|Active||02 June 1969 - 04 June 1969|
|Country||File:Flag of Vietnam.svg|
|Role||Patrol / Renconnaissance|
United States Marine Corps Delta Co, call sign "Flight Time"; was the last full team from the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, KIA during the , on June 4, 1969. No other full team was lost during the remaining six years of the Vietnam War.
The team's "Last Known Activity" report reads:
On 02 June 1969 Recon Team "Flight Time" from D Company, . about a south of in the , Vietnam. On the night of 03/04 June 1969 the team was attacked by an enemy force and requested both and . with the team were lost at 0320. When the arrived a little after 0400 they were too late ... the six members of "Flight Time" were dead. Five members of the team were in a small trench; the sixth, Cpl Buck, was approximately 10 meters further down the hillside. It was apparent from the state of the battle area that "Flight Time" had been overwhelmed in fierce ., was inserted on Hill 471
This is a personal account of a fellow Marine Jerry Miller, sent to Hill 471 to check on the status of team Flight Time.
Its been 40 years since an un-precedented event in U.S.M.C. 3rd Recon Battalion history took place on June 4th, 1969. The only Recon team to have been totally erased by the NVA, team Flight Time from Delta Company 2D3. All Recon men, who bore the daily grind of 5 to 7 day patrols in the Northern I Corps area of operations, have one patrol that stands out among all the rest. Although this was not a patrol mission it takes first place in my memory of firefights out of my 46 combat patrols from August, 1968 to Sept. 1969. On Memorial Day every year, since 1971, I have toasted a beer in memory to the six men of Flight Time, PFC Harold Scaggs, CPL William Wellman Jr., CPL William Buck Jr., LCPL Douglas Barntiz, 1st LT. Michael O'Connor, and PFC Robert Pearcy. I feel qualified to speak of these men because I personally carried their bodies from hill 471, over 40 years ago, and was the Team Leader that gave the After Action Report of the recovery.
My name is Jerry Miller. In June, 1969 I was a Corporal and Squad Leader of team Iceboat, 3rd Platoon,3rd Squad, Alpha Company, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, Quang Tri, South Vietnam. My squad was returning from a very difficult six-day patrol in the Ashau Valley setting SIDs along the Laos border. We were put on reactionary detail for the two days we were going to be in the rear. This meant I needed 12 men for a reactionary force as to the 5 or 7 we took on recon patrols. This is where we turned back into ground pounding grunts once again. My squad was down to 5 original men with 7 others on RR or wounded or on temporary loan to another team. My team had lost 3 men KIA, 2 Army LURPS KIA, 3 men WIA, who never returned, 2 Corpsmen WIA, all from Dec. 5th, 1968. Too the best of my memory these are the names of the men who were on the reactionary force sent to recover team Flight Time. Team Leader CPL J Miller, radioman LCPL D. Beck, M-79 man, PFC C. Atcheson, Corpsmen J. Lentz, or D. Morrow (really not sure), PFC Fitzbag, PFC Moneypenny, PFC Hatfield, Assistant Team Leader LCPL D. Simmpson, PFC R. Conyers, PFC R. Williams, PFC Mimms, and Kit Carson scout Tran Tuyen. Only seven men were from my squad. Moneypenny and Fitzbag were from another squad, Williams and Conyers were SID men from 4th Marines.
It was a very hot and muggy day on June 4th, 1969. I gave out the morning people for various work details to the officer of the day and as soon as our rifles and gear were cleaned from the jungle gooh and muck we all retreated to our own private lake across the Division Headquarters road. We had found a small lake tributary from the Quang Tri river over there and it was like our own private spa. We swam and relaxed all day. It was around 1500 hours when we returned to our hooch. Lt. Hissler was our Company Commander and about 1600 hours came into our hooch and told me to prepare my team for an assault on hill 471 in the Khe Sauh Valley. Although we had been on reactionary detail many times in the past, we never had to go and get anyone. Too tell a salty recon man that he was going to assault a hill registered a tilt and not in my job description! But, the situation of team Flight Time was so grave, I could only think if it was me out there! There were 6 surrounded recon men with 1dead, 5 wounded and 1 wounded P.O.W. Our mission was to rescue this team. Lt. Hissler would be going in the second chopper with 12 men from 3A2. Corporal Sardi was squad leader of 3A2. My team would be in the lead chopper making the first assault on the hill. The Lt. told me that my team would secure the north slope and they would take the south. I prepared my team with the intel and rehearsed a 180 perimeter once off the chopper so everyone would know where to go. Thinking all the time of a 24 man force to take the hill.
