William Thomas Hale

First Lieutenant
HMM-265, MAG-36, 1ST MAW
United States Marine Corps
29 July 1944 - 11 October 1968
Big Spring, Texas
Panel 41W Line 045

1ST MAW CH-46 HMM-265
Naval Aviator

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign
William T Hale

The database page for William Thomas Hale

28 Aug 2004

William Thomas Hale was known to his friends from Big Spring as Bill Tom. One of my in-laws grew up with him and always has spoken of what a waste it was when Bill Tom was killed. He stated that Bill Tom was good in everything he did. He was a "top 10" student in academics and he was a good athlete. He didn't participate in many school sports because he wanted to concentrate on his academics. He was a honor graduate Class of 1962. He then graduated from Baylor University with honors in 1966. He joined the USMC from college, was commissioned a 2LT and then went to Rotary Wing Flight School. He arrived in Vietnam as a pilot for heavy helicopters.

On one of his few missions in Vietnam, he was the co-pilot of a UH-34D on a re-supply mission. The helicopter tail number 151917 was one of four UH-34D's on the mission. The UH-34D co-piloted by Lt. Hale landed and off loaded in a hostile LZ and then took on passengers and started out of the LZ. At a height of about 1200 feet the UH-34D collided with a CH-53 which came suddenly out of a cloud bank. Both aircraft exploded and crashed. Fourteen people perished in the incident. The incident was classified as hostile.

Bill Tom is remembered by the Big Spring, Texas, Vietnam Memorial and by the Permian Basin Vietnam Veteran' Memorial in Midland, Texas.

Notes from The Virtual Wall

Although there is confusion regarding some details of this incident, there is no doubt about what happened: there was a mid-air collision between a CH-46A and a UH-34D above Hill 52 southwest of Danang. Fourteen men aboard the two aircraft died as a result. The following synopsis is drawn from the Pop-A-Smoke site:

On 11 Oct 1968 four CH-46As from HMM-265 were engaged in resupplying Marines at Hill 52 north of the Song Vu Gia River in Quang Nam Province. The weather was good, described as "a clear, sunny day with a few scattered clouds high in the sky" although there were "some threatening heavy clouds off to the northeast towards DaNang". As CH-46A BuNo 151917 lifted off from the landing area at the base of Hill 52 it climbed into the flight path of a UH-34D, BuNo 148802, from HMM-362. From the ground the collision appeared to be limited to rotor strikes, but both aircraft shed their rotors, caught fire, and plunged vertically to the ground, impacting on a sand bar in the river. The UH-34D was entirely consumed by post-crash fire, while the CH-46 was demolished on impact but had only a limited fire. All aboard the two aircraft died:

  • CH-46A 151917, HMM-265, MAG-36:
    • 1stLt Jeffrey W. Rainaud, South Hadley Falls, MA, pilot
    • 1stLt William T. Hale, Big Spring, TX, copilot
    • Sgt Marvin Wesley, Guin, AL, crewman
    • Cpl Gary D. Kemski, North Hollywood, CA, crewman

  • UH-34D 148802, HMM-362, MAG-36
    • Capt Steven W. Martin, Wolfeboro, NH, pilot
    • 1stLt Peter E. Schryver, Fort Lauderdale, FL, copilot
    • LCpl Lantie L. Harris, Shrewsbury, NJ, crewman
    • LCpl Lawrence C. Kleinhans, Honeoye Falls, NY, crewman

  • Passengers, E Co, 2nd Bn, 5th Marines:
    • Cpl Benny J. Hicks, Pensacola, FL
    • Cpl J D. Walters, Dayton, OH
    • LCpl Willie C. Ferguson, Oklahoma City, OK
    • LCpl Thomas F. Hankins, Pittsburgh, PA
    • LCpl Brian T. Heaver, Peoria, IL
    • HN Ivan L. Heller, Geneseo, IL (H&S/2/5 with E/2/5)
As noted above, there is some confusion in detail, specifically about which aircraft was carrying the Marines from Echo 2/5. The USMC/Vietnam Helicopter Association (operators of the "Pop-A-Smoke" web site) places the six passengers aboard the CH-46A, while the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots' Association (VHPA) puts LCpl Ferguson and Hospitalman Heller aboard the UH-34D - and by inference, so too the other four men from Echo 2/5. One eye-witness description on the Pop-A-Smoke site very specifically states that the CH-46A took off without passengers - but another eye-witness states that it was the UH-34 which lifted off and climbed into the CH-46, an account which is clearly mistaken.

The HMM-265 and MAG-36 Command Chronologies are specific in saying that four men died aboard CH-46A 151917, while the HMM-362 and MAG-16 Chronologies say only that all aboard UH-34D 148802 died. These contemporary documents place the passengers aboard the UH-34.

In one sense it makes no difference; the passengers died in the crash. While the 1993 casualty database indicates that the bodies of all 14 men were recovered, another source indicates that the remains of LCpl Ferguson and Hospitalman Heller were not recovered and identified until early 1973 - a further indication they were aboard the UH-34D, which was reduced to a smoldering pile of ash by the post-crash fire.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
a PBVVM representative,
Billy M. Brown
4015 Melody Lane, Odessa, Texas 79762

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 28 Aug 2004
Last updated 05/14/2006