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War Stories

Sharks Teeth Calendar Photo - 1968

John Whitehead and Bruce Powell

The National Museum of the United States Army is the official museum for the history of the United States Army and is just outside Washington, D.C. It opened on November 11, 2020. We are honored that one of their displays uses our Cobra photo above to represent an element of the Air Cavalry in Vietnam.


The Photo - John Whitehead: Powell was quick to get his Sharks Teeth painted on the first AH-1G Cobra in the Divison (#67-15540). Recognition by some on the Division staff caused Specialist Robert Walker of the Sig Bn (PIO) to be sent over to get a photo shoot of the Cobra in action. It took place I think in June. We went out to AO Erp and practiced for Walker to get a photo of me firing a rocket in an attack dive. I don’t think he had the newer type camera that would allow him to punch the button in rapid succession, so we had to have a different plan. I would begin my dive, count to three then punch the firing button. We did this three times firing one rocket at a time. The mission was to get a good photo of the aircraft and the rocket in the same frame. I do not remember who was flying with me in the front seat. Walker did a good job.


Background - Bruce Powell: When I brought the first brand new AH-1G Cobra (540) from Vung Tau to D Troop, I got the Sharks Teeth design painted on it right away. The Squadron S4 at the time had scrounged some red, white and black paint. Jim Filiatreault was standing by with his artistic talents to help with the Sharks Teeth painting. It was not authorized so it was done in a bit of a clandestine manner.

Right away myself and Crew Chief Warren Waite, were out flying unauthorized missions under the guise of maintenance test flights. We would fly at several thousand feet above the clouds and monitor the Tropic 66 frequency for calls from Divisional units in contact. Doc Halliday and Pat Eastes will remember that first mission. They had been scrambled to support a unit in contact in the Hobo Woods. As they arrived they saw Cobra 540 already there blowing the hell out of the VC unit. Doc said "...are you having fun with that thing yet." It was a day I will never forget.

After a few incidents like this, word got back to the Division Staff and the teeth were a hit. It is believed that our Troop Commander didn't know about the teeth until someone above him said "Good Show". That became our authorization to paint teeth on the other aircraft.


MG Mearns was in his last days as Div Commander when the photo was taken. Someone said it was he or a staff member that saw the teeth and liked them. MG Williamson took Command 3 Aug 1968 and came to see the Cobras in our hangar on 9 Aug. Tom Meeks and I gave him a tour.




See 8mm film from Jim Messina and Sharks Teeth Tale