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USMC/COMBAT HELICOPTER & TILTROTOR ASSOCIATION - KIA DATABASE
USMC/COMBAT HELICOPTER ASSOCIATION
Brothers (& Sisters) Killed in Action in USMC Helicopters or while assigned to USMC Helicopter or Tiltrotor Squadrons in Vietnam



700302   HMM-263     Vietnam

Incident Date 700302 HMM-263 CH-46D - BuNo unknown - Fall from helicopter hoist

[CREW]
McVey, Lavoy Don Capt SAR Crew C/1stRecBn 1stMarDiv 700302 (vvm 13W:075)

[PASSENGERS]
Skibbe, David William 2ndLt Medevac C/1stRecBn 1stMarDiv 700302 (vvm 13W:075)


MC VEY LAVOY DON : 521448976 : USMCR : CAPT : O3 : 0302 : 32 : LAMAR : CO : 19700302 : Hostile, fell from jungle penetrator during SAR mission, passenger : Body not recovered : Quang Nam : 14 : 19380222 : Cauc : Protestant/married : 13W : 075 : SILVER STAR 2Mar70

SKIBBE DAVID WILLIAM : 332388613: USMCR : 2LT : O1 : 0302 : 23 : DES PLAINES : IL : 19700302 : Hostile, passenger (medevac), fell from hoist during helicopter medevac : Body not recovered : Quang Nam : 03 : 19461022 : Cauc : Protestant/single : 13W : 075


Personal Narrative:
Comment on Incident:
HMM-263 had the Bald Eagle mission that day. I was scheduled to fly co-pilot on the lead bird of the afternoon portion. The HAC was Major Bruce Shapiro. We had an uneventful day until about 1700 or so when the call came in to launch. Recon had a team in trouble and they needed an emergency extract. The team was in the mountains southwest of Thoung Duc with two injured members. They would have to be hoisted out before the other team members could be extracted by ladder. The coordinates were ZC036432; the area bears almost due west of An Hoa. It was approximately the 228 degree radial off the Da Nang TACAN at 28-29 miles DME.

I don't recall their individual call signs, but Scarface was flying escort. They located the team pickup area and were orbiting when we got there. The team was not in contact. Darkness was approaching and Basketball had checked in above the overcast. For a variety of reasons, it took what seemed like an eternity before we finally got the penetrator down and hoisted up the first man without any difficulty. Unfortunately, when the second man was within 10-15 feet of the crew chief's door, the cable broke and he was dropped into the blackness below. The crew chief told us so we knew what had happened. We then deployed the ladder and by the time the remainder of the team had attached themselves, they (at least the radioman) knew about it too.

I distinctly remember one of the Scarface birds saying that the team (again, at least the radioman) assumed that the fall had killed the man and that they couldn't find the body in the dark and in that terrain. They wanted us to pull them out and send somebody back at first light. By this time we were down to a critical fuel state and our wingman had informed us that, for some reason, he did not have a penetrator aboard his a/c.

As we were about to leave, one of the Cobras thought he saw some movement where the body might likely be. The implication, of course, was that he was still alive. This made it all the more difficult to leave, but our fuel state gave us no choice.

We flew to An Hoa and landed on fumes. Maj. Shapiro wanted to call out the night Bald Eagle and have them go out and look, but the word was passed to secure the mission. We returned to Marble Mountain.

When we got back, the ready room was abuzz with activity. We were told that the man who had fallen was the team leader, a 2ndLt who was "like a son" to the CG of the 1st MARDIV, and the general wanted someone out there looking for him. General Wheeler himself called and personally told Maj. Shapiro to get back out there. By this time, the night Bald Eagle crews had arrived. It was decided that they would take the mission with the major flying co-pilot with the lead HAC who was 1/Lt Darcy Vernier. I stayed there in the ready room and waited for them to return.

When they returned, Darcy told me what happened. They had gone over to the Recon LZ and picked up a Capt. who had volunteered to go down on the hoist and look for the fallen man. While they were hovering over the area and the Capt. was going down on the penetrator, one (or more) of Basketball's flares was a dud and everything went black. Without a hover reference, he did just about the only thing he could do. He started a climb and directed the crew chief to reel in the hoist. He planned to take it around and have another try at it when he got some more illumination from Basketball.

The crew chief told him that he was just about to put out his hand to pull the Capt. in when the cable snapped and he too was lost. After that happened, they secured the mission with plans to come back and put people in at first light. The next day, I believe it was HMM-262 who took in a load of ARVNs to search the area, but to the best of my knowledge, neither was ever found.

