed by details, and duties in other platoons. The average PE requires four days for a four-man PE crew or 192 man hours.)

During the year, facilities were improved in the maintenance area, revetments were constructed to protect all aircraft and offices and break areas were redecorated and air conditioning units installed.

The service platoon is made up of one Captain, one Warrant Officer, one E7 and 59 men.

The caliber of the 54th’s Crew Chiefs is high. When the Flight Platoon requires new Crew Chiefs, the best available senior mechanics, who are thoroughly capable of making repairs in the field, are selected for the job.

During 1968, the 54th experienced some difficulty with avionics, but primarily with the older radios. As of the end of the year, the unit had 11 aircraft equipped with new sets (ARC 54, ARC 51 BX) and 7 with old sets (ARC 44, ARC 55). The aircraft with the old sets required many more man-hours of work than the aircraft with the new sets.

The 54th is in the ZYR program, but no kits are available, so all avionics people can do with the old sets is to replace them or their components with other worn out pieces.

Two other major problems exist in the un-retrofitted aircraft:

1.      The wiring throughout the aircraft is ancient, has deteriorated and causes interference in transmitters and receivers.
In the IV Corps Combat Tactical Zone ground FM stations employ the new one-half-frequency ARC 54s and ARC 131s and the 54th’s old ARC 44s can’t always mate with them properly.

It should be noted that, although the problems discussed herein certainly existed during the year, maintenance personnel solved them all through hard work and initiative and the 54th maintained its traditional reputation for reliability and safety.

255th Transportation Detachment

The 255th Transportation Detachment provides 3rd echelon and limited 4th echelon maintenance for the 54th Utility Airplane Company. It receives and builds up engines, performs engine changes, does sheet metal work and makes major airframe component changes.

During 1968, in spite of mounting difficulties with the Spartan rebuilt engines, the 255th personnel, working many extra hours and showing commendable devotion to duty, enabled the 54th to maintain its superior record of aircraft availability.

Major Paul J. Clemens, Commanding Officer of the 255th for the last quarter of 1968 says:

“The extensive engine receipt checks and early engine conditioning checks we instituted payed off in saving engines by catching deficiencies before they resulted in major damage. These checks also resulted in a reduced number of engine problems in the air.

“The 255th’s personnel deserve great credit for their hard work and skill. The Detachment operated most of the year at 60% of TO&E strength. It reached its greatest strength – 85% - in December.

“The success of the 255th and of the 54th in maintaining high standards of excellence in aircraft maintenance is attained in large part because the NCOs are present on the job and available to answer questions and solve problems as they arise. The men respond favorably to this leadership and the knowledge passed along in this manner enables new men to develop the ability to take over leadership when the senior personnel go home.”

In November, orders were received for disbanding the 255th and absorbing its personnel into the 54th.

Concerning this, Major Fredric L. Guenther of the 54th, Executive Officer says:

“We are open minded about this reorganization, but we feel that combining organizational and field maintenance personnel in the same section is possibly dangerous. Field maintenance work is far more complex than organizational maintenance and requires considerably higher skill levels. It is feared that we will eventually be forced into a massive on-the-job training program caused by bulk fills of general mechanics MOSs. In addition, in combining the two organizations there is a loss of many vital mechanic and supervisor positions.”

During 1968, the flow of aircraft parts and supplies was generally smooth and efficient, although some items such as C02 compasses were difficult to get.

Personnel flight equipment was in short supply all year, although all items were readily available for purchase on the Black Market.

MONTHLY SUMMARIES OF ACTIVITIES

January – Major M.T. Peterson, Commanding

The 54th was assigned its aerial cartographic photography mission by General Robert R. Williams, Commanding General, 1st Avn Bde. CW3 Robert Hardwick, a veteran pilot with a large amount of experience as a mapping pilot both in the Army and in civilian life, was assigned to head up the project. Mr Lee J. Klein, a highly skilled and experienced aerial photographer and darkroom technician and a Zeiss aerial camera were obtained on contract from Asia Mapping, a Division of Lyons Associates of Baltimore, Md.

Working with maintenance personnel of the 54th and the 255th, the camera crew modified the cargo hatch of an Otter to accommodate the camera in a mount of their own design.

During the month the crew flew a number of test missions with such skill and with such outstanding results that the mission was assigned to the 54th for the year and the original contract with Asia Mapping extended.

It was a good month in the air with no hits from enemy fire, no forced landings and only one precautionary landing: Cpt Peter B. Garrigus at Phan Thiet.

Promotions:
TO SSG: Kenneth D. Strickler, Jr., James A Cain
TO SP5: (Acting SGT): Ralph M. Payne, James T. Baszl
TO SP5: Carl Mayne, Jr., Robert F. Thompson
TO SP4: Larry D. Alvardo, John T. Boyer, Larry J. Laing, Gary R. Waldron, Charles D. Stemmler
TO PFC: Idolo G. Cimoli

Awards & Decorations:
Air Medal - SP5 Roy A. Monigold: 7 through 13 OLC, SP4 Richard E. Beckwith: 1 through 8 OLC
Army Commendation Medal - SSG William C. Baril, SSG Thomas L. MacDonald

Arrivals:
CW2 Roy D. Brown. Mr Brown later became the Company’s Standardization Instructor Pilot.


