Alan Boone - Captain
- Bronze Star with V (for valor)
- Air Medal with V (for valor) (Somalia)
- Army Commendation Medal with V (for valor)
- Viet Nam
Alan Ransom Boone was born December 4, 1947 in Fort Meyers, Virginia, to Alex and Yvonne Boone. He spent his early years in Durham, North Carolina and when he was 9, the family moved to Davenport, Iowa when Alan’s father, a doctor, took a position there.
The Boones were a family of boys. Alan was the oldest, and grew up with brothers Charlie, John and David – and Alan truly grew UP – sprouting to the full height of 6-foot-seven! He enjoyed many of the typical things that boys enjoyed in the 1950’s and 1960’s. He delivered papers for the Des Moines Register, was active in the Episcopal Church and was an Eagle Scout. He had a special love for cars. Being born in December meant that he was always the youngest in his class and this made him shy and a little tentative, socially.
After graduating from Central High School in Davenport, he attended Iowa State from June 1965 to May 1967 majoring in bacteriology, probably considering a career in medicine like his father. But he decided to enlist, and in January 1968, joined the Army. Basic training was at Fort Bliss, TX, and AIT followed at Fort Huachucha, Arizona. He was accepted for Officer’s Candidate School and went to Fort Belvoir, Virginia in June 1968. He graduated on November 7 that year and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant.
Alan returned to Iowa to marry his sweetheart, Lorraine Friemel, tying the knot in a ceremony in Ames on November 30, 1968. For three months Mr. and Mrs. Alan Boone lived in Aberdeen, Maryland where Alan attended school at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.
In 1969, he was assigned to the 79th Engineers in Germany, where he earned a commendation medal and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant. After 14 months, Alan and Lorraine returned to the US so he could start flight school in June 1970 at Fort Stewart, GA, with advanced training at Fort Rucker, AL. His interest in things mechanical found a natural outlet in his chosen branch of the service.
In November, he was promoted to Captain, and in February 1971, he received his silver wings. Captain Boone completed fixed wing training in Beaver military aircraft while waiting for his next transition school at Ft. Rucker. He began helicopter training in March 1971, finishing the course in June.
Alan left for Vietnam on July 13, 1971 as a dual-rated pilot, able to fly both fixed-wing craft and helicopters. He was assigned to the 35th Engineer’s Group, Aviation Section in the Cam Rahn Bay area.
He was first assigned to helicopters and had some close calls. In a letter home, he wrote, “Some type of escape device would be nice – especially with the luck I’ve been having with them since I came over here. That person who rides my shoulder obviously doesn’t like choppers. I’ve had enough engine failures. I wish they’d go pick on someone else.”
In another letter, he said, “We usually end up hovering up and down the sides of 6,000 foot mountains in heavy rains to get to and from the engineer pads. I find it very challenging, but am hoping the monsoons will end because this type of flying can’t be good for longevity.” Despite the difficulty, he was well rewarded by the look on the troops’ faces when he delivered hot chow and mail.
Alan loved the Army and he loved to fly. His letters home were full of aviation terminology – an interest shared by his parents, both of whom were pilots.
The Beaver aircraft on which he trained was a high-winged, propeller-driven utility aircraft that was an Army workhorse in Vietnam. The planes were 20 years old, and as Alan said, “out of the supply system.” Maintenance was a problem, with many of the aircraft not operable because of lack of parts.
In his last letter home, Alan said, “I got the Beaver flying today and had a ball. Did touch and gos for an hour and a half. Will start flying missions with it tomorrow. Would like to have gone to Da Nang to continue mountain flying which I enjoy.” In another letter, he said, “I’m flying in the wrong age because I really dig that heavy throbbing rumble emitted from the 9-cylinder radial. I flew the old bird about an hour when oil began to pour out of the prop. It covered the windshield. Felt like an old World War 2 pilot returning his crippled plane to the home field.”
It was obvious that Alan enjoyed pitting his wits against the challenges and relished the intensive flying experience he was gaining. He had no regrets about being in Vietnam, and no bitterness over the increasing maintenance problems. He mostly regretted not getting in his time in the air. As he said in a letter, “Every day is challenging!”
On October 19, 1971 Alan was co-piloting the Beaver with Wayne Williams on an emergency mission in the highlands. Their commanding officer, Mike Fleming, said of the mission, “I recall that they had to land at Phan Rang Air Force base to the south to pick up some medical personnel and then fly them up to an airstrip in the highlands. The weather at Phan Rang was bad and they were flying on instruments. They had attempted to land visually the first time but the tower sent them around and put them on instruments. The Ground Control Approach people directed them to the south to get them lined up and something went very wrong and they crashed into the mountains to the south. I know for a fact that there was no pilot error involved and the crash was the result of Ground Control operators. Losing both Alan and Wayne was very difficult for our unit. Even 35 years later, I think of the two of them often. I was at the end of my second tour in Vietnam when they crashed and had lost almost two dozen pilots and crewmen in combat during that time. Those deaths were without a doubt my most difficult time over there.”
On that fateful day in October 1971, Alan was 23 years old.
Fleming goes on to say, “I can tell you that Alan loved to fly, was a great pilot and all around good guy. Although we did not serve together that long, I could see he was a good guy – quiet, but a good guy. I used to tease him about being a fixed wing pilot. It was a thing among the pilots about a being either a helicopter pilot or fixed wing pilot and there was lots of good natured ribbing about each other’s aircraft. Some of us were dual rated but we still retained the love of the first aircraft we flew. Mine was helicopters. Since I was fixed wing rated, too, Alan and I shared many missions together. He was a very skilled pilot.”
In Iowa, Alan’s name is on memorials in located Scott County and Des Moines, and in Washington DC he is listed on the Vietnam memorial. He is buried in the Liberty cemetery in Cass Township, near Woodward, Iowa - his wife’s hometown.
Citations include the Bronze Star, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal and Vietnam honors.