HA(L)-3 Det#3 - Battle at MocHoa


UPDATED: 28 Dec 04

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Photograph courtesy of Bill Rutledge






By Bill Rutledge, SeaWolf Gunner 

Background:  Other articles with limited information have been written about this difficult day in the lives of these brave Pilots and Gunners from Detachment Three. As in other articles I have written, I write this to add to our history and to pay tribute to those that fought these horrific battles, those Killed In Action and the survivors.  In other articles, details and participants were left out that need to be recognized for their Heroism and participation in these missions.  I have collected much of this missing history and using official documents, written first hand accounts, citations and phone conversations with individuals on scene, have for the most part been able to reconstruct part if not most of what occurred on these missions. I have not been able to contact everyone involved and apologize if some details are missing and personnel not noted.

     Until May 1970 when President Nixon legalized incursions into Cambodia , there were to be no crossing of the Border. Although there had been several large operations along and over the border, one being operations SEALORDS, many other covert missions had been executed of which the Seawolves were involved in with no after action report or one  reflecting the action being flown this side of the border. It was hard at times to distinguish which side of the border you were on and since the Cambodians let enemy units openly operate and stage from the Cambodian side, make raids into Vietnam and escape back across the border knowing we would not follow and attack. On many occasions they were in for a surprise. 

The Battle: Moc Hoa, Hoa, 28 April 1969 , Cambodian Border Mission

Det three had continued flying combat missions at HA Tien and then went back to the YRBM 20 where they had been before going to HA Tien, then  again moved to  stage from Moc Hoa to combat the infiltration of enemy troops and supplies coming in from Cambodia .

    On the morning of 28 April the two Seawolf Gunships from Detachment Three were manned as follows:

Lead Aircraft, Seawolf 305

     Fireteam Leader (FTL) LTJG Joseph Hart (call sign 38)

     Copilot- LCDR James Keyes

     Crew Chief/ Gunner- ADJ 1 Lloyd Williams

     Gunner- Airman Charles Larson

     Gunner Trainee- Airman Dennis Miley


Trail Aircraft, Seawolf 320

     Aircraft Commander- LTJG Reardon (call sign 37)

     Copilot- LTJG Hal Castle

     Crew Chief / Gunner AO3 Mike Schafernocker

     Gunner – Airman George Page


At 0700 this morning the Det 3 Fireteam left Moc Hoa and flew to a support base at Tuyen Nhon for a briefing and then flew a recon mission with a Navy Intel Officer aboard. Returning him to Tuyen  Nhon at 0900 the Fireteam led by LTJG Hart (Seawolf 38)  returned to Moc Hoa to refuel. Enroute, the Tac Ops Center was contacted and asked for targets, an Army Spotter Plane “Swamp Fox” responded that he had a target at X Ray Sierra 1495 consisting of numerous abandoned sampans at a major infiltration route on the Border

     The Fireteam landed at Moc Hoa, refueled and proceeded to the target area arriving at 1000 hrs. The target area was eight to ten miles Northwest of Moc Hoa and was spread over a large area, consisting of several large tree lines, and the canal with the Sampans right along side the border. On the Cambodian side were two Cambodian National Police outposts. (Supposed to be neutral).