FEBRUARY – Maj M.T. Peterson, Commanding

The Tet Offensive staged by the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese slowed down the 54th’s flying considerably with many of the fields served under attack and harassment. The fighting in Saigon and in Can Tho kept the 54th’s personnel inside their billets and under arms for more than a week. Fighting took place in the streets near the Company’s quarters in both cities with occasional bullets ricocheting from their walls. By the end of the month, flying was back to normal. The 54th sustained no casualties as a result of the Tet Offensive. The Units home base at Vung Tau passed through Tet without incident.

Flying into Rach Gia WO1 Alan L. Foulks received an enemy small arms round through the passenger compartment of his Otter. No one was harmed, however, and the damage negligible. No forced landings or precautionary landings were recorded for the month.

Promotions:
TO CW2: Michael D. Skehan, James C. Reynolds, Roger L. Hewitt, Tom W. Barnett, Jr.
TO SGT: Jesse D. Garsee, Milton E. Jackson
TO SP5: Robert W. Hornholtz, Bobbie L. Fittro, Donald E. Coleman, Jr., Philip C. Spangler, Jerry L. Chandler, James L. Cassady, William G. Carnley
TO SP4: Michael W. Dombroski, Bennie Crooks, Richard D. Pruitt, Edward P. Carino, David L. Edwards
TO PFC: Emil J. Adams, James F. Hall, Allan R. Pickens

Awards & Decorations:
Air Medal - CW2 Billy B. Droke – 7 through 19 OLC, CPT Michael E. Hudson – Basic, 1LT Michael E. Tedhams - Basic, SFC Herbert N. Casey – Basic, SFC Jeff D. Mailer – Basic, SP5 Terrence Shannon – Basic, SP4 James L. Cassaday – Basic

Arrivals & Departures (Aviators):
Arrivals: CW3 Alvin G. Woods, CW2 Norman J. Charpentier, CW2 Richard A. Del Conte
Departures: Cpt Allan R. Burroughs, 2LT Andrew F. Scheidmantel


MARCH – Maj M.T. Peterson, Commanding

Operations went smoothly. Two aircraft were hit by enemy small arms fire. Both were flown by CW3 Alvin G. Woods and WO1 David R. Lucas out of Can Tho. One was hit in the left horizontal stabilizer and the top of the rudder en route south of Muc Hoa with no serious damage. In the other incident a 50 calibre bullet entered the passenger compartment from the bottom and went out through the top cutting the elevator and rudder trim cables.

There was one forced landing due to mechanical causes which could have been serious, but was prevented from being by the flying proficiency of the pilot. On take-off from Tan Son Nhut Airport, CW2 Charpentier with CW2 Majors as co-pilot experienced sudden engine failure. Forced to land nearly straight ahead, because his altitude was less than 500 ft., Mr Charpentier set the aircraft down lightly in a mine field on the North perimeter of the airfield blowing one tire on a mine. The aircraft was lifted out by a Chinook. The landing was made in spite of a heavy coating of oil on the winshield. Failure of the propeller impeller seal caused the incident. Toward the end of the month, CW2 Charpentier was assigned to the Photo Mission.

Promotions:
TO SP5 – Charlier L. Morris, Joe A. Lobato, Pascual Guitterez, William P. Davis
TO SP4 – Ronald E. Billings, Richard W. Carruba

Awards & Decorations:
Bronze Star – Maj Arthur L. Walters
Air Medal – CW2 William W. Scott – 5 through 8 OLC, SFC Martin T. Hanrahan – Basic, SSG Eugine L. Peterson – Basic, SP5 Ove E. Shoupe – Basic, SP5 Lewis E. Dughman – Basic, PFC Barry D. Bialag – Basic, SP5 Ralph E. Verboort – Basic, SP4 Jerry L. Chandler – Basic, SP5 Richard J. Parlato – Basic
Army Commendation Medal – SP4 William G. Carnley

Arrivals & Departures (Aviators):
Arrivals: CW2 Kenneth Moore, 1LT John Roselli, CW2 William W. Scott
Departures: Cpt Lee R. Thompson, Cpt Edwain J. Heathcoe, Cpt John R. Quesenberry, CW2 Merle H. Estes

APRIL – Maj M.T. Peterson, Commanding

General Williams, CG 1st Avn Bde,  visited the 54th to assign the Photo Mission tasks in the I Corps Area and to establish the JUSMAG Mission for the unit in Bangkok, Thailand. Maj Skelton and CW2 Roy Brown became the first crew to fly the mission in Thailand. They reported that the assignment was a very satisfactory one.

