History: Return to Vietnam
DaNang Air Base
Republic of South Vietnam
ay, 15, 1965: DaNang Air Base, Republic of South Vietnam - Took off at 0900 hours, arrived in Vietnam at 1400 hours. We're billeted in a tent city. Very hot. [mckee]
5/16/65: Flew with Sergeant Ray to a new airstrip south of Tam Ky (probably Chu Lai). [mckee]
Excerpts from HMM-365 Command Diary
Msn 5-707-6: 8600 lbs. cargo and 22 troops of the 3rd Marine Division were lifted from DaNang to BT528042.
Msn 5-708-6: 20 troops of the 3rd Marines were lifted from LZ AT981746 to LZ AT870825.
Msn 5-709-6: 500 lbs. of cargo and 32 troops of the 2nd Bn, 3rd Marines were rotated between LZ AT946784 AT938742 AT981746.
Msn 5-712-6: 5450 lbs. water and rations were lifted for 2/3 from AT946774 to LZ AT848810. 9 pax returned.
Msn 5-722-3: One pax was lifted on a recon of AT800800 and returned to LZ AT981746.
5/17/65: Scheduled flight to Hue cancelled so that we could show a general around. [mckee]
Sitrep Msn 5-723-6: 25 Marines from the 3rd Marine Regiment lifted to LZ AT983744, LZ AT872817, and LZ Dove AT980745.
Sitrep Msn 5-724-3: Lifted LtGen Krulak, MajGen Collins, MajGen Fontana, and BrigGen Carl and party of 18 from DaNang to BT548842.
Sitrep Msn 5-738-2: 1 American medevac from 1st Bn, 3rd Marines lifted from LZ AT903711 to DaNang Field Hospital.
Lieutenant General Victor Krulak was in the area and we flew him around the base. Between HMM-161, HMM-163, HMM-365, VMO-2, and the Army Hueys, we launched a 42 plane mission. We hauled 900 Vietnamese troops into a zone that was held by two battalions of Viet Cong. [winkel]
5/18/65: Took a patrol out. Nothing else. [mckee]
5/19/65: Strike at 0600 hours. Flew 7 sorties of Marines out. Picked up recon patrol. Flew a VIP hop. [mckee]
5/20/65: Flew to Hue, then turned around back to Danang for VIP flights. Resupply missions the rest of the day. [mckee]
5/21/65: Flew 3 strike missions. [mckee]
...near DaNang, for two consecutive nights pilots of HMM-365 lowered their choppers into the midst of raging fire fights to evacuate more wounded Marines. The copter crews ignored Viet Cong bullets and hazardous landing conditions to affect the evacuations.
On the first night, the copters tried for two hours to land in a field where a Marine patrol was heavily engaged with the Viet Cong. Each time, the planes were waved off. Finally, just before midnight, two aircraft were directed in by signals from a flashlight.
photoedit art by del Rosario
With rifle slugs slicing the night air and the darkness broken only by intermittent rays from flashlights, the wounded men were loaded aboard and flown to a field hospital. Captains John A. Eilerston of Vinton, Virginia, and Arthur A. Dittmeier of Yonkers, New York, piloted the rescue craft that night.
Less than twenty-four hours later, Dittmeier was at the controls of another copter which dropped into the middle of a battle.
"There were four birds", according to the officer, "and we couldn't see anything on the ground except the tracers being fired by both sides."
There was a squad of Marines on the ground pinned down by an estimated platoon of Viet Cong. No flashlights this time. The field was in darkness, as each of the fourteen Marines was fighting.
"Two of our birds turned on their landing lights," said Dittmeier, who holds the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, the third highest award of the Republic of Vietnam.
With the landing lights on, the copters immediately became targets for the enemy guns, but the hazards went ignored. By rotating the lighting assignments and landings for loading, the helicopters were able to evacuate not only the wounded but the remaining men of the embattled squad.
[Jack Lewis, editor; DATELINE: Vietnam; copyright 1966 by Challenge Publications, Inc.]
