The Distinguished Flying Cross


                The President of   the  United  States  takes  pleasure  in  presenting  the DISTINGUISHED FLYING CROSS to



for service as set forth in the following


                               "For heroism and extraordinary achievement  in aerial flight while  serving as a  Pilot 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.  Late on  the  after- noon of 11 July 1970,  First Lieutenant Schmitz launched as Section Leader of a flight of  two CH-46 transport helicopters assigned  the emergency ladder extrac- tion  of  a  reconnaissance  team  which  was  heavily  engaged in combat  with a numerically superior hostile force in a densely-jungled mountainous area west of DaNang.  Arriving over  the designated area as darkness closed in, he found that the beleaguered patrol was located on the side of a hill among tall trees.  Guided by a strobe  light on  the ground,  he commenced his approach  behind a  smoke screen laid down by Cobra gunships but was forced  to abort his approach when he  encountered  an extremely heavy volume  of enemy automatic  weapons  fire. After  the supporting  gunships attacked  the hostile  positions,  First Lieutenant Schmitz ignored  the enemy fire as he skillfully maneuvered to a hover above the pick-up  site,   lowered  his  extraction  ladder  down  through  the  canopy,  and remained  in his precarious position until  the reconnaissance team had attached themselves to  the ladder.  As he began to lift from the area, his helicopter began to lose power because of  the altitude,  the additional weight of  the men suspen- ded on  the ladder beneath his transport, and  the wind in the area.  While main- taining a hover just clear of  the trees, his helicopter  came under  intense hostile fire.  Undaunted,  First Lieutenant Schmitz  directed  that  some  of his aircraft's fuel be jettisoned to lighten the load, advised his aerial gunners not to return fire because of  the danger of  igniting  the fuel, and had  the  auxiliary  power  plant activated before  the generator power  was lost.   With exceptional skill,  he care- fully  maneuvered  his aircraft to  lift out of  the dangerous area  and  then  pro- ceeded  to  Landing  Zone  401.   First  Lieutenant Schmitz's  courage,   superior airmanship,  and  unwavering  devotion  to  duty  in  the  face  of  great personal danger were  instrumental in accomplishing  the hazardous  mission  and were in keeping  with the  highest  traditions  of  the  Marine  Corps  and  of  the United States Naval Service."


/S/ Wm. K. Jones


Original After Action Report

After Action Report Reproduced

Pilot 1stLt. David K. Schmitz
Copilot 1stLt. Doug Orahood
Crew Chief- Cpl. James E. Morris
Gunner SSgt. Howard P. Hughes 
Gunner Deal (probably TAD?)
Itinerary Remarks
MMAF Departed Marble Mountain at 1915
AT958752 LZ 401 to pick up the ladder and briefing
ZC133709 Extraction of "Team Segment" & POWs
AT958752 Deliver team "Segment" to LZ 401
MMAF Mission complete 2015

Citation and After Action Report provided by:
    Franklin A. Gulledge, Jr., Major USMC (Ret) and,
    Headquarters, United States Marine Corps


The nine man reconnaissance team (Segment) was equipped with harnesses and could have been extracted with the SPIE rig but, they had captured some NVA/VC prisoners from a base camp area overlooking Elephant Valley and the prisoners were not equipped for a SPIE rig extraction, therefore the slower ladder extract method was utilized.  After we had the team, and their prisoners, loaded on the ladder and started to pull in the power to lift out, several enemy soldiers came out of the tree line and opened up.  Because it was dusk, the light effect from the team's muzzle flashes below, as they fired upon the enemy, looked like a pinwheel.  I have never seen anything like it, before or after.  We didn't have enough power to get out though, so we had to hang there, dump fuel, and get shot at.  When we were able to gain altitude, we had to depart directly over the enemy shooting at us and team Segment hung out below us to reach a cliff edge, drop the nose and gain transitional lift.

This was the second emergency recon extract for YK-15 and me this day.  The first one was team "Offspring" by SPIE rig in Happy Valley which also turned out to be quite a gun fight at coordinates ZC108704.  Have forgotten exactly how many were in the original team but, some of the team were wounded so we first dropped by 1st Med to deliver the wounded and embarked the remaining five in the cabin for the flight back to their home base of LZ 401.

The crew of the first extraction was:

Pilot - Maj. Duane S. Jensen
Copilot - 1stLt. Jack E. "The Ghost" Feldt
Crew Chief - Cpl. James E. Morris
Gunner - SSgt. H. P. Hughes
Gunner - A TAD Marine named Deal

Epilogue provided by:
        James E. Morris, former Cpl., USMC
        After Action Reports of 11 July 1970

1stLt. David K. Schmitz's Squadron History Index

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