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USMC/COMBAT HELICOPTER & TILTROTOR ASSOCIATION - KIA DATABASE
USMC/COMBAT HELICOPTER ASSOCIATION
Brothers (& Sisters) Killed in Action in USMC Helicopters or while assigned to USMC Helicopter or Tiltrotor Squadrons in Vietnam



680222   HMH-463     Vietnam

Incident Date 680222 HMH-463 CH-53A 153283+ / YH-21 Hostile Fire, Crash

[CREW]
Riley, James Thomas Capt Pilot HMH-463 MAG-16 680222 (vvm 40E:068)
Smith, Cary Carson 1stLt Co-Pilot HMH-463 MAG-16 680222 (vvm 40E:069)


RILEY JAMES THOMAS : 095179 : USMC : CAPT : O3 : 7564 H-53: 32 : ZEIGLER : IL : 19680222 : hostile, crash, land : AircraftCommander : body recovered : Quang Tri :06 : 19350623 : Cauc : Roman Catholic/married : 40E : 068 : SILVER STAR 22FEB68

SMITH CARY CARSON : 095599 : USMCR : 1stLT : O2 : 7564 H-53: 22 : KANSAS CITY : MO : 19680222 : hostile, crash, land : Crew : body recovered : Quang Tri :03 : 19450418 : Cauc : Protestant/single : 40E : 069


HMH-463 Command Chronology - 22 Feb 1968:

While flying in support of Operation Scotland, one CH-53A sustained strike damage as a result of enemy fire … marking the first CH-53A combat loss in over one year of combat operations.

Comment on Incident:
NVA rocket hit pylon hinge at lift-off during Khe Sanh resupply

Personal Narrative:
A few days before his death Rex [Riley] and I were sitting in the sun after a very thorough preflight of the 53. Rex was an Assistant Maintenance Officer, very smart with extreme knowledge of the aircraft. He was just sitting there staring at the bird, waiting for the crew chief to finish his endless tasks. He broke the silence with words to this effect. "You know someday a round's going to take out one of the blades, the whole rotorhead's going out of balance, and the blades are going to slice through the cockpit." He had predicted exactly how he was to meet his terrible fate only a couple of days later.

Additionally, about 8 years ago my son called me from his high school and asked me to come down to the library, he had a photo to show. I, of course, could not tell whether it was Rex, or his co-pilot, the inimitably wonderful Cary Smith, who was being pulled from the wreckage. Of course it stunned me, having no idea such a photo would or could be published, but it is to this day the most dramatic and chilling depiction of modern war so drastically changed by the helicopter.

Submitted by Paul Ellis, squadron mate to Capt. Riley

Personal Narrative:
I also have seen the photograph mentioned. It is in Will Fowler's, A Vietnam Story, book. I have been unsuccessfully trying to correspond with Mr. Ellis. I picked Mr. Fowler's book up in a bookstore about 15 years ago. It fell open to the double page photo and I immediately knew that the person being lifted out was Capt. Riley.

In the photo, the right hand pilot (the HAC) is being lifted out. The left seat (co-pilot's) is on the ground, 15 or 20 feet from the wreck. I went cold when I saw the photo, because two weeks before Capt. Riley's death at Khe Sanh, he saved my life and all the rest of the crew at An Hoa when the port engine tripped from a shorted overspeed switch. We had an internal load of nearly 10,000 lbs of 105mm ammo, including an 800 lb pallet of fuses on last, plus six ARVNs.

I could go on and on with this story, but let it be said - I owe my life to the skills and abilities of one Capt. James T. Riley. I really regret that he is not with us anymore.

Submitted by Mike Amtower, Sgt. and gunner that flew with Capt. Riley

Personal Narrative:
CC [Smith] is one of those Marines that you will never forget. I find it hard to believe that he ever met anyone who did not like him. I still have him in my prayers. I don't think that any one can sing "Danny Boy" (or whatever the real name of it is) like he could. The last time that I saw him at Marble Mountain, he was singing it at the “watering hole.”
Submitted by Jerry Crutcher, friend

Mission comments:
sept 2003 khe sanh base --- I found fiberglass part numbers and stamped date years ago --- popasmoke guys went to sikorski for help, found it to be from ch-53a 22 Feb 68 --- shot down at khe sanh base. As Marine I was fighting nva down Route 9 with H/2/9 by camp carroll --- I am still trying to find the appropriate museum to give it to. Chaplain Geof, Semper Fi .
Submitted by Geoffrey Steiner , 2003 4th nam trip found serial numbered part.

Family Information:
I would like to correspond with anyone who has a story to share about my father. I only have these stories to bring my dad to life as he died when I was 3. Please, if anyone can share anything, please contact me.
Submitted by Megan Riley Brown, Daughter of Capt. James T, Riley


USMC/COMBAT HELICOPTER & TILTROTOR ASSOCIATION