Aubrey De Layne Dismukes was born in Temple, Texas in 1947. During his childhood, the family moved to Mountain View, California (near San Francisco, in the bay area) where Aubrey graduated from Mountain View High School with the Class of 1965. The next year, he had taken his physical for the draft, but then enlisted for the Aircraft Maintenance specialty, and entered active duty in the Army on November 14, 1966.
He completed Basic Training at Fort Lewis, Washington followed by Advanced Individual Training in the U.S. Army Aviation Center and School at Fort Rucker, Alabama, then proceeded to Fort Sill, Oklahoma upon being accepted for Officer Candidate School. He graduated from the 23-week O.C.S. course after one year of active duty. He was 20 years-old when commissioned Second Lieutenant, Field Artillery, on November 21, 1967, and then entered training to become an Army Aviator.
2Lt. Dismukes completed the primary rotary wing aircraft pilots training course at Fort Wolters, Texas. He then returned to Fort Rucker for another 16 weeks of intensive training in the advanced course for helicopter pilots. While in training there, Aubrey was promoted to First Lieutenant and, upon graduation in March 1969, received his Army Aviator Badge. At this point he made a choice he later came to regret, he says, I accepted training in the Aircraft Maintenance Officer Course at Fort Eustis, Virginia and graduated from that 13 week course in July 1969. By the end of that month I was in Vietnam and beginning the first of my two tours. I arrived in-country wanting to fly helicopters, but that maintenance officer MOS gave me a qualification most pilots did not have. As a result, both of my two tours in Vietnam would begin with me being initially assigned as the units aircraft maintenance officer and in both cases it took me some time to talk my way out of that and get into a flying assignment.
For his actions during two tours in Vietnam, Aubrey Dismukes received three awards of the Silver Star, two awards of the Bronze Star with V-device, and the Army Commendation Medal with V-device (together with 34 awards of the Air Medal). Although not unheard of, that was an unusually high number of awards for valor, even from among combat veteran aviators with much service in Vietnam.
His first assignment in Vietnam, beginning July 28, 1969, was in B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 20th Aerial Rocket Artillery (ARA), 1st Cavalry Division. Six months earlier, the division had moved into the III Corps Tactical Zone with headquarters established in a base camp at Phuoc Vinh. The 2-20 ARA, also based at Phuoc Vinh, had been re-equipped with newly fielded AH-1G Cobra attack helicopters only months before Aubreys arrival. The battalion proudly appropriated the name, Blue Max, (from the WWI flying aces award), and were known throughout the command by that call sign. As soon as he managed to get out of his Maintenance Officer duties 1LT Dismukes was sent to Vung Tau for 3 weeks of transition training and then returned back to Phuoc Vinh qualified as a Cobra pilot. In November 1969, he was promoted to Captain.
Meanwhile, during the months after Aubreys arrival, enemy attacks against firebases in the divisions area had increased in strength and in frequency, up until May 1, 1970. On that date the 1st Cavalry Division together with ARVN forces launched an operation that struck back in force, crossing into Cambodia against an enemy not expecting to have to fight there. In the days following, the Cambodian Incursion of 1970 as it came to be called, was recorded as being one of the most successful operations in the 1st Cavalry Divisions history; and it was during that period that Aubrey was in two memorable engagements (May 13th and June 12th) for which he provided detailed accounts for this article.
Excerpts of Aubreys narrative for May 13, 1970 include, Two Cobra Gunships were positioned (far forward) at Fire Support Base Buttons to be closer to the ground units to reduce response time for aerial fire support in Cambodia At 0200 hrs, my Section (the two Cobras) received urgent mission my wing ships Aircraft Commander was WO1 Wade Straw We were airborne in about two minutes proceeded to Fire Support Base Brown, inside Cambodia .being overrun by a large NVA force Weather minimal ceiling below 800 and too bad for any other helicopters to come from the main base at Phuoc Vinh The 5th Bn, 12th Infantry, 199th Light Infantry Brigade had been inserted into FSB Brown, but not all of their equipment and artillery had arrived by nightfall the FSB was under full attack sappers inside the concertina meters away from the berm ground contact requested our rockets 10 meters from his location he was on opposite side of the berm and the enemy was trying to breach his position at that moment we fired as requested, temporarily halting the enemy pulled out of rocket runs just above the tree tops (because of the low ceiling) flying with lights out (in the darkness) not to be an easy target for NVA on the ground .received .51 Caliber heavy machine gun fire tracers coming up at night looked the size of basketballs tracer passed on the left side of the aircraft and another one missed on the right heavy small arms fire throughout the night, diminishing until daybreak rearmed and refueled ourselves (at FSB Buttons) . five or six times never shutting off the aircraft extremely adverse weather light rain, low ceiling expended 800 rockets, 30,000 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition, and 3,000 rounds of 40mm grenades Ground Commander requested we land at FSB Brown after daylight just to thank us and shake our hand . I flew 17 hours and turned 23 years-old that day
For the complete narrative go to this link (FSB Brown).
