Army Otter Association of Vietnam Veterans

Chapter 13

Initial information provided by Jim (Bill) Woodward of 339th (62 - 63).

                  (Jim (Bill) Woodward & Garth Breckon - 339th Photo Credit)
                                339th Company photo 62 - 63 in RVN

Early Aviation Unit-339th Transportation

SECTION III – History Section

Early Aviation Unit-339th Transportation

By Gary E. Earls, Phoenix 30/36 and Roadrunner 5

 

http://www.vhpadata.org/dir/D06hist.pdf

 

My father-in-law, Major Robert Allwine, was the Commander of the 339th Transportation Company when it left Fort Riley, Kansas to go to Viet Nam. I did this interview with him several years ago when Ralph Young was researching early aviation units. Here is the story on how they deployed and arrived in RVN.

 

On the afternoon of December 31, 1961, the Fort Riley MP's tracked down then CPT. Robert Allwine, the commander of the 339th Transportation Company (Aircraft Maintenance) and delivered him to the quarters of the Commanding General of Fort Riley, Kansas. CPT Allwine had been working with his horses at the post stable. He wasn't allowed to go to his quarters and clean up so he walked into the General's quarters with his work clothes and boots on. The General informed CPT. Allwine that his unit would be sent to Okinawa, as originally planned, or to the Republic of the Philippines, or to the Republic of South Viet Nam. CPT. Allwine replied, "Where, Sir"? The 339th had to be enroute to its new destination within two weeks.

 

CPT. Allwine summoned his company officers to his quarters to make plans while his wife kept the two youngest children occupied. The oldest daughter, Becky, was instructed to make sandwiches and to keep the coffee coming since planning for this move was going to take some time.. The 339th had twice its normal number of assigned personnel so the officers could select who was going with them to RVN. The 18th Transportation Company (Otter) commanded by a Captain Felix would be going to Viet Nam at the same time as the 339th.

 

The 339th was shipped to port with the destination listed as "unknown" and were to travel under secret orders. CPT Allwine and an operations sergeant flew ahead of the company to make arrival arrangements. Before they landed at Clark, AFB, the co-pilot came back to CPT Allwine and stated, "Stay on the aircraft and they will tell you where you are going". CPT Allwine and the sergeant were issued passports at Clark, AFB. The higher command couldn't decide whether to leave a maintenance platoon at Clark and the rest of the company go on to RVN or have a platoon size element go to Viet Nam while the rest of the company stayed at Clark. CPT. Allwine told them to make up their minds since they hadn't planned to separate anything from the rest of the company. Finally the decision was made to send the entire unit to Viet Nam.

 

The rest of the company were issued passports while enroute to Viet Nam. On February 7, 1962 when the ship docked at Cam Ranh Bay, a General Officer had both units assemble on the deck so he could welcome them to Viet Nam. The news media were living in a hotel that overlooked where the ship had docked. A few days later the New York Times carried a story about the arrival of the two units, so much for operational security.

 

The 339th off loaded its equipment from the USS Core, an aircraft carrier to LST's for the trip to Nha Trang since CPT. Allwine was told that the roads were unsafe to travel from Cam Ranh Bay to Nha Trang. Nha Trang was selected as their "new home" by higher headquarters. The arrival of the 339th increased the number of Americans in Viet Nam to over one thousand.

 

The 339th had an U-1 Otter and a CH-21 as organic aircraft. They were to provide aviation maintenance support for all four Corps of Viet Nam. The CH-21 was modified with a .30 caliber machine gun on the nose gear and .50 caliber machine guns in the doors. One time they had to recover a U-1 Otter that had made an emergency landing in a field. A local ARVN unit was to provide security until they recovered the aircraft. At 4:30 in the afternoon the ARVN lieutenant informed Major Allwine that it was time for his unit to leave even though the recovery work wasn't finished. Major Allwine took some of his maintenance personnel to form a defensive perimeter while the rest of the recovery team worked on the aircraft.

 

Major Allwine, promoted while in RVN was shot at once while flying the Otter when they were going into an airfield. Another time he was flying the CH-21 when they were hit in the gas tank by arrows shot from crossbows.

 

One of the difficulties they encountered were obtaining aircraft repair parts. Once they patched holes in an aircraft using beer cans as patch material.

 

For recreation, the company used a boat that was loaned to them by the local advisor's headquarters and the beach near Nha Trang. Because there wasn't a local Army ration breakdown, the mess sergeant was authorized to purchase vegetables, meat, and fish from the local economy. The company began living in tents and later moved to villas in Nha Trang.

An unofficial, partial roster compilation of the 339th Transportation Co. (DS), Nha Trang RVN, 1959 to 1966 from my memory and notes from others.


