VIETNAM CHRONICLES

CAPTAIN RICHARD L. KLOPPENBURG

SHORT STORIES FROM 1966-1967 IN VIETNAM

BELOW ARE SOME TRUE BUT UNTOLD STORIES
VIETNAM WAS THE GREAT ADVENTURE OF MY GENERATION

You got that right! This is aviation fuel running out of the fuel tank, because of a bullet hole in the wing.

This airplane was from the 219th Aviation Company company. We were flying their airplanes until our 183rd Seahorse airplanes arrived in the country. The 219th airplanes had NO self-sealing gas tanks or NO armored seats. The picture shows a bullet hole in the wing and through the fuel tank. Note that the fuel was still running out after landing the airplane. I was stationed in Bao Loc and was flying the 219th airplane because our 183rd airplane had not arrived in Viet Nam. Consequently, I was in the 219th Aviation company for the first 30 days in Vietnam. The test pilot from the 219th Aviation company came to Bao Loc to check me out on their airplane. Surprise, it was my old flight school instructor from Fort Rucker, Alabama. I remember him because during the tactical phase of flight school we were doing short field take off’s. He was in the back seat and got airsick and threw up out the back window of the airplane.

The 183rd airplanes were flown from the factory in Wichita, Kansas to Stockton, California. I was one of six pilots on the first flight to Stockton. See the adjoining story. I then became the liaison officer in Stockton. That means that I was in charge of receiving the incoming airplanes to the Stockton Army Depot. The depot would dismantle the airplanes, meaning take the wings off, and then placed into a wooden box for shipment to Viet Nam. The crates would then be shipped to Vietnam in an old WW11 Victory ship. Good news! The 183rd airplanes had self-sealing fuel tanks and armored seats! The bad news was that the airplanes, with a full load of fuel, were over grossed, and were too heavy to fly. That statistic was at sea level. Many of us flew in the mountains at several thousand feet in elevation. That overgross statistic was made even worse with the density altitude and hot conditions. That made matters worse. That means that with a full load of fuel the airplane too heavy to fly. Oh well, we flew the airplanes anyway. The salvation was the Contintntal 0-470 engine. That engine had more horsepower to give to the airplane as compared to the civilian counterpart airplane, We all got hundreds of combat flying hours. Some pilots even got 1000 hours.

A short note about the headquarters of the 219th Aviation Company, in Pleku, Vietnam. The 219th had been in the country the longest of all aviation companies. The officers club was a racious place where drinking would go on long into the night. The call sign of 219th was called Headhunter. It seemed to reason that the bar should have a Viet Cong skull in honor of their name, Headhunter? The skull was predominately located on the bar at the end of the bar. It was never known where the skull came from, but it was a human skull with a “light bulb” in the skull. Someone must have a picture?