Incident Date 19660715 HMM-265 CH-46A 152500+ / EP-171 - Hostile Fire, Crash
Telfer, Robert Ray Sgt Crew HMM-265 MAG-16 1966-07-15 (vvm 09E:027)
Dennis, Mark V HM3 Corpsman-Pass H&SCo/2/1/1stMarDiv 1966-07-15 (vvm 09E:023)
Chamaj, Andrew Peter HM3 Corpsman-Pass H&SCo/2/1/1stMarDiv 1966-07-15 (vvm 09E:022)
Stubstad, Gerald Edward PFC Passenger E/2/1 1stMarDiv 1966-07-15 (vvm 09E:026)
Simmons, Herolin Thadus SSgt Passenger E/2/1 1stMarDiv 1966-07-15 (vvm 09E:026)
Schloemer, Carl Wayne PFC Passenger E/2/1 1stMarDiv 1966-07-15 (vvm 09E:026)
Reid, James Murry Cpl Passenger B/3rdEngBn, 1stMarDiv 1966-07-15 (vvm 09E:025)
Gooden, Michael Anthony PFC Passenger E/2/1 1stMarDiv 1966-07-15 (vvm 09E:024)
Cunnion, Michael Alfred PFC Passenger E/2/1 1stMarDiv 1966-07-15 (vvm 09E:023)
Cullers, Ronald Kenneth 2ndLt Passenger B/3rdEngBn, 1stMarDiv 1966-07-15 (vvm 09E:023)
Cherrick, James Weston PFC Passenger E/2/1 1stMarDiv 1966-07-15 (vvm 09E:022)
Chambers, Paul Richard Cpl Passenger E/2/1 1stMarDiv 1966-07-15 (vvm 09E:022)
Case, Orson Howard Cpl Passenger E/2/1 1stMarDiv 1966-07-15 (vvm 09E:021)
MAG 16 SITREP 152101H to 162100H July 1966
MAG 16 SITREP 152101H to 162100H July 1966)
The picture of a flaming CH-46A (one of the most famous pictures of the war) is the subject CH-46A after it caught fire and was trying to get to the ground. It was filled with 12 USMCR troops and its crew of four. Other crew members of the aircraft were Sgt Gary Alan Lucas, gunner (second and third degree burns-face and arms), Capt Thomas C. (TC) McAllister, pilot, and 1stLt George Richey Jr., copilot.
Ronald Cutlers and Jim Reid who were members of Company B, 3rd Engineer Battalion that was attached to H&S/2/1, killed on EP-171.
I was an Engineer assigned to the Engineer detachment with 2/1 and was also TAD to HQ CO 2/1 since leaving San Diego with 2/1 in August of 65. Prior to that, I was one of the instructors at the Division Demolition Land mine Warfare School at Pendleton and was sent to join 211 at the docks in San Diego the night before we sailed.
Once we eventually were sent to Phu Bai. I was attached all over the place wherever 1 was needed and in late June, I was sent up to Cam To with E Co. to support an artillery Battery. I believe it was called "Task I Init Charlie". In the early morning hours of June 28th we were heavily mortared and nearly over run That morning, after the stet rose, I received a rather cryptic radio message to return to Dong Ha to catch a flight back to Phu Bai and was sent with a lone driver in a M- all the way back Dong Fla to catch the flight. Upon landing, and the ramp of the plane lowering, I saw my replacement Cpl. Jim Reid, a young African American that I knew to be a real nice guy, Coming down the ramp and briefly told him what had happened the right before as we passed on the ramp. I heard later while at Chu Lai, that Jim and those I was up there with were all lost in that burning Crash on July 15th, that appeared airborne and in flames on the Cover of "Stars and Stripes". While I knew it to be true, and after several emotional aborted attempts, over a period of several years, to find Jims name on the wall in DC, I recently overcame those demons and located his name on the mini traveling wall that was visiting my hometown.
