In Memory


In Memory

Mrs Jessie Morris

widow of
MAJ Charles L. Kelly

A no more fitting tribute to MAJ Kelly could do justice as does the personal memoir of (then) Captain Pat Brady appropriately entitled,"WHEN I HAVE YOUR WOUNDED". Brady's reflections capture the aura of the man and the awe of those who knew he was just a DUSTOFF call away; an awe equally felt by "Kelly's boys".


MAJ. CHARLES L. KELLY, the commander of the original Dust Off unit in Vietnam set a high standard of physical courage for the medevac pilots who would follow him in a widening war, but it was his moral courage that preserved the independent integrity of what would become the greatest battlefield lifesaving system in the history of warfare.

Today, after 25 years, I still remember in detail the first time I saw him. I have often wondered why. It is the same with my wife, but with few others. I certainly never knew at the first meeting the impact either would have on my life--but this man has been with me these many years, in my decisions and in many of my efforts to sort out what I wanted to be.

I'd like to share with you a part of his life I shared, and some things I learned from him about leadership.

                         MG PATRICK H. BRADY

Go to

CPT (Dr) Henry W. Giles
crewmember at crash

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"Charles always carried this in his wallet.  Yes, he had a "thing" about angels.  He had a picture of one that he kept by his bed." 

---- Maj Kelly's wife, Jessie 


   By Sgt. Wilburn Carter

In memory
 Charles L Kelly

His life was dedicated, 
his heart strong and true.
He was a good soldier 
and a Samaritan too.
The call went out 
for a helping hand
to evacuate two soldiers 
from an enemy land.
Without hesitation
and true to his cause
he departed on his mission without even a pause.
He arrived in the area 
on this mercy mission,
was warned of the danger 
but would not listen.
His courage was great, 
this brave man of deeds,
his heart overflowing 
for human needs.
The ship of mercy
with a large red cross
landed near the wounded,
not yet lost.
The enemy was watching
from positions dug-in,
the ship of mercy 
with it's wounded within.
They began to fire
with intentions plain
of destroying this ship
and those in pain.
In the action described,
he gave his all.
To save humanity,
he answered the call.
His name was Kelly,
a name well known
for bravery in action
in wars bygone.
At many small posts
and scenes of strife,
this dedicated soldier
who saved many lives,
will long be remembered
for his helping hand
to those who were in need
in a troubled land.

   Sgt. Wilburn Carter was assigned to the Delta Aviation Battalion. 
   The above poem was sent to MAJ Kelly's wife by battalion LTC John Roberts after MAJ Kelly  was killed. 
   In his letter, he states,

"By a strange coincidence Charles was replaced in the Delta with a Capt. Brady -- Brady does not command the 57th, but has charge of the section at Soc Trang. Brady is an Irishman with much the same philosophy that Charles possessed. He's there to do a job! However I must say he is not as stubborn and "cantankerous" as Charles was."

The author, Sgt. Carter, 
later writes to Mrs Kelly,

"While I did not know your
husband, I felt a deep loss as many others did, upon news of his death. He was a dedicated and forthright man who had a job to do, and did this job with so much enthuiasm and skill, that he had left an image here in the Delta. This image is magnetized when during the late hours of night, you can hear the radio transmission of "This is Dustoff 90, destination check point -". A feeling of security lingers, as others carry on in splendid tradition."



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  • GEN Stillwell  LT Schnupp  MAJ Kelly

     (On the occasion of GEN Stillwell's departure)

      MAJ Kelly presented the plaque of 5 Red Crosses to GEN Stillwell, stating, in a soft Georgia drawl, "Here General --- you wanted my aircraft -- take them", reminding the general that, at the outset, the general had proposed assigning our five "Red Crossed" helicopters to non-medical aviation units.

      MAJ Kelly's efforts set the standard for a viable method of battlefield helicopter medical evacuation that non-medical aviation assets could not hope to achieve, ultimately convincing major ground and aviation commanders of same.

      Thus began the highly respected DUSTOFF tradition of total dedication to saving the wounded that continued throughout the war and since.

    NOTE: MAJ Kelly was killed on 1 July 1964 on a DUSTOFF mission.
    GENERAL Stillwell was lost over the Pacific in 196?

    The DUSTOFF Association, at it's 1997 Reunion,

    honored the memory of my DUSTOFF commander,

    MAJ CHARLES L. KELLY, 57th Medical Detachment (Hel Amb),

    who was killed in action on a DUSTOFF mission on 1 July 1964.

