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Copyright © 2002 Enrique del Rosario

Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365

in Vietnam, 1964-1965

ECEMBER 2, 1964: Lassley and Reynolds wounded. Ray made sergeant. [mckee]

Corporal L.G. Reynolds, 1965 Reynolds was hit with shrapnel in the stomach. He turned to Lassley and saw him roll up in a ball. He was hit bad. Reynolds is suppose to return to the squadron but Lassley probably will not return. The pilots and the chopper were not hurt. The stingers are getting out almost every day and doing a good job. Most of the strikes go out early in the morning so reveille goes at 0400 hours. Sgt. Kelly went on R&R to Bangkok today. [winkel]

Morning strike in the Dong Ha area with 1stLt John Cronin as HAC (helicopter aircraft commander). [mayher]

    December 3, 1964: Students at the University of California, Berkeley, forcibly enter the Administration Building and stage a sit-in. 800 are arrested.

photo by Marty Winkel
A combat recovery team waiting for the word to go. From left to right - 1stSgt Force's back, PFC Jeff Aviero, LCpl Chuck McKinney, Sgt Bob Androlevich and Cpl Leroy Reynolds(?).

    The largest single battle to be fought near DaNang in the past year began at 0330 hours, when an estimated reinforced Viet Cong battalion crawled up the northern slope of Hill 159 under cover of darkness.
    one of the 105mm howitzers destroyed by the vc on hill 159 On the hill's summit were defensive positions manned by Vietnamese infantry. Behind them, on the south slope of the hill, were two 105mm howitzers and a small unit of artillerymen. Marine Corporal Gary F. Janulewicz was attached as an advisor to this unit.
    "I was asleep in my position when I hear automatic weapons firing. With me, in the bunker, was U.S. Army SFC Fred Flowers. As we left our positon to investigate a grenade exploded about 100 yards away." [Janulewicz]
    Serving as advisors with the infantry on the forward slope were U.S. Army 1stLt Brian K. Skinner and Australian WO R.A. Morrison. Both were wounded by fragments as red raiders heaved hand grenades into their position from outside the barbed wire. Using scaling ladders and bamboo poles, the VC attackers soon breached the wire and overran the small infantry force.
    "As the infantry pulled back to our position I found Lt. Skinner and WO Morrison. Sgt Flowers had battle dressings and we put them on Mr. Morrison. Lt Skinner had received three wounds but he refused medical aid and kept organizing the Vietnamese to resist the attack. When we saw wave after wave keep coming, we depressed our guns and fired the 105's at point black range, setting our fuzes for one and two seconds delay.
    A hand grenade landed in the gun pit on the left and knocked out the crew. Then, about ten minutes later, another grenade was thrown into the second bunker. By this time, Flowers and I had joined Skinner and Morrison in a gully about ten yards behind the guns. There were about twelve badly wounded Vietnamese soldiers and we treated them as best we could. Flowers had some bandages in a canvas bag in our old position and ran back and got them for him. Lt. Skinner kept organizing the troops to fire on the VC.
    " [Janulewicz]
    The four advisors moved down the hill about 25 yards to where a road cut across the side of the ridge. They remained there until dawn.
    "When it got light we could see the VCs on top of the hill and a large column of enemy at the base of the hill moving away. We were in the middle and out of ammo. We had fired it all at the VC during the night." [Janulewicz]
    When headquarters at Tam Ky, about 10 miles away, got word of the attack, a relief column was sent to aid the defenders. The Viet Cong ambushed the unit and knocked out an armored personel carrier. But the relief force pushed on through and by dawn the advisors could see the column drawing near their position as the VC began to withdraw.
    "We came upon about a dozen ARVN troops. Lt Skinner and WO Morrison formed them up and we all started back up the hill. As we worked our way through 'no man's land' toward the armored carriers, we were fired on from above. Lt. Skinner was killed instantly and Flowers was wounded twice in the left leg. WO Morrison and a Vietnamese officer thought that we were dead and continued to move down the hill." [Janulewicz]
    The carriers reached the top of the hill and retook the entire position.
    While this was going on, an air strike was flown against the enemy as they retreated. The Vietnamese aircraft delivered a devastating attack on the withdrawing VC. U.S. Marine helicopters from HMM-365 landed two ARVN companies ahead of the fleeing VC, blocking their escape. American advisors found Janulewicz and Flowers near the bottom of the hill. The Marine had carried his wounded friend through a mine field toward safety. A helicopter from HMM-365 evacuated them.
    An official U.S. body count revealed that 168 VC guerrillas died in the attack on Hill 159. Two were captured along with a 50 cal. machinegun and a large supply of miscellaneous weapons. Friendly losses were one American killed and two (one Australian) wounded. Eight ARVN were killed and 16 wounded. From THE ROTOR BLADE, vol. 1 no. 38

