Incident Date 19660321 HMM-363 UH-34D 145802+ - Hostile Fire, Crash
Kraft, Noah Morris 1stLT Pilot HMM-363 MAG-36 1966-03-21 (vvm 06E:033)
Igarta Jr., Benito GySgt Gunner HMM-363 MAG-36 1966-03-21 (vvm 06E:032)
Chow, Calvin Kealohaokalan GySgt Crew Chief HMM-363 MAG-36 1966-03-21 (vvm 06E:029)
Bird Jr., Thomas Arnold 1stLT Co-Pilot HMM-363 MAG-36 1966-03-21 (vvm 06E:028)
Williams, Billie Joe PFC Passenger K/3/1 1stMarDiv 1966-03-21 (vvm 01W:094)
Watkins, Bruce Lamar PFC Passenger K/3/1 1stMarDiv 1966-03-21 (vvm 06E:036)
Mitchell, John Albert Sgt Passenger K/3/1 1stMarDiv 1966-03-21 (vvm 06E:033)
Cavicchi Jr., James Henry LCpl Passenger K/3/1 1stMarDiv 1966-03-21 (vvm 06E:031)
Andrew, Dennis Richard LCpl Passenger K/3/1 1stMarDiv 1966-03-21 (vvm 06E:028)
Ambrose, Louis Allen PFC Passenger K/3/1 1stMarDiv 1966-03-21 (vvm 06E:027)
Comment on Incident:
I was the copilot in the huey that picked up Lt. Kraft after his plane went down due to enemy fire. It was a group-grope type of landing in a large action that may have been named after one of the states. I did not see the H-34 go in but I remember being told that they probably took a round in some part of the control system causing them to do a roll before crashing (maybe it was a "hard over"). He was alive - the only one - when we landed to pick him up. Some grunts [probably from 3/1] loaded him on. We flew him to the medical unit at Ky Ha. Enroute, I asked one of our crew to look at his dog tag to find out his name. He was terribly burned. I did not recognize or know that name but I have never forgotten it. He was still alive when we got to the medical unit. I was later told that he had died from his massive burn injuries. The co-pilot, T. Bird, went through flight school the same time as I did. Somewhere I have a slide or two of the wreckage, burning, from a distance, as we made our approach to make the pick up. Submitted by Orlando Ingvoldstad, VMO-2, co-pilot of UH-1E gunship that picked up Kraft
HMM-363 Squadron Command Chronology
Submitted by: POPASMOKE Admin, 20050207
"At 21:1610 Hours thirty UH-34D's from HMM-261, HMM-363, and HMM-364 escorted by four armed UH-1E's of VMO-6 lifted two companies plus a command group (405 troops) of 3rd Bn., 1st Marines from Ky Ha Air Facility to an unsecure LZ at BS 494 806. Automatic weapons and .50 caliber fire was received from numerous areas in close proximity to the LZ. One HMM-363 aircraft was hit by a severe burst of fire as it approached the LZ, and rolled inverted and crashed at BS 495 815. Three crew members and seven troops were killed upon impact. The aircraft exploded and burned upon impact with the ground. The pilot was thrown clear, and was lifted to Bravo Med. at Chu Lai, but subsequently died."
The records I have for HMM-363 KIA's show the following on 03/21/1966: Lt. Noah M. Kraft (Pilot), Lt. Thomas A. Bird, GySgt. Calvin Chow, GySgt. Benito Igarta, Jr.
That would account for all four air crew members therefore I would suspect that your Marine was a member of the 3rd Bn. 1st Marines and not an air crew member.
I do not have photos of your brothers [T-Birds] crash site. I can tell you I knew T-Bird (nickname) at LTA Santa Ana and in Vietnam. I bought his '64 Cad before he left Santa Ana and I really liked the car. I went overseas in Aug'65 as a Forward Air Controller with an infantry battalion (3/1).
I ran into and talked with T-Bird on the day he was killed and by a stroke of luck or fate, I got in the helo immediately ahead of his as the infantry-lift was going slowly and the last part of the lift was a big scramble to catch up with rest of the company. As our helo was racing into the LZ and flaring to a landing, the crew chief pointed out to me as I got out that a helo had been shot down and it was the last helo; T-bird's. The impact sight was about 100 yards from where we were inserted and smoke was seen rising.
To my knowledge, no one on the ground went to investigate. I did hear from two different pilots later that evening as they landed to evacuate our wounded and KIA, that all aboard his helo were killed, primarily by impact except the pilots; they had both been hit and presumed killed by large cal bullets (12.7mm)(50 cal). The infantry later did capture a 12.7mm weapon. The crash site was in a rice paddy with about 12-18" of water in it. I believe the operation was called Texas and was in mid-March 1966. The name and dates are approximate as the battalion was in constant patrolling or helo-lift attacking operations from late Jan 66 to the end of Mar 66. I was transferred to the Air Wing at Marble Mountain on May 1, 1966 and on the 15th I was shot down and med-evac'd home. I hope this helps you after all these years. I still think of the many friends I lost in Nam. The finality of the loss of close friends was really brought home to me when I saw the body of my roommate at Whiting Field, Pensacola in 1962 on the front cover of LIFE magazine in April 1965. Submitted by Bill Dwinell, USMC(Ret), HMM-363 (63-64)/FAC 3/1 (65-66)/HMM-161 (66)/HMM-165 (75)
I was piloting an H-34 a few divisions behind Noah's aircraft in a large assault and saw 2 .50cals open up on the flight. Noahs a/c dropped out of the flight and crashed slightly nose down into a paddy dike than flipped over, throwing him clear and immediately burst into flames. It looked as if he made an attempt to return to the a/c to assist the others but I saw no one else get out.
