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ously wounded copilot was evacuated to Nha Trang and the crew chief was administered first aid. In early November, at the height of the monsoon season, Typhoon Iris struck the Annamese coast. The tropical storm, whose full force was felt on 4 November, was followed by nearly a week of continuous rain, wind, and fog. The conditions caused flight operations to be suspended except for emergency medical evacuations. When the operations resumed on the 10th, the Marine Corps birthday, the Leatherneck crews concentrated on rescuing Vietnamese civilians from the innun-dated coastal plains. Between 1700 and 1900 on their first day of the flood relief operation, Lieutenant Colonel Koler's Marines rescued 144 flood victims. These rescues, many of which were accomplished by hoisting the Vietnamese from precarious positions in trees or on roof tops were complicated by sporadic Viet Cong harassing fire. Many of the stranded civilians were evacuated to the Da Nang airfield. Following emergency medical treatment administered by Navy doctors and hospitalmen, the civilians were given shelter in the task unit hangar. Lieutenant Robert P. Hcim, the Navy chaplain assigned to SHUFLY at the time, later praised the Marines who shared their birthday cake with the homeless Vietnamese that night.3 The next day, although poor visibility continued to hamper flights, the Marines helilifted 1,136 more flood victims to safety. Again the guerrillas harassed the rescue attempts with small arms fire, this time hitting three of the participating aircraft.

The humanitarian operation continued until 16 November, when another typhoon-Kate- threatened to make matters even worse. The weather on the storm's periphery forced the cancellation of many Marine flights but the center of the disturbance passed about 200 miles south of Da Nang. The flooding which resulted from the two back-to-back storms, however, demanded a rescue effort beyond the capabilities of the Marine and VNAF helicopter units located in I Corps. Accordingly, the Special Landing Force (SLF) of the U.S. Seventh Fleet joined the operations on 17 November. Lieutenant Colonel Curtis' HMM-162, the helicopter element of the SLF, returned to its former operations area and spent six days rescuing flood victims. The Marines evacuated the most seriously injured to the USS Princeton where they received emergency treatment before being returned to civilian hospitals. When the SLF departed Vietnamese waters on 23 November, HMM-162's helicopters had flown over 600 hours and completed 1,020 sorties in support of the disaster relief operations. Unfortunately, one UH-34D was lost at sea in an operational accident on 21 November while participating in these operations. Two crewmen. Corporal Richard D. Slack, Jr. and Lance Corporal David Nipper, died in the crash.4

With the SLF's departure, the Marine task clement and the VNAF 217th Squadron reassumed the full burden of rescue operation.; -mtil they were finally terminated on 10 December. During this period HMM-365 was forced to divide its flights judiciously between combat support and missions of mercy.*

Changes and Improvements

While some of Lieutenant Colonel Koler's men were employed in evacuating the fl.-iod-stricken Vietnamese, others were modifying chree of the squadron's helicopters to carry a new weapons system which had been developed specifically for use on the UH-34D. The TK-1, an externally mounted combination of M-60 machine guns and 2.75-inch rocket launchers, was first used on 19 November in support of a Tiger Flight mission conducted just south of the Song Thu Bon about 17 miles from Da Nang. Two armed UH-34Ds expended 90 rockets and 500 rounds of 7.62mm ammunition on enemy positions during prelanding strikes. The effectiveness of the new system could not be determined after this particular strike, but an estimated 10-15 Viet Cong were killed in a similar action by the armed UH-34Ds the next day. The transport aircraft armed with the TK-1 would continue to escort troop carrying helicopters regularly throughout the remainder of the

 

*The magnitude of the damage inflicted upon the inhabitants of Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, and Quang Tin Provinces by the November storms is borne out by the following statistics. In these three provinces over 50,600 houses were destroyed while 4,870 civilians were reported,either dead or missing. Another 12,240 Vietnamese were forced to seek refuge at government centers in the wake of the flood. (CTU 79.3.5 ComdD, 170ct64-14Jan65.)

 

 

 

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