Otter 117 was delivered to the United States Army on 19th May 1956 with serial 55-3271 (tail number 53271). 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. 53271 was then assigned to the United States Marine Corps and was based at Quantico MCAS, Virginia. It remained in its Army olive drab colour scheme, and with its Army tail number, but with 'Marines' titles and was used for parachute work.
In May 1966 53271 arrived at the Electronics Warfare Laboratory, Lakehurst NAS., New Jersey. It was one of three Otters arriving there around that time for conversion to RU-1A configuration, the other two being 52977 and 53315. 53271 was also noted at Fort Eustis, Virginia around this time, where some work was done on it as well. After these three Otters had been converted, two of them, 52977 and 53271, were transported to Vietnam where in December 1967 they joined the 146th Aviation Company, based at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Saigon.
The RU-1As were used on radio intercept and direction finding missions, electronics intelligence work. They flew alongside the Company's RU-8Ds and RU-21s. 53271 was shot down over Cambodia on 12th February 1969 when a large calibre anti-aircraft round hit the underside of the engine. The pilot was able to crash land the aircraft in a rice paddy. After a gun battle, the crew of four were captured by Viet Cong troops and turned over to the Cambodian government. After President Nixon apologised to the Cambodians for violating their airspace, the four crew of the Otter were released one month later. The pilot, Major Herlik, declined to answer the question as to whether or not his aircraft was shot down over Cambodia, as opposed to having crash landed there. He did say he believed they were flying over Tay Ninh Province in South Vietnam. The Otter was destroyed in the shoot down.
To be updated.
Full history courtesy of Karl E. Hayes © from DHC-3 Otter: A History (2005).