We double-timed up the company street, passing the whole battalion standing in line for chow. The smell of cooked food was all I could think of. We haven't ate a hot meal in a week and now we weren't going to be eating tonight either! I was carrying the M-60 with 500 rounds and an extra barrel. The team had another 500 rounds distributed between them. Our M-79 man was PFC Atcheson carrying 50 rounds in his pack. The choppers were waiting on the pad when we arrived and loaded us immediately. The familiar sight of 3rd Marine Division Headquarters leaving our sight and nothing but jungle out in front of us sent thoughts of what we would find flying through my head. We were monitoring their radio frequency and nothing was being transmitted. This was a very bad sign and meant one of two things, the team was on the run and couldn't keep radio contact or they were overrun.
We arrived on site and began to circle the hill at about 5000 ft.. Our 46's began their corkscrew decent and with each circle I tried to get a good look at the hill. It's top was billowing black smoke and men were scrambling to the sides with many bodies lying scattered all over the hill. When we were on final approach I could see 5 N.V.A. in full gear firing at us from the south side of the hill and retreating down a path into the valley below. I guess the door gunner also saw them and opened up which made all my men begin to fire through open windows. The crew chief lowered the ramp for departure and we began to jump from the 46 which didn`t touch down but hovered 10ft. off the ground! We took a direct hit from an R.P.G. that threw the chopper into a spin. PFC Atcheson was thrown from the 46 and landed on his head, knocking him unconscious for 3 plus hours. We didn't locate PFC Atcheson until we were getting ready to leave and took a head count
The LZ was too hot for the second 46 to land so they set down on another hill far away. As to what happen to them I never knew even to this day. Our situation was very bad and we were taking fire from everywhere. I set up a perimeter around a bomb crater just down the hill. One man was lying dead by this crater. We set out claymores and told Lcpl Don Simpson and the corpsmen to drag all the bodies into this crater. In my AAR, I described the hill as being hit with a flame thrower and still burning. The team was scattered around the hill with 5 men lying in a small ditch on top. We had 9 bodies KIA but no way too tell who was who. Gear was everywhere with RPGS and chi-coms scattered over the hill. All of this ordinance was in flames. We had to separate it all before it started to blow! Propaganda leaflets were flying all around in the wind like a circus had just left town. They asked American soldiers to surrender and they would transport you too Europe with 5000 dollars. One of our team had given one of these leaflets to the association when we were at the DC reunion. I believe it went into the Vietnam Museum. The teams weapons were all gone and bayonets were used to finish the fight. Hand to hand combat had taken place earlier in the day on this hill 471 from all the scuff marks surrounding the men in the ditch. They had fought to the last man and only the perverted mind of the suicide bomber with satchel charges, ended their fight.
