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POSTED ON 5.29.2017
POSTED BY: Linda Romeis

Remembering you and your sacrifice

It has been many years since the days at SVHS. Thought of you often through the years and especially on this day of Honor and Remembrance. You remain on my thoughts.
L.R. Class of '63
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POSTED ON 10.13.2016
POSTED BY: Lucy Conte Micik


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POSTED ON 9.28.2015

Final Mission CAPT David W. Ayers

There are three accounts for this incident: First account - The lead aircraft crew consisted of the following: aircraft commander WO Jim Wisecup, co-pilot CAPT David W. Ayers, crew chief Jimmy White, and gunner J.J. Makool. This lead aircraft received a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) hit as they were about to touch down in the LZ on top of Co Roc Mountain. It looked like AC Jim Wisecup immediately nosed his aircraft over the other side of the mountain, as it barely maintained flight above the trees down the mountainside. The aircraft was on fire now as it descended down the mountainside increasing towards an uncontrollable airspeed. At the bottom of the mountain it looked as if the RPG affected the controls of the aircraft as AC Jim Wisecup tried to slow down by flaring the aircraft prior to falling through the trees and on to the ground below. AC Jim Wisecup was our most experienced pilot at the time and it showed, as he needed to do some very special flying which saved many lives. LT James B. Weisbrod was the platoon leader with 5 other A Team members who were Montagnard commandos and all on the lead ship as it plunged down the mountainside and crashed through the trees and on to the ground. As AC Jim Wisecup flew his ship over and down the other side of the mountain, the second ship was approaching the LZ behind him. Aircraft commander WO Dennis Beattie and co-pilot LT Goggins were the pilots with crew chief and gunner unknown at this time. The second ship saw what was happening but was already committed to the approach to the LZ. They were taking quite a bit of ground fire with several hits to the aircraft. They were, however, able to continue on flying with a go around. SFC Robert Noe was the commando's platoon sergeant who was on the second ship with 5 of his montagnard commando team members. Over the radio came the A teams First Sergeant "SFC Noe" request for him and his team to be dropped off near the downed aircraft to provide the support needed to help in the rescue attempt. With the area hot, Dennis Beattie (second ship & aircraft commander) was advised by the C&C (command & control) aircraft that the mission was now aborted and he needed to head back home with his troops. I was the aircraft commander of the third aircraft and saw what happened to the lead ship. My crew was right behind the second ship and we decided to initiate a high over fly of the LZ as the second ship was on short final to the LZ. My copilot WO Jim Collins and the other crew members are unknown at this time. As we (the third aircraft) over flew the LZ, we headed down towards the crippled aircraft while our crew chief and gunner were providing fire support with their M-60's. The fourth and trail ship had the medic on board and would be the aircraft responsible for rescue of the downed crew and A Team members. Aircraft commander WO Mark Goodell (rest of crew unknown) positioned his aircraft for the rescue. His aircraft dropped down to a low hover to pick up the four down crew members and the six A Team members. Everyone was able to get into the ship except for three. Jim Wisecup looked to be hurt bad along with his co-pilot CAPT Ayers who was incapacitated or dead because of the crash impact. The entire area was on fire, so aircraft commander Mark Goodell had to bring the aircraft up to a high hover to avoid from having his aircraft from catching on fire. At the high hover his crew dropped two ropes and ladder for the downed soldiers. WO Jim Wisecup, while injured, was unwilling to leave his copilot behind, so he dragged CAPT Ayers out of the crashed aircraft and away from the burning area. WO Wisecup then hooked CAPT Ayers up to one of the STABO rigs (ropes), then climbed the ladder and assisted CE Jimmy Wright, who also was severely injured, by hooking him up to the ladder and then managed to climb into the rescue aircraft. The platoon leader of the A team, 1LT James B. Weisbrod, also severely injured, managed to hook himself on to the ropes while the crew chief; J J Makool (Crash Makool), the gunner, was walking around dazed from the crash landing and managed to make it into the rescue aircraft safely. I don't remember if any of the indigenous personnel were injured. AC Mark Goodell's aircraft was overloaded, especially with two personal on the ropes and one on the ladder. His aircraft would not have the power to take off "straight up" to avoid the surrounding fire. AC Mark Goodell did the only thing he could by initiating forward movement to gain speed to create the lift needed to take off from a high hover, using speed instead of the non-available power to lift the overweighed aircraft with all its occupants. In doing so AC Mark Goodell needed to over-torque the aircraft while both 1LT James B. Weisbrod and the copilot, CAPT Ayers were unfortunately being dragged along the ground through the brush, however, away from the fire. CAPT Ayers rope was already on fire, which then