Major Malmgren, 1985 12/9/64: Strike on Hill 159 - Major Malmgren was the HAC. [mayher]

The CRT was dropped off somewhere around Tam Ky so that we would be in position to recover personnel or aircraft in the event they would be forced down. The strike was the biggest I had seen so far, involving not only HMM-365 helicopters and observation planes but VNAF aircraft as well. On the ground, I placed my machinegun behind a dome-shaped mound of dirt. These mounds, which looked very much like craters of the Moon, were actually Vietnamese grave sites. The dead are interred in a sitting position rather than supine. I told Traughber that if I got killed he wouldn't have to carry me anywhere. He could bury me on the spot. [delrosario]

We had a max launch this morning at about 0800 hours. Our CRT went out with it. It seems that the VC last night and today are trying to take Tam Ky, a military base about 30 miles south of DaNang. Mortars and 105mm howitzers have been firing for the last two days. The VC have captured a few of the ARVN weapons.
    We flew down there with 19 helicopters and 4 or 5 stingers. At a military site we picked up about 100 ARVN soldiers. On one of the hills not far away Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) ADs (A-1 Skyraiders) were strafing and dropping napalm on suspected Viet Cong positions. After about an hour and a half of this we dropped the ARVN soldiers around the area. The VNAF ADs continued their strafing and napalming while the troops were being lifted in. Lots of ARVNs were wounded. At about noon the CRT flew into Tam Ky while fire was still coming in. VC mortars kept coming in. ARVN reinforcements were sent in on six-by-six trucks - about 100 men. Then our planes started flying med evacs out of the area. Four Americans were hurt, two Army advisors and two Marines. Two were dead and two wounded. i don't know who was which. We finally got back to DaNang at 1630 hours. A few mortars were hit and I believe the 105mm howitzer is out of commission. A lot of VC were wounded and killed but I don't know how many. The ADs actually flattened out the hill that they hit, not to the ground, but it is flat. [winkel]

    In this battle near Tam Ky, U.S. Army Major John Fredrick Stoneburner and First Lieutenant Brian Skinner were killed in action.

12/15/64: Friday night a C-123 crashed into the side of Monkey Mountain (a lot of VC there). There were two Americans on board, a major and a staff sergeant. I'm not sure which branch of the service. It was coming inland. The plane was a total wreck. Everyone died. Not until last night did anyone go after the bodies. Lt. Wilson, Sgt. Guzman, and 1stSgt Force went late yesterday afternoon. They sent about 30 bodies up. There were ARVN around th wreckage. Then there was machinegun fire and it was too dark to work so they lifted out. They knew there were a few bodies left so a team went out this morning. 1stSgt Force, Corporal Gary Bingham, Lance Corporal Charles McKinney, and myself (LCpl Marty Winkel).

1stSgt Howard Force, 1965 Corporal Gary Bingham, 1965 Lance Corporal Charles McKinney, 1965 Lance Corporal Marty Winkel, 1965
I was sure scared. It seems silly now but I could just see VC opening fire on us, someone inventorying my gear and a telegram going home. I was a bit nervous. I'm a little shaky rappelling, much less going into unfriendly territory with dead, mangled men a few days old. But as soon as it was my turn to rappell (second person), it all came automatic. I rappelled with no trouble. I was a little shaky when I got down there. It was all forest, real dense. From the air you couldn't see anything but the treetops, except for a little clearing the plane made. We got down there and I set up the radio and the rest of the men started to get the bodies up the plane. All the bodies were wrappped that we saw at first. There were four of them. Three went up in one load and one in another. We also saw one dead Vietnamese under a pile of rubbish. It was terrible. Maggots all over him, a hole in his head, mangled and unrecognizable to me. The smell was terrible. The only things left were part of the tail section, the big door located in the back, one emergency window, and part of the left wing and tire. They were suppose to parachute some place and there was a lot of chutes in the area. I doubt if they knew what hit them. Most of the bodies were also burnt. There was a lot of Swedish K submachineguns in the area, all mangled beyond use. I took one back with me. I also found a new large hatchet, all kinds of rope, and some ammo, so I didn't believe any VC were around since the crash. I hope I'll never have to go through anything like this again. We were brought up via a hoist and rescue seat. A demolition team was flown out there this afternoon to blow up the rest of what ever remained. According to the corpsman, they found the staff sergeant and part of the major. They do not know where the rest of the major was. He may have disintegrated, or blown to parts, or who knows. [winkel]

