Crew of YK-16
|Marshall, Robert L., 1stLt. USMCR
Gillies, James Francis, 1stLt. USMCR
Blaylock, R. B., Cpl. USMC
Seymore, Richard Morris, Sgt. USMC
Slachata (From After Action Report)
McConnel (From After Action Report)
|Survived the crash.
Survived the crash.
On the night of Friday, August 7, 1970, in response to a call for an emergency medical evacuation (MEDEVAC) of a wounded Marine, the MEDEVAC package consisting of two CH-46's and their two AH-1G Cobra gun ships lifted of from Marble Mountain Air Facility.
Maj. Duane Jensen, and his co-pilot 1stLt. Pat Kenny, were the lead CH-46 with 1stLt. Bob Marshall, and his co-pilot 1stLt. James Gillies, flying as his wing man or chase aircraft in YK-16, A/C #152567.
The first MEDEVAC was accomplished in the vicinity of the Que Son mountains by Maj. Jensen and was headed to the appropriate medical facility. The MEDEVAC package flew over an area where, from the amount of tracer rounds visible, another intense fire fight was in progress. At the same time DaNang Direct Air Support Center (DASC) informs the MEDEVAC package of another emergency MEDEVAC near their current position. Since 1stLt. Marshall also had a Navy Corpsman on his aircraft (this was not usually the case for the wing man or chase aircraft) he suggested to Maj. Jensen that he would perform the evacuation of the wounded Marine(s).
There follows a first person narrative of 1stLt. Pat Kenny, co-pilot of Maj. Jensen's lead aircraft, and another first person description by 1stLt Bob Marshall who was the pilot of 1stLt. Gillies aircraft.
We had picked up a MEDEVAC in the Que Sons area and were heading back to DaNang with our wounded Marine when we received another emergency MEDEVAC mission. Lt. Marshall was going to pick this one up. Maj. Jensen suggested that Lt Marshall wait until we had dropped off our wounded Marine and were airborne overhead before he commenced his approach into the hot landing zone (LZ). This was standard operating procedure so that in the event the helicopter in the LZ had a problem, the orbiting or chase helicopter could drop in to rescue the crew of the downed aircraft. In the meantime the Cobra gun ships were getting a zone briefing relative to the LZ which was still experiencing an intensive fire fight.
When we returned to the immediate vicinity of the second MEDEVAC, we notified Lt. Marshall to commence his approach to the LZ with the Cobra gun ships providing covering fire on a tree line along a river. This is where the enemy fire was coming from. We were listening on the radios and heard Lt. Marshall call "lift off" and "departing the LZ".
Then there was some confusion and we heard Lt. Marshall say he was going back into the LZ because the MEDEVAC was not on board the aircraft. (We learned later that in the dark when the "grunts" ran onto the helicopter, the crew thought they had brought the wounded Marine and since they were taking fire, they raised the ramp when the "grunts" ran off and cleared the LZ quickly. But the "grunts" had run on only to get a stretcher for their wounded.)
Lt. Marshall commenced his second approach into the hot LZ with the Cobra gun ships again providing covering fire. We heard the gun ship commander say the CH-46 had crashed in the LZ as they continued delivering suppressive fire along the tree line near the river.
I am glad that we were all trained to react and not think a lot. Maj Jensen had been through a lot in a previous tour in Vietnam. That night there was not even a tinge of hesitation as to what we were going to do with a bird down in the zone. Maj. Jensen pushed that collective down, rolled into a steep, and tight right spiraling approach and we were in the LZ in a heartbeat. We landed next to the burning helicopter which was laying on its left side in a rice paddy. It was totally consumed in flames and I observed numerous "grunts" covering themselves with rice paddy water and dash into the burning wreckage to pull the injured out. It didn't take long for the 50 caliber machine gun rounds in the helicopter to start cooking off and soon the place became a shooting gallery, both from within the LZ and from along the tree line. I remember that our crew chief , gunners and corpsman were also instrumental in recovering the injured from the burning helicopter and loading them on board our helicopter.
Once we got all the wounded aboard that we could find, we flew to the Army 95th Evacuation medical center as I remember. We did not stick around, because we were still the dedicated MEDEVAC package for the night, and returned to "Luminous Base", the call sign for the MEDEVAC bunker at Marble Mountain Air Facility, to await the next call. When we arrived we were relieved by Maj. VanLeeuwen and Dave Owens. I didn't realize it then, but I was shaken up a bit, as Dave Owens related to me later.