It was a fellow instructor from the Division School al Pendleton, who had arranged for me to come to Chu Lai and give the classes at the VC trail he was setting up to train new arrivals in detecting and avoiding VC mines and booby traps, that pulled me from the operation on the DMZ a full month prior to my anticipated rotation dale and of Course ultimately saved me front the horrible fate my replacement met in that aircraft only 15 days later.
Comment on Incident
July 15, 1966: Michael A. Cunnion, quarterback on the Holy Cross [Worcester, Mass] varsity football team, is Killed in Action along with 12 other Marines when his helicopter is hit by Viet Cong fire and crashes in Quange Tri province.Submitted by: Wally Beddoe, POPASMOKE Webmaster, 20030803
Official USMC Source
"After Marine jets and artillery prepped to two initial assault LZs for operation HASTINGS, 24 CH-46s from HMM-164 and HMM-265 brought the first wave of Marines from 3d Battalion, 4th Marines into LZ Crow, about five miles northeast of the Rockpile starting at 0800. The 24 CH-46As were divided into six divisions of four aircraft each since LZ Crow appeared large enough to accommodate four aircraft landing together. Each CH-46 carried 14 troops plus a crew of four. Since numerous automatic weapon positions were located to the northeast, the final approach heading was generally southeast, which caused the terrain to slope downhill to the zone. There was a tailwind of about 5 knots. The first two divisions landed in Crow without incident. HMM-265's EP-155, in the third division, overshot the landing point and hit a tree line, causing strike damage plus minor injuries to the crew and passengers. It came to rest to the right, outside and the zone and was smoking. HMM-164's YT-15, flown by MAJ Tom Reap, was the fifth division leader. The second ship in the fifth division was HMM-164's YT-18, flown by CPT W.J. Sellers. HMM-265's EP-160, flown by CPT R.O. Harper, was the third ship and CPT L. Farrell in EP-174 was the last ship in the fifth division which approached the zone in a free-trail formation. In the report of aircraft mishap, MAJ Reap stated he believed he was slightly high and fast on final. Rather than flare and place his wingman in an awkward position, he picked a clear area about 75 feet east of the LZ. He came to a hover and the crew helped him avoid a small ridge already occupied by Marines. He started losing rotor RPM as he pulled power to move over the ridge. The CH-46 dropped the last 8-10 feet to the ground and landed hard. Sellers was about four rotor diameters behind Reap and a little higher. He flared to about 20 degrees nose up to get rid of this airspeed and moved abeam of the leader as he came to a high hover. Some trees near the stream, a stand of 20 foot bamboo, and troops already on the ground limited his touchdown choices. He started losing RPM in the hover and set down to the left of Reap. Both CH-46s were on uneven ground. YT-18 was only on the ground about four seconds before it meshed aft rotors with YT-15, which had already lowered its ramp and troops were leaving. Both aircraft began to shake and vibrate violently; then broke at the splice just forward of the aft pylon. The pylon dropped, injuring some men inside. YT-15's blades killed two Marines who had just left the aircraft. At 1815, while inserting a reaction company to guard the three CH-46s in LZ Crow, HMM-265's EP-171, flown by CPT T.C. McAllister with SGT R.R. Telfer as crew chief, was hit at 1,500 feet by 12.7mm fire. Photos taken from the ground show smoke coming from the cockpit windows and flames from the rear of the aircraft. When they tried landing on Crow, smoke filled the cockpit so no one could see. They overshot the LZ and crashed on the edge of the battalion's CP and 81 mortars. Thirteen Marines died and three were injured in this incident. Thereafter, the Marines referred to the Ngan River Valley as "Helicopter Valley".
