Sunday May 27, 2001


“Copter rescue mission Vet aims to restore medical aircraft that saved lives”


As crew chief aboard a Sikorsky helicopter during the Vietnam War, Alan Weiss saw his aircraft bring medical help to wounded soldiers and help save many lives.
“We were known as the Flying Tigers, and we rescued injured soldiers from the jungle, brought medical supplies and brought troop insertions,” said Weiss, 53, a Cutchogue, L.I., resident who served from 1966 to 1970.
“When soldiers saw us  coming, their eyes would fill with tears, since we brought hope of life.”
  Now Weiss and fellow members of the Marine Helicopter Squadron 361 Veterans Association are trying to bring one of the  old helicopters back to life. They want to bring it from a junkyard in Arizona and re­store it on Long Island.
To be eligible for Suffolk County funding, Weiss said, he must raise about $20,000 to buy the copter and transport it to Long Island by Sept. 1.
Raymond Fitzpatrick, of Huntington, a member of the Marine Corps League, a national Marines    organization, said his group also plans to donate money once the helicopter is in place.
 “I think this is a terrific idea, and we would all like to see it happen,” Fitzpatrick said.
 Although Weiss has about 200 volunteers ready to restore the copter, he also needs a site where the restoration work can be done.
 He figures it will take two to three years and about $350,000 to make the aircraft fully operational.
  “I’ve been inquiring about space at all the Long Island  airports, but so far I haven’t found a place to restore this plane,” said Weiss, who works as a parts manager at an East Hampton car dealer.
   He feels optimistic that veterans will want to have the helicopter to serve as a war memorial and to reunite vets who worked and flew together on these aircraft.
   “This helicopter could serve as a traveling memorial, dedicated to the memory of our squadron members and to honor all veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country;” Weiss said.
   He said his squadron members were asked by their country to serve “in a very unpopular war, and we went in and served in this war where 58,202 Americans were killed in Vietnam and 303,704 were wounded.
   “The Flying Tigers provided medical services that saved many lives,” said Weiss.
   He said the UH-34D helicopter could be displayed at air shows and schools around Long Island to help  educate children and adults about the role it played in Vietnam.
   “We would also like to establish a scholarship in memory of our members who lost their lives in Vietnam, and we’d like to fly this  helicopter to our association reunions every two years,” Weiss said.
   It was at his 1998 reunion with members of Squadron 361 in Pensacola, Fla., that Weiss got the restoration idea.
   “One of the USMC Helicopter Association members restored an UH34D, and he flew it to the reunion,” said Weiss. “
   The emotion we felt, see­ing this helicopter flying, once again, was overwhelming. I  knew I had to do this for our squadron.
   Weiss said he heard through his veterans association about a heli­copter sitting in a boneyard in Cochise, Ariz., that his group could buy for about $15,000, and that it would cost $5,000 to transport it to Lang Island aboard a flatbed trac­tor-trailer.
   “I’m appealing now to all veterans for tax-deductible donations, and for volunteers to do fund-raising, clerical and restoration work,” he said. “Right now, we must find a place to keep this helicopter and restore it.”
   Anyone interested can call (631)734-7754, or check the Marine Heli­copter Squadron  361 Veterans As­sociation Web site at


