Vietnam Helicopter Pilot’s Association Reunion

On July 6, members of the Vietnam Helicopter Pilot’s Association (VHPA) from around the nation held their 30th reunion at the Hilton hotel in San Francisco.

< p>The group was organized to preserve the history of helicopter pilots that served in the Vietnam War.

Retired pilots Major Herbert Metoyer, Captain Clovis Jones, Jr., Dr. Joe Ponds, Chief Warrant Officer 5 J. Louis Nance, and Joe Jackson each shared their experiences at the reunion and chronicled the many contributions of Black pilots.

Metoyer, who served in the war with his brother Bryford Metoyer – the second pilot killed in Vietnam, shared his story of “two Black Creole brothers,” among the first U.S. Army helicopter pilots.

During his presentation, Captain Jones talked about Chief Warrant Officer 4 Cleveland Valrey, a local resident who was inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame in 2001.

Among accomplishments of Black aviators, four pilots including Valrey were inducted into the Army Aviation Hall of Fame – Major General James Hamlet, Chief Warrant Officer 4 William Hargrove, and Colonel Harry Townsend.

Three pilots served on the presidential flight detachment – chief pilot Carl Burhanan, pilot George Baker, and standardization pilot Frank Joseph. Burhanan and Baker were also a part of the first all Black flight crew to serve on Army One for President Gerald R. Ford.

In an interview with The Post, Jones recounted the prejudices he and other pilots faced during that era.

“I was told by my flight instructor on the first day of training that Blacks don’t make good pilots; it was totally based on skin color and prejudice, but I knew better,” said Jones.

“We know what it takes to overcome the challenges from being a Black pilot. All of us faced similar challenges. We used to say there was a quota that no more than 2 Black pilots would graduate at a time – it’s those kinds of personal experiences that Black pilots went through, but we prevailed.”

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3 Comments

  1. Doreen

    Service is service. It’s no matter the skin color, I appreciate all those that gave of themselves for me, our country, and our freedom. Especially that of my friend Joe Jackson as he served our country. His color, well that is the color of God!

  2. Eugene Smith

    My uncle Louis Oliver King , was an African American Crew Chief in Vietnam. He and his dear friend Sam Beamon who was also a Vietnam Crew Chief remained closed friend until the day my unlce louis passed away Nov 9, 2012. Mr Beamon droved from Waterbury to Cincinnati alone to give his brother in arms a Marine farewell.
    I want to salute Mr Beamon for being a true friend and source of strenght for my uncle and our family in a time of need. Yet, I would be remise if I did not thank all the men and women who gave their youth, their health, their spirit and offen their lives. Many times I think of my uncle when I have leisure time. I am buckled in with full throttle, I retract flaps, check vertical speed, check take off speed and I make the call. ” Lunken tower Cessna 93154 departing the pattern to the West.” I am free !

  3. Sam Beamon

    Gene, there are no words that can described the relationship Louie and I had. I miss him everyday. I know and understand the meaning of flying, departing the pattern and feeling free. Semper Fi

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