Essex County








POSTED ON 1.6.2018

Final Mission of SP4 Alphonza Mason

Final Mission of SP4 Alphonza Mason
On November 28, 1971, a U.S. Army helicopter CH-47C (tail number 68-15866), call sign Playtex 866, from C Company, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, was conducting a troop lift from Da Nang to Phu Bai in bad weather when it crashed into the side of a mountain five miles west of Phu Loc in Thua Thien Province, RVN. Thirty-four U.S. personnel were killed in the crash. Two other non-U.S. passengers were also lost, for a total of 36 fatalities. C Company, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, received the mission from the Battalion Operations Center at 1115 hours on November 28th to provide two aircraft for an administrative troop move from LZ 401 at Da Nang to Corregidor Pad at Camp Eagle near Phu Bai. At 1230 hours on Playtex 866 with a crew of five departed Liftmaster Heliport for LZ 401 at Da Nang to begin the mission. The original pick up time for the mission had been 1200 hours, but due to bad weather, the mission was put on a hold status. At approximately 1220 hours, the Battalion Flight Operations Officer, CPT Robbins, instructed C Company operations to launch their aircraft and attempt the mission. The weather at 1235 hours between Phu Bai and Da Nang was observed to be broken ceiling, visibility five miles in light rain and fog. The weather for Phu Bai had been forecast to be overcast in light rain, fog, and drizzle. With a load of 31 passengers, Playtex 866 departed for Corregidor at 1310 hours. At 1328 hours, Hue Approach Control received a call from Playtex 866 stating that he was declaring an emergency. Attempts by Hue Approach Control to reestablish contact were unsuccessful. The 159th Brigade Operations Center (BOC) notified the 101st Airborne Division of the emergency call from Playtex 866 at 1350 hours. At 1410 hours, a ramp check of local landing strips was initiated for the aircraft in the Phu Bai and Da Nang areas. Results of the ramp checks were negative. The 159th Aviation Battalion dispatched on OH-6 light observation helicopter at 1340 hours to begin searching for Playtex 866. At 1436 hours, the 196th Light Infantry Brigade at Da Nang dispatched two aircraft to begin a search, and at 1440 hours the 11th Combat Aviation Group was notified and put two aircraft on standby. At 1545 hours, Recovery Control Center at Monkey Mountain Facility, Da Nang, reported negative contact with the lost aircraft. The Coastal Surveillance Center at Da Nang was notified at 1600 and 1620 hours that South Vietnamese Regional Force and Popular Force units between the Hai Van Pass and Phu Bai were instructed to be on the lookout for Playtex 866. The destroyer USS Epperson (DD-170) was directed to proceed to the area of the downed aircraft at 1920 hours and assume search pattern. Two Vietnamese Navy junks and two Vietnamese Navy coastal craft also assisted in the search and rescue effort. Search and rescue efforts were hampered for the next four days by low visibility cloud cover, high winds, and rough seas. Early December 2, 1971, an OH-6 pilot from the 2nd Brigade Aviation section reported sighting wreckage that appeared to be the lost CH-47 aircraft. Search elements were notified to discontinue searching at 1200 hours, however, rescue operations continued to be hampered by bad weather. The elevation of the crash site was approximately 650 feet and throughout the search and rescue operation, the crash site was shrouded by clouds. At 1650 hours, D Company, 2/502nd, was airlifted from Camp Eagle to a position approximately 2500 meters east of the crash site. At 1030 hours, the accident investigation board with Graves Registration and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) personnel proceeded to the vicinity of the crash site by vehicle and hooked up with D, 2/502 at 1300 hours. The rescue party cut their way through the mountainous jungle terrain and arrived at the crash site at 0830 hours on December 5th. The aircraft was completely demolished and there were no survivors. The aircraft was located in a creek bed approximately 650 feet up the side of Mom Kun Sac Mountain. The aircraft had hit a 50-degree slope with great impact, causing the fuel cells to rupture and a flash fire to occur. There were no survivors. The lost crewmen included pilots CW2 Jerald W. Carter and WO1 Joseph J. Savick Jr., crew chief SP4 Raymond A. Trujillo, gunner PFC Willie J. Oaks, and crewman SGT Michael A. Crawford. The lost U.S. passengers were CAPT Martin K. Niskanen, SSGT Daniel E. Nye, SP5 Roy K. Stewart, SP5 John E. Windfelder, SP4 James E. Palmer, SP4 Alphonza Mason, SP4 Joel S. Ivey Jr., SSGT Howard L. Colbaugh, SSGT Carl L. Thorton, SP4 William D. Thompson, SP4 Richard E. Garretson, PFC Robert L. Wynn, CPL Michael O. Maybee, SP4 Ronald K. Sweetland, SP4 Oscar Paulley Jr., SGT Terry G. Kugler, SP4 Archie T. Lucy, SP6 Will R. Dantzler, SP5 Bill R. Coffey, PFC Vincent Bernal, 1LT Robert J. Ladensack, SGT Robert D. Maynard, SP5 Ronald D. Carleton, PFC Steven J. McDonald, PFC Gary D. Wilson, PFC George P. Martin, SP4 Brinsley B. Ramos, SP4 Joseph A. Aubain, and PFC John H. Hare. [Taken from and]
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POSTED ON 5.29.2017

We will always remember...