sadly came apart just as the aircraft lifted off. Although we believe CAPT Ayers was dead on impact of the aircraft crash, we knew how much more it would have meant to be able send his body home for burial for family and friends. Every other individual on or hanging from that aircraft most likely owes there life to Mark’s ability and courage in getting out of the very hostile and crippling situation. During the rescue, our ship Chalk 3 was assisting with firepower to suppress the enemy who was producing heavy weapons fire along with providing continues in-coming throughout the entire rescue area. Initially the Co Roc area was peppered with bombs and then the Cobras (attack helicopters), C Battery, 77th Aerial Rocket Artillery (Griffin’s) worked the area over, unloading their entire ordnance of rockets and ammunition to keep the enemy's heads down. Their brave actions are most likely the reason that only CAPT Ayers was lost during the mission. There was confusion when this mission occurred which hindered the participants in getting together. The records will indicate 7/19/70 or 7/20/70 depending on their origin. Several of the participants were able to get by this disinformation with the correct date being July 20, 1970. (Narrative by Frank A. Tigano) Second account - I remember in the briefing we were going to be dropped in front of a "suspected" NVA regiment. Forty Bru (indigenous soldiers), 4 Americans and I were going-staging in two lifts through Khe Sanh. I was in the second lift-lead chopper with Can Tua my interpreter and three other Yards. We flew over Khe Sanh heading for Co Roc and circled while it was prepped. As the chopper went into a hover close to the ground and I leaned forward to hop out, automatic weapons opened up at close range. I leaned back and opened fire. The chopper moved forward and the pilot dropped the nose over the edge and out of firing range. I knew the crew chief had been hit, but not in a vital area. I leaned out the door as we swooped down towards the valley and could see smoke and floor back by the engine compartment. As we neared the ground, I expected the pilot to auto rotate, but suddenly trees were flying by the door. I said "this is it!" and waited for impact. We hit and I felt the chopper bounce and thought "maybe...we'll make it." It bounced a second time and then hit and stopped. I looked around and saw the co-pilot slumped in his seat and the door gunner lying on the deck. I heard groaning from the front of the chopper and could see the pilot lying about 15-20 feet away still strapped to his seat. I looked down at my leg and could see my foot turned at 180 degrees from its normal position. I thought "I'm going home, BUT I have to get out of here first." I tried to stand- and couldn't. Tried to get up on my knees and couldn't. So I crawled out on my elbows while trying to call on my PRC-10. I crawled about 30 feet from the chopper and looked back. The flames were spreading into the cargo compartment and the M-60 ammo started to cook off. The Cobras flew overhead checking for bad guys, and then the chase ship came in. They threw down the ladder and ropes, and the medic climbed down the ladder. Several people climbed the ladder into the ship. The crew chief was hooked to the ladder, and CAPT Ayers and I were hooked to the strings. By then the chopper was engulfed in flames and the elephant grass was burning. The flames were within a couple of feet of me. As the chopper started to move, the ropes went taut. I could see that CAPT Ayers’ rope was burning, and then it snapped. The chopper dragged me along the ground a bit before it lifted up. I was swinging in the wind and my foot was flopping chest high. My web belt moved further up my torso from the weight until it was nearly around my chest. I was afraid that the fastener would break and that the belt would fly open letting me drop out. I was also afraid of passing out because everything was bright gold in color although I could see the details of everything as we were flying. I later found out that was shock. So to stay conscious, I pulled one canteen out-drank it and threw it away. Then I pulled a second one out and drank it. Before we got to QuangTri, the chopper stopped at an airstrip. The Cobras had already landed and the crews were standing there to catch me and lay me down on the runway. Then the chase ship moved horizontally and sat down so that the crew chief and I could be put inside for the rest of the flight. When we got to QuangTri, I was rushed into the ER and my uniform was cut off. The only one I remember seeing at that point was Can Tua was my interpreter. I remember the nurse telling the doctor my blood pressure was down to 60 over 20. I was just annoyed that I couldn't have a cigarette. I woke up in a body cast and was so distressed about it that I split the cast in half by thrashing. The only one I saw after that was Jimmy Wright (the crew chief) because we ended up in the same ward at the 25th Evac in DaNang. Then it was to Japan for another operation. After that back to Valley Forge Army Hospital for almost a year. Then back to Fort Devens and the 10th Group. (Narrative by James B. Weisbrod, 1LT, MACVSOG CCN) Third account - Somewhere along the line after that unforgettable 4th of July picnic (drunk), I got assigned as Jimmy Wright's gunner. I remember the morning before we went to CCN (Command and Control North--a Special Forces over the border covert operation) AKA known as SOG. There was