Warrant Officer Gaylord Westbay had just turned 29 years old when he landed in
Vietnam in August, 1967. Considered to be an "old man" by other soldiers over there, he had trained to be a
helicopter pilot and got along with everyone. Westbay had been in Vietnam for 3 weeks when this incident took place.
Attached to the 4th Infantry Division, WO Westbay was assigned as the 2nd Brigade pilot. As battles ensued,
he would fly over the area with senior officers to command and control the infantry troops, air strikes, and
direct artillery into point of contact. His 'bird' was an OH-23G helicopter.
On September 7, the Brigade had been informed of an enemy attack. WO Westbay was to get the Sergeant Major
of the Unit out to a remote base to lead some troops into action. Along with them that
day was a young Military Policeman (MP), SP4 Russell G Garrison.
They lifted off and started to proceed to Plei Mrong in the Pleiku Province in the central highlands.
Plei Mrong was a fairly large base camp that housed the elite Special Forces group of the Army. Located at
the tri-borders of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, these soldiers were responsible of crossing over the borders
to locate and kill enemy forces that swarming into South Vietnam. It was also the location of the tribal
Montagnards. These 'mountain people' trained to fight with the Special Force groups and were known to be
quiet, deadly, and extremely loyal to the US efforts.
While enroute to the base camp, the helicopter suddenly lost power and went down and crashed in a stream bed
about 9 miles west of Pleiku. (It was later determined that some of the gauges were faulty, and it ran out of gas!).
Westbay and the MP were pinned inside. SGM Jack Honeycutt, although wounded, managed to
get out and went to find help. He encountered 3 'Yard' villagers north of the craft and persuaded them to
return with him. As the small group neared the helicopter, they sighted several VC in the vicinity of the aircraft.
Several attempts to sneak around them proved unsuccessful. With darkness setting in, the SGM spent the night holed up
beneath the thick underbrush of a hillside.
After eluding several more enemy patrols, he finally made it back with the help of the Yards. Leading a rescue team back
to the crash-site, their worst expectations became true. Both of the men had been shot, and the helicopter had been
ransacked and pilfered. No one will ever know just what happened to these brave soldiers as they awaited help.
Permission to use unknown author's information granted September 23, 2012 by Martha A Crosley Graham,
State Coordinator, California GenWeb.
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The two men who were killed in this incident are:
SP4 Russell G Garrison, Elmer, New Jersey
WO Gaylord Lee Westbay, Hanford, California
-- The Virtual Wall