Old Friends
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If you're very observant, you'll notice that every single casualty on this page was in Special Operations. You could say that was true because I was working in Special Operations and these were my friends and acquaintances, but even my two roommates from early training died in Special Ops. And as I observed elsewhere in my military pages, here, at no time did Air Commando/Special Ops make up more than 5 % of the US forces over there, but they collected a vastly disproportionate share of the high valor medals. They were special people.

 

CHORLINS, RICHARD DAVID     Rick was my roommate during my brief time in pilot training.

Name: Richard David Chorlins
Branch/Rank: United States Air Force/O2
Unit: 602nd Special Operations Squadron
Date of Birth: 07/16/1945
Home City of Record: UNIVERSITY CITY MO
Date of Loss: 11 January 1970
Country of Loss: LAOS
Loss Coordinates: 174000 North 1054358 East
Status (in 1973): Killed In Action/Body Not Recovered
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: A1H
Missions:
Other Personnel in Incident:
Refno: 1549

Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews and CACCF = Combined Action
Combat Casualty File. Updated 2002.

REMARKS:

CACCF CRASH/PILOT/POSTHUMOUS PROMOTION

 

 

 

 

TOWLE, JOHN CLINE            John was my roommate in Officer Training School. He was MIA for 25 years.
Remains returned and identified September 1995.

Name: John Cline Towle
Rank/Branch: O2/US Air Force
Unit: 16th Special Operations Squadron, Ubon Airbase, Thailand
Date of Birth: 09 January 1943
Home City of Record: Harrisburg IL
Date of Loss: 22 April 1970
Country of Loss: Laos
Loss Coordinates: 154400N 1065100E (XC990410)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 2
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: AC130A
Refno: 1600

Source: Compiled from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S.
Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families,
published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK in 1998.

Other Personnel in Incident: Ronnie Hensley; Robert Ireland; Stephen Harris;
Donald Lint; William Brooks; Charles B.Davis; Donald G. Fisher; Thomas
Adachi; Charles Rowley (all missing); Eugene L. Fields (rescued).

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS: In the early hours of April 22, 1970, an AC130 gunship flown by
veteran pilot Major William Brooks departed Ubon Airbase with a crew of ten
for a Commando Hunt mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in southern Laos. The
aircraft, code named "Ad Lib", was joined near its destination by two jet
escort fighter bombers, code named "Killer 1" and "Killer 2", and
immediately began air strikes against enemy traffic below. The crew of the
aircraft included Brooks, the pilot; SSgt. Thomas Y. Adachi, the aerial
gunner; LtCol. Charlie B. Davis, a navigator; Maj. Donald G. Fisher, a
navigator; SSgt. Stephen W. Harris; SSgt. Ronnie L. Hensley; Master Sgt.
Robert N. Ireland; Airman Donald M. Lint; LtCol. Charles S. Rowley; and 1Lt.
John C. Towle.

During its fourth strike, the gunship was hit by anti-aircraft fire and
began burning. Brooks radioed, "I've been hit, babe". Fisher, the navigator,
reported that his position was OK. Fields and Hensley, battling the blaze in
the rear of the aircraft, lost contact with each other in the smoke. Fields
inched his way to Adachi's position, and found Adachi gone and the left
scanner window open. Fields used an auxiliary parachute to abandon the
aircraft.

Killer 1 reported seeing no parachutes, although Killer 2 reported the crew
was bailing out. Just before Killer 1 departed the area for refueling, it
received one emergency beeper signal from the ground. Killer 2 established
voice contact with a member of the crew identifying himself as Ad-Lib 12
(Fisher), who reported that he had burns on his face and hands. Killer 2
also left for refueling, while other aircraft monitored the downed craft and
waited for morning to attempt rescue of the survivors.

The following morning, Ad-Lib 11 (Fields) was rescued, but due to hostile
ground forces, no ground search or photographs were made at the time. The
Air Force assumed at the time that Fields had incorrectly identified
himself, and announced that 6 of the crew had been killed and four were
missing.