Vung Tau was hit for the first time in 27 months with an estimated 18 122 mm rockets. Four aircraft were damaged and one American soldier killed. The 54th suffered no casualties nor any damage to its aircraft.

The enemy began shooting at the 54th’s Otters with greater regularity than ever before and seven aircraft were hit during the month with one pilot, CW3 Alvin G. Woods being slightly wounded. He received the Company’s only Purple Heart for the year.

At Tra Vinh CW3 Woods and WO1 Lucas received light 30 calibre fire on climb-out. A bullet entered the front right side of the vertical stabilizer and passed out the left side jamming the rudder controls. Mr Woods executed a forced landing without further incident. Later in the month CW3 Woods, flying with 1LT Tedhams as co-pilot, received approximately 11 to 25 rounds of 30 calibre or 7.62mm automatic weapons fire. Rounds entered the pilot’s compartment damaging the co-pilots seat and fragments wounded Mr Woods slightly in the legs. Other rounds entered the passenger compartment slightly wounding two priests in the face. The incident occurred while Mr Woods was flying at 1400 ft en route near Vi Thanh.

CW3 Woods and CW2 Skehan, on the 23rd, were taken under fire by small arms. Two hits were scored out of an estimated 100 fired. One hit the crew compartment passing through to the passenger compartment and another hit the left wing. No important damage and no injuries resulted.

CW2 Scott received one round through the tail section of his aircraft. Also acquiring holes in wings and tails during the month were 1LT Garrigus, and  again Mr. Woods, no affectionately known as “Old Magnet A_ _.”

One aircraft was damaged during the month, when Cpt John D. Hoskinson with CW2 James M. Majors as co-pilots dropped an aircraft in for a hard landing while on a local flight out of Vung Tau.

Promotions:
TO MAJ – Samuel E. Skelton
TO CPT – William J. Gartz
TO CW2 – Gary K. Carlmark, David R. Lucas, James M. Majors, Peter C. McHugh, Harold W. Bishop, Alan L. Foulks, James M. Fiscus.
TO SP4 – Ronald E. Billings, Richard Carruba, Barry D. Bialac, Richard B. Ivens, Harold V. Cooke

Awards & Decorations:
Air Medal - Basic – CW2 Tom W. Barnett, CW2 Michael D. Skehen, 1SG Vernon K. Martin, SP6 Donald M. Upchurch (255th), SSG William B. Weaver, SP5 Hubert B. Gravley (255th), SP5 Donald E. Coleman, SP5 Norman E. Dietrich, SP5 Joe A. Lebato, SP5 Allan H. Hieb, SP5 Dennis B. Zupan, SP4 Lon L. Burns, Jr., SP4 Kenneth A. Bukowski, SP4 Bernard J. Skelton
Army Commendation Medal – Cpt Samuel E. Skelton

Arrivals & Departures (Aviators):
Arrivals: 1LT John D. Hoskinson, 1LT Chase S. Reid, 1LT Clifford R. Ash, CW2 Alton Livingston
Departures: Maj Robert A. Gwaltney, WO1 Lance J. Hiller


MAY – Maj M.T. Peterson, Commanding

May was a relatively quiet month without specially memorable events. No aircraft were hit by enemy fire, nor were there any reports of 54th aircraft being taken under fire.

A minor accident occurred at Chao Lahn when an aircraft flown by CW2 Peter C. McHugh struck the rotor blades of a VNAF CH-31 helicopter with its left wing on landing. Damage was negligible.

CW2 William W. Scott made a forced landing at Bien Hoa after experiencing a rough running engine and 50% to 70% power loss. The landing was without incident. The cause was failure of the exhaust valve push rod of #9 cylinder.

Promotions:
TO SP5 – Stephen H. Johnson, Jeffrey P. Spieler, Donnie R. Shaw, Francisco Zavala, Michael C. Hansen, Wayne S. Cahoon, Kenneth Bukowski, Alvin G. Fielder, Henry L. French, Bernard J. McElwee, William R. Campbell, Gary R. Waldron, William P. Davis
TO SP4 – David D. Childs, Gordon J. Enstad, Vernon E. Knight, Wesley G. Tuthill

Awards & Decorations:

Bronze Star – Cpt Richard J. Handly
Air Medal - Maj Jack F. Bisping – 1 through 17 OLC, CW2 William W. Scott – 9 through 20 OLC, SP5 William W. Jones 7 through 15 OLC, SP5 Sidney Jackson, JR – 3 through 12 OLC, SP5 Allan H. Hieb – 1st OLC, 1LT John D. Hoskins – Basic Army Commendation Medal – CW2 Gary K. Carlmark
Purple Heart – CW3 Alvin G. Woods

ARRIVALS & DEPARTURES (Aviators):
Arrivals: 1LT Dennis W. Braiden, 2LT Lawrence E. Patch, WO1 Stephen Durbin
Departures: Cpt Richard J. Handly, 1LT Michael E. Tedhams


JUNE – LTC M.T. Peterson, Commanding

Major Merrill T. Peterson was promoted to LTC on the 8th.
MSG James L. Willard became 1SG.

