174th Assault
Helicopter Company

The Rescue of 1LT Barry Lloyd of the 123rd Aviation Battalion

The following entry is rather lengthy. Following the below 1968 letter from Major Watke is a recently received personal account of this action by Michael Banek, pilot of the Dolphin helicopter, followed by his DFC award citation and a few pictures. Following that is also a recently received personal account of that day from Bill Staffa, a fellow pilot of Lloyd's from the 123rd Battalion. Staffa was also there that day.

The following letter is from
Major Frederic W. Watke
Infantry Commander, Aero Scout Company
123rd Aviation Battalion, Americal Division

9 April 1968

To: Commanding Officer
14th Combat Aviation Battalion
APO 96374

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.

Russ made me aware of a new perspective that I never realized as a young 20 year old AC...what appears to be heroic as hell in the front seat often looks dumber than hell from the back. Also, twenty-year-old heroes were a dime-a-dozen back then...and it was often the "back seaters" who laid down supressive fire, left the helicopter to effect a rescue, or pulled an injured pilot from his magnesium grave.

I was the AC of the Dolphin on this mission on 8 April 1968, and I would really like to know who the 174th crewman was when Major Glen Gibson (the 174th Commanding Officer) and I rescued this downed OH-23 Scout pilot. We were leading a huge formation at the time. The citation reads as though I were alone, but the real heroes that day were 1LT Lloyd for faking being dead while VC kicked both his shattered and burned legs, and for clinging to life while waiting for his comrades to take him home...our crew chief for racing out into the open to drag 1LT Lloyd back to the Huey...and those two "magnificent bastards" who hovered in gun-laden Sharks overhead while staring down two 12.75's (also known as .51-caliber anti-aircraft guns). Those Sharks spewed firepower everywhere. They clearly saved my butt that day. Actually, I'll bet the enemy gunners where as much in awe of those gleaming white Shark's teeth as they were of the mini's and rockets!

So, as you requested, I am sending a few photos and some info for the home page. Maj. Gibson is far too shy to offer the account...but for my kids sake, so that they may know some of what "daddy did in the War," I will forgo the humility. More importantly, I would really like to know who the crewman was, our crew chief, because he's the one who unassed the helicopter under file and rescued Lt. Lloyd while Major Gibson and I sank very low in our armored seats and watched while the two gutsy Sharks "hovered" overhead and pedal-turned a hail of protective fire. I think Rex Pearson and Captain Woods were the two Shark AC's, but am uncertain.

As for Major Gibson, when we were first notified of the downed OH-23 Scout, they asked for volunteers from our flight to attempt a rescue. After a long deafening silence, then after asking me if I was up for it, Major Gibson volunteered us. Then, although I was flying as the aircraft commander, I was only a Warrant Officer WO-1 and was flying with my Company Commander, who was also qualified as an aircraft commander. Major Gibson let me fly the helicopter in and out of what was clearly a life-threatening situation. I turned it back to him outbound for Chu Lai. I have never forgotten the leadership and respect he showed me that day. I don't think I would have trusted a 21 year old kid with my life. --Mike Banek, May 1997.

Following is the Award Citation
Dated 9 September 1968
Orders Number 7041


Is Awarded To


For heroism while participating in aerial flight evidenced by voluntary action above and beyond the call of duty in the Republic of Vietnam. Warrant Officer Banek distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 8 April 1968 while serving as pilot on an UH-1D helicopter on an air assault mission in support of the 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry. On that date, Warrant Officer Banek rescued a seriously wounded pilot whose aircraft had been shot down by intense anti-aircraft fire. Other ships that had attempted the rescue had been driven off, badly damaged and with wounded crew members. Pick up of the pilot had to be made from a zone in the middle of an anti-aircraft position and within 50 meters of two (enemy) 50 caliber machineguns. Electing to approach at high speed and low level, Warrant Officer Banek, by expert use of available cover and defilade, was able to surprise the waiting enemy gunners and effect the rescue. Warrant Officer Banek's outstanding display of flying ability, personal heroism, and devotion to duty is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflects great credit upon himself, the Americal Division, and the United States Army.

Authority: By direction of the President under the provisions of the Act of Congress, approved 2 July 1926.

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.

2nd photo above: UH-1C Shark at what appears to be the Fire Support Base at Minh Long, southwest of Quang Ngai city.

3nd photo above: Mike preflighting the rotor head of Shark 137.

Photo just above: Mike after his tour with the 174th AHC when he was flying for Air America. When I asked Mike for more info about the Air America connection, he provided the following: As far as the Air America caption goes, add that I flew for them for 1 1/2 years in Vietnam and Laos. I served as First Officer in "Stretch" B/F model Hueys (had rotor brakes). Had time in S-58 "twin packs," Porters, Volpars, C-46, C-47, Caribou's, etc. I met the actor, Robert Downey Jr., in Savannah in Feb of this year (1997)...he was shooting another John Grisham novel. I told him the part he played in the movie "Air America" was me! He freaked out. I was the proverbial naive kid from the coast, hustled by the CIA with the old line, "Don't worry kid, we don't get shot...we're an airline!" In reality, the pilots were real loony tunes and hardened mercenaries from as far back as Dien Bien Phu. During Vietnam in the 60's, we were in awe of "high-time" combat pilots...remember? Well, at Air America there was one high-timer called "Shower Shoes Wilson" (he refused to wear combat/flying boots and flew with those rubber shower shoes). When asked how much time he had in C-47's (Goony Birds), his favorite ride, he replied, "about 5,000 hours..." The kid scoffed back at him that that wasn't all that much combat time in these parts...to wit he clarified, "Well that's in that one over there." Then, as he pointed to various ships along the flight line, "in that one its 6,000 hours, and that one 3,000, and over there 4,500, and the one in the back..." True story!

Following are excerpts from e-mail messages received from Bill Staffa (Skeeter 6),
who flew OH-23 Scouts in the 123rd Aviation Battalion with Barry Lloyd.

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.

Bill Staffa
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.