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Maj. Claude Chadwick Payne, Jr.

Male 1937 - 2008  (70 years)

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  • Name Claude Chadwick Payne  [1
    Prefix Maj. 
    Suffix Jr. 
    Born 14 Feb 1937  Duncan, Stephens County, Oklahoma Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Gender Male 
    Died 9 Feb 2008  Duncan, Stephens County, Oklahoma Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
    Buried Fort Sill Post Cemetery, Lawton, Comanche County, Oklahoma Find all individuals with events at this location 
    • Obituary
      The Duncan Banner online edition
      Published on February 12, 2008

      Feb. 14, 1937 -Feb. 9, 2008

      Retired Maj. Chad C. Payne, 70, of Duncan, died Saturday, Feb. 9, 2008, in his home with his family after a lengthy illness.Funeral will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday in Heritage Oaks Church of the Nazarene with the Rev. Bobby Howard officiating. Interment with military honors will be at 1 p.m. in Fort Sill Post Cemetery under direction of Don Grantham Funeral Home.The family will receive friends from 5 to 7 p.m. today at the funeral home.

      Mr. Payne was born Feb. 14, 1937, in Duncan, to Chad C. Payne Sr. and Lois Reed Payne. He graduated from Lawton High School in 1955 and from Cameron University in 1957. He then attended the University of Oklahoma and graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1960. He married Pat Tompkins on Dec. 31, 1957, in Burkburnett, Texas.He served two tours of duty in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, flying helicopter gunships. He was awarded the Silver Star, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, Air Medal with 49 clusters, the Purple Heart, and Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry.

      Mr. Payne was director of the Delta Elderly Nutrition Program serving Stephens and McClain counties for 31 years.He was a very talented Western artist and enjoyed painting, classical music and gun collecting.

      Survivors include his wife, Pat of the home; two sons and a daughter-in-law: Scott and Michelle Payne of Duncan, and Richard Payne of San Francisco, Calif.; a sister, Rosemary Merriman of Florida; six grandchildren: Leslie Majors, Sydney Payne and Lyndsey Payne, all of Duncan, Kale Payne of Norman, Blake Payne of Fort Drum, N.Y., and Candice Payne of Edmond; and two great-grandchildren: Chase and Hunter Majors of Duncan.

      He was preceded in death by his parents.Bearers will be members of the military.Honorary bearers will be Jim Busby, Tom Cooper, Bob Crissman, Pete Iglesias, Mike Klinker, Kirby Spain, Bill Stribling, Johnnie Sweeten and Early Watkins.Memorial contributions may be made to Fresenius Dialysis Medical Center, 4516 SE Lee Blvd., Lawton, OK 73501.Online condolences may be made at  .

      The following biography was written by Ken Harvey:

      Duncan veteran pioneered air mobility idea in Vietnam.

      Mention Vietnam, and the image most people conjure up is one of human tragedy. The conflict left enough gaps in the populace to cover a whole wall in Washington, to say nothing of the lingering effects veterans suffer from; injuries, disease, post-traumatic stress syndrome, chemical dependency, Agent Orange and, disturbingly, neglect. It was, after all, a defeat that most Americans would sooner forget.

      But today we turn to Chad Payne for a slightly different picture-that of the Vietnam veteran as a pioneer in the air mobility concept. In 1971, W.E. Butterworth wrote in his book "Flying Army" that 'the war in Vietnam, whatever else it has cost, has given the United States Army a capability in mobility by air. Without the unprecedented maneuverability of the Airmobile Division, the Vietnam conflict would have gone much worse for the United States than it did,' Butterworth said.

      Payne, now project director for Delta Nutrition in Duncan, was an Army pilot when helicopters came of age. He watched them outgrow their role of flying ambulance to become gunships, transports for cargo and personnel, and flying cranes for the retrieval of downed aircraft.

      To appreciate the strides in aviation that came out of Vietnam requires some understanding of what went before. Military aviation dates back to the Civil War, when Thaddeus Lowe sent up his balloons for observation purposes.

      The next stage in the development of aviation is represented by the U.S. Army Signal Corps Aeronautical Division and dogfights between World War I fighter planes with dual machine guns synchronized to fire between spinning propeller blades.

      Fast-forward to World War II. The Army Air Forces were created by Congress on June 20, 1941, but there were growing pains as the Air Force asserted its independence. The need for Army-owned, Army-controlled light aircraft responsive to the needs of ground forces became evident, and the Grasshoppers were born. These served as observation posts for directing artillery fire or as taxis for couriers.

      Meanwhile, Russian-born Igor Sigorsky, who had shelved his idea of a helicopter in 1910 until technology had progressed enough to cope with the many problems posed by rotary-wing aircraft, decided in the 1930s that the time was ripe. By 1939, his VS-300 could stay aloft for two minutes. Two years' worth of modifications expanded that limit to 1 hour, 32 minutes, 26.1 seconds.

