Third Quarterly 2010 CATCOM E-Newsletter

September 3, 2010

NEWSLETTER CONTENT (click to go direct): 

Reunion Related

Newsletter Articles:

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2010 Reunion Photo report: Click here for photo report only


This article provides an overview of the reunion results. Rod Stewart has an unique way with words, and they represent well the glossary of thoughts coming from attendees. The reunion report and photos will be posted and accessed from the left Cat Bar. Until we have the opportunity to collect and organize the many inputs credited to those who attended, please read this and consider it a well-written introduction to what is to come:

"Dispatch From a Battleship:

She is old and grey. We are too. Walking and limping we climb the ramp up her side and gather under the biggest guns America ever made. We are the last remnants of the 220th Reconnaissance Airplane Company—together again for cold beer and warmed-over legends. She is the USS New Jersey—last of her breed, and the source of a few of those legends.
Revisiting the USS New Jersey
Way back in the Twentieth Century, this huge ship was called out of her well—earned retirement to join in the folly of the Vietnam War. Designed to sink Jap battleships, her 2700-pound shells were ill suited for use amongst the population of a friendly country—and so she spread her destructive wrath onto mainly North Vietnam. But to find her targets—she needed eyes. So our little group of Army aviators, in slow, low, propeller planes—nearly as old as the ship, would push into North Vietnam seeking something for her to shoot. We usually had no trouble finding it—and it us.

My wingman, Lee Harrison was the first to "shoot" her. He became a legend to her and to all of us. He is still missing—and still missed. After dinner on deck, the role is called. A bell rings for each one unable to answer—and his old mates call "HERE" in remembrance. Darkness and patriotic fireworks follow—a perfect metaphor for the mood.

Fireworks of a different kind, USS New Jersey
An author from London joins us with his new book about the 220th. Historians sit us down and film some interviews for posterity. Passing on the memories makes me feel a part of the continuum of American military history—from 1776 to today. It also makes me feel really, really old.

My father had many reunions with his old war buddies, and also was mentioned in books about war. As I sit scratching my name in book after book, I flash back on watching with pride, Dad, at my age, doing the same. I have to admit my war and feats fail to measure up to his—just like my preparedness for printed accolades. I have to borrow a pen to do the signing—he carried a rubber stamp made of his signature—self inking.

—Stampless Stew"
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We recently added Kenneth E. Trent (Catkiller 1966—67) to the roster and to the notification list. Thanks for checking with us, Ken.

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DEAR EDITOR (dynamic):

This is not so much lost or found in this case, so I post the comments here. Gary L. Imel's son, Michael, sent a nice report on his father. Later, I hope to have some of Gary's photos to post:

"My Dad is Gary L. Imel, one of the original Catkillers, and I was just hoping to get in touch with anyone who may have served with him and to see if they have any stories or memorable events that they would be willing to share with me. I don't know a whole lot about his tours with the 220th, but I would love to know more. I know his first tour was in '65 and that the entire unit shipped out from Ft. Lewis (I was born at Madigan Army Hospital in May of that year) and that his second tour was in '68. I know he received the DFC for his FAC role in support of Operation Thor. I also believe he resigned his comission in '69/'70 due to my Mom's illness.

In case anyone does know him and is interested, he is doing really well and lives on Fox Island up in the Puget Sound area. He retired from New York Life and now is president of his own company, Integated Financial Services. You can look him up by Googling Integrated Financial Services - Gary Imel. His military service in the Army and my respect for him led me to join up as a 91B1P (Combat Medic - Airborne). I went to jump school at Benning in 1983 and was assigned to the 24th Infantry Division (Mech).

I have a few pictures of Dad an some others in Phu Bai that I would be willing to share with any Catkiller who'd like to see them. I just finished reading A Hundred Feet Over Hell and was very impressed with the Catkillers' skills, bravery and dedication to their mission.

I would really like hear from any Catkiller, and it would be my honor to share a story or just to be in contact with the men from the 220th (e-mail Michael at:

Respectfully submitted,
Michael Imel"

"I am trying to locate anyone that might have known a buddy of mine that served with the 220th in Jan-Feb 68. His name was Terance (Terry) M. Bozarth he was shot down on 22 Feb 68. It is my understanding that he had only been in country 4-6 weeks. We were both from Kettering, OH. We went in together in Jan 1966 and were bunkmates in Basic. I take a flag out to his grave every memorial day and share a smoke with him. I'd just like to get in touch with someone who knew him.