5/22/65: Two troop lifts. [mckee}
Sitrep Msn 5-924-3: 2 UH-34D carried 12 passengers of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines on a recon of Grid Squares (AT8765), (AT8565), (AT8467), (AT8468), (AT8568), Hill 270, and Hill 310. 11 passengers were picked up at Finch (AT8865) and returned to Finch. 2 pax were picked up (AT895678) and returned to DaNang.
Sitrep Msn 5-929-6: 10 UH-34D carried 350 lbs and 187 passengers of 1stBn/3rdMarines from Finch to Redbird (AT915687) and another 187 passengers of 1stBn/3rdMarines, plus 13 ARVNs from Redbird to Finch on a company rotation at the completion of which the aircraft returned to DaNang.
Sitrep Msn 5-930-3: 2 UH-34Ds carried 7,100 lbs and 25 passengers of the 2ndBn/3rdMarines to LZ Chickadee (AT947775 ), from Chickadee resuppled the following LZs: Falcon (AT932781), Falcon B (AT923782), Albatross (AT937787), Albatross B (AT923782), and LZ AT937787. Also flew recon of area between AT860860 and AT810860.
Sitrep Msn 5-931-6: 2 UH-34D carried 32 Force Recon on a paradrop to DZ BT047776.
5/23/65: Little slack time today. Flew resupply mission all day. [mckee]
Wheeler's Landing is the sophisticated title of a decidedly unsophisticated landing zone hacked off the top of a 2700-foot mountain. The outpost is named for Colonel E. B. Wheeler of Charlottesville, Virginia, commanding officer of the Third Marine Regiment, which has provided part of the perimeter security for the DaNang air-ground complex.
But Wheeler's Landing also is an apt description of the zone itself. Helicopters. the only vehicles able to get to the observation post, touch only their two front wheels to the ground. The rest of the chopper sticks out like a dart over the almost vertical sides of the peak. Some of the Marines manning the remote outpost are naval gunfire spotters who survey the valleys below with powerful field glasses and call in artillery or gunfire from an offshore destroyer whenever the Viet Cong are seen. The others are from a reconnaissance battalion, providing security and added surveillance of possible enemy access routes in the river valley far beneath them. Between the sandbagged bunkers, scope tripods, stacked rations and other supplies, there's little room left on the ten-by-thirty meter summit of Dong Den.
Yet helicopters of HMM-365 settle onto the minute dirt patch at least three times a week, bringing in mail, rations, water, ammunition and the other necessities of war. Once a week or so, a replacement force is flown in and the old unit ferried out.
Wheeler's Landing, according to the copter crews, isn't even that.
"You don't really set down. You're flying every second," is the way Captain Arthur A. Dittmeier describes Dong Den. "It's like walking the edge of a razor blade!"
[Jack Lewis, editor, DATELINE, Vietnam]
5/24/65: Picked up a patrol of grunts. Leave for DaNang tomorrow. Report of 150-200 VC in the area. Couldn't find anything. Heard Tucker is in the hospital. [mckee]
Landing Zones are the most dangerous places for helicopter crews and debarking infantry. The LZs are usually zeroed in with preregistered fire from enemy mortars and automatic weapons. The assault must be accomplished in as little time as possible with the helicopter section coming in fast from seemingly random directions, discharging their cargo of troops and materiel and then lifting off quickly. The troops on the ground hasten to leave the immediate area of the LZ and find cover. [photo by Glenn Turley]
Msn 144C: 3 UH-34D carried 81 pax of 3/4 from Hue Phu Bai to YD850085, then back to Hue Phu Bai. Flight was an attempt to locate reported VC at YD835095, YD895073 and YD948062. 1400 rounds of 7.62mm ammo was expended in an attempt to flush the VC. Negative contact.
Msn 144E: 2 UH-34D carried 42 pax and 5325 lbs. cargo for 3/4 from Hue Phu Bai to Hill 180 YD847085, Hue Phu Bai to Hill 225 YD847087 and return. 350 rounds of 7.62mm ammo was expended on a VC concentration as directed by 3/4.
