Never to be forgotten
Tim, you and I were in the same flight school class, our serial numbers are exactly 60 apart. I know that none of us during those great days of flight school at Wolters and then Rucker ever thought our lives could end in the next few months. Now over 40 years later, I am a graying old man and you are the dashing young aviator. Your valiant sacrifice lives with so many of us...
Final Mission of U.S. Army helicopter UH-1D tail number 65-09866
During an Eagle Flight, this aircraft was in the fourth position for the first element into an LZ and was hit by automatic weapons fire. At about 50 feet from touchdown an RPG blew out the left front of the aircraft, knocking out CAPT Dismukes and mortally wounding the aircraft commander, WO1 Timothy H. Artman. PFC Wetzel, the gunner, and SP4 Jarvis, the CE, were thrown from the aircraft when it crashed. When they returned to try to help the pilots, another RPG hit the aircraft wounding Wetzel. They did get the pilots out of the wreck but WO1 Artman died from his wounds. On January 8, 1968 we were doing Eagle flights supporting the 9th Infantry Division (I don't remember the unit). We were sitting on the ground at a place called the French Fort eating C's when we got the order to crank 'em up. We loaded up the slicks and flew to the LZ. As we were about 1 minute out of the LZ, and flying in a heavy right formation we received orders to go in heavy left. Gary Wetzel's ship, piloted by WO1 Timothy H. Artman, switched places with mine. He ended up the trail ship on the left and my ship piloted by a Japanese CWO was the trail ship on the right. I had taken sporadic fire before but was totally unprepared for the amount of fire we received flying into the LZ. I saw so many big orange fireballs flying through the air as we flew into the LZ that I really had no idea what was going on. I knew that we were in big trouble because there was a lot of excited radio traffic flying in. I could not fire as I was on the inside of the formation and ended up being an observer. As we came into the LZ Gary's ship was hit in the AC's door with an RPG about 4 feet off the deck. They went in immediately and as soon as they hit I saw two more explosions inside the ship and troops came flying out. As we sat down to insert our troops, I said to my AC 'I have my aid bag, I'm gonna go help.' The AC replied 'If you step on foot outside this ship I'll shoot your ass. You're here to protect this ship.” We flew out of the LZ leaving two ships in the LZ and another, carrying Jimmy Banicki, was hit flying out and set down somewhere outside the LZ. The rest is, as they say, history. Tim Artman was critically wounded and died in the LZ later that night. Gary was awarded the DFC the next day in the hospital and subsequently was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. We figured out later that the artillery and air strikes had prepped the wrong side of the river and left for us a horseshoe shaped ambush with three .50 caliber machine guns, more RPG's than we could count, and loads of small arms fire. I didn't see Gary for 18 years. In July of 1986 I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago for the Welcome home parade and weekend and finally had an opportunity to sit down and talk with Gary. I had felt and still feel guilty that I didn't just grab my aid bag and run to help him, but Gary said to me 'The AC was right and you did as you should have.' DocBac Si' Don Reynolds, September 1997 [Taken from vhpa.org]