Ted Wendeln
Army 1966-69" [contact Ted at this e-mail address:]

Editor: Terry's photo is at the 1968 Catkiller history page, courtesy Bob LaFerriere.

While at Fort Rucker Curt Perry hosted a dinner attended by Daryl Wesley, Bill Owen and me. Curt cooked these amazing smoked ribeye steaks! Needless to say there was also an amount of alcohol (Catkiller Wine to be specific) consumed and a few lies told!

It was great to see everyone, and I had a fabulous visit.

Jerry DiGrezio
Curt Perry, Daryl Wesley, Jerry DiGrezio, and Bill Owen, Catkillers

This note (actually two) came to Jim Hooper from Sam Robinson, who shared it with the editor, who asked for permission to post the history. Thanks for the comments, Sam:

"I have thoroughly enjoyed reading A Hundred Feet Over HELL. For some time, I don´t remember exactly how long, my sister continued to remind me that Doc was living in Winston-Salem. Apparently I had told her that Doc´s Catkiller FAC unit had supported my battalion in the Kinh Mon Battle in October 1968. Regretfully I failed to over a period of time to reconnect with Doc and may have been able to offer additional information regarding that battle.

I was the Commander of HHC, 1st Battalion (Mech), 61st Infantry. The official unit name of our Brigade was the 1st Infantry Brigade (Mech). We had no unit patch or colors but wore the 5th Infantry Division Red Diamond patch. This Brigade was organized and trained under Top Secret orders in early 1968 at Ft. Carson, CO. The brigade had the mission of taking over McNamara´s Line along the southern edge of the DMZ and stopping filtration of NVA replacements into the south. Lt. Merrell was my Recon Platoon Leader and Tom Coopey, Jim Roffers, Tommy Ray (Merrell´s RTO) and Wayne McKendree were in my company. During the battle my primary responsibility was the security of the Battalion Commander and his staff. After A Company´s commander was wounded, and they were cut off from us, I was ordered to take over A Co. and bring them out, which did not happen until B Co. 1/77th Armor arrived. I´m not positive about this, but I must have been with Tom Coopey when the F-4´s dropped the napalm (page 114) over our heads, as I recalled this when I was visiting with Doc this past Friday.

Since my memory is questionable after so many years, I would greatly appreciate seeing the the official After Action Reports, and the two Duty Officer´s Logs which might help to jog my memory back to the battle. I don´t recall participating in any after action report discussions like I did later after joining the 101st Airborne in December. If an update is permitted I would be willing to offer some additional information regarding the 1/61st (Mech).

The weather was so nasty during the battle I can appreciate why some might not appreciate the role that AAR played in the battle. I remember talking to Wheeler after the battle that we needed to recommend the FAC´s who supported us for the DFC. From my observations I can say that I was amazed at how low the Catkillers and tacair came in to support us. When I was transferred to the 101st Airborne I landed at Phu Bai and saw the Catkiller compound and went straight there to thank those guys for the great job that they did in supporting the 1/61st (Mech) during Op Rich. That´s when I ran into Doc Clements who I had not seen since our high school days. Later they proceeded to get me drunk and take my money at the card table.

Thank you for telling the story of the 1st Bn. (Mech), 61st Infantry, 1st Infantry Brigade (Mech).

Sam Robinson"
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Recognition plaque, 220th RAC web site

During the reunion program conducted Friday evening, June 25, the reunion chairman, Charles "Bud" Bruton, presented a very nice plaque to Don Ricks, recognizing his work with the newsletter site during the last several years—from December 2002 to present:

I take this opportunity to say a few more words, after reflection, to further thank the committee and to offer my thoughts on how this all begin:

"Completely surprised and caught off guard by the moment, I spoke from my heart and truthfully stated that many people had contributed to the web site's success by their participation. Among some other forgotten words, I stated that success of the web site was a group effort, which relies almost 100 percent on input from those who read the newsletter. I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the actual beginning of this effort, way back when....

