I landed in Vietnam in March of '71 . I was on "flight status" from the first morning
I got to the company. The 174th was stationed in Quang Tri and I arrived toward
the end of Lam Son 719 (just after the crash of "Witch Doctor"). We did a lot of
flying out of Khe Sanh. The 174th then moved to Chu Lai (not back to Duc Pho
like everybody wanted). I crewed a "lift bird", and did all the things a "Slick"
does, until I got bird #768 (UH-1H 69-15768). I was then assigned the C&C missions.
Shortly after that, I was voted into the Sharks! I was a Shark (57) until the 174th
stood down (late October/early November 1971).
I then went to the 229th 1st Cav., where I crewed a LOH. I flew CE/Gunner first light-last light and a lot of taxi stuff. I got a short "drop" and re-stationed to Fort Carson Col., along with Bob Legault, also a Shark (51). We served 30 of our 36 months in the service together. After the service, I went back to school and got my A&P ticket. I worked on the West coast of Washington State "helo logging" with a Hiller 12 E. Shortly after that, I moved to Canada, as I was married to a Canadian (4 years at the time), with whom I had gone to High School in Tacoma, Washington with.
I now work in the movie industry in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, as a metal fab/welder, I build movie sets and special effects rigs. I live alone on Bowen Island just outside of Vancouver. It's a 15 minute ferry ride each way. I have lived here 14 years and feel blessed.
WELCOME HOME TO ALL OF YOU AND GOD BLESS! Clear Right, Mark Klindt (Shark 57)
This is my Shark Gunship the day I got it (below). I can't remember the tail number.... still
working it out (an old mind ya know).
[Assistant Wemaster update: After a little research and the help of a Fred Thompson photo (below), we've identified Mark's aircraft as UH-1M 66-15089- a replacement Gunship donated by 176th AHC (Muskets) at Quang Tri during Lam Son 719 on 3/71 (Fred Thompson called it “Musk-Shark”). Of course, it later became C/E Mark Klindt’s Gunship at Chu Lai 1971 until Unit stand-down.]
The door was being replaced, if I remember correctly, because a rocket exploded coming out the tube. I might be wrong. Anybody know? I inherited the ship from a black C/E, who actually wound up going to LBJ (no ID at this point). It was in pretty rough shape. I re-painted it dark green and never got the tail numbers and/or the teeth repainted. The rebel in me? And I never "named" it either, but was in the process of doing it as the "Phantom". Any more info on this bird would be appreciated.
Below is the photo of #089 courtesy of the late Fred Thompson. "This is #089 which we got as a
replacement while up at Quang Tri. It was donated (?) to us courtesy of (check vertical
fin), you guessed it...the 176th Muskets. This is a photo which WO Guy Martin (Dolphin 23) took at Chu Lai 1971."- Fred
Bob LeGault. We went to Fort Rucker together and came to the Nam together.
We were sent to different units in Quang Tri but he transferred over to the 174th
within a week after his unit (F troop Cav) was hit hard in Laos. We served 30 of
our 36-month in the service together. He was my "buddy" and I was his.
The smiley picture is Bob LeGault, a few days before Big Al Harris was killed. Bob
was the Shark(51) CE. The other photo is a couple of days after. I know it affected
him, as much if not more, than most people.
* Assistant Webmaster note: The personal account below, of Mark’s first crash, is pretty darn accurate. His memory serves him well. The only part he could not remember is the Aircraft number! Through my research, I’ve found the aircraft number and an accident report summary on the crash
You can view that by clicking here : Information on Helicopter UH-1H 68-15223.
Crash sequence: (seven photos). I am sorry I can't recall my bird's tail number. First of all, keep in mind that this was a "looooong" time ago. Also please keep in mind, that I never really talked to the pilot CPT McGaffic, or the A/C Mr. Fisher about this crash. I think my gunner's name was (George?) Aziz. I hope that one of you will be able to help me out here. After all this, he may want a copy of these himself. After a couple of days it became "just another day in the Nam", and soon much was forgotten. We were stationed in Chu Lai at the time. I could look up the date in my medical records (as I was injured), but I don't think it really matters. Sometime in mid-April ‘71 I would guess.
Above top is a photo of the low ceiling we were approaching. Our destination was in that hill. Immediately above is about 5 minutes after impact. We had been flying along toward out destination
when all of a sudden we had an engine failure. The bird twists in the air (holy shit,
I didn't have my belt on)... the pilot tells us we are going down...hang on... it may be
rough. I often wonder if Pilots remember what they say, or if it is just automatic?