We were taking fire from the valley to the north and the higher hill to the east. Gun ships and jets were strafing on all sides. Trying to maintain order in such chaos and slow down my teams rate of fire from full auto too directed fire was priority! Who knew how long this was going to take. The bad thing about the strafing was Lt. Hissler was directing all air support from a hill far, far away! This hill was a defensive nightmare with the eastern hill being much higher ground than where we were. I sent PFC Moneypenny and PFC Fitsbag down the hill where the RPG and small arms fire was coming from. We needed eyes for a defensive position to see if they were going to assault us on the northern slope. They returned instantly with a story of confrontation with an NVA carrying a machine gun pointed straight at them as they ran down the path. They said it jammed as he tried to fire on them so they all turned and ran. I asked why they did not shoot him and they stared at me with pure bewilderment in their eyes. I told them to set up around the crater and not to move. This was their first contact with the NVA. The 5 NVA I had seen from the window had made their way up the side of the hill across the valley and were now firing at us. They had to be taken out before they got any higher or they would have the whole hill pinned down. I ran to the path they took down the hill and set up the 60 behind a small branch on the path in 3ft. grass. I had just brokem the cardinal rule and went alone. I couldn't see the crater from my position but I was only 20 yards down the hill. I opened up on them with 100 rounds full auto and I really can't remember if I ever paused. I ran through my next 400 rounds pretty fast and watched my red smoking barrel bend in a u right before my eyes. I panicked and began to scream to my team for more ammo and a fresh barrel but the noise from all the firing and artillery smothered my voice. The NVA had gone back down the hill into the valley and now that I stopped firing they began to return fire. I had been in many firefights but none like this. The NVA now knew I was out of ammo and began to advance on my position. My .45 was all I had left and I fired 5 rounds over my head without looking. Somewhere in my crazy thoughts was a memory not to fire all my rounds but to keep one in case of capture. This thought said to shoot myself and that immediately left my head as I fired the other 2 rounds and waited. Screaming until my voice was gone, I thought about what every soldier has thought before he was going to die, hey God you there, how about you and me make a deal. Well, I believe he heard and answered with a definite response! I had seen a whole company shooting at an NVA up in the DMZ's Bhen Hi river with hundreds of rounds bursting water shoots 20ft. in the air like a dancing waterfall in Vegas. That had nothing on what was happening all around me! Dirt clods were flying 20feet in the air all over the hill. It was an unbelievable site but what I saw next was even crazier: an F-4 Phantom jet running north to south, releasing 2 silver canisters in the valley right in front of me. The concussion and suction from the blast lifted me off the hill as though I was being plucked straight up to heaven! I landed some 10 more yards down the hill trying to stop my tumble. I got to my feet and ran to the top of the hill and the safety of the crater like a track star. I knew there were 5 more toasted NVA lying in the valley below. I took a head count of the men and we were missing PFC Atcheson! No one had seen him since our insertion. I had been in many firefights trying to get into an LZ and many trying to get out but we had now been on this hill for over 3 hours. Ammo was down to a few clips between 12 men and darkness had come suddenly and we no longer could see. Now we had our greatest fear come true, a man was missing! The darkness had brought an eerie clam and creepy silence to the hill with the smell of napalm in the air. Now the thought of being left to spend the night on this bloody hill ran through every ones mind! We called out into the darkness for Cliff with whispered shouts as if waiting for big game on a hunting trip and afraid to give away our hiding place. Cliff called out in the night, far down the northern slope where we had landed. We directed him to follow our voice into the crater. He informed us he had just woke up after falling from the chopper.
The familiar sound of a 46 began to circle above and one of those million light candle flares lit the hill as if it was day light! A muffled crackle came over the radio and asked if we needed a ride. He said to pop a red smoke and began his approach and came in. We loaded a total of 9 bodies. They were very burnt and charred, not recognizable, therefore ID's couldn't be made. We took all of them knowing that 3 of them were NVA. We loaded them all on the 46 and flew to 3rd Med. We took no fire as we lifted off of hill 471. The gun ships and jets destroyed the NVA's attempt to hold that hill with over 3 trips to LZ Stud for refueling and ordinance. On the military channel or the Marine's history book an interview of the loses was told by the NVA Major who led the attack. He had three 6 man sapper teams who struck the team after a barrage of RPG's and Chi-com grenades. He said it was a very calculated and planned attack. I may be thinking of the other time my team was over-run on LZ Cunningham where they interviewed the NVA Col. or Major who gave his account of what happened. This also is in the history book for you history buffs but little is told of team Iceboat except the NVA took a direct route over my teams position at the garbage dump at the end of the compound, of course!
After 40 years my memory is clouded and can't even remember all of the men who were with me. The Corpsmen's name eludes me who also played a big part in maintaining order during this whole operation. I do remember the crew chief of our insertion and extraction chopper getting the silver star for action above and beyond the call, he came out of the chopper and helped us load the bodies … hummmmmmm.. hey they saved my ass so many times I'd give them all a silver but somehow this wasn't the one I felt like giving a statement on. The rest of the team did and were even invited to the ceremony several weeks later.
