Aviators Flight Log Book entry, April 9, 1968:
(76-1, YD443543, 1R9, Flight 109, Strike 31, Remarks REC FIRE)
While reviewing my log book of 30 years ago the above entry triggered my memory. I searched through some letters I had sent home from Vietnam, now I remember.
The squadron's gunners came from other primary areas of military occupations. Many came from the squadron's own maintenance shops (hydraulics, sheet metal, avionics et.). Some came from the administrative echelon of the squadron and others came from adjacent commands such as Marine Air Base Squadron 16 and/or Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 16. They all had one thing in common however, THEY WERE VOLUNTEERS. Flying guns on my aircraft came after their primary area of responsibility had been satisfied which meant some of my gunners got very little sleep. However that is another story.
On April 9, 1968 the "Status Board" in the line shack indicated my aircraft (YK-19) was scheduled for two missions, a troop lift and re supply , in the northern part of I Corps. The "Status Board" also listed the pilot, copilot, and gunners. One of the gunners was Cpl Steve Shupp whose primary duty was a member of Check Crew. Cpl Shupp was a veteran combat air crewman having been on a few strike missions in the Khe Sanh area where he had been baptized under fire. He was even referred to as a "Magnet Ass", meaning a person who attracts enemy fire.
By this time in my tour the planes I crewed had come back with extra holes on several occasions. One aircraft had sustained enough cumulative damage to be officially designated for "cannibalization" where its working parts were removed to repair other aircraft. I too, on occasion, had been referred to as a "Magnet Ass".
Cpl Shupp was the first of the assigned crew to arrive at the aircraft. He saw I was the crew chief for this mission and simply mumbled, "We're never gonna to make it". I ignored him as we worked on stowing gear for the flight and mounting his 50 caliber machine gun in YK-19. Shortly the second gunner, toting his 50 caliber machine gun, climbed aboard and Cpl Shupp mumbled again, "We're never gonna to make it". Then he started rattling on about, "one Magnet Ass is bad enough, but three is certain trouble."
The copilot arrives, tosses his gear aboard, and commences his pre-flight inspection of the aircraft. I followed up his preflight by closing all the doors and access panels as the last step prior to starting the engines and rotor engagement.
The pilot, last to arrive that day, had developed a reputation within the squadron as not being able to pass a landing zone (LZ) without incurring additional ventilating orifices, of 51 caliber or less, within the airframe. When Cpl Shupp saw him, he slumped down on the crew box, shook his head and said again, "We're never gonna to make it".
After lifting off, we immediately dropped down to a LZ on the other side of the runway at Phu Bai where we embarked Marines headed for Dong Ha. Upon arrival at Dong Ha we would commence the re supply portion of the mission which consisted of external loads to various positions to be determined when we hooked to the load.
We were now north of the Finger Lakes at 50 feet and 130 knots when we got stitched up the belly with AK-47 automatic gun fire. The gunners opened up and I tried to spot where the fire had come from, but at that speed and altitude we never saw the shooter and only managed to rudely assault the local rice crop.
I turned from the side door to face a swirling pink and yellow cloud between the avionics and controls closets that was so thick it nearly blocked my view of the cockpit. Oil and hydraulic lines sprayed so much of their fluids that as we touched down at Dong Ha the forward transmission oil pressure had dropped to zero and the primary (we had a secondary) hydraulic system pressure was failing. Cpl Shupp was right, we didn't make it, meaning our assigned mission in support of the Grunts was not completed.
We had taken eight hits with the worst damage being hydraulic and oil lines, blade spar damage and breaking one of legs which attaches the forward transmission to the airframe. We got new oil and hydraulic lines as well as a new rotor blade at Dong Ha. We also received authority to make a "low and slow" flight back to Phu Bai where the damaged forward transmission attaching point could be repaired.
I remember the the flight back to Phu Bai quit vividly also. It was a clear Sunday afternoon as we flew "low and slow" down the Quang Tri River to the Sea Bee base at Cua Viet, passed over some of the Sea Bees surfing the breakers, and turned south east over the South China Sea. Being a "Hollywood Marine" from southern California I left Vietnam for about three minutes as I listened to the low frequency radio the pilots had tuned to the Armed Forces Network. They were playing The Lov'n Spoonful's "Groov'n on a Sunday Afternoon".
H. Dean "Kahuna" Cohoon, former Sgt. USMC
|Capt. Norbert T. Sarles||Pilot|
|Capt. Kenneth A. Kuhn||Copilot|
|Sgt. H. Dean Cohoon||Crew Chief|
|Cpl. Randall P. Young||Gunner|
|Cpl. Steve P. Shupp||Gunner|
After Action Report
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