      Others turned their minds to the problem (Stanley Hiller, Frank Piasecki and Larry Bell). During the Korean conflict, however, helicopters were used for little more than the medical evacuation purposes shown on "M*A*S*H.

      Then came Vietnam.

      The first people sent by President John F. Kennedy were special forces people and advisers. Helicopters made their appearance there in December 1961 with the Piasecki H- 21, a 20-passenger transport helicopter first acquired by the Army one month after the Korean armistice.

      In response to a wish list known as the revised Military Characteristics for a Utility Helicopter of 1959, Bell Aircraft Co. produced the HU-1A, standing for Helicopter, Utility, Model 1, Modification A. The Army called it the Iroquois, but to Payne and his contemporaries it was simply the "Huey."

      Brought to Vietnam by way of the Utility Tactical Transport Company in Okinawa, the Huey was the first turbine-powered helicopter produced in the United States.

      "All of a sudden we had a relatively compact aircraft that was easy to maintain and speedier," Payne said.

      In 1960, the same year that the 82nd Airborne Division began receiving them, the Rogers Board decided to put the helicopters into a more active combat role. In those days technical representatives from Bell Helicopter were in daily contact with the pilots, who used to get certificates from Bell saying that they were among the first to fly this new craft.

      It was on Dec. 11, 1961, that the 57th Transportation Co. from Fort Lewis, Wash., and the 8th Transportation Co. from Fort Bragg, N.C., docked in Saigon. Aircraft were being used to transport troops in combat.

      In 1962, Lt. Gen. Hamilton H. Howze, then the 18th Airborne Corps commander, was designated to set up a board to study combat mobility concentrated in the helicopter. Payne, who was going through flight school at the time the Rogers Board was in session, was by this time with the Aviation Battalion of the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, which was part of the 18th Airborne Corps.

      With a speed amazing to those who were observing the situation, the Howze Board cut through the usual bureaucratic red tape. Its recommendations were to proceed full steam ahead on the whole idea of Army Aviation and begin a divisional level troop test immediately.

      After Utility Tactical Transport  a Company got shot up by the Viet Cong in the initial gunship clash in January 1963, Payne saw the Army begin to replace Huey A's with B's in May-June 1963. The A's had a 550-hp engine. The B's initially had a 960-hp engine, but later it was beefed up to 1100 hp with a few modifications. The engine weighed 595 pounds and could be changed in the field in 30 minutes. It also had blades that could chop through trees to get into tight places; the old H-21 had had wooden blades.

      "The aircraft was designed to work on, to fly, to use," Payne said.

      It was still designed for "med evac, but it could hold a command control console for controlling a whole operation; haul cargo and troops into combat; broadcast messages or drop leaflets for propaganda purposes; and then there was Payne's favorite use: by mounting guns and rockets on it, the helicopter became a fighter bomber.

      When his superiors learned he had flown H-21s in flight school and had 500 hours of flight time in Hueys, Payne was sent to the 33rd Transportation Co. at Bien Hoa.

      "We began to concentrate on implementing the concepts initially spawned by the Rogers Board and tested by the Howze Board,"  Payne said.

      The 33rd Transportation Co. became the 118th Aviation Co., and by the end of September, they were all flying the Huey B model. There were two platoons of 'slicks' used as cargo/personnel transports and armed with machine guns in the doors. There was one platoon of gunships equipped with machine guns and rockets. Payne ended up as an instructor pilot of the gunship platoon. His job was to make sure everyone was current in the M-6 weapons system, which consisted of four machine guns on a flexible mount that could be aimed by the co-pilot.

      "We wanted more firepower, so we came up with a jury-rigged rocket system. We scrounged and stole parts from various places and had to do our own wiring. I spent a lot of time down at UTT learning to build and employ weapons systems because that was the only gunship company in the world."

      "We ended up with a rocket system which we bolted to the gun mount. It held 16 rockets. if one was hot, you were stuck with it. The rocket tube would blow up. Sometimes it would cause damage, sometimes not. You never knew what might happen when you hit the trigger. You might end up in a rice paddy running from your helicopter 'cause it was about to explode."

      In November 1963 Payne was on the way to mess hall when he heard that the president had been shot in Dallas. Coming as it did one month after the Vietnamese overthrow in which they used a barricade of tanks to keep the U.S. troops from interfering, it gave him a strange feeling to be in a foreign country and hear of Kennedy's assassination.

      Activity picked up in December. A co-pilot, Lynn Rothenbuhler of Fort Wayne, Ind., was killed instantly by a single bullet that month. Within a week, two gunships from UTT were lost. Both pilots had been Payne's friends back in the 82nd Aviation Battalion. A complete crew was lost on one. The other was shot down in the Mekong, and only two survivors were pulled from the water. For the rest of Payne's tour, the 118th Aviation Co. operated all over the country from Camau in the south to Quang Ngai in the north.