This patrol had a profound affect on me then and always. It was no surprise to read of this mission in the Marine Corps History Of Vietnam 1969. I felt it was time for me to relay this account to all the friends of team Flight Time and all combat Marines who experienced chaos in an extended firefight. This reflects only my version of what happened that day and I realize that anyone of my men, except PFC Atcheson could give a different account of the facts as they remember them. One thing is for sure and that being, no one who was there could ever forget the men of team Flight Time and no longer the forgotten bravery of team Iceboat. They did what it took to bring back every member of team Flight Time and their assassins. Semper Fi my brothers on this Memorial Day!—Jerry Miller, Volume XIX Issue 2 of Harborsite newsletter of the 3rd Reconnaissance Association 
Remembering Team Flight Time 40th Anniversary
June 4, 2009, marks the 40th anniversary of the loss of 3D3, Team “Flight Time”. Delta Company’s Flight Time was the last full team to be lost by the 3rd Recon Battalion during the Vietnam War. 3D3 was my Recon Team. Through chance and capricious fate, I had been assigned elsewhere on that fateful morning in early June 1969, when my comrades fought their final battle in the Khe Sahn Valley. On that final mission were my six Recon Brothers: LCpl. Douglas Barnitz, Lt. Michael O’Connor, PFC Robert Pearcy, PFC Arnold A. Skaggs, Cpl. William Buck, Jr and Cpl. William Wellman.
Flight Time had been sent to investigate increased NVA activity near the village of Khe Sahn, along Route 9, in the western part of South Vietnam’s Quang Tri Province. This strategic route between Laos to the west and the Vietnamese coast to the east, which had for centuries been a primary path through the mountains, east through the Ailao Gap, into the populated areas of Vietnam. Days earlier, on June 1, an A Company Recon team sighted more than one-hundred NVA in the region, and had been extracted after it was determined that a team of NVA was maneuvering toward their position. The next day Flight Time was sent to conduct further reconnaissance in the area.
Flight Time was inserted 200 meters south of Hill 471, and within minutes the men found cooking gear, still hot, as well as a variety of foodstuffs, weaponry, and other items that indicated an established NVA presence. The next day, after settling into their harbor site, the team reported observing five enemy soldiers. In the early hours of June 4, Flight Time was surprised by an enemy force of unknown size, and began receiving small arms fire and ChiCom grenades. The team reported an immediate KIA, one serious WIA, and four minor WIAs. They were six for six. Within fifteen minutes an aerial observer (AO) reported that the battle raged within ten meters and on all sides of the Marines. The AO fired all of his ammunition, and scant minutes later radio communication was lost with Flight Time.
Several hours later a reaction force team reported that the scorched area around Hill 471 looked as if it had been hit with a flame thrower. In addition to small arms fire and ChiCom grenades, Flight Time had also been subjected to RPGs, satchel charges, and bangalore torpedoes. The reaction team leader concluded that the condition of the site indicated that Flight Time had also engaged in hand-to-hand combat before succumbing to the enemy.
Now, four decades later, we still remember, sometimes daily, our fallen brothers of “Flight Time”. Individually, and collectively through our Recon Association, we remember and honor these men. We reflect on their heroism, on their courage and on their loss and ultimate sacrifice. We remember… Billy Buck, Douglas Barnitz, Michael O’Connor, Robert Pearcy, Arnold Skaggs, and William Wellman.
Gifted scribes help us with the details of memory, among them Larry Vetter (Never Without Heroes) and Chaplain Ray William Stubbe (Battalion of Kings). We remember and honor these heroes through our Association, through the Memorial Park in Ocala, Fl., where the names of the men of Team Flight Time are each engraved on separate memorial stones.
3D3 was my team. I had been pulled three days before Flight Time’s final mission, in order to attend Recondo School in Na Trang. After I returned to the company area, and walked down that street, and saw that empty hooch … it left a unforgettable image that still lives with me. For many years I was haunted by their deaths. For years I thought that Doc McManus, who was down from food poisoning and myself, who hadn’t been assigned to serve with Flight Time that fateful day were the only men who had daily memories of our brothers lost that day. I thought Doc and I were alone in our grief, until I started attending Recon reunions where I was awakened to the fact that many other members of Delta Company had their own memories of the men of Flight Time.
