The following is from an e-mail message received on the Vietnam Helicopter Flight Crew Network (VHFCN) in June 1997.
My name is Mark Lightner. I was in Vietnam from 3/16/68 until 2/2/70. I was assigned to the 174th AHC, 1st Aviation Brigade (and Americal Division) where I worked with the 452nd Signal Detachment, and later flew as a gunner with the 2nd flight platoon for a time. During my second year at Duc Pho, with the 174th AHC, I was the NCOIC of the electric shop in the 409th TC Detachment, team leader of the recovery crew, and ran the EM club. I am currently working on a masters degree at Western Washington University and work for the Veterans Educational Outreach Center, where I advise veterans in matters pertaining to veterans benefits and educational issues.
I have often thought of the people that I served with while at Duc Pho and probably none more than those who didn't return. The following is a memory of one of those individuals that made the ultimate sacrifice: CW2 Henry Tews.
In late March 1968, while working with the 452nd, I was performing an in-flight check of the avionics systems of a ship that was coming out of PE (periodic inspection). Mr. Tews, who was our maintenance officer, was in the right seat, the team leader of the maintenance crew was in the left, while the other members of the maintenance crew and I were in the back. I had finished my job and was enjoying the ride, and the music from AFVN on the ADF, when Mr. Tews came over the intercom and instructed me to "tell everyone to put their seatbelts on, we just had a flame-out." I passed the order on to everyone in the back, which resulted in a good laugh all around. These guys knew that autorotation was part of the procedure and were getting a good laugh at the FNG (me), who was obviously in some state of deep concern over the loss of altitude we were experiencing. When we decended to an altitude that was below that of a normal autorotation, the maintainence guys finally awoke to the fact that we were not performing a practice autorotation, and in fact were going to crash into the South China Sea.
As luck would have it, we rode an on-shore breeze and did a downwind, hard landing on the beach just east of LZ Bronco. No one had to swim for it, though some of us did get a little wet from the surf.
Mr. Tews did a quick survey of the situation and quickly observed that his 38 revolver was the ONLY weapon we had. As I was the only non-essential person, Mr. Tews handed me the 38 and instructed me to "go out there a few hundred feet and shoot anything that moves."
As I sat crouched behind a bush looking for "anything that moved," I happened to notice that the revolver WASN'T LOADED! I quickly went back to Mr. Tews and informed him of the situation. He then proceded to go through his flight suit pockets looking for the ammunition. With a rather troubled look on his face, he informed me that "I must have left them in my other pants."
Well, there we were in the middle of indian country without a weapon. Mr. Tews immediately got on the radio to the company and informed them of our plight. The Sharks were scrambled and we had gunship coverage within minutes.
Thereafter, by order of Major Gibson, the CO, anyone leaving the company area was required to pack a weapon.
For those who never had the pleasure of knowing CW2 Tews, he was a very caring, low key,
down-to-earth individual who's northwestern United States roots were very evident in his demeanor. He sometimes wore cowboy boots with his flight suit. In short, a real good guy that related easily to all.
My memory of Mr. Tews is not one of a military man, but simply a memory of a good man.
CW2 Henry Tews died later that year in a crash, while attempting to fly a helicopter, with mechanical problems, back to LZ Bronco at Duc Pho. (Note: See the next entry below this on the 1968 page for a short account and photo of that crash.)
Below is a photo of CW2 Henry Tews (moustache) and two other flightcrew members receiving awards at a ceremony in the 174th Company Street at Duc Pho. Enlargements are provided below the first picture. Hank has a Bronze Star pinned to the pocket of his jungle fatigues. The person in front of Hank is believed to be the commander, Major Glenn Gibson (not confirmed). The soldier in the middle is Sp5 Albert Poling, and on the right is a WO1 pilot. The identity of the WO1 has not been confirmed. If any of you know who he is, please e-mail me, Jim McDaniel, with details.
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