On 4 April a call came in for a medevac from an Army Special Forces camp southwest of Da Nang for a stomach wound casualty. The medics had done all they could for him and he need to get to Da Nang if he was going to survive. There was a lull in the fighting since daylight and if we came right away, we might be able to get in and out without to much hostile fire.
The flight down to the camp was cool and peaceful at 2000 ft. and we had good radio contact with the Special Forces personnel. They indicated they had been under attack off and on most of the night and their troops were pretty spooked. They would have the man ready for immediate loading so we could get in and out quickly without drawing fire.
The man was waiting right at the chopper landing area and we helped him in the plane along with his equipment and sock of rice and beans rations. I had made a mistake of turning my back on the door as I helped LCpl. Larry Henderson get the wounded man situated for the flight back to Da Nang.
When I turned around, there were Vietnamese troops flooding through the door. They all had medevac tags tied to their jackets that they were trying to show me and they had a wild look in their eyes. I crawled through them to my mike switch and told the pilot to check how many we were supposed to pick up. We had already been on the deck too long and I doubted we could lift off with the number of ARVN troops in the plane by then. The situation was starting to get tense. The answer came back the original quantity of one was correct and kick the rest of them out. I yelled at the intruders and pointed at the door, but had no takers. The fear level with them was starting to rise and they were starting to grip anything they could get their hands on. These guys had all they wanted of war the night before and we were their ticket out of there. Henderson and I had no choice but to start manually throwing them out. He and I had developed a pretty good system of throwing cargo from him to me and out the door on resupply missions . Henderson was big, strong and known to not fear even parachuting out of airplanes on a dare. I was glad he was with me this day. He acted like a linebacker pushing 3 or 4 at me at a time and I just turned them out the door. They were facing him and he had them backing up which made them unstable enough for me to direct them out the door. The only difference from when we were throwing cargo was we didn't have flailing arms and legs and the cargo didn't get back in after it was thrown out. All the time this is going on, I keep hearing the pilot ask, “Can we lift yet”. By this time, I am also using the M-60 as a battering ram to knock those trying to climb back in out of the doorway. We finally got some help from a couple of the Special Forces guys with heavy sticks that were used without mercy. They were able to clear the troops from our doorway so Henderson and I made progress throwing the remainder out. We cleared all their equipment out the door and told the pilot to lift.
Henderson and I, covered with sweat, settled back into our seats only to hear a loud wailing from our wounded guest. At first, we thought his injury might have been aggravated in the may lay. After a while, we figured out that in the rush to clear the extra people and equipment from the plane, we had thrown his pack and rice rations out the door. He kept pointing to his mouth and stomach and shaking his head. After the recent activity I wasn't very sympathetic and the only answer I had was, “You will live”.
A positive note to this mission came in the mail some time after my discharge. It was a Sikorski Rescue Award with the associated pin. Today, I value this award above all others and always wear it in my lapel.
Warren R. Smith, former Cpl. USMC