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Copyright © 2002 Enrique del Rosario

The War Escalates

UNE 2, 1965: At 1900 hours we had a late med evac. By 1910 hours two choppers were turning up with a full crew and six men from the Combat Recovery Team. They went to Hai Van Pass, the pass going north to Hue on the first mountain range. Two OEs were flying there and all of a sudden one plane saw the other do a hard right bank and disappear. As soon as the other OE turned around and found him, the first OE had crashed and was in flames. An Air Force rescue helicopter (Husky) flew out there with a fire bottle to help but crashed about 50 feet away. We didn't know why they crashed. Twenty minutes later four more planes came with some Nungs and landed them. We brought back the crew from the Air Force helicopter and all were alive. The two pilots of the OE died. The Nungs and the Combat Recovery Team stayed out overnight to guard the aircraft. [winkel]

    [This Marine Observation Squadron 2 (VMO-2) O-1B aircraft crash claimed the lives of pilot First Lieutenant Richard Eugene HEISTER and artillery observer Captain Werner Erhard LUTZ]

Went on trooplift with Baldridge. Resupply in the afternoon. [mckee]

View of the jungled terrain the HMM-365 operated in
photo by Art Corbett, copyright © 1964, 2001

6/3/65: Recon insertion mission. Got two strikes in the afternoon. [mckee]

Major Gustafson, 1965 Major Warren Gustafson: HMM-365 Executive Officer, 1964-1965. Coming from an aviation pioneering family, Gustafson enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1941 and underwent flight training after he completed boot camp. He was designated a Naval Aviation Pilot (enlisted rating) and later commissioned as an officer and redesignated a Naval Aviator. During the Korean War Gustafson flew the reciprocating-engined F7F Bearcats in night fighting squadrons before switching over to the F3D Skyknight jet fighter. Gustafson retired from the Marine Corps in 1966 but returned to Vietnam to fly for Air America. After that war came to an end he went to Sudan to fly for a contractor. Among his military decorations are the Legion of Merit with V device, Air Medal with 2 silver stars, and the Navy Commendation Medal with V device. "Major Gus", as he is still remembered by his old squadronmates, is now living in retirement in Tacoma, Washington.

    They formed a small circle in the center of the operations tent. The heat was oppressive and their flight suits, drenched in sweat, clung to the Marine pilots. Above the noise of helicopter engines on the flight line, Major Warren H. Gustafson of Santa Ana, California, stood in the center of the group to conduct the mission briefing.
         War-wise from his two-hundred-plus combat missions in Vietnam, he paused for a moment as he pointed to the landing zone on a map.
         "This second landing zone is an unsecured area and if my thoughts are right, the place is mined. Wait a second and let me check with intelligence."
         As the major ducked under the tent flap, the pilots began to don their protective body armor and to check their weapons.
    Their mission called for HMM-365 to lift twenty-two reconnaissance Marines and a German shepherd war dog from a pick-up point just outside of DaNang and drop them at a spot miles southeast. The dog, trained to ferret out Viet Cong, is an asset to any unit in this type of guerrilla warfare.
         Gustafson returned to confirm the fact that the landing zone was mined.
         "Isn't that nice?" the major remarked to his pilots on a note of irony. The briefing ended and four pilots walked toward their helicopters. With them were four escourt fliers who would furnish protective cover for the operation.
         Within minutes, the helicopters were airborne and in the area where the patrol was ready to be loaded. Lined up in teams, the Marines were on the run toward their assigned birds before the red dust had settled beneath the rotor blades. While the embarkation was taking place, other armed escort helicopters were making passes over the landing area, seeking insurgents. No enemy fire was taken and they radioed Gustafson, the flight leader, that the zone appeared to be clear.
         Making the descent in a tight turn, the two troop carriers laded the first wave of men, then headed back for the last increment. The armed UH-1B helicopters from Observation Squadron 6 (VMO-6) continued to circle the landing site, making low passes over the patrol as it formed a defense perimeter around the zone to await the remainder of the unit. The patrol's mission was to wait until darkness, then move to a nearby area and gather intelligence data. [Jack Lewis, editor; DATELINE: Vietnam]

Marine airstrike by 1st MAW attack aircraft in support of HMM-365 operations near Chu Lai, 1965
photo by Art Corbett, copyright © 1965, 2001

6/5/65: Flew trooplift with Baldridge. some action as Yankee Mike 13 takes rounds. Phantoms in support blow up the area. [mckee]

