Sheboygan, Wis. (WFRV) – Allen Nohl was always fascinated by helicopters.
Nohl grew up in the small community of Johnsonville in Sheboygan Falls. He finished computer programming school in 1969, but that wasn’t what his future held. Nohl enlisted in the Army that same year.
“I felt it was an obligation because I had uncles that had served in World War II,” Nohl said. “Fortunately for all of them, they made it home again, but I felt an obligation to my country,” he said.
Nohl completed basic training at Fort Campbell in Kentucky, and then went to Fort Rucker in Alabama. There, he trained as a Huey Helicopter mechanic, graduating at the top of his class.
However, he wasn’t expecting to be sent to Vietnam right away.
“(The Sargeant told me), ‘Well, Spec. Nohl, you have to realize all Huey Helicopters are used in Vietnam right now and that’s where the greatest use is, so you need to go there to fix them,'” Nohl recalled.
In January of 1970, Nohl headed to Northern Vietnam.
He worked in a hangar at Camp Evans with the 101st Airborne Division, flying infantry troops and supplies to wherever they were needed.
On May 6, 1970, things took a tragic turn for Nohl and his crew.
A missed communication signal between two helicopters caused a collision between Nohl’s crew and another. His helicopter went plunging into the jungle up in flames.
Each helicopter had four crew members on board; Nohl was the only survivor. He suffered first and second degree burns, but the emotional scars lingered much longer.
“I’ve gotta say, the community here where I lived was very supportive. I didn’t want to prance around here and say, ‘I’m the sole survivor, I’m the hero and all that,’ I didn’t want that role, I was very subdued about that,” Nohl said.
“It’s really been in the last 20 years now that I’ve started to open up and talk about this and to me, that’s really part of my therapy,” he said.
Another part of that therapy is the Sheboygan County Veteran’s Memorial, where Nohl serves as Chairman. He’s helped with fundraising efforts to keep the memorial going for more than two decades.
Helping other veterans, is what Nohl said helps him the most.
“I see the satisfaction that they get when we give them a certificate or they see their name on the wall, and just to see that gleam in their eye, that smile, you know?”
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