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Page 520 (1968: The Defining Year)


Photo Courtesy of Col Warren A. Butcher

Crew members of a Bell Iroquois UH-1E helicopter
(Huey) gunship pause in the field awaiting a new mission. By 1968, the
Marines required more helicopter gunships to support operations.

retain half of the Huey inventory while the new HMLs would acquire the surplus number displaced by the Broncos. As McCutcheon observed, the chances tor approval were good in that the UH-1Es were already on hand and the procurement needs were modest. The Secretary ot Defense agreed to the changes but only on a temporary basis.10

On 8 March 1968, Headquarters Marine Corps issued its implementing
bulletin to restructure the VMOs and to establish the light helicopter
squadrons (HMLs). The three permanent Marine VMO squadrons were eventually
to contain 12 UH-1Es and 18 OV-10A Broncos. According to the headquarters
directive, the Marine Corps would transform both of its temporary VMOs
into HMLs consisting of 24 UH-1Es. A third HML would be established
ac Camp Pendleton in California. The Marine Corps was to retain the
three HML squadrons only through the duration of the war.11

In Vietnam, in early March, VMO-3 at Phu Bai, the one temporary observation
squadron in-country, became HML-367 with a transfer of aircraft and
personnel. On 15 March, HML-167 was established at Marble Mountain with
13 UH-1Es assigned to it. The first Bronco aircraft arrived in July
and joined VMO-2 at Da Nang.* While the arrival ot the Broncos may have
eased the burden on UH-1Es somewhat, there were still too few of the
new light fixed-wing aircraft in country at the end of 1968, 13 total,
and all in VMO-2, to make much difference. In December, there were 74
Marine UH-1Es in Vietnam-12 attached to VMO-2, 14 with HML-167, 15 with
HML-367, and 23 with VMO-6-only three more than were in-country in January.
While there had been a change in designation, the HML squadrons through
the year

* Colonel Tullis J. Woodham, Jr, who commanded the 3d Battalion, 27th
Marines, remembered that in July 1968, the enemy shot down one of the
new aircraft "in our area of Go Noi. The spotter aircraft was probably
lower in altitude than he safely should have been because he received
a number of rounds through the bottom of the plane, causing it to go
down." Woodham sent a company to retrieve any survivors and bring back
what they could of the "sophisticated and classified equipment and manuals.'
With continuous air support, "that was about as close to an 'air show'
as I'd seen in Vietnam," the company accompanied by tanks found the
aircraft and recovered the bodies of the crew. Unidentified draft, Encl,
Col Tullis J. Woodham, Jr., Comments on draft, dtd 7Dec1994 (Vietnam
Comment File).

Page 520 (1968: The Defining Year)