Don Adams

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Don "back in the day" Don at our 2007 Reunion

9 October 1966

Attempted rescue of Lcdr Charles Tanner and Lt Ross Terry, VF-154


From  "On 9 October, one rescue helo approached the ship, dangerously low on fuel. Although the danger existed of a crash landing as the chopper hovered over the fantail, Electrician's Mate 1st Class Donald J. Adams attached the helicopter's lowered hook to the fuel hose and tended it while it was hoisted up to begin the fueling operation. For his action under these dangerous circumstances, Adams was awarded a special letter of commendation from the Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT)."



Ross Mordhorst's recollections of the mission - 21 October 2008: "I just came across the plaque we made to present to the destroyer that came in so close to shore to give us a hi-drink when we were about out of fuel on the way out of North Vietnam.  (AX3 R. Powell and AMH2 R. W. Roberts were our crewmen that day.)  The ship was the USS Wiltsie.  They were in so shallow they were in where the poles of the fish traps were sticking out of the water.  I guess they call it “having a bone in their teeth” from the white bow wave the ship was creating from going so fast.  The fixed wing guys who were escorting us commented on seeing stuff flying out of the helicopter.  I think we threw everything that was loose over the side to lighten the load and to ensure there wasn’t a lot of stuff to fly around if we ended up going in the water.  The belts of M-60 ammunition were some of the things that they saw swirling through the air.  

I guess by the time we got the plaque made there was never an opportunity to get it to the ship, which accounts for why I still have it.  I think one of the other destroyers up north was the USS Gurke and it seems to me that the call sign was “Road House”. 

As I recall that was the mission when we were looking for the crew of a downed F-4 Phantom.  No rescap had been maintained when the plane went down and no beepers or other contact was received during our search.  I don’t recall that anyone had seen parachutes but we certainly didn’t see any signs on the ground.  That was the day the escorting A-1s bagged the MIG.  I think we accumulated one hole in the tail pylon as a result of the target practice we provided for the NV AAA sites.  In more recent years I saw a picture in a copy of TIME Magazine that showed one of the 37mm AAA sites on a dike between rice paddies in the area we flew over that day.  I can recall seeing the muzzle flashes from the guns that were shooting at us but couldn’t see anything else.  The picture showed how the gun sites were camouflaged to protect/hide them.  Lucky for us they were such poor shots.  Maybe they were used to shooting at fast movers and couldn’t adjust to us moving so slow.  I know that my thoughts about “jinking” to avoid getting hit were clarified; that tactic pretty much just results in taking longer to get away as slow as a helicopter moves."



Don Adams contacts Ross Mordhorst - 29 March 2009:

Thanks much for the e mail.  Over the past years I've often wondered what happened to the chopper crew after they left the ship with a tank of fuel.  I had read on the reunion website you had a plaque and had been carrying it around for forty years.  I received a phone call a couple of months ago from the Senior Chief (Don Stanford) with an invite to the reunion.  Damn near fell off my bar stool when he called.  I had always considered that day just one where we did our job but I do recall a sense of urgency in the skipper's voice when he said you guys were inbound and could possibly crash. We started the in-flight refueling program in '65 off San Diego and then carried it into the Tonkin Gulf.  My job was to attach the hose and tend it while the chopper was fueling and most of the time it was uneventful.  I always marveled at the skill of the pilot in his ability to stay with a pitching and rolling ship.  My wife and I plan to attend the reunion in May and we look forward to meeting you and your crew. 

Best regards, Don Adams, EMCM, USN, Ret.



Ross Mordhorst replies to Don Adams - 29 March  2009:


It is great to hear from you and to learn that you will be attending the reunion.  It has been suggested I bring the plaque to the reunion and then get it on to you.  Since you will be there maybe we can make that all happen then.

We took advantage of the refueling capability offered by the different ships that were configured, I guess, originally for the DASH helicopters and so had jet fuel aboard.  Many times we would launch from the carrier before it was light.  We would fly to the ships up north in the Gulf and orbit them until a big strike was being made by our jets.  We would then reposition closer to the shore in case someone needed rescue.  When we had consumed part of our fuel we would refuel from the ship and continue our flying around waiting to be needed.  Somewhere in the middle of the day we would be relieved by another helicopter and make our way back to the carrier.  I have at least one flight that was at least 8 hours long flying that kind of mission.  Without being able to get extra fuel we wouldn’t have been able to perform the mission near as well.  In the heat it could get to be a pretty long day.  Sometimes some kind of refreshments would be sent up along with the JP, which were always appreciated.  We were told to never request any kind of refreshments over the radio because it wasn’t professional.  When we had mail or anything to deliver we always tried to remember who had provided the best service and make that ship first on the list.  I guess there were other types of missions, like just delivering people, mail, etc. when we would take advantage of the fuel you provided, a “high drink”.  We would take off from the carrier with a load and drive around the Gulf to the various ships on the list until everything was delivered.  Without being able to get fuel en-route it would have been difficult to accomplish that work as efficiently as we did.

 Thanks again for your fine work.  I look forward to meeting you.

 Rawson Mordhorst



Link to audio tape of de-brief of VA-176 pilots after shooting down the MIG-17.