On Sunday, March 8, 1970, 1stLt. Joe Devlin launched with Maj. Fred Locke as his copilot. At the time of the incident they were conducting a logistical flight and were enroute to the area known as "The Coal Mines". Upon crossing the village of Dai Loc, which lies southwest of Da Nang where Route 4 crosses the Song Ai Nghia river, Lt. Devlin was hit in the neck by one AK-47 round. This round killed Joe instantly and ricocheted through the cockpit hitting Maj. Locke in the right wrist. An automatic reflex shot one of Joe's legs forward, locking his knee in position, and driving the rudder pedal to the stop. Another reflex action caused Joe to pull the cyclic back to its full aft position. These actions put the helicopter in a tremendous unbalanced yawing and nose up climbing flight condition.
Maj. Locke was able to overpower the cyclic displacement with his injured right hand and the crew chief, Sgt. J.J. Johnson, released Joe's shoulder harness and seat belt and dragged him off the controls. By this time the aircraft was in a critical flight attitude as related by Maj. Locke:
"Joe had pulled back on the stick and we were on our way to starting a loop. We actually fell out at the top of the loop. Hell, those of us who lived through this scene were very lucky. I had done a 5 1/2 year tour at HMX and part of the tour consisted of projects from PAX River. One I was involved with was looping the then new CH-53, the old UH-34 and a fairly new Boeing Vertol tandem rotor helicopter leased from New York Airways prior to the Marine Corps purchasing it in 1965. At any rate we knew, and I knew, at the apex of the loop one splits the needles, full down collective and recover with slow up collective. My right wrist hurt like hell but I did manage to fly the aircraft back to Da Nang."
The normal flow of air through a CH-46, with the cockpit side windows open, is from the cargo area to the cockpit, across the rear of the windshield and out the pilots open side windows. Joe's neck wound, coupled with the air currents in the cockpit, literally covered the entire forward looking plexiglas windshield of the helicopter with blood making it impossible to see out. Maj. Locke, while fighting the aircraft with an injured right hand was forced to look out his left side window to see where the helicopter was going.
The aircraft was flown to the G-4 pad of the Naval Support Activity (NSA), Da Nang. Maj. Locke and Joe were removed. Sgt. Johnson repositioned the helicopter to the far side of the LZ, folded the blades and returned to the squadron at Marble Mountain Air Facility.
A few days later, Maj. Gulledge and a crew chief were dispatched to bring the CH-46 back to Marble Mountain. When they arrived on the scene they were told, and it was apparent by the water inside the aircraft, that a fire truck had hosed down entire interior of the airplane. The sweet smell of death persisted however since the wash job did not get down into all the floor access panels and other crevices. For weeks the smell was present in the helicopter.
Major Locke relates,"I remember the Chief at G-4 hospital telling me my wrist wasn't broken so I could stay in country and and finish my tour. My remark to that was, 'Break the son of a bitch'. Anyway they dug out the round and I have it today as a reminder of that tragic day we lost Joe Devlin."
Major Lock was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and SSgt. J. J. Johnson was awarded a Single Mission Air Medal.
Crew of YK-19
|Maj. Frederick A. Locke||Pilot|
|1stLt. Joseph W. Devlin||Copilot|
|Sgt. Joe V. Johnson||Crew Chief|
Information about this incident
Dave McSorley, Col. USMC(Ret)
Frederick A. Locke, Major USMC(Ret)
Larry "Slick" Britton, LtCol. USMC(Ret)
F.A. Gulledge, Jr., Major USMC(Ret)
Pat Kenny, former Capt.USMCR