All I am seeing around me are mountain peaks and clouds...
certainly not the valley floor. Now I am not a pilot...but...I do understand the
theory of auto rotation. Basically it goes like this... find a place to park it ...ya
only got one landing in ya and better make it "damn good". I was thinking... if we go
into the clouds, we would never see the ground, until it was much much too late to flare.
I was not a "happy camper" at this point in time. I figured the pilot had his hands
full. It didn't take long to hit the ground. The impression that I got (by hearing
the low rpm of the rotors) was that the pilot sacrificed the flare in order to
get us "over" something. We had no flare when we hit. I didn't have my seat belt
on, so I was slammed toward the plots seat into a bunch of C-rations. Many of the
cases of C-rations flew over the pilots' seats and into their laps.
Their seat belts failed to "lock", probably saving them from broken necks.
After the blades stopped (which didn't take long at all), I got out to help the pilot out of his armor seat. I opened his door and he was pinned in with c-rations. I had to pull 4 or 5 cases off him to get him out. In the photos, look just to the left of the pilot's door to see the "pile" (also behind the seat). Everything went forward hard. We just got over the edge of the mountain ledge (see the cliff edge behind the aircraft background). A straight down drop off. Then CPT McGaffic was on top of aircraft doing a tally and Mr. Fisher was trying to get us some help.
Above top: This picture was taken just moments after the last one. Capt. McGaffic was still
looking at the damage... this bird wasn't going to fly home. You can see that
the cliff's edge just below his feet. It was a straight drop off cliff, we
barely got it "over something"... Great flying. You can see the hole in the
blade from where my ammo box went thru it. The tail boom had been chopped
off by the blade and was lying on the ground. Funny looking actually. Who
has the survival radio?..."Hello, we need some help here". I think Capt. McGaffic
had been waving his jacket (orange side out) at a LOH, that was close by, to
insure that he might see us. It seems that there was a LOH (in my picture it
looks like a fly so I didn't include it here), doing some mail deliveries and he
saw us go down, or he heard our call and/or was very close by. He came in
and landed beside us to see if we needed anybody taken out right away. Then
he took off. I don't know if we got the call out or if we were just lucky he
saw us and got the call out. I don't think our radios would be working.
Maybe one of you (Pilots)
remembers the story when Mr. Fisher or McGaffic sat in the
“No Shit" chair ...more on the chair below.
One thing for sure; everybody was OK and I was no longer a '"cherry boy". Our help came in the form of a Shit Hook. They were there in about 15 minutes. He had been in route to Da Nang to deliver his bird to some General. It had no door gunner or soft seats for the pilots. I remember grabbing everything that belonged to me M16, M60, butt plate, chest plate, flight jacket, camera, couple hundred rounds of ammo and a case of beer (very important) and ran up his ramp. As soon as we took off, I offered a beer to each of the Shit Hook pilots and everyone else. Happy Day Celebration.
Above (lower): This was after the bird was recovered by a special group or team. This group had grunts and a Shit Hook crew. The team was set up to recover crashes. This photo is out at the edge of our AO by the flight line. You can, again, see the hole in the blade from the ammo box and the tail boom that had been cut off during impact (sitting underneath the horizontal stabilizer). One blade took out the tail boom and the other struck the hillside just above and beside the aircraft and then "banged into" the cabin roof support post behind the pilot's door/ right side. The blades slowed down very fast. I remember only a couple of revolutions after we hit. I was interviewed by some crash investigation people.
This is a picture of us after we got off in Da Nang. Note the Shit Hook flying
off into the sunset. Another good deed done. Thanks guys. The photo starting
from left: "Cowboy", (Dennis Orthman's A/C, that came up to get us the rest of
the way home). Behind him is Mr. Fisher (Didn't we have two Mr. Fishers in the
company, that crashed a week apart from each other?). Next is CPT McGaffic with flight
jacket. He (McGaffic) also crashed a Shark 40mm "Frog" some time earlier I believe.
[* Assistant Webmaster note: Fred Thompson (in his bio) remembers: "We were out at Khe Sahn, 2/71, when we got word that one of our aircraft had gone down at Vandergrif. Apparently, Captain Ed McGaffick had tried a 'Cobra type' take- off in a loaded Charlie-model. He was flying Shark 507. Anyway, 507 had a 40mm grenade launcher mounted on the nose. The 'McGaffick take-off' dug the barrel into the deck and broke all the hardpoints in the ship. We'd lost a reliable aircraft and I don't remember seeing McGaffick again.”- Fred Thompson.]
Next in the photo is the Grunt
who was returning from R&R. I bet that was an unforgetable day for him, eh?
And then my gunner (Aziz?).
