UH-34 Hit By Mortar In Flight
Nine Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) troops were also killed.
Capt. Riley and his crew were the lead aircraft of a flight of six UH-34's on December 3, 1965. All aircraft were carrying a full complement of ARVN troops whose destination was an outpost known as Hiep Duc, just West of Tam Ky. The entire area was noted for being a very "hot spot".
Ken Gross relates, "We tried to go in as high as possible, though we were limited by somewhat low ceilings, which may have placed us approximately 2000 feet above ground level. The flight was in normal cruise when we reached the vicinity of UTM grid coordinates BY031273 where the Viet Cong fired on us with time delay fused mortars. Unfortunately Capt. Riley's aircraft received a direct hit in the belly, where the fuel tanks were located, and they never stood a chance. Capt. Riley tried desperately to get the aircraft on the ground, but it was burning so fiercely he appeared to lose control and the aircraft rolled inverted and crashed. No one survived".
John Williams relates, "I was stationed with Cpl. Warren Leigh Dempsey at VMO-6 at Camp Pendleton, Calif. I still have a set of Original Orders with our names on it sending us to VMO-2, Okinawa. We were good friends and talked a lot. I have a MAG 26, A Pictorial Review of 1966, with an old picture of warren when he was assigned to the HMM-262 Squadron at New River Air Facility buying food from a "Roach Coach."
I remember he always felt bad because he was living so well when his mother and two sisters were living on the reservation and didn't have running water. He told me his sisters job was to walk to the river and fetch buckets of water for the family. I know he told me he was sending them all the money he could afford in the hopes of someday getting them toilet facilities in their home as well as running water. That was his dream.
He was excited about the fact when his tour was over he would be considered a Warrior by his tribe, or at least he sure hoped he would. We talked a lot about what would we do if we were ever shot down in Vietnam. He did not want to be captured because we knew the VC did not care for Marines. So they tortured them a lot and then slowly killed them He told me he would keep running away until he either escaped or be shot in the back trying to escape! That was our plan.
I heard about his death when I was abroad the USS
Guadalcanal in the Santa Dominican Crisis."
Ira R. Jones, a cousin of Kirk
I. Riley has informed us that a scholarship fund was established at Kirk's
former high school in his honor.
Ken Gross recalls: "Kirk was an excellent pilot and officer. He had considerable more experience than most of the junior pilots in the squadron. We looked upon him to provide us leadership from a level which was easier to accept and understand. He was a friend and a good Marine".
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