The Rescue of 1LT Barry Lloyd of the 123rd Aviation Battalion
The following letter is from
9 April 1968
To: Commanding Officer
14th Combat Aviation Battalion
1. At approximately 1230 hours on 8 April, one of our assigned aircraft was shot down by hostile fire in the area of Quang Nhai. Two of the crewmembers were killed and the pilot severely injured. He is without a doubt alive today only because of an extremely heroic act on the part of a member of your command.
2. The injured pilot, as soon as he was able to talk after extensive surgery, informed members of this unit that he wished he was able to write so he could write this man up for an award. He states that there were at least two fifty caliber machine guns within fifty meters of his location. Heavy fire from these weapons had already shot his ship down, shot up a gunship that had attempted to assist him and prevented our other aircraft from rendering assistance. An aircraft from the 174th Assault Helicopter Company did manage to land and evacuate the injured pilot to Chu Lai.
3. This valorous act is certainly most deserving of an award. 1LT Lloyd, the injured pilot, has specifically requested of me that I do something to get this man an appropriate award.
4. Request that the Distinguished Flying Cross be recommended for the person(s) responsible for this action. It is my desire that this letter serve as a statement representing what 1LT Lloyd saw and knew about the action.
(Following are excerpts from several e-mail messages I received from Mike Banek in May 1997, in response to my request that he provide me some information on the above letter from Major Watke. --WebMaster)
Mike says, in part,
... I heard Russ Baer died. We saw each other at the '94 or '95 174th reunion in Ft. Walton Beach. He was the door gunner on a Shark the day I tried with a mini-gun to bring down a VC running in the open...after three 2-second bursts, all I did was manage to raise a bunch of spray from the rice paddy...I think Captain Tom Woods was the AC (aircraft commander). From a drift hover, he ordered Russ to stop him...Russ squeezed off TWO rounds from his upside-down M-60 and wounded him so he could be questioned by advancing troops. I was recounting that story in a crowded motel room when I heard someone from the back say, "Hey, that's my story!" We became fast friends and exchanged cards and letters. My heart goes out to his family...he was a true warrior.
Following is the Award Citation
1st photo above: Mike Banek in front of Shark 137, a UH-1C gunship. Mike was flying a Dolphin UH-1D "slick" the day of the rescue of Lt. Lloyd, and later moved to the Shark gunships.
Following are excerpts from e-mail messages received from Bill Staffa (Skeeter 6),
This is, for me, truly a "but for the Grace of God, there go I" story. As best I can remember, following are the events that took place that day.
Barry Lloyd was a second-tour guy, his first tour had been with what had been the UTT as a Warrant. (The UTT were early UH-1 Huey helicopter gunship experiments in Vietnam and stood for Utility Tactical Transport.)
Anyhow, we were flying out of (Fire Support Base) Dottie. We flew missions of about 1:15, being limited by the fuel consumption of the "B" Model gunships that accompanied us. Our gunships (Scorpions) were a mixture of "C" and "B" models. Lloyd was the original "Skeeter Leader," and when I came over from A Company he got "out-ranked" and I took the Scouts. Typical military...
On the day of the shootdown, Barry came in from his first mission and told me that he wanted to go back out. He was quite adamant about it. He thought he was on to something. Naturally I wanted to fly the mission, but he convinced me...must have been pretty persuasive, I loved to fly those missions.
A short time later we got a call to launch, that we had aircraft down in the AO (area of operations). The location was at BS545631, almost exactly 10km SW of Quang Ngai City. We took a Scout (me) and two gunships, and were ordered to screen the area west and north of the shootdown to see if we could spot any bad guys before we closed on the crash site.
Lloyd (crewmen were Andreotta and Dutton) had literally had his rotor head smashed by heavy machinegun fire. Barry stated from his hospital bed that he had realized one crewman had been shot in the head just before he impacted. When the aircraft crashed, he was thrown through the front of the bubble. Think about that. In the OH-23 the pilot sat in the middle, directly in front of the console. At the time, and remember this is a doped-up, broken-up, burned-up guy in the hospital telling us, Barry said that he could hear one crewman screaming because the AVGAS (aviation gasoline) had ignited and he was on fire.
