operation report information
1/4 MARINES was a US Marine Corps unit
for 1/4 MARINES
For date 670415
Primary service involved, US Marine Corps
Quang Tri Province, I Corps, South Vietnam
Location, The Trace
Description: I'd be happy to relate one of my memories of "chopper" pilots. Whenever I see or hear a helicopter my mind always flashes back to Viet Nam. They were so much an integral part of our existence as grunts. As you well know I'm sure, we relied on them from supplies, fire support, transportation and everything else but to me, the medi-vac chopper was the one most important thing if I had to choose. That's where my story will begin.
It was April of 1967 and we (1st Bn 4th Marines, Charlie Co.) were operating north and west of Dong Ha. We were on Operation Firebreak and part of our mission was to provide protection for the engineers who were bulldozing a strip of land which was intended to deter infiltration of NVA regulars from the north. We sometimes refer to the strip as the "trace" but it was also known as the "Natchez Trace". At the time I was there, the trace was being pushed out toward Con Thien to the west. We were flanked to the north of the bulldozers as they worked. We knew there were lots of NVA in the area and we received incoming mortar fire at least every day. On this particular day we were patrolling when we were ambushed with small arms fire along with incoming mortars. We immediately assaulted their position and some of our Marines were hit. A medi-vac chopper was radioed for. We were pinned down and were exchanging fire with the enemy.
It seemed only a few minutes before I heard the chopper coming in. My squad secured an LZ and popped a smoke for the chopper to come in. The LZ was small with a terraced hedgerow consisting of very little cover. We laid down in the hedgerows facing outward and prepared for the medi-vac. We were still receiving small arms fire. The "grasshopper" descended into the LZ and as the pilot set her down you could hear the rounds bouncing off the chopper. We threw the wounded on the chopper as fast as we could. I looked at the pilot and my heart swelled with pride and admiration. We were all in danger but that chopper is a mighty big target and easy to hit but that pilot had a steady hand on the stick and seemed unmovable until the wounded were on board. At that point he lifted off and was away. We were relieved for several reasons. First, our wounded were enroute to a hospital. Second, the pilot and chopper made it OK. And, third, the target that they wanted to hit so bad had moved out of our proximity!
I'll never forget as long as I live how that pilot sat in that chopper while receiving fire and seemed unmovable. I'll probably never know him but the image of what all I saw that day will always stay with me.
This few paragraphs was only one day in a thirteen month tour. I could not begin to write all of what I saw done by both grunts and air support.
Semper Fi, Bob Magee, Dec., 1998
Editor's Note: Details about Operation FIREBREAK are not currently available but everything Bob Magee states agrees with USMC histories for this period. We suspect Firebreak was a battalion operation subordinate to PRAIRIE IV.
The source for this information was USMC 1967 History P:21 also Bob Magee via E-mail to Mike Law
Additional information is available on CD-ROM.
Please send additions or corrections to: Gary Roush Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
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