THE NEW YORK DAILY
Sunday May 27, 2001
mission Vet aims to restore medical aircraft that saved lives”
by: DEBBIE TUMA
||As crew chief aboard a Sikorsky helicopter
during the Vietnam War, Alan Weiss saw his aircraft bring
medical help to wounded soldiers and help save many lives.
“We were known as the Flying Tigers, and we rescued injured
soldiers from the jungle, brought medical supplies and
brought troop insertions,” said Weiss, 53, a Cutchogue, L.I.,
resident who served from 1966 to 1970.
“When soldiers saw us coming, their eyes would fill with
tears, since we brought hope of life.”
Now Weiss and fellow members of the Marine Helicopter
Squadron 361 Veterans Association are trying to bring one of
the old helicopters back to life. They want to bring it
from a junkyard in Arizona and restore it on Long Island.
To be eligible for Suffolk County funding, Weiss said, he
must raise about $20,000 to buy the copter and transport it
to Long Island by Sept. 1.
|Raymond Fitzpatrick, of Huntington, a member of the Marine Corps
League, a national Marines organization, said his
group also plans to donate money once the helicopter is in place.
“I think this is a terrific idea, and we would all like to see
it happen,” Fitzpatrick said.
Although Weiss has about 200 volunteers ready to restore the
copter, he also needs a site where the restoration work can be
He figures it will take two to three years and about $350,000
to make the aircraft fully operational.
“I’ve been inquiring about space at all the Long Island
airports, but so far I haven’t found a place to restore this
plane,” said Weiss, who works as a parts manager at an East
Hampton car dealer.
He feels optimistic that veterans will want to have the
helicopter to serve as a war memorial and to reunite vets who
worked and flew together on these aircraft.
“This helicopter could serve as a traveling memorial,
dedicated to the memory of our squadron members and to honor all
veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our
country;” Weiss said.
He said his squadron members were asked by their country to
serve “in a very unpopular war, and we went in and served in
this war where 58,202 Americans were killed in Vietnam and
303,704 were wounded.
“The Flying Tigers provided medical services that saved many
lives,” said Weiss.
He said the UH-34D helicopter could be displayed at air shows
and schools around Long Island to help educate children and
adults about the role it played in Vietnam.
“We would also like to establish a scholarship in memory of
our members who lost their lives in Vietnam, and we’d like to
fly this helicopter to our association reunions every two
years,” Weiss said.
It was at his 1998 reunion with members of Squadron 361 in
Pensacola, Fla., that Weiss got the restoration idea.
“One of the USMC Helicopter Association members restored an
UH34D, and he flew it to the reunion,” said Weiss. “
The emotion we felt, seeing this helicopter flying, once
again, was overwhelming. I knew I had to do this for our
Weiss said he heard through his veterans association about a
helicopter sitting in a boneyard in Cochise, Ariz., that his
group could buy for about $15,000, and that it would cost $5,000
to transport it to Lang Island aboard a flatbed
“I’m appealing now to all veterans for tax-deductible
donations, and for volunteers to do fund-raising, clerical and
restoration work,” he said. “Right now, we must find a place to
keep this helicopter and restore it.”
Anyone interested can call (631)734-7754, or check the Marine
Helicopter Squadron 361 Veterans Association Web site at
SUFFOLK LIFE NEWSPAPER
Vietnam Veterans Working To Restore Helicopter Used In War
By: Erin Carpenter
sound of power tools and laughter is filtering out of the shed where a dozen
or so members of the Marine Helicopter Squadron 361 Veterans Association
Inc. are working tirelessly to reconstruct a helicopter that most of them
actually flew in during the Vietnam War.
PROJECT HEADQUARTERS-The entrance to the work area for the helicopter
restoration project, located on a sod farm in Jamesport.
It was hard not to be overwhelmed by the scene. I realized that I am
not only unfamiliar with the mechanics of a helicopter, but also
with the camaraderie that results between humans when they share
such an emotionally and physically taxing experience as war.
The veteran members of the "Flying Tigers," as they were dubbed
during the war, are working on a small sod farm in Jamesport. As
soon as this reporter arrived at the scene, it was obvious that they
had been working for some time to renovate a UH-34D Sikorsky
helicopter that was in use between 1963 and 1969.
