P.O. Box 255
Andover, MA 01810
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In order to retain your membership your annual dues must be RECEIVED by ASC not later than 31 December, 2013 as otherwise your membership will then become automatically canceled.
In order to avoid postal delays typically experienced during the Christmas Holiday Season you are encouraged to not further delay making the necessary remittance.
An article in the May 28 Lawrence Eagle Tribune about one of our own:
Al Croteau of Andover was a captain in the Army Signal Corps during the Vietnam war.By Dustin Luca
ANDOVER — On May 13, 1967, Army Lt. Al Croteau was in a Vietnamese bar with other U.S. soldiers when he asked his friend, a helicopter pilot, if he could ride along the next day on a mission to a number of American-controlled bases.
Little did the longtime Andover man know he was about to embark on a journey that would help save the lives of 80 men.
Croteau is among five Vietnam veterans who some believe deserve greater recognition for their heroics, possibly even the Congressional Medal of Honor.
But Croteau? He has something else in mind.
Heroism under fire
Combat wasn’t Croteau’s area of expertise. He was mainly a communications detachment commander to the 118th Assault Helicopter Company — basically a guy who maintained radios, he said.
But on May 14, 1967, on his day off, he found himself serving as door gunner on a UH-1D “Huey” piloted by Jack Swickard on a mission to American bases so troops could be paid.
When they landed in Cau Song Be, a U.S. Special Forces major approached Swickard and asked him to fly a rescue mission to aid troops pinned down by about 100 advancing enemy units. Though his Huey wasn’t equipped for anything more than flying a paymaster around, Swickard agreed.
“Jack said to me, ‘Al, do you want to go?’ I said, ‘Jack, I’ve gotta go where you go,’” Croteau said.
Croteau and Swickard left the paymaster behind and joined up with another crew already in the air being guided by a pilot named Larry Liss.
Manning the M-60 machine gun as a door gunner in the leading Huey, Croteau soon found himself running communication between the two helicopters as they carried out the rescue mission.
When they arrived at the landing zone, enemy fire was coming from all over, Croteau said. He tried to return fire, he said, but the machine gun he was using jammed. Now without the gun, he pulled out his .45 sidearm and unloaded it as a diversion tactic.
“I didn’t hit anything, but made a lot of noise,” he said.
Complicating matters was their landing position in a dense bamboo forest, forcing the chopper’s thin, light rotor blades to cleave through the material.
“I was saying, `This helicopter isn’t going to make it,’” Croteau said. “You’re not supposed to chop grass with a helicopter.”
From his door, Croteau could see Vietnamese troops were surrounded and under intense fire.
“To look into their eyes, you could see the fear, the hopelessness. `Take me with you’ type of fear,” he said. “But they didn’t panic.”
The first time in, Croteau loaded the chopper up with 10 or 11 South Vietnamese casualties.
Fearing that the aircraft would surely crash from the weight, Croteau released a gun from the tight grasp of one of the felled South Vietnamese soldiers. He stored the weapon in the back of the Huey as a precaution in the event the chopper went down.
But despite the heavy load and damaged rotors, both helicopters not only made it out, but went back — four more times — to rescue the fallen, as well as the living. With each trip out, the helicopters carried at least 10 soldiers apiece as advancing enemy soldiers continued to made the pocket smaller and smaller. The final time in, the enemy was within yards of the landing zones, Croteau said.
By mission’s end, they had safely rescued more than 80 soldiers while facing a battalion of North Vietnamese 500 strong, Croteau said. It was only on their return to Cau Song Be that Croteau said he and the Hueys’ four pilots realized the enormity of their efforts. But it wasn’t something they discussed.
“We never said anything,” Croteau said. “We never talked about it, never said a word.”
Eventually, the men were each decorated for their bravery. Swickard, Liss and his copilot were each given the Distinguished Flying Cross, while Croteau and Swickard’s copilot received the Air Medal of Valor, according to Liss’ brother, Art.
And that was that — until some 40 years later when Croteau, seemingly out of the blue, received a call from Swickard.
A higher honor
Ever since a television documentary on the mission was filmed and aired both in the U.S. and in the United Kingdom in the late 2000s, Liss’ brother has worked as a “historian on the case,” championing an effort to see that all five men — including Croteau — have their medals upgraded. The process of a medal upgrade starts with a review of the case, which Liss is pushing for, followed by a nomination.
“All five are deserving of something higher than the original presentation,” Art Liss said. “The role here should be to empower someone to let the case be opened up and reviewed, and give them the justice that so rightfully needs to be done.”
