South Vietnamese troops unload ammunition from a UH-34D Me a Mann, loadmaster, braced against wheel and wheel strut, exchanges information with the Leatherneck pilot. (USM.C Photo A329570').
security around the Marine compound and flight line. Attached to the MABS-16 sub unit, the infantry platoon freed Colonel Merchant's aviation personnel to devote full time to their primary mission-providing helicopter support to I Corps. Like its predecessor which had been withdrawn only three months earlier, the new infantry unit would assist with rescue operations in insecure areas and on occasion would be called upon to provide security around TAFDS bladders during helicopter operations in more remote areas.
The same day that the platoon from the 3d Marine Division arrived at DaNang, a task element Marine was involved in an act of heroism which later earned him the Bronze Star Medal. While escorting Marine helicopters on a resupply mission about five miles west-northwest of Tarn Ky, a U.S. Army UH-1B gunship from Da Nang was hit by Viet Cong fire and crashed in flames. Marine Lance Corporal Walter L. Rupp, a volunteer machine gunner on board the Army gunship, acted rapidly to help secure the area despite having suffered injuries in the crash. Manning an M-60 machine gun, Rupp delivered fire on the approaching enemy while the pilot, copilot, and three other passengers were pulled from the wreckage. All six American personnel, including the injured Marine, were evacuated safely to Da Nang, and then flown to the U.S. Army Field Hospital at Nha Trang for more extensive medical attention.
The Weather Breaks
Much of I Corps began experiencing improved weather conditions during the first days of April. Relying on helicopter support, the ARVN resumed its offensives into the rugged mountainous regions.
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