    MAJ Kelly's wife, Jessie; son, Charles Jr; and daughters, Barbara and Carol; were in attendance at the reunion.

    The following is a letter that I wrote to CHARLES KELLY, JR, delivered to him on the occasion of this remembrance.


    As the father of three grown boys, my thoughts are with you, today, as the memory of your father is being pleasantly jarred in the minds of those who were honored to have served with him, and in the minds of all assembled here who "lived his legacy".

    He, himself, simply lived the heroic legacy of the grunty "combat medic" who never hesitated to respond to the call of "Medic!" on the battlefield. The one difference was that he wore a new-fangled piece of gear strapped to his back ---- a helicopter.

    And that was the only difference.

    Like the battlefield medic, in the heat of battle, when all were "hunkered down", he knew that when the frantic call,--- "Medic!"---, pierced the air, his response would be "Cover Me!".

    Your dad believed that it took a special person to volunteer to become that "combat medic". Some would call him "crazy". The odds of his surviving the battle were much less than those shoulder-to-shoulder to him.

    But this grunty medic had something else------he enjoyed an inner peace-------he had given many, their lives back-----he knew that just his presence provided the soldier with a modicum of "peace of mind" --- that he would not be alone in suffering.

    Major Kelly was determined that the DUSTOFF medical crews continue to guarantee that same dedicated service and "quasi" peace of mind to the troops. The result of the adoption of this brave and caring philosophy by DUSTOFF crews to follow, was phenominal, as the world can attest.

    Be proud, that those assembled here, have carried on his legacy, and be especially proud of those who followed his legacy even to death. Their actions gave life back, manyfold.

    All the best,

    Si Simmons

    Poignant speeches delivered at this memorable reunion:


    Good evening, I'm Charles Kelly, Jr. and these are my sisters, Barbara and Carol. We are the children of Major Charles Kelly. This is our first DUSTOFF Reunion and we are very happy to be here. Since 1 July 1964, the Army, Army Aviation Association, and especially the DUSTOFF Association has been very good to our family. We have met a few of you here in the last couple of days, but I feel like we know all of you. I feel like we are here with family.

    My father was a catalyst and an innovator in the development of Army Air Medical Evacuation. He devoted several years of training toward this mission, and he completely devoted the last six months of his life in this endeavor. Ultimately, he gave up his life for this mission. He knew the risks of this mission.

    I talked with Bob Mock last night. He flew with my father daily and was the one who went to my father's room to collect his personal belongings when he was killed. He said he walked into the room and on a desk, in plain view, not hidden away in a drawer, but laid out very neatly, was a packet of information on what to do if he was killed. Bob said it was like he knew he would be killed.

    My father was 39 and had three children and a wife at home when he volunteered to go to Vietnam. I am convinced that he took those risks because he understood the importance of what he was doing and what it might mean to thousands of people. Over the last two months, I have read literally hundreds of pages of letters and diaries from Korea and Vietnam that my father wrote. I think I have a pretty good idea of what he would say if he were here today. He would say, "Don't call me a hero, just a soldier who did my duty to the best of my ability to honor my country and family." He would give the credit to his men and those that came before him and those that came after him and carried on the tradition that he began.

    The fact is, he could not have done this alone. He was the first medical evacuation casualty ever. He set many standards, was a proponent of night flying, and he fought the generals for the right to fly anytime and anywhere. At one point, General Stillwell wanted to have portable red crosses andjust put them on general service aircraft when they were needed. My father was vehemently opposed to this and eventually won this battle. If he had not, there would probably be no DUSTOFF today. But all of this would have been for nothing if others had not carried on after he was killed. I want to thank you for continuing and building upon the DUSTOFF tradition. I consider the people in this room to be true American heroes. I can think of no nobler cause than to risk one's life to save someone else. And that's what DUSTOFF pilots do for a living, day and night, anytime, anywhere. To you active duty pilots and medics (I know you know this or you would not be here, but I am going to say it anyway), when you are in the air and there is someone hurt or sick on the ground, whether they are soldier or civilian, you become life itself to them, the only thing that stands between life and death. You should be proud. Your families should be proud of you, and I can assure you of this, the Kelly family is very, very proud of you.

    My family would like to take this opportunity to give something back to the Dustoff Association. My sister has put countless hours into this project, and we are very proud of what she has done. If you would unveil the portrait please (sisters Barbara and Carol unveil the portrait of Major Kelly). This is our father, Major Charles L Kelly.