Vietnam Veterans Working To Restore Helicopter Used In War

By: Erin Carpenter

May 26, 2004


The sound of power tools and laughter is filtering out of the shed where a dozen or so members of the Marine Helicopter Squadron 361 Veterans Association Inc. are working tirelessly to reconstruct a helicopter that most of them actually flew in during the Vietnam War.
PROJECT HEADQUARTERS-The entrance to the work area for the helicopter restoration project, located on a sod farm in Jamesport. It was hard not to be overwhelmed by the scene. I realized that I am not only unfamiliar with the mechanics of a helicopter, but also with the camaraderie that results between humans when they share such an emotionally and physically taxing experience as war.
The veteran members of the "Flying Tigers," as they were dubbed during the war, are working on a small sod farm in Jamesport. As soon as this reporter arrived at the scene, it was obvious that they had been working for some time to renovate a UH-34D Sikorsky helicopter that was in use between 1963 and 1969.
The helicopter looks frightening in the shed. It is enormous, even in its unfinished state. Al Weiss,
who has spearheaded the project, mentioned that if one walked around the craft they could see patches where bullet holes had been covered up. It had been shot at "countless times," according
to the men. Sure enough, on the far side of the helicopter, several patches were indeed visible, Vietnam.
Possibly the most amazing story I heard during my visit was that of Retired United States Marine Corps Captain Ben Cascio, who was a member of the Flying Tiger's sister squadron HMM-362, also known as the "Ugly Angels," during Vietnam. Tyrrell told Cascio's tale, a story I will never forget.
Apparently, Cascio is an excellent helicopter pilot and still flies to this day. Tyrrell told me that during the Vietnam War, Cascio was mid-flight when he was shot in the eye, causing his vision to
be temporarily lost. "Do you know what he did?" Tyrrell asked me. I shook my head and he said, "Ben, with blood covering his eyes, broke all of the glass that covered the helicopter's needles and used his hands to feel the motion [of the needles]. He landed the plane completely blind."
I looked over at Cascio, who still bears the scars of his injury, in awe. He sort of shrugged as if to say, "I did what I had to do."
Later in the day, Cascio took me aside and pulled some photographs from the trunk of his car. On August 26, 2001, Cascio had been flying the helicopter from which parts were being used to reconstruct the UH-34D helicopter over New York City. As he flew past the Twin Towers, he
snapped a picture. What developed was an incredibly close photograph of the towers, with the wing of the helicopter in the foreground, the word "Marines" capturing the viewer's eye.
Cascio gave me a copy of the photograph, signed personally by the first war hero I have ever had
the honor of shaking hands with. All of these men, explained Weiss, have full-time jobs from which they had to take vacation time in order to be available to work on the project from May 15 to 22. No matter how much time these men put into the project, it cannot make up for the money needed to complete their reconstruction efforts. Donations are needed. This point was stressed by Weiss, who
is relying on the compassion and generosity of community members to reach the project's ultimate goal.
The goal, according to Weiss, is to bring the UH-34D helicopter back to its original state. He needs to find a home for the craft as well, something that has not happened as of yet.
"Ultimately, we want this [helicopter] to be used as an educational tool," he said. He also explained that the helicopter is a vital piece of American history, having been involved in such operations as picking up astronauts from the ocean after they returned from space, as well as being involved in Medevac operations and resupply missions during the Vietnam War.
He hopes that the craft will be used in air shows and be the subject of public viewing on national holidays.
All donations will be accepted and are tax deductible. To donate, visit the project's website at
. Here you will not only be able to view photographs detailing the project's progress, but also download a printable donation form. Donations can be sent to the Marine Helicopter Squadron 361 Veterans Association Inc. at P.O. Box 429, Cutchogue, NY 11935.
Possibly the most important aspect of this story is the aforementioned issue of finding a home for the helicopter when it is complete. Weiss is calling out to anyone and everyone who may have an idea of where this important artifact can be housed. He mentioned that he's looked into the possibility of Gabreski Airport, which would seem like a viable option, but was told by Suffolk County officials that
all available hangar space was occupied well into the future.
If you or someone you know has an option for the restored UH-34D helicopter, contact Weiss at 734-7754.
As my visit ended with hugs and more tears, the men expressed their sentiments about the
anticipated completion of the project. "The day that it takes off for the first time, looking [just as it did] all those years ago, I'll tell you what," Tyrrell said as he leaned back, regarding the craft, "you're going to see grown men cry."

PRESERVING HISTORY-Pictured left to right are Paul Jaccard, Barry Diamond, Al Weiss, Dale Houghton, Keith Cameron, A.C. Daniel,
Larry Isham, Frank Flagg, Russ Tyrrell, Walt Cohoon and Ben Cascio. Ron Hatton and Scott Estabrook also participated in the restoration.


The East Hampton Independent
May 23, 2001

“A Dream To Restore Marine Helicopter”

  Vietnam veteran Alan Weiss, of Cutchogue, has a dream. After spending several years serving in the Marines’ “Flying Tigers,” a legendary group of airmen, he is now trying to restore a UH 34D helicopter  and bring it to Long Island.

