Page 159

  Page 159 (The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)    


emerged earlier in the dry season. Medical evacuation and resupply sorties continued to constitute the majority of the task element's support missions. Generally, medical evacuation missions, many of which were executed while Viet Cong and South Vietnamese forces were engaged in combat, provided the major source of action for Lieutenant Colonel Curtis' squadron during this period. On 6 August, for example, a UH- 34D was hit by enemy fire while its crew was evacuating ARVN casualties from a landing zone along the Song Tra Bon. Two days later, a second Marine helicopter was hit during an attempt to evacuate dead and wounded from the mountains about eight miles west of Tarn Ky. The following day, on 9 August, another HMM-162 UH-34D drew fire while evacuating a wounded U.S. advisor from a village on the coastal plain 12 miles southeast of Tarn Ky. In all three incidents the aircraft received only minor damage and were able to return safely to Da Nang.

Although the medical evacuation missions generally attracted more Viet Cong attention, many resupply flights also proved hazardous. Small landing zones, high elevations, and bad weather often made even the most routine missions difficult. HMM-162 lost a helicopter as a result of a combination of two of these adverse conditions-extreme elevation and a small landing zone- on 30 August. While resupplying a mountain-top outpost five miles southwest of Nam Dong, the UH-34D struck a tree at the edge of a tiny clearing and crashed. The crew members were uninjured, but the extent of the aircraft's damage was too great to permit repair. It was stripped of radios, machine guns, machine gun mounts, and other usable parts before being destroyed. In mid-August the Marines also lost their first observation aircraft since deploying to Vietnam in 1962 when an 0-1 B crashed after experiencing mechanical failure. The incident occurred on the 15th while the pilot and observer were conducting a reconnaissance of the northwestern corner of Quang Ngai Province. Bad weather delayed rescue attempts for over an hour, but the two injured crewmen were finally recovered by helicopter and flown to the Da Nang dispensary for treatment. The pilot's injuries were severe enough that he was evacuated to the U.S. field hospital at Nha Trang.

The last major heliborne assault conducted in extreme western I Corps during 1964 was initiated in the first week of September. Eighteen Marine UH-34Ds, four Army UH-lBs, six VNAF Sky-raiders, two Marine 0-lBs, and two U.S. Air Force liaison aircraft were assigned to support a 2d ARVN Division heliborne offensive against Communist infiltration routes in remote southwestern Quang Nam Province. The operation, code named CHINH BIEN, began on the morning of 4 September when 15 HMM-162 helicopters (the other three UH-34Ds participating in the operation were serving as search and rescue aircraft) lifted the first wave of South Vietnamese soldiers from Kham Due, a government-controlled town located 12 miles from the Laotian border in northwestern Quang Tin Province. Their objective was a landing zone situated 24 miles northwest of the assembly area in Quang Nam Province and only three miles from the Laotian border. No enemy resistance was encountered and the initial assault helilifts were completed shortly after noon. Support for CHINH BIEN continued the next morning. When the helilifts were finally completed shortly before 1000, Marine UH-34Ds had flown 265 sorties for 180.2 flight hours in another effort to place ARVN ground forces in remote areas of I Corps.

Monsoon and flood Relief Operations

Adverse weather began influencing SHUFLY's operations a few days after CHINH BIEN ended. On 14 September all flights were cancelled by rain and high winds from Typhoon Violet, a severe tropical storm. All aircraft remained grounded until late afternoon of the next day when HMM-162 helicopters conducted an emergency evacuation of storm victims from Tarn Ky which had been hard hit by Violet.\ The typhoon caused some minor damage to SHUFLY's facilities when electrical power was lost for a few hours. By the morning of the 16th, power was restored and all Marine operations returned to normal.

Within a week, however, a more severe weather disturbance-Typhoon Tilda-struck the coast near Da Nang. On the morning of 21 September, in the face of the approaching storm, Colonel Hay ordered Lieutenant Colonel Curtis to displace his




Page 159 (The Advisory & Combat Assistance Era: 1954-1964)