Captain Ed Simmonds

Memorable Events:

After graduating from UCONN and receiving an Army ROTC Commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in June 1963, Captain Ed Simonds entered active duty in August 1963 and attended the Basic Officers Course at Fort Eustis, VA. He remained at Eustis for about 6 months awaiting his slot in flight school. He began flight training at Ft. Rucker, AL in June 1964 and received his wings in March 1965. After a few weeks at Ft. Bragg, Simonds was assigned to the 221st Aviation Company and deployed with that unit to Vietnam.

Ed traveled to Saigon on a C-130 and was stationed at Ca Mau in the Mekong Delta, the southernmost city in IV Corps. The Delta terrain was flat and wet and IV Corps operations were controlled by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). No U.S. combat units were operating there at the time. Ed’s first duties were to fly the Province Chief around the Delta, where he met Martha Raye and Wayne Newton, two well-known celebrities who were visiting the troops.

The main tasks of the 221st Aviation Company was to fly daily observation and reconnaissance missions and direct air strikes for the ARVN Air Force and Navy. The unit flew shotgun for barges on the waterways, land convoys and early Agent Orange flights. They acted as radio relays at night so that the Vietnamese could communicate with Saigon.

The most difficult assignments were close-in bombing support for ARVN infantry offensives–calling in coordinates for artillery and bombing runs. Ed noted that it was common practice for the pilots to sit on their flak jackets for protection of their vital parts, as they were shot at virtually every day. The survival gear they were issued was a joke, as it consisted of mere tinsel to be thrown out the window on the way down, unlike the real survival kits given to the U.S. Air Force and Navy.

The Bird Dogs had four 2.75 rockets, primarily for marking targets. Their aiming devices were lines on the windshield. Ed spoke of an occasion when off-shore naval gunfire strayed off course and was bracketing him as he flew. He watched the black puffs explode around him. Fortunately, he was able to correct their error. At night, tracers coming up at his plane proved unnerving as they appeared to pass close by and he would try, when possible, to climb beyond the “burnout rate” of the bullets.

On the ground, Viet Cong Sappers were a risk to their base camp and the buildings near him were hit. On one occasion, they were on high alert as rumors of an impending attack were widespread. They moved into nearby bunkers, but Ed stayed outside and in the process was shot in the leg and wounded. He spent two weeks in a nearby hospital in Soc Trang. Ed returned to the good old USA in June 1966, on a “delightful flight with real stewardesses” from Saigon to Travis AFB. After a 30-day leave at home, he reported back to Fort Rucker where he “flew a desk” for his remaining 9 months of active duty. Ed was discharged on 6 June, 1967 after almost 4 years on active duty.


Ed was born in Hartford on September 22, 1940. He grew up in Unionville and graduated from Farmington High School in 1958. After receiving his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Connecticut, Ed received a U.S. Army ROTC commission as a 2nd Lieutenant. He achieved the rank of Captain and honorably served as a decorated fixed-wing pilot in the 221st Aviation Company during the Vietnam War. He later returned to UConn and received his MBA. He also attended the University Of Connecticut School Of Law. Upon graduation, Ed became a successful auditor for Ernst & Ernst, which lead to a job offer at St. Francis Hospital because of his extensive, specialized knowledge of hospital tax law and regulation. As an Assistant Comptroller, one of his responsibilities was to provide budget presentations to Congressional sub-committees. Ed worked in the healthcare industry as a Comptroller and a CPA for the majority of his career.

In later years, Ed became very involved in community service. He served as treasurer and Trustee, deacon, greeter and faithful member of the Collinsville Congregational Church for many years. Ed provided counseling and financial tutoring to members of the church and, in his role as deacon, was influential in directing church funds to members in need.

Ed was also a proud and active member of the Gildo T. Consolini Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post #3272 in Avon, enthusiastically attending the VFW’s weekly veterans’ breakfasts up until his final weeks. He was proud of his service to his country, but he was humble and did not speak of his service often. Ed made an exception for the VFW’s community events, and he would join the other VFW Post 3272 veterans in regaling the audience with stories of wartime. Ed most recently animatedly entertained an audience at the Avon Public Library, during its commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, just weeks before he succumbed to his illness.

He was a founding member of Boy Scout Troop 177 in Collinsville, CT. Ed has been described as “indispensable” in the many roles he performed, but as Assistant Scoutmaster he most enjoyed mentoring and guiding his troop members toward becoming Eagle Scouts. He spent many years helping boys chart an advancement plan and is remembered for recalling, off the top of his head, an in-depth knowledge of the advancement needs for each boy in the troop. During his years in scouting he also served as a leader at Camp Workcoeman summer camp and even earned his Woodbadge beads in recent years, signifying Boy Scouts of America recognition of “significant achievement in leadership and direct service to young people.”

During Hurricane Sandy, Ed was especially active and provided neighbors with an unending supply of hot water, batteries, and propane. He supplied family and friends alike, and also made them aware of available emergency town services (warm room, showers, MRE rations, CO2 detectors, etc.). Each year for Veterans Day, Ed provided American flags for display to any neighbors who wished to display one.

During his leisure time Ed could be found reading, gardening, target shooting with his children and camping with his grandchildren. He was an avid fan of the UConn Huskies women’s basketball program and the Boston Red Sox.

Captain Ed Simonds passed away on December 13, 2013. Those left to treasure his memory include: his wife, Joanne (Varcoe) Simonds, of Weatogue; daughter, Karen Smith of Avon and Skip Desjardin; son, Steven Simonds and his wife Pam of Burlington; son, Mark Simonds of Encinitas, CA; brother, William T. Simonds of Unionville; brother, John R. Simonds and his wife Judi of Burlington; and sister, Dorothy Sheflin and her husband Ray of Sevierville, TN. Ed was a loving and doting grandpa to seven grandchildren: Mark Nezas, Alexandra and Benjamin Simonds, Harrison, Matthew, Garrett, and Rachel Smith. He was predeceased by three infant grandsons: Andrew, Brendan, and Christopher Smith.

Special thanks to the Simonds family and Bill Newman (former Commander of the Avon VFW), for providing these records and recounting their fond memories of Captain Ed Simonds so that we may posthumously honor his service.

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Monte Caylor