By Trista Talton - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday Oct 6, 2007 10:18:32 EDT
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — Behind every Medal of Honor recipient, there’s a story.
Soon, the story of a feisty Marine who had a reputation for being demoted as fast as he was promoted will be told within the very helicopter he pulled dead and wounded into under heavy fire in Vietnam.
Raymond “Mike” Clausen’s CH-46D Sea Knight is being dedicated Oct. 20 at the Carolinas Aviation Museum near Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, N.C. The public is invited to attend the 11 a.m. ceremony at the museum, where former and active-duty Marines have been restoring the phrog to look the way it did during the Vietnam War.
Clausen, who died May 30, 2004, received the Medal of Honor for his actions Jan. 31, 1970. That day, while assigned to Medium Helicopter Squadron 263, he was part of a mission to extract Marines who had wandered into a minefield while attacking the enemy near Da Nang. Despite a superior officer’s orders to remain in the helicopter, Clausen left the chopper six times to carry back one dead and 11 wounded Marines.
When Clausen left the Corps, he was a private. But his helicopter went on to see more action, eventually making a hard landing in Iraq in March 2004. The Sea Knight was loaded onto an Army flatbed truck heading for a repair depot, but the truck drove under a bridge too low to clear the back end of the chopper. The wreck caused an estimated $4.5 million in damage to the tail and fuselage, ruled too much to justify repairing the old helicopter.
The helo was shipped back to the U.S., where it sat at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., for almost a year. A curator with the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., and officials with the Carolinas Aviation Museum worked out a deal to keep the helo on “permanent temporary loan” in Charlotte.
For more information, visit the museum Web site.