21st RAC "Black Aces" Comments

Gerry Granatowsk

Gerry Granatowski

Thanks for visiting this website dedicated to the men who were lost and who served with the 21st RAC in Chu Lai, Vietnam.

If you were a member of the 21st RAC I would appreciate any photos you are willing to share to add to those posted here, or if you would like to leave a comment to be posted here then feel free to contact me by sending an email.

To read posted comments click on names listed below...

Jim Meyer

Hey, maybe an opportunity to find the birddog pilot (Black Aces out of Chu Lai) who made Thanksgiving 1970 most interesting for me!

I was senior MAT team leader at old SF A camp A-104/Ha Thanh-Son Ha. Mid-morning little Birddog came in to pick-up pre-ordered pot belly pig in lieu of turkey for Thanksgiving feast on Thurs.. while there got word of 'convoy' 15-29 clicks west--a dozen or so elephants with pack straps and accompanying NVA. I jumped in the back seat-1st ride- and we went out to the area, called in guns (either Sharks or Muskets) and monitored the action below.

Any info from the Black Ace bunch would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks. Jim Meyer

Wed Sept 30, 2015
Dick Forrester

Hi Gerry,

I sort of stumbled upon your website after googling 21st Reconnaissance Airplane Company on a whim, and was impressed and gratified by what I found!

I’m one of the “original” Black Aces, assigned out of flight school to the 21st RAC before it actually existed. I helped form the company, helped pick up our new airplanes and also with delivering them to Sacramento so they could be prepared for shipment to RVN. After a somewhat shaky organizational start while the leadership team got sorted out, we put together a strong unit, laying the foundation for the great record that you guys put together.

I’ve attached an account of the first year or so. You’re welcome to use what you think will help your web site. If you wish, I’ll try to put together more recollections of the 21st’s first year in country.

Thanks for your work and obvious dedication to the Black Aces!

Dick Forrester Black Ace 14

Eatonton, GA 31024

Wed Sept 23, 2015
Robert Linenweber

Here are a couple pictures I just had made into JPG's from old slides:

"Black Ace" herself. Brought from Tay Ninh in Willie Tyson's Bird Dog.

Steve Shortall playing with a yo-yo. J.D.Hardister in the background. 0160 The Bird Dog in which Steve was killed. I just happened to take this picture before that happened because this was a newly delivered factory refurbished Bird Dog that looked brand new.

Willie Tyson, our Operations Officer at the time. Quite likely the man with more combat Bird Dog time than any other American

Black Ace Herself Steve Shortall Steve's Bird Dog Willie Tyson
Fri Mar 13, 2015
Dean Hammond


Dennis Healy sent me the message posted by Tom Grove. Everything he said is quite true. I was Black Ace 38, and on March 1, 1971 I was "shot up pretty good" and half the world followed me back to Chu Lai. I was hit in the leg by a .51 cal.

Tom's crew chief was like a human forklift and he reached into a cockpit full of blood and lifted me out and took me to the Huey. He laid me on the floor, jumped into his seat, held me in place with his boot and told the pilots to go. Whomever was in the left seat looked back at me and gave me a thumbs up and pulled pitch. We were at 91st Evan in just a couple of minutes. I'm so thankful for those guys. Bob Linenweber was on my wing all the way in, helping keep me awake and ready to land. Bill Kirkland was my high ship, and he is the one who relayed my MayDay and stayed with me all the way in. There are many others who joined me on that 40 minute flight back to Chu Lai.

There is way more to this story, but I wanted to make sure everyone understands how quickly and efficiently they can to my rescue and got me to the hospital, in a timely manner. This contributed greatly to saving my leg.

Please give Tom my contact information. I would very much like to know the names and contact information of the other Huey pilot and the crewchief. I would very much like to meet them.


Dean Dean C. Hammond Jr.

Lexington, KY

Mon Mar 9, 2015
Thomas Grove

Hello Gerry,

My name is Tom Grove, I was an Army helicopter pilot stationed in Chu Lai in 1970/1971. One day on flying in the AO, I picked up a mayday. One of your guys had been shot up badly. I intercepted him an followed him into Chu Lai and talked to him during landing. As soon as we were on the ground and the aircraft was stopped, my crew chief jumped out and pulled him from the plane.