Marine F4 Phantoms were dropping bombs and shooting rockets in plain view of our tent city. It took place southwest of here. We had a lot of medevacs yesterday, about 20 or 30 Marines. [winkel]

6/6/65: Flew resupply to outposts. Afternoon trooplift. [mckee]

6/7/65: Early launch to Quang Tri. SAR North found nothing all day. [mckee]

6/10/65: Went to Chu Lai for RON (remain overnight). Resupply missions all day. Supposed to be an SAR (search and rescue). Slept in plane. [mckee]

time exposure of night flares illuminating marine defensive positions near chu lai, 1965
photo by Art Corbett, copyright © 1965, 2001

    The Combat Recovery Team was sent to Hill 40 near Chu Lai to provide security for one of our helicopters and their pilots and crew while it remained overnight there. I think there were eight of us on the team that night. First Sergeant Howard Force lead the team. I think it was L/Cpl Charles McKinney who was with me manning one of the M-60 machineguns on our defensive perimeter. The night, clear and cold, passed uneventfully, except for the mortars at the fort on Hill 40 firing H&I (harassment and interdiction) rounds at irregular intervals through the night. The team was set up in a semi-circle around the helicopter, the open end anchored against the fortified positions of the ARVNs on Hill 40. We were on fifty-percent alert, half of us slept while the others kept watch. I was on watch around midnight when I heard, coming from the village below the hill, a baby cry. [delrosario] [HMM-365 Poetry and Stories: Lullabye On Hill 40]

6/11/65: Two HMM-365 choppers tried for two hours to land in a field where a Marine patrol was heavily engaged with the Viet Cong. The planes were waved off each time until, at 11:30 p.m., two were directed in by flashlight.
1stLt Rudolf Fahrner, 1964    With rifle slugs slicing the night air and the darkness broken only by intermittent flashes from three flashlights, the wounded Marines were loaded aboard the choppers and flown to a field hospital.
   A flight-suited figure runs towards the chopper, his head low and his body bent against the torrent of the rain. He splashes up and briefs Mayher, the crew chief, in staccato sentences. Simultaneously he gives the helicopter a pre-flight inspection, bending to check struts, probing into recesses.
   One man at - "(he gives the code name for a Marine outpost). Doesn't look as if he needs much medical help. The LZ is secured (landing zone is not under enemy fire). It'll be marked with green smoke. No panels."
Captain John Williamson, 1965    The man who spoke is 1stLt Rudolf Fahrner of Los Altos, California. He is the co-pilot who raced to the 'copter as soon as the call came in, while the pilot, Capt. John Williamson of Pensacola, Florida, filed his flight plan back in the ready room.
   Then, Capt. Williamson trots soggily to the plane. It's rotoring now, ready for life.
   The outpost is only a few miles away, and the chopper is there almost as soon as it takes off. With an ambulance, it would have taken five times longer. [Sgt. R.R. Rafferty, MAG-26 ISO]

6/12/65: Cancelled the RON because I have guard duty tonight. Had a couple of resupply runs. [mckee]

6/13/65: Medevacs all day. No runs. [mckee]

Sergeant Marcelo Gonzales, 1965 Sgt. "Speedy" Gonzales, one of our crewchiefs, showed us a copy of Pacific Stars and Stripes and the article about his brother with the First Marines in Chu Lai. His brother, a grunt squad leader, was taking his squad on patrol when they were hit by mortar fire. One of the blasts hit right behind Gonzales' brother, lifted him up in the air and threw him across a couple of rice paddies. I guess he wasn't too badly hurt because they interviewed him. "Speedy" got a laugh out it. [delrosario]

6/14/65: Sat around all day. Flew short hop in the afternoon. Frank is now on Yankee Mike 2. [mckee]

We made two rappels out of an SAR (search and rescue) helicopter today. [winkel]

6/15/65: Went off flight pay. Had to take L/Cpl Curtis' place on mess duty. [mckee]

6/19/65: A Marine was killed today. He stepped on a land mine and both legs had to be amputated. He was also wounded in the belly. We flew a med-evac with a man on board to give blood, but the Marine died. 10 planes went down for engine failure since we arrived here almost four weeks ago. The squadron sent oil samples to Saigon to see if that is the reason. [winkel]

caduceus of the navy corpsman The frantic yet expert hands of the corpsman, working to stop the bleeding. One from his squad kneeling over him, offering his body to shade him from the hot bright sun. Another holding high the bottle of plasma, while dangling from it the tube that fed the life-preserving liquid into his veins. We waited in the chopper, waiting for the corpsman to signal us to help bring him on board. Then, as if his work was done, like packing up his briefcase after a day at the office, the corpsman put back the contents of his medical bag. Then he and the other Marine who was kneeling to protect him from the sun, rose to their feet and looked down at the Marine who had stepped on the mine. He, laying there, looking upward at the sky, in supple submission. [delrosario]