    Our family especially wants to thank General Patrick Brady. He carried on the tradition of my father and kept his memory alive. He has been a very good friend to our family over the past several years. It's been 33 years since Charles Kelly gave an order to Patrick Brady. So, General Brady... Front and Center! We have something special for you.

    (General Brady was presented with a portrait of himself in uniform.)


    As I continue to hear more stories and learn even more about my father, I find myself more and more intrigued by what it is within different people that make some unwilling to go certain lengths but cause others to take heroic measures in fulfilling often self-made obligations. How can people from such diverse backgrounds and influences gain such a sense of responsibility that extends to all humanity? What internal and external factors does it take to develop hero qualifications? I have pondered over this a lot as I have thought about my father and learned more about his background.

    Charles Kelly was born in 1925 in a tiny town in Ga. Ever since he was a little boy he wanted to be a soldier. When he was 6 years old, his father abandoned him, his mother, and two younger brothers. Back then there was no welfare system as we know it. People depended on the kindness of others and their own ingenuity to get by. His mother - my grandmother - was a tough, independent woman. She, herself, had come from a poor, rough, uneducated upbringing. She was a small woman -less than 100 pounds.- but I remember her as a feisty - very colorful, even eccentric person, with a hard exterior but a heart of gold. Somehow, during those early days, she gathered the means and resources to open up a restaurant which she ran almost single-handedly for the next 40 years from sun-up till late in the evening. This left the 3 boys basically on their own most of the time. There wasn't much family life. But she stressed education and a good work ethic, and obviously established a strong values foundation because my father developed a deep sense of honor, duty, self-reliability, and a spiritual faith that would stay with him through-out his life.

    At age 15, he ran off and joined the army during W.W.II where he was wounded in battle in Europe. He came home, finished high school, got married, finished college and became a high school principal. But the army was in his blood and he never stopped wanting to be a soldier. So he re-enlisted and became a career officer, always striving to be the best. In fact, at one point he was one of - only 3 or 4 men in the country who held 4 different badges - the combat infantry badge, the combat medical badge, the paratroopers badge, and the aviators wings. But he still wasn't satisfied. He always seemed to be searching for that illusionary, ideal soldier, so when  the conflict in Vietnam began, he volunteered to go. The rest is history.

    Recently, as I read through some of his diaries and letters preceding Vietnam I sensed that he was deliberately grooming himself for a certain great destiny. Of course, as a young girl, I never thought beyond my own environment. His whole identity to me was just being my dad. And he was a great dad -sometimes stern-sometimes silly and teasing but always loving.

    I have one particular memory of him which seems very small but has become very significant and precious to me. Often, on Sunday afternoons, he would take my sister, Barbara, and me to walks in the woods. I think he did this to give our mother a short break and also because he loved nature so much. One day as we were returning home, we came across a dead rabbit in the road. He was all torn up with his entrails hanging out. He was definitely dead. Of course, Barbara and I were saddened as well as really grossed out over it. Our dad took us home, then got a shovel and pail and went back, several roads away, to scoop that rabbit up and move it to a better place.

    Sometimes now, whenever I try to envision my father flying in to rescue wounded soldiers on the ground, often bleeding and torn up, I remember that rabbit and how he couldn't just leave it there. I know that one cannot compare dead rabbits to dying men but I never knew my father on an adult level so I cherish" that memory as a child's glimpse into his mind-set. The Bible says that he who is faithful in little things will be faithful in greater things. Looking back, I can see how characteristic it was of him.

    What creates a hero? There really is no tangible formula for external factors. Heroes can emerge from anywhere, from all walks of life, from many different backgrounds. However, there are certain internal traits you'll typically find; qualities such as consistency, responsibility, accountability, respect for others, often a strong, spiritual faith. They are the people you know that you can trust your life with.

    In my father's case, I'll also add, being prepared and calculating. Our mother has said he rarely made mistakes because he thought so far ahead and tried to be ready for anything. The few times he did make errors he would get very upset with himself because he felt that he didn't think through it enough.

    I do have a certain emptiness that I will always carry with me - it is an emptiness familiar to anyone who has lost someone they love. I have a great sadness that we 3 children grew up without him. I carry deep regrets of not knowing him as an adult and that we don't have more memories; in my brother, Charles' case, virtually no memories of him. There will always be a feeling of loss.

