Otter 107 was delivered to the United States Army on 12th April 1956 with serial 55-3263 (tail number 53263). It was allocated to the 14th Army Aviation Company at Fort Riley, Kansas. In August '56 the 14th was re-designated the 1st Aviation Company and moved to Fort Benning, Georgia where it continued to fly the Otter until 1961, when it converted to the Caribou, relinquishing its U-1As to other units. 53263 then joined the 2nd Missile Command at Fort Carson, Colorado until April 1962, when it was transferred to the 17th Aviation Company at Fort Ord, California.
In May 1963 53263 was one of a platoon of 17th Aviation Company Otters which were assigned to Vietnam to join the 18th Aviation Company. On arrival in Vietnam by ship, the Otters were taken on charge by the 339th Transportation Company and were re-assembled by Air Vietnam at Tan Son Nhut. 53263 joined the 18th Aviation Company in June 1963 and continued to serve with the unit until February 1966, when it was returned to the United States for overhaul at the ARADMAC Depot, Corpus Christi, Texas. When this was completed, it was brought back to Vietnam in May 1966 and joined the 54th Aviation Company.
The 54th was based at the old French resort town of Vung Tau, quite a pleasant place by all accounts, had there not being a war going on. One of the tasks allocated to the Company was to fly missions for a Psychological Warfare Battalion, in an attempt to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people. The Battalion had created quite a collection of pamphlets, leaflets and booklets that depicted the advantages of coming over to the side of the Republic of South Vietnam. In this “Open Arms” programme, the enemy soldier could pick up one of the leaflets and be guaranteed safe passage back to the South. He was promised re-education, some land and some money.
Loading the aircraft with upwards of 1,500 pounds of such leaflets, the crews of the Otters dropped their cargo over numerous small villages and thousands of acres of jungle controlled by the Viet Cong. Many of the enemy it appears were not much persuaded by these leaflets and the Otters dropping them were frequently shot at from the ground by the VC. Unarmed, unescorted and slow to climb above effective small arms range, the Otters offered excellent targets. This is just what happened to “Big Daddy 53263” (the call-sign of the 54th Aviation Company) on 11th August 1967 in the Nui Dat Province, to the north of Vung Tau.
While trying to maintain VFR conditions in the drop zone, intense ground fire was received, fracturing an oil line, which led to engine seizure and to a forced landing in the trees of a rubber plantation. Although thankfully none of the crew were injured, due to the Otter's sturdy construction, the aircraft itself was a wreck, with both wings torn off and the fuselage broken in two. The fuel tank had ruptured, spilling fuel all over the crash site. The 'coup de grace' was unintentionally given to the Otter later that day when a helicopter flying overhead, intending only to mark the accident site with a smoke grenade, succeeded instead in setting the aircraft alight, and what was left of 53263 was burned to a cinder.
Full history courtesy of Karl E. Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter: A History (2005).