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Yankee Air Pirates

USAF Uniforms and Memorabilia of the Vietnam War

One in a million

Posted on September 30 2017 by Olivier Bizet & François Millard

One in a million

One in a million. That phrase comes to mind thinking about those two items re-united in my collection.
This phrase “one in a million” reminds me of a TV show I saw about 25 years ago, in England, when they broadcasted a report about an Australian Nam Vet who returned to Vietnam where he had fought and happened to find one of his missing dog tag. A lost dog tag and a part of his life he clearly remembered.
Those two items arrived in my collection separately. The cap was found first, 11 years ago. I was very glad to add it to my 1st SOS collection. Those are virtually impossible to get. I am a great fan of the Skyraider, the 1st SOS, and Nakhon Phanom. It is a beauty, local made, with the Hobo character on the back. I was delighted. Further researches brought more.
Last year, I saw the suit on a Facebook group. It is in pristine condition, with a spectacular 1st Special Operations Squadron patch on the front. Local embroideries are typical of the tailor shops that were available at the exit gate, just across the road during the war. The name rang a bell. And for a good reason since I had written about the man several months before.

 

1st Lt. George W. Kamenicky (left) and Capt. Halton R. “Ramsey” Vincent (right)1st Lt. George W. Kamenicky (left) and Capt. Halton R. “Ramsey” Vincent (right)

1st Lt. George W. Kamenicky (left) and Capt. Halton R. “Ramsey” Vincent (right)

On 30 September 1971, 46 years ago, the original owner of the cap (Capt. Halton R. “Ramsey” Vincent) and the original owner of the suit (1st Lt. George W. Kamenicky) took off from Nakhon Phanom RTAFB, a few miles from the Laotian border. Their Skyraider (A-1E S/N #52-135187) was heavily laden with bombs, as they were heading for the Plain of Jars.
For those you flew from that place dubbed “the End of the World,” the landscape was ravishing. Beautiful lights, rice paddies, the quiet city of Nakhon Phanom, the powerful River Mekong and on the other bank the intense green of the jungle and karst mountains just pass the small town of Thakhek. At the end of the journey, the infamous Plain of Jars, a plateau equally beautiful with pine trees, antic jars left by a civilization vanished long ago in Xieng Khouang Province. Yet a highly disputed territory where the North Vietnamese, the Pathet Lao on one side, and the Royal Laotian Army (including the Hmong) and the US Air Force on the other side were fighting day after day, season after season to control that area. 

 

NKP from the air and he Plain of Jars, as of 2015.
NKP from the air and he Plain of Jars, as of 2015.

NKP from the air and he Plain of Jars, as of 2015.

Lt. Kamenicky was near the end of his tour, about to come back to the USA. He had almost spent a year at NKP. Since he had experience, he had been chosen to advise Capt. Vincent who was a new comer. This mission on the Plain of Jars was his first mission. And would be the last of the crew. As they reached the PDJ, the Skyraider started a 20-degree dive on a target at the southeastern edge of the area and took hit by small arms fire. The A-1E crashed before either of the crew could eject. 
As collectors, we all have favorite items. Like I said, it was very unlikely that the cap and the suit would be together again. One in a million. 
This cap and this suit are among those special items I am much honored to keep. Special items about that long war, special items about the Skyraider community, and special items about two men who took part into History. And also special since I have had the opportunity to fly to and from NKP on several occasions, and travelled to the Plain of Jars twice. May they rest in peace.

One in a millionOne in a million
One in a millionOne in a million
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Sergeant John F. Wytonick, 823rd Combat Security Police Squadron

Posted on February 14 2017 by Olivier Bizet

Vietnamese Marine Corps "Seawave" pattern Tiger Stripe uniform worn by Sgt. Wytonick. Note the Vietnamese QC (Military Police) patch, as worn by all SP personnel in South Vietnam. Combat Security Police personnel were allowed more personal choices for their uniforms because of their unique combat role.
Vietnamese Marine Corps "Seawave" pattern Tiger Stripe uniform worn by Sgt. Wytonick. Note the Vietnamese QC (Military Police) patch, as worn by all SP personnel in South Vietnam. Combat Security Police personnel were allowed more personal choices for their uniforms because of their unique combat role.

Vietnamese Marine Corps "Seawave" pattern Tiger Stripe uniform worn by Sgt. Wytonick. Note the Vietnamese QC (Military Police) patch, as worn by all SP personnel in South Vietnam. Combat Security Police personnel were allowed more personal choices for their uniforms because of their unique combat role.

These incredibly rare uniforms were acquired after we wrapped Yankee Air Pirates volume 1, and could not be included in our extensive chapter about Air/Security Police units. We feel they are worth sharing with our readers anyway.