crt returns
The Combat Recovery Team returns from a mission. LCpl del Rosario (far right, in front) and Pvt Rex Traughber carry the chainsaw into a compound building for post-mission debriefing. Sgt Holloway in the foreground.

I was the flight leader and HAC (helicopter aircraft commander) that lowered everyone to the crash site on the seaward side of Monkey Mountain. I had to hover there for quite a while with clouds swirling through the rotor blades at times. Also we were up against a sheer rock wall.
Captain Eilertson, 1964 1stLt Dan Hamilton, 1965

The stench of the decomposing bodies was very strong and Dan Hamilton, my copilot, lit up a big cigar and it drowned out the smell. When they called me to extract them, I had to wait for a hole in the clouds to dip down and load them back aboard via the hoist. [eilertson]

    [U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Dominick Sansome and U.S. Air Force Major Woodrow Wilson Vaden, were killed in this plane crash. Major Vaden's body was never recovered.]

So that accounts for my ten missions so far, and four for this month. The First Sergeant (Force) knew what he was doing today. He didn't just give orders, he worked right with us. Gunner Ball and 1stLt Hamilton were two of the pilots. I don't know who else was piloting. Sgt.Ray and Cpl. Juan Prieto were crewchief and gunner on Yankee Mike 3. I was real glad to get back to the base. Also, an Army Huey went down. The rest of the team went out to stand guard until the maintenance people could come in and work on it. [winkel]

Sergeant Ray, 1965 Corporal Juan Prieto, 1965 Sergeant Mayher, 1965 Captain Williamson, 1965

An unmanned drone that had flown over North Vietnam to gather intelligence data crash-landed in the jungles and was recovered by HMM-365 (Captain Williamson was the HAC, and Sgt. Mayher, the crewchief)

12/19/64: We had an early launch and strike this morning. 21 UH-34D's, 10 Army Hueys, two OEs, and about 10 ARVNs in each of our helicopters. [winkel]

    Flying just above the green hilltops, the formation of UH -34D helicopters of U.S. Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 365 - the Magnificent Flying Circus, their bellies laden with grim-faced South Vietnamese infantry, prepared to make their final approach and descent into a contested landing zone. While the Vietnamese fidgeted nervously in their seats, the crewchief watched warily, making sure that no one gets too anxious and shoots off a round while still in the chopper, or worse, pull a pin out of a grenade. The gunner works the cocking handle of his M-60 machinegun all the way to the rear and then pushes it forward again, raises the cover, feeds in the linked ammo, and closes the cover. He adjusts his flak jacket one more time, checks beneath his seat to make sure that the sandbag is directly under his seat, readjusts his double-folded flak "diaper", and then signals his crewchief with a thumb up. He is ready.
    In the cockpit, the helicopter aircraft commander (HAC) is bearing on the tiny landing zone where he will set this seemingly ungainly bird down and deposit his human cargo. The co-pilot has his hands on the controls also, ready to take over in case something were to happen to the HAC. He scans the surrounding terrain, watching out for the other choppers also making their descent, watching out for tell-tale flashes, smoke, or tracers that would indicate that they were being fired upon.
    Coming up to the LZ, the flight leader calls out - "Smoke your zone!" This is done for several reasons: to positively identify the zone and ground personnel, to provide a wind direction and velocity gauge at the zone, and to help conceal the helicopter and landing zone operations from hostile gunners.
    "I see purple smoke", the flight leader radios to the ground assault commander.
    "Roger, purple, that's affirmative. That's my smoke." comes the answer confirming identity and location.