Meanwhile, CPT Gerald Walker (Scorpion 6) made an approach in a gunship (the low gunship flew at about 200 feet maybe 1/4 mile behind the scout). He was driven off while hovering up to the wreck, by heavy fire, including one bullet which pierced his right hand and the cyclic...there were no slicks around and both gunships now had wounded on board and were out of bullets...
Somehow they got in touch with a flight of aircraft which turned out to be the 174th, who had their gunships along with them.
Now, somehow, the Dolphin guy just slid in there and picked him up. Not sure how much fire he took, but it took a lot of guts just to start the approach, even if he was contour flying...knowing that those big machine guns were out there. Especially since nobody knew if anyone was alive. Walker had radioed back that he thought they were all dead.
Before the Dolphin got in, the VC walked up to the aircraft and shot what was left of it full of holes. They killed the crewman who was screaming and Barry just laid there. He said one guy nudged him with his boot and looked him right in the eye...didn't seem to think he was worth a bullet. Barry said he had his hand inside his shirt holding on to his St.Cristopher's medal, or crucifix...some religious pendant anyhow...and just squeezed it. The enemy soldier just walked away.
Lloyd couldn't move, he wasn't playing dead, he was in shock. Then the Dolphin swooped in and picked him up. Immediately afterward, probably about 30 minutes after the thing started, we were cleared back over the crash site. We had a FAC (forward air controller) on the line and he could divert any Navy/Marine aircraft returning to Chu Lai with unexpended ordnance. We were going to bomb hell out of them.
Couldn't find beans, and we were real good "finders"...couldn't find anything but expended brass. There were two big machine guns and a .30 calibre in sort of a flat triangle layout. It looked like either a Scorpion or Shark had put a rocket right close to one position, but we couldn't find any evidence that they got it.
This was right on the edge of the foothills and the bad guys were actually on raised ground, so Barry didn't actually get into the triangle. The Dolphin was just as exposed, though...and he managed to get in and out...the Sharks probably had the bad guys heads down some, and I'm sure they were getting ready to hat up.
When we got there, the bodies of the two crewmen were still there. One of my observers (I believe it was Larry Colburn who was with Buck Thompson at My Lai) took some pictures. I didn't keep any copies, but I remember you could see the two bodies lying there. Very sobering.
We flew circles around that area the rest of the day...got into some contact, but don't know if it was the same guys...no heavy guns. I logged 6.8 hours that day. Pretty good day in an OH-23G, the collective got awful heavy flying that little helicopter low level all day. Taking off 1.3 hours for my first mission of the day and .7 back and forth to Chu Lai, that means we looked for the little suckers for about five hours.
That Dolphin guy sure had some balls, going in there knowing what he knew and not knowing if anybody was alive to actually rescue.
Something else...that unit (the 123rd) was really tight on awards. A DFC from Watke (or Junius Tanner, his successor) really meant something. I only saw one Silver Star on my whole tour (that was when MAJ Watke was stuck in a burning gunship and ordered his rescuers away...they didn't leave him though), and very few DFC's. A DFC recommendation from Watke was pretty unusual considering the mission we had. Betcha Lloyd would like to meet Banek.
20 May 1997
Following is a rather cryptic listing from the VHPA helicopter database on this loss:
On 8 Apr 68, OH-23G, 62-03813, was hit with 12.7 mm in the swashplate and flight controls, killing two and injuring one. The two KIAs were SP4 Glenn U. Andreotta and SP5 Charles M. Dutton with B/123 AVN 23 INF. Records show that the OH-23G was written off on 11 Apr 68 as destroyed by fire. The helicopter was hit while in a right bank at 50 feet and 65 knots. The incident happened at BS545631.