Scott Cummings is the originator of the current newsletter site, based on his early work to first establish his Catkiller site and, secondly, to provide for feedback through a guestbook. He was also the conduit for increased message traffic, as more and more Catkillers and Friends located his site and started leaving e-mail messages and guestbook entries. Scott's efforts soon paid dividends, as more and more of our group found his site a welcomed focal point. From his efforts, many in our group began to pull together in a spirited way. Scott's early work directly influenced a better reunion attendance record, starting at the Las Vegas reunion in 2003. About 2002, Scott took on a new job, which kept him on the road a lot (and maintenance of his web site), so I decided to start a newsletter to help out with increased demands on our growing communications.

I would like to acknowledge Scott Cummings as co-beneficiary and co-recipient to this recognition, and to publicly thank him for his excellent work on behalf of all Catkillers and Friends. Without Scott's vision and hard work to learn, develop, and maintain his site, we would not be as far along, nor as well-organized, as we are today.

Donald M. Ricks
Catkiller 49
CATCOM Editor"

Thank you so much for the nice words. I wish I had more time to keep the site a little more current. I can't tell you how wonderful it makes me feel that so many men who served with the 220th RAC could re-contact old friends and actually get together. Again thank you for the generous words, I am humbled. I hope everyone had a great time at the reunion. I hope to make the next one.

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Courtesy of Tom Spruck, this link takes you to a new deevelopment in VA compensation relating to "medically unexplained chronic multisymptom illness" for disability claims based on Gulf War and Southwest Asia service (Regulatory Change):

VA Veterans compensation for qualifying chronic disabilities resulting from Gulf War and Southwest Asia service

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As you can see by the growing history section, we continue to document by personal testimony and memory the history of our unit. This is an appeal for operational and unit history, and if anyone has history to offer (stories, events, major support operations, unit orders, unit deactivation notices, etc.), please send in your input. We are in particular looking for official orders or other documents which changed the Table of Organization (TO&E) of the unit, as well as unit draw—down events during the 1970-71 period.

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The Catkiller web site, newsletter, and history initiative have grown into much more than one person can effectively manage and control. Our informal organization and webmaster seek a volunteer web site advisory committee/group to assist in management of the site. Volunteers do not need to be web site experts, but any experience would help.

(If we can divide and conquer), there is not a large volume of work here. This web site advisory committee might also function as advisors to future reunion volunteers. Don Ricks is the current webmaster, and his involvement will not change. The committee would serve as a functional advisory unit.

Duties would include:

It would be very helpful to have volunteers from each of the seven years of 220th history, from all ranks and from various duties (a well diversified group). A major interest would be a strong regard for the history of our unit.

Please contact the webmaster: or the 2012 reunion committee (click on either link).

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CPT, Catkiller 10/46, Larry Deibert, honored in Oregon, August 2010: Service date Jan 15, 1967 to Jan. 15, 1968

"Charles "Larry" Deibert, third row center in blue coat [photo above], poses at a reunion this week with 3rd Battalion/26 Regiment Marines who served in Vietnam, 1966 to 1970. The men plan to travel to Salem today [Friday, August 27, 2010] where Oregon Army National Guard will dedicate its new aviation center to Deibert. The Oregon Guard aviator who won the Distinguished Service Cross supporting the 3/26 Marines in a ferocious battle on Sept. 10, 1967 in South Vietnam. ROSS WILLIAM HAMILTON/The Oregonian:"

The full story, plus a video and photos, are available via the link below. Congratulations, Larry, and know we are proud of your accomplishments and wish you well. This is a great story (and video) you won't want to miss!

The Oregonian Article
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Editor's Note: Here is an article that could just as easily have rested in the "Dear Editor" section, but upon reflection there is history and a great testimony of the excellence of service of both AO's and their Catkiller pilots. This is also a fitting place for this testimony to be isolated near the article about Larry Deibert. Our early pioneer pilots and their associated units wrote the book on this era's combat methods and procedures. It took time and exposure and refinement of those procedures for these legends to develop. It is a pleasure to help record the many details of those years. Thanks to Philip T. Spieth and those like him for the excitement one feels at discovery of "the rest of the story." Thanks also to Jim Hooper, who provides a learned response to this continuing and persistent problem of not always being able to locate participants who made the history. However, we are honored to record that which we find.