    And yet, I think of the sense of mission that he had and the people he inspired -  men such as General Brady who came after him and learned some things from him and completed and even went beyond what he began. It has been so gratifying to have men come to me and say "I knew your dad. " and then tell their stories. I think of the changes he made in the system and of all the soldiers and civilians who would not have survived if not for him and others like him. This personal loss that I feel is swallowed up by a much greater gain which includes freedom and country and human dignity and well worth the sacrifice to keep it in tact.

    I cannot close though without speaking of another type of hero, and that is the wives of army career men. These women have to be tough and resilient to handle the lifestyle of a soldier.

    In my own experience, we moved on the average of once a year. My mother had to be ready to uproot the family, say good-bye to friends, settle in yet another apartment and make it home, help us kids catch up in a different school and keep our lives as normal and smooth as possible -as well as coping with her own personal loneliness and new environment. It is too bad there is not an array of ribbons for these army wives!

    I am so fortunate to be able to boast of two very close and special role-models in my life! When our dad was killed our mother's major mission became to raise his children the way he would have. The goal of her life became to make us into responsible, caring adults that would bring honor to his memory. I think she did a great job.

    I'd like to thank everyone here at the Dust-Off Reunion for making the Kelly family feel so special and important and so welcomed. "If you're ever in Georgia, y'all come see us sometime!"


    Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. I humble myself before you because though I'm a teacher, I'm a fish out of water talking in front of a group about anything but biology. My name is Barbara Kelly Howerton and I am the middle child of Charles Kelly.

    It was difficult to decide what to say to you today that would reflect my thought s of my father in way that would be of interest to you. Many of you actually understand what my father's life was like more than I. You may not have known my father but you have a connection to him and to each other by a common bond that I don't share. My father was one of you.

    I decided that I could share with you the legacy my father left me personally because legacy is what this reunion is about. The continued legacy of the Dustoff tradition gives testament to the courageous achievements of the Dustoff pilots. You gather for this reunion each year to celebrate that legacy and remember what it has meant and continues to mean to the lives of so many people. All I can share with you is what my father's legacy has meant to me.

    My father died when I was only eleven so my actual memories of him are the memories of a child. But growing up, the memories, the information I learned from people who knew him and what I read about him meshed together into what later became one of the motivating forces in my life. And I learned later I was not alone. In 1989, Major General Pat Brady wrote these words about my father in the beginning paragraph of an article he wrote for Army magazine. "Today, after 25 years, I still remember in detail the first time I saw him. I have often wondered why. It is the same with my wife, but with few others. I certainly never knew at the first meeting the impact either would have on my life -- but this man has been with me these many years, in my decisions and in many of my efforts to sort out what I wanted to be." I can tell you, it was very exciting for my brother, sister and I when we actually met General Brady and to listened to him talk about our father and about what Vietnam was like. The stories he told were amazing. It made everything so much clearer to me and I am grateful to him for spending time sharing our father with us.

    It was not apparent to me until I was an adult that my father had had the type of impact on me that General Brady wrote about. I realized that my father had left me something that was already at work in my life - his legacy. The legacy he left was not just for me, it was for anyone that was influenced by it as I was. He left me motivation. Motivation to work hard at what ever I do, to strive for excellence, and demand a lot out of myself and those in my charge. He was a great motivation to me. As the mother of three sons I tried to translate that legacy into parenting by working hard to encourage, council and demand both correct behavior and good grades from my children. Of course, I was not 100% successful with all of them all of the time but my husband and I worked hard at parenting. And in different ways I am proud of all my children. They all believe that what they chose to do with their lives should be of value to others. My sons never knew this grandfather but he was indirectly influential in their lives because of his influence on me and the legacy he left behind.

    As I said earlier I am a high school teacher - my job is to motivate. I feel blessed to be teaching at one of the best schools in the state of Georgia. The work is very demanding and challenging and I would not want it any other way. To motivate and teach kids that are very bright is terribly exciting and rewarding but requires that I know my subject extremely well, that I stay current and that I am well prepared. These are the some of things my father learned as a Dustoff pilot. Again, I don't achieve 100% out of all of my students all the time but we work diligently. These young people are successful because they are willing to sacrifice to strive for excellence. Because I have been inspired and motivated, I hope that inspires and motivates my students. I believe my father's legacy has again been indirectly translated into success. He believed education was very important and I am honored to be able to help young people reach for their dreams.

