First Quarterly 2013
March 20, 2013
Newsletter Articles: (click to go direct)
Ed Miler, Catkiller 6, 1969, discovered in his photo collection a rare one of his mess sergeant and wants to share it. This is Jesse C. Morgan, Sergeant First Class, mess sergeant extraordinaire:
Bud Bruton, Catkiller 18, located a few photographs taken in November 1968 showing several unit members. I just got around to working on these, but they are not perfect and only one proved useful. Some enhancement of the one shown here brought out three well-known men who served at that time:
Jack Bentley does more than sell items from out Catkiller Store, he is also a good point of contact it seems. Jack reports the following:
Recently, during the course of doing business in the Catkiller Store, I received the following revisions and additions to the roster:
- Helmut W Kucinskas, One of the original 9 enlisted personnel 1965 [Helmut has only snail mail, but we have his other contact information].
- Regarding Jay Fenwick, Catkiller 22, 1969, Phil Lowentritt submitted the following: Jay Granville Fenwick Jr., age 55, of La Porte, Texas, died Sunday, June 2, 2002. I did a Google search and found the obituary shown in a separate entry below this statement. Anyone with a good photo of Jay, please send it to Don Ricks.
- Jose A Munoz, Crew Chief with the 3rd Platoon in Danang, 1967-1968. For some reason he is listed under the name of: Muntildeoz, Jose A. and would like his name corrected [That was corrected. DMR].
Glenn L. LaRocque, SP5, Crew Chief from 1968–69, checked in with a photo for the roster. Thanks, Glenn:
The Catkiller roster contains a line for Troy Duplessis, Jr., and he was previously shown as being deceased (based upon an entry by a sister unit). However, Troy is much alive and has checked in with us to set the record straight. We are happy to make such corrections, have informed the sister unit, and hope to hear more from this 1967 warrior. More to follow, we are sure.
Another early Catkiller loose in the world has communicated with Ray Caryl, and he now is on our roster and notification list. Catkiller 44, Rick Johnson, who served in 1967–68, is now connected. We also look forward to stories and updates from Rick.back to top
Knight of Legion of Honor Medal:
Thankfully, we have something to put in this article: Great! And, it is special, for not many of us have a parent still alive in this category. Congratulations, Mister Klett, indeed! We would like some of the photos to post after the ceremony, Keith:
We (Keith , Kay and family) are going to attend Ralph Klett's ( Keith's father ) ward ceremony. He is going to be 97 yrs old in May and will receive the Knight of Legion of Honor Medal from France. Congressman John Kline [Minnesota] will be presenting it on Monday, January 29 What an honor for him. He has a Purple Heart, two Bronze stars along with many other medals. We are so proud of Ralph.back to top
Many of you followed the recent email traffic regarding a request for information assistance from Australian Air Marshal Mark Binskin, who now owns a restored former-Catkiller aircraft, 51-12898. Below is a recent email from the Air Marshal:
I now have a bit more information on 51-12898 from another Aussie Birddog owner(51-12471). It looks like my Birddog was part of the first batch of the 7 that were recovered to Australia from Bien Hoa Air Base in September 1989.back to top
For your records I have included some pictures of them in a very sad state at Bien Hoa and a shot taken of mine a week ago.
I look forward to staying in contact:Regards,
Several weeks ago William (Bill) Stilwagen, Bush Guide, of VIETNAM Battlefield Tours, emailed a request for specific information regarding the physical location of the 220th Aviation Company's unit area. His mission was to escort the an unnamed widow of a marine aserial observer to the site of the unit with whom he served in Vietnam, and he need the specific physical location. This request went out to several in the unit, which resulted in a discussion of useful photographs that would assist in passing this information on to Bill. Below are a few “then and now” photos received:
I need the exact location of the 220th at Phu Bai. I am taking a widow and her family to Vietnam in March and I want to get her to the correct place where her husband served. He was a Marine assigned to the 220th from March to May of 1967 as an AO. Hope you can help. Thanks much.
