Leatherneck Saves Passenger From Death Aboard Burning Helicopter
Chu Lai (USMC-IO) - A U.S. Marine Corps helicopter troop ship of HMM-364 gradually settled into an assault landing zone, large enough for only one plane at a time, when a sudden draft of turbulent air sent the loaded ship skidding down a sharp embankment, and the co-pilot yelled, "Mike, we're on fire!"
It was the type of warning that forecasts disaster, but the Marines aboard the chopper averted what could have caused the tragic death of everyone aboard.
Within seconds, five passengers and four crewmen were off the flaming ship, the infantrymen still clutching their weapons. But, there was one Marine unaccounted for. 1stLt. Michael D. Fowler, the pilot, ran to the smoking troop compartment and found the unconscious Marine, barely visible in the flames. Fowler grabbed the Marine by his pack harness to pull him out, but the victim's gear was tangled in the seat. The unconscious man's clothes were starting to catch fire and Fowler cradled him in his arms and pulled with ever ounce of strength he had. The seat broke loose and trailed after the pilot as he carried the man from the wreckage.
A crew chief from another helicopter which landed in the zone raced to the scene of the crash. "By the time I got there." he recounted, "the fire had started to set off the ammo. Bullets were flying all over the place. I saw the co-pilot in sort of a daze, yelling for Lt. Fowler. He was in the open and I guess I hit him full tilt. We both wound up flat behind a rock."
A replacement Marine squad was flown in and the assault mission continued.