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have consulted with our fellow Ravens for advice, we ultimately made the final decisions ourselves. This was fertile ground for a man of Chuck’s abilities and he wasted no time in building a reputation that spread through the FAC/fighter community like fire.


Chuck’s greatest challenge took place early in his tour -


Chuck Engle visually checking a wing gas tank on an O-1. Chuck Engle was an easy guy to like. He was strikingly


good looking, raised on a farm in eastern Indiana, the first of four children. He was dignified in his approach and sincere in his speech, never flippant or verbose. And, he was possibly the finest natural pilot I have ever known - but a man who was willing to take risks to get the job done. He attended public schools in Lynn, Indiana, along with 28 other youngsters who went through all 12 grades together. He was extremely active in sports, a member of the National Honor Society for all four years of high school, vice president of his class twice and drove a beautiful black 1957 Chevy Bel Air with red interior. His classmates describe him as very mature for his age, capable of deep feelings including a temper that he kept under tight control. He was a thinker and a dreamer who was deeply influenced by the book “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran. After graduation, he became a physical education major at Purdue University, where he was commissioned through Air Force ROTC. He graduated from UPT in May 1969 and completed his O-1 Bird Dog checkout at Holley Field, Florida, before reporting in as a Forward Air Controller for the 26th Regiment of the “ROKs” – the Republic of Korea Army. There he flew under the call sign “Tum” for eight months before volunteering for the classified “Raven” program (Project 404) in Laos. Chuck Engle (Raven 26) arrived in Laos during the month


of May, 1970, along with another new Raven and former Tum FAC, Bill Lutz (Raven 29). As instructed, both men ditched their uniforms in favor of civilian clothes and were eventually assigned to Long Tieng, the headquarters of the legendary Hmong leader, Maj Gen Vang Pao. There were about 7-8 pilots assigned there at any given time with only 2-3 Ravens at each of the other four locations. At that time, we at Long Tieng were experiencing most of the ground fighting that was going on in Laos, although the Ho Chi Minh Trail was a war of its own. We had lost 4 Ravens during the month of April, so new faces were most welcome. The Ravens flew the O-1 and the AT-28D interchangeably,


sometimes with a Hmong interpreter, call sign “Robin”, in the back seat. We were incredibly independent by Air Force standards and did whatever was required to rain terror on the enemy. Cleverness, tenacity, adaptability and solid judgment were of paramount importance to the Ravens and, while we may


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on June 20, 1970 – the day he earned the Air Force Cross. I saw him do it – from beginning to end. On that day, Chuck was flying back to Long Tieng from Vientiane when he heard King, the rescue C-130, say that an OV-10, Nail 42, had bailed out over the southern end of the Plains des Jarres (PDJ). I took off immediately from Long Tieng with a new Raven, Park Bunker (Raven 23), in my back seat and actually made radio contact with the downed pilot before my UHF radio receiver died. By this time, Ray DeArrigunaga (Raven 21) had spotted the parachute and vectored both Chuck and me towards the crash site. Chuck made radio contact with Nail 42 on guard channel and he and Ray took over the SAR while Park and I listened in on our hand held survival radios. Chuck dropped down under some low clouds to about 25 feet over the PDJ while Ray coordinated the arrival of 2 sets of A-1’s. Both Chuck and the Nail heard the sound of AK-47 fire as Chuck flew low around the area searching for the survivor. Chuck finally located the Nail hiding in a clump of bushes. Then he flew out over the PDJ to a clear area so that he could lead the fighters to the target area. The A-1s saturated the area with ordnance all the while taking heavy ground fire. The first set of fighters withdrew and the second set dropped under the clouds just as Chuck began taking much heavier ground fire from another clump of trees only 25 meters north of the Nail. He marked the target and circled back over the downed pilot and cleared the fighters in hot. When the second set of fighters silenced the machine gun,


Chuck cleared an Air America H-34 in to attempt a pick up. The helicopter took numerous hits from fresh enemy positions that suddenly opened up south and west of the survivor. The helicopter was badly damaged and forced to head for Long Tieng. A second Air America UH-1 helicopter attempted a pick up and got as far as a hover over the Nail. Yet another gun began firing and the helicopter took a serious hit in the fuel tank. Chuck spotted the


Chuck Engle shaking hands with Major General Vang Pao, the charismatic Hmong leader.


Fall 2012 │ AIR COMMANDO JOURNAL │ 31


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