      Gunships generally flew in pairs for protection, but Payne's was the exception. Col. Kenneth D. Mertel liked to fly in a gunship, and he wanted to fly with an instructor pilot.

      "We used to get into some hellacious gunfights. If we'd ever been knocked down, we would have been MIA because there was nobody to pick us up," Payne said.

      Payne returned to the States in May 1964 to the next development in air mobility, the 11th Air Assault Division at Fort Benning, Ga. After a three-month-long field problem in which he went up against his alma mater, he was sent as part of a mission to help settle problems in the Dominican Republic. He spent the first anniversary of his return from Vietnam in the Dominican Republic, musing that he had hardly seen his family since he had been back.

      Payne was one of only 300 who could wear the 11th Air Assault badge on his right shoulder to indicate combat. The next thing he knew, he was hearing a speech by President Lyndon B. Johnson that the 11th Air Assault had been redesignated as the 1st Cavalry and was going to Vietnam. Payne was soon told he didn't have to go unless he wanted.

      The reason was that he had already had two combat tours within a year. Having returned in May 1964 from one tour of duty in Vietnam, he was sent with the 11th Air Assault to quell problems in the Dominican Republic and spent the first anniversary of his return there, wondering when he would ever get to see his family.

      Payne spent one month training new members of the Ist Cavalry, checking people and getting them ready for Vietnam. Then he went to Fort Rucker, Ala., where he became a gunnery instructor. (Fort Sill had been home to the Army Aviation School until August 1954, when it was relocated to Fort Rucker because the other combat arms of the Army objected to the prospect of artillery dominating what was obviously going to be a function of the Army as a whole, according to W.E. Butterworth in his 1971 book "Flying Army").

      There was no gunnery program when he arrived, so Payne had to write the gunnery familiarization program. He remembers that as 18 months of relative peace and time with my family "also, some of the best duty I ever pulled in the Army."

      In 1967, when he left Fort Rucker Army Aviation was producing 600 pilots a month. That contrasts with 22 new pilots turned out the month of his graduation seven years earlier. The Army's helicopter program was at this time only 19 years old.

      In '67 it was back to Vietnam for another tour. Payne was initially assigned to the 9th Infantry Division and three months later to the 120th Aviation Co., which operated out of Hotel 3 on the Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base in Saigon.

      "We lived downtown in a villa, had maids to wash our clothes and shine our boots, great restaurants to eat in, and no shortage of Viet Cong." he said.

      Again he ended up with the gunship Platoon, dubbed the Razorbacks by their original platoon leader, who had attended the University of Arkansas. Payne was with them from September 1967 throughout the remainder of his second tour.

      By this time, the Army had a C 8 model Huey which was 20 knots faster than the B model, but they seemed to be everywhere else but with the Razorbacks, which still had the B's and the M-16 weapons system.

      The Tet offensive, the biggest battle of the war, came in January 1968. Payne's unit was off-duty when they got a call saying the embassy was under attack. He was one of five people in a jeep headed for Tan Son Nhut when they took a bullet through the windshield. It came out the middle of the jeep, but miraculously, no one was hit. Payne said he had a bad feeling, nevertheless.

      "Nobody could fire. We were working over the city. Nobody could shoot into the city," he said.

      Aircraft were drawing some tracer fire off the runway and Payne flew down Highway 1 across the end of the runway.

      "As I turned, the assault on Tan Son Nhut started right under me, They must have thought I was a 'slick' 'cause they never paid any attention to me," he said.

      He dumped 48 rockets on an enemy regiment that was on line, advancing on Tan Son Nhut.

      They broke the initial assault but the VC did not give up. His team went back to the airfield to re-arm, then took off again for the west end of the runway, but the enemy was waiting for them. They hit the machine gun, and the man stationed there caught part of the fire through the web between his forefinger and thumb. It smashed the gun, and he wrapped a handkerchief around the wound.

      "Whole sections of Saigon were destroyed during that fight," Payne said. There was nowhere else to go; every major city was under attack. His craft took 39 hits in about 12 seconds on one pass, and nearly everyone aboard but himself was nicked.

      They were still receiving fire as they approached the heliport. Even at a hover, the enemy seemed about to overrun them. They took cover under a revetment so they could rearm their aircraft. Payne said he had 26 men in his platoon, enough to man four helicopters.

      "That was the only time in my life I knew I was going to die," he said. "Obviously, I was in error."

      Payne said they took off down their own flight line and he was about to hit the firing button when he got the call that the Viet Cong were falling back. The 3/4 Cavalry of 25th Infantry Division set up a defensive perimeter around the heliport so that they had a secure place to rearm and refuel.