Philip T. Spieth, Marine AO, DaNang, Summer 1965
"Congratulations to Jim Hooper for his book on the Catkillers. I discovered the book in the library of the Marines Memorial in San Francisco. I immediately purchased a copy and have enjoyed it thoroughly. Thanks to Jim for writing the book.

My only regret is that the book did not devote more attention and detail to the Marine officers, and others, who rode in the back seat. We too could use a little more publicity. I tip my hand: my MOS's in the Corps were 0802/0805—artillery officer and aerial observer. When I flew, the pilots were, of course, the plane commanders, but the AO´s were the mission commanders. We were the ones tasked with doing a specific job for the troops on the ground.

There was, however, a significant division between pilots and observers. Whereas we flew together and got shot at together, we did not live and play together. At the end of the day, the AO´s went "home" to their ground units. That made a huge difference in one´s self identity. Nevertheless, the pilot/observer pair was definitely a team, and the teams had a remarkable record in Vietnam. I am proud of the two patches on my ancient leather flight jacket: one patch is for the First Marine Division AO unit and the second patch is from the 220th Aviation Company (with the motto "We Observe").

Flight jacket worn by Marine AO Philip T. Spieth, VMO-2, DaNabg, 1965, served with the Catkillers
The question that intrigues me is how and when did the Marine AO's first hook up with the pilots of the 220-th? I would like to think that I was in on the beginning, but I did not have the big picture and did not know what was happening elsewhere; I was especially ignorant about things that happened at Phu Bai during my time in Vietnam.

While I was in DaNang from May to August 1965, VMO-2 was still supporting AO missions with Bird Dogs. In August 1965, in the middle of operation Starlite, I was transferred to 3rd Bn, 12th Marines, at Chu Lai. VMO-2 was too busy with its Hueys to bother with AO missions; the AO´s at Chu Lai had hooked up with the 3rd platoon of the 220th Army Aviation Co. at Quang Ngai to provide support for Starlite. The day after I arrived at Chu Lai I had my first hop with the 220th.

For the rest of the time I was in Vietnam, I flew routine AO missions in Hueys with the VMO squadrons, but for all major operations we flew with the 220th. Names that come to mind are Piranha, Harvest Moon, Double Eagle I and Double Eagle II. When the Marines and the 220th hooked up for Starlite, it was an ad hoc, heat of the battle, union. Nevertheless, a connection was initiated. Operation Piranha, which came shortly thereafter, was pre-planned. For it the AO´s at Chu Lai moved in with the Catkillers at Quang Ngai (which was the occasion of my first hot shower and true bed in Vietnam). Before the operation, the Marine AO´s put together a full—blown "school book" operational briefing to present to the pilots at Quang Ngai. Our sense was that they were impressed. In any event, we had working relationship established.

By the time I left Vietnam in April 1966 the Marine AO´s with their Catkillers were getting written up in the division newspaper. It would be interesting to hear what others know about the origins of the Marine AO/Catkiller combination.

Semper fi.
Philip T Spieth, aka "Tinge 2"
Lafayette, CA "

Reply From Jim Hooper:
Dear Phil--

A phenomenon I never anticipated has been the number of reunions effected by the book. Many veterans come home, get on with their lives and put the war behind them. What I call the "nostalgia factor" begins to creep in about twenty years later as they reflect on the extraordinary experiences they lived through and wonder what became of those with whom they shared those times. One of the recent examples is the president of a credit union near Atlanta, who had not had contact with any Catkiller for over forty years. He wrote:

" I haven't finished reading 100 Feet Over Hell, but it brings back so many memories. I was Catkiller 12 during 1969/1970. One of my board members gave me the book last night and I looked at it and said "That's my company, that's my plane, that was my platoon!" Thanks for writing the book."
War is a unique personal experience. Despite our being but a small cog in a huge machine, there is still a unique combination of autonomy, camaraderie and adventure that can not be duplicated in any other endeavor. The sophomoric argument that we should have advanced intellectually, philosophically and morally beyond the horrors of war ignores the fact that it is an innate part of the human condition. Someone once told me that, like women who feel incomplete without bearing a child, many men feel incomplete without experiencing combat. Writing this to an evolutionary biologist may be unpardonable and presumptuous, but 25 years of covering conflict convinces me he was right.