Comments: COL Hall, Richard; CO MAG-16; ; MAJ Reap, Tom; HAC HMM-164; ; CAPT Sellers, W.J.; HAC HMM-164; ; CAPT Harper, R.O.; HAC HMM-265; ; CAPT Farrell, L.; HAC HMM-265; ; CAPT McAllister, T.C.; HAC HMM-265; ; SGT Telfer, R.R.; CE HMM-265; KIA;
The source for this information was USMC H 1966, P 164-165; mishap rpts
I was assigned to Fox Company as a 60mm mortar gunner when this event happened.
Our squad and attachments had traversed up a ravine to the west of LZ Crow prior to the CH-46 getting hit. We got into a fire-fight, broke from the enemy and made our way up the mountain-side to a relatively clear area under the canopy. We were over-looking the valley from the high ground when this took place.
We could see the smoke bellowing out and several troops jumping out of the helicopter to flee the fire. Attached is a picture taken from a book titled "U.S. Marines in Vietnam An Expanding War 1966" by Jack Shulimson.
First Hand Witness
I have a comment about your website and the listing of KIAs aboard EP171. There are two members of 3/4, CPL William J. Lilly and Hospitalman John N. Morris listed as passengers aboard 171 when in fact they were members of 3/4 H&S Co and were KIA prior to EP 171 crash.
I'm not sure exactly how Morris died but Lilly was killed when a helicopter blade flew across the LZ and struck him. This is minor in detail I know and my intent is not to nitpick your awesome site but merely to make the KIA listing for EP 171 more historically accurate. These two were members of 3/4 H&S and not passengers on EP 171.
There were a bunch of us that watched as 171 was hit on it's inbound run, we watched it go into a nose high attitude roll and crash. We felt helpless as we ran toward the flaming crash site to try and do something, but small arms grenades and other ammo cooking off, made our leaders order us away from the site. The picture I attached was taken by one of our FO radiomen Ned Broderick. At the same instant a photographer from API took the same picture and it appeared in Newsweek magazine.
Keith Miller 3/4 H&S 81's 66-67
Additional Comments: I don't know exactly how Morris died, but because Lilly and Morris were both in H&S I am assuming they landed together. I also was in H&S but in the second wave to land Lilly was already KIA when I ran out of the helo. There was small arms fire coming into the LZ, I hit the deck and came to rest behind Lilly, not realizing he'd been cut in half. Only after the rest of our Company got on the ground and started to organize did I realize his fate. In that same assault there were helos making hard landings (down wind /down slope) I think one set of blades hit a tree so there was a bunch of stuff happening at once. It's possible that one of the helos landed on top of him. But for sure Morris and Lilly were KIA prior to the EP171 crash. Keith Miller
Editor's Comments: Your information is correct. As confirmed by Navy BuPers, both men were killed prior to the EP171 crash by a previous helicopter disintegration. One was hit by blade fragments and the other was hit by the same helicopter during the crash.
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Casualty Card; Sergeant Robert R. Telfer
Casualty Card; Sergeant Robert R. Telfer):
"The pilots and one crew member of the CH-46A from HMM-265 which exploded at 1815H, 15 July, escaped with burns. All others in the aircraft are presumed dead."
