Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Profiles "A Hillside Near Khe Sanh" - June 26th, 2004
Posted on 06/26/2004 12:08:48 AM PDT by snippy_about_it
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
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Capt. Gerald O. Young
The severely injured HH-3E pilot laid his life on the line to save a rescue force from disaster.
Shortly after midnight on Nov. 9, 1967, Capt. Gerald O. Young, an instructor pilot with the 37th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron, Da Nang, headed his HH-3E Jolly Green Giant toward an area southwest of Khe Sanh.
Low-hanging clouds shrouded 5,000-foot peaks off to his left. Visibility was poor. It wasn't a good night for a rescue mission in the hill country just below the DMZ, but Young was a veteran of 59 combat missions, including as far north as Haiphong. He and his crew had volunteered for this one.
The previous afternoon, a small US-South Vietnamese reconnaissance team had been surrounded by a NVA battalion. Two helicopters had been shot down during a daylight rescue attempt. Young and his crew were flying backup for another Jolly Green, supported by a C-130 flareship and three Army gunships, in a desperate attempt to save the ambushed patrol.
As the rescue force approached the beleaguered team, the enemy opened up with automatic weapons on the escorting gunships. The primary HH-3E moved through heavy fire into the area, now lighted by flares from the C-130. Hovering along a steep slope, its crew picked up three survivors before they were forced to withdraw to an emergency landing area, badly shot up and leaking fuel and oil. The pilot advised Young not to make another attempt under such extremely difficult conditions. Nevertheless, Young decided on one more try, even though the gunships were low on fuel and ammunition and might not be able to stay with them.
Young approached the slope head-on, hovering with one main wheel on the ground and his rotor blades barely clearing the bank above him. His copilot, Capt. Ralph Brower, directed fire from the gunships while Sgt. Larry Mansey leaped to the ground to help the wounded aboard, covered by SSgt. Eugene Clay at one of the chopper's machine guns. The big bird was sprayed by automatic weapons fire while five survivors were pulled aboard. During takeoff, a direct hit exploded one of the Jolly Green's engines, flipping the craft over on its back as it burst into flames and crashed down the hillside.
Young, hanging upside down in his harness, finally escaped through the broken windshield, his clothing on fire. He rolled down the slope to extinguish the flames, which had inflicted second- and third-degree burns on his legs, back, arms, and neck. Then, with his bare hands, he smothered the flames that were consuming a soldier lying nearby who had been thrown clear of the wreckage. Were there other survivors in or near the burning wreck? Young crawled 100 yards up the hill toward the flames, but was driven back by intense heat and enemy fire.
Young knew that daylight would bring a rescue force looking for survivors. The first A-1E Sandys to arrive spotted him and the unconscious man he had rescued. Young tried to warn them of a possible flak trap. He knew that the main rescue force would arrive at any moment and that enemy troops were moving back into the area to oppose them. The only way he could help was by leading the hostiles away from the crash site. In his condition, that meant almost certain capture or death.
He hid the wounded man whom he had rescued earlier and, despite the agony of his burns, took off into the brush, with enemy troops in pursuit. Each step ahead in the long hours of flight was a triumph of will over searing pain as he lured his pursuers farther and farther from the wreckage. After stumbling and crawling for six miles, he eluded the NVA troops late that afternoon, 17 hours after the crash, and called in a helicopter to pick him up.
A rescue force had finally been able to land at the crash site, retrieve one survivor, and recover the bodies of the dead, including that of the man Young had hidden. Young spent six months in hospitals, recovering from his burns. In May 1968, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon Johnson at a ceremony dedicating the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.
Before retiring as a lieutenant colonel in 1980, Young served at the Air Force Academy, was instrumental in setting up the forerunner of the Air Force Mast Program (which provides helicopter assistance to civilian highway patrols), flew with the VIP transport squadron out of Andrews AFB, Md., and was Air Attache to Colombia.