    Now the strike begins. Two by two, the choppers drop, touch the ground. The troops leap from the gaping side doorway, some yelling, some holding their oversized helmets, sinking ankle deep into the muck, running, falling, eyes big in bewilderment...then the crewchief speaks into the mike..."Troops all clear, sir!"

    The ungainly bird lifts its tail first, then, so agonizingly slow, rises.
Two more choppers come in. Like the first two, they begin to discharge their troops. Then the co-pilot points to the tree line. Flashes! Incoming fire!
photo by alex wasinski
    The gunner swivels his machinegun around to train on where the co-pilot had pointed. Now he too sees the flashes. He responds with short bursts of 7.62mm fire, sending orange tracers streaming toward the suspected hostile position. The crewchief, now relieved of his responsibility to get all the troops clear of his aircraft, joins the gunner in laying down suppressing fire. The noise is deafening...the aircraft engine straining for every inch of manifold pressure it can get...the huge rotorblades beating the air...the machineguns rattling angrily...empty shell casings spewing from the guns' ejection ports and hitting the floor and bulkhead...and above all this ...shouting!
    A hit! Someone is taking hits!
The OEs are now making a run at something. They fire rockets from their underwing pods to mark the target with smoke.
    Now the stingers, the armed helicopters, turn to the marked spot. With a vengeance, they let loose salvos of 2.75-inch rockets, and thousands of rounds of 7.62mm projectiles.
    The landing continued. Whether it was by sheer weight of numbers, or by the use of superior tactics, or by plain luck, the ARVN infantry secure the landing zone and move out into the surrounding terrain.
    By all accounts, the strike was a success. Now begins the task of bringing back the hurt, the broken bodies, the dead. [delrosario]

Cpl. Kenneth R. Hayes (by star); Sgt. Jordan (white t-shirt, sunglasses); L/Cpl Frank Mayher; L/Cpl Frank Bermudez (right, in tree camo flight suit)

12/23/64: Lt. Wilson, 1stSgt Force, Sgt. Guzman, Cpl. Bingham, LCpl McKinney, and myself (Winkel) had to go see the Colonel today about the bodies we picked up on Monkey Mountain. There was an Army major and two civilian investigators that worked with the Marine Corps. They were concerned about finding one bag that the U.S. Army Staff Sergeant (actually, Sergeant First Class) was in. They couldn't locate him. His bag was suppose to have some markings on it and put over to the left of the others. We did see one bag with no zipper on it and it might have had tape on it but no one noticed. The wind would have blown it off. We all had to write statements and tell exactly what happened and what we saw (all voluntary). We might go back up there to lay out the area as it was. There was something top secret about their mission or some stuff they were carrying. I'm pretty sure they were suppose to parachute in somewhere. In the papers in Bangkok, they didn't mention too much about the whole incident. [winkel]

12/24/64: The CRT was put on standby because there was a wounded American somewhere around Kham Duc. A helicopter (U.S. Army?) couldn't land there but they hovered over the American and a dead ARVN and there was also ARVN supplies. The VC do not leave supplies behind, so they figured it was a trap. The choppers were flying around to see if it was safe for our combat recovery team to go in. About one hour later we received a report that all they could see down there was one dead ARVN. The VC probably captured the American. That was the last I heard about that. [winkel]

    December 24, 1964: Viet Cong saboteurs bomb U.S. billets in Saigon, killing two Americans.

12/25/64, Christmas: A truce has been declared between hostile factions and except for a few reports of isolated small arms fire the Viet Cong, the ARVN, and the U.S. Forces are honoring it. For our part, we have curtailed air operations, except for med-evacs and reconnaissance flights.
The compound security remain ever vigilant, allowing the rest of us a respite for the day. Inside the admin building there is a scrawny tree of undetermined specie that has been designated the "Duty Christmas Tree". Since there is a shortage of Christmas decorations available in DaNang, no multi-colored lights, tinsel, garlands, or balls hang from it. But being innovative and creative, the Marines decorated it the best they could anyway - with rifle cartridges hanging down in place of icicles, C-ration cans in place of Christmas balls, and in place of the traditional star atop the tree, a grenade.

    In 1964, the population of the United States was 191,888,791. The Federal Debt was $316.1 billion. Inflation was 1.2%. Unemployment was 5.7%. The cost of a new home was $20,500.00. The cost of a first-class postage stamp was 5 cents. The average price of regular gasoline was 25.1 cents per gallon.


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