220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company

June 2003 CATCOM E-Newsletter

Catkiller plaque
and Family,
and all Friends
and Brothers in Arms,
in memory of those who have served


Harold Vail sent several computer disks (CDs) containing some historic photographs, which will be available in Las Vegas during our reunion. During the next several months, some of his photos will appear either within the newsletter or at the photo web site. Here is some of what Harold had to say:

"I included all the photos taken while I was with the 220th, this included mostly scenery. Honestly the personal pictures in the unit, I can not remember the names. I would hope others would remember some of them from the pictures. If you feel inclined, you might put them on the [on your web site] prior to the reunion. Most of the people shots are either in Hue or Phu Bi. The scenes are mostly to the north of Hue."

Thanks for the photos, Harold. Perhaps we can identify the subjects in many of your photos. Here is one of his photos (changed to JPG, 75 dpi, unknownck-vail,jpg):

Historical note from Harold: "The photo that you put up was a few days after the Tet offensive began. I landed on the Hue airfield to see if there was anything we could salvage. I was the maintenance officer at the time. All the aircraft at Hue were totally destroyed. "

Another example of a historical photo came from Curt Perry, through a former member of the YO-3 unit, originally attached to the 220th. Here is that photo. I recognize only Daryl Wesley:

Catkillers with YO-3 airplane
YO-3 Catkillers


Don Pepe sent the following call for your valuable input:

"As many of you know, some of us are putting together a book based on the Catkiller experience. The effort has proceeded at glacial speed, but we are finally approaching an initial draft at least. The time period we have covered is from December of 1967 to August of 1969 which is when I left Phu Bai for the last time.

I would like to hear from some of you who served after that time. I am particularly interested in milestone type events.

For example :

I read in the battalion history that we removed our planes from Dong Ha in October of '69. If that had happened while I was still there, it would have struck me as the end of an era.

  • Did we continue our DMZ missions then out of Phu Bai or did our TAOR change?
  • Were any of you the last Catkiller to RON at Dong Ha?

    Also, I have seen some mention elsewhere of our planes flying out of Khe Sahn.

  • Did that ever happen? When I left, Khe Sahn was still an abandoned and totally unusable airstrip.

    I also read that the 1st Platoon was later divided again into the 1st and 4th platoons. Interestingly, that is the way it was when I first flew the DMZ in early 68. They merged sometime in the middle of that year.

  • Were any of you in the First when it split back up, and can you tell me why it was done?

    I would like to know about the big changes in the structure of the Catkillers:

  • Who they supported.
  • Where they were based.
  • The mission they were called upon to perform.
  • Did Catkillers continue to receive TACA designation all the way to stand down?

    I would particularly like to hear about that final milestone event, stand down. I would like to hear from anyone who was there when the 220th was put to rest:

  • When was it done?
  • How was it done?
  • Who was the last person to fly a Catkiller combat mission?
  • Who was the last person to log a 220th Aviation Company flight?

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Don Pepe"

  • Charlie Finch sent the following request:


    I am trying to get a timeline for the unit and would appreciate you getting me as much of this information as you can provide. I am also tracking down some other missing Catkillers thru the Army thru St Louis. SO here is what I need:
  • DATE you came to Phu Bai and the date you left. If you extended or were with another unit down south like DON LONG and BILL HOOPER, please give me those dates.
  • If you have a set of orders with all of your FLIGHT CLASS (blue hat, green hat, or whatever) that would also be nice. I can track missing persons better if I have a clue of when he went to flight school.
  • If you have a set of orders of the 220th RAC to include a roster of officers and enlisted for any time period, I would like to have a copy.
  • If there is anyone that you have not heard from or would like me to track down, send me as much as you can about him (full name, serial number, about when he came into country). This includes Marines or 108th at Dong Ha.
  • I will then provide everyone a list of those I am currently searching for. Many are still changing their email addresses so that hurts the process a lot.

    BONNING's shirts are high quality. DO NOT GET ANY WITH POCKETS.


