By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterDecember 14, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- It's a rare thing when a piece of Aviation history in can be tied directly to a veteran, but in one extraordinary coincidence, a Huey gunship that flew over the skies of Vietnam found its way back to Fort Rucker and the Aviator that piloted it.
A UH-1C Huey, serial number 15156, was dedicated to its former pilot, Terry Morris, Vietnam veteran, and added to the U.S. Army Aviation Museum's visible collection during a ceremony Dec. 6, but the story of how the dedication became possible is as rare as they come, according to Bob Mitchell, museum curator.
The aircraft sat in museum storage for years when Mitchell happened upon the Huey after going through the collection with the hopes of configuring some of the UH-1s into the various configurations of the gunships used during the Vietnam War.
"I started doing some research and found that this particular aircraft was in the 116th (Assault Helicopter Company), the 191st and the 240th," said the curator. "I thought, 'Oh, the 240th, that was (my friend), Terry's unit.' So, I sent an email off to Terry and asked if he'd ever flown 156, and in a few minutes he sent me a picture back of his log book from 1968 and there were several entries of 156 in it.
"I thought, 'Oh my gosh! I've got the aircraft that my friend, Terry, actually flew in Vietnam -- what are the odds of that?'" he said. "When you find something like this in your collection it's a pretty big deal because it's not often you have an artifact with a direct link to that veteran."
The story of the aircraft and Morris' time in it are equally impressive, Mitchell added, particularly one story, which occurred Aug. 18, 1968, when the 240th AHC was assigned an extraction mission to pick up a long-range reconnaissance patrol.
During that mission, Morris was flying 15156 providing gunship support for the recon team that was to be extracted from the location where they were pinned and taking heavy enemy fire.
"They had made contact, and four of the 240th slicks went into that (pickup zone) to pick up the recon team and of the four slicks that went in with 16 crew members, 11 were casualties -- eight wounded and three killed," said Morris.
As the team approached the PZ, they immediately began to take on heavy fire and the two gunships providing support, including Morris's aircraft, provided suppressive fire so that the recon team could board.
Although the mission was extremely hazardous, Morris said he knew he had to do what he could to help get those Soldiers out, so he did what he had to do, despite the consequences.
"Everyone that was involved in that operation got shot up pretty good," he said. "On my last run, my last mini-gun quit firing and I thought I was out of ammo, but when I got back to the hospital, a crew chief started inspecting and saw that my mini-gun was gone -- they'd shot it clean off the side of the aircraft.
"That was one of the more hazardous missions that old 156 participated in … but this old girl took a licking and kept on ticking, and brought us home every night," said the Vietnam veteran. "She was a magnificent aircraft."
Throughout the war, Morris said he flew 15156 from August through October of 1968, and in that time he expended 132 2.75-inch rockets and over 24,000 rounds of mini-gun ammunition.
After finding out the history of the aircraft, Mitchell said he made it a priority to get the Huey restored and dedicated to his long-time friend.
"This was a pretty big deal," said the curator, adding that it's a wonder that any aircraft flown in the Vietnam War were able to make it back to the U.S., let alone to have one that a veteran of Fort Rucker flew during the war.