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Republic of South Vietnam - August 1965
Robert L. Kemp
When Operation Starlite was launched on August 18, 1965, I was a window machine gunner on a UH-34D helicopter assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 361 (HMM-361), better known as the Flying Tigers. This is my story on that day and my first combat.
We were sent to a Medevac for an ambushed LVT (Amtrac) column. When our pilot, Captain Bronson, asked if the landing zone was secure, he was assured it was. Upon flair out to land we came under heavy fire. Over a hundred rounds penetrated the helicopter wounding my crew chief, Jimmy Clouse. Our pilot immediately called his wing man to wave off and managed to fly us out of the LZ, but soon lost power and had to set down on the beach next to a VC stronghold. Our bird was unflyable so I removed the M-60 machine guns and set up outside the helo and held off the enemy until our wing man landed behind us. Under cover fire, Captain Bronson carried the crew chief to our wing man's helo and performed first aid as we took off to Chu Lai's field hospital. His first aid saved Jimmy's life. We then flew back to the squadron area.
We learned that our downed helo was napalmed by an A-4 so the equipment would not fall into the Viet Cong hands.
Later in the day, not having enough crews, we were sent back out on another helicopter for another Medevac. Again we received heavy fire upon landing. We loaded the wounded Marine and took off. Capt. Bronson was having trouble controlling the Aircraft. He requested to make an emergency landing on the Iwo Jima which we did. Upon inspection, it was found that our hydraulic pump had been shot out. Another one was brought out from the squadron and we replaced it and continued on with our missions.
For this day Capt. Bronson was awarded the Bronze Star with combat V and I was awarded a single mission Air Medal.
Robert L. Kemp
HMM-361 / 263
The following month The Rotor Blade carried the story.