BATTALION COMMANDER RESCUES DOWNED "SHARK" CHOPPER CREW FROM THE SOUTHERN CROSS FOR SEPTEMBER 11, 1970.

Electronic copy of article provided by Leslie Hines


By SP4 Kenneth B. Parry

FSB 4-11 (11th BDE IO) — With a gunship down and enemy nearby, a battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Roger A. Culbertson (Longview, Wash.), of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Infantry made the crucial decision to attempt a rescue with his command and control (C&C) helicopter. The rescue was successful, but to make room on the (C&C) ship, the Colonel and his operations officer, Captain Robert Graham, Parchogue, N.Y., had to remain with the downed gunship.

Earlier, two "Shark" gunships from the 174th Aviation Company (Assault Helicopter), flying in support of the 11th Infantry Brigade, returned the fire of five enemy personnel they had detected while on routine patrol 15 miles northwest of Duc Pho. On a resupply mission at the time, Colonel Culbertson used his (C&C) ship to airlift a nearby element of Company closer to the initial area of contact. The enemy's automatic weapons fire continued to be directed at the two "Sharks" and it was while making a low pass over the target area that one of the gunships burst into flames.

Within minutes the Colonel's helicopter was on the scene and soon afterward, Captain Graham, along with first Lieutenant Bill Brumley, Dallas, Specialist Four Leroy Wilson, Lottsburg, Va. and the ship's two door gunners, Privates First Class Abbey and Woodard were placing the casualties on board.

With the nearest friendly element over 800 yards away, Colonel Culbertson and Captain Graham elected to remain on the ground so that the entire crew might be evacuated. Armed only with their pistols and a radio, the two officers waited nearly twenty minutes before Sergeant Stephen Ridnour, Linwood, Wash., and members of the fourth platoon reached their location. Reflecting on the situation, Captain Graham commented, "I only hoped the Colonel was a better shot with the .45 than I."

A sweep of the gunships original area of contact revealed one VC dead, medical supplies, and one AK-47.


The copy of this issue of the Southern Cross was a personal purchase from Carlisle Barracks Military History Institute by Leslie Hines.