Jerome Joseph Ringenberg

Second Lieutenant
United States Marine Corps
16 April 1942 - 27 January 1967
Littleton, CO
Panel 14E Line 086


Naval Aviator

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Jerome Joseph Ringenberg

Jerry was my hootchmate at Dong Ha. He was one of the finest of our young pilots. We flew several missions together since he was relatively new to the squadron. This fair-haired young man had been born in Lexington, Nebraska in 1942. We had a very aggressive cadre of young officers at the Dong Ha detachment of VMO-2, call sign Deadlock, 10 miles south of the DMZ, and were often involved in "impossible" missions.

Unfortunately, a **** sandwich had developed near/in Laos required our attendance. It just happened that that was the season of the rapidly moving fog banks that had shrouded the entire I Corps area near the sea. Once a UH-1E (huey) took off, it would be difficult to find a landing spot. The distance and the time on station during the mission took our fuel. The intent was to get back to Khe Sanh, but that was socked in, so we tried Dong Ha, which was 0/0. From there, I followed the river to Quang Tri at a slow hover, intending to set down on the soccer field which was within the US Army communications perimeter.

Jerry was the copilot of my number two aircraft all day and into that night. They crashed in fog while landing at Quang Tri - no instrument approach available at any location in the area - virtually no fuel aboard. We had attempted a landing at Dong Ha in the fog, aborted the landing and then had to follow the river (low level and slow speed) to Quang Tri. My aircraft landed OK, after which we immediately air-taxied to the far corner of the soccer field to provide extra room for the second huey.

It is assumed that Jerry had released his seat belt in order to see the ground straight down to guide his pilot at a slow hover to the landing zone. At this point, they both lost sight of the ground when a cloud bank blew through their area, engulfing them at 10 feet AGL. The hover/forward movement turned into unrecognized aft movement of the helicopter. Unable to see anything, they impacted the ground on a muddy rice-paddy dike, at which time Jerry showed no sign of life. This loss is directly attributable to the rapidly changing weather conditions at the time, and the low fuel state of both helicopters after their third attempt to find a secure place to land. Post accident investigation showed that Jerry did not have his shoulder straps fastened and was killed by impact with cyclic. The remainder of crew survived.

We were flying out of Khe Sanh because a **** sandwich developed in/near-Laos. Marines were surrounded and one H-34 was hit and three H-46's shot down (one H-46 crashed into a parked gun bird, ours, at Khe Sanh and burned, later).

At the time we had to do an instrument takeoff with no way back. Had to go to Dong Ha after flying the mission. During one of my gun runs, I lost one hydraulic system and aborted back to Dong Ha. I remember it well - wondering when I would lose the other system and crash in the mountains. Anyway, later in the night Jerry's flight of two hueys launched from Khe Sanh, flew a mission, and tried to land at Dong Ha. No joy. Fogged in, so they aborted to Quang Tri, tried to land, but lost it in the hover and crashed. All survived except Ringo. I don't know fuel state, but Quang Tri is about as far as you could go after what we did.

Submitted by Lew Larson, pilot, VMO-2

We were returning from Khe Sanh area to Dong Ha. Dong Ha was 0/0. We could not land and elected to try to reach Quang Tri Army compound. Our A/C (the lead one) effected a safe landing with barely more than fumes in the tank. The second A/C was very close behind in the fog. When we touched down, visual contact was lost with the second A/C.

The crew of our A/C immediately deplaned and ran out to recover the crew of the second A/C, stopping only long enough to be warned by the guard tower sentry that the RF/PF owned the night and we would be shot by him if we proceeded. We told him to do what he had to do and proceeded to recover the crew. Lt. Ringenberg was KIA because he failed to fasten his seat belt causing his head to impact the cyclic when the A/C clipped the rice paddy dike. We recovered the body and the three WIA were carried to the dispensary at Quang Tri. When daylight came, an H-34 brought us some JP in 55 gallon drums so we could resume our mission.

LCpl Everett Dupee, who worked in S-4, was the gunner in the second A/C. Don't recall the crew chief names in either A/C, although I am sure both crew chiefs as well as Dupee and myself were all from the same hooch. Ironically, Dupee had shoved me aside so he could be the gunner on the second A/C. I think about that a lot.

I don't know if anyone told us the second A/C had crashed. Just as we deplaned, we observed the running lights/rotating beacon disappear and proceeded to check out the situation on foot. I'm sure it wasn't the sentry. He's the one who was going to shoot us for leaving his perimeter.

I always remembered that they had hit a rice paddy dike. It took a month to get that slop off my boots.

Submitted by Cpl. James E. Shriver, Gunner on lead A/C

Taken in part from the
Pop-A-Smoke site


A memorial from his Section Leader on the mission,
Capt. Alan H. Barbour, USMCR 
10 Mar 2002

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)