Thank you for your service , uncle! Like has a flavor that the protected will NEVER know! Semper Fi!
David G. Church man Jr
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POSTED ON 11.28.2015
POSTED BY: A Grateful Vietnam Vet

Thank You

Thank you Spec 4 Mason for your leadership and courage.
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POSTED ON 11.2.2013
POSTED BY: Curt Carter

Remembering An American Hero

Dear SP4 Alphonza Mason, 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, and the best salute a civilian can muster for you, Sir

Curt Carter
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POSTED ON 4.9.2009
POSTED BY: nam vet

never forgotten

Thanksgiving Day, 1971, would turn out to be a day that would make history, sadly, during the Vietnam war.

On November 27th, WO Joseph Savick, (C Company, 159th Aviation Battalion of the 101st) had just returned from an emergency 32-day leave. A seasoned pilot, he had been in-country for over 9 months and was well-respected by all. But fate is sometimes fickle.

Early morning on the 28th, Savick and his co-pilot WO Jerald Carter had flown their Chinook helicopter (68-15866) to Mai Loc for a load pickup. Once there, they found that the load wasn't ready and returned to DaNang after refueling at Correigdor. The round-trip flight was smooth and there was no mention of any problems with the aircraft.

At 11AM, the 159th received notice that they were to provide aircraft for an administrative troop movement for the 1st Bn, 327th Infantry of the 101st. Both Savick and Carter were briefed on the mission - From LZ 401 at DaNang, move the troops to Corregidor pad at Camp Eagle. Along with Savick/Carter, three other crewmen climbed aboard: Michael Crawford, the CrewChief; Willie Oaks, who would be the door gunner; and Raymond Trujillo, who had decided at the last minute to go along to help out. Behind them were 29 soldiers from HHC and A Companies of the 1/327. Just another day in Nam.

Ready to go at high noon, the Chinook sat on the pad waiting for the OK to lift off... but it sat for 20 long minutes due to bad weather. Light rain, fog, and drizzle was clinging to the sky, but nothing that WO Savich wasn't used to. At 12:30 the radio crackled from Capt Robbins "Playtex 866, you're ready to launch". Their weather was overcast at 800 feet, and visibility at 5 miles.

Up and away. One hour later, at 1328, the Hue tower received a call from Playtex 866 that they were declaring an emergency. They gave their bearing but no mention as to what was going on. Hue frantically tried to reach them, but to no avail. Playtex 866, with 34 men aboard, was off the air.

Within 15 minutes the 101st Division was alerted. Calls went out to DaNang and Phu Bai to check their strips for a Chinook. Nothing. The 159th sent up an LOH to start searching for it. At 1430, the 196LIB at DaNang dispatched two more aircraft and 10 minutes later the 11th CAG put two more on standby. Word went out to the Recovery Control Center at Monkey Mountain, but at 1545 they reported that there was no signal. Full force was put into the military machine.

Another call went to the Coastal Surveillance Center in DaNang, and RF/PF units between the Hai Van Pass and Phu Bai were told to be on the lookout for Playtex 866. The USS Epperson (Destroyer) was directed to proceed to the general area and assume a search pattern. Two Vietnamese Junks and two more of their Navy craft also assisted in the search and rescue effort. For four long days and nights, aircraft and ships scoured the area everywhere. The weather got worse with low visibility, high winds, and choppy seas. What could have happened to them?

At 0830 on the 2nd of December, 1971, the call finally came in. An OH-6A from the 2nd Bn Avn said they sighted wreckage of the CH-47. But the weather still wasn't cooperating. The overall search was called off, and plans put into place for recovery teams to move in. Visibility got worse, and the monsoon rains continued. By 1650, D Company of 2/502 was able to be airlifted in about 2 clicks from the site. The next morning teams from Graves Registration and the Accident Board locked up with D/2/502 to move towards the crash site. It would take two more days of cutting through the mountainous jungle to get there at 0830, December 5th, 7 days after the crash.

The aircraft was located 650 feet up the mountain, and was completely demolished. Located in a creek bed, it had hit a 50 degree slope with such impact that it caused it's fuel cells to rupture resulting in a flash fire. There were no survivors nor any indication that anyone had survived.

29 soldiers from 1/327 and 5 crewmen were lost. The official investigation showed that the Chinook had taken a single hit, creating spalling, or loss of adhesion, causing it to fall apart.

This single disaster would go down in the history books as the second worst helicopter crash during all of Vietnam.

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