For the mission on June 12, 1970, this is part of what CPT Dismukes relates, Two AH-1G Cobra Gunships were assigned an urgent mission from Phuoc Vinh .ARVN unit in heavy contact with NVA force East of Tay Ninh I was Platoon Leader and Mission Commander, my Copilot/Gunner was WO1 Charlie Gossett, and my wing ships Aircraft Commander was WO1 Wade Straw upon arrival on location and establishing friendlies position (by color of smoke) .Special Forces Advisor to the ARVN Unit reported they were being overrun and told (me) to fire rockets on their smoke every time we made a pass enemy fire let up temporarily giving the ARVN Unit time to (pull back a short distance) Advisor said enemy directed his .51 Caliber heavy machine gun fire at me when I came over, giving ARVN opportunity to pull back further (after) successive passes he could finally break contact . I was out of ordnance and my wing man only had a few rockets left but I was making dry run passes with him (not only to draw fire away from him, but) because a characteristic of the Cobra is when you pull out of a steep dive the blades make loud popping sounds like machine gun fire I could hear the .51 Caliber firing as I was pulling out of a dive I felt a lateral vibration but decided to continue . on the next pass the vibration mysteriously disappeared . (all ordnance expended) we had to rearm and refuel at Quan Loi (with no other) aircraft available we would be returning refueled and rearmed with engines running and rotor blades turning returned as soon as we could ARVN Unit in heavy contact again we came under heavy ground fire again this time we knocked out the .51 Caliber heavy machine guns enemy retreated with high casualties Ground Unit completely broke contact until it could be reinforced returned to Quan Loi inspected aircraft for damage I had received a .51 Caliber hit in from the tip, and behind the main spar of a rotor blade and picked up the vibration on the next pass the second blade (opposite) was hit in a similar location and that had balanced the weight and drag on the blades eliminating the vibration received my third award of the Silver Star for this action. I was also invited by the Special Forces Group Commander in Saigon to meet him and his men in Saigon very unusual for an Attack Helicopter pilot to meet ground combat troops he has supported and it made the bond between this pilot and our soldiers even stronger.
For the complete narrative on this action, go to this link (near Quan Loi RVN)
His tour was due to be completed the month after that mission and there was a shortage of pilots at that time. So, Aubrey volunteered to extend for another month. As a result he rotated back home in late August 1970 where he was again stationed at Fort Wolters, this time as an instructor for Helicopter Pilot Primary Flight Training. During that assignment, Captain Dismukes was spent eight weeks in training at Fort Stewart, Georgia, and six weeks at Fort Rucker, Alabama where he was qualified as a Fixed Wing Pilot. In October 1971 he was back in Vietnam for his second tour.
CPT Dismukes was assigned to F Troop, 4th Cavalry, a separate air cavalry troop destined, in February 1973, to be one of the last U.S. Army units to leave Vietnam. Again, his first few months back in-country were spent as the units Aircraft Maintenance Officer. Next, he was in Vung Tau for two-weeks OH-6 Pilots Conversion Training.
F Troop was equipped with the OH-6A Cayuse (LOH), light observation helicopter commonly referred to as a Loach or Little Bird, with a crew of pilot and door gunner on the right side of the aircraft and an observer in the left front seat. It really was a little bird and it flew with all the doors taken off. Each Loach was teamed with a Cobra Attack Helicopter.
