January 1965: Our First Death
The major U.S. forces in Vietnam on this date were Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365, U.S Army 5th Special Forces Group, the 13th, 14th, 52nd, and 145th Aviation Battalions. The total number of U.S. personnel in Vietnam from all branches of the service was 23,300. The total number of U.S. personnel killed in action in Indochina from 1954 to 1964 was 206. The number of U.S. Marines killed to this date was 20. From the beginning of 1965 to the end of the United States involvement in the War in Indochina, 57,968 more Americans were to lose their lives.
The new year started off good. Promotions were handed out. I was getting ready to go out to town on liberty when there was a call for twelve plane launch at noon. It seems that an Air Force OE went out late yesterday afternoon and hasn't been heard of since. Each chopper that went out on the search had the pilots, crew, and two or three CRT members who acted as search and rescue observers. There sure is some pretty scenery here, especially in the mountains. It's thick jungle, mountains, valleys, and nice looking waterfalls and streams. We saw a parachute but it turned out to be a cargo chute. We secured the search about 1730 hours but we'll probably go out again tomorrow. [winkel]
1/2/65: First thing this morning we went out looking for the missing Air Force plane again. There was only one pilot in the plane. The latest word was that he went north, about where we were yesterday, and then he was seen making a 180 degree turn and that was it. We also went into Laos where he was suppose to have gone. Capt Burt, who was our pilot, said that if we would have been shot down and lived through the crash, which was unlikely, the Laotians would have captured us and we would spend the next few years in a prisoner of war camp. The other chopper with us was shot at but not hit. We didn't turn up anything. One of the other CRT crews in a different chopper spotted some wreckage but it turned out to be an old one. I don't see how we don't get shot at more often. We came pretty close to the treetops and we keep flying over the same area a few times. We got back to base at 1230 hours. I was out for about 3 hours today. More choppers went out later in the day but nothing turned up. [winkel]
It was some of the most beautiful scenes I have seen in my life. The jungled mountains of the Annamite Cordillera, cut by deep dark chasms, a wild place I would have loved to wander aimlessly in were it not for the hostility that lies unseen. Over and around high mountain peaks, then down deep valleys, the pilots flew their helicopters, sometimes so deep that we would be looking out the hatch and portholes and see nothing but the lush green vegetation clinging to the steep escarpment to the side and above us. Sometimes we would be just a few feet above the trees then suddenly fly over a ridge and we would be looking down a thousand feet. Flying the nap of the earth, so close, seemingly so fast, was exhilarating. Here and there we would see birds scttered from their treetop perch as we buzzed so close. Once we flew over a ruin, buildings of masonry, set against a mountain, the jungle invading the clearing around it. One of the pilots said it was once a mountain resort built by the French and abandoned when the French left in 1954.
1/3/65: Flew strike at Tam Ky. [mckee]
1/4/65: Search and Rescue (SAR) operations all day. [mckee]
1/10/65: Two strike missions. Army huey had hard landing, lost tail rotor. [mckee]
A twenty-one plane strike went out today. they returned about 1000 hours with 21 Viet Cong prisoners. According to the gunners, the strike could have been more effective. It seems the planes circled over the zone for 20 minues giving the VC time to evacuate or get ready for an attack. There were civilians in the area and Rangers in one part of the area so the gunners and crewchiefs were told not to fire, even though they could see VC running and hiding in ditches. [winkel]
The first strike mission began on Jan. 10 when elements of the 39th Rangers landed 25 miles southwest of DaNang, near the samll village of Ha Vi. The Vietnamese Rangers battled with an estimated Viet Cong platoon, reinforced with a 60mm mortar and small caliber automatic weapons.
Marine helicopter pilots returned to the landing zone (LZ) an hour after the initial disembarkment to retrieve 26 communist prisoners taken by the rangers. Three rebels had been killed and another wounded.
The second major assault of the day began shortly after 1 pm. A company of the 11th Ranger Bn. was transported ten miles west of the DaNang airfield to the hamlet of Ngoc Son. By dusk 62 captives had been returned by the Marine pilots to the flight line where they were turned over to Vietnamese soldiers. Viet Cong identification cards and communist booklets were found on the prisoners when searched. The rangers suffered only one casualty during both operations.
On Monday, Jan. 11, Marines flew north to the city of Hue. Units of the 1st Vietnamese Division were loaded there for two more chopper mounted assults along the ill-famed "Street Without Joy". The First LZ was located at Binh An, along the beach, 35 miles north of Hue. A second element of soldiers was lifted from the staging area at Dong Ha and landed at Thanh Hoi, seven miles north of the first site. The two units converged on an estimated enemy force of 200 occupying the area. In all six reds were killed and 13 captured along with 53 suspected VC.