We got him loaded and made a quick trip over to the hospital. I had the tower notify the them, and a team was waiting when we got to the pad at the hospital. Some time later, I was invited to a great party over at your company area, and given a plaque with your company emblem. As I recall we had a great time and even got a jeep ride back to my hooch.

Just wondering if you might know who the guy was, and where he might be now? As memory serves me it would have been between Sep. 1970 to Feb 1971.

Thanks ,Tom Grove ( ex CW2) A company, 23rd Infantry Div. Call Sign Pelican 21

Tues Mar 3, 2015
Doug Bradley

Hi Gerry,

I once worked with SGT Bagasol in the 3 corps area of viet nam. From what I remember he was a very mechanically talented man. I and everyone at that compound is indebted to this man. He saved our lives. Let me tell you the story as it happened.

One day while servicing my aircraft (usaf birddog) an arvn soldier accidently triggered a night flair. So naturally the flair ended up beneath the fuel truck (loaded with avgas) and it was burning furiously. At this location there were two army birdogs and two usaf birdogs. At this time I yelled to the other men on the flightline to scatter. SGT Bgasol overheard me yell and ran out of the flight shack. He then proceeded to climb into the truck, start it and drove it off of the flair saving all of our lives.

Later the compound commander had a talk with me in the flight shack. He said Doug tell me what happened on the flightline. I told him exactly what happened and he said, if SGT Bagasol hadn't moved the truck off the flair we all would of parished. I said yes sir, SGT Bagasol is truly a courageous man. I suggested he should be given the medal of honorf or what he had done. The commander replied, that's what I intend to do.

Gerry my question to is, do you know when SGT Bagasol left 3 corps and was he at chu lai when he died. I certainly feel lucky to be alive today, and I can only thank SGT Bagasol for this.

Please email me at Brad1945@msn .com. Thank you for your time and help. I served in viet nam 1/66 thru 7/67 and have flown approx. 11 bombing and reconnisance missions with my pilots. I was at the following locations bien hoa - phu loi - lam son - xuan loc.

Thank you again and have a great day.

Sat Feb 14, 2015
Dennis Healy

Picture below taken 1970-71

Frank Anders is on the far right, Bob Linenweber on the left, Al Bach next to Bob, Frank Veloso with paddle, Bob Gerke is the lighter haired fellow near the middle, Bill Kirkland is the taller dark haired fellow next to him.

I'm sure I will get the spelling wrong, but Ken Suominim is second from the right. I want to say the fellow near the bow of the boat sitting was Ron Smith.

Dennis Healy Group Photo
Tues Feb 3, 2015
Col (Ret) Bernard Kozosky

Hi Gerry.

Great web site. Dave Chandler had one up for several years but haven't seen it in years. He had several documents with names and operational summaries that were most interesting.

I am Col (Ret) Bernard Kozosky. I flew the O-1G and U-6 out of Chu Lai from Jan to Aug 1970. I was known there as Black Ace 29. Three of us were then sent to Marble Mountain. The three were myself a 1Lt (BA 19), 1Lt Terrill Faherty (BA 14), and CW2 Robert Baze. We were joined there by CWO Ronald Polzin. Our Plt Ldr was Cpt Morris Boyd (AKA Rocky). He was later replaced by Cpt Joe Segree. I flew out of Marble Mountain until Feb 1971. I have literally hundreds of color slides and black & white photos. It has been my intent to have these digitized for several years now, but just never seemed to get around to it. I also have a significant list of names I served with, mostly pilots, and of course a bunch of war stories (some of them true:))

I am originally from Iowa. Moved to Alexandria 10 years ago to accept a DA Civ position. During my tour in VN Cpt Wayne McConkey was shot down and killed. Wayne was the only other BA pilot from Iowa to my knowledge. There was a gathering at his grave in Jan 1991 to present his medals to his daughter. The family had never received them. Unfortunately I missed that gathering as I was mobilizing for Operation Desert Storm as an MP BN CDR. Waynes back seat Americal Div observer on that final flight was a good friend of mine, 1Lt Albert F Ammann (he went by Frank). They were killed 15 Sep 70. I will continue to monitor your site and perhaps contribute information to it as I can.