Msn 144F: 2 UH-34D carried 6 pax of 3/4 on a recon from Hue Phu Bai to the Free Zone YD813050 and a 5-mile radius. Expended 290 rounds of 7.62mm ammo on supposed VC.
5/25/65: Had all morning flights while others went to DaNang. Flew to DaNang in time for 1430 hours launch. Got back and sent out on SPC again. Bushed! [mckee]
Msn 5-1109-3A: 2 UH-34D of HMM-365 combined with 4 UH-1B of 7th Army Aviation Unit and 3 F4B of VMFA-531. HMM-365 carried 3 pax of 1st Bn, 3rd Marines on a recon from Eagle "B" AT966733 to AT835670 and became engaged as Forward Air Coordiantor for a squad engaged in a fire fight at AT835670, where they called for additional air strike power from the above units. The UH-34D then departed the area for Dove AT983744, remaining until they were called back in to recover 12 troops at LZ AT835670 who they then returned to Dove AT983744. The aircraft were then released back to DaNang.
A Navy helicopter from one of the ships anchored out in DaNang Bay brought in some mail. While it was sitting on the flight line, the crewchief got out and came over to Hoskins and me and asked if we had any souveniers for sale or trade. Hoskins ran back to the tent area and got some of our genuine punji stakes that we had made out of bamboo and had been passing off as authentic Viet Cong punjis and selling them to the Air Force and newly arrived grunts. The sailor bought 10 of them for twenty bucks. We acted like we really didn't want to part with them and we told him that one of our buddies got impaled on the foot by one of those. [delrosario]
5/27/65: Flew 60 plane strike out of coal mine. Good haul from what I hear. [mckee]
HMM-161, -163, -365, and VMO-2 had a 75 plane strike - the biggest one so far. We carried Vietnamese Rangers. Also, ADs (A-1 Skyraiders) and jets were dropping bombs and napalm. [winkel]
Sitrep Msn 5-1122-1: 17 UH-34D of HMM-365 combined with UH-34d's from HMM-161 and 163, 4 O-1B's and 4 UH-1B's from VMO-2 and 4 F4B's of VMFA-531 conducted a preplanned strike (no name). HMM-365 carried 168 ARVN troops and 1 American advisor of I Corps from DaNang to LA AT820545 from 0645 to 0827. Flight #4 received small arms fire while landing and while in LZ from approximate coordinates AT820551. HMM-365 aircraft expended 850 rounds of 7.62mm ammo in return and suppressing fire.
5/28/65: Had early morning change of personnel of grunts in the field. Flew resupply to outpost. [mckee]
Sitrep Msn 5-1126-2: 2 UH-34D conducted a medevac for 1st Bn, 3rd Marines, carried 1 WIA and 1 passenger from LZ AT965661 to DaNang Field Hospital. Small arms fire heard on leaving zone, no hits received.
Sitrep Msn 5-1130-6: 2 UH-34D carried MajGen Collins plus 4 from DaNang to Hue Phu Bai and return.
The grunts watched until the last of the helicopters were gone, leaving a lonely place in the sky.
- del Rosario -
Msn 5-1161-3: 2 UH-34D carried 6 pax of Force Recon from LZ Quail AT985745 on a recon of the area south of Highway #1 to BT000540, west to AT940600, north to AT920790, and direct to LZ Finch AT956743 where the team was dropped and the aircraft returned to DaNang.
Msn 5-1166-3: 2 UH-34D carried 12 pax of III MAF from LZ Turkey AT946775 to Le My AT900818 and reconned the area bounded by 88 North, 83 South 80 West, and 93 East. Dropped team at their base and proceeded back to DaNang.
Msn 5-1167-6: 2 UH-34D carried 18 pax of Force Recon on a paradrop at AT048778.
5/29/65: Another change of grunt personnel. Flew beer run to new strip, Chu Lai. Went out on patrol. [mckee]
My girl asked me about the war in this far Asian land.
She asked me to tell her all and said she'd understand.
So I wrote: "Nothing much...had a strike just yesterday
- sorry, gal...there's nothing else to say."