THE ADVISORY AND COMBAT ASSISTANCE ERA, I954-I964
At the loadmaster's direction, a Marine UH-34D waits in a crude landing zone as an unidentified U.S. advisor and two Vietnamese soldiers unload supplies. Other ARVN troops provide security. (JLJSM.C Photo AW572').
helicopters originally assigned to support the operation remained airworthy. The helibome assault portion of SURE WIND 202 was completed the next morning. Fourteen UH- 34Ds from HMM- 364, several of which had been repaired during the night, and four Army UH-lBs lifted the remainder of the South Vietnamese battalion into the landing zone. By then the intensity of the enemy action in the surrounding hills had diminished greatly. Only one Marine helicopter was hit and it suffered only minor damage. Upon finishing their tasks, HMM-364's aircraft proceeded to Gi Lang, the outpost from which the Army helicopter company was operating, to help it complete its portion of the assault lift.
Aircaft losses for the operation continued to accumulate on the second day when a Marine UH-34D was caught in the rotor wash of other landing helicopters and crashed while approaching the runway at Quang Ngai. The aircraft plumetted into an irrigation canal adjacent to the airstrip, rolled over onto its side, and completely submerged. The crewmen managed to climb to safety but the helicopter was a total loss.
On 29 April, three UH- 34Ds flew a maintenance-inspection team and a Marine security squad from Da Nang into Landing Zone BRAVO to assess the damage suffered by the two helicopters which had been shot down on the first day of SURE WIND 202. The inspection team found that four bullets had struck the Marine aircraft. The VNAF aircraft, on the other hand, was riddled by nearly 30 bullets, including a .50 caliber round that had severed the tail rotor control cable. The inspection team concluded that both helicopters were damaged beyond repair and proceeded to destroy them where they had fallen.
Originally, MACV and II Corps planners had anticipated that the Marine helicopters would not be required to support SURE WIND 202 beyond the initial assault. It soon became apparent, however, that the daily helicopter requirements for the operation would exceed the aviation assets available in II Corps. The American command in Saigon, therefore, directed Colonel Merchant's task element to continue providing support for the duration of the offensive. Accordingly, the task element commander assigned a liaison officer to the 2d ARVN Division headquarters. This officer was tasked with coordinating daily aircraft requirements. When SURE WIND 202 finally ended on 25 May, HMM-364's crews had contributed 983 sorties and 800 flight hours to the South Vietnamese effort in northwestern II Corps.10
Operations Elsewhere in I Corps
While some of HMM-364's crews continued flying support missions from Quang Ngai, others conducted a critical operation in western I Corps. The mission, which already had been delayed five days because of the Marines' extensive commitment during the early stages of SURE WIND 202, was executed on 30 April. It involved 17 Marine UH-34Ds, four Army UH-lBs (two transports and two gunships), two Marine 0-lBs, two VNAF Skyraiders, and one South Vietnamese observation aircraft. Their assignment was to evacuate a