Thanks for creating this site!


Tues Jan 6, 2015
Frank Anders

I just found your site and interestingly we just moved from Danbury, CT to Chesterfield, VA 2 weeks ago after living in Danbury since 1978. I was Black Ace 22 in Chu Lai for 6 months beginning in Sept '70 and then Black Ace 18 in DaNang for the next 6 months.

I happened to be searching the web and at the same time found a site for a O1 reunion of all units to be held in October 2015.

Frank Anders Chesterfield, VA 23832

Mon Dec 29, 2014
Tim Kruzic

Hello Gerry,

My name is Tim Kruzic. My brother, Tom, was a Bird Dog pilot in the 21st RAC in Chu Lai and Danang from August of 69 to August of 70. He went through flight school with Alex Chavarin, who posted comments on your web site. I believe that Alex and Tom were roommates in Chu Lai and/or Danang.

Tom passed away in July. I am the executor of his estate. One of the things that touches me most remembering Tom is his collection of slides from Vietnam. As Tom is my older brother by ten years, he was always one of the heroes in my life. I never missed an opportunity for him to get the slide projector out and show his slides. I learned something new every time he did that.

I would appreciate it if you would add a comment on your web site about Tom. I offer the following text:

Tom Kruzic passed away at his home in Clarksburg, MD on 24 July 2014 from congestive heart failure.

Tom was a pilot in the 21st RAC from August 1969 to August 1970. Like his buddy Alex Chavarin, Tom was stationed at Chu Lai for six months and at Danang for the remainder of his Vietnam tour. Tom served our country proudly both during and after the Vietnam War. Tom was a continuous contributor to many military related charities including the Wounded Warrior Project.

Upon leaving the Army, Tom had hoped to pursue an aviation career with the commercial airlines. Unfortunately, the number or retired military pilots with jet ratings made it very difficult to secure a job with the airlines. So Tom went back to college and earned a second degree in Accounting from the University of Maryland. Tom found his calling in Human Resources management. He started out at Holly Farms (yes, the chicken people). Wanting to shift over to the electronics industries, Tom got a job at Racal Electronics as Director of Human Resources. He was subsequently recruited by Hekemian Laboratories, a manufacturer of telephony diagnostic equipment, and spent the remainder of his career there. Tom retired in 2004. He never married. Tom was the oldest of four; he is survived by his sisters, Toni and Teri, and brother Tim.

You have done a really fine job on this web site, and I’m certain that those veterans that have found it appreciate what you have done. Though I never served in the military, I spent my career working for military contractors and have a great appreciation for those that have served our country. Thank you for your service!

With proud memories of my brother,

Tim Kruzic Columbia, Maryland

Tim Kruzic
Mon Dec 22, 2014
Steve Riall

Thanks for posting this website. Several websites dedicated to the 21st have been posted over the years but they have disappeared. I was with the original group that went over by troop carrier (USS Nelson B. Walker). We arrived in country in June of 67 and I rotated out in June of 1968. You stated that you were the crew chief on the beaver. I remember when we got the beaver, I was the prop and rotor man. They sent us the beaver with “NO” manuals - we were lost. When I returned home I found a prop tech manual I had saved from school and sent it to one of the sergeants(can’t remember his name). I have fond memories of the 21st and still have many pictures (slides) of my time in country.

Wed Sep 3, 2014
Angel M. Quinones

Hi Gerry,

I served 7 months with the Black Aces in 1971, left in October. I was with the maintenance platoon working in the flight line. I have a few pictures from Chu Lai an would like to post in you site. I need the resolution and size and instructions on how to go about. I'm glad of what your doing, The old site disappeared and years later you did it 21st RAC.

This was my second tour in Vietnam. During my 1st tour I was assigned to the 221st RAC "The Shotguns" attached to MACV in Can Tho as a crewchief. I have good memories of my service in Vietnam especially from my 1st tour because beside been the crewchief I also flew as a back seat during some missions.