The helicopter looks frightening in the shed. It is enormous, even
in its unfinished state. Al Weiss,
who has spearheaded the project,
mentioned that if one walked around the craft they could see patches
where bullet holes had been covered up. It had been shot at
"countless times," according
to the men. Sure enough, on the far side of the helicopter, several
patches were indeed visible, Vietnam.
Possibly the most amazing story I heard during my visit was that of
Retired United States Marine Corps Captain Ben Cascio, who was a
member of the Flying Tiger's sister squadron HMM-362, also known as
the "Ugly Angels," during Vietnam. Tyrrell told Cascio's tale, a
story I will never forget.
Apparently, Cascio is an excellent helicopter pilot and still flies
to this day. Tyrrell told me that during the Vietnam War, Cascio was
mid-flight when he was shot in the eye, causing his vision to
be temporarily lost. "Do you know what he did?" Tyrrell asked me. I
shook my head and he said, "Ben, with blood covering his eyes, broke
all of the glass that covered the helicopter's needles and used his
hands to feel the motion [of the needles]. He landed the plane
I looked over at Cascio, who still bears the scars of his injury, in
awe. He sort of shrugged as if to say, "I did what I had to do."
Later in the day, Cascio took me aside and pulled some photographs
from the trunk of his car. On August 26, 2001, Cascio had been
flying the helicopter from which parts were being used to
reconstruct the UH-34D helicopter over New York City. As he flew
past the Twin Towers, he
snapped a picture. What developed was an incredibly close photograph
of the towers, with the wing of the helicopter in the foreground,
the word "Marines" capturing the viewer's eye.
Cascio gave me a copy of the photograph, signed personally by the
first war hero I have ever had
the honor of shaking hands with. All of these men, explained Weiss,
have full-time jobs from which they had to take vacation time in
order to be available to work on the project from May 15 to 22. No
matter how much time these men put into the project, it cannot make
up for the money needed to complete their reconstruction efforts.
Donations are needed. This point was stressed by Weiss, who
relying on the compassion and generosity of community members to
reach the project's ultimate goal.
The goal, according to Weiss, is to bring the UH-34D helicopter back
to its original state. He needs to find a home for the craft as
well, something that has not happened as of yet.
"Ultimately, we want this [helicopter] to be used as an educational
tool," he said. He also explained that the helicopter is a vital
piece of American history, having been involved in such operations
as picking up astronauts from the ocean after they returned from
space, as well as being involved in Medevac operations and resupply
missions during the Vietnam War.
He hopes that the craft will be used in air shows and be the subject
of public viewing on national holidays.
All donations will be accepted and are tax deductible. To donate,
visit the project's website at WWW.freedomsflyingmemorial.org
. Here you will
not only be able to view photographs detailing the project's
progress, but also download a printable donation form. Donations can
be sent to the Marine Helicopter Squadron 361 Veterans Association
Inc. at P.O. Box 429, Cutchogue, NY 11935.
Possibly the most important aspect of this story is the
aforementioned issue of finding a home for the helicopter when it is
complete. Weiss is calling out to anyone and everyone who may have
an idea of where this important artifact can be housed. He mentioned
that he's looked into the possibility of Gabreski Airport, which
would seem like a viable option, but was told by Suffolk County
all available hangar space was occupied well into the
If you or someone you know has an option for the restored UH-34D
helicopter, contact Weiss at 734-7754.
As my visit ended with hugs and more tears, the men expressed their
sentiments about the
anticipated completion of the project. "The day
that it takes off for the first time, looking [just as it did] all
those years ago, I'll tell you what," Tyrrell said as he leaned
back, regarding the craft, "you're going to see grown men cry."
PRESERVING HISTORY-Pictured left to right
are Paul Jaccard, Barry Diamond, Al Weiss, Dale Houghton, Keith Cameron, A.C.
Larry Isham, Frank Flagg, Russ Tyrrell, Walt Cohoon and Ben Cascio. Ron
Hatton and Scott Estabrook also participated in the restoration.
The East Hampton
May 23, 2001
“A Dream To Restore
by: DEBBIE TUMA
|| Vietnam veteran Alan Weiss, of Cutchogue,
has a dream. After spending several years serving in the
Marines’ “Flying Tigers,” a legendary group of airmen, he is
now trying to restore a UH 34D helicopter and bring it to
The idea came to him during a 1998 reunion of his Marine
Helicopter squadron 361, which meets every two years, and
met then in Pensacola, Florida. One of the members flew to
the reunion in a Sikorsky UH 34D helicopter that he had
spent the time and money to restore. The sight of this
helicopter brought tears to the eyes of all the Marines,
since it brought back meaningful memories.
