Tape 3368

Interview with Cpl Mark P. McDonald

Crew Chief, HMM-164, MAG-16, Marble Mountain Air Facility


Subject: An Emergency extract mission at Khe Sanh, 9 May 1967

Interview: 22 Oct 68, Marble Mt Air Facility, RVN


The mission that I’m talking about right now started on May 8th, 1967. We were FRAGed from Marble Mt. Air Facility to Khe Sanh for working birds. After the day of May 9th we settled down to a routine of sleeping at two o’clock in the morning. I was awakened by my pilot, Maj (A.B.) COLBERT. They had a team out, seven miles out by Khe Sanh was in trouble, and they requested choppers to pull them out.

It was pretty foggy out when we reached over by the zone so MAJ COLBERT called out SPOOKY for flares. The flareship was dropping a fairly extensive amount of flares, trying to keep the area as lit up as possible.

We started our approach with Huey gunships as cover. It seemed as though all of Fourth of July opened up on us. We were about maybe twenty feet off the deck. We took extensive hits in the whole aircraft, extensive hits in the cockpit, quite a few hits in the cabin section. We started to pull back up because we knew we couldn’t take any more fire than we did. The Co-pilot as hit, the pilot was hit, my gunner was hit, I was hit. The plane looked like a piece of Swiss cheese. The forward transmission was hot up, a few of the blades were shot up, the aft transmission was shot up, the hydraulic system was hot up. All in all the whole plane took 57 hits going in and about 125 hits going out. It was pretty miraculous that we moved through this. The plane took quite a beating. It’s surprising it didn’t come apart. There was no real reason why it didn’t. It just—the plane held together; it was a good plane and a good pilot, good co-pilot.

After we tried to make the attempt we headed back to Khe Sanh with no radios, no lights, no communication period with Khe Sanh tower.

We managed to make it back to Khe Sanh and set the plane down and get it de-fueled and get it ready to go back to Marble Mt. For repairs.

All in all it was a pretty bad mission but in the long run it turned out pretty good. Except for the other plane that tried to go in after them: the pilot was killed and the crew chief was pretty badly wounded, but them are some of the risks you have to take over here for the missions that you support.