Personal tools
User menu

Henaghan, William F

From Central Park Historical Society Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

Born in November, 1951, William Henaghan joined the Army to serve the US efforts against the North Vietnamese aggression. He went through intensive combat training and quickly rose to the rank of Specialist 4. Trained as a Combat Infantryman, William arrived into South Vietnam in January, 1972. He was assigned to the infamous 1st Air Cavalry Division just north of Saigon in the Bien Hoa Province. All Army Units had 'call-signs' and the 1st Cav was no different. As part of the 2nd Battalion (Stone Mountain), he was infused into the 8th Cav, D Company with about 140 other soldiers. D Company members went by the name of "Angry Skipper".

American politics were already shaping the war in early 72. The 1st Cavalry Division had already been completely pulled out of South Vietnam in late 1971, but they left four Battalions behind (including 2/8) as part of the 7th Cavalry Regiment. The North Vietnamese Army was fully aware of this, and they were getting ready to take over Saigon. The Angry Skippers were in the field every day doing search and destroy missions to locate enemy encampments and get rid of them any way possible. To ensure that the American public didn't get the wrong idea, the politicians had this changed to 'Recon-in-Force', or RIF. But to the Infantrymen that carried 80 pounds of gear on their back in the sweltering heat, wading through waist-high water, and constantly picking off the leeches…it was still search and destroy.

Day in, day out, they would climb aboard a helicopter, get dropped out into a rice paddy, and start a search into the heavily-covered jungles. Various bobby-traps were planted everywhere, and firefights were abrupt and quick. To their credit, the Angry Skippers had not lost a single soldier from Jan to May of 1972.

Knowing the effects of combat on these soldiers, the Army had constructed an area east of Saigon on the South China sea to bring the weary men in for a few days of R&R. It was something that they yearned for and a much-needed break was welcomed. Preparations were made, and a large CH-47 helicopter arrived at their base camp from the 362nd Assault Helicopter Command. There were 5 crew members aboard, and it was piloted by a career Army Officer, Captain Barry Tomlin, a seasoned pilot that had seen more than his share of battle.

Joking and excited, William Henaghan and 28 other Angry Skippers climbed aboard for the short flight to the coastal town of Vung Tau. A cold beer and a sandy beach anxiously awaited them for a few fleeting days before having to go back to the reality they had come to learn. But fate is never known.

Tail number 64-13157 was a large helicopter known as a Chinook. For this flight, it was called "United 157" and part of 4 helicopters carrying troops from Bien Hoa to Vung Tau. Capt Tomlin lifted off and the sortie moved smoothly over the terrain. At 10:23AM, a radio call was received at the Long Thanh Army Traffic Control Center requesting clearance through the area. Within minutes, one of the other Chinooks saw a blinding light in from of him as United 157 exploded. It was described as an exploding lightbulb flash. The helicopter fell 2000 feet killing all 34 onboard immediately.

There are two postscripts to this fateful day. Many eyewitnesses felt that United 157 was shot down by enemy fire from the An Loc area. However, an official investigation later showed that it was due to a malfunctioning pin that held the rotor blade intact. The blade came off and it self-destructed. The other point was that less than one month later, all of the remaining 1st Cav soldiers were pulled out of Vietnam completely. For the other soldiers, their R&R turned to grief over the loss of these brave men.

William Frederic Henaghan's name is on the Vietnam Memorial Wall at Panel 1W, Line 18.

  • This page was last modified on 3 November 2013, at 18:05.
  • This page has been accessed 900 times.