Viet Nam 1967
Photograph of Gunnery Sergeant Walter Jones (second from left) and buddies -- Au Shau Valley, Viet Nam, 1967.
I was in charge of one of the recovery teams when we were in Viet Nam with HMM 262. We received our first KIA (Killed In Action) this day. Sergeant C. I. Henry was killed by automatic weapons fire while he was helping with a med evac in the Nuni Loc Som area. The aircraft was hit with automatic weapons fire as they lifted off and they landed near the grunts' lines. Another bird picked up the crew and the wounded. We got the word as the bird was approaching Ky Ha. My boss, Lt. Fogg, told me about Sgt. Henry and the bird. He told me to round up my crew and get ready to recover the aircraft.
One of my men was really shaken on this as Sgt. Henry was one of his best friends. He told me he wasn't going. Lt. Fogg heard him. Right away he wanted to write Sgt. Miller up for being a coward. I told Lt. Fogg that I would get the man to go -- just forget about writing him up right now. He told me I had better do that or he would write the man up. It was almost night and I didn't think they would send us in the dark, so I told Charlie, "Man, come on, we aren't going there tonight. Just get on the aircraft when its time." He agreed, so I told Lt. Fogg that we were ready.
About that time the pilots came in the line shack and we took off. For awhile I was getting kind of scared too because we just kept on going south in the dark. Charlie looked at me and I just shrugged my shoulders. Then you could feel the aircraft making a 180. I think all of us breathed a sigh of relief.
After we landed, Lt. Fogg gave Top Karr $5.00 and told him to get Charlie Miller drunk and talk to him about Henry. He carried out the good lieutenant's orders. The Sergeant Major sold beer every day for 10 cents a can, but you could only have two per man. The Sergeant Major made an exception that night and sold Top two cases plus our two per man.
The other sergeant on my team was Roosevelt Thomas who I had known for a few years as we were in HMX together. We came to 262 in August of 1965. I was made a section leader and he was in my section. Sgt. Henry and Sgt. Miller I knew for over a year before we went to Nam. The squadron went on a Caribbean cruise in 1966. In the book Bonnie Sue you can see a picture of one our aircraft landing on the boat still with the white paint and no filters.
The next morning, Sgt. Miller was ready to go. He might have been a little hung over, but he was okay. We learned a section of the sync shaft had been hit plus some hydraulic lines. We got our stuff together and the two pilots who were to fly it back to Ky Ha were aboard the aircraft that took us down there. The pilot told me before we got there not to call them down if we were taking fire. I nodded my head to show I understood and we got off the aircraft. They had sent an avionics man with an FM radio to call the bird down when we were finished.
We weren't there but a few minutes when a mortar round landed about fifty yards from us. We looked for the grunts, but never did see any. I'm sure they were there someplace looking out for us. About 10 minutes later another round landed, closer this time. They must have been shooting blind and had a long way to carry the shells because it was about ten minutes between shots. We finished the repairs and preflighted the aircraft. I told the kid with the radio to call for the drivers and he said, "Gunny they said don't call them if we are taking fire." I asked him if he wanted to stay here until that guy gets lucky and hits us? That motivated him. Then I told Sgt. Thomas to button it up and start the APP.
The other aircraft landed on the side the mortar fire was hitting, but just as he landed a round went over us and hit on the right side pretty close. I told all the people to get aboard the other aircraft except Sgt. Thomas. One of the pilots came over and told me I shouldn't have called them down. All I said was "Do you want to check the top, Sir? I checked it myself, but if you want I'll have someone open it for you." He said, "Let's get the hell out of here." Those were sweet words.
One pilot got the engines started while the other buckled in. Then the other one buckled up. After we took off I looked for the grunts, but still didn't see any one around the area -- friend or foe. When we got back to Ky Ha Operations called me and asked if it was up. I told him yes, but that it stunk pretty bad from all of the blood in the floor boards. (Sgt. Henry had bled to death. We had found his hard hat on the ramp with the visor down and it had two interlocking holes in the visor right below the right eye. The pilot that was flying Sgt. Henry's plane said Sgt. Henry walked to the front of the aircraft and said he had been hit bad and he told him to lie down on the seat.) Operations told me they needed it right now and that we could clean it when it got back. When they returned the pilot grounded the bird because of the smell.
In 1999, HMM 262 Viet Nam vets started Operation Rose to put a rose on all our KIA from the Viet Nam War. Since Sgt. Henry was from Louisiana, Jake called some of us to go with him to Franklin, Sgt. Henry's home, to put a rose on his grave. Major Harvey Britt, Captain Robert Yeager and his wife. Sergeant Jacobs and myself laid a rose on his grave. His mother was still living and Jake gave her a rose too. His mother was unable to go to the grave site, but his sister came with us.
Written by Walter Singleman Jones, Master Sergeant, USMC (Retired), June 2003, in Kenner, Louisiana.