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from a shell hole only meters from where the helicopter had landed.17*

Shortly after the failed rescue attempt, an Army helicopter pilot
using the call sign "Blue Max 48" volunteered to make another try. With
Army helicopter gunships blasting enemy positions atop the ridge, Blue
Max 48 sat down near the bunker complex and a crewman leaped out and
carried the wounded Marine on board. The helicopter then delivered him
directly to the field hospital. Lieutenant Colonel Cahill logically
assumed that the Marine who was rescued was the same Marine, Hunnicutt,
who had called across the valley earlier in the day. Only later would
he learn that the rescued Marine was not Hunnicutt, but a member of
Company C named Private First Class G. Panyaninec.18

Certain that no live Marines remained on the ridge, Cahill and his
staff set to work once more on a plan to recover the remains of those
killed in the engagement of the 16th. Attack aircraft bombed the objective
through the night of 17 April and the early morning hours of the 18th.
But at about 0630, 18 April, Marines on the battalion perimeter once
again reported hearing Corporal Hunnicutt calling for help. Lieutenant
Colonel Cahill directed that a patrol be dispatched to rescue Hunnicutt
and he informed Colonel Meyers of his plans. Meyers approved, but ordered
that the patrol not proceed further than 500 meters from the perimeter
because the 26th Marines was scheduled to pass control of all forces
in the area to the 1st Marines at 0800 and he did not wish to leave
in the middle of an engagement. In the meantime, he offered to retain
control of the operation until the recovery of the Marine could be accomplished,
but Brigadier General Glick, envisioning that the recovery could take
a day or more, ordered that control of the operation pass at 0800, as
scheduled. Twenty some years later, General Glick remembered:

I had
instructions from the division to go ahead with the relief of the 26th
Marines. They had been in Khe Sanh for months on end, and General Tompkins
wanted them moved out. The other regiment was on the way; it was all
set up to go at a certain time. There was a very questionable situation
as to whether sending a patrol out was going to do anything anyway.
So the decision was made to go ahead with the relief of the 26th Marines
on schedule.19**

In a repeat of the previous day's performance, an Army helicopter
pilot agreed to attempt Hunnicutt's rescue. Corporal Hunnicutt tells
the story:

noon I guess, an Army Huey started flying around me, a spotter plane.
The spotter plane dropped two red smokes on me and scared me to death.
I thought they were going to blow me away. I tried to stand up and wave
to them. I threw paper all over the place and waved, and one of the
copters came right down on me about three times. I could see the man's
face, and then finally he set down and one of the machine gunners came
out and helped me into the plane.20

Lieutenant Colonel Cahill met Hunnicutt at the Khe Sanh aid station.
To Cahill's astonishment, Hunnicutt claimed that Captain Himmer had
still been alive as late as the afternoon of the 17th. Although wounded
himself, Hunnicutt had cared for the severely injured Himmer since the
16th, moving him down the ridge toward the battalion perimeter until
they became separated when Hunnicutt fell into a gorge. Himmer was never
seen alive again. For his courageous

* Colonel Meyers remembered the circumstances of the aborted rescue
attempt somewhat differently. According to him, the helicopter landed
and the fire team ran out and immediately came under fire. The helicopter
also took about 20 hits in the engine and fuel compartments. At that
point, the gunners on board the aircraft fired their .50-caliber machine
guns to suppress the enemy fire and the "fire team reboarded and the
46 "backed out' from the touch down point and as they did, the tail
ramp crushed the NVA soldier . . . ." Meyers Comments. Colonel John
E. Hansen, who commanded Provisional MAG 39 which controlled Marine
helicopter support in Quang Tri Province, wrote that he and Major David
L. Althoff, the executive officer of HMM-262, piloted the aircraft that
landed with the fire team. Hansen could not see from the cockpit either
the fighting or the soldier crushed by the tail ramp: "Our crew chief
was in the rear of our helicopter and reporting to us on our radio internal
communications system on the progress of the search . . . ." Hansen
recalled that as soon as the fire team returned they took off; "We were
fortunate to be able to get back to Hill 689 with the aircraft still
operating. The helicopter was later recovered by a heavy lift copter
and returned to Quang Tri." Col John E. Hansen, Comments on draft, dtd
16Jan95 (Vietnam Comment File).

** According to Colonel Meyers, he was very distressed at the situation.
He remembered that General Tompkins denied his request for a delay in
the change of operational control between the two Marine regiments.
Meyers immediately briefed the incoming 1st Marines commander Colonel
Stanley S. Hughes of the situation. Colonel Hugh-es stated that he would
initiate the recovery operation at 0630 despite the fact that he was
not to assume operational control until 0800. Meyers stated that as
a "control feature" he permitted the patrol to go out 500 meters at
which point "they would check in with whichever regimental commander
had opcon at the time they reached this checkpoint." According to Meyers,
the rescue took place before the patrol ever reached the 500 meter checkpoint,
so the entire subject became moot. Meyers Comments. In an earlier statement,
Meyers stated that before reaching the 500 meter checkpoint, the patrol
saw Hunnicutt who warned them not to approach since he believed the
NVA were using him as a decoy. The patrol called in gunships which provided
cover while one of the aircraft rescued him. By this time. Colonel Meyers
had been relieved of responsibility for the operation and was on his
way to the Quang Tri base. Meyers Statement, Meyers Comments.

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