Mark Klindt's Bio Page

SP4 Mark Klindt
"Shark 57"
Dolphin Door Gunner / Shark Crew Chief (C/E)
March to October 1971

[Webmaster note: Mark hopes that all of you enjoy these photos, and those who can help identify anyone in these photos who are not identified, please e-mail the information to the Webmaster, who will update the page.]

I landed in Vietnam in March 1971. 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 Dolphin, a "lift bird," and did all the things a "Slick" does, until I got Dolphin 768 (UH-1H 69-15768). I was then assigned the C&C [Command and Control] missions.

Shortly after that, I was voted into the Sharks! I was "Shark 57" until the 174th stood down (late October or early November 1971). I then went to the 229th 1st Cav., where I crewed a LOH [Light Observation Helicoper, an OH-6A]. I flew C/E-Gunner for "first light-last light" missions and a lot of taxi stuff. I got a short "drop" and was reassigned to Fort Carson, Colorado, 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 [Airframe and Powerplant]. I worked on the West coast of Washington State "helo logging" with a Hiller 12-E. Shortly after that, I moved to Canada. I was married to a Canadian (4 years at the time), with whom I had gone to High School in Tacoma, Washington.

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.

Clear Right
Mark Klindt (Shark 57)

The photo below is my Shark gunship the day I got it. The tail number is 66-15089, a UH-1M. It was a replacement gunship "donated" by the 176th AHC (Muskets) at Quang Tri on March 1971 during Lam Son 719. [Note: Fred Thompson called it a "Musk-Shark." Of course, it later became C/E Mark Klindt's Gunship at Chu Lai in 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" her 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 Shark 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

Below is Dennis Orthman. I went to school with him and Bob LeGault in Fort Rucker.

Below is 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 first picture below is Bob a few days before Big Al Harris was killed. Bob was Shark (51) crewchief. The photo below that is a couple of days later after Big Al's death. I know it affected him as much, if not more, than most other people in the unit.

[Webmaster note: The personal account below of Mark's first crash is quite accurate according to official accounts. His memory serves him well. The only major parts he could not remember are the aircraft tail number and the AC's first name! Through research, we've found the aircraft number and an accident report summary of the crash that identifies the crew. You can view that by clicking here: Information on Helicopter UH-1H 68-15223. According to the report, the crash was on 19 April 1971 and the crew is listed as:
Aircraft Commander: CW2 G.K. (Gary) Fisher
Pilot (co-pilot): CPT E.F. (Edward) McGaffick
Crewchief: E4 M.G. (Mark) Klindt
Gunner: E3 G.A. (George?) Aziz

The crash sequence according to Mark: 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 McGaffick, or the AC 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 this 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 1971 I would guess.

Above is a photo of the low ceilings as we were approaching the landing zone. It's amazing to me these photos were captured, as this was just seconds before our crash. Our landing zone (LZ) was on that hill.

Immediately above is about 5 minutes after impact. We had been flying along toward the LZ when all of a sudden we had an engine failure. I never learned the reason for the engine failure, but the bird rapidly twisted [yawed] in the air (holy shit, I didn't have my seat belt on)... the pilot tells us on the intercom (or the radio) that we were going down... and to 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. It was covered in clouds.

Now I am not a pilot... but... I do understand the theory of autorotation. Basically it goes like this... find a place to park it ... and ya only got one landing in ya, and ya better make it "damn good." I was thinking... if we go down into the clouds below us, 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 forward toward the pilot's seat, into a bunch of C-rations, injuring my back. Many of the cases of C-rations flew over the pilots' seats, hitting them in the head (helmet) and winding up in 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 armored 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 of c-rations (also behind the seat). Everything went forward hard.

In the below photo, you can see we just got over the edge of the mountain ledge. You're looking toward the rear of the aircraft, and you can see the cliff edge right behind the aircraft. It was a drop-off straight down. Here CPT McGaffick is on top of the aircraft doing a tally, and Mr. Fisher was trying to get us some help. This photo is just moments after the one before, and Capt. McGaffick was still looking at the damage... this bird wasn't going to fly home. You can see the cliff's edge just below his feet. The pilot just barely got it over the "something" before crashing... Great flying!

