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CH53 Crashes on ammo dump at Vandergrift Combat Base

Submitted by FRED CARROLL

On 9 April 1969, Lima Company, 3/9, was Standing Lines at VCB after Operation Dewey Canyon.  I had been In Country about three weeks.  The fighting hole I was assigned to was about 30 yards in front of an ammo dump where supply choppers would fly in and get hooked up with external loads in a net and then deliver them to other fire bases. 

I was in the evening when a CH 53 manuvered in to place for a load.  All of a sudden, I hear a loud clang.  I looked at the chopper and it was spinning around out of control.  After crashing to the ground, it spun around a couple more times and stopped facing outbound.  The chopper exploded and caught on fire.  I saw fire fly out of the two pilots' windows.  It looked like those flames flew 20 to 30 feet out.  I could see the pilots moving around in the cockpit engulfed in flames.  I thought those poor guys are being burned alived.  I grabbed my helmet and flak jacket putting them on when I saw the two pilots jumping out of the left front cockpit window.  Someone yell, "Let's go get those guys."  My squad leader and radioman, Bill Mock and Mike Barrett, jumped the barbed wire fence towards the pilots.  I noticed Wateman "Butch" Mundell running with Mock and Barrett.  Mock and Barrett picked up one of the wounded pilots and started carrying him away.  Butch yelled at me to help him get the other pilot, so Butch and I ran towards the burning chopper.  As we got within a couple of feet from the wounded pilot, the chopper exploded again.  The compression from the explosion almost knocked me to the ground.  I felt the heat from the fire and thought the pain is about to hit me, that I was just numb at this time.  As I was checking myself, I looked over and saw Butch lying on the ground.  He said he'd been hit.  He had two wounds:  upper left chest and left thigh.  I looked a the pilot, who was just sitting there looking outwards in a daze.  He had blood coming from he right eye.  I yelled for him to get up and go, but he didn't acknowledge me.  Butch said he was in shock.  Butch told me to help him to his feet.  I lifted him up and looked around for someone to help us, but no one was around.  Butch said he'll try to pull the pilot with is good arm and leg and told me to get the pilot's other side.  So I grabbed the pilot's right upper arm, and we both started pulling the pilot away from the chopper.  It was slow going because Butch was limping the entire way.  We drug the pilot for about 60 yards until Mock, Barrett, and two other marines ran to us to help.  After Butch let go,  we picked the pilot up and carried him away.  Just before we laid him down, the pilot started coming out of shock.  He started patting himself and saying, "I'm alive.  I'm alive." 

Mock called for an ambulance.  About five minutes later, two jeeps arrived and drove the two pilots and Butch to the medical area there at VCB.  They were later evacuated to a hospital, probably 3rd Med. 

The fire completely destroyed the LZ during the rest of the night.  The next morning the area looked like a bomb had been dropped.  Debris and live artillery rounds were every where.  What a mess.  Lima company was choppered out the following day to Firebase Alpine. 

Fred W. Carroll    3rd squad, 2nd platoon, "L" co.


  1. Ron and Jan Wilson July 02 2012, 6:51 am

    Dear SGT GRIT;

    Foul language is not becoming of a U.S. Marine NCO. This is according to General “Chesty” Puller,and my dad, who was a Corporal in WWII with 3/3/3. My father, attached to the Special Weapons Platoon, and experienced in Demolitions from his Lead Mining days in Oklahoma, fought at Bouganville, Guam, and also went ashore as a volunteer at Iwo Jima (3/3 was being held in Reserve for mainland Japan), He didn’t write too much while I was in, mom did the writing, but I had let slip with some foul words one day and was immediately rebuked by him “as a Marine”. So when I see things like “WTF”, and other implementations, it makes me cringe.  I know it still runs so easily rampant within an individual that they don’t even realize they’re using it, or they think it’s like a badge of honor among men. I have news for you. It’s a badge of disgrace to The United States Marine Corps.

    Next time you hear someone using the “F-Bomb”, or do it yourself, start counting for two minutes the amount of times the word is used, or begins to form on your lips or thoughts. Then think about who may be hearing it, and what impression they’re getting… like women and children.

    Recently in a truck stop restaurant, around women and children that were customers, and respectable waitresses, an individual used the “F-Bomb” every three to seven words, @ 24 times in two minutes!. When he was rebuked, he apologized, and said he’d been “in the boonie’s too long”. He cleaned it up over the rest of his time there.

    There is no need for these words, it only shows your lack of morals and intelligence.

    Ron Wilson
    Hillsboro, WI
    MCRD San Diego
    Plt 1009-3/69

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