The Air Medal


              The  President  of  the United States takes pleasure  in  presenting  the   AIR MEDAL (Gold Star in lieu of the Second Award) to



for service as set forth in the following


                               "For heroic achievement  in aerial  flight while  serving  with Marine  Medium  Helicopter  Squadron  364,   Marine  Aircraft  Group  Sixteen, First Marine Aircraft Wing   in connection  with  combat operations  against  the enemy  in  the  Republic  of  Vietnam.   On  the  afternoon of  26 February 1969, Corporal  Russo  launched  as  an  Aerial  Gunner  aboard  a  CH-46   transport helicopter  assigned  to  insert a  nine-man recovery  team at the site  of  another CH-46  which  had  been  downed by hostile  fire in  Quang Nam Province.   Un- daunted  by  the  extremely  heavy  volume  of  enemy  small  arms  fire directed against his aircraft as it approached the disabled helicopter, he skillfully manned his  weapon and delivered  accurate and effective  suppressive  machine gun fire, enabling his CH-46 to land,  disembark the Marines,  and lift out of  the hazard- ous area.  When  the recovery team became heavily engaged  with a hostile force and  required immediate  extraction,  Corporal Russo resolutely  returned to the dangerous area.  Unable to deliver machine gun fire because of the proximity of the  friendly  team to  the enemy  position,  he alertly  reported  the location  of hostile  firing emplacements which  enabled his pilot to  execute evasive  maneu- vers and land within five meters of the beleaguered Marines.  After ensuring that all the team members  had embarked,  he cleared his helicopter to lift out of  the fire-swept  area  and  proceed  to  the  Marble Mountain  Air Facility.   Corporal Russo's courage,  superior  professionalism  and  unwavering  devotion  to  duty at great  personal risk were in  keeping with the highest  traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service."


/S/  H. W. Buse, Jr.



After Action Report Not Available

Pilot - Unknown
Copilot - 1stLt. Carmine A. Casciano
Crew Chief - Cpl. John W. Allen
Gunner - Cpl. Stephen E. Russo
Gunner - Unknown

Cpl. Stephen E. Russo recalls:

The memories of the attempt to retrieve Col. Brady's aircraft are short but intense.  Before landing we were told of intense small arms fire coming from a heavy tree line some distance away.  I don't remember how far but I do remember having to elevate my .50 caliber machine gun to reach all of it.  Before landing I told Cpl. John W. Allen, the crew chief, to put the starboard side of our helo facing the tree line.  This was not to be hero or try for gun time but the port gunner was new and I had not flown with him.  Time seems to slow when lots of things are happening and I probably have this timing jumbled but as Lt. Courtney B. Payne and his recovery crew were off loading their boxes of tools, I heard a LOUD explosion and thought it was a big rocket or mortar.  Our pilot (I'll get his name off of my flight logs) did ask Cpl. Allen to encourage the recovery team to expedite and when they did, we hurriedly lifted from the zone.  We established an orbit with our wingman and it wasn't long before we went to extract the recovery team because the VC/NVA were really asses that day.  We landed at a different location for the extract because our pilots were not only good, they were also really smart and that was proven beyond a shadow of doubt when another LOUD bang was heard close to our first landing site.  I'm convinced that if our pilot had not chosen a different site, none of us including the recovery team would have made it out.

I think we established an orbit not too far away and watched an OV-10 strafe the treelike with guns and rockets, marking positions for some F-4s to bomb.  Suddenly Cpl. Allen started laughing.  I asked what happened and he said he had been listening to the OV-10 pilot talk to the F-4s  who were giving him a hard time 'cause he flew so slow.  The OV-10 pilot said, "Okay, you think you're so hot ,try this."  The OV-10 goes into a very steep dive along the tree line, pulls up, rolls inverted, pulls the stick back hard and repeats the strafing going the opposite way.  Not a sound from the F-4s!

Col. Brady's helo was brand new, arrived just a few days before with stateside paint scheme which had to be painted over.  His crew chief told me later they took seven hits just in the fuel system.  How does anyone remember these small details?

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