I hope you'll indulge me, but after 41 years, I finally learned how one of my good friends died in Vietnam. I remember the day I learned of his death quite clearly, but how he died has remained a mystery. I heard rumors and as it turns out, they were pretty close to the truth. But I never heard it from those that were there, on site, when it happened. I was in the Army by then and wasn't able to attend the funeral.
His name was Stuart Lee Barnett. He was from Bull Shoals, AR. He was, at best, a part-time college student and full time partier. He enjoyed his time in school but not as a conventional student. He was a true character. That was dangerous to your health in those days because we had a draft and not doing well enough to stay in school made you subject too it. Sure enough, Barney - as we all knew him - was drafted during one of the semesters he was out of school. Naturally we had a huge party for him before he left.
Barney survived his tour in Vietnam. He was an 11C. Mortar crewman. He had been promoted to SP4 and still had some time to go before he'd be discharged. The Army made him an offer - extend in Vietnam and get an early out, or go back to the US and serve the full time. Barney wanted the early out.
He made the decision to extend and had some leave before he had to go back. I remember him talking about his plans after this final 6 months was up. He was a more subdued guy but still full of life and fun. He was ready for his Army service to be over, but he had no regrets about his service or his extention.
A few months later, we learned he'd been killed in action. As it turns out, he was one of 31 (of 32) killed in the crash of a CH-47 shot down by enemy fire. Below is what we recently learned:
AC CW2 YORK DANIEL WEBSTER KIA
CE SP4 TEFFT GEORGE EDWARD KIA
FE SP4 YORK JOEL CRAIG KIA
G PFC MCDOUGALL HIMA DUNCAN JR KIA
P REID ERIC P RES
Passengers and/or other participants:
SP4 ANDERSON WILLIAM JR, AR, PX, KIA
SP4 BARNETT STUART LEE, AR, PX, KIA
SP4 BATESEL DENNIS GORDON, AR, PX, KIA
PFC BEDRA THEODORE FRANK, AR, PX, KIA
PFC BRIDGETT PAUL EDWARD, AR, PX, KIA
PFC CODY WESLEY OTERIA, AR, PX, KIA
SGT DUNCAN ONNIE DAVID, AR, PX, KIA
SP4 ESTRIDGE CURTISS, AR, PX, KIA
PFC FLORES FLORENTINO, AR, PX, KIA
SP4 GARNETT ISIAH CALVIN, AR, PX, KIA
SP4 GINN JAMES MICHAEL, AR, PX, KIA
PFC HICKMAN THOMAS STEVEN, AR, PX, KIA
1SG JOHNSON ALBERT LEE, AR, PX, KIA
SGT KRAEMER FRED CHRIS, AR, PX, KIA
PFC MANRING CURTIS JOHNSON, AR, PX, KIA
PFC MARTINEZ-ZAYAS RUBEN, AR, PX, KIA
SGT MCMASTER ROBERT PAUL, AR, PX, KIA
PFC MORGAN MICHAEL LYNN, AR, PX, KIA
SP4 OBRIEN DWIGHT PRESTON, AR, PX, KIA
PFC PIERSOL JOHN LAURENCE JR, AR, PX, KIA
SP4 REESE DAVID PHILLIP, AR, PX, KIA
SP4 ROSE DAVID EARL, AR, PX, KIA
SP4 SALTERS LEE EARNEST, AR, PX, KIA
SP4 SANDOVAL HECTOR MONTALVO, AR, PX, KIA
SP4 THORPE WILLIAM DAVID, AR, PX, KIA
PFC WEHRHEIM CHARLES GEORGE, AR, PX, KIA
PV1 WIDDOWS JOHN WILLIAM, AR, PX, KIA
Hit by enemy fire on final. Pilot heard an explosion. Aircraft crashed into trees and burned. Internal load of 105 mm ammo began exploding. Of the crew of five and 20 PAX aboard, the pilot was sole survivor. My recollection may be a bit hazy after 36 years. I was filling sandbags with Hugh O'Connor. Watched the RPG actual hit the left jet pod on final approach to what we affectionately called LZ Judy. Couple of things need corrected. There was no 51 cal. machine gun fire. The bird was loaded with white phosphorous for 81 mm mortars, not 105mm. The flight was from Kham Duc. A platoon from 4/31 was pulled off the bird, replaced by a platoon from Delta of the 2/1, along with the Delta 1SG. Don't remember any detonations like 105mm's, just a huge white smoke cloud after skidding down the mountain. Three days later we had to police the body bags of those poor souls. From: SGT Allen, HHC 2/1
I was a direct observer of the downing of the Chinook at LZ Judy on 8/26/70. I totally disagree with any statements made about an RPG. I heard a burst of what could have been AK fire and the ship started going down. The pilot was able to bring the nose up temporarily and then down it went nose first. The door gunner did return fire as soon as they took fire. I agree with the internal weapons being 81MM WP rounds. From: Ken Ruesch, LTC U.S.Army(RET)
I was in Co. E attached to Co. D and we were told to start loading the CH47 with all the ammo and mortar boxes on the LZ at Kham Duc. While loading, the CO grabbed four of us and told us to load our gear and a radar unit onto a Huey and meet up with everyone at the next LZ which at that time we didn't have a clue where we were going. We had been blowing everything we weren't going to haul out up and there was a lot going on. We heard that intel had it that we were going to get hit again like in 68.
Anyway, we beat the CH47's to LZ Judy and unloaded our gear and started hauling it up the hill. The LZ was in a saddle below the hill. I remember a CH47 land and off load a platoon and another CH47 was in a holding pattern, waiting for everyone to clear the LZ. I was resting, looking across at the CH47 which was hovering about straight across from me when I heard AK 47 fire and it appeared to be hitting the chopper right below the from rotors. I heard maybe tens rounds. There's no mistaking AK fire when you're on the ground. I would have been on the right side of the chopper to the front and I could see the right side pilot looking out and down for a place to land. I could see that the saddle had not cleared out and the only place the chopper could go down was in the draw below the saddle. If he would have landed on the LZ he would have killed a lot of ground troops.
I lost sight of the chopper when he went into the trees and could see debris flying including tree branches. I heard that two guys were killed from pieces off the blades but this was never confirmed. I remember looking at the guys on the LZ and they were all looking down into the draw and were heading down that way. After I heard the chopper hit, I don't remember how much time went by before the explosions started. I know that it burned for a couple of days. We heard a couple of stories. One the transmission had come through and killed the pilot, another that a medic had made it out but had a hole in his head and died later, another that someone made it out and clear but had been burned.
I know that someone was medivaced and it's good to hear the co pilot made it. I think it was him who I saw looking out the right side. I know from experience(35 years in law enforcement as an investigator) that everyone sees things different and hears things different even though they experience the same event. I don't remember ever hearing anyone say anything about a RPG, only AK fire. I've seen the reports about the RPG but didn't know where they came from. I know I'll never forget that day & the friends that I lost. The day we had to go down to the crash and start hauling the body bags back up the hill was not a good one either. With each bag we passed up the hill, you could see it in everyones eye's wondering which friend this one was. We heard that all the troops ended up in a pile in back and were burned. The condition of the body bags only confirmed this. This information came from the co pilot Eric "Ric" Reid. From: Dan Hodge
Rest in peace, Barney.