Ken Wade's Jeep reflects his memorie of 12 Jan 69
The Story Behind the 12 Jan 1969 Emergency Extraction Art Scene
The Man in the Door
When I bought my Jeep Sahara in 2010, I noted the large spare tire cover on the back with the dealer advertisement. I didn’t really want to advertise for the dealer and thought that space must have a better use. Weeks later, I decided to have airbrush artist paint an HMM 364 CH-46 Marine helicopter on it. After all, the HMM 364 Purple Fox squadron has existed for some 45 years & deployed to many wars and conflicts. I thought about it for weeks and was ready to pull the trigger on the project when I decided there must be something even better. It occurred to me that one of my most intense missions in Vietnam was on 12 Jan 1969 with the Purple Fox squadron and that that would be the scene. I sketched it out and turned the work over to Pure Image Design’s Jamie Rodriguez and Jonathan Dowling in Phoenix, Arizona
As I recall the mission, I was flying co-pilot with Major Robert Schreiber on routine hill top fire base resupply south west of An Hoi, Vietnam in the Taylor Common Operation. It was a long 7.5 hour day and towards the end, we were called by DASC to divert to an emergency Recon Marine extraction on a 2,500 foot elevation flat-top mountain called The Tennis Courts just west of An Hoi and south of the Hoi An River. Team “Scandinavia” had run into trouble. Recon Marines usually look for trouble, but they got a bit more than they wanted this day. A larger force of enemy spotted them and had them surrounded as the Marines took cover to defend themselves in an old 500 pound bomb crater surrounded by 50 foot trees. They called for assistance & we were diverted.
A Comprise HU-1E gun ship helicopter, HML 167, joined to give us some fire power. After contacting the Recon team, Maj. Schreiber made the approach to the “landing zone” only to wave off due to enemy fire and tall trees. Comprise cooled the enemy aggressiveness with his gun runs and Maj. Schreiber successfully approached the zone again and hovered the HMM 364 Purple Fox CH-46 down in the tree tops to take advantage of some concealment.
We were still hovered some 35-40 feet above the surrounded Recon team Scandinavia and had to make the pick up one Marine at a time by hoist out the side door. Crew Chief Cpl John Allen stood exposed in the open doorway the entire mission and hand guided the hoist with only a horse collar first down and then up through the trees eight times to retrieve the Marines. It seemed like hours, but it was probably just 10 minutes.
As we hovered in the trees, with my peripheral vision, I saw what I thought were muzzle flashes off to our left (my side!) of the helicopter. While I observed the instrument gages & communicated with Maj. Schreiber, I thought “This is the end”. We are too close to the enemy who had a clear shot at us. Our two gunners, Cpl Franklin B. Jones, III & F. A. Cartamore, were laying down suppressive fire with our two .50 cal machine guns, one firing to the port and one to the starboard to keep the enemy heads down. Comprise made pass after pass with the same objective. Finally, I realized the muzzle flashes were outgoing incendiary .50 cal rounds exploding as they hit tree limbs only a few feet away! Whew!
After the eight Recon Marines were safely lifted to the helicopter, Crew Chief Cpl Allen (later promoted to Sgt) cleared us to depart the zone. Miraculously and due to our gunners, the recon team and the Comprise gunship, we took no hits.
From the details I learned after circulating by email the well received photo of the emergency extraction scene on the back of my Jeep to old squadron mates, I learned that John Allen did four tours in Vietnam from December 1967 to November 1970 and flew some 2,600 combat missions! He earned 96 Strike/Flight Air Medals, 2 Purple Hearts, a Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal, a Distinguished Flying Cross and at least 6 Single Mission Air Medals. He was a pro and we were lucky to have him onboard as our Crew Chief that day. Just so you know his full name is… are you ready for this… John Wayne Allen from Louisiana. None of us have had luck locating John through email, phone or friends. So, if he sees this article and photo, let it be known that John Wayne Allen will forever be known as “The Man in the Door” on the back of my Jeep and by the eight Recon Marines with the call sign “Scandinavia”. John is the personification of Mike Rearson’s “Man in the Doorway” poem that can be heard on the HMM 364 web site. Pilots often think we are important, but for the typical grunt 0311 Marines, the Crew Chief, “The Man in the Door”, is the most important crew member of a helicopter team. He directs traffic in and out of the helicopter and tells the grunts what they need to know to survive. OOOORRRAH to John Wayne Allen wherever you are!
And, if team Scandinavia or John see this photo, they can find it posted on www.hmm-364.org, the Purple Fox web site and even respond if they like.