“Honor the Warrior: The U.S.M.C. in Vietnam”
I have done extensive research on this incident and have devoted an entire chapter [in “Honor the Warrior: The U.S.M.C. in Vietnam”] entitled The Crash of EP-171. I interviewed the only survivor from the crew, Sgt Gary Lucus. He did not know the identity of any of the passengers nor the identity of their unit. I have positively identified 10 of the passengers as being members of the first platoon of E/2/1. One of these was Pfc. Michael A. Gooden whose name does not appear on your summary. The best that I could do to determine the other 2 passengers was to narrow it down to 2 of 4 possibles. Three of these names appear in the summary. There was much confusion that day as Marines boarded the helicopters that were to transport them and I am certain that units were mixed. It was extremely difficult to identify bodies because of the fire and consequent explosions. In fact it has already been proven that the wrong body was sent to the family of Mark Dennis.Submitted by: William L. Myers, 20030803
Comment on Incident
The last man to see Sgt Telfer alive was Sgt Gary Lucas. He was functioning as the gunner on the aircraft, The book "Bonnie-Sue - A Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron in Vietnam" by Marion F. Sturkey, HMM-265, has several pages devoted to that specific event. The aircraft was hit by an NVA 12.7 mm antiaircraft gun. The aircraft fuel system pumped jet fuel into the fire. They lost an engine, went into an autorotation to get to the ground. Thirteen died, three survived. Cockpit and belly were filled with smoke all the way down.Submitted by: N/A, 20030803
OPERATION HASTINGS began as a search and destroy mission 55 miles NW of Hue to counter the NVA 324B Division across the DMZ. Task Force Delta, initially consisting of three Marine battalions, grew to six battalions, and five Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) battalions. Some MAG-16 units, including a detachment of eight UH-1E's from VMO-2, moved to Dong Ha Airfield to support Hastings. The initial helicopter assault occurred on 15Jul with a troop lift to LZ Crow, 5 miles northeast of the Rockpile, near the DMZ. Twenty CH-46A helicopters from HMM-164, HMM-165 and HMM-265 participated in the initial lift. Four H-46's were lost on the initial assault into the Ngan Valley. The Ngan Valley became Helicopter Valley to all Marines for the rest of the Vietnam War.Submitted by: A.H. Barbour, TAC(A) during operation, 20030803
"CaJim" was my squad leader in B Co., 3rd Engineer Battalion. After being together for a few months, he told me that someday he'd give me his corporal chevrons to wear when I got promoted. I watched that helicopter crash that day and can't express the sorrow I felt when I learned that he and Lt. Cutler were on it. There was no finer man and human being then Cpl. Reid. Jim, I made Corporal one day and didn't get to wear your Chevrons; but if I had, you'd have been proud of me. Semper Fi.Submitted by: Terry Weller, 20030803
Ron Cutlers was a friend of mine for five years - we joined the Marines at about the same time. I was with Alpha 1/9 when I heard that he had been killed on Operation Hastings at the Rockpile. He was a young Lieutenant in engineers so I could not understand what he was doing on a grunt operation. I later found out that he hitched a ride on a chopper to see the front and it was shot down killing all aboard. A combat photographer took a picture of Marines trying to rescue the men aboard after the "crash and the chopper bursting into flames. The picture became Life Magazine’s 1966 Picture of the Year. That picture is burned in my memory God bless you Ron and good hunting.Submitted by: Gene Packwood, 20030803
I was on a knoll near the LZ when the ill fated was coming up the valley on fire. When it came closer it was apparent that the 46 was in deep doo doo. It went into a nose high attitude and if I remember correctly rolled to the left and struck the ground out of my direct vision. I remember a bunch of Marines moving toward the crash and rounds cooking off.
There is a Cpl Lilly listed as being one of the passengers that was killed when the 46 crashed. I recall him being killed when a rotor blade hit him. The 46 I was on took some hits and I am pretty sure maybe even a KIA. I think we did a hard landing and the rear pylon cracked down into the fuselage. Cpl Perez was injured and probably medevaced at the time. Ned Broderick took a picture of the 46 as it pitched up. At exactly the same moment he took his picture, a UPI or AP photographer took a picture of the 46 and it appeared in Newsweek. The photo I have included is from 3/4 Assn website a was taken by Ned Broderick.
