Among the fascinating stories on our web is Dick Strohm's account of the horrific helicopter crash on April 22, 1969. Dick, then an FDO with B Battery, and Chuck Stiles his RTO were on an operation is support of the 2nd ARVN Regiment when a Ch-46 helicopter in which they were riding was hit by an RPG. Both Dick and Chuck suffered severe burns. First evacuated to a hospital ship then on to Japan, they spent months recovering. Dick posted his account of the incident on our web site.
Charles White added a postscript saying that Bill Curry was also on that flight. When questioned, Charles White said "Earlier I thought it came from Strohm, but now have concluded that it came from Stiles. Stiles was interested in finding Curry. It is strange that Strohm had never told me that Curry was not there." In his postscript Charles (now corrected) mentioned that after years of searching we have been unable to find Bill. Well thanks to Barbara Anne who has been assisting us in our search, Bill was located in April 2008 almost 40 years later.
Our joy at finding Bill after all these years was tempered by Bill's recollection of how he was wounded. Like many of us, especially those who were wounded, his memory of events from those stressful years is hazy. However, Bill was insistent that he was wounded in a ground action and other details didn't match those of the helicopter crash. We thought that the years had dimmed his memory. I was convinced that as the battery commander I had sent three people out on this mission. I remembered I picked Bill Curry because he was a school trained fire direction person. A standard forward observer team was a lieutenant, a recon sergeant and a radio operator. Bill had to be on that mission.
Bill politely disagreed with me when we spoke on the phone. After the conversations I was still convinced but bothered by the details he provided. Obviously, he had been wounded but was it truly in the helicopter crash with Dick Strohm and Chuck Stiles? Then it came to me.
I checked the battalion's official operations report for the period ending April 1969. The answer was there.
The report states "On 25 February at 2235 hours two reconnaissance sergeants et Mai Loc Special Forces Camp (YD5209) from Batteries A and B were WIA during a hostile 82mm mortar attack on that position." That was it! Bill was wounded but in a separate incident two months before the helicopter one. The report also contains information about the April 22 crash and clearly states that the forward observer and 'RTO' from B Battery were wounded. There is no mention of a recon sergeant or any third battery person.
So there it is. Two separate incidents. Both stories are true. The remaining mysteries? Was there a third person from B Battery on the helicopter? Artillery doctrine at the time called for the three man team. Did I only send two? If there was a third person, who was it? Could it have been Sergeant Morris, our commo chief? Who was the recon sergeant from A Battery wounded on February 25th?
Brian M. O'Neill
B Btry CO 1968-1969
P.S. Bill Curry will be at 2008 reunion. We're looking forward to seeing him after all these years.