LEST WE FORGET

Cobra AH-1F Attack Helicopter

Early in the 60’s, the US military had a couple of problems on its hands.  One was the huge Soviet build-up of tanks along the East-West border in Europe.  The other was how to provide ground forces in Vietnam with support they so badly needed.  The call went out to various helicopter manufactures to design an attack helicopter which could provide adequate ground support for combat troops and have the capabilities to knockout an enemy tank.

            Extensive tests were conducted against tanks to help with the European problems of massive soviet tank buildup.  These tests demonstrated that anti-armor helicopter teams properly trained and deployed could achieve high ratios of armored vehicles destroyed for every missile-firing helicopter lost

Bell came forward with a design the military liked and a production contract was offered for 110 aircraft.  The Grand Daddy of all attack helicopters was born in April 1966.  It arrived in Vietnam in June 1967 and amassed over a million operational hours.  Named the Cobra, it was known by troops as the “Snake”.  The way was paved for the development of the modern attack and scout helicopter.  These principles would take Army aviation into the next century.

COBRA 67-15475

  • Length –           53.1 feet with rotors
  • Length –           44.6 feet fuselage
  • Wingspan –       10.8 feet
  • Width –            3.3 feet
  • Height –           13.4 feet
  • Weight –           5 tons
  • Speed –            195 MPH
  • Range –            315 miles
  • Crew –             2 (1 pilot and a weapons officer)
  • Armament –      (Various Combinations)
  • Types:             Tow Missiles, Hydra 70 Rockets, 20 mm Cannon

Cobra AH-1F 67-15475 in Vietnam

Mike Peterson crew chief

Mike Peterson – Crew Chief Standing alongside 475

On Dec. 7, 2007 contact was made with Mike Peterson who now resides in Eugene, Oregon.  Mike just happened to be surfing the internet when he came across his old Cobra helicopter now sitting in Veterans Memorial Park.  Mike was a member of the 7th Armored Squadron, C-troop, of the 1st Air Cav. unit which operated out of Vinh Long, Vietnam.  He was a crew chief and his helicopter was a Cobra attack helicopter with the serial number of 67-15475.  Pictures of 475 in her early combat years started to surface. Many names, e-mail addresses, phone numbers and postal addresses were provided by Mike.  Thanks to his contacts, we are now able to answer the many questions park visitors have concerning the combat history of 475 and the unit to which she was assigned. 

Mike was the second crew chief of 475.  The first was Clyde Strait from Pennsylvania.  He had 475 for three or four months and was then promoted to line chief.  Mike then took over Clyde’s duties and was responsible for keeping 475 combat ready for the remainder of his tour. 

The first aircraft commander of 475 was a young “Snake Driver”, 22 year old, WO1 Rob Bailey.  Rob, fresh out of Cobra school in Georgia was soon transferred to the 7th of the 1st.  Rob was the first and last aircraft commander of 475.  The year was 1968 and with C-Troop being one of the first units in the Delta to receive Cobras, the call for snake protection was everywhere. 

The 1st Air Cav was mainly used in support of the 9th Inf. Div.  They also supported the Special Forces camps, truck convoys, river patrol boats and small unit engagements.  The land that was selected for base operations was below sea level, so the river was dredged and sand was used to build up the elevation.  The men slept and worked out of tents.  A water retention pond was constructed and it was from this pond that drinking water was provided.  Of course, motor oil, gasoline, hydraulic fluid, jet fuel, diesel fuel and agent orange seeped into the pond.  A truck with filtration system was supposed to keep the water at a safe level.  Such was life for men of C-Troop, 7th Armored Squadron, 1st Air Cav. 

The following pictures and comments by members of C-Troop were designed to give you an idea of the evolution of 475.  From “off the showroom floor” to “down and out”, with 475 laying on its side at the end of a runway on 18 Nov 71.  475 was one of nine original Cobras assigned to 7th Armored Squadron, C-Troop.  She logged more than 3000 combat hours in Vietnam and another 3000 hours in Korea and on border patrol in Germany.  From March 1968 to July 2005, 475 served as a flight worthy attack helicopter.  Rob Bailey, Aircraft Commander of 475, said that 475 was the best of the original nine Cobras assigned to C-Troop.  According to Rob, it was the only Cobra that you could barrel roll and live to talk about.  Mike Peterson, Crew Chief, stated that when he left C-Troop to return to the States, 475 had 27 patched up bullet holes in her.  Mike would patch each hole as the Cobra returned from its mission and paint a small purple heart on the pilots door.  It is not clear if this practice was continued after Mike left. 

In 1972 the 1st Air Cav was transferred to Ft. Knox where it was eventually disbanded in 1976.  All its helicopters were distributed to other units.

