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.