    LTJG Hart (Seawolf 38) Aircraft # 305 Rolled in to attack with LTJG Reardon (Seawolf 37) Aircraft # 320 and his crew flying trail, covering the lead Gunship as they put in strike after strike on the many Sampans. Blazing away the Copilots of both birds and the Door Gunners zeroed in on the waterborne targets with their 4 external mounted M60 Flex Guns and the Door gunners with their hand held Free M 60s.  On pullout after the fourth rocket attack the lead bird started taking heavy fire from the tree lines with several rounds hitting the cabin and cockpit. Breaking hard right SW 38 relayed the enemy firing positions to the trail bird as it also came under heavy fire and was hit with SW 37 calling I’M HIT, GOING DOWN as the trail bird door gunners were seen dumping rocket pods and door boxes of ammo to lighten the load for impact. The Main rotor was seen slowing and fire was seen coming from the bird just before or on impact with the tail hitting first as the trail bird became engulfed in flames crashing just across the Border in Cambodia . A May Day was called as the lead bird came around firing to protect the down trail. At this time the Lead bird still under heavy fire also took a disabling hit and with a second May Day broadcast their coordinates. The lead Gunship made a forced landing in the field 40 to 50 meters from the burning wreckage of 320. The crew exited and set up a defensive perimeter around 305 with AN Miley to the rear with an M60, AN Larsen on the right with an M16,  LCDR Keyes with an M16 at the nose, LTJG Hart at the 10 o’clock position with an M79 grenade launcher, and ADJ1 Williams to the left at the 8 o’clock position with a M60. The enemy fire coming from 5 crewserved and automatic weapons positions in two treelines was intense and hitting the downed 305. When one of the crew tried to shift positions the fire increased. The downed crew was returning fire when LCDR Keyes and PO Williams spotted Airman Page moving around the burning crash of 320 engulfed in flames from the waist down.  Petty Officer Williams called for cover fire as he ran with his M60 and ammo to 320 under heavy fire and grabbed AN Page pulling him away from the aircraft and cut all of his burning clothing from him including his gun belt which was on fire. Still receiving heavy fire on both aircraft and not realizing how bad his hands were burned during this action PO Williams grabbed his M 60 and tried to make his way around the blazing aircraft with rockets, and ammo exploding to try and locate and rescue any of the others in 320. Williams was driven back by the intense flames and exploding munitions and could not locate any others. Leaving his M 60 he grabbed AN Page and carried him back about half the distance to 305 until he had to put Page down due to the incoming fire. Williams ran back to 305 to get Morphine and help to bring Page the rest of the way back. During the time PO Williams was at 320, his crew was keeping the enemy down as best they could to cover him. At One point LTJG Hart killed two charging enemy with one round of M79 and many other enemy were paying the price from rounds from the weapons of LCDR Keyes, Miley and Larsen. AN Larson had been wounded and helped back to the bird by AN Miley for more ammo and both continued firing. LCDR Keyes had been on the radio and Outlaw 29, an Army Slick from the 175th Assault Helicopter Company was inbound. Petty Officer Williams wanted to go out again to get AN Page but was ordered to stay in place that Outlaw 29 was inbound and at that time appeared on scene coming in low and fast under the same fire as the Seawolves encountered. Outlaw 29s crew consisted of Copilot WO1 Mike Boden, Gunners SP4 Jack Gilmore, SP4 Donald Van Dyke and Pilot WO1 Dennis Iannazzo, who states as he came in to pick up AN Page he flew into a solid wall of enemy rounds taking hits. Landing near Page, his Crew Chief SP4 Gilmore left the bird to retrieve Page and was wounded in the wrist and abdomen and the Gunner SP4 Van Dyke firing from the bird was hit in the upper right leg. Getting Page aboard, the Army Gunners, although wounded placed fire on the enemy which was now shooting from the rear of 305 as Outlaw 29 turned and made his way to the surviving Seawolves. Loading first was the Wounded AN Larsen, followed by AN Miley, PO Williams, LTJG Hart stepped back and let LCDR Keyes in and then got aboard last.  Sitting on the troop seat Petty Officer Williams and Miley were trying to work on the wounded Larsen who refused help saying the others needed it more than him, so they helped the Gunner, with LTJG Hart working on the wounded Crew Chief who was still firing. On lift off LTJG Hart was hit by an enemy round which killed him instantly hitting under his right arm passing through his body. Clearing the Kill Zone under heavy fire WO1 Iannazzo made it back across the border into Vietnam and to Moc Hoa delivering the Wounded to the awaiting ambulances. When checked no one could believe Outlaw 29 was still flying with damage to airframe, engine, transmission, flight controls and a huge hole in the lower left fuel cell pouring out fuel.

Results of the battle:  

The following is situation report of the action that day -

Seawolf 320 - Shot down

Seawolf 305 - Shot down burned

Outlaw 29 - Shot to pieces, Total loss


Seawolf 320

LTJG R. Reardon,         KIA/ Mia Remains not recovered,

LTJG H. Castle,            KIA, Remains recovered-               

AO2 M. Schafernocker KIA, Remains recovered          

 AN G. Page                  WIA , Died of wounds in Oak Knoll Hospital in Oakland CA Six weeks later                      


Seawolf 305

LTJG J. Hart,              KIA  boarding Outlaw 29 on rescue                      

LCDR J. Keyes                                                                  

ADJ1 L.T. Williams   WIA                                                 

AIRMAN  C. Larson  WIA                   

AIRMAN  D. Miley                                                      


Outlaw 29 (ARMY)

WO1  D. Iannazzo                                                           

WO1  M.  Boden                                                            

SP4    J.    Gilmore     WIA                                                      

SP4    D.   Van Dyke  WIA                                                     

The Aftermath:  

Documents from the Cambodian Prince Sihanouk via Cambodian United Nations Minister HUOT SAMBATH state the Seawolves were shot down by Royal Cambodian Forces one mile inside Cambodia in the region of Kong Mao, Commune of Chantrea, Province of Svay Riena when the Seawolf Fireteam over flew the border. The Royal Cambodian forces were awarded 20,000 REALS for their action by Cambodian Prince Sihanouk. One Seawolf Survivor locatable disputes that they were shot down by the Cambodians, relating they were shot up and going down from the fire at the border not from the Cambodian Outpost. The efforts of the Castle Family through MRS. Jackie Kennedy Onassis and the State Department found that the Remains of the 3 Seawolves KIA were interred at the site by members of the Cambodian National Forces. At a later date Seawolves from Det 4 and 7 with help from a Cambodian Officer that commanded the Cambodian  Antiaircraft battery that Supposedly shot both Gunships down helped locate the burial site and  the identified remains of LTJG Hal Castle and Petty Officer Schafernocker were returned to the Seawolves, and  approximately Ten Months later to the family members in the US for proper interment. LTJG Reardon’s remains have not been located at this time although dedicated, on going efforts to do so by US agencies have proven futile. In 2001/2002 another attempt was to be made by retrieval personnel who had blood and DNA samples of family members to located the remains of many missing KIA/MIA in Cambodia and Vietnam , included was to be a further search for LTJG Reardon’s remains. The Aircraft carrying the Body identification/retrieval team crashed killing all 35 aboard.


Petty Officer  Williams was decorated for extraordinary  Heroism with the NAVY CROSS  for his action under heavy ground fire that day


In Nov 2002 Petty Officer Schafernocker was inducted into the Navy Enlisted Combat Aircrew ROLL OF HONOR

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