|Its the morning of February 26, 2008 and Darcy Howard,
wife of LtCol. Matthew Howard, USMC (Ret), is in the aquatic therapy pool
of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Darcy is there to resolve a back
problem and finds herself among seven other individuals of varying ages
and back grounds. The only thing they have in common is service in
the military forces of the United States.
Darcy strikes up a conversation with a gentleman and during that conversation he mentions that he spent some time in the Philippines. His dates corresponded with the time frame her husband had been in the Philippines which led to a more in-depth discussion of each man's military history.
Darcy was asked what service here husband was retired form. She related the Marine Corps and that he was a CH-46 pilot prior to retiring and had flown as an augmentation pilot for about a month on CASEVAC missions in Iraq in 2005. Upon hearing the words Marine Corps, helicopter pilot and CASEVAC missions, her new found friend's eyes began to twinkle and a broad smile spread across his face. Darcy was speaking to Colonel Stephen Perry, USA (Ret).
Col. Perry told of his experience with some brave Marines coming to his and Lt. Cardillo's rescue. His story of being rescued was amazing in itself. He told of the pilots delivering a case of beer to him while he was recuperating in the hospital at Chu Lai. Then, with a grin and special fondness in his voice he recalled those pilots sauntering through the hospital and referring to themselves as Purple Foxes.
Darcy related that she and her husband knew two of the Purple Foxes most recent former COs and that she would tell each of them about meeting Col. Perry in the aqua therapy pool.
Col. Perry reflected for a moment and said, "You've got me started in a long over due project. I've really let my Vietnam things get away from me. I firmly believe they saved my life and you never forget that sort of thing. I believe I have two news articles at home about this incident that might be of interest to your Marine friends. I've waited for too many years to say thanks and passing the articles is one way of recognizing the heroism of their 1966 crews.
July 27, '66 (Sec.1)-5
Wounded Salem Soldier Rescued From Viet Cong
Army Captain Stephen Perry of Salem has been awarded the Purple Heart medal for wounds received in an air action in which he was rescued from a nest of Viet Cong in South Vietnam.
Perry, 27, is commander of a Special Forces detachment stationed at Gia Vue.
news of the Green Beret's ordeal reached his parents,
LETTER ARRIVES FAST
In fact, his letter reached them before a friend in Pennsylvania sent a page one story about Perry and his comrades which had appeared in the Pitts- burgh Press July 15, written by Scripps Howard writer Jim Lucas who had accompanied the men in a second plane on the mission, it gave a vivid account.
Perry was an observer aboard an L-19 spotter plane looking for Viet Cong and flying low to mark the target for jets when a down draft sucked them in. The plane disappeared beneath the jungle canopy and Perry and the pilot, Lt. Tony Cardillo, landed in a nest of Viet Cong.
A Marine Phantom pilot saw them go down and radioed for help. Four Marine helicopters, all running low on fuel, spotted the men's smoke signal and began the rescue.
MADE SECOND ATTEMPT
Amidst a heavy Viet Cong barrage, including mortars, hand grenades and sniper fire, the rescuers just managed to pull Lt. Cardillo half into the heli- copter before being forced to take off. A second attempt and Perry was in the leather sling riding to safety.
Both men were wounded. Perry suffered a bullet wound in the leg and gashes on his face. In a second letter to his parents, he said he had recovered and was back in camp on duty.
An Army officer since 1961 and a member of the Green Berets for about two years, Perry arrived in Vietnam last March for a 13 month tour of duty. He is a graduate of South Salem High School and Oregon State University where he earned a degree in Business technology. He was last home for a visit at Christmas.
Friday, July 15, 1966
After Jungle Crash
Marine Birds Pick 2 From Cong Nest
QUANG NGAI, July 6 - The American stumbled down a steep hill, his feet splashed in the bed of a shallow stream and a Marine helicopter hovered overhead.
Captain Stephen Perry of Salem, Ore., had 100
It was hard going. His breath came
in aching bursts.
Captain Perry, commander of a Special Forces detachment at Gia Vuc, was no stranger to the jungle. Forty five minutes earlier, he and Lt. Tony Cardillo, the pilot of Providence, R.I. had been aboard an L-19 spotter plane looking for Viet Cong. Captain Perry was the observer and they'd found a whole company of Viet Cong. They had flown low to mark the target for jets when a down draft sucked them in. Lieutenant Cardillo's plane disappeared beneath the jungle canopy and was swallowed up.
A Marine Phantom pilot high in the sky saw them go down. But fast jets are helpless at such a time. The jet radioed for help. Four Marine helicopters had begun their letdown at Quang Ngai, 20 miles toward the coast, when the call came. They zoomed for altitude and swung back toward the jungle.
Ours was the second of the four ships. Marine Lts. Brice Lueditke of Sheridan, Wyo., and Curtis Holmes of New York City, were at the controls. Capt. Dick Gleason of Townsend, Wash., and Lt. Wally Krywko of Detroit, were in the cockpit of the lead ship; Capt. Chuck Riordan of Norwich, Conn., and Lt. Dave Shore of Marion, Mass., flew the third; Capt. Jeff Mattison of Oxnard, Calif., and Lt. Pat Parker of Seattle, the fourth.
