Shark 432 Down

28 April 1967

SP4 Jim Yocum was flying at the left crewman's station -- the crewchief's (CE) position. He later become the Shark Platoon Sergeant. Following is Yocum's account of this flight:


We, Shark #432 (UH-1C 65-09432), were a part of the two-ship primary Shark team, and we got a scramble to check out some infantry who had reported receiving fire from a wooded area about 3-4 clicks west, and a little south, of Duc Pho. The date was 28 April 1967. In the left seat was LT "Papa" Ike Israel, the Aircraft Commander (A/C) was 1LT Al "'Roby" Roberson, I was CE, and Ron Hood was at the door gunner position. The area was a mix of cultivated farmland and dense brush. The infantry wanted some suppressive fire laid down. We had not received any fire, and we assumed that the "friendlies" were making it out to be more than it was.

It was decided that our door guns would be sufficient. We were at about 700-900 feet and made our run north to south. Our Shark was to the left and the other Shark was to the right of the friendlies. Being to the far left, and firing forward, I had to lean quite a bit out of the ship. Not seeing any evidence of the enemy, we did not take this too seriously.

At this point, the pilot ordered me to fire. "At what?" I asked... and I was ordered to just fire my weapon. I tried to shoot my M60 to the tune of "Dixie" (dee dee deeda deet dee dee).

A rocket launched just as I fired.

I can, to this day, see it strike the warhead about 6 feet in front of the helicopter. I really did not expect a rocket to be fired. I was CE during this accident, and in no way would I ever endanger my crew or the ship! There was a blinding flash and all commo went out. The ship dropped 50-100 feet, but thank God it was still in the air.

LT Israel let out a yell and started kicking, so I pulled back his seat release, and with the help of Ron Hood we attempted to stop his bleeding. It seemed like only minutes till we had landed at the medevac pad at Duc Pho. We had to open the door from the inside to get Israel out. The door handle had been blasted off. Ike really suffered. For that I am very sorry and beg his forgiveness, for it truly was an accident. I can only imagine the pain and suffering he must have gone through. I never took his injury lightly.

Photo property of Randy Putnam

Al Roberson's account: The rocket detonation occurred on the inbound leg of a gun run. Our radios were completely knocked out but the aircraft remained flyable. While the crew chief and door gunner pulled his seat back and tended to Ike, I was able to to fly the ship directly back to the Med pad at Duc Pho. The controls were not noticeably affected so the ship was flown home, and in effect, was its own medevac. After medics unloaded Ike, I picked it up and parked it in the Shark parking line. That's where most of the photos were taken.

Yocum adds, "Notice in the above photo the rocket pod is empty, the remaining rockets have been removed already (only one was fired)."

Photo property of Randy Putnam

Immediately below is an cropped enlargement of the above photo. In it, blood can be seen around Israel's seat (pulled back). The seat's armor plating clearly saved his life.

Photo property of Al Roberson

Al Roberson adds: I was flying with Israel in aircraft (Shark # 432) when this incident occurred, and I am sitting on the skid filling out the accident log in this photo. I was a 1LT at the time. Billy Woods, the "Bear" Bob Bryant, and I were all in the same flight class, and both Billy and I came over to the 174th from a stint with the 1st Air CAV. Note my right arm "CAV" patch. My stay with the 174th was shorter than most (about five months, having spent seven months in the Cav). When I got to the 174th AHC, I had seven months of gunship experience. I went straight to the Sharks.

Yocum says, "Some of us still had regular fatigues, not jungle fatigues. Certain sizes were in short supply at that time. Notice also, my pants hanging low and my underwear showing. I set a trend, I am sure, of the current fashion - that is- young men walking around with baggy pants and their underwear showing. It is a little known fact that this trend was started back in 1967 by the enlisted men of the 174th AHC. Kids follow my 'look' even today. I'd like to add, however, that my shorts were not so white in the bottom.

Ron and I had something like a sunburn on our faces due to the fireball from the explosion. You may be able to see a cut on my left cheek in these photos. You can maybe see the survival kit hanging in the middle of the firewall (and joking aside, you probably can see Ron and my burned silhouettes on that firewall). The engine cowling does not have the FOD (Foreign Object Damage) protector installed. This is a good shot of the door gun, two holes next to the survival kit, and some fire damage just above that."

Photo Property of Paul Kunelius
Left-right: Ron Hood, Jim Yocum, and Bob "Bear" Bryant taking a walk.

Photo Property of Paul Kunelius

All unidentified... except we think that is CPT Chuck Schexnayder with his back to the camera.

Photo Property of Randy Putnam

Yocum says: Left to right is George Toomy (door gunner on the other Shark), then Ron Hood, then me, then unknown (ID anybody?), then Bear Bryant, and (the guy with his back to camera) is (we think) CPT Schexnayder.

Photo Courtesy of Dave Mason

Al Roberson adds more, "My recollection is that the LZ was not too far west of Duc Pho, still in the flat lands. Damage was such that depot maintenance was needed." The above photo was taken by Dave Mason, a crewman on the Chinook helicopter that gave Shark 432 a sling ride to depot maintenance.