a little bit of a stink whether or not I had my shit together, good enough to be on a CCN mission, because I was a FNG (eff-ing new guy). The other part of the controversy was some gunner (Mabry) was short (close to going home or on R&R) and was not available to fly CCN. I'm sure I had flown in country (without incident) prior to this CCN mission (whatever that meant), but I’ll be damned if I can recall any of it. Anyhow, Jim Wisecup was the AC (aircraft commander), CAPT Ayers was the co-pilot or PP (peter pilot), Jimmy Wright was the CE (crew chief) and I was the door gunner. They decided finally that I was a school trained crew chief, who lacked flight experience. So the faster I got some flight time under my belt, the sooner I would crew my own bird. That was fine with me, because I could not wait to get my own aircraft. I do not recall who all the other crews were, but I did figure out later that crew chiefs Doug Brown, Clarence "Pineapple" Garcia and, I believe, Gil Alvarado were there because of the ribbing I had to endure later on. I remember being a little self-conscious (FNG), being stared at by these Rambo-types, and at the same time feeling like “Wow, we are working with the U.S. Army's elite!" So, finally we get out of briefing. I still remember how serious the tone in the room was with the captain of the Green Beret commandos, pulling up the cover of the large wall map of the tri-border area (where South Viet Nam, North Viet Nam, and Laos all come together) and giving us our instructions and back-up plans. And me thinking, "so this is what CCN is all about" and "now I know what these monkey girdles with the d-rings are for" (similar to what mountain climbers wear for attaching a rope and repelling). So we loaded up the team and off we go. (I found out later from Robert Noe, who was in the ship behind me, Chalk Two, that some had actually made out their last will & testament). I think we had about a 12-man team that day. We had 4 or 5 on our bird because I recall how crowded the cargo area was, and I will tell you how I remember that fact later. Just before we went in as Chalk One (lead ship), I believe they (the gunships) prepped the LZ (landing zone) with rockets full of nails (small flachets that act as shrapnel), without high explosive. I don't recall any HE (high explosive) nor do I recall any F-4's (fast moving Air Force fighter jets, which were commonly used on these missions), so we go in to the so called LZ, and I remember it was a quiet insertion (about as quiet as half a dozen helicopters can be) with a fixed-wing OV-10 Bronco picture taker (known as Covey) above us. The CCN missions usually had three slicks (UH-1 Hueys) with the forth one being a chase or rescue bird with a medic on board. They figured it helped the odds out a little that one of the first three had a good chance of being shot down. Escorting the flight of four was two AH-1 Cobra gunships, one on each side usually. Then sometimes there were a couple of fast movers, and running the whole show from up above was Covey. Flying in the Covey was a SOG commando as well as the pilot. This was your best friend and your link to the rest of the world. In other words, he might as well have been God. The reason I remember it was a quiet insertion, was that I had not been asked to put down any suppressive fire on the way in with my M-60 machine gun. Jimmy Wisecup said, “You are clear down left," and I said, "You are clear down right," and they nailed us! The timing was such that it seemed as if they were listening to our intercom, impossible of course. There was a loud explosion, but not humungous. They had hit us with a RPG (a rocket propelled grenade) right next to my gun well (to my right, towards the rear of the aircraft). To this day I do not think it exploded on contact as it was designed to. Rather, it went part or all of the way through the body of the aircraft before it went off. (I discovered later on the reason for this, that they had fired at such close range, the rocket did not have time to arm itself). Also I do not recall any metal flying, which substantiates this theory. It all happened so quickly! As soon as the RPG had been fired, they opened up with small arms. I'm sure they could see me, because their muzzle flashes were that close! I had returned fire at first impact, and that might have helped to keep their heads down. I don't remember, but I’m quite sure the team fired back also, and Jimmy on the other side was busy on his M-60. It turned out later on that they were on both sides of us. Wisecup immediately picked the bird up off the top of this big hill we were on and down the side of the mountain we went. I had dreams for a lot of years after that because I was screaming, "Sir, my well's on fire, my well's on fire! The flames were licking the side of my face, even with my helmet on. I remember for 5-6 years after that my right eye and cheek were very tender and sunburned quite easily. That's probably where Gil and the boys came up with the other nickname that I never heard until recently, "on fire Makool." Then I did something that I had never been trained to do. I undid the mini-gun can, the large ammo can which held approximately 2000 rounds of 7.62mm ammo, used on the Cobra gunships with their 6 barrel electric machine guns, AKA mini guns. It was held on by a seat belt so it could be moved easily, and contained 3 to 4 times more ammo than conventional machine gun ammo can. And I kicked it out. I guess