  1. Alderman, Don, SP4   (Mechanic)
  2. Allison, Kenneth, WI  kalison99@aol.com
  3. Allwine (CO) MAJ
  4. Bafile, John SP5 CA
    Baggett
  5. Batt, George gebatt@ruraltel.net (v) son Tom Batt tbatt@ruraltel.net (v)
  6. Baxter Wayne CO
  7. Billet, Charles SP5 (Propeller Mechanic), transferred to Saigon
  8. Broussard, Jerry    jerry.broussard77@yahoo.com (OK)
  9. Breckon, Garth SP5   (Mechanic)
  10. Brendemule
  11. Brown Roger V
  12. Broyles, John, IN johnc-delta@worldnet.att.net
  13. Burr civilian
  14. Buzzard
  15. Camero
  16. Carlisle,   CPT
  17. Chesemore, Russell, OR
  18. Chism
  19. Christensen, Joel,   (Mechanic)
  20. Clay, Alfred   
  21. Clayton
  22. Clifford, Ken,   (Mechanic)
  23. Cole, Robert coler5@vertizon.not
  24. Colton, Byron H., UT ctne@easilink.com
  25. Cook SP6
  26. Cooley
  27. Cooper
  28. Cozar
  29. Crabb Sam    hawk0944@wildblue.net (OK)
    Cramm David G
  30. Cuffel SP-5   (crew chief of Otter 76119 after G. Quinn)
  31. Davenport, Solomon,   NE
  32. Delgado
  33. Dickhute,     (Mechanic)
  34. Dodo, Dennis SP5    (Mechanic)
  35. Elm
  36. Fletcher, Bobby, LA
  37. Fontera, Skip
  38. Foster     CPT
  39. Ford,      (Mechanic) (deceased)
  40. Frank, R.
  41. Frank, Ralph
  42. Gardella, Edward, SP-4
  43. Grogan SSG
  44. Hager, Jerry jerry@linkline.com   
  45. Harder , John
  46. Harp, Charlie,   SP5
  47. Hartzheim James E
  48. Haun, John   TN    mustangmary44@yahoo.com
  49. Haynes Ronald G
  50. Hay Thomas E
  51. Hays, Mike, NC mhays@earthing.com
  52. Heitzman, James, IL
  53. Hernandez, Steven
  54. Holbert,       (Mechanic)
  55. Holt     CWO
  56. Hoss    CIV
  57. Hrabe's, Brian
  58. Hurley, Paul C.
  59. Illagan, Angel, (Mechanic)
  60. Imus
  61. Joiner, William E
  62. Kodka
  63. Koelliker
  64. Kramer, Karl    1LT
  65. Kurgle,     (Mechanic)
  66. Lawrence    (CO) CPT
  67. Long, Mike    HI
  68. Luerssen, James (Rinso)  jimann@aol.com (OK)
  69. Mack,     (Mechanic)
  70. Metoyer Herbert R Jr     CPT
  71. Meyer, Bob   waco@charter.net  (OK)
  72. Michalik, Richard,     PA
  73. Mikesell
  74. Miller, Merle B. (Skip) quacken@verizon.net (OK)
  75. Minor , Kenton H 
  76. Mohr, Dennis H
  77. Moore Ernie
  78. Nader, R.
  79. Oren
  80. Parsons, Roy B.   CW3  OK (deceased)                                                                         
  81. Peterski
  82. Pitts
  83. Puente
  84. Quinn, Gerald (Gerry) TSGT (Otter crew chief, squad leader) (deceased)
  85. Reising Jr., Alfred, IN
  86. Ridley, Lanny,  SC
  87. Routh, Milton LT (MAJ, Retired)
  88. Rushing, George,  SP4   TX (deceased)
  89. Samangy, Sam     ssamangy@netzero.net (OK)
  90. Schierenbeck Everette E
  91. Seamon, Howard W
  92. Shelton, Donald
  93. Slavenski,   (Mechanic)
  94. Smith     CWO
  95. Stafaronie     SP4
  96. Staffel
  97. Steagall, John
  98. Stineway,   (Mechanic)
  99. Thomas, Dick    Platoon leader Oct '61 to Dec. '62
  100. Thomas, James,   (Mechanic)
  101. Turner, Daniel
  102. Urabe, Brian,     SP4   (Mechanic)
  103. Valerio, David,     SP4 PA (deceased)
  104. Varwin
  105. Voruis
  106. Wade, Robert,      MS
  107. Willcutt
  108. Wilson, Horace,     SP6   (gunner)
  109. Woodward, James (Bill),  jwoodplas@aol.com (OK)