MARINE AIR ASSETS VMO-3; HML 367; & HML 167
Following is a letter from but one of the brave Marine Pilots who supported SOG operations in Nam. It is included here so that the USMC contribution to SOG is not forgotten.
Today's Pilot In Command was yesterday's CoPilot.... that way, if there was an emergency the gunships could go directly to the team/platoon/company in trouble, without having to lose time by stopping by our Launch Site for a briefing-Randy Givens
Marine Light Helicopter Squadron 367 and VMO-3
Yesterday I spoke with a squadron mate that I had erroneously believed had been KIA in 1969 on his second tour. It was a fluke that his son, a Penn state highway patrol trooper had written to my old CO, Colonel Nelson, still hanging on to life asking about some of the "Klondikes" in our association. When he relayed to his dad that I was alive and well, his father couldn't believe it...not having had any contact since leaving country in '68. Then out of the blue, I got this call yesterday--at first believing that it was a horribly crude and tasteless practical joke. Well it wasn't. The name I had off the wall was ANOTHER Marine Major by the same name and with the same MOS and our sister squadron, which fit the whole picture, but wrong focus! Anyway, you could have heard the tears falling even over the phones--what a wonderful gift!
And somehow, during that whole hour-long phone reunion, the SOG mission arose--and he's another one of those few Marines who had the privilege of fighting with the SOG warriors in the '67 time frame--when the Corps disavowed and disallowed our mission or efforts. He ended up as the Group Awards Officer and confirmed to me that there was an unwritten policy NEVER to admit or pursue any SOG awards in those days--it just wasn't politically allowed! Still, almost unbelieving, I asked him if he remembered the one single thing I had asked him to do for me--besides ship my foot locker home when I left country on 12.31.67--and he immediately answered, "yes...I still do, but I still don't know why"...he was one of two men I had swear to me not to process any personal citations or awards for doing my duty with brother Marines. Of course, "swapping" those for in-country R&R's down to the Delta Med setup with cold beer and hot showers and lovely nurses to render "first aid" was much more of a "reward" for me back then...but he still remembers exactly what and how I had turned down a number of writeups. Today, in perspective, he and I both agree that had I received even some of those, especially this one that the CO wanted so badly and the PH that never got put in for--when push came to shove years later, I would more than likely have been allowed to stay in or at least transfer to another branch so as to serve out my 20 and giving full use of my experience and background. I was too damned stupid and idealistic to realize what would happen when the Corps shrank from 320,000 back to 185,000! And even for me, the 21.5% disability was totally inadequate in exchange for 12.5 years of my hard-earned service...no retirement, no pension, no shit!
But this is not why I write this...I simply needed to include on final attachment...it is the true story and revelation of who and what Kimo Andrews believed in--and still believes. That is why I can face the graves and The Wall of the Missing at Punchbowl in Hawaii without shame and knowing that I did not break faith or dishonor theirs--or of men like your brother's sacrifices--for my personal gain or aggrandizement--that is why I can live with myself today.
Send it on, please, so Steve and Major Alexander can at least know where I am coming from...both Senators Akaka and Inouye know me personally well enough from decades of family and personal relationships, that these words need not be said to them--but others who have not served with me may not understand unless they read them too. They may choose not to believe them--but that's their problem--it is the truth regardless of anything else. It is my honor on the line, and more so, it is the only way I can reconcile the war and my part in it. Maybe that's why fellow pilots and crewchiefs and even "snuffy" gunners still maintain contact and fellowship with me after 30+ years--I'd still use my last round, my last gallon, and even my last drop of blood to come in after them...Semper Fi is two words...ALWAYS Faithful...not just when it's convenient or easy.
Well enough of this "preaching" for now...sorry to get up on such a soapbox...but not sorry for the way it is with me.
(A part that probably was not recorded was when we at MLT-2 used our Army assets to pull III Force Recon units out of a pile of shit, because there were no USMC air units to do that job. Seems to me I remember an Army Huey landing at MLT-2 with a large chunk of its tail rotor missing as a result of frag from an RPG.)-Randy Givens
During my time with HML 367 out of Phu Bai, Sep 69 through Dec 69 we provided
two gunships everyday to SOG as the Eagleclaw flight to lead the missions that
launched usually from MLT 2. On Dec 16 we moved to Marble and rarely flew SOG
after that. HML 167 took our place on the mission after that. I was told when I
was first briefed on the Prairie Fire mission that we had been flying it for at
least two years prior to my arrival.
The statement that we didn't do "out of country missions" after summer of 1968 is just plain wrong and a similar statement appears on John Plaster's two books on SOG.
We occasionally flew SOG with the Cobras and one notable mission was the Tailwind Operation which was led by HML 367.
Mark Austin Byrd
Scarface 47, aka "Eagle Claw"
Mark Austin Byrd -SCULPTORS
I just returned from my first SOA reunion in Las Vegas, it was a great honor to be part of such an organization. I finally got to meet in person some of the team members that I got to support while flying for “Scarface”. It was a pleasure to finally meet John Stryker Meyer “Tilt”, Lynne Black “Blackjack”, Robert Parks “Spider”, Clete Sinyard “Babyson”, Tom Cunningham, Pat Watkins, My Nguyen, Khanh Doan “Cowboy”, Son Cao, Anh Hung Nguyen and so many other brave men.
I served with Marine helicopter squadron VMO-3 (the original Scarface) in Phu Bia the CO at the time was Col. Glen Hunter. On March 16, 1968 VM0 -3 was deactivated and immediately re-designated as HML-367 “Scarface”.
After reading the letters written in the Marine Air section of the new MACVSOG web site I felt I must respond. I joined VMO-3 at Phu Bia on January 25th, 1968 as a gunship pilot and returned back to CONUS on March 28, 1969. We flew UH1E gunship helicopters in support of SOG missions for FOB-1 into Laos and North Vietnam. Occasionally we would also support missions out of Khe Sanh.
VMO-3/HML-367 “Scarface” at Phu Bia had an assigned standard daily mission to support SOG operations for FOB-1. My first recollection of flying in support of FOB-1 was in March of 1968.
I was the lead Gunship pilot on the mission on May 28th when we lost the team ST Idaho and the following day we inserted a brightlight team to find out what happened to ST Idaho, unfortunately they were never found and we had to do an emergency extraction to get the brightlight team out after they came under heavy attack.
I was also the lead Gunship on October 5, 1968 when ST Alabama was inserted and then declared a Prairie fire. It took us all day to extract what was left of ST Alabama, with tactical air assets from the US Air force, US Army, US Marine Corps and the VAF “KingBee’s. The very next morning we inserted the new ST Idaho, which also needed an emergency extraction a few days later.
On December 1, 1969 I was again the lead Gunship pilot of a flight of four UH1E’s along with four Army helicopters involved in an emergency extraction of a twelve man SOG team that was surrounded by a large NVA force from a jungle covered ridge in North Vietnam.
My last SOG mission was flown in February 11, 1969 in support of a SOG blocking force that was in Laos NW of A Shau Valley helping in the Marine Operation “Dewey Canon”. My combat history record of expeditions and awards clearly shows that we supported “Prairie Fire” Missions through February of 1969 and I know that pilots that served after that date also were involved in supporting SOG missions. This discounts the notion that Marine air support of SOG mission ended in the summer of 1968.
The SOG missions that I mentioned above are but a few that I flew during my tour of duty along with my fellow Marine pilots and crew chiefs and those that followed after me.
Capt. George E. Miller “Boo”
PS. I can provide copies of my combat records to verify the information I have provided in needed.