The two above photos are also after recovery, in the company area. After a very short while, the
crash became a thing of the past and I never did figure out the "what, how and why's"
about the crash. I do remember someone saying that they
thought it was a result of a variable inlet guide vane actuator failure to
the "closed" position. Sounds good to me. Anybody remember? I do remember
the pilots saying that when they lowered the collective to enter auto rotation,
the RPM came back up, but when they "pulled some in" the rpm bled off. *See link above for US Army Accident Summary.
After a couple of days,
I got a new bird #768 (UH-1H 69-15768) and was assigned to C&C mission. I think
it was because I had a shiny new bird for the "Full Bird" that we flew around.
God, how I hated that mission... that and flying over 1500 feet.
Who had I pissed off? Anybody know?
This is a photo of the "No Shit" chair. This is a great one. And I know
for sure, there is a lot more than what I know about this chair. Come one come
all...what do you know about this chair? And what were the stories?
Share time. The day I took this picture, was the day after "our crash". I was
hanging around the maintenance area, Witch Doctor Country,
when I saw all these pilots hanging around. I then noticed the weird chair
set up. Notice the second from the left. It had a collective and this funny
looking platform over the pilot's head. They were telling war stories.
I was told that this seat was the testimony chair and that each and every pilot,
that crashed, had to tell "the story". "There I was, 100 knots, 25 feet off the deck..."
(Pilot fills in the blanks about the crash).
My photo appears to be missing the famous VC skull and cyclic. Maybe we can hear more
from the pilots?
Who are these guys. Left? Next? Then Yates and Bob LeGault when he was in Slicks.
[*Assistant Webmaster note: In a recent email to Mark Klindt from Mark Lewis (Shark 50 at that time),
Lewis has ID'd the guy on far left as Jimmy Wise. Thanks Mark!]
Dennis Lowe (? last name) from Watsonville,CA. (also my home town). I think
he was a company truck driver. He showed up once with a truck full of beer
for 'free'... every other can was rusted thru.
I don't know if this was the Mr. Fisher that took us "in" on my crash or if it
was the other Mr. Fisher. If I remember correctly, there were two Mr. Fishers
and they crashed about a week apart. Any help here? Mr. Fisher, are you the Mr.
Fisher I crashed with?
Right photo- Joe Almada, when he was gunning for me on the C&C bird. He came
from the grunts and was a "tunnel rat" I believe. the Left photo is when I ran into
him at a concert in LA for a Vet Reunion. Nine other guys had our tickets paid for
and came down from Canada. The MC introduced the Vets from Canada and we got
applause from 18,000 people! Joe was 8 seats over. I recognized him. He became
a Shark later. I think Bob Legault got his call number from Joe- Shark 51
These next two are of Jimmy D. Long (and others who's names I can't remember).
He bunked next to me in Chu Lai. He was a Shark from Quang Tri too, I think.
Note the length of the 60's compared to each other. JD had one
made for me. The barrel is shortened, but in doing that, the 'rate of fire'
was greatly reduced. Great idea that didn't work. The below picture- Left
is Jimmy Graham we think. Second from left is JD . Who are the others?
The guy sitting down, second from left is Galen Koontz. The others
names I can't remember. Can you help here? [*Assistant Webmaster note: In a recent email to Mark Klindt from Mark Lewis (Shark 50 at that time),
Lewis has told us- that that is him (Mark Lewis) in the foreground/in front of chair. He also clarified Koontz's first name. Thanks Mark!
Rick Christopher (C/E 1971), also a 'hootch mate' and friend of Koontz, remembers they all called him 'Colorado'.]
This is the patch of a Vietnam Veterans group I founded in Canada. Viet Nam Vets
are not often recognized here. They are considered by many to be mercenaries, and if
they have a problem (PTSD), then they brought it on themselves. I only realized
this after I tried to get some support with my issues. After I was able to get
a minimum of support I realized there must be more like me around there...Had
to be. I placed an ad in the papers. After much scrutiny from the newspaper
people, and was swarmed by calls from friends of Vets and Vets themselves.
We found Aussie Vets, Korean Vets, American Vets and of course Canadian Vets.
It is estimated that 10,000 Canadians joined the US Armed Forces in Vietnam.
At last count, there were (I think) 69 Canadian Vietnam Vets on the Wall.
The problem with identifying Canadian Vietnam Vets in government paperwork is,
that most of them used the city that they were in when they joined as their
"home" on records. I know of Vets in Canada who parents don't know that they
were in Vietnam. It's much different here in Canada. It seems to be a custom
here, that each time we meet a new Vet we say, " welcome home" first and
foremost. So I say, "WELCOME HOME"!