The next day our Flight Surgeon, Moe Moyer, said that when they first cleaned the MEDEVACs up they were not sure who was who because of the extent of their injuries. In actuality they had assumed that Lt. Bob Marshall was missing in action because there was only one pilot removed from the cockpit and he was basically in the co-pilots position within the cockpit. Because this pilot was in the co-pilots position they assumed it was Lt. Gillies.
Doc Moyer and the recovery team went to the crash site that day, the 8th of August, to perform an accident investigation. It was then that they discovered Lt. Gillies. Both of the heavy armored pilots seats had sheared on impact and because the helicopter hit on its left side, the co-pilot's seat was buried in the rice paddy and the pilot's seat was where the co-pilot seat should have been. Lt. Gillies was still strapped into his seat. Doc Moyer said Lt. Gillies had died instantly of the trauma he received from the initial crash. Lt. Marshall was in the hospital and we heard that he was in pretty bad shape and would be evacuated out of country as soon as he could be stabilized.
The crash site was located at BT 055594, which was a few clicks SW of the Horseshoe area.
As I walked out to the helicopter on the night of August 7, 1970, a Navy Corpsman came up to me and inquired if he could go along by saying, "I've been in the Nam for a year now doing hospital duty but have never had the opportunity to fly a MEDEVAC!" Since he had his bag, I let him ride along with a laugh "that all we would be doing was orbiting as the chase helicopter." He said, "Great" and got on board the helicopter.
Maj. Jensen was flying lead and right away we got busy. We were flying north over Hoi An, after he picked up some critically wounded Marines, enroute to the hospital at the Naval Support Activity, DaNang. We saw an immense amount of tracer rounds flying below the aircraft which indicated an intense fire fight in progress. I radioed Maj. Jensen that we would probably get another MEDEVAC call. Almost immediately DaNang DASC called one in. It was right below and I radioed Maj. Jensen that I had a corpsman on board and would stay with the Cobras to set it up, but would not go in until he had returned from delivering his MEDEVACs to DaNang.
Lt. Gillies and I orbited the area while listening to the Cobra gun ships receive an LZ briefing and determining the best approach corridor to the hot LZ. We received the zone brief from the lead Cobra and were ready to execute when Maj. Jensen radioed that he had our lights and I could begin the approach. I landed where I thought they wanted me. I was talking to Lt. Gillies about procedures and how we would leave, how the Cobras would again provide suppressive fire upon our departure etc. since Lt. Gillies had only arrived in country fourteen days prior. This was his first night MEDEVAC mission.
The next thing I heard was "Ramp Up" from the crew chief and I lifted out and climbed without taking fire, probably due to the support from the Cobras. I asked the crew chief for the particulars of the wounded, this was necessary so I could relate them to the medical facility we would deliver the wounded to. This procedure would insure that the proper medical technicians would be waiting in the hospital LZ to immediately provide appropriate medical assistance. The crew chief said, "Sir we don't have anyone on board the helo, couldn't get to us through the wet rice paddy". I was suprised that he hadn't said anything on the ground, for I thought everything was going ok. Anyway, I called the Cobras and we set up for the approach again. This time I told the crew chief to air taxi me right up to the "grunts". We made our approach, had a good pickup this time and left the LZ. I do not remember the exact details of that departure.
I know that maybe 5 seconds after lift off, one of the gunners yelled, We are taking fire". I said "return fire" and he did, one or two bursts from his 50 caliber machine gun. We suddenly, and without any warning swapped ends completely out of control. I remember that the controls, rudder and cyclic stick, no longer seemed to be connected to the rotors. We continued out of control, swapping ends again, I think. I remember very clearly believing I was about to die. I had no fear and was rather matter of fact about it. I had the feeling that it was an absolute certainty.
I came to when somebody tried to lift me out of the cockpit without removing my shoulder harness and seat belt. I said, "Pull this" referring to the quick release lever. My next memory was on a stretcher being carried aboard Maj. Jensen,s chopper. The noise of the engines and rotors must have awakened me. I remembered then screaming at the top of my lungs, I have no idea what I said however. My next memory was outside the operating room of the Army 95th Evacuation medical facility and a nurse asking what my name was. I kept telling her but she continued to ask the same question. Then she said I had been in a helicopter crash. I remember my exact reply, "Well no shit lady!"
