Connect With VVA VVA on Facebook Faces of Agent Orange on Twitter VVA on YouTube
Find A Service Officer
vietnam veterans of america
vva logo

January / February 2008

red star bulletThe Veteran Departments : Featured Stories / President's Message / Government Affairs / Membership Notes / Ask The Parliamentarian / Veterans Incarcerated / Taps / AVVA Report / AVVA Election / AVVA Scholarship / Project Friendship / ETABO Report / Public Affairs Report / VVAF / Veterans Against Drugs / National Secretary's Report / Women Veterans / Letters / Arts of War / Book Review / The Locator / Reunions

2010: Jan/Feb
2009: Jan/Feb | mar/apr
| may/june | july/Aug | sept/oct | Nov/DeC
2008: Jan/Feb | mar/apr | may/june | july/Aug | sept/oct | Nov/DeC
2007: Jan/Feb | MAR/APR | MAY/JUNE | july/aug | SEPT/OCT | Nov/DeC
2006: July/Aug | SEPT/OCT | nov/dec

By Bruce McWilliams
On a quiet January afternoon in Lancashire, England, American Vietnam veterans Mark Jackson, Fred Alvis, and Ron Paye were surprised to hear a familiar whoomp-whoomp coming over the trees. They looked up and saw a Huey UH-1H coming in for a landing. The Huey, like Fred and Ron, was a veteran of the 129th Helicopter Assault Company in Vietnam. This was the first time the three veterans had seen a Huey in 30 years.

Phil Connolly, the man responsible for the restoration of the Huey, said “the veterans were invited to come to Lancashire to see the restored Huey 72-21509, which they thought they would see at the airfield, but we decided to surprise them. So we sent them off to see an historic house at nearby Lytham, and while they were being interviewed by BBC television there, we flew the Huey over the trees and landed it right in front of them on the lawn.” The BBC shot the whole scene and the story ran on both national and international programs on February 7, 2007.

Mark Jackson tells about the reunion on the 129th website: “Fred and Ron’s heads snap towards the direction of the sound just like yours would, too, and then I look. Over the tree line the ‘509’ appears in the distance and is making a direct final to the front yard of the Lytham Hall. Emotions are running reckless at this time and the interviewer became silent. All eyes, through mist in them, were glued on the ‘509’ and all ears were tuned to the beautiful song she was singing to us.

“Gang, I cry as I write this just replaying it in my mind of that sight and sound and feelings and, well, just everything that was churning at that moment. The Lytham Hall, the BBC, the crew, the ladies, just about everyone around had kept this secret from us that this is the way we would be introduced to the ‘509.’ Gang, what a beautiful bird she is. Even Phil Connolly had tears in his eyes.”

Connolly, a Lancashire businessman whose firm makes commercial diving equipment, is also an aviation enthusiast who has collected and flown helicopters for decades. He wanted to find a Huey to replace an old RAF helicopter he had been using. He said that “with the general public becoming more aware of the Vietnam War, and because there were no Hueys in the U.K., except one taken from the Argentinians in the Falkland War, I decided to try to find one in the U.S.”

His search took him first to the Mojave Desert, but the owner didn’t want to get involved in the problems of exporting military equipment. He then found out through Bell Helicopters that there were some Hueys at the Museum of Flight in Olympia, Washington. Connolly went to Olympia and met Brian Reynolds, who owns the museum and who had been restoring Hueys there, one of which had flown in Vietnam. It was the “509.”

Connolly talked to Reynolds about his idea and got an enthusiastic reception, the result of which was an agreement to restore the helicopter and get it ready and cleared for export to England. It was a long and complicated process that began in November 2003 to find the necessary parts and get the restoration completed, the paperwork cleared for the export of the helicopter, dissemble it, crate it, and have it flown to London for reassembly and the flight to Lancashire in July 2005.

Connolly traced the Huey’s history and found that it had served in Vietnam in 1972; it still bears the bullet holes from its action there. He also tracked down the names of the 35 members of the 129th who had died in Vietnam, among whom was Mark Jackson’s brother, Lawrence Jackson. Their names are now displayed on the side of the helicopter. All the original markings have been put back in place and the unit emblem is proudly displayed on the nose.

Ron Paye, who had been a Huey pilot, said he “was touched that someone from the U.K. saw the importance of restoring this helicopter. Now we can go back home and tell them, ‘Look what Phil did in the U.K.’ ”
In its new incarnation, the Huey has a new role: helping raise money for charities at air shows around the United Kingdom.

To learn more about the restored Huey, go to

clothing donations button

Altarum Banner Ad




vva logo small©2006 - 2013, Vietnam Veterans of America. All Rights Reserved. 8719 Colesville Road, Suite 100, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Report Website Errors Here | Advertise