Veteran Salute: First combat unit into Vietnam tested choppers in war

Veteran Salute

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Helicopters took on the role of the workhorses in Vietnam.

Wayne Bormann was part of the special unit that tested choppers in warfare.

Bormann was shot down one time and had malaria five times while serving in Vietnam, but those setbacks were no comparison to the pain he felt when he left the jungle and got devastating news.

“I just joined the Airborne to be around airplanes so I wind up jumping out of them,” Vietnam Veteran Wayne Bormann said.

Since this Master Pilot and Master Mechanic has rebuilt some airplanes.

A simple walk through his shop, and you can step into the past.

“This is the airplane that so many pilots in WWII sat in and trained,” Bormann said.

Bormann and his neighbors enjoy rebuilding and restoring pieces of the past.

“Every splinter of wood on this airplane is brand new,” Bormann said.

He understands aviation history, he’s part of it.

“We were the first combat unit into Vietnam,” Bormann said.

It took three aircraft carriers and four troop ships to get them and all their equipment to Vietnam.

Wayne Bormann

“There was 2,800 of us guys on this ship here,” Bormann said.

He was part of a test unit to see if we could fight the war in Vietnam with helicopters.

“You never knew where the enemy was,” Bormann said.

The 1st Cavalry Charlie Company’s first mission was Shiny Bayonet.

“Walter Cronkrite covered that on the national news,” Bormann said. “That was the first big event that took place in Vietnam.”

He said the enemy would launch mortars onto the golf course, the troops used to store choppers.

“These Vietcong were pretty sneaky guys, and they’d spend all night crawling up to you,” Bormann said. “Nights were terrible there.”

He still has the helmet he said probably saved his life a time or two, and he was also shot down one time, the worst though was when he got heartbreaking news.

“On my way home, I was told my platoon had been wiped out,” Bormann said. “I never could get over the loss, I suffered with that loss so much.”

He also never gave up trying to figure out what happened to his guys.

“This is my squad,” Bormann said.

In the early 2000s, Bormann learned something incredible from a phone call from his sergeant, his squad had survived.

“He asked if I was Wayne Bormann, ‘and said yea,’ he said you were in Vietnam, ‘I said yea,’ and he said we’ve been looking for ya,” Bormann said.

More than three decades after he was told he would never see them again, the guys had a reunion.

“That was a very emotional year,” Bormann said.

He was proud to host them, right here in his hangar.

“This was my way of paying them back for all the help they gave me in overcoming some of my issues,” Bormann said.

A Black Hawk made a landing at the event, pretty fitting for a group of men who forever changed the way war was waged.

“We developed the air assault concept that’s known today,” Bormann said.

Bormann is now on a new mission.

“This is the hat that I fly with,” Bormann said.

He’ll continue taking flight so the sacrifices of so many who served with him and before are never forgotten.

Bormann is looking to raise about $6,000 so he can again give the guys another reunion in Kansas.

If you are interested in helping him accomplish that mission, you can reach out to Bormann at wtbormann@gmail.com.

You can also contact Gwyn Bevel at gwyn.bevel@ksn.com or reach out for more information at (217) 836-4084.

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