Hi Wayne. TJ here. I was your RO for a couple of ops while you were with 3/3. BTW you are correct on the grid coord.
I'm sure this CH-53 was not following procedures when he came in to our very hot LZ. I had previously requested and received a medevac for 3 Marines, none emergency. That aircraft was a CH-46. Five minutes later another Marine was hit bad, shot in the upper chest. It was our grenadier, a young guy we called Spaceman, named that because he wore NVA gas goggles on his helmet. I requested an emergency medevac and net control told me the only bird was on it's way out to the hospital ship and it would be 15 minutes. I pleaded that he couldn't last that long and asked him to get a C&C bird or whatever. We went back and forth but no joy. The distinct sound of a CH53 radio transmission came up on the net and offered to call DASC to see about another bird. I thanked him. He came back with the word there was no bird available. By this time I had a tally-ho on the 53 about 3 klicks east of us heading towards Dong Ha. I remembered seeing a 53 maybe 10 minutes earlier heading north with an external, probably for A-3. The 53 called again asking if I'd received his last. I rogered and added, "he's not going to make it then." After about 2 or 3 minutes of silence he came back up and said he was coming in. I directed him in from the SE; that would put a hill between him and the active firefight. His medevac technique was not good. He landed with his nose pointing directly at Spaceman waiting in a shallow crater. A 46 or 34 would have swung around for easy loading and a quick get away, but we weren't complaining. Me and two corpsmen carried Spaceman around to the ramp. The pilot gave Spaceman a thumbs up as we passed his windshield. Then I was surprised to see two guys in flight suits and helmets running around to help us. I'd never seen a medevac crewman leave his bird before. The 53 lifted but went straight out, over the hill and directly over the NVA position. I'd briefed him on the NVA position but he must have forgotten. I tried to get him to turn east but by then green tracers were sparking the bottom of his aircraft, but he made it through and he and his crew saved Spaceman's life.
I'm sure there are a hundred logical reasons why what that crew did was the wrong decision. But they succeeded and Spaceman, a crazy kid with an M-79 who took one chance too many, went on to finish high school, graduate from college, have a family and become the director of a government agency in Colarado. Now he's retired and a very successful stock trader. And he asked me to try and find that pilot and flight crew and thank them for giving him his life. If anyone reading this can help, Spaceman would really appreciate it.
We grunts loved medevac crews. The only people we love more are corpsman.
Jeff "TJ" Kelly