HC-7 Rescue 1(1) 3-OCT-1967 Combat Day (Tuesday) and Attempted Rescue of: Maj. Robert W. Barnett 4-Oct-1967 Combat Day(Wednesday)
HC-7 DET 108 UH-2B Kaman Seasprite helo No. 150153
USS Coontz (DLG-9) Rescue 1; 1.5 miles from mainland within harbor,
Attempt; 8 miles INLAND
3-Oct-1967 Pilot: LTJG Timothy S. Melecoski
Co-pilot: LTJG James P. Brennan
1st crewman: AE2 Willie B. Pettit
2nd crewman (swimmer): ATN3 John H. Bevan
4-Oct-1967 Pilot: LTJG Timothy S. Melecoski
Co-pilot: LTJG James P. Brennan
1st crewman: AMH2 Gary L. Fleck
2nd crewman(swimmer): ADJ3 Gary L. Schwake.
A-4B Skyhawk No. 142114 “Nevada City 102” VSF-3 (Chessmen) USN,
USS INTREPID (5)
LTJG Allan D. Perkins
Navy – Helicopter Combat Support Squadron SEVEN, established Sept. 1, 1967 2, providing several fleet support activities, assumed the responsibility of North Vietnam naval combat search and rescue. HC-7 prepared for action utilizing UH-2B Kaman Sea Sprite helos 3 inherited from HC-1, stationed aboard small boys (DDs and DLGs) stationed off the coast of North Vietnam.
Tuesday – October 3, 1967, Air Force F-105 (Thunderchief, fighter/bomber, mach 2 capable) flights from Korat, Thailand were targeting bridges in North Vietnam. Maj. Robert W. Barnett, from 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) “Ozark One” was hit by a SAM. Approx. 15:15, trying to make feet wet, things freeze up and out he bailed. Chute and raft complications, Maj. Barnett makes it to the ground alive. 10 miles inland, rescap (rescue combat air patrol) forms to locate and identify their downed pilot. HC-7, Det 108, “Clementine 1”, stationed aboard frigate USS Coontz (DLG-9), piloted by LTJG Timothy S. Melecoski, co-pilot LTJG James P. Brennan, first crewman AE2 Willie B. Pettit and second crewman (swimmer) ATN3 John H. Bevan, flying in a preposition orbit, had heard the radio calls and volunteered to go in 4. With Barnett’s exact location, undetermined “Clementine 1” was told to hold position 9.
16:45, LTJG Allan D. Perkins, flying an A-4B, (attack / light fighter) from VSF-3 stationed aboard carrier USS INTREPID, call sign Nevada City 102, completing flak suppression, his aircraft hit three times headed toward feet wet. Aircraft failing and wounded in left leg, Perkins jettisoned over Haiphong Harbor 5. Clementine had launched from USS Coontz (DLG 9) at 16:07. (11) “Clementine 1” preparing to pick-up Maj. Barnett received call from “Steel Hawser” a Navy destroyer in the Gulf of Tonkin, coordinating search and rescue operations, to divert to LTJG Perkins. Maj. Barnett was evading the enemy. Perkins landed in shallows amidst anchored ships becoming the higher priority 4. USS Coontz, 16:50, sounds general quarters and begins closing on the beach to assist in the rescue mission.
Holding the helo on the deck, Melecoski weaves between the merchant ships within the shipping lane of Haiphong Harbor. Directed by over-head aircraft, the crew spots Perkins, 60 yards from an anchored ship. Unknown to the HC-7’s swimmer, Perkins was squatting down in the shallows, to make a smaller target. 10-10 drop – swimmer away, and stuck in the mud 4. Clementine receiving small arms and 87mm fire from hostile enemy forces in the area 3. Helping each other Perkins and swimmer are free of the quagmire, signal, hooked-up and away, 17:00. “Rescue Effected” 17:15 Clementine is recovered aboard Coontz, with Perkins, who embarks to receive medical attention. (11) At 18:20 Clementine is launched so Coontz receives SH-3 logistic helicopter at 18:24. One minute later Perkins, loaded on SH-3, is headed to USS INTREPID. Clementine returns at 18:27 as the Coontz reenters North SAR steaming area.
The Seadevil’s first of many successful combat search and rescue missions. Low on fuel and day-light, Clementine prepares for the next day. “Steel Hawser” tells Maj. Barnett to hole-up and await rescue the next day 4. Barnett moved higher up hill and hid for a sleepless night.