    1331 Parrott Trace
    Greensboro, Georgia 30642

    EMAIL: CFINCH4444@aol.com

    Home Phone: 706-467-9389

    CATKILLER 19 June 1968-August 1969"


    Inside the 212th CAB annual published in 1971, and shared with us by [Redacted], are numerous photos, many unidentified individuals but with caption provided, Our May newsletter contained a briefing on the annual, and the first edition of names were identified. Next month's edition will contain a list of all names. This newsletter contribution shows a scan of page sixteen, containing sixteen photos of young warrant officers. See if you recognize them, and if you have information regarding, these men please let us know:

    212th CAB Annual, 1970, page 16

    Have you searched for a Catkiller plaque tucked away in you desk, closet, or attic? Please look for it, transcribe the names, if you can, and send the list to Bob McComiskie.

    More to follow in later issues of CATCOM Newsletter. Next month we will see a similar photo page of enlisted men, and there will be more in coming months.


    Our reunion guest speaker is Charles "Bud" Bruton. More information to follow.


    The latest e-mail listing, Catkiller Group Mailing List, is available in text format, if needed. E-mail Bob McComiskie for a copy.

    We welcome Chuck Davis, from the Pheonix area; William Johns, of Marysville, Ohio (Catkiller 20 1970-71); Tony Keltner, Huntsville, Ala. (Catkiller??);

    This from Robert Freihoff-Lewin, of Rangeley, Maine (Subject: "1970 Fly By" picture):


    Happy to see my line shack improvements made it to 1970. I was HQ Crew Chief for the Beaver (Catkiller 671) and two O1s during '68-69 I left Phu Bai early morning of July 9, '69. A guy named Leeser and I built the PSP aircraft revetments, laid the PSP matting for the parking area and erected the sand-filled revetment and balcony on the old line shack. I was going to paint the balcony red and white so someone did not leave part of a wing on it but could only find a quart or so of red so I cut it with the only other color we had.....white......and it turned out to be salmon pink when we were done. Next day, the Marine Commander came over and told us to tear it down and as a young, cocky Spec 5, I told him it was brand new and offered possible in-coming protection to flight crews while on the ramp area, and if he wanted it torn down, to send his best over to see if they could do it. Needless to say, the structure stood for the rest of my vacation time at PhuBai and now I have proof it lasted even longer. Cool!

    I found, in my shoebox, a folded up copy of the Catkiller's theme song during my tour. I have attached it for your use on the website [see the song transcribed below. DMR]. As noted, it is performed to the tune of "Wabash Cannonball".

    When I get home from this sandbox in late June, I plan to project and scan all my photos and put them on a CD. Once I am finished, I will forward to you. There are some great pictures of the Bin Hai River, and the Freedom Bridge, and some of a great company party with stolen (from the Air Force's resupply C130) steaks grilled over bamboo charcoal. Yum Yum!!

    My schedule requirements may prevent me from attending the reunion, but I will not know until late July timeframe. I hope I can make it. After seeing the Predator in action, I find it amazing what we did and were able to accomplish as a bunch of youngsters.

    Regards, Robert


    Catkiller Theme Song
    (Music to Walbash Cannonball)

    I was called to the briefing, one cold and rainy day
    Said they had a mission, they wanted no delay.
    I donned on all my armor, my rifle pistol too
    and headed for the briefing, to see what I had to do
    The S- 2 was awaiting, he said I'll give it to you straight
    Charlie's out in Ashau, I hope we're not too late
    The weather it should be okay, fixed wing is on it's way
    Hello Phu Bai Tower, this is Catkiller 801
    Sitting on the Birddog ramp request to taxi one
    Taxi to 27, that's the acttive for today
    Hurry with your run-up, you're in a E-130's way
    I steered onto the active, I winged into the blue
    Tower cleared me to change freq's, good day, good flight to you
    I headed out to Ashau, the ceiling was pretty low.
    Told my Marine observer, we'll try to make a go
    When we arrived on station, just like the S-2 said
    Charlie was in the valley, most were still in bed.

    (The next two lines are talked to the music)
    Well hello Catkiller 801, this is Condol 852
    Two Fox Fours on a 185, 30 miles from you.

    Lock on channel 69, come out on the 25 4
    I'm an Army O-1, skimming the valley floor

    (The next two lines are talked to the music)
    Talley Ho 801, Now this is 852,
    I've got you at my three o'clock, now what're we gonna do

    I'll run you in on a 185, drop you down to nine
    Then we'll use the pistols, I think that'll work out fine.

