LTC Jack Finch (US Army, Ret.)
The Search for CPT Ray Hall MACV Team 33...
CPT Ray Hall was an advisor with MACV Team 33 in Kontum during the period APR-JUN 1972. As other Memories Book pages have described, he was a passenger on CW2 Bruce E. Delau's UH-1H 69-95020 aka "BROKE-DICK 13 when it was shot down near "The Rockpile" on 02 June 1972.
Ray and I had been friends at the 23rd Division in Ban Me Thuot and later during the Kontum fighting. I can remember one day he showed me a fragment that had been stopped by his flak jacket and him making a comment like: "Jack, I'm going to make it, they had their chance to kill me (pointing at the fragment) and didn't." We both pondered that statement considering how many had been lost, and considered it a good omen. Shortly thereafter Ray, and the crew of Bruce's UH-1H had their date with destiny that cost the life of another friend, CPT Joe Eubanks http://www.thebattleofkontum.com/photos/eubanks.html and caused serious injuries to the surviving crew.
In the aftermath, we learned that Ray and the other survivors had been evacuated to the 67th Evac in Pleiku. During a series of letters to his wife Judy in Florida I learned that he had arrived at Brooke Army Hospital in Texas but that the prognosis was not good due to his serious injuries. Shortly thereafter my letters were not answered and I feared the worst. Fighting north of Kontum continued with raids to Tanh Canh and I was somewhat busy as the G-3 Air advisor coordinating air support, tac air and Arc Lights until I left in August for the US. Then it was the MI Advanced Course, I got married and posted to DC in time to be indirectly involved with the October 73 Arab - Israeli War.
Over the ensuing years I used an old ARVN document that had Ray's, mine and some other MACV Team 33 members SSN's on it, to try and trace what happened to Ray without success. When the Wall was dedicated, I was in DC and so I checked in that cold November rain for his name and was surprised not to find it there. As with so many survivors, I tended to move on with my life and career in the Army, but with a nagging uncertainty on Ray's fate or possible whereabouts. During this period I was an instructor on the Vietnam conflict at CGSC; and thus I supplied pictures and some written commentary to various books on Kontum in the Time-Life series volume "South Vietnam on Trial"and Dale Andrade's book "Trial by Fire." From those efforts I knew that a few other Team 33 members were alive but we weren't in contact. I finally retired in August 1991 after a wee bit more combat in Panama in 1989 and Desert Storm in 1991.
In 2002 we moved to southern Colorado and built a home near Rye and the Wet Mountains. That year and again in 2005 I had additional encounters that brought Ray's fate to mind, including a chapter I wrote in a book called "Warriors" edited by Loren W. Christensen, in which I described one of our last encounters (the flak jacket and the fragment) before the UH-1H shootdown. From that effort I was made aware by an Internet contact of Jack Heslin's Kontum web site; and from that made contact with COL Tom McKenna who in 1972 was the ARVN 44th Regiment Senior Advisor. Tom is busy writing a book on the Kontum fighting and provided support in the search for Ray Hall. From our efforts we discovered two additional MACV Team 33 survivors, Bill Bricker and Rich Gudat.
Our efforts to find Ray intensified but ran into the same difficulties and dead-ends as before, leading us to strongly suspect the SSN was wrong as Ray wasn't in the SSA death index etc. Tom McKenna's efforts led to his writing various retired military publications seeking contact with anyone who might have known or have information on Ray Hall. This approach eventually brought an additional key contact who knew Ray in Germany and who supplied a correct SSN. This came from Sam Griffith in FL, who went through OCS w/ Ray. He found Ray’s SSN on one of their army orders.
Shortly thereafter, on 14 September 2006, my friend Justin Kocker was able to use the Internet and find Ray and his wife Judy, alive and living in Colorado Springs, CO... Since then we have exchanged e-mails and I have spoken at length with both Judy and Ray on the telephone.
02 June 1972... 14 September 2006... Thirty four years... A long time to fear your friend is dead... Now we await the chance for a reunion here in Colorado, perhaps as early as this coming week. Ray and Judy are now retired after a long career in the VA and show Cairn Terriers as part of their retirement life...
Perhaps more on this interesting journey after that reunion. Who knows, maybe we'll find more MACV Team 33 survivors? Next we're looking for Edgar "Bear" Burch, in 1972 a Major and I think I may have his SSN. Oh "Bear" ... come out, come out, wherever you are!...:-)
LTC Jack Finch (US Army, Ret.)
MACV Team 33 G-3 Air Advisor Kontum, RVN 1972
LTC Jack Finch (US Army, Ret.) <JohnRFinch@aol.com>
USA - Thursday, October 12, 2006 at 08:19:02 (PDT)