Submitted by Jerry Martin, HMM-263, copilot on original mission

Homecoming II Project 01 September 1990:
Comment on Incident Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 1990 (Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998):
2LT David W. Skibbe and CAPT Lavoy D. McVey were both members of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, but in different companies. On March 2, 1970, Skibbe’ s recon team was operating in Quang Nam Province, South Vietnam, about 10 miles northwest of the city of An Hoa when they engaged in a firefight with enemy forces. During the skirmish, Skibbe was injured by small arms fire.

The corpsman in attendance described the injury as a "penetrating wound of the lower right leg, breaking the fibula 2" above the ankle leaving an open fracture. Hemorrhage was moderate and eased after a pressure battle dressing was applied." Dave's broken leg was immobilized by the application of a splint constructed from a small tree limb. Skibbe was in good mental command and continued to lead and encourage his men. The corpsman was at the same time treating another team member who was more seriously injured.

Shortly after treatment was administered, an emergency medical evacuation helicopter appeared in the recovery area, flown by a Marine major [Maj Bruce Shapiro, HMM-263]. That officer reported that he positioned his helicopter in a 75-100 foot hover above the team and under the direction of his crew chief lowered the hoist cable, to which a jungle penetrator was affixed, as there was no suitable landing zone.

After initial extraction of the more seriously wounded Marine was completed, Skibbe was fastened to the seat of the lift device by other members of the team and was slowly hoisted into the air. Team members later stated that they last saw Skibbe as he cleared the canopy which in some areas was 30-40 feet in height. They lost sight of him as he cleared the trees and assumed that he had been drawn safely into the aircraft. [Loss Coordinates: 154501N 1075001E (ZC036432)]

The pilot of the recovery helicopter immediately contacted the team on the ground by radio and they radioed, "yes, he's ok." The pilot interpreted this to mean that the team knew that Skibbe had fallen and had located him. The pilot, therefore, swung about, lowered the extract ladder for the remainder of the team from a distance of about 100 feet. The team immediately affixed themselves to the ladder, again unaware that Skibbe had fallen very close by, and were hoisted into the air for the return trip to An Hoa.

The pilot, believing that Skibbe had been strapped to the ladder, continued with the extraction. The team, believing that Skibbe was safely onboard the aircraft, rode on to An Hoa. It was at An Hoa that the pilot and team mutually discovered the error.

Both helicopters that had been on the extraction returned to the area, and an attempt was made to insert Capt. McVey to search for Skibbe. It was during this insertion attempt that McVey also fell to his death. Because of the enemy position and dense jungle, it was decided not to attempt another insertion. To do so might have caused the loss of even more men. Although it was widely believed that both men sustained fatal injuries in their falls, no sign of the two was ever located in later searches.

Loss Coordinates: N15 45 01 E107 50 01 (ZC036432)

POW Network:
MCVEY, LAVOY DON

Name: Lavoy Don McVey
Rank/Branch: O3/US Marine Corps
Unit: "C" Company/1st Recon Battalion, 1st Marine Division
Date of Birth: 22 February 1938
Home City of Record: Lamar CO
Date of Loss: 02 March 1970
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 154501N 1075001E (ZC036432)
Status (in 1973): Killed/Body Not Recovered
Category: 3
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground
Refno: 1565

Other Personnel in Incident: David W. Skibbe

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 01 September 1990 from one or more
of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources,
correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated
by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998.

REMARKS:

SYNOPSIS: 2LT David W. Skibbe and CAPT Lavoy D. McVey were both members of
the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, but in different
companies. On March 2, 1970, Skibbe's recon team was operating in Quang Nam
Province, South Vietnam, about 10 miles northwest of the city of An Hoa when
they engaged in a firefight with enemy forces. During the skirmish, Skibbe
was injured by small arms fire.

The corpsman in attendance described the injury as a "penetrating wound of
the lower right leg, breaking the fibula 2" above the ankle leaving an open
fracture. Hemorrage was moderate and eased after a pressure battle dressing
was applied." Dave's broken leg was immobilized by the application of a
splint constructed from a small tree limb. Skibbe was in good mental command
and continued to lead and encourage his men. The corpsman was at the same
time treating another teammember who was more seriously injured.

Shortly after treatment was administered, an emergency medical evacuation
helicopter appeared in the recovery area, flown by a Marine major. That
officer reported that he positioned his helicopter in a 75-100 foot hover
above the team and under the direction of his crew chief, lowered the hoist
cable, to which a jungle penetrator was affixed, as there was no suitable
landing zone.