    (The next two lines are talked thru to the music)
    Number One on the base leg, now you're cleared in hot!
    From the target marking round, 20 meters at one o'clock

    Those F-4's were great today
    As they roared in from the blue
    Ran 6 flights on Charlie, Charlie only shot down two
    We've given everyone the BDA, and now we're headed home
    Jets, they have left us
    Now we're out here all alone
    Hello Phu Bai Tower, this is Catkiller 801
    Turning on the downwind, my prop is over run
    Engine's overheated, my chip detectors bright
    So light the old runway, cause I'm landin here tonight

    (The next two lines are talked thru to the music)
    Well, hello, Catkiller 801, Now this is Phu Bai Tower
    I'd like to wake the crash crew up, but this is their coffee hour

    Runway lights are broken, and the generators down
    So Catkiller 801, take that bird around


    Click here for photo of Catkiller Reunion Limo

    To restate the specifics: 220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company REUNION


    October 19, 20, 21, 2003
    Where: Palace Station Hotel &Casino
    2411 West Sahara Ave
    Las Vegas, NV 89102
    (Reservations) 800-634-3101
    702-367-2411 [Hotel Group ID for reference is: PCI220T]
    To locate the hotel on a map, visit this site and type in the above address: Rand McNally Maps


    Reunion 6 - Paul V. Brennan
    Reunion 5 - John Hillman (Executive in Charge)
    Reunion 4 - Jerry Bonning (Logistics) Rooms, hotel, meeting rooms, banquet
    Reunion 3 - Jerry DiGrezio (Operations; notifications, etc.)
    Keeper of the E-List - Bob McComiskie (send your changes and updates to Bob)
    Newsletter- Donald M. Ricks
    Golf One-Joe "Beans" Brett (Sundowner Yankee)

    We have reserved a block of rooms under: "220th RECONNAISSANCE AIRPLANE COMPANY" (CATKILLERS). Please state this when you make your reservations. Cost of rooms: $69 per night, or ask about their smaller courtyard rooms ($49). You can make reservations now. Contact Paul V. Brennan (Reunion 6) with questions, suggestions, and recommendations.


    To date, we have about eighty Catkillers or friends signed up for this unit's reunion in Las Vegas. That number is growing daily. To the amazement of Jerry Bonning, one of those registered with the name of "1LT Airplane Recoance." Jerry recently phoned the reservations desk at the Palace Station Hotel, for an update on planning numbers, and was informed about this strange-named attendee. After much brain activity concerning the matter, he asked some of his closest advisors to help identify this mystery person. One reply tells it all....


    You know...I could have sworn that 1LT Airplane Reconance was in the second platoon. He had the Coco Beach mission and at one time was Hootchmaid-six. He moved right into the slot when Glenn Stewart pulled out! By the way, I am bringing my laptop. Can't be without a computer. Fully multimedia ready.

    Bob. "Catkiller 35" 1970"

    Later, Jerry finally figured out, on his own, that the lieutenant's name was associated with the hospitality suite. Mystery solved.

    Actual numbers of attendees who have made reservations:

    Name Number ROOMS
    BATY, JOHN 2 1
    JONES, RANDY 1 1
    MEANS, SARGE 1 1
    PEPE, DONALD 1 1
    PERRY, JOHN 2 1
    RECONANCE, AIRPLANE (Hospitality Suite) 0 2
    STOKES, JOHN 2 1
    VAIL, HAROLD 2 1
    37 24

    Message from Jerry DiGrezio:

    "Attached [above] is a list of those currently having reservations. Time is now beginning to run short. It is important to remember that the cheap air fares need to be booked as early as possible. Also, we have arranged to make available the hotel (I think they call them) courtyard rooms for 49.00 a night. They are slightly smaller rooms (kind of like Motel 6). If anyone else wants a suit it might be to late already. Beginning in August we will start giving back rooms to the hotel and the final reservations need to be made no later than the middle of September."

    Thanks, Jerry!

    Now, compare the above list to the one below, from which we have been planning; we should work to make those two lists match, and as quickly as possible.