The rest of the story is confusing. The family of one of the crew was told
that a ground crew had been inserted and that partial remains of one crew
member had been recovered. Another family was advised that photographs of
the crash site existed. A photograph of a captive airman having burn bandages
on his hands was identified as being Fisher by his family. Rowley's family
was informed of a secret intelligence report indicating that 8 of the crew
had been captured, and that a controlled American source had witnessed them
being tortured to death for their "crimes".

A returned POW reported seeing Rowley in a propaganda film. Another returned
POW stated that Fisher had been a POW. Although the Air Force would not
allow family members to contact the only survivor, Fields, Fisher's son
located him after 18 years. Fisher denied ever being in contact with any of
the Killer jet escorts. It was not he who identified himself by radio to
rescue forces.

Apparently, at least some of the crew of Ad Lib survived to be captured in
Laos, often called the "Black Hole" of the POW issue because of nearly 600
lost there, not a SINGLE man was released that had been held in Laos. The
Pathet Lao stated on several occasions that they held prisoners, yet we
never negotiated their freedom, and reports continue to be received that
some of these men are still alive. The surviving crew members lost that day
were abandoned by the country for which they bravely fought.

 

 

Casualty Record for Gilbert Allan Rovito     "Rocky" Rovito was a friend at NKP. Intel and the crews got along well.
(Click here for help with decoding this information)
GENERAL / PERSONAL
Home Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Birth Date 1948-07-19
Sex Male
Race Caucasian
Married/Single Single
Religion Roman Catholic
Citizen Yes
MILITARY
Service Air Force
Rank CAPT.
Serial Number 170389120
Component Regular
Grade O2
MOS 1025F
Length of Service **
Start of Tour 1972-06-21
CASUALTY
Casualty Date 1973-06-14
Casualty Type Hostile, Died Missing
Reason Air Loss, Crash - Land
Air or Ground Helicopter - Pilot
Country Cambodia
Province Unknown Code
Posthumous Promotion Posthumous promotion as indicated
Body Recovered Body recovered
Location on The Wall Panel 01W - Row 119
RefNo 25
Processed Date 7306

 

 

 

McLEOD, DAVID VANCE JR.

Name: David Vance McLeod, Jr.
Rank/Branch: E7/US Air Force
Unit:
Date of Birth: 24 September 1945
Home City of Record: Jacksonville FL
Date of Loss: 14 June 1973
Country of Loss: Cambodia
Loss Coordinates: 130259N 1040559E (VV024427)
Status (in 1973): None
Category: 3
Acft/Vehicle/Ground: HH53C
Refno: 1988

Other Personnel In Incident: pilot, Gilbert Allan Rovito, Capt, USAF (body
recovered); co-pilot, Francis E. Meador, USAF (body recovered); two
pararescuemen, rescued.

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 1990 from one or more
of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources,
correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated
by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998 with material provided by Woody Freeman.

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS: MSGT David V. McLeod was a crew member onboard an HH53C helicopter
shot down in northwestern Cambodia on June 14, 1973. The aircraft went down
over Tonle Sap, a large lake forming the southern border of Siemreab
Province. Just north of the lake are the ruins of famed Angkor Wat.

The fate of the rest of the crew is unknown, but as none are missing, it is
assumed that they were either rescued or their bodies recovered. Another
possibility, although remote, is that the crew consisted of indigenous
personnel. In this case, U.S. records would not record their loss. [see
update below]

Few American planes were shot down in Cambodia during this time frame. An
F-4 piloted by Douglas Martin and with backseater Samuel James had been shot
down April 18. An F-4 piloted by Samuel Cornelius with back-seater John
Smallwood was shot down June 16. These were the only Americans missing
during the spring and summer of 1973 in Cambodia.