Angel M. Quinones Angel M. Quinones
Tues Jul 29, 2014
Dennis Matzel

1969 Chu Lai, Spec 5, Las Vegas

Worked on light line flight line as aircraft electrician and instrument technician before taking over the club in Chu Lai, right on the beach, after prior mgr left for home.

Sat Jul 26, 2014
Charles (Chuck) Vincent

I just found the web site. Thanks for putting this out there. I’m avionics specialist Charles (Chuck) Vincent 54 818 723. I served with the 21st from March 1968 - March 1969. For those who might remember I also climbed the utility poles at the flight line before we got rid of our generators. The pilots might remember me climbing the pole outside the officers rec room to put a TV antenna on the top. I think they gave me a six pack for my efforts.

Mon Jun 2, 2014
Bob Corey

My call sign was black ace 41. I was privileged to have served with a bunch of great maintenance personnel. I am trying to locate pictures and plaques from both the 21st RAC and the 54th (Big Daddy). Will send them on if I find any.

Does anyone have any recollection of the flight surgeon who was a Captain by the first name of "Charlie"?

Sun Feb 16, 2014
Thomas Stevens

The sad news came today of the passing of one of our own, Tommy Stevens.

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Mr. Thomas Eugene Stevens, born December 14, 1950, went to be with the Lord, January 27, 2014. He leaves behind beloved family and friends to cherish his memory: his father, Johnnie Stevens, Sr., his daughters, Shannon, Vicky, and Tammy, his sons, Joshua, Luke, Zachary, George, and Brian, two brothers, and seven sisters.

Tommy was a veteran of Vietnam where he received the National Defense Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal and two Over Seas Bars. He was preceded in death by his mother, Jean C. Stevens, and his sister, Betty Still.

Tommy Stevens on left. Tommy Stevens
Fri Jan 31, 2014
Ken Kirsch

The sad news came today of the passing of one of our own, Ken Kirsch.

Kenneth Kirsch, age 67, of Mahnomen, MN, died on Tuesday, January 21, 2014, at his home. Kenneth Thomas Kirsch, son of Leo and Vereena (Barten) Kirsch, was born on May 2, 1946, in Mahnomen. He grew up on the family farm east of Mahnomen and attended country school. Following his schooling, he helped his father on the farm and worked as a horseman on area ranches.

On September 20, 1967, Kenny entered the United States Army serving during Vietnam. He served as a crew chief on the flight line and was the recipient of the Commendation Medal of Honor. Upon his honorable discharge on May 3, 1969, Kenny returned home and continued farming with his family. On July 25, 1970, Kenny was united in marriage to Sharon Nelson at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Beaulieu, MN, and the couple made their home on his family’s homestead. He and his brother, John, farmed together for a few years, raising Black Angus cattle and grains. Kenny also owned and operated semi-trucks since the mid 1970s. Kenny’s true passion was farming and he proudly resided on, and operated, his family’s farm for his entire life. Kenny was passing the farm over to his son, Keith, but still remained very active helping whenever he was able.

Kenny is survived by his wife of 43 years, Sharon “Shari” of Mahnomen; five children: Kevin of Mahnomen, Keith (Julie) of Mahnomen, Karrie Hanson of Mahnomen, Kathy (Josh) Keith of Menahga, MN, and Kent of Mahnomen; six grandchildren: Austin, Autumn, Allen, Kaleb, Karlie, and Kaitlyn; two brothers, Richard (Millie) Kirsch of Waubun, MN, and David Kirsch of Detroit Lakes, MN; two sisters, Becky (Carroll) Sheggeby of Thief River Falls, MN, and Mary (Richard) Simon of Brainerd, MN; as well as many nieces and nephews.

Ken Kirsch Ken Kirsch Ken Kirsch
Fri Jan 24, 2014
Paul R. Duprey


I was in Chu Lai in 1969 . I was stationed with the 701st maintenance battalion in Dian and when they phased out I was sent to the 21st RAC as a machinist they had no machine shop so I asked to work in the hanger doing minor work like brake jobs.