    Msn 6-1519-6A: HMM365 UH-34D BuNo. 148779 enroute recon mission, encountered moderate small arms fire from a VC company in grid square BT4111. One round was taken in the rear fuel cell while at 1500 feet and 85 knots. No injury to crew. Aircraft returned fire. Estimate 12 VC and 20 cattle in VC control destroyed. Helo returned to CP for ARVN observer and returned to general area to spot artillery. Mission completed.

6/21/65: HMM-365 was awarded the Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon. [mckee]


    Sitrep for period 220001 to 222400: 2 UH-34D flew a classified SAR mission for the USAF. Lifted 4 medevacs for the 3rd Marines. Conducted 2 recon missions of the 4th Marines TAOR. Lifted 3 pax for the 4th Marines on a artillery SPOR mission at BS596611 and BS599921. Lifted 374 troops and 22,179 lbs. cargo to various outposts of the 4th Marines. Lifted 18 pax and 500 lbs. cargo for III MAF from Chu Lai to DaNang. 2 UH-34D flew a classified SAR mission for the USAF. 2 UH-34D flew an escort mission for YM-24 from Chu Lai to DaNang. Lifted 2 medevacs for the 4th Marines. Flew one rescue mission for USAF F-100 pilot who ejected over water 10 miles north of Chu Lai.

HMM-365 swooping in to rescue a pilot of an air force f-100 who had parachuted after being shot down by enemy ground fire: photo by J.R. Jacobs A 1st Marine Aircraft Wing helicopter pilot literally had to drag an Air Force jet pilot on a wave-skimming sea-to-shore trek in order to rescue him.

    Marine Maj. Hondo K. Frain was flying his UH34D copter from Chu Lai to DaNang, 50 miles to the north, when he heard the F-100 pilot radio that his fuel was too low to reach the Chu Lai field. Shortly after, the plane came into view, heading toward the South China Sea. its jet engine was dead.

    The Air Force pilot ejected and Frain's chopper circled while the parachute floated down and into the water. Then, once the pilot had cleared his chute, the copter hovered overhead and lowered a hoist.

Captain Adnah Frain, 1964     The hoist line wouldn't rewind. It pulled the pilot about 15 feet clear of the water, then stuck.

    With the almost-rescued man dangling beneath his bird, the Costa Mesa, Cal. marine flew to the nearest stretch of shoreline, some 200 yards away.

    Then, with eggshell-cracking tenderness, the copter lowered the pilot to the ground and swung away to land nearby.

    The rescued pilot walked over and climbed aboard.

Pacific Stars and Stripes

PFC Pete Quintero, 1965 6/27/65: L/Cpl Pete Quintero found out his brother is in South Vietnam near Chu Lai. The Marines there have no PX (post exchange). They get two boxes of C-rations a day and two canteens of water, and they're living in the boondocks. Pete went to the Navy Exchange and bought his brother five dollars worth of chow. One of the crew chiefs gave it to his brother on his last trip to Chu Lai. [winkel]

6/30/65: At approximately 1015 hours a U.S. Air Force B-57 Canberra crash landed at the north end of the runway. The pilot of the B-57 dropped his fuel tanks and some bombs. I think he dropped them after he touched down. The fuel caught on fire and was out shortly afterwards. The B-57 finally stopped off the south end of the runway. It burned for about 30 minutes while 500-pound bombs and ammo went off. I heard one or two go off. Also nobody escaped. The B-57 was down about 30 to 45 seconds before it caught on fire. The crash crew and Air Force Huskies arrived on the scene after what seemed like ten minutes. They were told that a 500-pound bomb was still on board and they had to leave the crash site. After the 500-pounder went off we found shrapnel all over our compound. No one was hurt, but it sure is a horrible sound that the 500-pounder makes. [winkel]


Pre-Vietnam 1964 OCT 64 NOV 64 DEC 64 JAN 65 FEB 65 MAR 65 APR 65 MAY 65 JUN 65 JUL 65 AUG 65 and After

Copyright © 2000: Enrique B. del Rosario