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!
Mike and John were written up for their bravery the day of September 3rd 1967. By Bill Yancey and Myself for Bronze Stars and Purple hearts. Both were burned and or wounded. The were recruited by Bill Yancey to help the evacuation and treatment of the wounded marines in our squadron which were in the hundreds. John Nobel brought in the wounded and burned from the bunkers while Mike drove the ambulance across the base being riddled with shrapnel for the exploding ordinance and gun fire from the NVA. Then that evening when all the wounded were were shipped out to Marble Mountain and Phu Bi the comandiered a UH-34 helicopter and flew all night picking up wounded Marines. Mikes wound was never seen or treated until I waw him 2days later in Marble Moutain. He looked lie death eating a cracker. Well just this summer we found 2020 I found out that they never revieved their Medals for Wounds and Valor for that day. So we resubmitted their paper work and are taking the both to a NDU football game this fall. Joe O’Neil is getting VIP tickets for them and their wives when NDU plays Duke this year. So please look for the boys they were the most fearless Marines I ever flew with ever.