I should not be surprised if the appearance of your letter on the Catkiller website prompts a few replies.

Presumptuously yours,

Follow-up response to a question regarding Phil's current line of work, to which he so replied with even more softer history:

I taught population genetics and evolutionary biology at Berkeley for 30 years. I am now retired but still have a finger in the pie. I chair the committee that oversees the three ROTC programs at Berkeley. YES. BERKELEY HAS ALL THREE ROTC PROGRAMS. My committee insures that we have first class officers as instructors for all three programs.

Another aside: I took the Graduate Record Exam in DaNang. People tend to gasp. I say, do not be silly: when I took the exam I stayed with the Air Force and had my first hot shower and slept in a real bed for the first time since going to Vietnam. It all was very relaxing. That statement is not entirely true. I actually had my first (and only previous) hot shower when I did an RON with the 220th in Quang Ngai a few months earlier.

I confess to having a lousy memory for names. I cannot remember any of the names of the pilots at Quang Ngai in late 1965. I do remember that we were all impressed by the captain who commanded the platoon. I have searched the roster on the Catkillers web site for the year 1965. Sadly, no names jar my memory.

Semper fi.
Phil Spieth, aka "Tinge 2"

Adendum, September 23, 2010:

Fitting the Pieces Together:

Sometimes a great notion occurs even in the densest of skulls. After stating in one of my previous emails that I was drawing a blank at recognizing names of the Catkillers with whom I flew, a little voice told me to go find my flight log book. I did. Lo and behold, there are the names of all the pilots with whom I flew in my days as an aerial observer!

Several things were immediately obvious. First, I had had the names of the platoons for the 220th mixed up in my memory. It was the First Platoon with whom I flew at Chu Lai / Quang Ngai. Second, upon looking up the names on the roster posted on the Catkillers web site, all the First Platoon pilots with whom I flew are listed as having been "original Catkillers." Bill Everett is the platoon commander whom we Marine AO´s admired. I re-read Bill´s history piece on the web site with new interest and attention to details.

The pieces came together. Everything fits. I lay claim to being one of the original Marine AO´s to fly with the Catkillers. My log book states that my first flight with the 220th occurred on 20 August 1965. Bill Everett picked me up at the Chu Lai air strip. In Bill´s narrative, that puts my introduction to the Catkillers right in the middle of when the 25 foot deep hole was being dug at Quang Ngai for Welsh´s latrine. It was also the middle of Operation Starlite. In the four days that followed I flew again with Bill and also with Charlie Welsh, Stuart Miller, Monty Price, and "Pop" Richards.

In the months that followed, the Marine AO´s from Chu Lai flew with the 220th during special operations. Other Catkillers with whom I flew in those months were Arnie Roebuck, Tom Batten, and Darl McAllister. My final operation with the 220th was Operation Double Eagle II in the last week of February 1966. Our AO´s went to Danang and flew with the Third Platoon. I flew with Tom Murray, Ron Santos, Lem Brinkley, Norm MacPhee, and Benjamin Hartman.

My flights with the 220th were clearly episodic; most of my time at Chu Lai was devoted to standing FDO watch in the battalion fire direction center for 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines. But, when I think about the things I did as an AO in Vietnam I think first and foremost about flying with the 220th. Thanks for the hops, gentlemen; I am honored to have served with you.

Semper fi.
Phil Spieth
Lafayette, CA

At an appropriate point in time, this testimony and those replies will transfer to the 1965 history page. Editor. According to Rod Stewart, the Marines Memoprial Club is a must visit. Here is what he said:

"For those who might not know of this place — everyone should make an effort to visit this great small library with a treasury of mementos and displays near the top floor of the Marines Memorial building in San Francisco. The Marine's Memorial is a club with a theater, hotel (with hot showers for us Army types and cold for the Marines) and a 2 hour Happy Hour, where those staying and active duty personal drink on the house. Breakfast buffet always has SOS! Great spot when visiting "The City." Non—members always welcome." [Editor's note: Rod was instrumental in having Jim's book placed in their library.]
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