After initial extraction of the more seriously wounded Marine was completed,
Skibbe was fastened to the seat of the lift device by other members of the
team and was slowly hoisted into the air. Team members later stated that
they last saw Skibbe as he cleared the canopy which in some areas was 30-40
feet in height. They lost sight of him as he cleared the trees and assumed
that he had been drawn safely into the aircraft.

From the helicopter into which Skibbe was being hoisted, his company
commander, Capt. Lavoy D. McVey, the medical officer, pilots and crewmen,
watched Skibbe's ascent into the aircraft until he reached a point about 20
feet from the chopper (100 or more feet altitude). At that moment, the hoist
cable suddenly snapped and Skibbe fell to the ground, clearly visible to
those onboard the helicopter, falling into heavy foliage which obstructed
view of his actual impact with the ground.

The pilot of the recovery helicopter immediately contacted the team on the
ground by radio and they radioed "yes, he's ok." The pilot interpreted this
to mean that the team knew that Skibbe had fallen and had located him. The
pilot, therefore, swung about, lowered the extract ladder for the remainder
of the team from a distance of about 100 feet. The team immediately affixed
themselves to the ladder, again unaware that Skibbe had fallen very close
by, and were hoisted into the air for the return trip to An Hoa.

The pilot, believing that Skibbe had been strapped to the ladder, continued
with the extraction. The team, believing that Skibbe was safely onboard the
aircraft, rode on to An Hoa. It was at An Hoa that the pilot and team
mutually discovered the error.

Both helicopters that had been on the extraction returned to the area, and
an attempt was made to insert Capt. McVey to search for Skibbe. It was
during this insertion attempt that McVey also fell to his death.

Because of the enemy position and dense jungle, it was decided not to
attempt another insertion. To do so might have caused the loss of even more
men. Although it was widely believed that both men sustained fatal injuries
in their falls, no sign of the two was ever located in later searches.

Submitted by Alan H Barbour, Historian, USMC Combat Helicopter Association

Personal Recollection:
I was the crewchief on both missions. We were sent to recover a recon team with two wounded. Apparently we knew we could not land because we had installed a rolled up recovery ladder that was attached at the ramp before take-off.

My aircraft (EG-21 154808) had a pallet type hoist that was mounted beside the crew door. Upon arrival over the zone we were unable to see the team due to heavy canopy. While the pilot hovered the aircraft 50-60 ft above the zone, I sent the jungle penatrator down and recovered the first wounded Marine without incident. By the time Lt Skibbe was 10-15 ft from the door I noticed that the hoist cable had slipped off one of the pulleys. Since he was closer to me than the ground I believed the best chance for success was to continue up, unfortunately the cable broke very soon after I started winding it up and I watched as Lt Skibbe fell back through the canopy.

I immediately informed the pilot and heard him tell the team what had happened. I remember hearing the radioman indicate that they had him and requesting us to push out the ladder. This was done and we flew the team to An Hoa where we were informed that Lt Skibbe had been left behind.

Returned to Marble to exchange aircraft for one with a working hoist and picked up another recon team for insertion into zone to attempt to locate Lt. Skibbe. By the time we got back to the area it was dark. As I remember Capt McVey was going to be lowered by jungle penetrator and try to locate an LZ for the rest of his team. After locating area I started lowering the Capt without incident; I remember the landing light being on and it helping me see what I was dropping him into.

When he was within 2-3 ft of being on the ground the pilot started to pull out of the zone and told me to reel him back in. Using my left hand to guide the cable I was able to get Capt McVey started into the aircraft when the cable broke. There was no time to react, he was instantly out of sight. The cable had broken between my hand and the reel. I will take this memory with me to my grave.

Submitted by Roger Boyd, crewchief EG-21, HMM-263

Personal Information:
The Battalion Adjutant and I went to graves registration to identify Captain McVeys body; Skibbe was never recovered. Captain McVey was recovered and identified, with the battalion Adjutant as a witness.
Submitted by Sgt Ronald W. Miller, identified McVeys body at graves registration

Navy Cross Citation:
Navy Cross Citation for 2/Lt David W. Skibbe:

"The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to David William Skibbe (332388613), Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism while serving as a Platoon Commander with Company C, First Reconnaissance Battalion, FIRST Marine Division (Reinforced), Fleet Marine Force, in connection with combat operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. On 2 March 1970, while Second Lieutenant Skibbe was leading a patrol deep in enemy-controlled territory, the team came under a heavy volume of fire from a large hostile force. During the initial moments of the engagement, Second Lieutenant Skibbe observed a wounded man fall in a forward position, and unhesitatingly placed himself between the casualty and enemy soldiers to deliver intense covering fire which forced the enemy momentarily to break contact and enabled the Marines to move the wounded man to a more secure location. While the radio operator was requesting fixed-wing air support, the enemy launched a ground assault in an attempt to overrun the Marine position. Despite the hostile rounds impacting around him, Second Lieutenant Skibbe exposed himself to the enemy fire to direct the defensive activities of his men and, while thus engaged, was severely wounded in the ankle. Although suffering intense pain and unable to walk, he nevertheless skillfully directed the bombing and strafing runs of supporting aircraft with such accuracy that the hostile soldiers broke contact and retreated, thereby enabling a medical evacuation helicopter to come to a safe hover overhead. As Second Lieutenant Skibbe was being hoisted toward the aircraft, the hoist apparatus sustained a malfunction, and he was mortally injured when he fell to the ground. His heroic and determined actions throughout this mission contributed significantly to the defeat of the numerically superior enemy force. By his courage, valiant leadership, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of grave personal danger, Second Lieutenant Skibbe upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country."

You've been my hero since I first saw you in your dress whites back in 1968 and still are today.

Submitted by RJ Trebelhorn, Fraternity Brother, Grateful Citizen

Personal Recollection:
I met both of Capt McVey's sons at Col. Drumright's house with the members of the team. My comment is in regards to Sgt. Miller stating that he and the Bn. Adj ID'ed McVey's body. 1st Recon had no Adj. and Capt. McVey's body was never recovered. After an extensive search, the entire area was napalmed.
Submitted by Larry Feldman, Echo Co. 1st Recon and Bn S-3,1970

Comment on Incident:
The above two officers were killed on related missions, though not the same mission. Capt McVey was killed on a rescue mission while searching for 2ndLt Skibbe, who was missing (and presumed dead) on an earlier mission mishap. Capt McVey gave his life for his fellow Marine under very hazardous circumstances. Captain McVey was awarded the SILVER STAR posthumously for his heroism on this mission.

Comment on Incident:
Fall from a jungle penetrator, at night, while flying away from a hot zone SW of An Hoa. As heard at the time, his team was running /gunning, got up into the H-46 [for extraction]. When they realized they were short one, went back in, found him, got him on the hoist, and then was last one up - handed his weapon thru to CC, who turned away to lay it down, turned back to help the skipper through the hatch, and found only the end of the cable---all this under light from a Basketball mission, and flying away. This would have been 1970---had known the Skipper as an acquaintance when he was the Club Officer at the stumps [29 Palms] in '68-'69. Think he left a wife and three daughters, have always wondered if the appropriate medal was issued. [Silver Star - 2Mar70]

Family Narrative:

We honored Capt. LaVoy D. McVey (Mac) on 3/1/03 with the help of some amazing Marines. Friends and family flew in from all over the country. It was held in Washington State where the Captain's sons live. Three months later LaVoy's two surviving sons, Jeff and Shawn McVey, traveled to Tennessee to Colonel Drumright's home. (He was Capt. McVey's C.O. and was on the helicopter that fateful night). It was a very healing trip for all involved. Sadly, the Colonel passed away a few months later. The memorial brought many new lives together forever and it was a very informative and amazing event.
Submitted by Sally McVey, daughter-in-law

Family Information:
I grew up in Lamar during the time of this incident. My family is very pro-military. I still remember this time as patriots having to keep their thoughts to themselves. I wore Capt McVey's MIA band for my entire military career (26 years).

Since a young age, I considered him a hero and have tried to honor his courage with my own actions.
I am now retired and ride with the Patriot Guard. I pray that one day I will be able to ride in honor of Capt McVey and welcome him home.

Submitted by Richard Litle, CW4, US Army (Ret), Home Town, wore his MIA band

Personal Request:
As a young girl of 15 in 1970 raised in Arlington Heights, IL I was honored to wear Lt. Skibbes' POWMIA bracelet. I still have it today. I would like to contact any remaining family members from Des Plaines, IL to pass it on. My heart was heavy and still remains so for the men who lost their lives in Viet Nam. Any inquires as to remaining family or anyone who knew Lt Skibbe who would be honored to have his bracelet please feel free to contact me.
Submitted by Judy Johnson, I wore & have 2LT David W Skibbe POW band

Personal Request:
Richard H. Lappin was there when this happened. He would like very much to talk to the family and has wanted to for a long time. If there is anyone that can help please email.
Thank you,
Becky Lappin, his wife

Submitted by Richard H Lappin, Cpl Richard H. Lappin was there


USMC/COMBAT HELICOPTER & TILTROTOR ASSOCIATION