Bill “Big Ed” Edwards, crew
chief with HMM 361 in the Vietnam War (1966-67), Is
preparing his UH34D helicopter for another mission.
"These helicopters played an important role in Vietnam,”
explained Weiss, who flew as a crew chief during his Vietnam tour of
duty from 1969 to 1970. “They were used to bring wounded troops out of
the jungles and transport them to area hospitals. They also
brought medical supplies to the troops, and they brought troop
insertions into the jungles. They had multiple uses during the war, and
a lot of veterans remember these helicopters coming to their
Soon after, Weiss — who works as parts manager at Plitt Ford in
Wainscott — heard from another fellow vet about a UH 34D helicopter
sitting in a junkyard in Cochise, Arizona. The purchase price
would be about $15,000 to $20,000, and the cost of getting the plane
intact to Long Island, aboard a flatbed truck, would. be around $5000,
according to Weiss.
He figures the cost to restore the helicopter to flying
capacity, using a crew of volunteers, would be between $300,000 to
$350,000, which he is now trying to raise. “I would like this plane to
be a memorial, and to use it for education purposes, of the public
and schoolchildren,” Weiss said. “It could be on display at area
schools, air shows, and at veteran-related functions throughout the
year. We would also like to establish a scholarship in memory of
our members who lost their lives in the military conflict of Vietnam.”
Weiss has gotten the support of about 100 volunteers, and he is
looking to organize the Marine Helicopter Squadron 361 Veterans
Association to undertake the restoration project.
He so far has a $5000 initial grant from the Long Island Area
Marine Corps League, and he is anticipating a grant from Suffolk County.
Weiss said with luck, the helicopter could be here within three months.
But he first needs to find a place to restore the aircraft, which could
take two to three years. -
He also needs donations of equipment _ and money to complete the
restoration -~ project.
“When our country asked our members of 361 to go to Vietnam and
served in a very unpopular war, we went,” said Weiss. “The Flying Tigers
provided medical evacuations with these helicopters, and without them,
unknown numbers of American soldiers would have lost their lives,”
reminding that there were 58,202 Americans killed and 303,704 wounded
during the war.
“Now, some 33 years later, we, the members of the Flying Tigers,
are asking for the support of American businesses and our fellow
countrymen, to help in this restoration effort, for the education
of our children and to reunite the men who worked on and flew the UH-34D
helicopters,” Weiss said.
He said that so far, he has tried unsuccessfully to use
various Long Island airports to restore the plane, including East
Hampton, Gabreski at Westhampton Beach, Islip-MacArthur, and others.
Anyone interested in donating support, equipment, funds, sponsorships,
or restoration work to this effort can call Weiss at 631-734-7754 or
check the web sites of the Marine Helicopter squadron 361 Veterans
Association Inc. at www.northfork.net/ vietnam or WWW.freedomsflyingmemorial.org
Squadron's former members to make junked UH-34D Sikorsky a
by: Gordon Lubold
||A bit of rusted glory sits in the Arizona
desert, a phoenix ready to rise again. A helicopter used by Marine Helicopter Squadron 361 may
see air time once more, as former members of the unit
prepare to restore it to the way they remember it at the
beginning of the Vietnam War.
The group plans to buy the now junked UH-34D Sikorsky
helo from a salvage yard
in Cochise, Ariz., and spend as much as
$350,000 over three years
to bring it back to life.
The Transmission overhaul is estimated to cost $80,000,
said Alan Weiss, who served in Southeast Asia with the
so-called Flying Tigers.
But Weiss, a former mechanic in the squadron, said it's
worth it. "I think it will all come together - it will
just take a lot of effort," said Weiss, a parts manager at a Long
Island, N.Y. Ford Dealership.
This UH-34D Sikorsky
helicopter was used by Marine Helicopter Squadron 361,
during the early years of the Vietnam War, but now sits in a
salvage yard in Arizona. Members of the association plan to
purchase the bird and restore it to fly again. The project
is estimated to cost $350,000 and take three years.
CLICK HERE TO BECOME A MEMBER
FREEDOM'S FLYING MEMORIAL
P.O. Box 429
Cutchogue, NY 11935
Contact Alan Weiss 631-827-5526
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