    My father's legacy has meant a lot to many people many of whom are no longer with us. But many of them, like my father, became better people for having served as Dustoff pilots and their legacies live on also. The Dustoff tradition is continuous. Mediocrity is unacceptable. I believe my father's innate personal motivation to strive for excellence in all things was fully developed as he served in the Army. The Army's ability to teach its men and women discipline and to motivate them to achieve excellence is a source of pride. But the army, like every other organization, is made up of individuals like yourselves and my father. A machine is only as good as its parts. The Dustoff machine has some awesome parts.

    Each one of us in this room, no matter what our role in life, has an affect on those we have relationships with or even with those with whom we just come into contact. The affect on others may be positive or it may be negative. I am thankful to God that the legacy that my father, General Brady and men and women like them chose to leave all of us was one worthy to try to emulate. At the end of General Brady's Army magazine article, he wrote "Kelly was a man who made a difference. He was a leader, a man who provoked openness, honesty and caring--who lasted beyond his lifetime. The great thing about true leaders like Kelly is that they never leave us. Dead or alive, the noblest part of their being remains behind, becomes part of our being--" Whether each of us is a leader or a follower, we each have a choice of the kind legacy we will leave behind. We should give thought to what that legacy will be.


    President, DUSTOFF Association

     Major Kelly's portrait will hang in the AMEDD Museum on the DUSTOFF wall in the foyer of the museum. On each side of his portrait will hang the memorial boards that honor those DUSTOFF crewmembers who died in the conduct of a MEDEVAC mission.

    This morning, Charles and Barbara and Carol so eloquently reminded us that their greatest loss was in the end a great gain. Charles reminded us that in throwing his last ounce of measure into the mission, Charles L. Kelly ensured that those who went before him and those who came after him would not have died in vain...the victory we share in our profession is the lives we touch when we risk life and limb to go where others dare not go, to do what others chose not to do, and to return to health the sons and daughters of our nation...Charles Kelly was just another name to me until this year...I knew we had a heliport named after him...I flew from there hundreds of times. I knew he said, "When I have your wounded."

    I lived the ethic that is DUSTOFF all the years of my active flying status. I preached much the same words to my unit members as did Charles Kelly. Like everyone else in this room, I understood in unspoken terms all that Charles Kelly stood for and died for.

    Yet, this year as President of this great Association, this man became real to me. That realness first became rich as I listened to Pat Brady give a talk to the officers at Fort Hood shortly after we dedicated the DUSTOFF Plaza in his honor at Darnall Hospital. I listened as this man, a true hero, a man that knew no visible fear. A Medal of Honor recipient...., and who did he talk about more than anyone else..... Charles L. Kelly. And then when I had the privilege of meeting the Kelly family, the chapter was complete.

    Everyone in this room has lived it, everyone in this room has experienced it in some way...the words, the life, the dedication, the legacy of Charles Kelly lives in each and every member of this organization ... be they a service member, or that service members spouse...Charles Kelly was a patriot, he was a loving father, he was a soldier... he is one of my heroes.

    This organization is the legacy that Charles Kelly insured for all time...the legends in this room are the living, breathing history of that hero...DUSTOFF lives, Charles Kelly lives on in us.




You Don’t Want To Hear 
Four Bangs On The Wall!!

Greg Pinkston

Detachment Clerk

 It was not long after my taking up duties as the company clerk at the 57th that I learned of Major Kelly’s unique intercom system between his office and my desk. My desk was located on the other side of his office wall, with his desk just in front of that wall. 