In July 1973, a South Vietnamese agent reported talking to a refugee who had
seen three Americans dressed in flight uniforms in captivity near Kompong
Barey Hamlet in Prey Veng Province in southern Cambodia. (Note that all
events described are occurring AFTER the war with Vietnam "ended" and 591
American POWs were released from Vietnam.) The agent was able to make
contact with a Communist cadre who said the three were airmen who had been
downed in July 1973. The cadre went on to say that they were being taken to
Loc Ninh (South Vietnam) to be held for exchange at a later date. No
exchange ever occurred. It is assumed, since these three aircraft are the
only ones missing in Cambodia, that this report pertains to three of the
five Americans involved. Nothing has been heard of the five since.

The United States did not bargain or negotiate with Cambodia for any
prisoners held there. U.S. bombing of Cambodia continued until August 1973.
Any who were lucky enough to return had earlier been moved from the border
areas of Cambodia into Vietnam and released from Vietnam. Evidence points to
many Americans being moved to Vietnam from Laos and Cambodia and held beyond
the end of the war.

Because of the genocide perpetrated upon Cambodia by Pol Pot in the
mid-70's, the chances of survival are decreased significantly for anyone
still held prisoner of war in Cambodia. However, we owe our best efforts to
those men lost in Cambodia, and in all of Southeast Asia to seek their
release if alive, and determine their fates if deceased.


------------------------------------------------------------------------
August 24, 1998

You have my permission to use the letter as written. I was glad to be able
to set the record straight. Dave was a dear friend of mine and I still have
a sense that a part of me is missing. He also was my supervisor and during
my 21 years in the service I could not have had a better one. If you have
access to Dave's family you may forward my address to them. I don't know if
they know the real story of what a fine comrade Dave was to me and the other
Jolly Green's he worked with. When I went to the Wall in DC. It took a long
time for me to walk the wall, I lost so many friends (seven). Thanks for
what you are doing.

Currently, I'm a member of the TLC Brotherhood (Thailand, Laos & Cambodia).
We are prior Officers & enlisted that was stationed in the war zone (SEA)
during the mid 60's to mid 70's). our members did various jobs to support
the operations in SEA at the time. We now gather around the fire on the net
and tell old war stories and experiences. We support each other as well as
an orphanage in Udorn, Thailand. Several of our members knew and flew with
Dave. Through the brotherhood web site I saw the pownet site and I just had
to set the record straight when I read the bio on David.

Thanks again for your message.


Woody R. Freeman, TSgt, USAF, Ret.
Jolly Green Flight Engineer
37th ARRSq. DaNang, RVN 1972
40th ARRSq. NKP, Thailand 1972-1975
Proud Member TLC Brotherhood
Proud Life Member VFW Post #10249, Udorn, Thailand- We Make A Difference
Visit the TLC web Site at: www.seacoast.com/~jsweet/brotherh/index.html

----------------------------------

I am writing to comment on your BIO concerning Msgt. David V. McLeod,Jr.
USAF. He was the Flight Engineer on a HH-53C Jolly Green Giant
helicopter attached to the 40th Aerospace Rescue & Recovery Squadron
(ARRSq) that went down (crashed) in Tonle Sap, a large lake on the
southern border of Siemreab Province in Northwestern Cambodia. THE
HELICOPTER WAS NOT SHOT DOWN. As an update to your file on Msgt. McLeod.
The aircraft and crew were returning from strip SAR (Search & Rescue
alert) in Thailand to their home base (Nakhon Phanom, RTAFB, Thailand).
Normal routine for the returning crews was to fly out over the lake in
Cambodia and meet a USAF C-130 Refuel aircraft and make several (dry)
contacts on the refueling hoses then to actually refuel from the C-130
and fly back to NKP, Thailand, On 14 June 1973 The Jolly Green was in
the refueling formation with the C-130 and had just disconnected from
the refueling hose when the helicopter rapidly pitched nose up then nose
down, doing this several times. The helicopter descended into the lake
upside down. The two pararescuemen sitting on the ramp were thrown out
of the back of the helicopter when it pitched nose up. (normal procedure
for air refueling was, all crewmembers have on backpack parachutes, all
windows, doors and hatches closed except for the aft cargo ramp
(optional). The pilot, Gilbert Allan Rovito, Capt, USAF (body
recovered) and co-pilot, Francis E. Meador, USAF (body recovered) was
also killed in the crash.

An effort was made to recover the helicopter and Msgt.McLeods body. A
sling was attached to the underbody of the helicopter, e.g.. the cargo
hook and the landing gear. When the helicopter was lifted it was found
that the impact of the helicopter going in inverted had sheared the
airframe, at the airframe to inside deck (cargo) area. The helicopter
broke apart at this shear and the top of the helicopter was
unrecoverable. Msgt. McLeod's body was never found. The inside of the
wreckage and surrounding area was searched extensively. (given the time
and situation).

The two Pararescuemen that were thrown out relayed this to me on 16 June
1973. The reason is because I was a flight Engineer in the 40th ARRSq
during that period and the crew of that helicopter was my HARD crew. (
we had crews assigned as hard crew members such as pilot, co-pilot,
Flight Engineer, and two pararescuemen ). Those five people made up a
hard crew and when the crew was assigned to fly, all five would be
scheduled to fly together. The reason it wasn't me that was killed is
due to my brother being killed in Florida and I was on emergency leave.
Msgt. McLeod was my supervisor and was flying in my place until I
returned to NKP, Thailand. I returned the day after the accident
happened. The crash was relayed to me when I returned.

 

 

 

 

Joseph Gambino Jr.  

I briefed Joe for a mission to one location, but he swapped locations with a fellow FAC while on the way to his plane. I doubt this caused his death, he just "caught the 'golden BB', the one with your name on it. He was a boisterous stereotypical New York Italian, full of life. It was really sad that he died so young.

Killed In Action 7 April 1973



First Lieutenant Joseph Gambino Jr. was from New York, New York and born on 7 April 1949. He was 24 and single when he died on his birthday. Lieutenant Gambino was a Rustic Forward Air Controller assigned to the 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron at Nakhon Phanom RTAFB Thailand. He was operating out of Ubon Air Base Thailand in OV-10A S/N 67-14659 near Trapeang Veng 50 miles northwest of Kampong Cham in Cambodia. He was directing a strike on mortar positions when the aircraft was struck by .50 caliber gunfire from Khmer Rouge soldiers and crashed in flames. Lieutenant Gambino had served 209 days in combat. His body was recovered and his name is located at 01W 116 on the Vietnam Memorial.

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Tenney Gray 

I can't recall much about Rich although he was one of our Nail FACs at NKP. He was not the last casualty from NKP, but the last one that I knew personally.

Killed In Action 5 June 1973



First Lieutenant Richard Tenney Gray was from Alexandria, Virginia and born on 9 February 1950. He was 23 and single when he died. Lieutenant Gray was a Nail Forward Air Controller assigned to the 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron at Nakhon Phanom RTAFB Thailand. He was shot down over Cambodia in an OV-10A S/N unknown, which was the last OV-10 lost in the war. His body was recovered and his name is located at 01W 118 on the Vietnam Memorial.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mentioned above that Lt Gray was not the last casualty from NKP during "The War" so a footnote is called for:  If you remember or have ever heard of the "Mayaguez Affair" in 1975, you will recall that Cambodian forces seized a US merchant freighter in the Gulf of Thailand and took it to Koh Tang Island off the coast of Cambodia. The US Government , which had been sitting back and watching the communist forces overrun Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, finally showed some guts and launched a force of Marines and USAF Security Police from NKP. One of the helicopters crashed enroute killing more than 30 NKP Security Police. The rest of the force invaded Koh Tang and was thoroughly shot up. Meanwhile the crew of the Mayaguez had apparently been released uninjured.