Remembering An American Hero
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, and the best salute a civilian can muster for you, Sir
Final Mission of U.S. Army helicopter UH-1H tail number 66-16952
There are two accounts for this incident: First Account - Operation Pegasus in 1968 was directed at lifting the siege of the Marine combat base at Khe Sanh in western Quang Tri Province. The 1st Cavalry Division was tasked with conducting the operation, and CG 1st Cavalry received operational control of the 1st Marines, the 26th Marines, and the ARVN 3rd Airborne Task Force as well as holding command over his own divisional forces. The operational plan involved thrusts along Highway 9 from Ca Lu, east of Khe Sanh, and air assaults by three battalions of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, on the high ground north and south of Hwy 9. The command helicopter for a 15 Cavalry troop insertion on 4 April 1968 came from HHC, 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. Six men are known to have been aboard UH-1H tail number 66-16952 and to have died when it was shot down: WO1 Ronald G. Phears, pilot, HHC, 2nd Bde; WO1 Joe M. Moran, copilot, HHC, 2nd Bde; SP5 Terry L. Baxter, crew chief, HHC, 2nd Bde; PFC Charlie B. Thomas, gunner, HHC, 2nd Bde; LTC Robert L. Runkle, Commanding Officer, 15th Cavalry; CAPT David A. Peters, Forward Observer, C Btry, 1st Bn, 77th Arty. There was one survivor. Second Account - COMMENT RECEIVED from AL JOHNSON: 'CAPT Joseph Lyttle was C Company commander (15 Cavalry) the summer and fall of 1967. Then he served on LTC Runkle's battalion staff until the day Runkle was killed. Lyttle was selected by Runkle to replace a wounded company CO (CAPT Robert M. Nawrosky, who died of wounds July 6, 1968) and he was on the flight that was shot down with Runkle. Lyttle survived the crash, but was partly under the helicopter. The NVA executed all others, including Runkle, but thought Lyttle was dead. He was later rescued but was permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Lyttle worked many years at Warm Springs, GA as a supervisor in rehab with other paralyzed persons, but left there last fall to retire to Virginia knowing that he was terminal with cancer.' (From Ken Davis, June 2005) [Taken from vhpa.org]
I was the crew chief and Terry was my gunner on a UH-1D helicopter, HHC, 2nd Bgd., Aviation section, 1st Cavalry Div. I rotated back to the US in Dec. 67 and Terry took over as Crew chief. We just became good friends and were going to get together and do some fishing when we got out of the Army. I got word that he and Charlie Thomas were shot down and died in the crash while I was stationed at Ft. Rucker, Ala.
Terry is the one on the right with his hands on his hips.
The fateful day
SP5 Baxter was serving as crew chief for a command helo (UH-1H 66-16952) for a 1/5 Cav troop insertion to assist in the lifting of the siege of Khe Sahn. During the operation, the aircraft was shot down and the NVA executed all survivors of the crash except one who was later rescued.