The 54th was assigned a special mission for providing route reconnaissance of Route 15 each morning to assist troop movements to and from the Vung Tau area. This was carried out along with the regular missions from Vung Tau.

The 54th hosted the monthly Battalion conference.

The Battalion Commander presented Cpt Summerfeldt with a DFC earned by him in 1967.

The enemy again took considerable interest in the Otters. CW2 Del Conte and Cpt McHugh took hits in the fuel cells at Ca Mau and had to land there. They took another minor hole near Don Tam later in the month. CW3 Woods and CW2 Reynolds picked up a round near Hai Yen. CW2 Del Conte and Cpt McHugh acquired another hole between BTT and Muc Hoa. CW3 Woods again proved that he attracts stray metal by picking up a hole near Bac Lieu.

1LT McGuire and 1LT Reid had a forced landing at Chon Than. The engine lost power and smoke entered the cockpit. The engine, a Spartan rebuilt, had only 2 hours and 5 min time on it since leaving Spartan. A CH-47 (Chinook) was employed to bring the aircraft back to Vung Tau. The Chinook ran into a thunderstorm and was forced to drop the Otter into the water just four miles from the field. It was smashed to pieces and it was impossible to determine the cause of engine failure.

Construction of new revetments to protect the 54th’s Otters was started.

Promotions:
TO LTC – Merrill T. Peterson
TO CPT – Peter B. Garrigus
TO CW2 – Stephen Durbin
TO SP5 – James K. Akins, Orville T. Diggs, Lamar E. Jones, Leon R. McElroy, Ernest W. Wright, Michael L. Cleere, Paul E. Simpson, Frank C. Pilalas
TO SP4 – Emil J. Adams, Edgar A. Hayes, Michael Sperraza, Thomas Freserick, Gregory Tisdale
TO PFC – Louis Gonzalez, Robert D. Smith

Awards & Decorations:
Bronze Star – Maj Richard A. Lochner, Maj Merrill T. Peterson, SSG Thomas L. MacDonald
Air Medal – Maj Samuel E. Skelton – 14 through 27 OLC, Cpt Richard J. Handly – 11 through 24 OLC, CW2 Alan L. Foulks – 1 through 17 OLC, SP5 James T. Bazil – 4 through 11 OLC, SP5 Bobbie L. Fittro - Basic, SP4 Samuel R. Fontanez - Basic, SP5 James K. Akins - Basic, SP5 George Washington - Basic, SP5 Francisco E. Zavala - Basic, SP4 Edward P. Carino - Basic, SP4 Lamar Jones - Basic, SP4 Leon R. McElroy - Basic, 1LT John W. Roselli - Basic, CW2 Roger L. Hewitt - Basic, WO1 Steven Durbin - Basic
Army Commendation Medal – SSG Jack H. Trexler, SP4 William W. Jones, SP5 James L. Cassady

Arrivals & Departures (Aviators):
Arrivals: Maj Joel L. Hardy, 1LT Dennis McGuire
Departures: 1LT Clifford R. Ash, CW2 Alan L. Foulks, CW2 Gary K. Carlmark


JULY – Maj James E. Lybrand, Commanding


Change of Command

On 12 July, the command of the 54th was passed to MAj James E. Lybrand by LTC Merrill T. Peterson. The formal ceremony took place at 1000 hours on that date.

The Company received its annual IG Inspection on the 23rd. The Company came through the inspection very well.

No Aircraft received enemy hits during the month.

CW2 Charpentier with CW2 Reynolds as copilot made a precautionary landing at Tan Son Nhut on the 7th because of fluctuating oil pressure and vibrations on climb-out. On the 1st Cpt John Thompson had his left wheel lock on landing. The aircraft swerved causing minor damage to the tail wheel. On the 13th with Maj Lybrand as copilot, CW2 Majors slightly damage a wing tip in a minor taxi incident. At Can Tho on the 13th, CW2 James C. Reynolds experienced partial power loss on take-off when #8 cylinder failed in the Spartan rebuilt engine, which had only 149 hours on it. He made a precautionary landing without further incident.

On the 31st Cpt Peter B. Garrigus, with CW2 Melvin Brewer as copilot, landed short at the Cement Plant striking a concrete curb and damaging the rudder and tail section.

