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Info Sheet - Joe Hoover


joe&Marie1Feb2017:I am Joe Hoover the last US crew chief of 68-16224 “Pinball Wizard”. I turned it over the the ARVNs in Feb 1971 and picked up 69-16448. I was originally in Maintenance then moved to being a Crew Chief.

One of my former pilots (Steve Borden) sent the link to me after finding your website. I looked at your roster of names and recognize a few. I was in D Troop for a very short time when the 25th first went home and I was transferred from B Company when we moved to Frenzel Jones. Then in February 71 we moved to Lai Khe.

Dennis Yenser was my platoon leader and flew my aircraft (448) most of the time. His call sign was Centaur two-five but he liked to say Centaur Two Bits. Confused the heck out of the ARVN Artillery. I remember Cpt. Don Phillips. He used to say Centaur forty-oh instead of Centaur four zero. Loved to talk on the radio. George Aguilar and I were roommates at Lai Khe.

I remember Fred Reese, Donnie Price, Bud Wyatt and a bunch of others. Ken Kloppel’s nickname was Bear. Terry Smith (Smitty) was my door gunner. We flew the Night Hawk after getting 448 because it came with the zeon lights and the mini-gun mount. See the yearbook submitted by Cpt Gutierrez. I was originally from Indiana so that is why that was painted on the sixty mount. We named 448 the “Killer Slick” since we had a mini-gun on the left and an aviation 50 on the right. CPT Yenser named it.

skullI remember Ron Welsh very well. As he stated on his info page, he was our slick platoon sergeant for several months after we moved to Lai Khe. Donny Price nicknamed him Skull. And there is a reason for that. I have attached a photo of Ron that he took of himself. (He invented the selfie back 1971 and didn’t even know it.) We were doing some drinking that night using a very unusual vessel. That’s me in the background, Ron had just poured beer on me and I got it in my nose.

His info about Benner and the Rangers becoming door gunners is spot on. I was having a difficult time getting a door gunner that was worth a crap. They were guys that no one wanted in their squad and were trying to get them out. Skull came to me and asked if I would take someone from the Rangers. I said sure and he assigned Smitty to be door gunner with me. Best thing that happened. Smitty, Bud Wyatt and Guy Boudreau were all damn good door gunners. They all worked on the aircraft they were assigned to and wanted to learn as much as possible. One day when 448 was down for a bad oil sample, I had to drain and flush the oil, change and clean the filters and resample. But the aircraft that replaced us on the mission did not have a door gunner so Smitty was sent on it instead of working on 448. Boy, was he pissed. Told me that he wanted to learn how to do all those maintenance tasks and if he was flying on another aircraft, he wouldn’t be able to learn. After that, he only flew on 448. Bud and Guy had the same attitude.

Skull (Ron) was an excellent platoon sergeant. He kept track of us, helped us out when needed but let us do our thing, as long as we met mission. Had a great sense of humor too.



Here is the Short Timer’s Letter that was going around when I was in country.

Dear Family, friends, civilians, draft dodgers, etc.

In the very near future, the undersigned will once more be in your midst, dehydrated and demoralized, to take his place again as a human being with the well known forms of freedom and justice for all; engage in life, liberty and the somewhat delayed pursuit of happiness. In making your joyous preparations to welcome him back into organized society you might take certain steps to make allowances for the past twelve months. In other words, he might be a little Asiastic from Vietnamesitis and overseatisitis, and should be handled with care. Don't be alarmed if he is infected with all forms of rare tropical diseases. A little time in the "Land of the Big PX" will cure this malady.

Therefore, show no alarm if he insists on carrying a weapon to the dinner table, looks around for his steel pot when offered a chair, or wakes you up in the middle of the night for guard duty. Keep cool when he pours gravy on his dessert at dinner or mixes peaches with his Seagram's VO. Pretend not to notice if he acts dazed, eats with his fingers instead of silverware and prefers C-rations to steak. Take it with a smile when he insists on digging up the garden to fill sandbags for the bunker he is building. Be tolerant when he takes his blanket and sheet off the bed and puts them on the floor to sleep on.

Abstain from saying anything about powdered eggs, dehydrated potatoes, fried rice, fresh milk or ice cream. Do not be alarmed if he should jump up from the dinner table and rush to the garbage can to wash his dish with a toilet brush. After all, this has been his standard. Also, if it should start raining, pay no attention to him if he pulls off his clothes, grabs a bar of soap and a towel and runs outdoors for a shower.

When in his daily conversation he utters such things as: "Xin loi" and "Choi oi" just be patient, and simply leave quickly and calmly if by some chance he utters "di di" with an irritated look on his face because it means no less than "Get the h___ out of here." Do not let it shake you up if he picks up the phone and yells "Sky king forward, sir" or says "Roger out" for good-bye or simply shouts "Working."

Never ask why the Jones' son held a higher rank than he did, and by no means mention the word "Extend." Pretend not to notice if at a restaurant he calls the waitress "numbah one girl" and uses his hat as an ashtray. He will probably keep listening for "Homeward Bound" to sound off over AFRS. If he does, comfort him, for he is still reminiscing. Be especially watchful when he is in the presence of women ----- especially a beautiful woman.

Above all, keep in mind that beneath that tanned and rugged exterior there is a heart of gold (the only thing of value he has left). Treat him with kindness, tolerance, and an occasional fifth of good liquor and you will be able to rehabilitate that which was once (and now a hollow shell) the happy-go-lucky guy you once knew and loved.

Last, but not least, send no more mail to the APO, fill the ice box with beer, get the civvies out of the mothballs, fill the car with gas, and get the women and children off the streets -----