Yours in Service,
During the discussion period, I asked Bill for more information regarding his reason for wanting such specific knowledge. He then revealed the name of the marine observer as Jack Schaeffer. I located Jack’s obituary and have it posted at his roster line. Janet Schaeffer, widow of Jack Schaeffer, provided the photo and rank of her husband while he flew with the Catkillers. Below the photo are other relevant comments:
When you go there today and face the terminal building the only thing that remains is the cinder block building to the right of the old terminal that was square. It is still there today, with a cinder block wall around it, painted yellow. Our company area is now covered with pine trees and a lot of trash, and old debris is all around. It’s in a way sad that nothing remains of our whole area. But in a way that is good as well.back to top
Hope she [the widow] has a great trip, and I would like to go back with a group of Catkillers—it’s lonely going by myself.
Charles W. Bruton, Jr. [Catkiller 18]
Do a search for Hue Phu Bai Airport and then take a look at Hue Phu Bai Landing - Pilot's View (1 May 1967) —at the end of the clip, you will be looking at our maintenance hangar with a CV-2 “Caribou” in front of it. The Terminal Building was just to the left of the hangar and our 220th area was tucked in just a bit further left of the Terminal/Tower. I also located a pretty good site on the same page with a good view of the Terminal and Tower as it exists today.
I want to share some rather eloquent remarks sent from Colonel Jack Mullen. I wrote the following to him: What a wonderful dissertation on life as a professional soldier in wartime— not just any war, but our war—our Vietnam. It is so well expressed, with so much feeling! In the meantime, may I share your thoughts with a few of the others of our group of fearless aviators that I so loved during my time as their CO? [Colonel Mullen gave his permission, inserted below. DMR]
Ed Miler, Catkiller 6, 1969
Hi, Ed. Your message appeared on my screen during a moment of reflection, late at night while I was embraced in the comforting arms of insomnia, a blessing of longevity. When we were in Vietnam, we were experiencing for the first time, each of us individually, what that time period had to offer, and we reacted from an interesting array of frames of reference. You and I were professional soldiers, and as I told my mother, the Vietnam conflict to a professionals was an inconvenience, not an imposition.back to top
To a lot of young men, who were drafted and had no intention of becoming “lifers,” the whole thing was a terrible imposition. Not only were they in an unfamiliar cultural environment, they were jammed into a pattern of constrictions and boundaries of behavior that seemed simple enough to us pros, but were not only foreign to them, they were downright uncomfortable and restrictive. Worse, they were hugely uninformed, and their folks at home were being deluged with battle scenes on TV that suggested that we were stormed at with shot and shell daily.
In December of 1967, when I joined the 185th in Ban Me Thuot, a Birddog company like your Catkillers (we were the Pterodactyls), I noted immediately that the troops were getting rumors from a variety of sources and were confused. They were in fear and expected to replay Dien Bien Phu all over again with the original cast on a daily basis.
I had been sent there because the current CO was the only company commander senior to me when I arrived, so the battalion was puzzled about where to assign me and took that way out (I recall telling the LTC Executive officer that it was the first time I had reported in to an outfit that just didn’t need me. “Oh,No,” he replied . . . .)
I was filling a Mohawk driver levy, according to career management, and was “ripped untimely from my mother's womb” to fill that slot even though I was in a “stabilized tour” as an instructor at Leavenworth; LOL (I already had had a tour as a volunteer MAAG advisor, lol).
Anyway, I had a month or so to wander about as the XO before the CO rotated. He left me with a very well managed company. I felt that my first problem was to bring the troops on board with what the devil was going on in Vietnam, why we were there, and what the truth was about our own tactical situation deep in Michelin rubber tree plantation country.
I should add as an aside, that we quickly found ourselves in the midst of the so called TET Offensive of 1968 that Walter Cronkite and his buddies gave to the NVA even though we on the ground knew that the VC had shot their wad and could never again mount a battalion sized effort (Funny that the French lost to the Viet Minh in their newspaper headlines and we went ahead and did the same thing. Alas Babylon.)
I digress, but must add, I read an account of an interview with a highly placed NVA official while I was teaching history in 2003 or so in which he stated that they were incredulous when the American Press gave them a victory. They knew they had shot it all and did so to get the press excited; however, they never had expected such clamoring for us to get out of Vietnam in the press due to the inevitable dominance by the NVA. So much for the integrity and the power of the media. (who have been carefully purchased and organized over the past 30 years to accomplish just what they did last month.)