By that time my division had passed the downed bird and it was not until later that night that we learned that Noah had died from wounds and burns. I knew him as a good natured guy always with a grin on his face. Seems like he was getting short when this incident occurred. Watching that a/c taking fire and going down like it did is one of my recurring visions of '66 which did not return to me until 2003, 36 years after I returned home from my tour in '67.
On March 21, 1966 during Operation Texas I was a Marine rifle platoon leader with M Co, 3rd Bn, 1st Marines. MIKE Company was inserted in the LZ first to secure the LZ for the following waves. The LZ was hot. My platoon was on the perimeter of the LZ, a large dry rice paddy.
Approximately 1000 meters west of the LZ a VC/NVA 12.7 AA machine gun was firing into the LZ from a draw located on a small hill. Several A4 strikes failed to kill it. As Tom's helo--a UH 34--approached the LZ in the next wave carrying Kilo Company the 12.7 targeted his helo. The helo was 50 feet or so off the deck when I could see the 12.7 rounds impacting. The helo actually jerked slightly each time a round hit it. The helo then nosed over sharply. The pilot then apparently pulled back hard (I'm guessing that's what happened)on his controls to avoid a nose-first crash because the helo then literally "reared up" like a stallion with its forelegs pawing the air. The helo's rear rotor blade and tail boom then hit a high paddy dike. The helo then crumpled backward into the paddy as the gas tank exploded and engulfed the helo for a split second.
Since the crash was within 100 meters of my position I immediately grabbed a Corpsman and one rifle squad and ran to the crash site to give aid. When we arrived at the still burning helo it was apparent that everyone in the passenger and crew compartments were dead. They were burned beyond recognition. The 2 pilots, however, since the 34's cockpit was elevated and forward of the passenger and crew areas, could be seen struggling to free themselves. They were horribly burned but still alive. My Corpsman, Paul Goldstein and Sgt. Bob Gleason ran through the still burning debris to free the pilots. As they did so the magnesium rotor hub exploded. The blast fortunately went up and over their heads only causing them some minor burns. I avoided being caught in the explosion since I was a few feet beyond the blast radius setting in security.
I then threw a smoke grenade into the LZ and a helo immediately landed. I think it was a huey. The pilot I was carrying died before we got him to the medevac. The other pilot, though suffering horribly, was still alive. Doc Goldstein rode with him in the medevac back to Chu Lai. I was later told by Doc Goldstein that he died as they arrived at B Med in Chu Lai.
The reason I'm now writing this is that I recently read an article written by Paul Gregoire, a Marine pilot and friend of Lt. Tom Bird, wherein he mentioned Tom as KIA on Operation Texas. I then e-mailed Paul to tell him that I was there on Op Texas.
OFFICIAL USMC STATEMENT OF SECOND LIEUTENANT JAMES A. LUPORI 090947/0302 U. S. Marine Corps Reserve regarding the heroic action of Hospitalman Paul A. GOLDSTEIN 6881877/8404 on 21 March 1966 during Operation "TEXAS".
"On 21 March 1966 at approximately 1800, Hospitalman GOLDSTEIN, assigned as a Corpsman in the 3rd Platoon, Company M, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines was involved in the securing of a helicopter landing zone during Operation "TEXAS" in Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam. As Company M held the landing zone, the remainder of the Battalion began landing. at a distance of about one thousand meters north (Grid coordinates 496815) of the perimeter of Company M, a helicopter began to show signs of having mechanical difficulty when it suddenly banked sharply a few times, nosed toward the ground, pulled up, and then crashed tail first, into a rice paddy.. There was an immediate explosion. Seeing the crash Sergeant Robert J. GLEASON and I formed up the first squad of my platoon and with Hospitalman GOLDSTEIN, left our perimeter to give aid to the occupants of the helicopter. When we arrived on the scene, the helicopter was a mass of flames with hand grenades and rifle rounds exploding and the magnesium rotor blades showering large chunks of white-hot metal over the area. Hospitalman GOLDSTEIN and Sergeant GLEASON were a few yards behind, the point fire team, and I was about twenty yards behind the point with my radioman. The heat was so intense that the point fire team fell back, I was pointing out security positions for individuals when we saw that someone was still alive near the nose of the helicopter, hanging half in and half out of the flames. Completely disregarding the fierce heat and exploding ammunition, Hospitalman GOLDSTEIN and Sergeant GLEASON courageously rushed forward to pull the man from the burning wreckage, As they were just about to pull the victim free, the magnesium rotor blades exploded, throwing sparks and molten metal over the heads of the two men. Hospitalman GOLDSTEIN was burned on the face and neck and Sergeant GLEASON on the hand, and both were temporarily blinded by the flash. Fearlessly ignoring the heat and their own burns, they valiantly continued pulling the victim out of the aircraft until he was carried clear of the heat and explosions. Their gallant disregard for their own safety in extremely dangerous circumstances and their heroic willingness to give their own lives, if necessary in order that a fellow Marine might be saved were actions that were well above and beyond the call of duty."
