We had a couple of Marines from the motor pool that were captured by the Viet Cong outside of town. Our jewelry store and currency exchange contacts told us what happened to them. They had rented motor bikes and rode outside of town. It was a hot day and they parked the bikes and went swimming in stream beside the road. When they looked up the Viet Cong had guns trained on them. They were captured and paraded through local villages in the area in bamboo cages as examples of the so called "saviors" that were there to save the South Vietnamese. The CIA guys could never catch up to them and the jewelers said they were killed when their propaganda value decreased and the danger of holding them increased. I don't think their remains were ever found. We all quit renting motor bikes after that and stayed pretty close to downtown.
I do remember doing a really stupid thing after this
and am probably just lucky we didn't fall to the same fate. We had
an individual, that will go nameless, that had a problem staying away from
the local "women of the night" and the medical problems they caused.
He was even having to see the priest at the Air Force base to get council
because he was a multiple loser in this regard. We found out he was
making a regular visit to a "house" outside of Da Nang or "Dog Patch" and
decided to intercept him for his own good. I remember 3 to 4 of us
took pedicabs as close as we could get, walking across some dikes around
some rice fields to a large grass hut. Inside they had the place
sectioned off with bamboo and curtains for each of the girls. The
bamboo was hung from the roof like a suspended ceiling from which the curtains
were hung. We made a deal with the "head lady" to steer our friend
to a particular cube. A couple of us got up on the bamboo and
just about the time he was going to do some business with one of the local
girls, there was the scream of "Geronimo" and the Marines jumped from the
ceiling to the bed. The bed splintered, the girl started screaming,
and our friend lost all of his desire. He was both mad and laughing
till he cried. About this time the "head lady" came in and pointed
to the other wall and put her finger to her mouth and said VC, VC.
We did not wait to find out the truth of that statement, but ran slipping
and sliding back across the dikes to safer ground and the base. Our
friend said he had already paid for the evening and didn't bother to get
his money back as he hustled on out of there short changed by his friends.
He did say it probably would go down as one of the most memorable "dates"
spent in the Orient.
In addition to normal support operations, HMM-364's pilots devoted much of the second week of June to a search for Privates First Class Fred T. Schrenkengost and Robert L. Greer, two MABS-16 Marines who had disappeared from the Da Nang compound on 7 June. Intelligence reports indicated that both men had been captured by Communist guerrillas about five miles south of the airfield while sight-seeing on rented motor bikes. The aerial search produced no signs of the missing enlisted men but reliable Vietnamese sources reported that the Viet Cong had displayed them in several villages. The task element commander finally called off the fruitless search on 15 June, a full week after it had begun. Ground efforts by the South Vietnamese to locate the men continued but were also futile. The two Marines were never found.
The status of PFC Fred T. Schrenkengost was changed from missing in action to killed in action, body not recovered, on 23 July 1974. The status of PFC Robert L. Greer was likewise changed on 14 November 1975.
While the aerial search south of Da Nang was in its final stages, HMM-364 suffered its last aircraft loss in Vietnam when a helicopter crashed while carrying supplies from Khe Sanh to Major Gray's Advisory Team One on Tiger Tooth Mountain. The accident occurred on 13 June when a UH-34D was caught in severe down drafts while attempting to land in the small landing zone near the top of the jagged 5,000-foot-high peak. The crew and passengers luckily escaped injury and were rescued but the aircraft was damaged too extensively to be repaired. Marines stripped the UH-34D of radios and machine guns and then burned the hulk.
Warren R. Smith, former Cpl. USMC
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