In 1985, 18 years after his last combat mission, he was asked how he felt about his Vietnam experience? "The air rescue mission was one of the best in the war," he said. "There is no greater compensation than to participate in saving lives."
By that standard, Young was a wealthy man indeed.
By John L. Frisbee, Contributing Editor
Good morning E.G.C.
My mom and sisters are leaving this morning. Looks like a beautiful morning to fly.
Good morning Aeronaut. Nice flyby.
By the time you're finished you'll probably have to start all over with whatever you did on weekend 1. :-)
Thanks Betsy. You're always welcome to fall in to the Foxhole.
Gee! Is that sorta like joining Germany in a European Union?
Good morning feather.
Morning DBR. Thanks for dropping by.
Good Morning Mayor. I haven't had my coffee yet and my head knows it. :-(
Morning Feather. Enjoy your granddaughter's graduation.
Snippy finally just did a system restore. I'm sure she'll have the details on how.
So what are you wearing today? ;-)
The appropriate parts are covered, and the temperature regulated.
LOL! Guess it depends on your definition of "approriate" :-)
Author Keith William Nolan's book...*Into Laos..The Story of Dewey Canyon II/Lam Son 719.
Lam Son 719 was a major operation of the Army of the Republic of South Vietnam, ARVN, into Laos early in 1971. U.S. provided all of the aviation assets for this operation. A/101 AVN was one of the aviation units in this operation, along with being the sole 101st Airborne aviation unit supporting the Special Operations Group in I Corp, during the month of 02/71.
The objective was to disrupt an ongoing North Vietnamese Army supply buildup at Tchepone, Laos. American Helicopter Units supported and provided all transportation of ARVN troops/supplies into and out of Laos during this operation. The US Helicopter Crewman went against the heaviest anti-aircraft barrage incurred in the War. The US helicopters, along with RPG, tank, and small arms fire, were regularly opposed by 23mm, 37mm, and 57mm anti-aircraft weapons, with .51 caliber machine guns arranged to provide mutually supporting fire. The enemy opposition comprised a permanent logistical force of engineers, transportation, and anti-aircraft troops, together with elements of five divisions, 12 infantry regiments, a tank regiment, an artillery regiment, and 19 anti-aircraft battalions.
The South Vietnamese government claimed that 13,341 enemy had been killed against 5,000 ARVN KIA/WIA. American estimates put the ARVN losses at 10,000, which amounted to half of its forces committed to the operation. The losses to US Helicopter Forces were 65 Helicopter Crewmen KIA, 818 Crewmen WIA, and 42 Crewman MIA. 618 American Helicopters shot up, Downed and Damaged, 20% of which were not expected to fly again - 106 Helicopters lost outright - all from 30 January to 24 March '71. The official end to Lam Son 719 was 9 April 1971
For those who enjoy great drama reads..this is a good book..and written well..its hard to put down.
The heroism and bravery under fire of the U.S. forces in this action....and the ARVN too..for some did fight to the last man on hill top firebases.
Helo's lifting off with wounded...ARVN hainging from skids as NVA overrun a firebase.
U.S. Command with dozens of downed helo crews..add to this..downed combat jet crews in the Laotian jungle...with NVA hunting them.
No rest for anyone in Quang tri sector...
shot up helo's by the hundreds at their forward bases..with Charlie zapping them day and night.
the road system to the Laotian border...U.S. forces running a gaunlet of ambushes, RPG's flying everywhere.
It reads like *We were Soldiers....but goes on for weeks.
Mornin' Snippy and SAM.
Very interesting presentation today. Interesting too, that Capt. Young was later instrumental in forming the MAST program. I remember watching in awe as those MAST choppers from nearby Fairchild AF Base landed atop Sacred Heart Hospital just down the road from our house.
Thanks Dave, glad you enjoyed it. I like to keep the weekend threads short since we all have so much to do and the weather is nicer. ;-)
Hi PE, thanks for the flag-o-gram.