Comment on Incident
Information attained from Joe Daily of 3/1 indicates that several Marines were not identified as KIA on this helicopter mission but were in fact killed during the above incident. 7 were KIA from 3/1.Submitted by: Joe Daily, 3/1, 20030802
I appreciate your effort to recognize and remember some of the fine Marines who served and died in Vietnam. I remember LCpl Dennis Andrew well. He was a bit of a character and he kept us pleasantly amused with his manner and antics. LCpl Andrew's machine gun team was normally attached to my rifle squad during operations as it was for Operation Texas on March 21, 1966 when he died. Your account of how he and the others died is essentially correct except for two important facts. Neither Cpl Walter R. Shortt nor Sgt Marvin F. Glassburn died when the helicopter was shot down; however, both were wounded/killed by enemy ground fire as we attacked the North Vietnam Army unit that was defending the village that was our objective that day. I know as true because I was one of the Marines that retrieved Cpl Shortt's body that evening, and I spoke with Sgt Glassburn as he lay mortally wounded in the dry rice paddy over which we attacked. Although I did not witness the incident, Cpl Shortt was killed as he attempted a one-man assault of a NVA machinegun position. He was awarded the Silver Star Medal posthumous for his effort. When I found his body he was laying on his back with his machine gun across his chest as, I assume, he had fallen. Sgt Glassburn, who was a squad leader with Kilo Company 2nd Platoon, was struck in the lower abdomen by a bullet from NVA heavy machine. He died in hospital after he was evacuated. All the Kilo Company Marines in that helo were from the company's weapons platoon with the exception of PFC Bruce Watkins who was a member of my rifle squad. I would have shared their lot had it not been for a twist of fate. The day we made that assault was quite hot. Just before we boarded the helos at the Chu Lai helicopter field the aircraft were refueled which raised their total weight. Because of that combination of aircraft weight and weather I was shifted to the next helo team in line. I did not see the aircraft when it was shot down; in fact, it was much later that night or maybe even the next day before I learned what had happened. When we hit the landing zone, which was under very heavy fire, all I knew was that I was missing one Marine from my squad and the machine gun team; along with the team's squad leader Sgt John Mitchell, all of whom were attached to my rifle squad. March 21, 1966 was a very tough day for Kilo Company, 3d Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. None of us who were there have forgotten the Marines who died that day and it is very encouraging to know that Dennis Andrew's hometown also remembers. Colonel Garrett V. H. Randel Jr, US Marine Corps (Ret.) Former sergeant, 1st Platoon, K/3/1Submitted by: Garrett Randel Jr, Former sergeant, 1st Platoon, K/3/1, 20030802
Louis A Ambrose, who was one of the passengers on that flight, was in boot camp with me. PLT-230 Parris Island from 5-63 to 8-63.Noticing his Service Number is what caught my Eye on this incident. My Service number is 2031732.I'm looking at his Picture right now. I wonder now how many more Marines I knew in Boot camp did not make it Home. May he rest in Peace. L/Cpl Michael J Carroll, USMC, May 63 to June 66Submitted by: Mike Carroll Sr, Was in Boot camp with Ambrose, 20091123
I would like to thank all the brave men who served in the Viet Nam war, who never got the "welcome home" parades, the well wishers, and the thank-you" they deserved.
I have recently gotten to know some of my brother's MARCAD friends, and more unbelievably, got to hear from the man who held my brother in his arms as he died! God bless all of you heroes that survived; words can not express the gratitude for your service and your humanity. You have a special place in Heaven waiting:)
LCpl Dennis Richard Andrew
1stLt Thomas Arnold Bird Jr., HMM-363
Does anyone have anything further about this crash. PFC Billie J. Williams was my uncle on my mothers side. My mother recently got a letter from someone who knew him before the war and mentioned the information on this sight. I have learned more about this in the last week than I ever knew before.
Although I was not alive when this happened, it has affected my family since the day it happened. My grandmother, Avis Williams was tortured by the loss to the day she died, last year. I could never bring myself to ask her anything about it. She gave me his burial flag and his medals before she died and I have them in a case in my house in his honor. My kids know who he is and I want to know as much as a can about the crash. He will not be forgotten. I saw where someone had a slide of the crash sight. Any information from someone who knew him or about the information would be greatly appreciated.
Would like more info on this crash site; Photo 145802 - Operation TEXAS. Sgt Mitchell and I served together as NCO's. Request info about his unit and action at time of death. Semper Fi.Submitted by: 1stSgt Plocica, USMC (Ret), Served together, 20100224