The following story was published in the Summer 98 issue of
River Currents, a publication of the Mobile Riverine Force Association.
Army helicopter circled the green barracks ship, made its approach and landed. For
the USS Benewah (APB-35), flagship of the Army-Navy Mobile Riverine Force, it marked the
10,000th time that a helicopter had settled on her flight deck during the less than 18
months she had been operating on the brown waters of the Mekong Delta.
Of the 10,000 landings, 9,663 were made by Army helos on the Navy ship.
The others were divided; Navy choppers recorded 326, Marines 4, Air Force 3, Australian 2,
and Civilian 2.
On the helicopter for this historic landing were Col. George E. Bland,
Commander, 2nd Bde., 9th Inf. Div., and Captain Thomas F. Booker, Commander, MRF task
group Alpha. Also attending were Major Nguyen-Duc-An, Hdq. Vietnamese Marine
Division, and CSM Donald P. Brosnan of the 2nd Brigade.
1st Lt. Dennis Clay piloted the 9th aviation battalion helicopter based at Dong
Tam. The Aircraft commander was Warrant Officer Kenneth M. Carroll, Crew Chief SP4
Richard Woodhull, and gunner Ross Russo. Both passengers and crew were presented
plaques in recognition of the occasion by the Captain of the Benewah, Lt. Cdr. Marshall
Stowell. Cdr. Stowell, Donald P. Brosnan, and Dennis Clay are all currently members
of the MRFA. Though not a member we're in touch with Col. George Bland. We
have tried contacting Captain Thomas Booker, CWO Ken Carrol, SP4 Woodhull, and SP4 Russo
but as of this newsletter have been unable to find them.
10,000 landings was a lot for a ship, especially for a barracks ship, and all
in less than 18 months. This is more landings than the carriers were making off the
coast. Since the Benewah did not leave country till November of 70, I wonder
how many landings were actually made on her.
The Benewah was not the only ship having helo's landing on her. All four
APB's had landing platforms on them, as did the LST's and the YRBM's. By late 1968
the majority of the Tango boats had landing pads on them. The first landing on a
tango was in the summer of 1967 and was made by 1st Lt. Mac Huddleston, A Co., 9th
Aviation. The boat was R-92-1; Calvin Mellinger BM1 (of the Benewah) was the person
who assisted in landing the helo on the tango. Both Mellinger and Huddleston are
members of the MRFA. I presume we'll never know how many helicopter landings were
actually made on the ships and boats of the MRF. If you have
any information that you believe may be useful to any of the above please forward it to
the MRFA at 106 Belleview
Dr., Conover, NC 28612.