Dustoff Down, March 1969

I had been in country only two months when Charlie decided to hit us with rockets one night from the tallest mountain in Nha Trang. Luckily, we survived that night. The following morning we went up in gunships to cover our slicks dropping off troops. A few hours later, we were called back to escort a Dustoff picking up wounded troops on the mountain. Our orders were not to fire, because we did not know where the enemies or the friendlies were. I could see (out of the corner of my eye) the Dustoff coming from the airstrip in Nha Trang. Our three gunships were in a circular rotation as the Dustoff came into view. We could here the Dustoff pilot talking to the troops on the ground, who told them to come on in.
As the Dustoff was pulling in to get the wounded, we were still in a circular rotation. The Dustoff suddenly pulled out saying that they were receiving fire. The troops on the ground then said that the area was secure enough to come back in. The Dustoff proceeded to go back in again. As the Dustoff moved in for the second attempt, they suddenly pulled out once again saying that they were being fired on. The Dustoff asked the troops on the ground to move the wounded to a different LZ. but they were insisting that it was safe and secure.
On the Dustoff’s third attempt to go in, it was like watching (in slow motion) as something hit the helicopter. It rolled into the mountain and burst into flames and went down. It looked like a river of flames flowing down the mountain. In a blink of an eye, I saw four soldiers getting killed.
When this happened, my crew chief went berserk, firing his M60 all over the area below. The pilots kept telling him to “seize fire-direct orders," but he kept firing until we left the area. After all of this, the ground troops finally said that they could move the wounded to a different LZ to get picked up. This is after the Dustoff got blown out of the sky right in front of all of us.
Needless to say, this was my first nightmare in Vietnam, and I still had 10 months to go.

Daryl (Angie) Evangelho
281st AHC 1969-1970
Written Sept. 11, 2016

Dale Lacher: The 254th Dustoff out of Nha Trang lost a ship and crew on that d--- mountain on March 26, 1969. WO Douglas Stover, WO Guy Johnson, S/p 5 Carlos W. Rucker, (medic), and Gregory L. Habets, (crew chief). I joined the unit July 1969, as a medic. The action described is correct; RIP brothers.

Wes Schuster: That mission is etched into my memory forever. I was pilot with Captain Esser on a Wolf Pack gunship covering this medevac on final approach. All of a sudden an RPG hits the mast. The rotor system separated and spun to the right. Whenever I see a maple tree seed pod spin to the ground it reminds me of those rotor blades spinning to the earth. The ship inverted in an instant and fell like a rock into the jungle with a large explosion. Evangelho was one of our door gunners and saw the aftermath. RIP.

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