Walter Francis WrobleskiChief Warrant Officer
281ST AHC, 10TH AVN BN, 17TH AVN GRP, 1 AVN BDE
Army of the United States
28 August 1945 - 15 February 1978
Freehold, New Jersey
Panel 20E Line 080
The database page for Walter Francis Wrobleski
Walter Francis Wrobleski was born on August 28, 1945. In December 1966, at the age of 21, he was assigned as a pilot with the 281st Assault Helicopter Company, at Nha Trang, Republic of South Vietnam. On May 21, 1967 he was shot down in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam, while flying as a pilot on UH-1C gunship 65-09480, assigned to the 281st Assault Helicopter Company. Walter was carried as MIA until February, 1978 when a Presumptive Finding of Death was approved by the Secretary of the Army. While in MIA status he was promoted to Chief Warrant Officer-3.
Walter's home of record is Freehold, New Jersey. The town of Freehold established a memorial of crosses near their downtown area for all of the Freehold persons who were killed or missing in action during the Vietnam conflict. Walter's religious preference was Protestant.
Walter was initially assigned to the 1st Flight Platoon, (Rat Pack) flying UH-lD Huey slick helicopters. Later, after gaining flight experience he was transferred to the gunship platoon (Wolf Pack). His 1st Platoon Commander, Jack Serig, recalls giving Walter his first local orientation ride. Walter was relentless in demanding that he be sent to the gunship platoon (Wolf Pack) right away, as he wanted to kill the communist enemy. Every time he flew with his Platoon Commander he insisted he should be transferred to Wolf Pack. He eventually accomplished his wish. He was assigned to Wolf Pack when he became MIA.
The crew members flying with Walter on the day of his loss were Donald Corkran, Aircraft Commander; Craig Szwed, Crew Chief, and Gary Hall, Gunner; all of whom were rescued after their aircraft crashed rolled and burned. Corkran and Hall were knocked back into the jungle as the hoist from their rescue helicopter carried them through the jungle canopy on their initial rescue attempt. The rescue of these three surviving crewmen took place over four days. (Suggest the reader check out the Personal Stories on the 281st AHC web site of Donald "Corky" Corkran and Craig Szwed which provides more harrowing details of the crash and their eventual rescues.)
Another 281st Huey door gunner, Private First Class Michael Patrick Gallagher, was also killed on the same day, 21 May, 1967, engaging the enemy during the time his ship was heavily involved in the rescue effort.
CWO-3 Walter Wrobleski is survived by his mother and brother, Harry. Contact with Harry several years ago revealed that Walter excelled in baseball and had the stuff to become a pro-player.
Walter is listed on Panel 20E, Line 80 at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.
On Memorial Day, 1994, an article written by his former Rat Pack Platoon Commander regarding Walter's loss was printed in the Miami Herald. That article is also carried on the 281st AHC web site under the Personal Stories of Jack Serig.
CWO3 Walter Francis Wrobleski has been adopted by Jack Serig of the 281st AHC Association and is preparing his "Book of Remembrance for the 281st AHC web site.
PFC Michael Gallagher, also of the 281st AHC, was killed in the same action (but not on the same helicopter).
Born and raised in Freehold in the same neighborhood as Walt, I still have his MIA bracelet in remembrance of him. It was given to me by my niece Colleen while visiting Freehold several years ago.
My son Alex, who is 12 years old, wears Walter Wrobleski's MIA bracelet as a memorial to his life, as well as to all others who are either POW/MIA, or lost their lives during the Vietnam war. Although Alex has no personal knowledge of Mr. Wrobleski, he understands the importance of this homage, as remembering one is also remembering all.
It brings me joy to see such a nice tribute made to my Uncle Walter on this web-page. I am Harry's daughter, Toni, and my cousin just showed me this page. I, like my father, live in Arizona now, but while visiting my mother back home in Freehold this summer, I visited the Viet Nam memorial in Homdel New Jersey, and found my uncle's name. I encourage people to go to that memorial, it is truly a remarkable site to see.
Notes from The Virtual WallWO Walter F. Wrobleski was the copilot of a UH-1C gunship on an extraction mission in the A Shau Valley on May 21, 1967. He sighted the patrol he was to extract and other gunships accompanying Wrobleski established an orbit overhead.
Wrobleski was making a strafing run when his aircraft was hit by heavy caliber machine gun fire and the helicopter's engine stopped. The aircraft immediately received more fire, causing it to go out of control and crash, rolling down a ravine. The escorts could not get close enough to see if there were survivors because due to intense enemy fire.
The UH-1C exploded and started to burn. An Air Force SAR helo unsuccessfully attempted to drop a paramedic team near the crash site. Later, a Marine CH-46 helicopter rescued one individual alive from the site. Subsequently, two other men from the incident were hoisted out under heavy enemy fire. Not realizing the two were on the lines, the aircraft attempted to evade enemy fire, dragging the hoist through the trees. The two men were knocked off the hoist.
On May 22, a Vietnamese Ranger company located one of the individuals and had him evacuated by helicopter. The next day the Rangers located the other individual who walked out with them. Two American advisors who were with the Ranger unit made a thorough search of the wreckage and the surrounding area trying to find evidence of human remains. They believed at that time that the Viet Cong had not visited the site because of items they found that the Viet Cong would normally have salvaged.
No sign of Wrobleski was found and he was listed Missing in Action. On 15 Feb 1978 the Secretary of the Army approved a Presumptive Finding of Death and Wrobleski's status was changed to KIA/BNR.
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 28 Nov 2001
Last updated 08/10/2009