Liss started sharing the story of Cau Song Be a few years ago to bring more attention to the men behind the mission. He believes his brother and the three other helicopter pilots should be further decorated for their bravery and handling of the unauthorized mission. But he believes Croteau should be part of any upgrade, too, since his role as a door gunner — even without a gun — was vital to the mission’s success.
“They could not have survived without those decisions he made,” Liss said of Croteau. “Al was the only one we know within the aircraft that physically had the ability to see and communicate with the pilots.”
Swickard, speaking by telephone from his home in Arizona, agreed.
“If it hadn’t been for Al, I wouldn’t be talking to you on the phone,” he said.
But Croteau, a father of two who has lived in Andover with his wife, Suzanne, for more than 30 years, views talk of an upgrade as “a double-edged sword.”
“There’s a lot of people that didn’t come back,” he said, tears building up in his eyes. “They don’t get recognized.”
Because of that, Croteau believes there’s another gesture that would be more appropriate than upgrading the medals of the men on the mission.
“What the president should do is he should walk down to the (Vietnam Veterans Memorial) wall and place a Purple Heart,” he said.
The honor should also not be exclusive to American soldiers, he said.
“Not just them, but all the Vietnamese troops,” he said. “Wars are things where the everyday soldier gets caught in the middle. He does his best, what he can do for his country. It doesn’t matter which side you’re on.”
Building a case
To date, the effort to review the Cau Song Be case with an eye toward a medal upgrade has stalled, according to Art Liss, a brother of one of the pilots. It is currently in the hands of the U.S. Army.
“The outcome, determination of what we’re trying to do is to get the Army to sit down, to look at the case and all five members, and consider what are the proper awards,” he said.
Liss is encouraging the public to lend its support to the cause. Letters can be sent to:
The Honorable John M. McHugh, Secretary of the Army, 101 Army Pentagon, Washington, D.C. 20310-0101
The Honorable Thomas R. Lamont, Assistant Secretary of the Army, Manpower and Reserve Affairs, 111 Army Pentagon, Washington, D.C. 20310
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Notice: All dues must be paid by December 31st. If we do not receive your dues by that time, you will be dropped from the membership list and your key card will be de-activated. You may, within 30 days thereafter, be reinstated if you provide a written request for re-instatement to the Board of Directors and remit your 2013 dues plus a $30 late fee.
The objectives of the Club are to conserve, restore and manage the game, fish and other wildlife and its habitat in the Andover communities and its environs: to seek to procure and maintain friendly relations with landowners, and sportsmen: to cooperate in obtaining proper respect for and observation of the fish and game laws: to spread knowledge of wildlife among the residents of Andover and the Andover communities; and to encourage and promote good fellowship, marksmanship and the safe handling of all firearms and other hunting equipment. The association shall operate without profit and shall be non-political and non-sectarian.
The Security Gate is now operational. Your existing key card, which is used to gain access to the clubhouse, will also permit you to now gain access to the property, meaning that you do not need a separate card. If you need a card key, please send a stamped self addressed envelop along with a check for $10 to the Andover Sportsmen's Club, P.O. Box 255, Andover, MA 01810. Please also include a photocopy of your badge.
On days that the club has events open to the public the security gate will allow non-members free entry. If the gate is down, simply drive up to the card reader on the left side of the road and stop. The gate will open automatically to allow you to enter. The gate opens automatically on exit.
Heed all the gate signs entering and exiting the gate and be sure to stop and wait for the gate to fully open both entering and exiting the club.
Our year runs from January 1 to December 31. In April 2007, the membership voted to accelerate the deadline for payment of dues to December 31st., which means that your 2013 dues, which will be invoiced in September, must be received on or before December 31, 2012, otherwise you will be deemed delinquent for nonpayment of dues and shall be dropped from the membership in the Club. You will not be permitted to access the club property and your card key will be deactivated. You will be assessed a $30 late fee for payments received up to 30 days after December 31st. Upon payment of your dues and late fee, if applicable, your membership will be noted as being paid up for 2013 and your card key will be reactivated. A member, after being dropped from membership and who fails to be reinstated as provided for herein, may be readmitted to membership as a new member upon payment of the regular entrance fee and the then current dues. Upon application to the Board of Directors, a member with special financial circumstances can be granted an extension of time by the Board of Directors, to pay the annual dues with or without any late fee.
Please therefore pay your dues promptly!