I remember having to string new cables to the tail flap while the plane was on the tamerac. could only stay in there for about 15 minutes at a time. They eventually put me in an E7 slot as a crew chief doing run ups. I will look through my pictures later I think one of the guys in them is Percy but i’ll have to look at the pictures to be sure.

 Do you remember the coffee that was in the mess hall and would keep it going for a week. by Friday there were only about 3 people who would drink it. The typhoon hit the base 2 or 3 days after I left.

Fri Dec 13, 2013
Hugh Libby

Congratulations Gerry!

My hat is off to you for a very fine piece of work. Probably "work" is not the proper term to use, but I and I know well, a lot of other "Black Aces" are and will be most appreciative of what you are doing here.

I was assigned as a Tech Insp in Sep 69, and later promoted to E-7 and thence to the Maint Plt Sgt. I was there when the directive came down to inspect all the O-1's main gear mount points for intergranular corrosion, and we used the hangar rafters to hoist the entire airplane up to complete the special inspection, and we really didn't know if the ol hangar would support the weight or not, but we first tried it with an M151 jeep, and it held together, so we figured (correctly) that it was OK. Got the inspections done in a very short time.

Many memories of the beach, movies, "combat volleyball", and all the remainder of the 21st folks. Many, many spectacular folks were in the 21st, and we are all very proud of the experiences there. Again, thanks so very much for what you are doing for "us".

By the way I live in Maine, near Portland. Hi neighbor!!

Mon Dec 2, 2013
Gerry Granatowski

A special thanks to Jon Thompson for sending me the Black Aces patch shown below.

Donald M. Ricks
Mon Oct 28, 2013
Jon Thompson


I served in the 21st RAC in Tay Ninh and moved to the 54th UAC (Big Daddy’s) when the 21st moved North. I have great memories of the 21st and am proud of you for your effort to keep some info about the Black Aces out there. I have an original patch that I would like to give you if you send me a mailing address.

Wed Oct 23, 2013
MSGT Kevin S. McMullin

Hi Gerry,

I was an A&P mechanic from Nov 1970 to Nov 1971 in the 21st RAC. I was and E-5 at the time. We had just turned in all the aircraft to the ROC and ARVN in Oct 1971. While we were waiting on orders we were hit with a typhoon that came on shore there at Chu Lai. The only thing left in the company was part of the orderly room and the pipes sticking up from the shower area.

The engineer barracks next door were torn up and it had picked up a two story barracks and deposited it (still in tack) about 80 feet off shore. The Chinook hanger down from us was torn up. Our hanger survived, but the flight line was a mess. We stayed about three days and were told to move to Da Nang. Everyone with fifty days or less left in country got a drop. I had 43 days left.

I was then sent to Fort Hood, Texas. I stayed in the Army and retired in 1990 at Master Sergeant with twenty three years in service. I live in Hailey, Idaho and retired from Blaine County Sheriff office about three years ago.

Mon Sep 2, 2013
Dennis Healy


I was assigned with the 21st RAC from Sept 1970 to Sep 1971. Below is one of few pictures I have on this iPad, it's me on the left and a hometown friend on his 3rd tour. Can you see the black ace? Retired from the Army in 1996 and moved to Ct to work at Sikorsky.

I see you live in Ct? I live in Middlebury Ct. Small world.

Dennis Healy Dennis Healy
Thurs Jul 31, 2013
Alex Chavarin

Hello Gerry,

I was a Pilot for the 21st RAC and served from Aug. 1969 to Aug. 1970, and flew out of Chu Lai and Da Nang. Spent 6 months in each location, I came with my Wing Buddy Tom Kruzic, and have nothing but fond memories of the whole experience. I still communicate with Tom, and of course we only remember the good parts. Going to the beach after our flights, and taking the Jeep to Camp Tien Sha on Thursdays for their Lobster Dinners. Usually I had two Missions a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

In Chu Lai after the noon flight we would go to the beach, come back take a shower and go to dinner. We were Warrant Officers and like in the Movies, Pilots have it good, we had a two man Air-conditioned Room. I did pick up some small arms fire, and took a few holes to my BirdDog, and Rockets from the Rocket Pocket with Mortars from the Horse Shoe. We were in a War Zone you know.

