Born October 18, 1949. Enlisted in the U.S. Army in June 1967. Basic Training in Ft. Lewis, WA,
followed by Helicopter Repair Training at Ft. Eustis, VA, specializing in the Bell UH-1 (Huey) Helicopter.
When training was completed in December 1967, the entire class was sent to Viet Nam, departing the U.S.
through Ft. Lewis and arriving in Cam Ranh Bay, South Viet Nam, on January 17, 1968. A few days of
processing, which took me through Nha Trang and Da Nang, assigned me to the 1st Aviation Brigade,
which further assigned me to the 14th Combat Aviation Battalion (CAB) at Chu Lai. Battalion headquarters assigned me to the 176th AHC Minutemen, which was one of three Huey companies operated by the 14th CAB in support of the Americal (23rd) Infantry Division. The other two companies were the 71st Rattlers and the 174th Dolphins. (Photo at upper right is of Tom Gauby on the right and Ben Kennedy on the left, both crew chiefs/gunners in the 174th.)
I applied for a position in a flight platoon and was assigned to the 2nd Flight Platoon of the 176th Minutemen at Chu Lai in early March. While at Chu Lai, I flew “firefly” and “flareship” missions on various nights, and “leaflet drops,” “spray missions,” and “sniffer missions” from time to time, in addition to our more customary support, transport and combat assault missions. In the summer of 1968, the 14th CAB, with all its companies, was placed under the direct command of the Americal Division, and so was transferred out of the 1st Aviation Brigade at that time.
A battalion “DEROS” shuffle (DEROS = Date of Expected Rotation [or Return] Over Seas) in late 1968 resulted in several of us being reassigned to the 174th, which was operating out of the small fire base named "Bronco," 47 miles south of Chu Lai. This fire base was more commonly known by the name of the Vietnamese village nearby, "Duc Pho." One felt much more uncomfortably close to the war at Duc Pho.
We lived in bunkers, and for the first time flying seemed no more a hazard than staying on the ground. I was put directly into the first flight platoon and given a helicopter to “crew” right away, as were other crew chiefs sent to the 174th from the 176th.
The first Dolphin helicopter I crewed was flown by Warrant Officer O’Sullivan. By the end of the Viet Nam War, he was the U. S. Army’s most decorated pilot.
Dolphin 511 was the 2nd helicopter I crewed in the 174th. It was about this time that Tom Gauby joined the 1st flight platoon, and he was on board 511 flying as “gunner” on the day we crashed it. This was a heavy crash that destroyed the helicopter, though it did not burn.
I then got my very first brand new Huey, Dolphin 463. This helicopter was a dream. It had lots of power and we enjoyed the ability to fly hard and fast without worry about the bird failing us in some maneuver. Dolphin 463 was strong, and I believed it could live up to the 174th motto, “NOTHING IMPOSSIBLE."
After two years and six days in Viet Nam, I returned to the States. In 1971, I returned to Viet Nam for a 3rd tour and flew with the 158th Aviation Battalion, out of Camp Evans, for the 101st Airborne Division.
There were 17 military campaigns during the Viet Nam War. I participated in 11 of them. They were:
(a) Viet Nam Counter-offensive, Phase III
(b) TET Counter-offensive
(c) Viet Nam Counter-offensive, Phase IV
(d) Viet Nam Counter-offensive, Phase V
(e) Viet Nam Counter-offensive, Phase VI
(f) TET 69 Counter-offensive
(g) Viet Nam Summer-Fall 1969 offensive
(h) Viet Nam Winter-Spring 1970 offensive
(I) Viet Nam Counter-offensive, Phase VII
(j) Consolidation I
(k) Consolidation II
After completing my 3rd tour in “Nam” I worked with Hueys at Ft. Campbell, KY, and much later with the Army National Guard in Oregon, and then in California.
Though it has been years now, I have fond memories of the Huey. It is my favorite flying machine and I am glad I had the chance to fly with others who were drawn, for reason known or unknown, to rotary wing aviation, and in particular, the Bell “Huey” helicopter.
After working as an airline mechanic for many years, these days I am an artist by vocation, with my studio in my home. (Assistant Webmaster note: Check out the link below to Kennedy Studios!) A favorite subject has always been aircraft, especially the Huey. I enjoy drawing pictures of the missions I remember flying as an 18 or 19 year old teenager with the 14th Combat Aviation Battalion.
Below is a pen-and-ink drawing by Ben of a 174th mission. Although it's a bit difficult to tell in this scanned image, the subject of this drawing is the smoke-belching Dolphin of Larry Whalen's "Smokey." (See Larry's bio for a description of this mission.)