Clarence A. Patnode, Jr., better known as Bud to his friends and family, was born in Churubusco, NY in 1932. After graduating high school, he continued his education by attending college earning a BS in Mathematics. In 1954, he was commissioned into the Army as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry.
In 1957, as a pilot in the 191st Assault Helicopter Company, Patnode was sent out to rescue survivors from a C-124 airplane that lost 2 engines and went down just after takeoff into a river. In a H-13 helicopter, he discovered the plane had broken in half. He hovered over the ice to allow people to climb in the helicopter and then landed on ice that was heading out to sea, pulling 14 people from the mud. On his next attempt to save additional survivors, he bottomed out the collective on the H-13, over-torqued it allowing him to ‘hop’ the helicopter to the bank of the river to pull 19 more people from the mud without damaging the H-13.
Patnode distinguished himself by volunteering and leading a search and rescue effort to find missing soldiers. With a night ceiling of barely 100 feet, the search was initiated. During this low-level run, the search aircraft came under extremely intense enemy fire. Flying just off the ground, he maintained contact and control of the entire operation, successfully rescuing the missing soldiers.
As the war continued, Patnode looked out for the families in a particular village and the soldiers of the 191st. In his helicopter, you could find extra rations and toys that he would distribute amongst the families in a near by village that rarely had food, much less something special to give to the children. He also made sure the morale was good by asking the mess cook to setup a barbeque every Sunday on the flight line for the company. He made sure everyone around him was taken care of.
In an interview with Dennis Statis, Patnode’s Crew Chief, it is customary that the Crew Chief names the aircraft. After asking permission, he named the helicopter “Michelle”, after his daughter. During their entire time together in Vietnam, Statis shared “Michelle never took a hit”.