The pilots gave their ships full throttle, but the big H-34s seemed to crawl through the air. It would be touch and go. The four choppers had just com- pleted a supply run and none had more than half a tank of fuel.
Dick Gleason and Wally Krywko arrived at the crash scene first. The helicopter dropped down to tree-top level and hovered. Its rotor wash turned back the tops of the tallest trees.
Lieutenant Cardillo had crashed in the midst of an enemy position. The enemy was still there. Bullets smacked into the hovering bird. Around the downed aircraft nothing moved.
There was only one thing to do now. Marine Sgt. Donald Alfier of Phoenix, Ariz., went out the chopper door and into the jungle in a leather sling. Hidden snipers fired furiously as he disappeared beneath the canopy.
Sgt. Alfier had protection. Phantom jets darted down -- too low for safety, strafing the area. Sergeant Alfier's gunner and friend, Cpl. Nick Torrieri of Whittier, Calif., fired a machine gun steadily into the surrounding bush. So did the gunners and crew chiefs in the other three choppers -- Sgt. Carl Wells of Harrisburg, Pa., and Cpl. Jerry Isaacson of Rich Hill, Mo., from No. 2; Sgts. Jim Vance of Barlow, Ky., and Barney Espinoza, Jr. of Austin, Tex., from No. 3; Sgt. Wolfhard Dornewass of Camden, N.J., and Cpl. Forrest Knisely of Columbia City, Ind., from No. 4.
Slowly, Sergeant Alfier came up through the tree tops again. He had spent almost five minutes in a fruitless search. Lieutenant Cardillo and Captain Perry had fled into the jungle. It was 10 minutes later that Wally Krywko spotted their green smoke signal 300 yards from the crash scene. Another 10 minutes passed before the two men crept out of the bush. Lieutenant Cardillo, also badly cut on the face and with a broken left wrist, eased him- self into the sling. Grunting and sweating Sergeant Alfier and Corporal Torriere hauled him up.
The Viet Cong began a furious barrage. Mortars and hand grenades reached desperately but vainly for the hovering helicopter. Lieutenant Cardillo was half in -- half out the open door when Captain Gleason gunned his ship and flew away. "Don't leave him!" Lieutenant Cardillo Shouted. "We won't," Sergeant Alfier promised. The helicopter executed a sharp turn and dropped down again. The Viet Cong renewed their fire. Once more, jets and heli- copter gunners drove them to cover.
Slowly, painfully, stumbling down a steep hill, Captain Perry scrambled over those last 100 yards. Gratefully, he settled into the lowered leather sling and rode to safety above the tops of the jungle trees.
|The following is a quote from:
Sgt. Nicholas Torrieri, III.
Thanks for contacting me about the L-19 rescue. I visited the link you provided in your second email and was floored to see that the rescue had made the papers. I will try to give my accounting of that day.
As I remember...when we got on station the bird was in the trees. Sgt. Alfier went down on the cable and I was covering him but also had to go to the left window to watch for the L-19 crew.[Sgt. Alfier was the CrewChief..I was the gunner] Sgt. Alfier went up the tree that the plane was in and checked the cockpit. Seeing no one there he he climbed back down and headed for the sling. I still had to keep track of the L-19 crew who we could see running below. I laid down some suppressing fire and returned to cover Sgt. Alfier. On his way up it appeared as if he had be hit by enemy fire. [To this day I have an impression of bullet streaks in my mental picture] Sgt. Alfier had been knocked unconscious when he got hung up on a tree branch. After getting him inside our bird[a UH-34D] I stuffed him under the CrewChief's seat, leaving him still attached to the cable and went back to cover the L-19 crew. I could see them again, running with VietCong on their heels. I once again laid a blanket of suppressing fire. I looked over my shoulder to see Sgt. Alfier rolling around towards the cargo door and put him back under the seat and returned to my station. My M-60 jammed so I used the M-14 I carried on board. Upon getting Sgt. Alfier back on board, I checked to be sure he had no bullet wounds or any visible injuries. I looked again over my shoulder and was pleased to see my friend was up and about though somewhat dazed. It was shortly after that that we effected the extraction of the L-19 crew, returned them to safety and returned to base on a "Red Light"[ almost empty of fuel]
I was a Maintenance Clerk and retread[ex-grunt-5th Marines and cannoncocker-11th Marines] and had very good clerks working for me so I flew as often as possible. Gleason and Krywko did amazing things with the 34. Hovering for any length of time causes the oil temp to climb so the 34 had to "slipped" to keep it cool. Of itself, Sgt. Alfiers trip down and up was fraught with danger but he was very cool and calm and disregarded the danger to himself. For reasons I have never been able to understand, is the absolute silence that seemed to pervade this whole episode. It was later that I had heard that it was believed that the rescue area had a Reinforced Bn of North Vietnamese Regulars there. I do not know if this was true or not. I do know this: If we all got together again and had a mission to hell...I would gun for those guys knowing that the bird and us would kick the Devils ass and return in one piece. There are bits and pieces I do not recall. I have left out a tremendous amount of emotion. Sgt. Alfier was put up for the Silver Star and I the Bronze. Don't know what became of that. I hope this is not too wordy or contradiction to anyone else's memory.
Nicholas Torrieri III
Back Browser or Home