The idea came to him during a 1998 reunion of his Marine Helicopter squadron 361, which meets every two years, and met then in Pensacola, Florida. One of the members  flew to the reunion in a Sikorsky UH 34D helicopter that he had spent the time and money to restore. The sight of this helicopter brought tears to the eyes of all the Marines, since it brought back meaningful memories.

Bill “Big Ed” Edwards, crew chief with HMM 361 in the Vietnam War (1966-67), Is  preparing his UH34D helicopter for another mission.

  "These helicopters played an important role in Vietnam,” explained Weiss, who flew as a crew chief during his Vietnam tour of duty from 1969 to 1970. “They were used to bring wounded troops out of the jungles and  transport them to area hospitals. They also brought medical supplies to the troops, and they brought troop insertions into the jungles. They had multiple uses during the war, and a lot of veterans remember these  helicopters coming to their rescue.”

Soon after, Weiss — who works as parts manager at Plitt Ford in Wainscott — heard from another fellow vet about a UH 34D helicopter sitting in a junkyard in Cochise,  Arizona. The purchase price would be about $15,000 to $20,000, and the cost of get­ting the plane intact to Long Island, aboard a flatbed truck, would. be around $5000, according to Weiss.

He figures the cost to restore the helicopter to flying capacity, using a crew of volunteers, would be between $300,000 to $350,000, which he is now trying to raise. “I would like this plane to be a memorial, and to use it for  education purposes, of the public and schoolchildren,” Weiss said. “It could be on display at area schools, air shows, and at veteran-related functions throughout the year. We would also like to establish a  scholarship in memory of our members who lost their lives in the military conflict of Vietnam.”
Weiss has gotten the support of about 100 volunteers, and he is look­ing to organize the Marine Helicopter Squadron 361 Veterans Association to undertake the restoration project.

He so far has a $5000 initial grant from the Long Island Area Marine Corps League, and he is anticipating a grant from Suffolk County. Weiss said with luck, the helicopter could be here within three months. But he first needs to find a place to restore the aircraft, which could take two to three years. -

He also needs donations of equipment _ and money to complete the restoration -~ project.

“When our country asked our members of 361 to go to Vietnam and served in a very unpopular war, we went,” said Weiss. “The Flying Tigers provided medical evacuations with these helicopters, and without them, unknown numbers of American soldiers would have lost their lives,” reminding that there were 58,202 Americans killed and 303,704 wounded during the war.  

“Now, some 33 years later, we, the members of the Flying Tigers, are asking for the support of American businesses and our fellow countrymen, to help in this  restoration effort, for the education of our children and to reunite the men who worked on and flew the UH-34D helicopters,” Weiss said.  

 He said that so far, he has tried un­successfully to use  various Long Island airports to restore the plane, including East Hampton, Gabreski at Westhampton Beach, Islip-MacArthur, and others. Anyone interested in do­nating support, equipment, funds, sponsorships, or restoration work to this effort can call Weiss at 631-734-7754 or check the web sites of the Marine Helicopter squadron 361 Veterans Association Inc. at vietnam or



Marine Corps Times

Squadron's former members to make junked UH-34D Sikorsky a Vietnam Memorial”
by: Gordon Lubold

A bit of rusted glory sits in the Arizona desert, a phoenix ready to rise again.   A helicopter used by Marine Helicopter Squadron 361 may see air time once more, as former members of the unit prepare to restore it to the way they remember it at the beginning of the Vietnam War.
   The group plans to buy the now junked UH-34D Sikorsky helo from a salvage yard
in Cochise, Ariz., and spend as much as $350,000 over three years
to bring it back to life.   The  Transmission overhaul is estimated to cost $80,000, said Alan Weiss, who served in Southeast Asia with the so-called Flying Tigers. But Weiss, a former mechanic in the squadron, said it's worth it.  "I think it will all come together - it will just take a lot of effort," said Weiss, a parts manager at a Long Island, N.Y. Ford Dealership.

This UH-34D Sikorsky helicopter was used by Marine Helicopter Squadron 361, during the early years of the Vietnam War, but now sits in a salvage yard in Arizona. Members of the association plan to purchase the bird and restore it to fly again. The project is estimated to cost $350,000 and take three years.




P.O. Box 429
Cutchogue, NY 11935
Contact Alan Weiss 631-827-5526

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