Anyway again, perhaps the late night hot buttered rum has loosened my tongue or keyboard if you will, when I took over the company, I established the Wednesday afternoon meeting (that frequently got rescheduled to the point where a fun comment gained life, “When is the Wednesday meeting going to be?”) That was when the entire company met under a picnic ground type shelter to hear me bring them up to date about what was happening in our immediate AO and what was going on around that area, as well as what I could gather from the daily MAAG briefings I attended about the countrywide situation.
All of the above stream of consciousness is to set up the fact that I recall telling the guys one day, “Look, make the most of what you've got. This is probably the only war most of you will ever be in. If you get killed, you have nothing to worry about, but if you survive (which most of us will) it will be one of the most memorable experiences of your life. Picture yourself sitting on the back porch swing telling your grandchildren about how you experienced TET of '68 in Ban Me Thuot, Vietnam, the place where Teddy Roosevelt used to go hunting for tigers and elephants and what ever he needed for his trophy room.”
As I observe, from the vantage point of my lurking in the gloaming, the Cat Killer Association syndrome, 100 Feet Over Hell, the pride taken by recognition for achievement in Vietnam, I feel vindicated. It was a hell of an experience for all of us, lifers and the “get the hell out as soon as possiblers” alike. I am proud that so many of those wonderful guys you (and we) served with are able to be proud of what they did and experienced in those times.
One of the characters in Thornton Wilder’s play Skin Of Our Teeth opened an act while sweeping the floor and looked out at the audience with this line: “I miss the war. People are at their best in war.”
You guys in the Catkillers, along with a lot of other great Americans, lifers and draftees alike, were at your best in Vietnam. I am glad I was there to witness your exemplary performance and truly enjoy your generosity in sharing the pride you all felt as members of the Catkillers.
Thanks, Ed. Thanks for sharing.
Maj. Gen. Jerry R. Curry, US Army Ret., D. Min.
This insightful book reads like an historical novel; it is a substantial and masterfully story ... a must read. It presents a vivid and penetrating portrait of American women at their wisest, smartest, toughest and best. It gives a remarkable and exciting compendium of insights into military life, especially overseas military family life. Its breadth and depth of understanding of America’s interaction with other nations, particularly as pertains to the Islamic world, has been matched by few writers.back to top
In one remarkable entry after another it lays bare, at the soldier level, the results of some of the difficult and controversial decisions made by the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. In a page-turning journey of dramatic sweep it lays out some of the formative events that explain how Korea turned out to be such a success story.
Some of the White House vignettes are particularly amusing. Overall it is a moving account that for years to come will be a prime source for studying the requirements placed on and the sacrifices made by our military forces and their families in the service of the nation.
Several people have asked how to read a Kindle book without buying the Kindle reader. Just go to Amazon.com and ask them to down load to your computer a program for reading Kindle books. It is very inexpensive and quite easy to read.
I recently visited Texas for a hog hunting trip with several flight school classmates. While there Dick Wolfe (Catkiller 16) and Bob Sieker (flew Mohawks with the 225th) and I went to look at a Birddog at the Kerrville Airport that Bob is interested in buying. It was a French aircraft and absolutely pristine! The owner said that when he bought it, it came with 4 live rockets! Here are several pictures showing Dick by the aircraft and me in the cockpit with a big smile. By the way, I missed the big storm back here!
A call for personal and military information, including photographs, is below for you consideration. Please help, if you are able:
My name is Charlie Calderon, and I am a member of a research team that was founded and is chaired by Dr. Ricardo Romo, president of the University of Texas at San Antonio. Our team is made up of Vietnam Veterans, Veterans and civilian representatives from the different high schools, and the various veteran organization here in San Antonio. Our team is called “Fallen Heroes–Faces With Names” and we have been together for over three years and at this time have identified 361 casualties (9 MIA's) from the San Antonio and the Bexar county area. Of these 361 casualties we have been able to locate 351 photos and have sent these photos to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in Washington DC. (vvmf.org) and all have been posted on their site.back to top
We are now trying to gather information and photos on a casualty by the name of Jean Clifton Foster, Capt. United States Army. He served with:
Your help in obtaining any photo(s) or information on casualty Foster would greatly be appreciated. If you have any questions feel free to contact me at the below listed phone numbers. My thanks to you,
- 2nd PLT, 74th AVN CO, 210th AVN BN, 12th AVN GROUP, 1st AVAITION BDE, USARV. He was KIA Vietnam 21 November 1968.