Promotions:
TO CPT – John D. Hoskinson
TO SP5 – Roland L. Hiner, Edward D. Carino, Larry D. Alvarado
TO SP4 – Wesley G. Tuthill

Awards & Decorations:
Bronze Star – 1SG Vernon K. Martin, SFC Martin T. Hanrahan
Air Medal - LTC Merrill T. Peterson – Basic & 1 OLC, Maj Richard A. Lochner – 2 through 15 OLC, Cpt David G. Sommerfeldt – 6 through 19 OLC, CW2 Gary K. Carlmark – 1 through 19 OLC, SSG Jack H. Trexler – 1 OLC, SP5 James H. Rice – 1 through 8 OLC, SP5 Gary M. Washburn, Basic - Cpt Harlbert W. Smith, 1LT Dennis McGuire, 1LT William L. Braiden, 1LT Clifford A. Ash, 1LT Chase S. Reid, 2LT Lawrence Patch, SGT John R. Nelson, SP4 George B. Meyer
Army Commendation Medal – CW2 Delano F. Null, CW2 James M. Fiscus, SSG Eugene L. Peterson, SP5 Ronald L. Ramage

Arrivals & Departures (Aviators):
Arrivals: Maj James E. Lybrand, Cpt Donald R. Knippers, Cpt Harbert W. Smith, Cpt Robert S. Moore, Cpt John Valcourt III, CW2 Bishop White, CW2 Melvin O. Brewer, 1LT David O. Weeks
Departures: LTC M.T. Peterson, Cpt David Summerfeldt, CW3 Robert H. Hardwick, CW2 Harold W. Bishop, CW2 Peter C. McHugh, CW2 David R. Lucas, CW2 James M. Fiscus, CCW2 James M. Majors


AUGUST – Maj James E. Lybrand, Commanding

August was marked mainly by troubles with the Spartan rebuilt engines. Damage to aircraft during the month was minor and no personnel were hurt.

There was a practice Red Alert on the 12th and another on the 18th. Intelligence information had indicated that Vung Tau might be attacked. It was not.

The enemy again took pot shots at Otters. CW3 Woods and 1LT Ash received a hole near Muc Hoa in their airplane. CW2 Bishop White and CW2 Alton Livingston were fired upon with a 50 calibre machine gun near Coa Lanh with a round of passing within inches of the copilot seat in which Mr. Livingston was sitting. It missed the aircraft, possibly because three Chaplains were on board. They were startled, but not unduly upset. Cpt Harbert Smith and CW3 Alvin Woods, the 54th’s leading metal magnet, picked a wing hole near Vi Thanh.

On the 17th, Cpt Donald R. Knippers, with 1LT Roger E. Crum as copilot slid off the wet runway at Haiyen after overshooting a bit and ended up in the mud.

The aircraft at Bangkok blew an engine.

1LT David O. Weeks with Cpt Robert Moore as copilot experienced an engine failure while on top of the clouds in the vicinity of Lai Khe. I spite of oil on the windshield, LT Weeks made an excellent forced landing after descending through the clouds while homing in on the Lai Khe beacon. Cause: Push-rod failure.

On the 29th, 1LT Dennis McGuire made a safe precautionary landing at Trung Lap when the chip detector light came on during flight. A piece of broken bearing was found to have caused the light to operate. Chinooks carried both Weeks and McGuire’s aircraft safely back to Vung Tau.

During the month several broken push rods were discovered on pre-flights by pilots and mechanics.

Promotions:
TO 1LT – Lawrence E. Patch
TO SSG – Kenneth Strickland
TO SP5 – William Campbell, James L. Cassady
TO SP4 – Darrel C. Kimball, William E. Captain

Awards & Decorations:
Air Medal - CPT David G. Summerfeldt – 20 through 23 OLC, CW2 James M. Fiscus – 1 through 19 OLC, CW2 James M. Majors – 1 through 14 OLC, SP4 Darrel C. Kimball – 1 through 10 OLC, SP5 Donald E. Coleman – 1 through 5 OLC, SP5 James L. Cassaday – 1 through 5 OLC, Basic – 1LT David O. Weeks, WO1 Larry L. Smithee, SP5 James M. Justice, SP6 Richard G. Lynch, SP5 Carl T. Horie, SP5 Ernest W. Wright, SP5 Samuel R. Fontanez
Army Commendation Medal – SP5 James K. Justice (255th)

Arrivals & Departures (Aviators):
Arrivals: Cpt Robert Roche, Cpt Richard L. Stamm, WO1 Harvey E. White, O1 Larry L. Smithee, WO1 Joseph Bussard
Departures: Cpt William J. Gartz, Cpt John D. Hoskinson (to 255th)


SEPTEMBER – Maj James E. Lybrand

On the 3rd, a farewell party for SFC Hanrahan, Operations Sergeant, was held at the Skymasters’ NCO Club. SFC Hanrahan, who volunteered from the Army Reserve, did an exceptional job during his tour of duty.

There was a Commanders Conference on the 6th.

On the 18th, one aircraft evacuated wounded from Long Hai.

The Photo Mission had a frustrating week with aircraft 688 pump oil out of the collector box and, by way of the slipstream, all over the camera lens.

One of the rare incidents of trouble in town occurred on the 29th. An ARVN soldier pulled a knife in a bar and was chased out by U.S. soldiers. In the street near Tiger Towers, he dropped a grenade which a U.S. soldier kicked away from the group of soldiers around the ARAVN. The grenade exploded killing two other ARVN soldiers and wounding several civilians. 1LT Weeks, walking in front of Tiger Towers, received a tiny fragment in the leg. He covered the wound with a bandaid and went about his business.

