John C. Hansen

Posted on February 5, 2010


For those who look at the “Wall”, John Hansen is just a name among 58,000+.  John Hansen was a real live human-being. He was my first love.

I was just a skinny 14-year-old girl wearing pig-tails and had a big nose as my face was pretty thin. He was my field boss one summer when we were kids picking raspberries and he would play his guitar.  It was 1967 and he was wearing “Battle Fatigues”. He may have been on leave before going to flight training to become a helicopter pilot.

The reason I knew it John Hansen, is that people said that is who he was. He was kind of tall and gangly and at the same time rather nice looking. When I’d get on the old school bus that transported the berry pickers from Cascade Locks to Corbett, I’d be covered with in ripe, juicy berries. John didn’t pay any attention to that skinny little 14-year-old. I wish he could have seen me when I grew up and wasn’t quite so skinny.

In 1969, I saw in the newspaper that John had been shot down in his helicopter over Vietnam. I clipped the newspaper article and kept it in my desk drawer in my bedroom for many years. When I first read the newspaper article I cried and ran outdoors and wrote my first story ” The Boy in the Raspberry Patch”. At 20, I wrote another story called “Sand Castles” about a young soldier who built sand castles with candles in them for a lonely girl he left behind.

My sister said that is why I never found true love because so many of them were killed in that war. I’ve had John with me a lot in my life. I know he is not far away and I will see him again someday.

I read somewhere that a soldiers who dies for freedom never really dies for those who keep them in their hearts. John Hansen is one of those soldiers. Everyone who knew John loved him. I will never forget him.

Some of the stories you mentioned on your website reminded me that John was clearly an asset to our society.
His mother Grace Hansen was a math/algebra teacher at our school and had a love/hate relationship with one Terry Barstad. It was kinky for sure, he set out sharp tacks for her to sit on, and she did. It may not have blossomed after that.
John and I went joy riding in my 1947 Jeep one day. Down to Eagle creek overlook and up the narrow road to the paved parking lot behind the lodge overlooking the mouth of Eagle creek, We spun around and cut some cookies and managed to tip the jeep over onto its side. John hiked or hitched a ride 4 miles back to town and borrowed his mom’s huge Buick. He returned and hooked a rope to the jeep and pulled it back onto its tires. It was in great shape, except for the damaged wooden home made top. I removed that once back home and threw it away. Drove in the rain topless for a couple years, 1963 was a marvelous year. John, class of ’64 CLHS treated my jeep roll over so nonchalantly, he acted like he was in accident every day, calm, collected, with an immediate solution to the problem.
We played basketball on the same JV basketball team, neither of us was too skilled at that. Our coach Don Young was glad we turned out, he didn’t have to sit on the bench alone.
In chemistry class John knew what chemicals would burn, smoke, or blow up when mixed with each other, with water, with air. It was fun watching him do his “experiments” in the back of the chemistry lab.
Him and Barstad kept the class interesting.
John would have made a world-class helicopter pilot, fearless, calm, collected, smart. The golden bb that took out John’s life saved hundreds or thousands of Viet Cong, NVA. & all the other bad guys we fought. John’s lethality would have been legendary.
Today July 15, 2016 marks 47 years since John’s death, we will remember him until our last breath. He was a warrior. He was our friend.
Joe Nolin class of ’65 CLHS    []

War Story:
John Hansen and John Powell were flying a First-light mission in the AO. As they were flying toward the AO, a patrol of the other guys was spotted. John rolled “hot”, engaged and the patrol scattered. “Little Bird” then became the “Hunter”, a back pack was found. John landed his bird next to the pack, and as the crew chief (name I do not remember) was leaning out of the bird to pick up the pack, a soldier from the other side stood up just a few feet in front of the little bird and opened fire with an AK-47. I recall someone saying the guy was approx. 20 feet in front of the little bird. Regardless of the distance, he did not miss. The month of July, 1969 was the longest and most horrible month I have spent in my lifetime. Its funny how I am remembering little things which occured during that month. As an example, The night before, John H. was in his houch, playing a guitar like he was playing a banjo. He was really bending the strings; it sounded really good – it was the first time I had heard a guitar played that way. Anyway, John was Calvalier 15 when I arrived in country. I became cavalier 15 after John. We lost a large number of very brave young men during that month. John had been in country long enough to have proven his bravery over and over again. (The number of losses totaled around 10, does not include the ones medivaced.) Julie, you mentioned John Powell must have been the best cobra pilot in the unit. You must have been listening to John – just kidding a little. I flew many missions with John as my high bird. I cannot verify his being the best cobra pilot but I can verify he was the “Fastest Draw”. If the little bird called “taking fire”, he had better be pulling pitch and hauling “a..”, because John had already punched off a pair of rockets – and he made no secret of the fact he used the little bird as a target or reference point to place supressive fire. Thanks John. David was still in lift platoon when John went down. The Blues were inserted and it is a highly probability David flew on that misson. I’m getting behind on trying to send information I remember. One quick little story, The very first pilot I flew with in country was John Anderson. John was a character – he never met a stranger. I think he knew everyone at Phouc Vinh – that includes other units also. He was that type. He enjoyed a philosophical discussion. When we started out on the mission (as I said, my first) I had no maps, etc. We were going over to A Troop to help them out – seems they had been hit pretty heavy recently. I was a little concerned – I had noticed John did not have a map either. I asked him if he knew where we were going – he assured me he did. After the second time I asked and he reassured me, we took off. To make a long story short, we finally make our destination – by taking the senic route, across the “angels wing” (Cambodia) and areas to the south. Will continue to write more later. With caring memories of all the brave young Cavaliers. Cecil Smith Cavalier 15/56-C, August 1999.

John Hansen was assigned to Charlie Troop 1st Squadron 9th Cavalry 1st Cavalry Division (AM) on January 8, 1969 and was Killed In Action on July 15, 1969.   John was a Pilot of an OH-6A Light Observation Helicopter. He was  awarded the following medals for his service: Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and a set of Army Aviator Wings.