I figured it was getting so hot, that all that ammo was going to start cooking off. I also started heaving smokes off the Christmas tree (various colored smoke grenades for marking areas for locating purposes). The Christmas tree was a nickname for the pole that sat next to each gunner's well. It resembled the starting lights at a drag strip when all the smokes hung on it. i’s sure I pulled the pins on several smokes on the way down. I remember by this time I had taken off my seat belt to get away from the fire. I was hanging on the Christmas tree for dear life and the whine of the engine sounded just like all the WW II movies I watched when I was a kid, that steady higher and higher whine until the aircraft crashes. Now is when I remember how crowded the cargo area was, because I really needed to get away from the fire, because the flames were starting to do a number on me, and there was nowhere to go. There was this Montagnard scout sitting right in front of the Christmas tree. The only reason I didn't go sit on his head, was for the first time of everything I have described, I got really scared! He had a look of sheer horror on his face as he watched the flames engulf me. Thank God for Nomex fire retardant clothing, you can't imagine how hot JP-4 (jet fuel) burns! Then I remember seeing the trees through the windshield and we hit. An eternity later I shook my head, and it felt like a bowl of jelly. The reason for that was I had been knocked out (concussion) and in shock. When they found me I was walking around unconscious on my feet with an M-16 that belonged to the Green Beret commando on our ship (they had checked the serial # of the weapon). And I now know the Green Beret was Jim Weisbrod from Philadelphia. The reason my head felt like a bowl of jelly was the medic had just put smelling salts under my nose to bring me around and when I shook my head it felt loose. I did not find out until 10 years later, after having a conversation in my 18-wheeler on the CB with an ex-paramedic, that when one has a concussion the brain separates from the skull and is loose in the cranium. The medic is motioning to me up, and I don't have a clue what he is talking about because I was temporarily deaf from shock. Then it finally dawns on me, that there is a bird hovering above us, with the aluminum roll up ladder hanging right in front of my big nose, and he is motioning me to climb the ladder, which I do. I got inside the cargo area and there is Jim Wisecup with his nose split right down the middle. Then I must have passed out. The next thing I remember they are getting Jimmy Wright inside the aircraft. His arm was dangling like a puppet and he was covered in blood. He did not look good at all, very pale, he had almost bled to death. I remember telling him we were going to be OK and talking to him, hoping he would not go into shock. I later found out we had landed at the abandoned air strip at Khe Sahn once we had got back across the fence (border) into South Vietnam. They had got Wright down off of the ladder where he had been hooked up with his d-ring. Weisbrod the Green Beret commando had been hooked up to one of the strings (ropes with d-rings attached to them) and they got him in also. When we crashed, he was sitting with his legs hanging out of the cargo deck and the tree limbs did a horrific number on him, breaking his leg in three places. He told me at a SOAR (Special Operations Association Reunion) not too long ago that he never lost consciousness. I discovered later on that CAPT Ayers was KIA, probably upon impact, and that they had hooked him up to a string. The string caught fire and burned loose before the chase bird could lift off, and his body was never recovered. Why the bird didn't explode when we hit, only God knows. That's about it, that's most of what I can remember. Shortly after that they started calling me Magnet Ass and that I was bad luck. I heard it so much, I actually started to believe them. This became very depressing to say the least, because you must remember I had only been in country for about a month, had already lost my cherry (FNG). One more note - Wisecup later told me that he picked the biggest tree he could find, and flared into it belly first, to lessen the impact. It worked! Also at a reunion, my good friend warrant officer Curt Bodin told me that he was scheduled to fly right seat that day with Wisecup, and that CAPT Ayers pulled rank on him and scheduled himself instead. (Narrative by J.J. Makool) [Taken from macvsog.cc]
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POSTED ON 4.7.2014
POSTED BY: Curt Carter [email protected]

Remembering An American Hero

Dear Captain David William Ayers, sir

As an American, I would like to thank you for your service and for your sacrifice made on behalf of our wonderful country. The youth of today could gain much by learning of heroes such as yourself, men and women whose courage and heart can never be questioned.

May God allow you to read this, and may He allow me to someday shake your hand when I get to Heaven to personally thank you. May he also allow my father to find you and shake your hand now to say thank you; for America, and for those who love you.

With respect, Sir

Curt Carter
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POSTED ON 1.13.2013
POSTED BY: Robert Sage

We Remember

David is buried at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood,CA.

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