174th Assault
Helicopter Company


Biography of

David Rosenthal
Dolphin 24

WO1 - CW2
Page 1 of 3

I grew up in Sacramento, California, graduating from high school in 1966, not really knowing what I wanted from life. But I always had an interest and bent for writing and literature so I went to a junior college to major in Humanities. Going to school off and on, I got my first job as a writer and photographer for a small magazine but soon discovered the Draft Board was very interested in me.

Since before third grade, I'd known I had to be a pilot so I talked to the Army recruiter and took the test for WOFT (Warrant Officer Flight Training). I scored well and came away with my "in-writing" enlistment guarantee.

Basic training happened at Ft. Polk from November 1968 to January of 1969 and they tossed us all onto the bus to Wolters. There, I wound up as the Public Information Officer and photographer for 5th WOC (brown hats or "shit heads," depending upon whom you asked).

Our time at Wolters unfolded at the apex of WOCdom with every company trying to outdo everyone else. Fifth WOC decided to take up a collection and actually buy a real tiger cub as a mascot. We turned one of the offices in the company headquarters building into a tiger cage and one of our WOCs with some animal training experience lived with Toc Belang, the cub. I shot countless photos and wrote lots of articles. But our five months passed, we donated the cub to the Ft. Worth zoo, and we all moved to Rucker.

On the way, I stopped in Houston and, as the inveterate reporter I'd become, decided to stop at Houston Space Center. My "PIO credentials" got me a press pass and I found myself in the newsroom for the landing of Apollo 11, the first man on the moon. This was grand beyond description and made me realize this kind of journalism had to be part of my future.
Amazingly as lunar contact approached, I found myself almost alone in Houston's Press Center auditorium snapping pictures of an animated image of the Lunar Lander and listening to the actual radio transmissions as the craft approached what was to become Tranquility Base and one of man's greatest historical achievements only seconds later (you can just make out the 16 seconds to touchdown on the time readout in the animated lander's rocket plume). When Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon during that first Extra Vehicular Activity, it was televised on the large projection TV screen there on the right. When it happened, I shot my pictures from the auditorium's front row between the photographers from Life and Look magazines; they had Hasselblads and I had my $75 pawnshop Pentax and a $6 hand-held light meter.

Flight School graduation came in November of 1969 and, like the majority of us, I headed to Vietnam right out of flight school (WORWAC 69-37), arriving in early January 1970. Once there, myself and two classmates, WO1s Pete O'Malley and Bob Neuner, were sent to the Americal and subsequently found ourselves and our duffel bags being piled atop a mound of supplies on a Duc Pho-bound H-model. In addition to being a mere $20 MPC-on-the-bar Wobbly FNG PP, I had to have some "additional duty." MAJ Virgil Blevins, the 174th CO at the time, noted my background as a Public Information Officer through flight school and, in appointing me to this new job, remarked that my first news release was already late. After a time scrounging photo paper from the FSB Bronco PIO photo lab, the Division PIO folks asked if I might want to shoot for them and thus get on Combat Photographer orders (this came with access to their darkroom).

But it also came at a price: I'd have to shoot some of their really crummy 3M-brand military issue black and white film and never see the pictures since everything went "up north" to Chu Lai and no one knew what happened to it after that. Camera gear was my responsibility so, as time passed, I ordered from the Pacific Mail Order catalog with its APO address in Agana, Guam, and soon possessed a dynamite collection of Pentax SLRs and lenses. I'm still using them.

Photography was probably my biggest interest while in the 174th. I shot photos of everything (though looking at it all now makes me regret I didn't shoot more), trying hard to document as many aspects of our experience as possible. Meanwhile, I wrote countless "home-town news releases" about our people, following the formula mandated by the Army; I have no idea if any of them actually made it all the way to the hometown papers as the PIO instruction assured.
I wrote other news articles as well (see the 1970 page) but they were subject to careful scrutiny and censorship to ensure that the only thing U. S. troops did in Vietnam was support orphanages and experience stunning battlefield victories.

I was kind of obnoxious as a PP, always liking to run the radios and flying a lot. When I made AC, I took the unused call sign, Dolphin 24 (my birth date) and dove into the mainstream of missions, doing everything we did. I got along very well with crews and we had countless great days of flying, despite all the miseries of being there.

Probably the most memorable times were the adventures with first 1LT, then CPT Rick Gregore as we seemed to break records for getting our shit blown away (e.g., twice in one day) and strange adventure (e.g., lifting filled 5-day, sun-baked, jungle-ripened ARVN body-bags out of a triple-canopy hover-hole using a 150-foot rope tied to the cargo floor rings and stretched over a 2 X 4 so the guy with the axe standing by in the back could chop it free if we got hung up [yes, youth is not only a time of wasted opportunity, but ALSO great stupidity]; all this while some dink kept plinking at us from a distance with what sounded like an SKS). By the time I DEROSed, I wound up with two Purple Hearts, both for head wounds which, given my life since, explains much.

(L-R: [All CW2s] Dave Rosenthal, Pete O'Malley, Jarvis "Sugar Bear" Gambrell, Bob Neuner, Fred Thompson, John C. "Beetle" Bailey)

Continue to Page 2.

Send an e-mail to Dave at n6tst@ridgenet.net (David Rosenthal, Dolphin 24, 1970)
Return to top of the Biography Page.
Return to top of: Home Page.