I’m sending you three pictures, my Call Sign in Chu Lai was Black Ace 21 and you see me strapping in for a flight. Then a BirdDog coming back from a Mission, and our Flight Line Building. Let me know if you want more photos, and some War Stories.

Alex Chavarin Palm Desert, CA

Alex Chavarin Alex Chavarin Alex Chavarin
Fri Jul 19, 2013
Donald M. Ricks


I acquired a photograph from the widow of a former flight school classmate who was assigned to the 21st Aviation Company in 1970. My classmate’s name was Captain Larry D. Oltjenbruns. Larry was also in the 220th Aviation Company “Catkillers” with me in 1969 (on their roster) and in the Command Aircraft Company (also on their roster). He is now deceased, and his obituary is on the web site I maintain for the Catkillers. Larry is the captain standing in the back row, far left. I cannot identify any others.

Donald M. Ricks
Tues Jul 2, 2013
Ken Kunz

Great job Gerry. I was a pilot in the 1st platoon, in Da Nang, from July 68 to July 69. When I get my slides converted to digital I will make them available to you. Thanks for keeping the memory alive.

Fri June 7, 2013
Paul Dodd


I hope you can help me find out more about my prize possesion. Some 25 years ago I recovered from Tan Son Nhut 3 Birddog wrecks with the intention of rebuilding an airworthy aircraft. I brought the wrecks back to New Zealand and managed to get two back in the air and kept one for myself. The rebuild took two years and since then have flown over 1000 hours in her. As I had no information at the time as to the units it had served with we painted it in US Army colours of an O 1 G that we found in a book on the history of the birddog. I have just obtained a copy of the book A Bird Dogs Tale and found the reference to the Black Aces and my aircraft number. The Number is 51-16903. Is there any information that you have or anyone you know of that may have flown this aircraft or where it was operated.

I really want to preserve the history of this aircraft and the men who served with her. Any help would be really appreciated. I will forward a picture of 51-16903 under separate cover.


Paul Dodd
Mon April 22, 2013
Joesph Barber


I was original with the Black Aces in Fort Lewis, WA, moved to Tay Ninh and Chu Lai as SSG in operations. I am from Danville, VA. There was a downed missing pilot, cannot remember his name was wondering if he was found and rescued or not. Glad someone is keeping flames of our history burning.

Mon Mar 14, 2013
Leroy Rutherford


I was with the 21st RAC in Tay ninh and and was part of the one that took the container by lst to Chu lai watch the fire works for new year from the LST and we took over White Horse area on the beach.

Mon Mar 11, 2013
Howard Greeve

Hey Gerry,

Welcome home Brother. It's always good to hear from a Black Ace. Your photo of #665 is the best one I have and I'm super happy to get it. You have the start of a nice website and I'm glad to see it after the other di-died. What you call my website was just a few photos I had that I tried to give to the Co. webmaster, along with a mess of info that was missing.. I eventually got them online through Larry Cox, webmaster of 1st Brigade. It's helped me to hear from more of the guys but what I really intended was to help build up an impressive Co. site like my buddy from the 129th AHC has.

If you want to expand your site to really represent the 21st as a group, I'd be happy to share anything I have; because it's not about any one of us but all together, especially those who didn't make it. Feel free to contact me anytime and God Bless....

Tues Dec 4, 2012
Dale Swanson

Thanks Gerry.

I'm Dale Swanson I served with the 21st from about Oct 67 - Aug 68 as an Aircraft Electrician. I helped move the unit from Tay Ninh to Chu Lai. Thank you so much for this site. The last one I found languished and died. I hope this one continues for a long time. You have seen my photo's on Flickr. You are welcome to use any you find useful. Thanks again.

Wed Nov 21, 2012

21st RAC 2nd platoon
Chu Lai Vietnam - 1968 to 1969
Published: Gerry Granatowski 2012