III MAF AND NAVAL COMPONENT COMMAND
MILITARY ASSISTANCE COMMAND, VIETNAM
C/O FPO, SAN FRANCISCO
Rice Paddy Repairs to a UH-34D
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CHU LAI, Vietnam, Oct. 17 - - While infantry Marines were holding off the Viet Cong, aviation Marines were fighting time to save a helicopter from falling into enemy hands five miles from here.
The Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron (HMM) 364 chopper, hit with small arms fire while delivering assault Marines to a landing zone, had to set down in a rice paddy when its engine caught fire. The seven men aboard immediately fanned out in a protective perimeter, while GySgt. Albert J. Galino (Tustin, Calif.), the crew chief, opened the engine's hood.
"We'd landed in about two feet of water," he said later, "and that put the fire out. But a bullet had cut the oil line, and we couldn't move without a new hose."
Then began the struggle against time. If the helicopter wasn't repaired before rapidly approaching darkness set in, the Viet Cong had all night to mass for an attack for what they consider a prize.
Marine attack jets and armed Huey 'copters reported above and weaved tight figure-eights over the paddy. Minutes later, other UH-34Ds, carrying additional ground security and SSgt. Ward E. Christian (Santa Ana, Calif.) set down beside the cripple. SSgt. Christian, a maintenance chief, found that " _ _ _ the needed hose was not in stock."
One of the relief helicopters took off for the five mile trip to Ky Ha air facility, new home of Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 36, the heli-group assigned to Chu Lai.
That's when the VC attacked. Sneaking through dense undergrowth so as not to be seen by air cover, the VC opened up on a flank of the rice paddy. The perimeter guard and Hueys chewed into the enemy positions. Christian kept working on the engine. "You might say I was worried, but mostly about the hose not getting back before it got dark", he said.
It did, though. There were long shadows cast when the 'copter came back with the part and set down near where the VC had been routed. there was still light enough to get the hose in the plane.
Then the air armada, including the repaired 'copter, headed home.
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