I was typing away one morning, trying to get the Detachment’s Feeder Morning Report done, which had a strict deadline to arrive at MAG-V, G-1 section every morning when I heard this loud thump on the wall. Not knowing what it could be, I looked over at the Administrative Officer, Lt Simmons; he nodded for me to go to the Major’s office. Thinking maybe the Major was hanging a picture on his wall, I looked in on him sitting at his desk facing me.  "Excuse me Sir; I heard a thump on the wall."  "Yes, I was calling you. When you hear that thump it means I want you in my office fast. When you hear two thumps on the wall it means I want you in here faster and if you hear three thumps, it means you should have gotten here before I got to the third thump."  Feeling braver than I actually was, I asked the Major, "what if I hear four thumps". Probably thinking I was being insolent, the Major looked up, opening his mouth to say something; he quickly closed his mouth. He probably saw the serious expression on my face, he looked down at the floor for a couple of moments, looking back up at me he said, "Pinkston you don’t want to hear four thumps on that wall. But, if you do, my best advice to you would be to go out the front door and just keep going." I left the Major’s office not really understanding the implications of hearing four thumps until I got back to my desk. Four thumps? Go out the front door and just keep going? The Major was right; I didn’t want to hear four thumps. I explained the Major’s "Intercom system" and what each of the thumps meant to Lt Simmons. Lt Simmons, being the ever helpful and accommodating Admin Officer that he was, with a big smile on his face, asked if I wanted my desk moved closer to the Major’s office door. Actually I was hoping to hear a little more sympathy than that, I just said no Sir, and went back to my desk. Was I put off or resentful of the Major banging on the wall to summon me? No, not at all, even then, I realized it made perfect sense. The Major spent a lot of time at the Soc Trang Det, and when he got to the 57th at Tan Son Nhut he didn’t have a lot of time to go through the paper work and documents that Lt Simmons felt he needed to see and the paper work had to be ready for him to sign when he got to his office. What little time he had at the 57th was also taken up by his trips to MAC-V to do battle to the powers that be. So, what of the banging on the wall? Well, what better way for the Major to let me know he wanted to see me? Certainly one could not expect him to come to my desk, yelling out someone’s name, to me, would have been "off putting." No, it was just his simple way of letting me know he wanted to see me and I appreciated it at the time and have fond memories of those bangs on the wall 38 years later. I even thought of the ideal of devising my own "banging system" as a means to answer him. It didn’t take long for even this 17-year-old PFC to think better of that ideal. What could I "say" with my knocks on the wall? Yes, be there in a minute? Busy now, will get to you soon as I can? No, Just as I didn’t want to hear four bangs on the wall, I’m sure the Major would not have wanted to hear even one little bang coming from my side of the wall.



Bob Mock

2nd Lieutenant

       I will never forget the day I graduated from flight school. 
It was just all to good to be true. 

Here I was a brand new 2nd Lt. in the US Army and a helicopter pilot to boot.  What could be better than this?  It was at this point that I found out the price for the honor I had received in going to flight school.  I was going to Vietnam.  In fact I was thrilled at the prospect, but a little scared thrown in, to give me more emotion than I had ever had in my life. 
I was given a 30 day leave to get ready to go to Vietnam and I needed every bit of it.  My wife and I had purchased a mobile home at Ft Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas when I was selected to go to flight school.  It was moved to Mineral Wells, Texas and on to Ft Rucker, Alabama for my final flight training.  It had to then be moved on to Florida so my wife could stay with her parents while I was in Vietnam.  The 30 days passed all too quickly and it was time to leave for my tour in Nam. 
    It turned out that several other members of the flight school class were all going to Vietnam at the same time and we went on the same plane.  Ernie J. Sylvester and I had been together since we entered the Army back at Fort Sam in early 1963.  Now here we were  -  again -  flying half way around the world  --  to just what, we did not know.  We were young, eager and a little apprehensive about just what lay before us. 
     Upon landing at Tan Son Nhut  airport,  we were meet by Lt. Schexnader and driven from the civilian side of the airport to our small headquarters at the 57th Medical Detachment (HA), our new home.  We were introduced to everyone and Major Kelly introduced himself and told us to get in the jeep as we were going to the MACV Headquarters to get processed into country.  Not knowing the procedures at my new unit, I ran out to the jeep and jumped in behind Major Kelly and Captain Bloomquest.  Major. Kelly, with great deliberation, turned around so he could look me right in the eyes and said, “Where do you think you're going Lieutenant!”  I was rather thunder struck and did not know what to say.  "I, --- I, ---I was going to go with you to get processed in — Sir!!"  In his way, he took off his hat and with his right hand pulled his hair down over his head and said in his Southern drawl, "Lt. Mock -  2nd Lieutenants do not ride in my jeep!"  With that, he pointed to the second jeep that I was to ride in.  Needless to say, I was a very chastened 2nd Lt. 
   We went to the headquarters and were processed in and given our Geneva Convention cards making us non-combatants in Army speak, as we were medical personal.  Our last place to process into was the Army Aviation Department.  I remember as Ernie Sylvester was processed in,  Major Kelly turned to me and asked me for my flight records.  I opened my briefcase and looked for my flight records.  I was having trouble finding them and Major Kelly in his southern drawl said, “OK Lieutenant -  we don't have all day!”  I emptied my briefcase on the floor and spread out all the papers so I could see them all.  There were no flight records.  I can still see the look in Major Kelly’s eyes as in his gentle way, turned to the flight operations officer and said, “well, I guess he can fly, as he has wings -  but hell -  anybody could buy a set of wings”.  My heart fell on the floor.  Major Kelly said for me to go over to the area where a phone was available;  to call the United States;  and call home and see if perchance I had left my records at home.  I did as he instructed and in a few minutes was talking to my wife.  She told me my flight records were right where I had left them while packing for my trip. 
   My flight records arrived within a week and I was allowed to fly my first missions in Vietnam. 



