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Thanks to VHCMA Associate Member Bill Staffa for these reports. The articles appeared in the Vietnam Helicopter Crew Members Association.

After Action Report

Combat Casualty Report  (21 May 1968)

Regarding:   SP5 Victor Roman Heesacker

On May 21, 1968, an OH-23G "Raven" assigned to Company B "Aeroscout", 123rd Combat Aviation Battalion, AMERICAL Division was conducting an armed aerial reconnaissance in the Divisional AO. The unit was based at the Ky Ha Heliport on the Chu Lai Combat Base in the I Corps Region. The crew consisted of then First Lieutenant Bill Staffa as pilot, SP4 Britlow was a combat experienced aeroscout observer, sat in the left seat of the aircraft. The crew chief was SP4 Victor Roman Heesacker, who was an experienced Huey Crew chief (MOS 67N20) was sitting in the rear compartment. Heesacker had recently been assigned to the unit, having been with the aviation maintenance section in the support battalion of the 11th Infantry Brigade at Duc Pho.

THe first reconnaissance mission of the day was approximately three miles to the east of LZ Dottie. Several individuals were observed who looked out of place in an open rice paddy near a small hamlet, but nothing was developed. After some time, the gunships returned to LZ Dottie. The aeroscout crew was instructed to remain on station until their return, and climbed to altitude which would put them out of range of small arms fire.

"With the return of the gunships, the recon was resumed. Another suspicious individual was observed and started running up a trail when approached by the scout. As they closed on the individual, they received small arms fire from the [?] along the trail. They climbed to altitude as the gunships attacked the area.

Returning to the area, the scout crew saw no sign of the enemy except for a weapon lying on the ground.

After several passes through the area proved uneventful they moved toward the weapon. At a altitude of 10-15 feet and twenty feet to the front and left of the air craft, an enemy soldier fired a .30 caliber Browning Automatic Rifle at the aircraft. SP5 Victor Heesacker never had an opportunity to return fire and slumped immediately forward out of the door (being restrained by his safety harness). He made no effort to pull himself back into the helicopter or to communicate with 1Lt Staffa. The aircraft immediately left the area and landed a short distance away and a UH-1D landed shortly. Heesacker was placed aboard the Huey and evacuated for medical treatment.

SP5 Victor Heesacker was struck in the face from short range by a bullet from a heavy assault rifle. He never regained consciousness and may, in fact, had been killed instantly.

 

After Action Report

Combat Casualty Report, (26 September 1968)

Regarding:  SP4 Donald L. Brown

On September 26, 1968, an OH-6 "Cayuse" (tail number 67-16185) assigned to Company B "Aeroscout", 123rd Combat Aviation Battalion, AMERICAL Division was conducting an armed aerial reconnaissance in the Divisional AO. The unit was based at the Ky Ha Heliport on the Chu Lai Combat Base in the I Corps Region. The crew consisted of Captain Bill Staffa as pilot, SP4 Hill was a very experienced Aeroscout observer, sat in the left seat of the aircraft. The crew chief was SP4 Donald L. Brown, who was an experienced Huey Crew chief (MOS 67N20) was sitting in the rear compartment.

On the first reconnaissance mission of the day, about 20 miles west of the city of Tam Ky, they were flying in support of D Company, 1/52 Infantry and searching an area for enemy soldiers who had ambushed combat engineers working on the road adjacent to LZ Young. The weather was a little foggy and rainy so they could not recon the mountains to the west, the likely direction of enemy withdrawal. It was decided to check the area around the firebase. They observed several crew-served weapons (mortars) under a lean-to and leather combat gear hanging on pegs in a hootch about 2000 meters to the northeast of the firebase. The items were exposed by hovering over the thatched structures and blowing the roof away with the rotor wash.

It was decided to have the supporting armed helicopters attack the structures with rocket fire. Afterward the loach moved back into the area, but returned to LZ Young when a strange noise was heard coming from the aircraft. The noise turned out to be wind blowing across the exposed barrel end of an M-79 grenade launcher. When they returned to the search area, several blood trails were observed and they took sporadic small arms fire. The supporting gunships were called in again with rocket and minigun fire.

When they returned to the area for damage assessment, a body was observed on the ground in front of the original structure. As they slowly flew over the "dead" body at 15 feet, he rolled over and fired at the slow moving aircraft with an AK-47 assault rifle.

Captain Staffa was hit in the right foot, driving his leg onto the instrument console. At this time, the aircraft went into a spin as his left foot pushed the pedal all the way in. It could be heard that SP4 Brown was firing his machine gun and was overheard to say to the effect, "I got him." SP4 Hill put both feet on the pedals on his side of the aircraft and stopped the spin before they impacted the ground. Captain Staffa took control of the aircraft and headed back to LZ Young. SP4 Brown would not answer the intercom, and SP4 Hill looked over the bulkhead reporting that Brown had been hit.

At LZ Young, both Staffa and Brown were transferred to the gunships and flown back to the 2nd Surgical Hospital at Ky Ha. SP4 Brown had been wounded by a bullet which came up from directly below him, penetrated his body in the buttock area, then ricocheted off the inside of the ceramic armor vest back into his body. He died on October 23 in a hospital in Japan. Captain Staffa's wound to his right heel was completely healed in two weeks and he returned to flight status.

(ADVA Historian Note: SP4 Brown was posthumously promoted to Sergeant. His bloody gear was left sitting near the orderly room. It was very depressing for myself and many in the battalion to see the gear in this condition. Brown had gone through AIT with men from A & B/123rd Avn Bn. Several men had just finished reading a letter from Brown telling them that he was sure he was going to make it, when they were told that he had died. The funeral was held at the Chapel on the hill above the 123rd Avn Bn heliport. at Ky Ha. I recall that his boots were part of the ceremony.)