Spartan rebuilds continued to cause trouble.

CW2 Norman J. Charpentier and CW2 Bishop White brought 694 in with a rough engine. Inspection revealed that the exhaust push rod of one cylinder had been drilled at one end for oil passage, but not at the other. The cylinder had been starved for oil, but had run 96 hours in this condition.

During the month no enemy fire was received, no forced landings occurred and only the one precautionary landing mentioned above. However, several broken push rods were detected during preflights and during intermediate and periodic inspections by maintenance personnel.

Promotions:
TO PFC – Lawrence Reiser

Awards & Decorations:
Bronze Star - Cpt Peter B. Garrigus, Cpt William J. Gartz
Air Medal - 2LT Andrew F. Scheidemantel – 1 through 21 OLC, SP5 Carl Mayes, Jr. – 1 through 17 OLC, SP5 Roland I. Johnson – 1 through 5 OLC, Basic – Cpt Richard L. Stamm, Cpt Robert S. Moore, Jr., WO1 Joseph H. Bussard, SP6 Donald M. Upchurch, SP5 Joseph Braun, SGT John R. Nelson, SP4 Richard L. Bagley
Army Commendation Medal – CW2 Harold W. Bishop, CW2 David L. Lucas, SP5 Frederick C. Smith, SP5 Burnard Scott, SP5 William R. Campbell

Arrivals & Departures (Aviators):
Arrivals: Cpt Merlin D. Billings, WO1 James Pecorelli, WO1 Jose Diaz, Jr., WO1 Lawrence Cunningham, WO1 William Brown
Departed: Cpt Peter B. Garrigus, CW2 William Scott (compassionate transfer to CONUS)

OCTOBER – Maj James E. Lybrand, Commanding

2LT Stephen Tizzard, Royal Australian Army Pilot, arrived at the 54th for training in the Otter on the 1st of the month.

On the 2nd there was a practice Red Alert.

On the 5th Maj Lybrand and Cpt Powers, C.O. of the 255th participated in an awards ceremony at 210th Battalion Headquarters, Long Binh, receiving Meritorious Unit Citations. On take-off out of Plantation airstrip at Long Binh, 688 experienced an erratic take-off during which the landing gear was slightly damaged. Landing was made at Vung Tau without incident.

One forced landing occurred at Haiyen when CW2 Norman J. Charpentier and CW2 Alton Livingston lost oil pressure on take-off with oil covering the windshield. A push rod broke and, in turn, broke a rocker box cover.

Enemy fire was received a number times. Cpt Richard Stamm and CW3 Alvin Woods (Yes, Mr. Woods again) took a round near Vi Thanh with no important damage. Cpt Stamm and WO1 James Pecorelli picked up another near My Phu Tay. CW2 Norman Charpentier was fired on from Song Be Mountain on four aerial photographic runs and completed the mission successfully in spite of the fire. Fortunately the enemy’s aim was bad. He made the runs at 1500 ft AGL (above ground level) taking reconnaissance photos for the 1st Air Cav in connection with a redeployment. He received fire again twice near Hon Quan and once near Tay Nhnh on photo missions. Again no hits.

Promotions:
FROM SSG TO WO1 – Robert Givens
TO SP6 – Ronald Johnson
TO SP5 – Donald Stoll, Jackie Meeks, Richard Pruitt
TO SP4 – Vernon Knight, Letz Miller, Gregory Tisdale, Charles Morris, Burl Johnson, Kenneth Donawho, Robert Smith, Robert Raftery
TO PFC – Sumner Kimberling, James Miller

Awards & Decorations:
Bronze Star – Cpt Michael E. Hudson, Cpt Jon K. Thompson
Air Medal - Cpt Peter B. Garrigus – 1 through 16 OLC, Cpt Michael Tedhams – 1 through 11 OLC, Cpt Michael E. Hudson – 1 through 8 OLC, SP5 George Brodsky – 1 through 14 OLC, SP5 Jerry L. Chandler – 1 through 3 OLC, Basic – Maj Robert A. Gwaltwey, CW2 William W. Scott, WO1 James J. Pecorelli, SP4 David D. Ault, SP4 Barry K. Brewer, SP4 Marvin L. Tillman, SP4 James H. Decker
Army Commendation Medal – SP5 George Washington, SP4 Francisco E. Zavada, SP4 Philip C. Spangler

Arrivals & Departures (Aviators):
Arrivals: Cpt Fredric Guenther, 1LT Clifford Ash (transferred back from 210th Battalion)
Departures: 1LT David Weeks (to 210th Bn), WO1 Larry Smithee (to 1st Sig Bde), CW2 Steven Durbin (to 1st Sig Bde). Cpt Michael Hudson (DEROS)


NOVEMBER – Maj James E. Lybrand, Commanding

There was only one case of a 54th aircraft receiving enemy fire. CW2 Roy D. Brown, the units S.I.P., reported in the Pilots Information File: “Anyone who wants to get shot at fly West out of Trung Lap.”