Aubrey was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds sustained on March 26, 1972 while flying a mission as a Scout Pilot. Excerpts from his account of the days action, Long Binh, a major support base was considered a secured area on a last flight just before sunset we were to do an aerial reconnaissance flight around the Green Line (defensive perimeter around the base) . nothing was found but as we were about to land, orders came over the radio to fly about five kilometers southeast along the river scouring the area we discovered five sampans with a cargo of 122mm Katyusha rockets decided to destroy the rockets positioned aircraft at a hover 15 feet above the sampans, blew away the bamboo and elephant grass concealing the rockets door gunner, SP5 Youngblood, destroyed the rockets with M-60 machine gun fire and sank the boats with his M-79 Grenade Launcher then, making another pass around the immediate area to search for enemy that had manned the sampans heard heavy AK-47 and M-60 machine gun fire called to the Cobra overhead taking fire as door gunner engaged two enemy at close range took several AK-47 hits, turned Loach to the right, engaged two more enemy that had come up from behind the aircraft .nosed aircraft over to get out of hot area and saw one more VC below us less than 30 feet away Youngblood killed him dove aircraft over a low tree line to avoid further damage once clear, I felt a burning sensation, and blood running down my right leg, I had been hit headed back to Long Binh, five minute flight, treetop level at high speed aircraft had received 32 hits by AK-47 fire, seven had hit my armored seat controls and airframe had major damage everyone amazed aircraft flew back to base I was flown to Long Binh Hospital in one of our UH-1H Hueys for treatment of my flesh wound was flying three days later in the area of operations.
For a complete narrative of this action, go to this link (Long Binh).
CPT Dismukes flew his Loach for the relocation to Hue-Phu Bai on Easter Sunday, still sore and recovering from his wound. The action later known as the Eastertide Offensive of 1972 had begun, NVA tanks had overrun Hue, and F Troop was sent to reinforce there. Aubrey says, When the tanks first came down, they were not supported with Infantry and one of the F Troop Loach pilots, Ron Radcliffe, destroyed several of them by hovering just above the tank, firing the machine gun into an open hatch and dropping a hand grenade into the turret. I was gone by that time.”
Later in April, Aubrey had rotated back to the U.S. He was assigned at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to the 333rd Aerial Rocket Artillery and that would be his last move in the Army. He was discharged in August 1973.
In civilian life, Aubrey soon resumed flying. He says, I originally went to the Middle East to fly for a British helicopter company supporting the offshore oil industry in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. (United Arab Emirates) for six months. Then for another six years, I was an Executive Pilot for the Ruling Family in Dubai, U.A.E., and during that time developed friendships with three sons of the Ruler of Dubai (Vice President of the U.A.E.) and many of his nephews.
Being about the same age (plus or minus two years) as with three of the Rulers sons, the U.A.E. Minister of Finance, Minister of Defense and Commanding General of the Dubai Military, we shared similar interests, enjoying hunting, fishing, falconry and horse racing.
Because the extra activities were taking me away from the flying and leaving the other pilots flying short-handed, to be fair to them I resigned my flying position. For the next seven years I owned businesses in the sports and entertainment industry. During that time I promoted and organized the Dubai Golden Tennis Tournament in November 1980; it was the worlds richest tennis tournament at that time. I later sold that business and then started an Oilfield Services Company and a Steel Fabrication Company.
I left Dubai in 1986 to begin a new career in the thoroughbred horse racing industry with the blessing of the Shaikh (Sheik in common English usage) I was closest to at that time. I was trained as a farrier and equine dental technician. I also worked as a groom on a stud farm and racing stable and then as an assistant horse trainer to learn as much as I could about the horse racing industry. My last work in horse racing was as Vice President and General Manager of a six hundred (600) stall thoroughbred training center in Lexington, Kentucky.
After that, Aubrey moved to the Houston area where he worked for Goodyear for eleven years and while living there in Webster he joined the Military Order of the Purple Heart. His last civilian flying job was piloting a search helicopter collecting crash fragments after the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. His observer skills developed as a Scout Pilot in Vietnam stood him in good stead. The 52 identified fragments he collected were the most found by a single individual. He stopped flying then, after having developed Agent Orange related health issues. In recent years he has been living in retirement in the Chapter 1919 local area and this month, PATRIOT BULLETIN, proudly salutes Patriot Aubrey Dismukes.