View Full Version : With A Brave Crew In A Deadly Fight
09-14-02, 02:00 PM
By Larry Burrows in VIETNAM
Vietcong zero in on vulunerable U.S. copters
In a U.S. copter
in thick of fight
a dying pilot
LIFE APRIL 16 . 1965
Photographer Larry Burrows' report from Da Nang, Vietnam
One Ride with Yankee Papa 13
It was another day's work for the U.S. Marines' Helicopter Squadron 163 in Vietnam. In the sultry morning the crews huddled at Da Nang for the final briefing on their mission: to airlift a battalion of Vietnamese infantry to an isolated area about 20 miles away. Intelligence reports indicated that the area was a rendezvous point for the communist Vietcong, who come down the Ho Chi Minh trail from the north. Among those listening at the briefing were Lance Cpl. James C. Farley (below), crew chief of the copter Yankee Papa 13, and life Phototgrapher Larry Burrows, who had been covering the war in Vietnam since 1962 and had flown on scores of helicopter combat missions. On this day he would be riding in farley's machinr and both were wondering whether the mission would be a no contact milk run or whether, as had been increasingly the case in recent weeks, the Vietcong would be ready and waiting with 30-caliber machine guns. In a very few minutes Farley and Burrows had their answer, as shown in his chilling photographic and word report on these pages. And after Yankee Papa 13 had limped back home bullet-riddled and blood stained, Burrows received a special souvenir from Lt. Colonel Norman Ewers, the squadron skipper. Said Ewers as he handed Burrows a set of air crewman's wings an emblem given to some few Marines and damned few civilians: "You've earned it."
Just before take-off, PFC Wayne Hoilien and Farley give their bird a sterm-to-stern going over. The crew chief found a linked fuel line, which might have led to an engine fire.
09-14-02, 02:03 PM
Lance Cpl James C. Farley
Then, as the flight begins, the two adjust their head sets and unlimber the machine guns (below )for what lies in store.
09-14-02, 02:06 PM
INTO ACTION. As Yankee Papa 13 approaches the landing zone, farley opens fire with his M-60 machine gun at Vietcong positions. Burrows took this picture with a camera mounted outside the copter on a special rig attached to the gun. As the gun swiveled so did the rig, thus keeping the camera always pointed directly at Farley. Burrows triggered the camera by remote cable while squatting out of sight behind farley. Below left Yankee Papa 13 touches down and Farley holds his fire as South Vietnamese soldiers scramble out past his machine gun to join their comrades (below right), who were jumping out of other copters for an assault against Vietcong hidden along the tree line in the background.
Strike-Farley cuts loose at the tree line
"See what you can do for that pilot!"
"The Vietcong, dug in along the tree line, "they were just waiting for us to come into the landing zone," Burrows reported. "we were all like sitting ducks and their raking crossfire was murderous'. Over the intercom system one pilot radioed Colonel Ewers, who was in the lead ship: Colonel! we're being hit.' Back came the reply: 'we're all being hit. If your plane is flyable pass on."
"We did, hurrying back to a pickup point for another load of troops. On our next approach to the landing zone, our pilot, Capt. Peter Vogel, spotted Yankee Papa 3 down on the ground. Its engine was still on and the rotors turning, but the ship was obviously in trouble. "Why don't they life off? Vogel muttered over the intercom. Then he set down our ship nearby to see what the trouble was. One of the crew of YP3 came lurching across the field towards us (below), followed immediately by another. They were the co-pilot and the gunner. Both had been wounded and had to be helped aboard.
"In the cock pit of YP3 we could see the pilot slumped over the controls. 'Farley,' Captain Vogel said, 'see what you can do for that other pilot.' farley barreled out of the copter and raced over to Yankee Papa 3. I chased after him. From a stone building some 70 yards away a Vietcong machine gun was spraying the area. Farley scrambled up to the pilot (below right) and fought to drag him out but he couldn't be budged. To get into a more upright position so he could exert greater leverage, Farleu switched off YP 3's engine but the rotor blades kept turning. I was kneeling on the ground alongside the ship for cover against the V.C. fire. Should I try to find another foothold alongside Farley and help him lift the pilot out? Farley hastily examined the pilot. Through the blood around his face and throat, farley could see a bullet hole in his neck. That, plus the fact the man had not moved at all. led him to believe the pilot was dead. Machine gun bullets were tearing holes into the aircraft's skin all around farley. It would have been certain death to hang around any longer. So crouching low, we ran back to Yankee Papa 13.