John F. Wytonick entered basic training on 17 October 1967 in the 3332nd Basic Military Training Squadron at Amarillo AFB, Texas. On 12 December 1967 he was assigned to the 803rd Security Police Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. He served as a security guard on this Strategic Air Command base hosting Titan II missiles, U-2 reconnaissance aircraft and drone operations.

On 25 November 1968 he was assigned to the 823rd Combat Security Police Squadron, which was activated the previous month at England AFB. The CSPS were part of project Safeside, which created new Security Police units with greater emphasis on combat training. Once deployed to Vietnam, these units were allowed to patrol outside the wire of Air Force bases and lay ambushes. Sgt Wytonick deployed to South Vietnam in February 1969 with the squadron. He served as a grenadier (with an XM-148 40mm grenade launcher) until July 1969. His last assignment was with the 351st SPS at Whiteman AFB, Montana. He was discharged in October 1971.

ARVN heavyweight camouflage uniform worn by Sgt Wytonick. The trousers and shirt colors are not an exact match.
ARVN heavyweight camouflage uniform worn by Sgt Wytonick. The trousers and shirt colors are not an exact match.

ARVN heavyweight camouflage uniform worn by Sgt Wytonick. The trousers and shirt colors are not an exact match.

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Robert D. Gallup, 1st Air Commando Squadron

Posted on July 11 2016 by Olivier Bizet & François Millard

Capt. Gallup's second pattern OG-107 shirt, with the usual shortened sleeves. All patches, including the 34th Tactical Group pocket patch, are Vietnamese hand embroidered.
Capt. Gallup's second pattern OG-107 shirt, with the usual shortened sleeves. All patches, including the 34th Tactical Group pocket patch, are Vietnamese hand embroidered.

Capt. Gallup's second pattern OG-107 shirt, with the usual shortened sleeves. All patches, including the 34th Tactical Group pocket patch, are Vietnamese hand embroidered.

Here is a small tribute to Robert D. Gallup (25 Aug. 1934 – 16 June 1965).

Robert Gallup graduated from Gorham-Fayette High School with the Class of 52. He received a scholarship to Ohio State University, taking general college courses and R.O.T.C. training. He then entered Montana State University, and during the summer of 1955 he flew helicopters and worked with the Montana State Fire Department. Late in 1956 he was called for service, yet he was allowed one year to finish university.

Capt. Robert D. Gallup during a previous assignment. Note that he pinned his captain rank on the cap while his jacket still shows the Lt. rank. Air Force

Capt. Robert D. Gallup during a previous assignment. Note that he pinned his captain rank on the cap while his jacket still shows the Lt. rank. Air Force

Upon graduation in 1957, Robert spent the next four years training as a pilot, learning engine planes, air science and finally jet planes. He served at Laredo, Randolph, Lackland, Homestead and Eglin Air Force Bases for various times and purposes. During this time he passed from rank of 2nd Lieutenant to Captain. After reenlisting, Robert spent two years at Truax Field at Madison, Wisconsin flying the F-101 and F-102. He was then assigned to Iceland. Upon return, he was sent to McCord A.F.B. in Washington.

Class Express 10. Skyraider Training at Hurlburt Field, Florida (Eglin Air Force Aux 9). Front row, first on the left. Air Force

Class Express 10. Skyraider Training at Hurlburt Field, Florida (Eglin Air Force Aux 9). Front row, first on the left. Air Force

In early 1965 he volunteered for duty in Vietnam. After a training through class Express-10 at Hurlburt Field, Capt. Gallup was assigned to the 1st Air Commando Squadron, under the 34th Tactical Group. From Pleiku AB, Capt. Gallup flew the A-1E Skyraider. During one strike sortie, two Skyraiders collided. Robert Gallup managed to bail out of A-1E S/N 52-135040, but his parachute failed to open. The other pilot, John S. Rumph, who was flying aircraft S/N 52-133889, survived the accident.

Capt. Gallup’s grave in Oak Grove Cemetery, Morenci, Lenawee County, Michigan, USA. Photo by S Szepanski

Capt. Gallup’s grave in Oak Grove Cemetery, Morenci, Lenawee County, Michigan, USA. Photo by S Szepanski

The OG-107 shirt that started this post was acquired too late to be included in Volume 2 of Yankee Air Pirates. However, the 1st ACS/SOS is covered in detail, with 11 heavily illustrated pages. All other Air Commando and Special Operations Squadrons that served in Southeast Asia are also in the book. Volume 2 is available since December 3rd, 2015, directly from the publisher or on many online platforms.

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Udorn 2016

Posted on June 5 2016 by François Millard

Photos taken by François in May at Udorn RTAFB. Previously home of the 432nd TRW; 11th, 13th & 45th TRS; 13th, 58th, 308th, 435th (F-104 era), 523rd, 555th TFS. It also welcomed the Waterpump program (training of Lao and Cambodian pilots). Not to forget ARRS, AC-47 gunships, Air America and more!