The 54th sustained the years’ first major accident on the 11th. WO1 Lawrence Cunningham, with 2LT David E. Gerard, Royal Australian Army, as copilot, dropped 297 in from about 30 feet at Rach Gia, then made a successful go-round and landing. The landing gear, engine, propeller and fuselage were all damaged badly. Four inches were taken off each prop blade on the first contact with the ground. Fortunately neither passengers nor crew were injured. Because the aircraft stalled out and hit 800 ft short of the runway, it was suspected that the flaps may have bled up on the final. SP5 Bobby L. Fittro, Crew Chief. Aircraft carried back to Vung Tau by a Chinook.

On the 26th CW2 Kenneth D. Moore, with 2LT David Gerard as copilot, experienced complete engine failure while on downwind at Long Hoi. He landed safely. Metal chips were found in the chip detector indicating internal engine damage as cause of engine failure. SP5 Leon McElroy was Crew Chief.

CW2 Alton Livingston experienced engine failure on a test flight. He landed successfully at Vung Tau.

On the 10th, Cpt Herbert W. Smith, flying as pilot, and WO1 Lawrence Cunningham, flying as copilot, were responsible for the destruction of VC supplies and possibly, some VC’s.

Enroute from Rach Gia to Ca Mau, WO1 Cunningham spotted two camouflaged sampans at grid WR2978 and some supplies, also camouflaged, about 30 meters from there. The leaves on the cut branches used for camouflage were of a different color than the surrounding foliage. Presumably they had dried out somewhat. WO1 Cunningham radioed Shotgun 34, WO1 Mike Townsend of the 221st Reconnaissance Airplane Company, who was operating out of Vi Thanh and was, at the time, on a visual reconnaissance mission at grid WR3090, and informed him of his observation.  WO1 Townsend flew his observation O-1 Birddog to the spot immediately, confirming WO1 Cunninghams observation and called in artillery. The artillery fired 50 VT and HE quick-fuze shells on the target with excellent accuracy scoring two secondary explosions. Supplies and the sampans were destroyed.

Promotions:
TO MAJ: Fredric Guenther
TO CPT: John Roselli
TO SGT: Jerry Washburn
TO SP5 – Patrick O’Leary, Richard Ivens, Michael Dombrowski, Idolo Cimolo, Richard Carruba, Harold Cooke

Awards & Decorations:
Army Aviators Badge – 2Lt Stephen H. Tizzard, Royal Australian Army, awarded Army Aviator Badge (Honarary) for the successful completion of Otter transition.
Air Medal - SP5 Joe A. Lobato – 1 through 5 OLC, SP5 Lewis E. Dughman – 1 through 10 OLC, SP5 Kenneth A. Bukowski – 1 through 9 OLC, Basic – 2LT Stephen H. Tizzard, WO1 William C. Brown, WO1 Jose Diaz, Jr., SP5 Jackie Meeks, SSG Kenneth D. Stickler, Jr.
Army Commendation Medal – 1LT Roger E. Crum, CW2 James C. Reynolds, CW2 Roger L. Hewitt, CW2 Michael D. Skehan, SP5 Kent D. Campbell, SP4 Richard C. Soublet, SP4 Michael W. Dombrowski

Arrivals & Departures (Aviators):
Arrivals: Cpt Erin Erickson
Departures: Maj Joel Hardy, 1Lt Roger Crum, WO1 Robert Givens (255th), CW2 Michael Skehan, SW2 Roger Hewitt, CW2 Tom Barnett


DECEMBER – Maj James E. Lybrand, Commanding

All organizations stationed in the Vung Tau area staged a concerted effort to reduce the price of Saigon Tea in the recreational establishments in the thriving metropolis of Vung Tau. The price per “Tea” had risen to 240 pi and, in come plces, 300 pi. The campaign was publicized by notices and cartoons posted throughout the area, and, although the effort was kicked off officially on the 28th, by New Years Day victory was complete and, although some of the winsome hostesses in the recreational establishments addressed the military gentlemen as “Cheap Charlies” the thin O. D. line held and the prices dropped to the agreed-upon figure of 100 pi per “Tea”.

In the air near My Tho CW2 Melvin Brewer and WO1 James Pecorelli received a bullet strike. Cpt Chase S. Reid and WO1 Jose Diaz picked up another at Tra Vinh.

On 5 Dec Cpt Chase S. Reid with CW2 James W. Reynolds as copilot and SP5 Carl T. Horie as Crew Chief experienced serious power loss near Tra An. Unable to maintain altitude CPT Reid landed the aircraft on a narrow dirt road in a small safe are completely surrounded by free-fire areas. Cpt Reid executed an excellent landing with the aircraft suffering only very minor damage from the left wing knocking down several light bamboo telephone poles. As a result of this Cpt Reid was put in for the new Army Broken Wing Award established to honor pilots executing successful forced landings. A broken push rod was found to have caused the engine failure.