While flying their fifth strike mission the following day, the Lethernecks encountered heavy enemy automatic weapons fire near DaNang. Tracers streaked past the transport helicopters as they decended to land the 11th Rangers. The LZ was a tree studded hillside 10 miles west of the Marine camp. machine gunners in the choppers returned the enemy fire. Loss to the enemy was not determined during this encounter. Pacific Stars and Stripes
1/13/65: Two strikes went out today. I don't know how well it went. A lot of Air Force F-105s armed with rockets and bombs went out about 1430 hours. They returned about two hours later with not as many bombs as they left with. altogether there were sixteen F-105s and four F-101s (F-100s ?)that went into Laos this morning and this afternoon. Two F-105s were shot down in Laos.
1/18/65: Got 30 VC prisoners today. [mckee]
A strike went out at 0730 to TamKy. I was there with the Combat Recovery Team. Six exposures now and 19 missions. We were there until about 1400 hours. We flew two companies of ARVN Rangers in and there was another company about a half hour walk from our first LZ. Also there was one company of VC there. The fighting took place partly on the beach and partly in the surrounding areas.
Viet Cong prisoners. LCpl Michael O'Neill (left) stands guard while Cpl Bert Goodfellow puts a blindfold on one of the prisoners. 1stLt Allen Cates is stepping over and straddling another prisoner to put on a blindfold as Capt Williamson and redcapped Capt Dittmeier walk over to assist in the blindfolding of the rest of the prisoners.
There came a call for an emergency insert of a Combat Recovery Team, but with a team already out any CRT personnel available had to answer the call. I ran to the armory and grabbed an M3 submachinegun, six magazines fully-loaded with .45 ACP rounds, a sack of fragmentation hand grenades, and a case of C-rations before loading on to the helicopter that was to take us to the downed bird.
We didn't know what happened but Sgt. Guzman told us to expect a hot LZ and that we would be making a combat exit as soon as we touched down. Approaching the site of the downed helicopter, I saw three or four other Yankee Mikes circling overhead ready to provide suppression fire and emergency evacuation should the need arise. The old man, LtCol Joe Koler was circling in his aircraft overseeing the rescue operation. As soon as someone gave the clearance for the the team to be inserted our helicopter took a steep dive (drop like a rock was more like it). At the very last instance, the pilot flared the copter and we touched down gently. I was the first out, followed by the 7 or 8 others on the team. As soon as my feet touched the ground I ran to my right and flopped down into a firing position about 40 feet from the helicopter that had just brought us in. The others on the team fanned out in a rough circular hasty defense. As soon as we were clear the aircraft lifted off. on signal from 1stSgt Force we then moved on the double to position ourselves around the downed chopper. When we got there the crew of the helicopter were just leaning nonchalantly on their aircraft watching us do our warlike maneuvering and giving us the look that said, "what the hell you guys doing all this runnin' around for?" [delrosario]
1/19/65: Stinger standby all day. Got 5 more VC. [mckee]
1/22/65: Flew 4.3 hours today resupplying villages with rice. [mckee]
1/25/65: Flew stinger escort. Sgt. Alfred A. Frye got shot, sent to hospital. He's out of the emergency room now. [mckee]
Will Reeves email: A.A. Frye was crewing a UH-34D rocket-pod equipped gunship. I know, for I was crewing the gunship behind his. We came in on a firing run, turned right, when they opened up on us. We were hit by two rounds of ground fire on the right hand pod, one of the rounds hitting the warhead of rocket. Because of the pod being there it saved me from being hit. No rockets blew up. [reeves]
We received the call at the compound that the stingers had run into some heavy ground fire, that both of them had taken hits, and that one of the crewchiefs had been hit badly. The chopper with the wounded man was on its way to the compound where the squadron flight surgeon and the corpsmen were hurriedly setting up an emergency operating table. The helicopter landed in an open field in the ARVN complex across the dirt street from our quadrangle of buildings. As soon as it touched down A.A. Frye was put on a stretcher and taken to sickbay. As he was rushed past me I saw the bloody wounds that the .30 caliber rounds had made in his abdomen. The bullets had gone throughhis flak jacket. He was laying on his side, his head resting on his arm, and his eyes had that far away disinterested look. Apparently he had already been administered some morphine to ease his pain. The medical staff did what they could for Frye using all of their life-saving skills and limited surgical equipment. Later Frye was taken to the Army field hospital in Nha Trang. [delrosario]
1/26/65: Flew fuel out to TaKo to aid in its evacuation. Hear Frye is doing OK. [mckee]
1/27/65: Flew stinger mission. Heard Frye died at 1430 hours from poison in bullet. [mckee]
1/28/65: Memorial service for Frye. [mckee]
MARINE MEDIUM HELICOPTER SQUADRON in Vietnam: History
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Enrique B. del Rosario, Copyright © 2000
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