220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company
December 2003 CATCOM E-Newsletter
and all Friends
and Brothers in Arms,
in memory of those who have served
Things have been quite on the Catkiller scene, lately, and for good reason! The reunion staff devoted lots of time and energy in their efforts to make the reunion a success, and most of them have work to catch up on, family relationships to renew, and holidays are upon us. This will be a short newsletter, too, because we also have many things going on at our house.
Just to update you on what has been going on, there will be an article published in the International Bird Dog Association's (IBDA) BOWWOW Magazine." Below is a copy of what we submitted, in case you are not a member and don't receive their magazine. The magazine contains a few photos taken at the reunion (some of those at the photo pages):
Catkiller Reunion, 2003
The 'Catkillers' of the 220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company (RAC) recently held their 2003 reunion at the Palace Station Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Approximately one hundred and twenty Catkillers and friends gathered for three days of remembrance, fellowship, and fun beginning October 19. Reunion organizers, Paul V. Brennan, John S. Hillman, Francis "Jerry" Bonning Jr., Jerry DiGrezio, Robert McComiskie, Charles Finch, Donald M. Ricks, and Joe "Beans" Brett (108th Artillery Group 'Sundowner'), began organization meetings over the internet in June, 2002. Their intent was to have an all-inclusive gathering of men of all ranks, who share in the Catkiller reputation from across the era of unit service. By all account, they succeeded far beyond any expectation.
The 220th RAC was organized at Fort Lewis, Washington, in 1965, under the command of Major Jerry Ralph Curry (now a retired major general). This famous 'Bird Dog' unit served during the Vietnam War, in the northern part of I Corps, until ordered deactivated in 1971. The 220th RAC was the last remaining Bird Dog unit in Vietnam, and with its deactivation the combat service of the O-1 to our military came to an end. Effectively, the last combat mission flown by an American O-1 was by a Catkiller.
Tradition is that their nickname, Catkillers, began with a lucky draw from suggestions submitted by unit members while at the initial unit base at Danang, and before the unit relocated to its last home base at Phu Bai. Catkillers whose service dates spanned those six years met and renewed the special bond and camaraderie of those times many years ago. Some traveled from as far away as Saudi Arabia. One Catkiller, CW5 Sarge Means, still serves on active duty.
During the Vietnam War, several Catkillers or their backseat occupants were either killed in action or remain on the roll of missing in action (MIA). John S. Hillman led attendees in a tribute to those who made the supreme sacrifice, or who have passed away since returning from Vietnam. A single memorial table, adorned with an inverted wine glass, a single red rose, a candle, and a Bible, rested on an elevated platform during the reunion banquet, signifying the regard for and honor duly given all missing members who served. Kandice Kimsey, sister of CW3 William Arthur Kimsey Jr. (former MIA), stood to thank her Catkiller family for their support and friendship during the last year. Her brother was shot down on January 21, 1968, and was in an MIA status until recently when his remains were located and returned for internment on May 27, 2002, at Arlington National Cemetery. The Catkillers were honored to have as their guests [Redacted], widow of Alan O'Hollaren, and Kandice Kimsey, who in the company of an impressive number of wives, daughters and sons added a greater sense of 'family' to the event.
Don Pepe presented a series of slides and Vietnam era music for a multi-media show that stirred memories and emotions the Catkillers carried from their experiences.
Charles "Bud" Bruton, Catkiller 18, presented a slide show and briefing on his recent return trip to Vietnam. As a participant in a goodwill mission with Veterans Vietnam Restoration Project (VVRP), a non-profit group of veterans who have returned to rebuild orphanages, schools, and homes since 1994, Bud eventually visited the former Catkiller operational area. The group first went into Hanoi and traveled south to Dong Ha and Phu Bai, but worked primarily north of the Ben Hai River in villages in the former northern DMZ area. He crossed the Ben Hai River at "Freedom Bridge," which connects former South Vietnam to the north. His presentation ended with encouragement for all to consider such a return trip, even a reunion, to an area few visited on the ground.
The Catkiller newsletter web site contains additional information and photographs of the event and participants:
[end of article]
We welcome Joe Mead (CatkillerRadio), a sergeant in operations from 1969-1970; and Patrick D. Webster, Catkiller 44, of Merritt Island, Florida.
Pat Webster wrote:
The Catkillers definitely have a lot of camaraderie!! I saw that special "spark" even during the short time I was with the Catkillers in late 69, early 70. The 21st RAC was also a good organization, but the effort to have a reunion hasn't really gotten off the ground. In all honesty, I never had that much interaction with the organization as a whole during my assignment with them since I spent most of my time in Dining where our platoon assets were based. Because of the distance from Chu Lai, we interacted more with the guys in the battalion headquarters and other units stationed at Marble Mountain. After completing six months as the platoon leader I was reassigned to Phu Bai where I finished out my tour, mostly flying the DMZ as I recall. While I was with the unit I took a number of pictures, several of which were taken during one of our parties in the club near the end of 69. They are in slide format and of fairly good quality. If I can copy them in digital format and maintain the quality, I'll post them to the net so the guys can see them.
About myself, I am now retired from both the military and the federal government (yeh, a double dipper!). My wife, Joyce, and I spend about half the year in Florida at MacDill, AFB in Tampa where we have a 5th Wheel Travel Trailer, and the remainder in southern Ohio in the little river town of Ripley, about 50 miles up the Ohio River from Cincinnati. When not on the golf course when in Ohio, most of my time is fixing/maintaining our old Victorian home on the river (a real money pit!). When in Florida, I just golf!!
I rode my bike down to north Florida and back to Tennessee early this week,
and I called Chuck to ask if I could stop by on my way through Atlanta. He lives
just off I-75, at Kennesaw, so it was an easy and pleasant side trip to meet
him again. Below is a photo of a very friendly Catkiller who seemed to enjoy
the visit. Note the Catkiller plaque on his wall. Chuck is doing well but requires
another surgery on his left leg. Otherwise, his spirits are high, and he has
only a few more weeks in the wheelchair. Then, it's back to work. I could tell
that Chuck doesn't like the confinement of the wheel chair and can't wait to
return to his normal routine:
Merry Christmas, Chuck, and we hope you are on your feet, soon.
Scott Cummings recently purchased a large storage area web site and even has a new domain name (a surprise that he will later reveal). He plans to do some extra work on his web pages and will probably have an announcement soon regarding how this will effect your access to the site. When he gets ready, we'll let you know. 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). Since this will be the last newsletter for a while, this entire site might soon be absorbed by Scott Cummings' new web site. When we can work out the details, he will let you know. Until then, this site remains active and available. Personally, I would like to know that all our recent contact success does not become lost and outdated. Robert McComiskie has done a very good job for us in establishing and maintaining an up-to-date e-mail contact list. We will continue to discuss how to best gather and store the latest e-mail and other contact information for Catkillers and Friends. If you have any input, suggestions, or recommendations, please let us know.
Bob McComiskie's Photo Page
Catkiller T-shirts can be ordered directly from the producer, Leon Skeen. Please visit the link located in the October newsletter for more information on how to order.
Reflective Catkiller sticker decals (last call):
There are only a few of these remaining: three large ones and twelve small ones.
Santa, out on his bike in the northeast, testing his new delivery system: