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Flight Plans Newsletter

Choppers to Bombers--Flying the Vietnam Conflict

Date: 
11/02/2009
Local veteran helicopter and bomber pilots reflect upon their experiences over Vietnam during Nov. 14 program at The Museum of Flight 
 
 
SEATTLE, Nov. 2, 2009--The Museum of Flight hosts a panel of decorated helicopter and bomber pilots who saw action in the skies over North Vietnam from the tree tops to the stratosphere. The Nov. 14 program begins at 2 p.m. and includes local Huey and Cobra helicopter pilots Mike Brown, Pat Staeheli and Steve Vermillion, and B-52 bomber pilot Jim Farmer. The pilots were involved in some of the most dramatic operations of the Vietnam Conflict. One of pilots, Mike Brown, is from the West Point class described in the non-fiction book, "The Long Gray Line." Vermillion is the author of "Dustoff," a book about Huey helicopter air ambulance operations in Vietnam and his own experiences during the Conflict. A book signing will follow the program. The presentation will be in the William M. Allen Theater, and moderated by noted military aviation historian Greg Pierce. The program is free with admission to the Museum.

Mike Brown, helicopter pilot
Sandpoint, Idaho native Brown was appointed to West Point--graduating in 1966; his class was the subject of Rick Atkinson's best-selling book, "The Long Gray Line."  Brown's class was the most "bloodied" in the history of West Point, losing more than 30 classmates in Vietnam.

Brown's first Vietnam tour was in August of 1967, spending most of that year as an artillery forward observer in the field with an infantry company. His tour included the Tet Offensive of 1968, and participated in numerous enemy combat engagements. Brown received the Distinguished Flying Cross and a number of service and campaign awards. 
 
Brown's second Vietnam tour began in 1971, assigned as a platoon leader of an Aerial Field Artillery Battery. His major engagement during the tour was the Battle of An Loc which was part of the North Vietnamese Spring Offensive in 1972.  It was the largest battle of the Vietnam Conflict. On June 21, 1972, he and his copilot were shot down by a surface to air missile. To date, there has been no other instance of a helicopter crew surviving a similar attack.
 
Pat Staeheli, helicopter pilot

In 1969-1970 Staeheli participated in helicopter operations over the rivers of the Mekong Delta as a gunship pilot supporting the "Brown Water Navy"  in river patrol, coastal patrol, and SEAL team operations throughout the rivers and canals near the Cambodian border area. 
 
In 1970-71 he was involved in "Combat Search and Rescue" of downed pilots over North Vietnam from Aircraft Carriers in the Tonkin Gulf.  In 1972 he was in Vietnam flying CH-46 helicopters hauling South Vietnamese Navy personnel, cargo, equipment, ammunition, and supplies along the coast and into the riverboat bases of the Mekong Delta during the final stages of direct US participation in Vietnam.  
 
In the mid-70's he became an Army aviator in the Washington National Guard and flew Hueys, OH-58 Scout Helicopters and AH-1F Cobra Gunships until 1999. Since then Staeheli has been active in the Washington State Chapter of Vietnam helicopter Pilots Association (VHPA)  which has 400 members in WashingtonState and 10,000.
 
Steve Vermillion, helicopter pilot

Vermillion, at age 20, served as an Aircraft Commander of an unarmed Huey helicopter ambulance in Vietnam during 1969.  He flew 1127 hours of combat time which comprised 1450 missions.  Vermillion and his various crewmembers accounted for the rescue of 2210 soldiers. He continued his military career after returning from Vietnam serving first as an instructor pilot teaching instruments and Huey transition to Vietnamese pilots. During his 1969 combat tour, he decorated for his accomplishments flying unarmed medical evacuation missions. He was awarded the Silver Star and Distinguished Flying Cross. a book about combat air ambulance operations and his Vietnam experiences.

Jim Farmer, B-52 bomber pilot
Farmer flew 120 B-52 missions. He has the distinction of being the only living B-52 pilot who went down in enemy territory and was rescued. Farmer has been awared the Air Medal with 7 oak leaf clusters, Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart. His crew was 15th Air Force crew of the year for 1972.
 
The Museum of Flight has in its collection a B-52 and a UH-1H Huey helicopter. The B-52 is displayed in public view at Paine Field in Everett; the Huey is located in the Museum's Restoration Center at Paine Field. For further information and to schedule a tour, please contact Tom Cathcart, Director of Aircraft Restoration, at 206-768-7247.


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The Museum of Flight is located at 9404 E. Marginal Way S., Seattle, Exit 158 off Interstate 5 (on Boeing Field between downtown Seattle and SeaTac Airport.) The Museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $14 for adults, $13 for seniors 65 and older, $10 for active military, $7.50 for youth 5 to 17, and free for children under 5. Group rates are available. Admission on the first Thursday of the month is free from 5 to 9 p.m. courtesy of Wells Fargo. For general Museum information, please call 206-764-5720 or visit www.museumofflight.org.
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