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571st Medical Detachment


Dedicated to the memory of WO1 Gary Wayne Doolittle
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

NOTE: Any photos attributed to me may be copied by family and friends of the 571st Dustoff for their own photo collections. Bob Peneguy

This is me (1Lt Robert Peneguy) in November 1967 in Nha Trang doing what I did well, drinking beer and building hooches. We were building the office buildings for the unit on the East side of the Nha Trang airstrip. We slept here on these very sandbags for several nights and days following Tet of 1968 as we were previously housed right up the beach from where the NVA and VC made their assault on Nha Trang and the airbase. I personally drove the men on to the airbase under blackout conditions that night and personally greeted a BIG German Shepherd at the gate as he jumped in my face for a closeup look. It never ceases to amaze me how certain memories come back in close and personal full color and others are in dim vagueness.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

This is then Major Vincent J. Cedola, our beloved leader, on his second tour as our Detachment Commander. The man sitting in the jeep there in Nha Trang in November 1967 is WO2 Chester Duncan (now Retired Colonial Medical Service Corps.) our maintenance officer. We all went through Tet 1968 and on to Hue and I Corps of Vietnam together. Chet gave us all our AC checkrides to qualify as Aircraft Commanders after we go some experience under our belts. Now both of them entertain their Grandkids. They are the only two men of the unit that I have been able to contact since I got out of the service in 1970.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

Here is a picture of Warrant Officer Bob Barrows as he was flying with me up the coast to Nha Trang on our virgin flight of the new 571st Dustoff helicopters. Bob was one of the four WO's that were swapped out to the 45th Medical Company at Long Bin for five experienced Aircraft Commanders, a Captain, a 1Lt. and three WO2s. This was Vince Cedola's wisdom as a Commanding Officer and it paid off in lives saved as we went through a year of war loosing only one pilot (and he was on loan to the 54th Detachment at Chu Lai when the NVA shot that ship down with a rocket killing the crew and wounded GI's on board as they departed the LZ). That was WO1 Gary Doolittle ( 1 John 5:13 ) and it troubled Vince until I talked with him in February 2003. Vince is a Retired Colonial who flew with the first batch of Dustoff pilots in the 82nd Detachment in the Delta in the early days when Dustoff began it's legend. That was the group of giants that wt on to become the Commanding Officers of Dustoff units all over Vietnam and the world.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

Here is a shot of the delta region close to Saigon in late November of 1967 as we flew down to pick up our unit helicopters that had just arrived from the States. We picked up six new birds and flew up the coast passed Vung Tau to Nha Trang to begin getting operational in the area.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

This is WO2 Chester Duncan, WO2 Dean Petersen and WO2 Jack Leininger on the beach at Nha Trang just before Tet of 1968. Jack and Dean were experienced Aircraft Commanders that had just transferred in from the 45th Medical Company on that swap out of our four inexperienced Warrant Officers. Vince told me that just a few years ago one of those four WO1's swapped out to the 45th followed him home from work in Phoenix, AZ because he saw Vince's Dustoff and VHPA stickers on his car.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

This is Captain Mark Carr who just transferred in from the 45th Med. Co. with the other four experienced AC's. I flew with Mark in the lead Dustoff into the Ashu Valley to extract a big SOG Team in early 1968. He was awarded the Silver Star by Gen. Barsoni, CO of the 101st Airborne for that mission and the other two Dustoff AC's were awarded DFC's. When we landed to a panel in the LZ, Marine F-4's to our west and north and 101st helicopter gunships to our east, a Green Beret Captain that waved us in walked up and kissed the red cross on the nose of our helicopter as the wounded were being loaded. Mark was a Georgia boy and a great AC to learn from. A quiet man of courage.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

This is Highway 1( the Street without Joy) through Hai Phan Pass just north of Da Nang on our way to Hue/Phu Bai in February 1968 following Tet. Yes, I was the Supply Officer charged with bringing up the rear (ground support element) of the 571st from Nha Trang to our new home at the 22nd MASH Mobil Army Surgical Hospital) at Phu Bai. We stopped at Major Brady's(now Retired Gen.) 54th Med. Detachment at Chu Lai for the night and I got to visit with my old friend Jerry Faust from the 507th at San Antonio, now retired General. They had just lost a full crew and chopper in the mountains to their west - probably due to low clouds - they flew into a mountain on a night mission and the crew was never found.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

This is one of our birds flying over Hue in the spring of 1968.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

This is the 571st helipad at the 22nd MASH at Phu Bai in it's early stages of oil coated dirt later covered over with PSP(or whatever that interlocking perforated steel runway material is called). It turned to mud until the steel was laid.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

These are three of our ground support enlisted crew, James Wade, Steve Ferrier and Al Hill. I enjoyed knowing these men and serving with them. I may have Al's name wrong as it has been a while.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