Don M. Lidstone



 To: The Veterans of the 57th Medical Detachment (Helicopter Ambulance)

From: MSG. Don M. Lidstone USAR (RET)

In mid January, Ed Foster called telling me about the planned April reunion. He gave my name and phone number to Dan Chavre who called to give me the details. Also, Dan sent me a list of many 57th veterans, some of whom I served with. I was more than pleased to hear from Ed and Dan – I think I served with Ed in 1961 at Fort Meade, MD.

I will tell you a bit about my service with the 57th and then I would like to tell you a couple of my experiences serving with Major Charles L. Kelly. I served with Kelly in the mid to late 50’s during active duty in Germany. Some of you may have served with him also.

In April 1960 I was assigned to a Signal Battalion at Fort Meade Army Airfield doing maintenance on an H19 helicopter. The 57th was located at there as well. I had submitted a request to transfer to the 57th in February when in the middle of April they received orders to go to Chile to assist in recovery after an earthquake. Since the 57th was short on chopper mechanics, my request for transfer was processed in 2 hours! I was a crew chief during my service with the 57th.

(In 1959 the 57th had turned in their H19s and gotten 5 HU-1As. Later the designation was changed to H-1A. I think the 57th and perhaps several others were the first to call the choppers “Huey”s.)

We took four choppers, a fuel tanker, a jeep and some other equipment to Chile. We were there about a month and a half doing evacuation and medical supply missions.

After our return from Chile, the commander, Major Martin was replaced by Capt. Temperelli. I had served with Major Martin in Germany during the 50’s. The Army is a small world.

About February 1962 the Unit received orders for Southeast Asia. During the preparation to ship out, a directive came that any personnel with less than six months on their enlistment would not have to go with the Unit. As I had only four months left on my second enlistment and was newly married I decided it was time for me to leave the Army. We moved to Oklahoma where I attended aeronautical school. Eventually we were back in Maryland and I was back in the Army – Reserves that is – working as an inspector on UH-1H, OH-58 and UH-60 choppers for over 20 years. I retired in 1993 with over 26 years of military service.

Perhaps the most memorable times in the Army was serving with Major Charles L. Kelly. From June 1955 to October 1957 I served with the 53rd Medical Detachment (Air Ambulance) in Germany. We had five Bell H13 Es, bubble choppers. I was a chopper mechanic. In the spring 1956 1st Lt. Kelly transferred into the unit. Our first thought was “What did we do to deserve an officer like him?” As we got to know him we learned to highly respect him. He treated the enlisted with the same respect as an officer.

Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady described Major Kelly quite well in his article “I Have Your Wounded”. He spoke with a slow Southern drawl, and when he chewed you out for something you should or shouldn’t have done his face was expressionless, his eyes would bore holes through you. But when he was finished, he would turn away with a big grin on his face.

When our commander, Capt. Bowler left the unit, Lt. Kelly became commander.

I liked flying with him in the H13s. At times we would use road maps to navigate around Germany, following railroad tracks and other landmarks. Before taking off from the Darmstadt Army Airfield, he would hand me a road map. When we got a short distance from the field, he would ask “Where we at, Lidstone?” There were times I had no idea and we had to be careful as we could be flying close to the Iron Curtain and no-mans-land.

Another memory I have of Kelly begins with a buddy and I partying with some Germans at a gasthous. After a few drinks my buddy liked to get into a scuffle with the Germans (NOT ME!). This one night, the gasthous owner called the police who called the MPs. The MPs took us to a downtown jail. So about 2 in the morning (well after bedcheck) we asked them to call Lt. Kelly. At that time he was our executive officer. He came down and told the MPs he would sign for us. He gave us a disgusted look, through the bars, but said nothing as we were released. Giving us a ride back to the barracks he said “If you are out like this again, which you shouldn’t be, please stay away from those blankety blank MPs.”

We did not get an Article 15, as apparently Kelly did not report it to Commander Bowler. I understand that Maj. Kelly served as an enlisted soldier in Europe during WWII and knew all about being an enlisted serviceman.