- Foster's casualty information
Charles A. Calderon Sr.
United States Navy 1966–1968
Fallen Heroes-Faces With Names Research Volunteer
Hm. 210-647-7307 / Cell 210-834-8514
San Antonio, Texas
This article was supposed to fit into the story being documented by Don Pellecchia and Jack Schaeffer, both marine aerial observers in 1967. However, the article is of very poor quality, and when entered through several programs to ,make a PDF file, it is not readable. Here it is, in its best shape possible:
Merely by chance a few days ago, I discovered that one of our marine observers didn't have a photo on the roster, so when I kindly asked if he had one, there came to my email box two photos from which to choose. I made a thumbnail of both photos and sent them to the marine for him to approval of the one of his choice. Our emails went back and forth a few times before this humble man disclosed, rather matter-of factually, that he had been awarded the Silver Star medal, just before being selected to serve with the Catkillers as a 3rd Marine Division Aerial Observer, 1968–69 (the SS citation is linked from his roster line). When I inferred he was a hero (I was kidding you about everything but this, Jerry), this is what he wrote :
Justin M. Martin II: “I always thought of the grunts on the ground who we flew [and supported] as the real heroes of our war. Those crazy young army warrant officers who flew Hueys without fear and disregard for their own safety were my heroes of the air war.”back to top
Based upon several old, barely viewable photographs received from Bob Copland, who served in operations during his tour in 1966–67, I began to search for Sergreant First Class Everett E. Stockdale. We located SFC Stockdale, but unfortunately he had died just last month, on February 22. One of Everett's children returned a call left on their answering machine to confirm this was the man we were looking for, and we passed our condolences to his family. Below are two photo from Bob's collection, as well as the obituary for SFC Stockdale:
Ther passing of a World War II soldier is quickly becoming a rare announcement, but there are still a few of those heroes remaining. Here is a note from one of our own with an announcement that marks the death of his father:
This is a picture of Ralph A. Klett (Keith's father) with congressman John Kline, Mn. presenting him this French Legion of Honor. He was also recipient of CIB, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, many other awards. It is sad to say that Ralph A. Klett passed away on March 13th. Funeral will be March 30th. He was 96 yrs.old. Would have been 97 on May 9th. He lived a long life and will be missed by 7 children, 18 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren. Keith E. Klett, Catkiller 40 (68-69)
Our condolences to Keith and his family.back to top
It is indeed a sad task but an honor to post this obituary for a friend, fellow flight school classmate, fellow Catkiller at the 220th Aviation Company, and a Longtrip pilot at the Command Aircraft Company in Vietnam. Larry also flew OV–1 aircraft for the Georgia National Guard:
Donald M. Ricks
Mr. Larry D. Oltjenbruns
8/19/1939 - 2/16/2013
Mr. Larry D. Oltjenbruns age 73 of Smyrna, passed away Saturday, February 16th. Funeral services will be held 11:00 A.M. Thursday, February 21st at Carmichael Funeral Home Chapel in Smyrna with Rev. Tom Grady officiating. Interment will be in Georgia National Cemetery in Canton. Mr. Oltjenbruns was a retired Major in the U.S. Army and served as a veteran aviator during the Vietnam Conflict. He was a member of Mt. Paran Church of God Central. Surviving are: Wife of 35 years Gay Oltjenbruns of Smyrna, Son – Mark Oltjenbruns of Woodstock, 3 Daughters – Stacey Jochum of Woodstock, Terri O’Neil of Savannah, Tammy Bourek of Pender, NE, Mother – Edythe White of St. Louis, MO, Brother – Darold Oltjenbruns of St. Louis, MO, 7 Grandchildren, 1 Great Grandchild. In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to Wounded Warrior Project, 3343 Peachtree Rd., #M20, Atlanta, Georgia 30326. The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 PM Wednesday, February 20th at Carmichael Funeral Home in Smyrna (770) 435-4467.
Medals received while serving in the U.S. Army:
- National Defense Service Medal
- Army Aviation Badge
- Vietnam Service Medal
- Vietnam Campaign Medal (W/60Dev)
- Bronze Star Medal
- Army Commendation Medal (1stOLC) & (2ndOLC)
- Air Medal (2-28th Award) & (29-39th Award) [second tour in Vietnam]
Source: Carmichaelcares.comback to top