Chu Lai - They thought they had the helicopters ambushed, but they died in the brush ringing Minh Long. Minh Long is an Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) outpost 32 miles southwest of here that is regularly resupplied by helicopters from Marine Aircraft Group (MAG)-36. On this day, a flight from Marine Medium Helicopter (HMM)-364 was belly-loaded with food and ammunition.
"The OP (outpost) looked quiet enough as we approached, but we dropped down for a look anyway," said 1stLt. William R. Crowe later. That "look" triggered an ambush the Viet Cong had set specifically to shoot down the resupply helicopters. Tracers, then a cloud of other bullets, poured from heavy underbrush surrounding the compound. The VC had crept to the camp's outer fringes and set their guns to intercept the planes no matter which direction they approached from.
Dodging like skiers in a slalom race, the choppers banked around the outpost, then leveled for a run straight across the compound. "We weren't about to give them standing targets," the San Gabriel, Calif., Lieutenant explained, "so we flew as low and slow as we could without being ripped to pieces. When we were over the compound, the crew dropped the cargo to the waiting ARVNs"
Then came the problem of escape. Every exit was covered with 50-caliber fireworks. Tracers lit the sky like "a Chinese New Year's celebration." The only opening was up. The 'copters spiraled like corkscrews until they'd climbed out of range and as they cleared the airways, the Marines sprung their counter-ambush. Skyhawk jets which often accompany resupply runs streaked in beneath the 'copters, spewing their own brand of fireworks.
Later, an inspection testified to the skillful success of the 'copters' evasive tactics. They returned with only two bullet holes!
Franklin A. Gulledge, Jr., Major USMC (Ret)
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