Lt. Ron Cullers name is correct on the list of Marines aboard the CH-46. However, for some reason, in the narratives below his name is spelled as Cutler. I believe that his brother was Rick Cullers, who also became a Marine officer and was an active duty officer assigned to MAG 41, NAS Dallas during my time in the reserves there. He was a CH-53 pilot and spared Viet Nam duty due to being a sole surviving son. He is now a realtor in Dallas. I can get verification if you need it. MJR (VMO-6)Submitted by: Michael Remme, know correct name, 20031023
Narrative From A Relative
Sgt. Telfer was my brother. I am the youngest of five with Bob being the eldest. I was married at the time my brother was shot down, living in Washington, DC, as my husband was in the military at the time. The years have passed but the memories have not. May God bless those who gave all during this most troubling time in America's history.Submitted by: Janice Melton, Sister to Sgt ROBERT R. TELFER, 20060427
I was in basic training at Lack land Air base, Texas. My TI pulled me from the shower and told me to report to the flight room. From there I was told to report to the Squadrons Pomanders office. It was there that I met the chaplain who told me of may brothers death. I made it home to try and comfort our mother and Dad and sister. A Marine officer Major Nelson had already informed parents about Micheal death, I just finished reading all the reports by those that had witnessed the crash and told me more about the deaths of those in the helicopter and the attempts of those men who tried to go the aid of men in the helicopter, I want to thank all of them for what they did and leavening there accounts of what took place that day. Iam now 70 and going on 71. I may well see may brother again soon. Gog Bless all of you. PatrickSubmitted by: Patrick L.Gooden, Young brother, 20190222
Picture from "VIETNAM" A Complete Chonicle Of the War
The gunner of a downed CH-46 helicopter staggers to safety after being pinned down by enemy fire near the DMZ. Two other crewman survived the crash that killed 12 Marines and one crewman from HMM-265. // An A P Wide World Photo from the Requiem Collection that is on page 332 of "VIETNAM" A Complete Chonicle Of the War by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers ISBN: 1-57912-346-5
EP-171 was totally destroyed by fire after crashing outside the borders of your photograph. If you assume your photograph to be aligned with North to the top, there would be a small esker ridge just outside the border in the top center. EP-171 auto-rotated on the opposite side of that esker and when it struck the ground the blades struck the ridge and toppled the aircraft onto its right side. The co-pilots escape was unimpeded once the escape glass was broken and the flight deck crew escaped. An enlisted member was able to escape through the open gunners window. One other Marine, an African American, escaped to die on the side of the hill.
Outside the Northwest corner of your photograph was where K/3/4 was deployed and the area where then Captain Robert J. MODRZEJEWSKI earned his Congressional Medal of Honor and then S/SGT John J. McGINTY subsequently won his CMH. When the Battalion pulled out of this area on July 18th we started out by moving to the east along a small creek bed that can be seen just north of the H-46 furthest to the top of the photograph.
This was the same aircraft that as its back broke, two Marines and a Navy Corpsman met their death as the blades slashed them into two pieces as they were exiting the aircraft. It has taken me 38 years to recount this event with any clarity. My foxhole was dug along the fence line in the center of the picture, opposite side from the downed aircraft. I was a young Corporal just transferred from I/3/4 to Bn S-2 when this Operation took place.
Photo from "VIETNAM" A Complete Chonicle Of the War
LZ Crow, 15 July 1966, no KIAs from HMM-164 that day. An A P Wide World Photo from the Requiem Collection that is on page 332 of "VIETNAM" A Complete Chonicle Of the War by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers ISBN: 1-57912-346-5
But for the Grace of God ... my husband was Sgt Telfer's crew chief ... Being a short timer he was left behind when they left for Nam...God Bless all of our heroic men past and present.Submitted by: Suzanne Souza, wife of former marine from HMM-265, 20050802
My uncle, navy corpsman Mark V. Dennis, was involved in this incident. The Navy claimed he was killed and his body was recovered from the wreckage ... yet Sgt Gary Lucas, in a letter written from his hospital bed, states that he saw 2 people jump from the aircraft. Mark Dennis's body was the only one that was not scientifically identified, it was id'd by process of elimination ... if 2 men jumped how could all the bodies have been found in the wreckage?
If there is any one out there who can tell me anything about this incident I would appreciate it!! I am not interested in lawsuits or anything like that just very curious. My family believes that it is not his body in the grave in OHIO. God bless the families who lost love ones in this war and all wars.