      "The movies are correct. The cavalry does come to the rescue. They felt like we'd rescued them, we felt like they'd rescued us."

      "In the first 12 hours of the Tet offensive, all 9 aircraft of the Razorback platoon were shot up beyond local repairs and were replaced by rebuilt Huey B's flown in from Corpus Christi, Texas. We slapped weapons systems on 'em. They were intended for 1st. Cavalry, but they ended up with us. They decided the capital (of South Vietnam) was more important," Payne said.

      Just prior to dawn that morning, they got a call from Capital Military District asking them to check out the Cholon district of Saigon. By this time, there were fires all over Saigon and smoke was building up.

      The Razorbacks caught a lot of ground fire on their way over. From the air they could see jeeps turned up on their sides and the bodies of children and civilians sprawled out. They were irked to see, in the midst of the havoc, a senior officer's Bachelor Officer Quarters where a poolside party was in progress, and the officers' Vietnamese girlfriends waving up to them.

      "That was the first night of the Tet offensive. We ended up firing into Saigon a whole lot. We chased them into the countryside ... The fighting went on into April," Payne said.

      In late April, they got word of a second offensive in the making. Somewhere along the line, Payne had been promoted to major, and he had orders to leave for home May 14. So far, he had been lucky.

      Then, in the Giadinh area of Saigon, in the middle of the night, about the first of May, he was hit for the first time. He watched a little flash down below him, and felt his knee come up and hit him in the chin. The bullet had come through the chin bubble of the helicopter and some of the heavier metal pieces. Part of the jacket hit him on the little finger. He thought the finger had been shot off, but it was just a metal fragment stuck into it that came out quite easily.

      The real wound was on the back of his thigh. "I still have the bullet in my leg. Nice little memento, but I can't show it to anybody," he said.

      Payne felt the impact, but went back for another pass. When he landed, a litter was fetched, but he was walking around and didn't want to get on it because he felt if he did it would be giving up.

      "I made it through almost two years of flying gunships before I got wounded. I think that's a record," Payne said.

      He left as the May offensive was scaling down, and got out of the Army in 1971, but by that time the gunships he had helped pioneer were accepted by the Army and the rest of the world. (1)

      Military Discharge recorded in Stephens County Courthouse Book 21, page 93. Not viewed. Chad was awarded three Distinguished Flying Crosses during his military service.

      2000 Chad Payne's former gunship door gunner is a Hollywood screenwriter and movie producer now. He told Chad he keeps writing him into some of his characters. He evidently rounded out the Col. Kilgore character in "Apocalypse Now" using Chad as his model. Apparently that's the character that famously said "I love the smell of napalm in the morning". Chad claims he finds that scary, but I don't think there is much that would scare the same Chad.(2)

      The book "Seven Firefights in Vietnam" records Chad Payne's Vietnam experiences in greater detail.

      Chad is becoming quite a successful Western artist now. His prints are selling like hot cakes. He is really very good indeed. A serious western artist in his spare time.(3)

      (1). Mitch Meador, Mitch (1993)  Duncan veteran pioneered air mobility idea in Vietnam. The Sunday Constitution  newspaper, January 10, 1993 - Duncan Oklahoma (2). Harvey, Kenneth Charles (1996) (3). Payne, Lewis Adair (1996)  Conversation with Kenneth Charles Harvey
    Person ID I5764  Strong Family Tree
    Last Modified 17 Aug 2014 

    Father Claude Chadwick Payne,   b. 18 Feb 1908, Stephens County, Oklahoma Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 3 Dec 1955, Lawton, Comanche County, Oklahoma Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 47 years) 
    Mother Lois Macel Reed,   b. 30 Jan 1917, Gage, Ellis County, Oklahoma Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 17 Oct 2004, Jefferson City, Cole County, Missouri Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 87 years) 
    Married 24 Dec 1935  Comanche County, Oklahoma Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F2995  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Patricia Ann Tompkins,   b. 26 Jan 1941, Lawton, Comanche County, Oklahoma Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 15 Jun 2012, Duncan, Stephens County, Oklahoma Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 71 years) 
    Married 31 Dec 1957  Burkburnett, Wichita County, Texas Find all individuals with events at this location  [1
     1. Living
     2. Living
    Last Modified 9 Dec 2009 
    Family ID F2996  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Event Map
    Link to Google MapsBorn - 14 Feb 1937 - Duncan, Stephens County, Oklahoma Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsMarried - 31 Dec 1957 - Burkburnett, Wichita County, Texas Link to Google Earth
    Link to Google MapsDied - 9 Feb 2008 - Duncan, Stephens County, Oklahoma Link to Google Earth
     = Link to Google Earth 

  • Sources 
    1. [S124] Harvey, Kenneth C--Family Member; Gedcom, Printed Descendants Reports of Payne and Gentry Families, Correspondence.