174th Assault
Helicopter Company


Biography of

Larry Whalen
Smokey (503) Crewchief


I enlisted in the army in 1968. After AIT I was assigned to Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia. About 90 days later I had orders for VietNam.

I reported to the 174th the first week in April 1969. I was assigned to the 1st Flight Platoon. I flew my first combat mission one year to the day that I had enlisted.

After a rapid two week "learn the ropes" period with experienced crewchiefs, I was given Smokey 503 as my aircraft. Even though Smokey flew low and slow, and it was a dirty job having to clean the smoke oil off the tailboom after each mission day, I thoroughly enjoyed the uniqueness of the mission of laying smoke screens for CAs.

After my enlistment was up I got out, got married, went to school, and eventually started a family. I worked at various jobs, but I always would look up whenever a helicopter flew overhead. After a six year break, I reentered the army in 1977.

I spent 10 years as a Huey and Cobra crewchief and 2 years as a Tech Inspector. Most of those years were spent at Ft. Lewis, WA with a side trip to Korea. In 1986 I became an Aircraft Maintenance Technician (walking Warrant). My first assignment was with an Attack Helicopter Battalion in Germany. There were three other former 174th members in that battalion, representing the years 1966-71. For the life of me, I can't remember the third (CRS, ya know), but two of them were Dennis McCormack and Tom Shaw.

From Germany I went to the 7th Infantry Division at Ft. Ord, CA. Soon I found myself in Panama on a 90-day rotation. Just my luck, we invaded with Operation Just Cause. One year later I was on my way to Saudi Arabia for Desert Storm.

While in Saudi I sought out and found Kurt Bensch, who was in the 174th with me. At the time he was the Sergeant Major for the 2nd Armored Division's Aviation Brigade. We had only two hours together. It took 21 years and another war to get us together.

I managed to get Ft. Lewis as my last assignment. I retired in 1994 as a CW2. I work for the state of Washington now. I am recently divorced. I have two daughters, Megan (24) who works for Starbuck's Coffee, and Katy (21) who is a Junior in college and is going to make me a grandfather in Feb 1999.

I hope to hear from some "old war buddies" out there. Drop me a line at lewhalen@adelphia.net.

Below is a photo of Larry's "Smokey" ship when it made it in the Stars and Stripes. You can tell the gunship, that stands out against the white smoke, has Shark's teeth. If you look closely, you can see at least three Dolphin slicks in the LZ inside the ring of smoke.

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