As we all reflect on the loss of our Recon brothers and the sacrifice of the men of Flight Time, let us take heart in our remembering. For as Chaplain Stubbe wrote so eloquently in his account of the battlefield of Khe Sanh, “It was here that so many were buried forever in us and live in us as long as we live.” Semper Fidelis!,—Stanley Kozlowski, Volume XVIII Issue 1 of Harborsite newsletter of the 3rd Reconnaissance Association 
Flight Time members
- 1stLt Michael M. O'Connor, Waterloo, IA Panel 23w Line 66
- Cpl William A. Buck, Fayetteville, NC Panel 23w Line 61 
- Cpl William M. Wellman, New Carlisle, OH Panel 23w Line 69
- LCpl Douglas W. Barnitz, Columbus, OH Panel 23w Line 61 
- Pfc Robert L. Pearcy, Big Bear Lake, CA Panel 23w Line 67
- Pfc Harold A. Skaggs, Phoenix, AZ Panel 23w Line 68
Vietnam Wall Someone spent a lot of time and effort to create it. I hope that everyone who receives this appreciates what those who served in Vietnam sacrificed for our country.
The link below is a virtual wall of all those lost during the Vietnam war with the names, bio's and other information on our lost heroes. Those who remember that time frame, or perhaps lost friends or family can look them up on this site. Pass the link on to others, as many knew wonderful people whose names are listed.
Pfc Robert L. Pearcy awards
- ^ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Kozlowski, Stan (2009). "Remembering Team Flight Time, Page 2" (pdf). 3rd Reconnaissance Association. http://www.3rdrecon.org/pdf/hs0409.pdf. Retrieved 18 April 2010.
- ^ From site of Old French Fort looking NW toward Hill 471
- ^ 3.0 3.1 "Recollections Of Vietnam". 3rd Reconnaissance Association. 2008. http://www.3rdrecon.org/Heroes.htm. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
- ^ Jerry Miller. "Recovery of Team Flight Time". Volume XIX Issue 2 of Harborsite newsletter of the 3rd Reconnaissance Association. http://www.3rdrecon.org/. Retrieved February 1, 2012.
- ^ Stanley Kozlowski. "Remembering Team Flight Time". Volume XVIII Issue 1 of Harborsite newsletter of the 3rd Reconnaissance Association. http://www.3rdrecon.org/. Retrieved February 1, 2012.
- ^ "Michael Maurice O'Connor". The vietnam veterans Memorial. 2010. http://thewall-usa.com/info.asp?recid=38372. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
- ^ "William Andrew Buck, Jr". The vietnam veterans Memorial. 2010. http://thewall-usa.com/info.asp?recid=6547. Retrieved 2011-15-11.
- ^ "William Martin Wellman, Jr". The vietnam veterans Memorial. 2010. http://thewall-usa.com/info.asp?recid=55218. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
- ^ "Douglas Wanner Barnitz". The vietnam veterans Memorial. 2010. http://thewall-usa.com/info.asp?recid=2592. Retrieved 2011-15-11.
- ^ "Robert Leslie Pearcy". The vietnam veterans Memorial. 2010. http://thewall-usa.com/info.asp?recid=39887. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
- ^ "Harold A. Skaggs". The vietnam veterans Memorial. 2010. http://thewall-usa.com/search.asp. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
- This article incorporates from websites or documents of the United States Marine Corps.
- 3rd Reconnaissance Association, Stanley Kozlowski accessdate 2010-02-11
- Vietnam Archive 1969, Stanley Kozlowski accessdate 2010-02-13
- Never Without Heroes by Lawrence C. Vetter, Jr. Chapter 12 pg.290 ISBN 0-8041-0807-2
- 3rd Recon Vietnam Veteran's page
- 3rd Recon Association
- 3rd Recon Harborsite
- The Virtual Wall Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall
- FaceBook tribute page