Reflections Of A Huey Crew Chief In The 173rd Airborne Brigade

Walter Tanaka


Walter Tanaka was born in April 1946 and grew up in Sacramento, California, with his younger brother, Kenny. His father was an auto mechanic and farmer, and his mother worked for the state. He barely made it through high school, preferring to focus on girls and guns. His father took him to sign up for the draft, and he was selected in 1965. He completed Basic Training at Ft. Ord, California, and Advanced Training at Ft. Rucker, Alabama, where he specialized on the UH-1 “Huey.” He deployed to Vietnam in March 1967, and recalls a stewardess crying as they landed in Bien Hoa. It was hot when he landed in Vietnam, and a few of the Soldiers passed out because of the heat. He describes a typical day in Vietnam, where he was responsible for checking the helicopter, looking for loose bolts, and verifying fluid levels before operations. On missions, he was responsible for the left side. He enjoyed flying with the general because it was “less risky.” He describes the amount of punishment a Huey could take, remembering crashing into bamboo on a particular mission. His most vivid memory is the good teamwork among the crew, and his least favorite mission was “bringing dead guys back,” once on Christmas Eve. After leaving the Army in 1968, he became an auto mechanic before taking a job at U.C. Davis. He experiences Post Traumatic Stress but is getting treatment through a private provider. Reflecting on the Vietnam War, he is critical of the upper management in their conduct of the conflict. He attends reunions to “remind myself how grateful I am.” He feels that his service was “a waste of my time; it accomplished nothing,” and in the long run, it is costing the government money.


conflicts Vietnam War
topics Teamwork Camaraderie War in the Air PTSD Returning from War
interviewer David Siry
date 30 March 2022


name Walter Tanaka
service Aviation
unit Casper Platoon, 173rd Airborne Brigade
specialty Huey Helicopter Crew Chief
service dates 1965 1968