Specialist E-4 Mike Peterson holding the main rotor blade of 475

Clyde Strait posing beside 475

Clyde Strait named the aircraft MY DIANE.

475 with sharks teeth
Notice the crossed sabers under the nose

Cobra 475 is being outfitted with additional firepower.
The round drum in the ammo bay is for 40mm ammunition.

Start of a bad damned day. There are 19 shot rocket pods on outboard of wings and two Mini-guns inboard. In the nose we have a Mini gun on left and a 40mm guns on the right.

19 shot rockets with 10 pound war heads and air burst fuses.

Cobra 475 is being overhauled.

This is a Cobra 475 crash photo taken from the cockpit of another chopper
on November 18, 1971.

Cobra 475 on its side November 18, 1971.
These are the only two known photos of the crash.
This is the same helicopter that sits in the park today!

360º Image of the Cockpit

the History of this aircraft

1st Calvalry DivisionThree months after being born, this Cobra was flying missions in Vietnam.  It was assigned to the 7th squadron of the 1st Air Cavalry Division.  It was then stationed in Vietnam. It stayed with the 1st Cavalry Division during its entire combat tour of duty.  Since many visitors to our Memorial Park have voiced an interest as to the actual history of this “fighting Lady”, we have decided to add this segment to our website.  As you read this, please remember that she has five purple hearts for damage from hostile enemy ground fire.  Her cockpit has been splattered with American blood from both the pilot and weapons officer.  At no time was she lost or destroyed.  She was retrieved and brought back to base camp, repaired and lived to fight again.  The most important fact regarding this Helicopter is that all that flew with her lived!  The holes in her side, the signs of leaking hydraulic fluid, the transmission problems and rotors that were shot up, and the American blood that spilled onto her floor did not keep her from bringing all who flew her back alive.

       To everyone who was a member of the 1st Air Cavalry Unit in Vietnam, please stop by the park and see one of the original Gunships.  If you were a of the 9th infantry division in Vietnam stop by and see first hand one of the “Snakes” that supported your division and was responsible for saving many lives.  If you’re like me and just like Cobras, stop by and look at the Grand Daddy of all attack helicopters.

(Overseas history of Cobra AH-1F 67-15475) The following text describing the battle damage to the Cobra helicopter 67-15475 was provided by Thomas J. Whelan who served with the 173rd airborne in Vietnam.  Tom has also written a book about his experiences as an airborne trooper entitled “A Knights Journey into Shangri-La”. March, 1967
  • Arrived in Vietnam
27 July, 1969
  • Damaged because of weapon malfunction
  • 1,142 hours combat flown
6 February, 1970
  • Shot down by heavy enemy ground fire while providing armed escort to medi-vac helicopters: both crewmen wounded.
  • 1,792 hours combat flown
15 April 1970
  • Damaged while providing direct fire support to infantry
13 July, 1970
  • Shot down by heavy small arms fire while providing support for heavily armed escort mission
  • 2,092 hours combat flown
19 January, 1971
  • Severely damaged by hostile fire while providing direct escort protection to ground troops
  • 2,471 hours combat flown
6 July, 1971
  • Damaged by heavy ground fire on a heavily armed escort mission
  • 2,745 hours combat flown
July – December, 1971
  • Flew with 3/17 Cavalry “C” troop
  • 3,127 hours combat flown
December 1971
  • Acquired by U.S. Navy maintenance group, taken to Naval Air Station in St. Louis
1972
  • Taken to Hawaii and issued to 25th Infantry Division barracks
1987
  • De-commissioned
1972-2005
  • History is unclear.  The helicopter was back in the United States.  Tail stencils indicate that it was issued to the Tennessee National Guard.
2 August, 2005
  • The helicopter bought six months earlier for $6,000.00, arrives at Veterans’ Memorial Park, in Dixon, Illinois.  At stat, Route 2 and Palmyra Road, from Fort Drum, N.Y.
Vietnam Photos
Summer of 1968 Vinh Long

475 ON THE GROUND
Notice the crossed sabers under the nose and word MAR on the pilot’s door. 

JUDY_IN_THE_SKY

475 with crossed sabers under the nose and Judy in the Sky written on the front seat door.

Helicopter #475 is being towed home after mechanical problems that couldn’t be fixed in the field. The incident happened in Muc Hoa, Vietnam near the Cambodian border.

A CH47-Chinook delivers #475 at base Vinh Long.

475 when it first arrived in Vietnam

Company armor working on mini gun. Notice bullet catcher on the front of gun.
The square box in the ammo bay is ammo for the Mini-gun.

The Mini-gun is being installed. The ammo box is sitting on door of ammo bay.

Crewmen get a few moments rest before continuing work on 475.

Work just about completed on 475.
The blonde soldier with his left hand on dog house door is Lance Frierson.