You can also see the hole in the blade from where my ammo box went thru it. The tail boom had been chopped off by one main rotor blade and was lying on the ground. It was funny looking actually. Who has the survival radio?... "Hello, we need some help here." I think Capt. McGaffick 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 was very close by. He came in and landed beside us to see if we needed anybody taken out right away. Not being necessary, he then took off. I don't know if we got the call out or if we were just lucky that he saw us, and then he got the call out for help for us. I don't think our radios would have been be working. Who knows? Maybe one of you pilots remembers the story when Mr. Fisher or McGaffick 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 Shithook [a CH-47 Chinook]. They were there in about 15 minutes. He had been in route to Da Nang to deliver his bird to some General. He had no door gunner or soft (canvas) seats in the back for us. I remember grabbing everything that belonged to me: M-16, M-60, butt plate, chest plate, flight jacket, camera, a couple of 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 Shithook pilots and everyone else. Happy Day Celebration.

The above photo was taken after the bird was recovered by a special group or team. This group had grunts and a Shithook crew. The team was set up to recover crashed aircraft. This photo is out at the edge of our AO [area of operations] 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. The vertical fin is sitting on the ground 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 on the right side. The blades slowed down very fast. I remember only a couple of revolutions after we hit. I was later interviewed by some crash investigation people.

Above is a picture of us after we got off in Da Nang. Note the Shithook on the right flying off into the sunset. Another good deed done. Thanks guys.

The photo, from the left is: "Cowboy" (Dennis Orthman's AC, who came up to get us the rest of the way home). Behind him (not really seen) is Mr. Fisher (didn't we have two Mr. Fishers in the company, who crashed a week apart from each other?). Next is CPT McGaffick with flight jacket. He (McGaffick) also crashed a Shark 40mm "Frog" some time earlier I believe. Next is my gunner Aziz, then at the right is the grunt who was returning from R&R (I bet that was an unforgettable day for him, eh?). The last person on the right is not identified.

[Webmaster note: Fred Thompson (in his bio) remembers, "We were out at Khe Sanh, 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' takeoff 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."]

The two below photos are in the company area, after recovery. 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" of 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 autorotation, the RPM came back up, but when they "pulled some in" [more power], the rpm bled off. [Note: See the earlier link (above) for the US Army Accident Summary.

After a couple of days, I got a new bird, Dolphin 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" Colonel that we flew around. God, how I hated that mission... that and flying over 1500 feet. Who had I pissed off? Anybody know?

Below are pictures of Yates (sometimes my gunner). I hope you are doing well "little buddy."

Below 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 who crashed had to tell "their story." "...There I was, 130 knots, 25 feet off the deck, on fire, inverted, with a tail rotor failure..." (Pilots, you fill in the rest of the blanks about your paticular 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 below? Left? Next? Then Yates and Bob LeGault when he was in Slicks.

[Webmaster note: In a follow-on email to Mark Klindt from Mark Lewis (Shark 50 at that time), Lewis ID'd the guy on far left as Jimmy Wise. Thanks Mark!]

Below is slick driver Mr. Boston

Below, Dennis Lowe (last name?) from Watsonville, California (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.

Above, 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? [Webmaster note: As identified earlier, the AC on this crash was CW2 Gary Fisher. The "other" Mr. Fisher in the unit at the time was CW2 Dennis P. Fisher. There was also a SP4 Gerald W. Fisher in the unit at that time, too.]

In the right photo above is 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 Los Angeles for a Vets Reunion. Nine other guys and I 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.

Above is Bill Wilder. I slept across from him in the Shark hootch.

Above is a very cloudy photo of Rick Sass (sorry Rick)

These next two photos below are of Jimmy D. "JD" 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 top M-60 compared to the one below it. 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 second photo below, from left, is Jimmy Graham I think. Second from left is JD . Who are the others?

Above, Babb was my gunner many times on the C&C missions

Below, left to right is Mark Lewis and Galen Koontz. Third person not identified. [Webmaster note: Rick Christopher (C/E 1971), also a "hootch mate" and friend of Koontz, remembers they all called Koontz "Colorado."]

Who's Who gentlemen? Above identities anyone? Is that the late "Big Al" Harris on far left?

Above, this is Mr. (Chick) Luther. He was my AC from time to time. I think we were all in Duc Pho in this picture. He was the other pilot in the "Peterson Shoot Down."

Below, my Unit Patch in 1971

Below is the patch of a Vietnam Veterans group I founded in Canada. Vietnam 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... there had to be. I placed an ad in the papers. After much scrutiny from the newspaper people they ran it, and I was then 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 of record." I know of Vets in Canada whose 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 to you all, "WELCOME HOME!"