Vietnam helicopter pilots to tell their stories on Saturday, March 30

March 18, 2024

Alston Gore flew helicopters in Vietnam as a young Army first lieutenant. He arrived in-country in September 1970 to support the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). After five months, the 1st Cav went home, but Gore and the other pilots stayed to support the South Vietnamese troops taking over the job.

He has a lot of stories to tell. So do the other five helicopter pilots who will speak at a special event at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia. The program, called “Angels from the Air: Vietnam Helicopter pilots,” will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 30 – the day after National Vietnam Veterans Day. The program is free and open to the public.

Those stories will vary, as the pilots had so many different missions in different parts of the country during that war. “I think most people kind of want to hear about the shoot ’em up parts,” says Gore. But to him, the experiences that made the greatest impression were the many challenging aspects of flying in and out of literal “tight spots” in order to accomplish the mission.

He will speak of flying men, equipment and ammunition into spaces between trees that were so close that the trees leaned right in over his rotors. It would be so tight that the pilot couldn’t see what he needed to see to his sides – there was “no way the pilot could swivel his head” to that extent – and the gunner and crew chief, stationed at the side openings, would talk him down the whole way,

“I like those kinds of stories,” he says. Stories of teamwork.

The program is being presented as two panels of three pilots each – one before lunch and one after. Here’s the schedule:

First Panel, 11:00 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
• WO1 Lemuel (Lem) Grant – served in III and IV Corps, August 1968-August 1969
• Cpt. Ron Claypool – served January 1969-February 1970, flew mostly in III Corps.
• WO1 Jud Brodie – served August 1965-August 1966 in IV Corps.

Second Panel, 1:30 to 3:00 p.m.
• WO1 Dennis DuPuis – served two tours, August 1969-August 1970 in III and IV Corps, and August 1971-January 1972 in I Corps.
• Cpt. Graves Wilson – served October 1969-October 1970, in III Corps.
• 1st Lt. Alston Gore – served September 1970-September 1971 in II and III Corps.

Regular attendees of the museum’s Noon Debrief series may recall that Dennis DuPuis spoke about his experiences on Feb. 16. That program, others like it, and this special Saturday program are all presented in connection with the museum’s huge new exhibit, “A War With No Front Lines: South Carolina and the Vietnam War, 1965-1973.” While you’re at the museum, you should definitely check that out as well.


About the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum

Founded in 1896, the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum is an accredited museum focusing on South Carolina’s distinguished martial tradition through the Revolutionary War, Mexican War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Vietnam, the War on Terror, and other American conflicts. It serves as the state’s military history museum by collecting, preserving, and exhibiting South Carolina’s military heritage from the colonial era to the present, and by providing superior educational experiences and programming. It recently opened a major new exhibit, “A War With No Front Lines: South Carolina and the Vietnam War, 1965-1973.” The museum is located at 301 Gervais St. in Columbia, sharing the Columbia Mills building with the State Museum. For more information, go to