Wednesday – October 4, 1967, 06:30, Maj. Barnett hears Navy planes and people. After hours of silence, continuing to evade, he hears two A-1s, which were escorting (11:34 Clem launches from USS Coontz ) (11) “Clementine 1” piloted by LTJG Timothy S. Melecoski, co-pilot LTJG James P. Brennan, first crewman AMH2 Gary Fleck and second crewman (swimmer) ADJ3 Gary Schwake. At 12:20, Melecoski told Barnett to fire pen flares and activate smokes, “Clementine 1” is over Maj. Barnett. All four approaches, preparing for retrieval, Clementine, receives heavy enemy fire 2. Maj. Barnett hears Clementine pilot shout “MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY”. The helo pulls away, Maj. Barnett runs downhill after the helo, trying to follow to the coast 4. The gunfire punctured the fuel tank. Helo crew throws all loose items out to lighten the load, manages feet wet before ditching 8. An SH-3 helo Big Mother 70 from HS-2 rescued the crew 6. At 13:37 the Navy pulled back the rescue forces, Barnett spends a second night in the jungle 4.
Thursday – October 5, 1967, while a second rescue attempt was being planned for 16:30, Barnett hurried toward the coast. Barnett’s radio signal places him 5 miles from yesterday’s position. Hearing people he hides in bushes, a dog finds him and the handler holding a pistol finds Barnett. In brief, the next two days his captors placed him at various anti-aircraft gun sites, required him to call the overhead planes. Barnett knew they were trying to set a Flak Trap. Told to turn his beeper on for five seconds, Barnett hands his radio to his keeper, who turned on the beeper for 2 minutes. Overhead aircraft now very cautious, Barnett figures another way to indicate his captivity. He said, “The code word is LAM -The code word is LAM” 4.
Saturday – October 7, 1967, Maj. Robert W. Barnett, arrived at the Hanoi Hilton at 04:00. Spending the next five and one-half years as a P.O.W. – released March 14, 1973 (7) “Freedom Flight”.
Historian’s Note: This was the only HC-7 helo lost to combat. No Seadevils were lost to combat. Six and one-half years later HC-7 would leave the Gulf of Tonkin, having provided combat search and rescue continuously until Sept. 24, 1973. HC-7 compiled a record of 150 rescues, 102 of which were potential POWs, additionally many unsuccessful attempts 10.
(Following notes added from USS Coontz deck logs (11) ); 4-Oct-1967
“11:34 UH-2B helo clear of ship. 11:36 secured helo detail.
1200-1600: underway as before, 12:01 set the helo detail. 12:05 recovered SH-3A helo No. 70 on deck. CDR Klinker, USN, came aboard to observe SAR efforts. 12:09 refueled SH-3A helo. 12:13 launched SH-3A helo No. 70. 12:29 recovered SH-3A helo No. 69 on deck, refueled SH-3A helo. 12:33 launched SH-3A helo No. 69. 12:35 secured the helo detail. 12:41 maneuvering various courses at 8 knots to remain in vicinity of assigned NSAR station. 12:57 UH-2B helo from this ship received numerous hits from enemy ground fire while attempting to make helo recovery of downed pilot over North Vietnam in the vicinity of Lat. 21-01.2 N, Long 106-55.5E. 12:58 UH-2B helo heading for the coast at best speed. 13:02 sounded General Quarters. Commenced closing the coast on course 330, speed 25 knots to assist in recovering helo. Stationed the helo detail. 13:08 material condition Zebra set. Stationed armed boat detail. 13:12 c/c to 348. 13:13 UH-2B Helo Buno 150153, pilot Melecosky, co-pilot Brennan, and two crewman Fleck and Schwake, crashed into the water in the vicinity of Lat. 20⁰-47 N, Long 107⁰-11 E, helo sunk in 6 fathoms of water. 13:14 SH-3A helo No. 70 en-route to vicinity of crash to search for survivors under control of this ship. 13:16 c/c to 045. 13:17 c/c to 270. 13:21 all four members of crew of downed UH-2B helo picked-up by SH-3A No. 70 and en-route to this ship. 13:32 recovered SH-3A helo 70 on deck. Four helo survivors in good condition, Melescosky suffered slight lacerations on his right hand, a bruised back, and injured ears. Fleck suffered a bruised left shoulder. The other two survivors appeared uninjured. All four were returned to duty following a thorough medical check by the staff doctor…..14:40 SH-3A helo No. 70 clear of the deck. 14:53 recovered UH-2B helo on deck.”
Notes: (not in order)
1) Numbering as per HC-7 Rescue Log
2) HC-7 1967 Command Report
3) HC-7 Det 108 Rescue report October 3, 1967
4) Air Power – History Spring 2006 “Ozark Lead is out of the Aircraft” (map) by: W. Howard Plunkett
5) “Vietnam – Air Losses” By: Chris Hobson (with permission)
6) Unedited portions of “Leave No Man Behind” by: George Galdorisi & Tom Phillips (with permission)
7) “Honor Bound” by: Stuart I. Rochester and Frederick Kiley
8) email – Oct. 01, 2005 – Commander Lloyd Parthemer – Skipper number ONE HC-7
9) Ozark Transcript – location map – by: W. Howard Plunkett – email 9-21-2011
10) HC-7 History collection – Ron Milam – Historian
11) USS Coontz (DLG-9) deck log
12) Map – Google Earth
(Compiled / written by: Ron Milam, HC-7 Historian – HC-7, 2-1969 to 7-1970, Det 108 & 113)