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Francis C. “Frank” Soares III, interviewed by Kellie Pelletier on June 22, 1999, in Augusta, Maine. Soares speaks about his early life; joining the U.S. Army in 1965; attending boot camp at Fort Dix; applying for Officer Candidate School and being accepted while in infantry training; wanting to go into Special Forces and ending up in helicopter training before having his orders changed to report back to Fort Knox, Kentucky to form the new 7th Squadron of the 1st Cavalry Regiment; becoming a cavalry scout using LOHs, light observation helicopters (OH6A); deploying to Vietnam as a squadron; the experience flying the squadron’s equipment across the U.S. and hitting bad weather in the Rocky Mountains. Soares recalls the day he discovered that the troop transport ship USNS Upshur he sailed on to Vietnam became TS State of Maine, the training ship of Maine Maritime Academy; and talks about his experience shipping out from Long Beach, California; offloading into landing craft that went ashore on a public beach at Vung Tau. He discusses the mystique of serving in a cavalry unit and the fact the unit’s first fatalities were two cooks who over pumped the gas stoves causing an explosion that resulted in fatal burns. Soares describes the work he did as a scout; the Widow’s Village at Long Linh; his memories of Duc Hoa; the first time (of six) he was shot down with an observer onboard and many personal combat anecdotes; becoming an attack pilot, and eventually becoming a platoon leader. He speaks about the qualities and flying abilities of different helicopters in combat; the Tet Offensive and being assigned as the Robin Hoods; knowing men who flew helicopters during the evacuation of the American embassy in Saigon; flying in the battle to retake Cholon, the Chinese sector of Saigon; protecting freighters coming up river from the South China Sea and Navy river boats; the difference between Army living conditions and Navy living conditions; how the song Walk Away, Renée by The Left Banke triggers flashbacks to being at a Navy base. Soares recalls a door gunner having a psychotic break and attempting to clear a jammed gun to kill the flight crew; his job as an attack pilot to draw fire without being shot down; discovering 400-500 North Vietnamese massing on the Cambodian side of the national boarder for an assault and calling in the coordinates to have artillery dropped; flying missions right up to the minute it was time for him to head to Bien Hoa to depart; and life after the war. Soares explains that “one of the most important jobs a soldier has to do…it’s their job to bring the boys home again and…back into society.” Text: 40 pp. transcript. Time: 01:50:51.
Military History | Oral History | United States History
July 29, 1946
Nation of origin
Bureau Director, Maine Veteran Services
Branch of service
7th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment; 173rd Assault Helicopter Company
Dates of service
November 29, 1965-October 1, 1993, December 1967-January 1969; February-April 1971, Vietnam
Date of entry
November 29, 1965
Location of Service
Da Nang, Vietnam
Wars & Conflicts
Battles & Engagements
Tet Offensive, 1967; Battle of ChoLon; Battle of Lộc Ninh
Jerry Rubin; John Wayne; Commander Lee; Martin Luther King, Jr.; John F. Kennedy; Robert Kennedy; Angus King
Hawaii; Southwest Harbor; Boston; Fort Dix, New Jersey; Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Fort Knox, Kentucky; Fort Walters, Texas; Fort Rucker, Alabama; Corpus Christi, Texas; Mt. Pleasant, Texas; Guadalupe Pass, Colorado; Gila Bend, New Mexico; Douglas-Bisbee, Arizona; Stockton Springs, California; Long Beach, California; Da Nang, Vietnam; Vũng Tàu, Vietnam; Saigon; Long Bình; The Widow’s Village; Huế; Đức Hòa; The Iron Triangle (Tam Giác Sắt); Dao Giang; Lai Khê; Khe Sanh; Nhà Bè; Lộc Ninh; Leavenworth, Kansas; Cambodia
Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Light Observation Helicopters (LOH); Hughes OH-6 Cayuse (OH6A); Bell AH-1 Cobra; USNS Card (Aircraft carrier); USNS Upshur (T-AP-198); TS State of Maine; USS Honolulu (CL-48); Military casualties
Maine Vietnam Veterans Oral History
Soares, Francis C. III, "Frank Soares III, interviewed by Kellie Pelletier, Part 2" (2024). MF087 Vietnam Veterans Oral History. 46.
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