The reconnaissance accomplished, the squadron commander returned to Da Nang, exchanged the &-1B for a UH-34D, and led a flight of 14 helicopters to the pickup point. In accordance with the squadron's standing operating procedure, Ross, the flight leader, was to land first, drop off a load-master, and lift out the first Vietnamese heliteam. Upon approaching the hilltop, however, the lead helicopter was forced away by heavy small arms fire which punctured the aft section of the aircraft's fuselage, wounding the loadmaster.
The second aircraft, following at close interval, was also hit. Lieutenant Colonel Ross then ordered the entire formation into a holding pattern out of small arms range while he attempted to persuade the American advisor to move the Vietnamese unit overland a short distance to a less exposed landing zone beside a stream. This the U.S. advisor was reluctant to do. "I was convinced," Ross concluded, "that his real concern was the shattered morale of his ARVN troops and doubts about being able to get them moving to the alternate site."3 After some delay the Vietnamese unit finally moved to the new landing zone, whereupon the Marines completed the troop lift. Still, the helicopters were exposed to unnecessary risks.
Understandably concerned with problems of this nature which tended to plague all but the larger preplanned operations, Lieutenant Colonel Ross questioned the "ability of the advisors to make operational decisions based upon considerations beyond their own tactical problems."4 In this particular case the selection of the exposed hilltop landing zone tended to substantiate the Marine commander's complaints.
During the second week of January, General Greene, the newly appointed Commandant of the Marine Corps, visited the Marine installation at.
Loadmaster directs a helicopter into a recently cleared landing zone. (USMC Photo A329576').
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