by Mike Cornell
I was replacing the short shaft broken the night before. It was early, the start of the day. The unmistakable whistle of incoming screamed the arrival of the first round.
There was nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. I got on the ground and weathered the storm. All alone YN3 and me. The rounds kept coming and the ammo dump started cooking off. The sky seemed to be falling. The ground was shaking. An ant and I were hiding under the same rock. That was all alone. The sad part – I was more worried about my helicopter than myself. How wonderful to be 19 and immortal!
When the shelling ceased, the ammo dump continued to cook off spewing unexploded shells and debris in all directions. Helicopters became rippled under the concussions. During this time I left my bird and headed toward the line shack. Along the way I was knocked to the ground. I was bleeding from the back of my head, back and I removed scrapnel from my left calf. Finally I made it to the line bunker by what was the line shack.
My good friend John Noble met me at the entrance. He could not shoot me if I had been the bad guy – There wasn’t a gun in the place. John and I decided to head out. It kinda calmed down.
Others were crawling out also. We were told to get back into our holes by the Gunny. Ah – to be young and immortal. As a group we dug out those trapped by debris. I then headed to first aid for burns and cuts. It turned out they needed someone to drive the ambulance to the other side of the runway. Off I went – what a ride!
Finally the two birds stationed at Khe Sanh returned to base. They were the only two birds we had capable of flying. We still needed to fly medi-vac for the night. The existing crew couldn’t fly so I flew crew and Noble took over the gun position.
We flew medi-vac off of the USS Ranger. The next day we flew to Marble Mountain, our new home. I then went back to Dong Ha to replace on blade on my bird, set the blades and fly to Marble. As far as I know, YN3 was the only chopper to fly off the ground from Dong ha – My angels were busy
The next I flew back to Dong Ha for medi-vac. We didn’t have enough birds for a full replacement. YN3 stayed flyable for around 25 days. All the other crewmembers traded places –YN3 and I stayed.
Finally YN3 and I went back to Marble Mountain. But with so few birds flying, the next day we were back in the air – Good Morning Viet Nam!