Udorn 2016
Main entrance.

Main entrance.

Across the street; vets suggested it was a BOQ 40 years ago.
Across the street; vets suggested it was a BOQ 40 years ago.

Across the street; vets suggested it was a BOQ 40 years ago.

Udorn 2016
From our friend Gil Burket: "this may have been the former AAFES snack bar, home of the "award winning AAFES burger'! It would have been next to a swimming pool back in the day. The structure above it was to provide shade."

From our friend Gil Burket: "this may have been the former AAFES snack bar, home of the "award winning AAFES burger'! It would have been next to a swimming pool back in the day. The structure above it was to provide shade."

Udorn 2016Udorn 2016
Udorn 2016
Udorn 2016
Udorn 2016Udorn 2016
Udorn 2016Udorn 2016
C-47. It is still flying, it was airborne an hour before I took the photo.

C-47. It is still flying, it was airborne an hour before I took the photo.

Home of the 23rd RTAF Wing.

Home of the 23rd RTAF Wing.

Udorn is still Home of the Hunters!
Udorn is still Home of the Hunters!
Udorn is still Home of the Hunters!
Udorn is still Home of the Hunters!

Udorn is still Home of the Hunters!

As it was during the war.

As it was during the war.

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Volume 2 is almost there!

Posted on November 22 2015 by Olivier Bizet & François Millard

Volume 2 is almost there!

Now, more than ever, we need good news. And you know what? We have some of those!

Olivier received his first copy of Yankee Air Pirates Volume 2 this week, which means it will soon be available for sale, hopefully by the end of the month. François' copy is still travelling somewhere between Bangkok, Atglen and Shanghai, and we hope it will survive its worldwide journey.

What can we say? In the words of Daft Punk: Harder Better Faster Stronger! And heavier indeed. Volume 2 has 300 more photos than the first book, and we feel that the design has been vastly improved. You will find below the pages that the publisher has chosen to display on Amazon, and some others we added. The wait is almost over!

Volume 2 is almost there!
Volume 2 is almost there!
Volume 2 is almost there!
Volume 2 is almost there!
Volume 2 is almost there!
Volume 2 is almost there!
Volume 2 is almost there!
Volume 2 is almost there!
Volume 2 is almost there!
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Posted on November 15 2015 by Olivier Bizet & François Millard

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Volume 2: layout review completed!

Posted on September 1 2015 by Olivier Bizet

François and Olivier in Paris in August. A tiny part of the 1st SOS section of volume 2 can be seen on the laptop.

François and Olivier in Paris in August. A tiny part of the 1st SOS section of volume 2 can be seen on the laptop.

It has been a productive summer! François flew in from Bangkok and spent a few weeks in France before heading for Shanghai for new adventures. During this period we received the entire pdf of volume 2 for the layout review.

We have to say we are really excited with this new volume! It includes 1200 photos (vs 900 photos in volume 1), has more text, all packed in a much better layout. You will not be disappointed! Volume 2 deals with bases, aerial ports, airlift, air commando/special operations, Strategic Air Command (B-52s, KC-135s, U-2s, SR-71s), medical units, prisoners of war, and features an extensive section about insignia, offical and unofficial. If you liked volume 1, you will love volume 2!

Our corrections were implemented last week, and the book is off to the printers. It should be available by the end of the year. We learned the hard way not to give any release date, so we will wait until we are sure it is available.

We can already show you the cover:

Volume 2: layout review completed!

The writing of volume 3 is also almost finished. We will include an end section about flight gear, and are trying to include as much stuff as possible. We decided we would wrap the writing by November, although we are probably talking about a 2017 release for that one.

Thanks for your continued support, and stay tuned for more news!

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29 April 1975 – 29 April 2015

Posted on April 29 2015 by Olivier Bizet & François Millard

29 April 1975 – 29 April 2015

40 years ago today, on 29 April 1975 Hubert Van Es shot this iconic photograph, that instantly became a symbol of the fall of Saigon. It shows high ranking South Vietnamese citizens (including Gen. Tran Van Don and secret police chief Tran Kim Tuyen) boarding an Air America Huey on the roof of the “Pittman Building”. This CIA-owned facility was located on 22 Ly Tu Trong, in the heart of Saigon. It was named after John Pittman, Deputy Chief of the CIA Station in Saigon. The Huey was piloted by Bob Caron and Jack “Hobo” Hunter. This was the last day of the evacuation (code name Frequent Wind) before North Vietnamese troops entered the city on April 30th.

This APH-6 flight helmet in our collection was worn by another Air America Huey pilot on that fateful day. Lyle D. Genz took off from the ICCS ramp on 29 April 1975, as rockets and mortar round hit the facility.

This APH-6 flight helmet in our collection was worn by another Air America Huey pilot on that fateful day. Lyle D. Genz took off from the ICCS ramp on 29 April 1975, as rockets and mortar round hit the facility.