"There Hoilien was pouring machine gun fire at a second V.C, gun position at the tree line to our left. Bullet holes had ripped both left and right of his seat. The plexiglass had been shot out of the cockpit and one V.C. bullet had nicked our pilot's neck. Our radio and instruments were out of commission. we climbed and climed fast the hell out of there. Hoilien was still firing gunburst at the tree line."
09-14-02, 02:09 PM
RESCUE TRY UNDER FIRE. From the downed YP# in the background, the wounded gunner, Sergeant Owens,races to Yankee Papa 13, where Farley waits in the doorway.
Farley heads for YP3 to try to pull its pilot from the cockpit. Seeing a bullet hole through his neck and thinking he's dead, Farley, under heavy V.C. fire runs back to his ship.
09-14-02, 02:11 PM
TRYING TO SAVE A LIFE. Farley, unable to leave his gun position until YP13 is out of enemy range, stares in shock at YP3's copilot, Lieutentant Magel, on the floor (left). He opens a first-aid kit (right) to apply to Magel's wound as Hoilien watches Owens, the wounded gunner (with dark glasses) slumped in the rear. At bottom, moments after Magel has died, the two men bandage Owens' shoulder wound.
Two Men Rescued-They're in Bad Shape. Not until YP13 pulled out of range of enemy fire were Farley and Hoilien able to leave their guns and give medical attention to the two wounded men from YP3. The copilot, 1st Lt. James Magel, was in bad shape. When Farley and Hoilien eased off his flak vest, they exspoused a major wound just below his right armpit. "Magel's face registered pain." Burrows reported, "and his lips moved slightly. But if he said anything it was drowned out by the noise of the copter. He looked pale and I wondered how long he could hold on. Farley began bandaging Magel's wound. The wind from the doorway kept whipping the bandage across his face. Then blood started to come from his nose and mouth and a glazed look came into his eyes. Farley tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but Magel was dead. Nobody said a word.
The other wounded man, Sgt Billie Owens, his left shoulder smashed by a bullet, lay in shock against the bulkhead. He was watching, but his sunglasses hid any expression his eyes might have shown. farley poured some water into an empty ammunition can and gave it to Owens. Hoilien took out a cigarette for him, but Owens waved it aside. We were all left with our own drained thoughts.
"Suddenly, at the doorway of the chopper, Farley began cursing. Then he broke into tears, first trying to cover his face from the others and then not caring who saw him. I don't know what this young man may have seen of violent death before this day. But compounding his grief and shock, I later found out, were his frustration and feeling of guilt at being unable to extricate the pilot from Yankee Papa 3. What he didn't know then, and what we all were to learn later, was that the pilot was still alive. He was rescued by another helicopter-even as YP13 was en route to Da Nang."
09-14-02, 02:13 PM
Helpless Feeling As a Lieutenant's Life Slips Away
The Way Back. With 11 bullet holes in its skin and its radio knocked out, Yankee Papa 13 heads for Da Nang. Now, during the 20-minute flight, there is nothing more to be done. Magel lies dead on the floor and the wounded gunner Owens, his shoulder patched up, slumps against Hoilian. Farley (right), sages in exhaustion and fights back the tears.
09-14-02, 02:16 PM
Mission Over but Not for a Long, Long Time Forgotten
After The Mission. Back at Da Nang, wounded Sergeant Owens is eased out of the chopter by farley and a T-shirted Marine. Then (right) Farley talks to his own pilot, Captain Vogel, about the pilot who had to be left behind in YP3. "If we had stayed another 10 seconds under those V.C. machine guns, "Vogel said, "you or us would never have got out of there."
Later in the supply shack, hands covering his face, Farley gives way.