    Please make your reservations, and let Jerry know you are in the growing list, soon. Time is shorter than you think....
    Catkiller Reunion
    as of 6/1/03 *  Someone else indicated that they are attending
    2nd Hand
    Name  Attending Replied Responses *
    Beatty, John 1 X
    Bentley, Jack    2 X
    Blevins, Pete 2 X
    Bonning, Jerry  3 X
    Brennan, Paul  2 X
    Brett, Joe 1 X
    Bumgardner, Lynn 2 X
    Caverhill, Phil 1 X
    Clark, Tom 1 X
    Clement, Doc 2 X
    Cortner, Bob 1 X
    Cummings, Scott 1 X
    Davis, Grayson 2 X
    Deibert, Larry 2 X
    DiGrezio, Jerry   1 X
    Drechsel, Carl   2 X
    Easley, Heather 1 X
    Finch, Charlie 2 X
    Gaunt, James 1 X
    Garin, Paul 2 X
    Gehardt, Kurt 2 X
    Goodrum, Chuck 1 X
    Hayes, Gene 2 X
    Hillman, John 1 X
    Hughes, Cliff 2 X
    Joles, Bob 1 X
    Jones, Randy 2 X
    Krebs, Joe  1 X
    Lamonds, Ron 2 X
    McComiskie, Bob 2 X
    Means, Sarge 1 X
    Meehan, Tank 1 X
    Moore, Johnny 2 X
    Morgan, Jesse 2 X
    Murray, Thomas   1 X
    Nunn, William 1 X
    Paulsen, Al 2 X
    Pepe, Don 1 X
    Perry, Curt 2 X
    Ricks, Don  2 X
    Smith, Paul   2 X
    Snyder, Bill 2 X
    Spette, Jerry 1 X
    Stewart, Glen 1 X
    Stewart, Rod 1 X
    Stokes, John 1 X
    Strange, Glen 1 X
    Swert, Mike 1 X
    Tragesser, Gary 1 X
    Vail, Harold 2 X
    Wesley, Daryl 2 X
    Wolfe, Dick 2 X
    Totals 80


    "The reunion group met last weekend, and the results are at the enclosure [see reunion Itinerary below]. Highlights are the Banquet on Monday night and a no host dinner on Tuesday at Smith and Wolensky Steak House. These two events are going to require you to talk to us about your food desires for both events. More will follow with menus for each. Charles Finch has volunteered to be the coordinator for those events to capture your wants and needs, so be ready to respond. By doing so, Charlie has lowered the cost of the main banquet from $58.00 per person, to somewhere in the $30.00's. Very nice of him to jump up and take the lead, and I for one, thank him very much. Jerry Bonning wants me to share the fact with you all that the meeting rooms (two of them) will be open just about all the time we are there. We intend to stock them with our own bars and maybe use a professional bartender the first night. The cost of the overhead borne by the reunion group will be pro-rated to all, a figure that will be closely watched to keep it reasonable and affordable.

    As you can see, we are NOT trying to make this thing very complicated, so you are left to make your daytime excursions as you see fit. The hotel has a desk that can help you make reservations for show, tours and anything else you desire, so put them to work.

    Speaking of Jerry Bonning, he is the King of Catkiller shirts and they are really something to behold. I am the proud owner of four, and they are very high quality. [Here below is a photo of the guys in Las Vegas, wearing none other than Jerry's R.A.C. Wear, to show off those good looking shirts]

    Catkiller Recon Group in Legas, June 2003

    Also, Don Ricks, CATCOM EdPub, is working on Catkiller patches for your use. More to come later.

    Lastly, we did sing "Oh Phu Bai, Oh Phu Bai's, a hell of a place, the organization is a f-ing disgrace....", at least once this past weekend, so be prepared to join in. Also, when corresponding, please add you dates of service as a Catkiller behind your call sign so we can have a running display of the unit compiled for your viewing at the reunion. We intend to have a paper on the wall with the dates from 1965 - thru the stand down ofthe 220th with names and time of service. Catkiller 36/3 - 03/69-03/70.