In October 1957 Lt. Kelly and I left the 53rd for the States on the same day. He flew and I came back on a troop ship. I was separated from the Army and returned to my home in Montana. I attended college, worked on the ranch etc, but after about a year and a half I grew restless and decided to reenlist. I hoped to get in the warrant officer pilot program but when I got to Ft. Rucker AL in Sept. 1959 I found out the program had been closed. (It reopened when Vietnam got hot) But anyway, I was attending the H19, H34 Maintenance Course. One day I was called to report to the First Sgt. at the orderly room. The First Sgt. told me there was someone outside to see me. I went out and there was Capt. Kelly, hands on his hips, he looked at me as said “Lidstone what in the hell are you doing back in the Army?” I told him there was nothing for me in Montana and that I wanted to attend flight school. He suggested that I should have stayed in college, gotten a degree and then come back in the Army. I couldn’t argue with that. He invited me to dinner with his family and I’m glad I have that memory of a pleasant evening as that was the last time I saw him.

I hadn’t even heard of him again until July 1964, when we were living in Tulsa, OK. I picked up the evening paper and there in the corner of the front page was the headline that said, “Reds Kill the Unkillable Maj. Kelly”. That name sure rang a bell so I turned to the article and confirmed that it was indeed the officer I had known and respected so much. Later I read MG Patrick Brady’s article and was pleased to learn that he served with respected him as well, I consider it an honor to have served with him. He gave me unforgettable memories of life in the Army.

Betty and I would like to be there with you, but perhaps Dan has told you we are in the process of moving from Maryland to Montana. With all that a move entails, it just is not possible to be there. Maybe next time!

Best regards



                  CHOPPER HILL

In the world's garbage dump, called Korea
There stands a hill, not very tall for hills there.
But this hill, to a man brought heaven near, 
And lifted his very soul from dark despair.

He came to this hill without hope and bitter.
In nothing did he trust and in little he believed.
His mind full of disappointment and useless litter.
Of his profession betrayed, of rejection received.

An officer of old army principle
Stern discipline and rigid order
Were his beliefs, pure and simple.
A proud unit could be built with this mortar.

A Helicopter unit owned this hill,
And thereby, it gained it's name.
The Choppers on missions did sweep
And to this hill they brought fame.

The 50th Medical it was listed.
It's reputation tarnished and stained.
On whiskey and women it existed, 
And little to build on remained.

A Captain to this hill came.
His reputation and career in tatters.
This hill he had been sent to tame, 
And the method did not matter.

He stood and looked with a frown.
No flagpole graced that ground.
There was no guard pacing around,
And the alert crew moved not with a bound.

His orders, they heard with dread.
"There will be no women on this compound."
They were silent and faces were red,
"And there will be no whiskey on this ground.

"Now this will be the order of the day, 
As long as I command this hill.
We will always fly, no matter what the rules say."
These words gave to them a thrill.

For poor officers they might be,
But as pilots they were good,
And his orders made them see
Just how things stood.

"Your reason for being here,
Is to fly the mission.
That should be very clear,
And there is no other position."

A guard was posted.
A Flagpole was erected.
Sloppy officers and soldiers roasted,
And the flying was perfected.

The example he tried to set.
Missions were flown day and night.
Each mercy flight request he met
With all his nerve, skill and might.

The call for help came by phone and radio.
The alert bell would sound, "We have a mission."
To the pad the alert pilot would go,
 Requesting patient location and condition.

"It's Camp Saint Barbara, gunshot wound."
1 litter, 2 blankets exchange, oxygen equipment on board,
Switches turned, buttons pushed, the engine whines, 
And into the dark night the aircraft roared.

"Chopper Hill, this is zero nine,"
The operations radio would bark,
"Two miles north for landing, is ambulance on time?"
Back would go the answer, "cleared to land, ambulance on mark."

The ship lands, the door opened with haste,
"Careful now, there is blood on the floor."
The stretcher is lifted out, no time to waste.
With speed it is put in the ambulance, no time for more.

Word has gone around.
The mission will be flown at all cost.
The evacuation time must be cut down.
No more time is to be lost.

To the flight line they went,
For the daily race with the reaper.
Their nerves and energy they spent, 
And the lines in their face grew deeper.

From stream and mountain side,
The sick and injured they gathered.
From this duty they did not step aside,
They did their best and not many died.

On a mountain ledge and injured soldier lay.
Rain fell and the clouds were low,
And slowly the chopper pilot made his way,
But he knew that onward he must go.

                                     MAJ Charles Kelly