This is an early shot of the 22nd MASH just after they arrived and set up operations in the big inflatable tents. The Marine 105 guns found one of these with a round that was fired ass backwards. By God's grace, no one was in the tent when the round hit it and it went down just like a balloon deflating.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

This is WO2 John Chisholm who later took a direct commission to 2nd Lt. Medical Service Corps. He was an AC ahead of me having transferred in from the 45th Med. Co. and we flew a lot of harry hoist missions for the 101st Airborne together as they were moving west from Hue through the mountains toward the Ashau Valley and the Laos border. That is his companion Dusty by his side during the monsoon season before we go out of our tent homes into high and dry wood hooches with tin roofs.

In 1970 at Fort Rucker, Alabama John married his sweetheart, Terri. My wife was Matron of Honor and I was Best Man at the fort chapel before they were transferred to the 507th at San Antonio. We lost touch through the years and I would love to find them again and visit. John had enough courage for both of us under fire and could make a chopper dance.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy


We only lost one man in Viet Nam by the Grace of God Almighty and the answered prayers of our families. He was a Christian and was forthright in expressing his faith in a very nice way to us Catholics who are a mite touchy about expressing our beliefs. I had that conversation with him and then he was loaned out to the 498th or 54th and the communist blew their fully loaded ship out of the air on take off from the LZ at treetop level. I did not know how much writing that letter affected Vince Cedola until I spoke with him for the first time in 35 years last week. Vincent J. Cedola, our CO, made six of us peter pilots until we had adequate experience and he focused on getting the job done in reasonable safety. He and our XO, Don Naylor, were in the delta with the 57th in the early days and brought that experience, wisdom and courage to us green horns together with swapping out four of our WO1's for four AC's from the 498th right after we arrived in country. We got a Captain, a Lt. and two WOs I believe.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

The photo was taken in Nha Trang in January 1968. Left to right the men are: Sp4 Larry Woodyard, Sp4 George Tripp, center, and Sp5 Bill Schell. These young men were all Crew Chiefs on our new Huey helicopters and helped build the unit facilities at Nha Trang Airbase before our deployment to I Corps following the Tet Offensive.
Image courtesy of David Comer via Bob Peneguy

Here sits our new, inexperienced Crew Chief PFC David P. Comer newly arrived in the 571st in January 1968 at Nha Trang Airbase. David was well experienced by late April when he was WIA by a 51Cal communist bullet through the fuel cell, floor, his arm and top of his helicopter loaded with 3 critically wounded. Russ Wood & Gene Fisher were the AC & Pilot and Willard Skoal was the Medic. They landed safely at a 101st ABN firebase where another Dustoff picked them up for the trip to the 22nd Surg Hospital.
Image courtesy of David Comer via Bob Peneguy

The 571st Dustoff Operations that the unit built at the Nha Trang Airbase in November 1967.
Image courtesy of David Comer via Bob Peneguy

SSGT Holder, maintenance sergeant for the 571st, on a test flight over Nha Trang in January 1968.
Image courtesy of David Comer via Bob Peneguy

In November of 1967 we flew down to the Saigon area to take delivery of our six new UH1Hs and fly them to the units pad at Nha Trang. One of these birds made it through the war years and back to states with the 571st. When Col. Chet Duncan, the 571st's former maintenance Chief Warrant Officer in 1967-68, retired in 1993 he was given a ride around Fort Bliss, Texas in the hell hole of that Huey - tough ole birds.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

Vung Tau on the coast of Vietnam well south of Nha Trang as we were flying home with our new UH1Hs.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

Nha Trang Airbase from 571st Operations looking west toward Happy Valley and the mountains beyond. The 571st was here from November 1967 until a few days after the Tet Offensive at the end of January 1968 when we moved piecemeal to Phu Bai in I Corps where we were the only Dustoff Detachment in country operating under pure field conditions. The unit's mission was medical evacuation support of the 101st Airborne Division, the 22nd Surgical Hospital at Phu Bai, the 18th Surgical Hospital at Quang Tri, U.S.S. Hospital Ships Sanctuary and Repose, Army level support for the 1st Cavalry Division, SOG, U.S. Marines, ARVN units and Vietnam Civilians as requested - we were busy. Does anyone remember where the life preservers were stored?
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy

Bye Big Buda the 571st is one the road headed north to I Corps. As Supply Officer, I had the privilege of taking the scenic route up Highway 1, 'The Street Without Tears' as it was known to the locals. I was lead jeep of the convoy of the ground support portion of the unit and got to see the country as most pilots did not. The road trip took two days and gave us the opportunity to visit our friends at the 54th Dustoff in Chu Lai on the first night.
Image courtesy of Bob Peneguy


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