After years of research, François managed to locate the rooftop, which was often wrongly presented as the roof of the American Embassy in Saigon (that building was destroyed in the nineties). François had been driving past the building for nearly seven years when he finally realized what is was.

As we are currently together in Vietnam, we thought it was would be cool to take the same exact snapshot, at the same date forty years later. However Saigon (now awkwardly called Ho Chi Minh City) has changed a lot since 1975. Entire blocks have been destroyed to make room for insane real estate projects, mainly shopping malls and offices buildings.

Hubert Van Es took the photo from the UPI building, which is now the Parkson shopping mall. We entered the mall and tried to get a shot at the Pittman Building, but there were no accessible windows. We managed to find another building on the same block, facing in the same direction, but another mall (the Vincom Shopping Center) was built in the park facing the Pittman Building, blocking the view.

François and Olivier photographing the Pittman Building. Courtesy of Cédric Lerat.

François and Olivier photographing the Pittman Building. Courtesy of Cédric Lerat.

Olivier trying to get a better angle, to no avail. Courtesy of Cédric Lerat.

Olivier trying to get a better angle, to no avail. Courtesy of Cédric Lerat.

Olivier and François shooting from the Post Office sidewalk. Note barbed wire fences in anticipation of April 30th celebrations.Courtesy of Cédric Lerat.

Olivier and François shooting from the Post Office sidewalk. Note barbed wire fences in anticipation of April 30th celebrations.Courtesy of Cédric Lerat.

We had to resort to shooting the world-famous rooftop from street level. We tried to gain access to the roof of the Pittman Building, but the security guard was not very cooperative (not cooperative at all, as a matter of fact).

So here it is, in all its splendor, on 29 April 2015. The entire block will probably disappear in the next months or years and be replaced by another mall, but we are glad we were able to photograph it on the 40th anniversary of these tragic events.

29 April 1975 – 29 April 2015
This is the closest we could get from the angle of the original photo.

This is the closest we could get from the angle of the original photo.

This shot was taken from the opposite side of 1975 photograph. The Vincom Shopping Center in the background is now blocking the view of the original angle.

This shot was taken from the opposite side of 1975 photograph. The Vincom Shopping Center in the background is now blocking the view of the original angle.

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Galley Review for Volume 2

Posted on April 27 2015 by Olivier Bizet & François Millard

Business as usual for François

Business as usual for François

The next volume of Yankee Air Pirates is moving along well ! We received the galleys a few days ago, while Olivier was travelling in Vietnam and François was still working in Thailand. We both spent days tracking down the errors and typos that found their way in the text. We are now together in Saigon, and are comparing our notes. With the hindsight of one year, we have found many instances in which a correction is required. We will probably find more during the layout review next June. This proofing work is quite tedious, but the end result depends on it. Hence it is not a problem to spend a few vacation days proofing our work. We will enjoy the scenery around us later :)

Volume 2 should normally be available this autumn, we will keep you posted!

Olivier, pretending to work without paying attention to the Ha Long Bay.

Olivier, pretending to work without paying attention to the Ha Long Bay.

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Lt. Col. Earl S. Crow, Jr. - 7th Airborne Command & Control Squadron

Posted on January 2 2015 by François Millard

It was not infrequent to find in Vietnam veterans from WWII or Korea. This party suit was ordered from Maharajah in Udorn, by Col. Crow during his November 1970/71 tour.

7th ACCS party suit displaying U.S. and Thai flags, unit and call sign patches. Ranks are hidden by shoulder loops.

7th ACCS party suit displaying U.S. and Thai flags, unit and call sign patches. Ranks are hidden by shoulder loops.

At the end of WWII, Crow underwent P-39, P-63 and P-38 training before being sent to France on 3 January 1945. There he was assigned to the 485th Fighter Squadron, 370th Fighter Group. His first missions were aboard the P-38 Lightning until the 485th converted to the P-51 Mustang. During his ETO deployment, then Lt. Crow flew 30 combat missions, mostly over Belgium and Germany. He was subsequently awarded several Air Medals.

Detail of the probably unique Thai made 370th Fighter Group. The design is actually the one of the 435th Fighter Squadron, Crow’s unit back in WWII.

Detail of the probably unique Thai made 370th Fighter Group. The design is actually the one of the 435th Fighter Squadron, Crow’s unit back in WWII.

His second combat experience occurred 25 years later, when he was assigned to the 7th Airborne Command & Control Squadron in northern Thailand. There, he flew daytime “Cricket” orbits in the Steel Tiger North and Barrel Roll areas of Laos. He was also appointed as Director of Flight Operations. While fighting in Vietnam, he received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star medal. Col. Crow finally retired on 31 July 1974.

Yankee Air Pirates Volume 1 features 10 pages about the 7th ACCS!

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