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by Sgt. Roger Ynostroza

DONG HA - It was Lance Corporal David J. Simmons' first big action. In Vietnam since August, Simmons was an M-60 machinegunner aboard a CH-37C cargo helicopter on a routine resupply mission near the demilitarized zone. The large double-engine chopper delivered several 55-gallon fuel drums to a 3rd Marine Division unit when intense automatic weapons fire broke out. Enemy positions on a saddle at a nearby razorback ridge began raking the landing zone. "I guess we weren't on the ground for but 30 seconds after the firing broke out," said Simmons. "But it was the most exciting half-minute of my life." "I looked out my window and saw puffs on the ground where machinegun rounds were walking across the LZ toward my window. "We were always told to stay with the plane when possible, so I hit the deck just inside the bird," he said. Just as Simmons ducked, the enemy machinegunner brought his deadly pattern off the ground, into the helicopter, and across Simmons' window. "I looked up and saw bits and pieces of metal flying all over. Have you ever been in a car when it's hailing outside? Well, it sounded just like that inside the helicopter," said Simmons. "One big explosion hit about 20 yards from our plane. I believe it was 75mm recoilless rifle. But we lifted off and they didn't have another chance to hit us with that big gun," he said. Simmons had a chance to get off return fire at the enemy from the air. "There was all kinds of smoke in the trees they were firing from," he said. The enemy had taken its toll. Several rounds ripped through to knock out all the gauges and instruments and the radio; others had nearly severed a hydraulic line. Most of the fluid from the utility system leaked out. This leakage made only manual operation of the tail rotor by the pilot possible, much like power steering going out in a car. Crippled and without instruments, the Marine helicopter - with 40 bullet holes and several pieces of shrapnel in it - limped to the nearest LZ at Camp J.J. Carroll, five miles away. A twin-rotor CH-46 "Sea Knight" flying wing on the disabled 'copter, also set down at Camp Carroll, then flew into Dong Ha with the injured pilot. Within two days, the CH-37 was repaired and ready to fly again. "I don't think any other chopper could have absorbed so many rounds and still have een able to lift off of that LZ," said Simmons. "I have a lot of respect for that bird".

Taken from: Stars And Stripes
Pilot: Zane V. Lamascus
Co-pilot: Frank J. Weldon received the Distinguished Flying Cross for this action
Place: The Rockpile

(The article didn't point out that, when the NVA opened fire, the nose doors on the Deuce were open and the loading ramp was down. The crew had to wait while the ramp came up before closing the doors and flying to safety.)

submitted by Rod Carlson

Category: Stories