Introduction to the Dong Ha Boys Mag 16 Forward July to September 3, 1967

Sometime toward the end of June of 67 

I completed a training flight with Bill Yancey out of  Marble Mountain with HMM 361 after running the surgery suite at Mag 12 in Chu Li. I had no battle experience except for one big ass motor attack and later going out with EOD to blow up captured ammo confiscated from the VC and NVA. They would be waiting for us to find a crater to put the ammo in and ambush us on our way out before we set off the ordinance. How exciting lying in the back of an armored troupe carrier while the VC shot at us. Once the ammo exploded then they quit trying to shoot us.

  I was sent out by myself a few day later. My first casualty was a newbie LCPL on his first patrol in 6 foot high jungle grass He was 6’3″. I remember thinking about his mother not knowing he was my first KIA on my first ever mission out West of Danang/MM.

 I was never the same ever again.

The above photo was when I first arrived in Dong Ha. I had been flying long hours and was able to acquire all the arms you see behind my bunk. The M 14 automatic was from a deceased Marine in the DMZ. These were collector guns since the M 16 came out and it was a joke since it jammed all the time and it  took a 3 foot long metal screwed together rod to un-jam the rifle.  The M 14 was the gun of choice for Marines.

I never got to sleep in my cot since the artillery was always going on at night. This kept you diving in and out of the bunker all night. It was better to just sleep in the bunker with the rats. The guy on the right is Jerry, our Senior Corpsman, and the other guy was the head of getting us our gear with HMM 363. There were no big parties when Jerry was in charge, but things got crazy when 361 arrived along with Yancey, Blankenship, and Sean. The parties would scare the NVA away since they thought we were crazy. AND…we were.

Now this is my real bedroom all ways slept with my M14 and helmet and flak jacket. Night time could be very dangerous. 

Dong Ha Summer of June 1967 til September 3, 1967

Click below to listen to “Horse with No Name” by America

Written by John McElligott

“My Horse”

This was the door of a UH 34 D helicopter that we flew out of MM and Dong Ha. Could take many hits in battle and never stop going. Medivac Corpsman dream machine. Only issue was getting hit by a tracer from a 50 cal. This would ignite the plates that were made with Mg+. So we added a large ball pin hammer to our chopper and would go and hammer out any panel that ignited. Made a good mind bender post firefight.

 Sitting drinking Beer and watching the smoke from the B-52 exploding in the far back
Now it getting more exciting after drinking a case of Falstaff Beer (gag a maggot) Smoke is in North Vietnam. Life in the fast lane.
Checking out my new digs. We made the bunker bigger for me and the rats. Keep in mind the rats were as big as dogs.
not sure this is me but it is!!
 My guy ele!!
 See the smoke. That’s were we came from and called in some napalm. Definitely was a HOT Zone.
Beach Resort one of our corpsman in Chu Lai
 Beach Resort Chu Lai
 Lunch after flying all night. Sitting on a cot that I never slept in the whole time I was in Dong Ha!!
Stickum UP!!
Direct hit on the hut behind sick bay bar and grill
Chu Li trolling for sharks
Chu Li planting some grass
 Me on my cot with Gerry, and the guy who made my leather bag to sit on in the chopper. Again eating lunch
 Gilligan’s Island
 My speed boat
Bar hopping in Thailand
 Before I lost 60lbs
 Tom was a medivac corpsman but drove a forklift during the day while drinking beer
 The beach at Marble Mountain
The begininng of the hole that saved us on many a rocket attack in Dong HA.
French Bunker we slept in at night when flying nights. Wish i had my Depends back then. Shit in my pants on a few night gigs.
Always supervising Tom since I out ranked him!!
Sean Barry corpsman lived on C-rats and dam it all pill to stay awake. He later ran the morgue at 9/11. which he is still dreaming about.
The building you see was a catholic church that we would hide behind to avoid getting shot up.
More B-52 smoke in the DMZ Poop in your pants time for the NVA and just another beer for us Dong Ha Boys.
Not where you want to be” South of the DMZ a forward fire base.
 Happy Hour! Just finished the day shift and its party time
Surf City

Marble Mountain, MM, after a day of flying and taking care of sick Marines.

This picture was late June 1967, the thirsty gang sitting were both Corpsman- the second one was DB Winter who later followed us to Dong Ha. I am standing sucking on my finger followed by Bill Yancey and Bill Timans, who had just arrived to begin training and had just gotten his wings as seen on this left chest.

My beautiful picture

 By the time we finished at Dong Ha and  Bill Timans headed to the Rock Marines (South Korean Marines),  we had all been wounded at least once, but unfortunately none received a Purple Heart.  Why? Mainly because many of the bodies we carried only received this one honor. We felt this was our job. Crashes in the sense of hitting the ground and rice patty dikes was ultimately our future disability.


Dong Ha Boys John Noble & Mike Cornell

This is a pic from 2017.  Squadron (361) reunion in Arlinton VA.  We went to the USMC museum at Quantico to dedicate the display of YN-19 restored uh-34. that was restored by members of Popasmoke. It got too expensive to fly and was donated to the museum. This picture is of (L) John Noble, (C)Don Wagoner and (R)Mike Cornell. We all live in Indiana.

Dong Ha Vietnam began for me in early July of 1967 at Mag 16 Forward helicopter base.  This base was also home for the Marines and Delta Med all just a few miles form the DMZ and North Vietnam. When I first started flying out of Marble Mountain (MM),  I was there long enough to get banged up in one of my first missions.  It injured my shoulder and neck. Since I was from Midland Texas and hanging out with WG and Gene Clark,  this mini rice paddy dike mishap was not worth reporting since we made it back to base.  Now this was when HMM 363 was preparing to go back to Marble Mountain replaced by HMM 361.  The latter is who I flew with for the next few months until Sept 3 1967. Since I had run out of gas, I flew out for a break late on the 2nd just as the artillery began. What happened on 9/3/67 was historic.

The guys that stayed behind for the Big Bang on this day were many,  but of note are Bill Yancey, Tom Blankenship, Sean Barry, John Noble and Mike Cornell. The others were several hundred, if not 1000’s, since we took up one small area for 20 25 UH 34-D helo’s.