    Paul V. Brennan"

    Photo of Paul Brennan in R.A.C Wear
    [these two photos courtesy of Charles Finch]:

    Paul Brennan in Las Vegas, 2003


    DAY 1, OCT 19, 2003
    DAY 2, OCT 20, 2003
    2000-2030 BUD BRUTON, Vietnam Today BANQUET ROOM
    2030-2045 JOHN HILLMAN, Tribute to KIA/MIA and deceased Catkillers BANQUET ROOM
    DAY 3, OCT 21, 2003
    1800-2100 NO HOST DINNER, at Smith & Wollensky Steak House 3767 LAS LEGAS BLVD


    Thanks to Scott Cummings for maintaining this site at:http://www.catkillers.org

    Photo page:www.catkillers.org (contains a link to previously published newsletters and alerts).

    Bob McComiskie's Photo Page


    Jerry Bonning now has positive proof of some very nice golf shirts available for order, as seen in the recon group photo above.

    Also, there are Catkiller crest stickers, standard and reflective, based on our plaque or crest, ready from the graphics company. We should have firm ordering information sometime this month. Sale of these items will begin soon and continue at the reunion, and any profit will be donated to help pay our bill. Here is a sample, shown proudly affixed to the trunk lid of Don Ricks' candy red Gold Wing:

    (link removed)

    Jerry Bonning has a briefing page on the nice looking "R.A.C Wear" Catkiller logo golf shirts, and these are now available for order this month. He is working on an order form, which we will post when available. You will want one or two of these; just ask the guys who met in Las Vegas this past weekend:

    Briefing and sample of shirts under consideration

    [NOTE FROM CATCOM EdPub: I tried to get a piece of the action on these shirts, but Jerry Bonning refused to cut me in, even after all the work I did to help him promote the item. You all know Jerry; cool, capable, cold at times, unmovable, focused, and so forth. Well, during the past few days I learned that this fellow has a soft spot, yes, a soft spot for everyone. Believe it or not, brothers and sisters, he is going to donate profits from the sale of those shirts to help cover the cost of our reunion overhead. There is a small built in cost buffer to cover shipping and returns, etc., but that small amount will come in handy, if we keep our extra costs down. Be sure of your size, order for the entire family, with confidence, and let's all wear our R.A.C. Wear at the reunion. Those who do not plan to attend can still help the others by ordering this item. Thanks, Jerry, we love you.

    On a more serious note: From the sidelines, and privy to message traffic from reunion staff members, I am aware of all that has been done over the past few months to get us where we are today. Sometimes I make free use of my ability to comment at will, simply because I maintain the web site. However, I take that responsibility seriously and promise not to bore you with a lot of unnecessary input and inappropriate changes to original traffic. Strictly from a personal observation, and through a sense of appreciation, I want to thank the entire reunion recon team, including Jerry DiGrezio, for their time, efforts, and personal expense in making the past weekend trip to Las Vegas, on our behalf. Notwithstanding the R.A.C. Wear photo above, revealing how utterly happy they were to be together, the reunion schedule and arrangements are certainly much better as a result of their sacrifice.

    Jerry DiGrezio had planned to attend the weekend meeting, devoted a lot of time to the meeting, but had a higher calling to assist an old friend. Sadly, his dog needed an emergency operation, and Jerry went the way we should all go, toward our friend in need. The operation was a success, according to Jerry, but the medicals came back with additional information that his dog has cancer. We feel for you, brother, and hope for the best for your friend. What a guy.]


    From the photos I've received, our biker Cats have some very nice looking motorcycles. Johnny Moore and Paul Brennan take good photos (of their bikes), and Jerry DiGrezio seems proud of his Harley, rightly so. Some day I'll post a few of the best ones, so if you have a favorite photo, send it along to the editor.

    Regarding bike rentals in Las Vegas, this note came from Jerry DiGrezio: "

    "Biker 6 here...
    I have been in touch with the Harley dealer in Las Vegas. They are up to their eyeballs in fat, old men like us who want to rent Harleys, so they are not willing to give reduced rates to even a block of bike rentals.

    So here is the good news/bad news: The good news is that there is a group Catkillers who are either taking their own machines to Vegas and others who will rent; the bad news is those who rent will have to pay around $145/day for rental of big V-twin HOGS....(No Sportsters!!!)

    All in all, it sounds like more good news than bad to me. If you are interested, get in touch...."
    Paul V. Brennan
    Reunion 6
    Atlanta, GA
    Donald M. Ricks
    CATCOM EdPub
    Spring Hill, TN