On 6 Dec Cpt Robert Roche, with WO1 James Rhonemus as copilot and SP5 Richard B. Ivens as Crew Chief, experienced a rough running engine in flight and made a precautionary landing at Long Thanh. Fouled plugs resulting from high oil comsumption in number 6 & 7 cylinders was found to be the trouble. The engine, a Spartan rebuilt, had flown 298 hours since overhaul.

On 11 Dec CW2 Bishop White, with WO1 William C. Brown as copilot SP5 James Decker as Crew Chief, experienced a sudden stoppage of the right wheel upon touch-down at Long Thanh. CW2 White managed to keep the aircraft on the runway in spite of a violent swerve to the right largely because six passengers were aboard and braking with the left brake was possible without danger of the tail flying up and the propeller hitting the ground. WO1 Brown, a former Crew Chief, and SP5 Decker immediately bled the brake lines and tried to loosen the drum, which would not budge, but their efforts were in vain. Long Thanh maintenance personnel helped SP5 Decker remove the right wheel. A cotter key extractor was found wedged inside the wheel. It had destroyed three of the brake pucks before jamming. It was determined, upon experimentation, that an object of this size can fall or bounce into the interior of a wheel. All personnel were warned by the Commanding Officer and the Safety Officer to be on guard for carelessness and foreign object damage.

On 14 Dec at Trung Lap 1LT Lawrence G. Patch, with WO1 William C. Brown as copilot and SP4 Beal as Crew Chief, experienced an extremely rough engine on take-off at Trung Lap with severe knocking and power loss. 1Lt Patch set up his pattern for landing, but was forced to make a go-round because a helicopter was in his way on the ground. He staggered around the pattern again and made an excellent landing. On the go=round WO1 Brown informed the proper authorities of the problem by tuning in Guard Frequency (243.0) on the UHF and saying: “Mayday, Mayday! Engine failure. Going around.” Upon examination the front spark plug of Number 9 cylinder was found missing and lying in the bottom of the cowling. It was determined that the plug had been manufactured undersized.

On 19 Dec CW3 Alvin G. Woods, with WO1 Joseph H. Bussard as copilot and SP5 Norman Dietrich as Crew Chief, experienced power loss followed by complete engine failure five miles East of Rach Gia. CW3 Woods landed successfully at Rach Gia with a dead engine, but just barely. It took all of his considerable skill to stretch his glide to the runway. The cause was determined to be internal engine failure. The Spartan rebuilt engine had flown only 33 hours since rebuilding.

Toward the end of the month the aircraft coming out of maintenance had greatly reduced engine problems and aviators noticed marked increases in power. This resulted from Engine Conditioning Checks being pulled at the receipt of each engine and on each Periodic Inspection. This check is not called for until an engine has flown 600 hours, but was deemed necessary, because of the unsatisfactory condition in which the rebuilt engines are received from the Spartan factory and, of course, Spartan rebuilt engines never last as long as 600 hours total time.

Promotions:
TO CPT – Chase S. Reid
TO SFC – Maldonado Rosario, Frederick Fleming
TO SP5 – Robert Barton, Edgar Hays, Marion Tillman, Jerry Rhodes, Fred Bollacker, Alexander Contreras, Robert Pace, Jack Edwards
TO SP4 – David Duitman

Awards & Decorations:
Bronze Star – CW3 Robert H. Hardwick, CW2 Roy D. Brown, SSG Leonard B. Hawes. Air Medal - CW2 Roger L. Hewitt – 1 through 16 OLC, 1LT Roger E. Crum – 1 through 12 OLC, CW2 Michael D. Skehan – 1 through 12 OLC, CW2 Tom W. Barnett – 1 through 12 OLC, SP5 Bobbie L. Fittro – 1 through 10 OLC, SP5 Ernest W. Wright – 1 through 4 OLC, Basic – 1LT David O. Weeks, SP5 Harvel R. Elliott, Richard B. Ivens, SP4 Robert E. Anderson
Army Commendation Medal – SFC Thomas L. MacDonald, SGT James F. Hall, SP5 Carl T. Horie, SP5 Jackie Meeks

Arrivals & Departures:
Arrivals: Cpt Marvin Gregoire, WO1 James Rhonemus
 Departures: Cpt Jon Thompson, Cpt James Pow
ANNUAL SUPPLEMENT
HISTORY OF THE
54TH UTILITY AIRPLANE COMPANY
210TH COMBAT AVIATION BATTALION
1ST AVIATION BRIGADE

JANUARY 1968 – 31 DECEMBER 1968

PREPARED BY
CW2 BISHOP WHITE
UNIT HISTORICAL OFFICER
SP4 ERIC H. GROSSEIBL
CLERK TYPIST

APPROVED BY
JAMES E. LYBRAND
MAJOR, INFANTRY
COMMANDING

VUNG TAU, REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM
APO SAN FRANCISCO 96291

54th Aviation Company - Vietnam (3rd year)

1968