Incident Date 19670514 HMM-361 UH-34D 148613+ - Hostile Fire
McComb, Auburn Dale HM2 Corpsman-Crew HMM-361 MAG-16 1967-05-14 (vvm 19E:120)
I was co-pilot on med-evac duty 13May67. Capt Wayne Hyatt was Aircraft Commander. Went out about mid-night for Emergency medevac (1) attempted to locate zone, but friendlies would not mark zone for fear it would give away their position. Made numerous attempts to land, but was always told “you are not at our position.” Returned to MMAF twice to refuel; after second refueling the emergency med-evac count was up to 18. At this point it should have been apparent that "Charlie" damn sure knew where we were, and if he didn't it would become crystal clear where it was when we put a 16 foot tall UH-34 in the middle of the zone.
On our third refueling trip back to MMAF we were informed that the day med-evac crew was in place and we could quit. Capt Hyatt volunteered that we had a pretty good idea where the zone was and with daylight and a VMO-2 gun bird we could probably get them. He asked who wanted to go back with him. Corpsman McComb volunteered to go; the crew chief and gunner decided to be replaced.
On this attempt we were escorted by the VMO-2 gunship and the two H-34 day med-evac helo's. Upon arrival in the area the friendlies reported they were east of the burning hut. (There were 3 burning huts). We made our approach and just as our tail wheel was touching down (still no smoke popped) we became the marksmanship award to target shooting.
The plan was for the corpsman to throw out the 18 stretchers, thinking that while we had to wait for our Marines to be put on them, other patients could be loaded on the stretchers, allowing the next two birds reduced exposure time in the hot zone.
Capt Hyatt was hit in the left shoulder, but bullet bouncer stopped round while cutting his left shoulder strap. I was hit in right chest. (Yes, a sucking chest wound IS Gods way of letting you know you are in combat). Corpsman McComb was hit in the left shoulder and it exited out his right hip. He was bending down throwing out the stretchers when he was hit. It was his third Purple Heart.
He was married and had two daughters. A corpsman I talked to at the Las Vegas Reunion knew him very well. He asked me to sign his memorial service program. Capt Larry Delmore, Col, USMCR(Ret) was HAC on the day med-evac and said over radio that after we landed at G-4 Med he would fly the bird over to MMAF and his co-pilot could fly his bird back.
After a quick walk around Larry decided that the helo should be towed back to Marble. Metal shop personnel later told me that we had taken enough hits from the machine gun that they counted 110 holes, some incoming some out going. Just like a Timex watch "takes and licking but keeps on ticking” - the H-34.
Capt Wayne Hyatt was killed on his second tour, 18 Feb 1971, flying a CH-53.
I was Cpl. Miller back then and was serving as the Ordnance Man for HMM-361, the greatest unit I have had the honor to serve with. Corpsman McComb saved my life. I remember the moment when we started taking hits. I'll never forget the sound. It sounded like firecrackers going off inside the bird. I was in the habit of attaching a C-rat can to the side clip of an M-60 so that the rounds would go evenly into the chamber and not jamb. I must say, it worked 100% of the time for me. The crewchief didn't think that was a great idea. Lucky for me that I did because the crewchief's M-60 jammed and I remember him just sitting there frozen not being able to move.
I had the only operable weapon and I was sitting at the port side window. Corpsman McComb was kneeling just ahead and adjacent to me. When we were a few feet from the ground, he was hit. The bullet must have knocked him right off his feet because he fell backwards into and over me. He went down at my feet but I couldn't move because we were taking so many rounds and it just got crazy.
I don't know, to this day, how we all survived. It seemed as if we slowly moved out of the zone and away from gunfire. I attempted to administer first aid to Corpsman McComb, but he was already KIA. When we got back to the medical unit, I assisted the pilot and co-pilot, who both had been hit, out of the plane. It was then that I saw the damage we had sustained. The fuselage looked like a piece of swiss cheese, holes everywhere.
Comment on Incident
Some official records show Corpsman McComb assigned to HMM-263 instead of HMM-361. HMM-263 was aboard the SLF[USS Okinawa] at the time of the incident.Submitted by: N/A, 20030804