I learned the recovery team went in the next day to retrieve Lt. Gillies. I heard that in addition to Jim, three MEDEVACs and one of my gunners was killed. The crew chief broke a leg, I broke most everything. And the corpsman who came along "for the ride"? He ran out the back end of the helicopter without injury!
MARINE AIRCRAFT GROUP SIXTEEN
First Marine Aircraft Wing
Da Nang, South Vietnam
"I am the resurrection and the life"
saith the Lord; "He that believeth
in me, though he were dead, yet
shall he live, and whoever liveth and
believeth in me, shall never die."
*POST THE COLORS
*CALL TO WORSHIP Chaplain Mac Call
*THE HYMN OF FAITH: "Faith of Our Fathers" #287
OLD TESTAMENT READING: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 Chaplain Mac Call
*THE RESPONSIVE READING
C: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want
P: HE MAKES ME LIE DOWN IN GREEN PASTURES
HE LEADS ME BESIDE THE STILL WATERS.
C: He restores my soul; he leads me in the paths
of righteousness for his names sake
P: YES, THOUGH I WALK THROUGH THE VALLEY OF THE
SHADOW OF DEATH, I WILL FEAR NO EVIL, FOR YOU
ARE WITH ME, YOUR ROD AND YOUR STAFF COMFORT ME
C: You prepare a table before me in the presence
of my enemies; you annoint my head with oil
P: SURELY GOODNESS AND MERCY SHALL FOLLOW ME
ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE: AND I WILL DWELL
IN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD FOREVER. AMEN.
LtCol P. C. Scaglione USMC
Maj F. A. Gulledge, Jr. USMC
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Romans 8:35:39 and I Cor 15:51:57
*THE LORD'S PRAYER
Eternal Father grant we pray
To all Marines both night and day
The courage, honor, strength and skill
Their land to serve thy law fulfill
Be thou the shield forevermore
From every peril to the Corps
Lord guard and guide the men who fly
Through the great spaces in the sky
Be with them always in the air
In darkening storms or sunlight fair
O hear us when we lift our prayer
For those in peril in the air.
*THE BENEDICTION Chaplain Gallagher
May the Angeles lead thee into Paradise;
may the Martyrs receive thee at thy coming,
and take thee to the Holy City. May the choirs
of the Angels receive thee, and mayest thou
with the once poor Lazarus have rest
* Congregation please stand
August 7, 1970, started out normal for me. I
was scheduled for emergency standby which was a 12 hour period from 6 amto
6 pm in which we worked our regular job while waiting for an emergency
launch. I showed up about am for a brief and to load my 50 cal machine
gun along with ammo aboard my helicopter which happened to be YK-16.
Being a door gunner was not a full time job. We all worked in our
own MOS and volunteered for door gunner duty and we would always have men
from other support squadrons (i.e., supply in the case of Sgt. Seymore)
which were badly needed to help us fulfill our Squadron mission.
At 6 pm I checked into the flight line office, where the missions were
assigned, to check out to go to supper when I found out that because we
did not launch that day the same crews were held over for the next twelve
hours. Since this was a standby flight we were allowed to go to the
mess hall or our quarters where we would be notified if we had a launch.
I checked out to go to the mess hall and to this day remember seeing the
TAD gunner (Sgt. Seymore) who was sitting in the flight line office nodding
to him and saying hello as I past him. It was a quiet evening for
me since I had no call to launch but first thing in the morning I was called
into the CO's Office and asked where I was that evening. I replied
the mess hall which was verified by the Flight Line NCO and dismissed by
the CO. It wasn't until later that I found out that YK-16 had been
shot down and the gunner who took my place (Sgt. Seymore) did not make
it back. I never knew the entire story until I read it on HMM-364
web site. Although I did not do anything wrong I can't help but feeling
guilty about what happened. I had over 100 missions by that time
and I do not think I would have given the all clear signal. I had
been in that
situation before and never had a problem and was clearly more qualified then Sgt. Seymore. For many years I believed in divine intervention and still do but now I constantly think about what might have been and should have been. In all my missions I was never late nor did I ever miss a flight. Why this one????
Lt. Gillies Widow Responds Thirty Years Later
Information on this incident provided by:
Bob Marshall, former 1stLt USMCR
Pat Kenny, former 1stLt USMCR
F. A. Gulledge, Jr. Maj. USMC(Ret)
William N. "Pappy" Hill, MGySgt. USMC(Ret)
Earnest J. "Earnie" Paquin, former Sgt, USMC
HMM-364 After Action Report dtd. 08-07-70
Last update: December 11, 2002
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