Our Brothers in the Sky
             
               When we called, you always came.

       We thank you for being there !

          Semper Fi

     This is Dedicated to L/Cpl Lenhard and P.F.C Donaho
On the morning of October 3,1969 Hotel Company second Battalion seventh Marines was sent on an operation to assault Hill 953. This Hill was also known as the home base for the 36th NVA Regiment. On the first helicopter to land on top of this Hill was first platoon, at the time only consist of 18 combat salty Marines. As the helicopter approached the landing zone, we immediately began receiving hostile enemy fire. As the chopper approach the top of the Hill and hovered, 18 Marines jumped out and eliminated three enemy machine gun nests plus a total of 12 NVA soldiers. Radio contact was made with the second bird with instructions that the LZ was now secure. As the second bird approach, it also immediately began receiving hostile enemy fire from the side of the mountain, three other Marines were the only ones that was able to jump out of that bird and land on top of hill 953. The total count of Marines that landed on top of hill 953 was now 21. For the next two days, we remained at this position waiting on orders from our Command Battalion. On the morning of October 5, 1969; I was told that the landing zone was closed because it was too hot for other helicopters to land, and because of this there were no more troops coming and we were between a rock and a hard place. At this point we were ordered to hump down off this hill. I then informed my 21 Marines of our situation, Pfc.. Wilford Lynn Donaho was walking point and detected in ambush that was being set up by enemy troops and immediately opened fired upon them, the enemy returned fire killing P.f.c. Donaho. A radio transmission was sent to Battalion and informed them of our situation, it took us 10 days to finally get off of this hill, now 20 Marines carrying our fallen brother with us. During this time, we could hear many choppers trying to make attempts to reach us, who were receiving heavy enemy fire, but because of the dense fog that was surrounding the top of this mountain; it was impossible for them to locate us.



Sgt. John D."Crash" Crider, crew chief of YK-1 recalls:

On October 5, 1969 my aircraft, YK-1, was scheduled to fly resupplied missions to various LZ locations Southeast of DaNang supporting the seventh Marines out of LZ Baldy. The crew consists of first Lieut. Jim Stewart, pilot; Major. John L.'Jack" Pipa, copilot and Lance Cpl. Lenhard who was the left aerial gunner. I was the crew chief and since it was considered just a routine logistical support mission; I also manned the right .50 caliber machine gun and we did not have a corpsman aboard.

The morning resupply missions were completed uneventfully. During this time the radio's are routinely monitored and we overheard a request for a medical evacuation (Medevac) from a mountain top firebase in our general operating area. It was assigned to us by the DaNang Direct Air Support Center. first Lieut. Stewart volunteered to accept the medevac since we were already in the immediate area. On our way to the LZ, we were briefed on the radio by the firebase that they had been receiving sporadic sniper fire from the Southwest, the wins were light and the LZ was enveloped by dense fog and visibility was marginal. With this information it was decided it would be best to approach the LZ very slowly and cautiously from the North East due to visibility and the mountain ridge which was on our left. On the flight to the LZ we requested that they pop a smoke, but due to low visibility and fog it was decided that we could not identify the smoke and waved off the approach.

Since the medevac was classified as something less than an emergency (probably a routine), the decision was made to refuel and complete some additional logistic missions and allowed time for the visibility to improve at that LZ. After completing several of these tasks, it was decided enough time has elapsed that the medevac LZ visibility should have improved by now. Again we approached from the North East on our second attempt to extract the medevac, we were informed that the LZ was still under dense/fog conditions. But instead of popping a smoke, we requests as we neared the hill they would ignite a thermite grenade in their LZ which would be more visible since they burnt bright as well as extremely hot and could be seen at a great distance. As we made a slow, cautious approach everyone was concerned about the close proximity of the mountain rapidly rising on our left. Lance Cpl.Lenhard was standing up with hands on his .50 Cal looking out the left side; he turned a quarter turn to the right so he could direct suppressive return fire if necessary to the left and forward as we neared the LZ. I had turn to the right side of the CH-46 and was bending over looking out of the crew chiefs door, looking forward trying to locate the LZ in the fog.

As I was speaking to the pilots, I heard one loud pop; then silences for a few seconds but no return fire from Lance Cpl. Lenhard's machine gun. Then there was a sudden burst of automatic fire from the left and the unmistakable snap of bullets striking the CH-46. Lieut. Stewart immediately made in an evasive hard right turn in order to distance us from the ground fire and the side of the mountain. Before I could turn away from the door; I felt Lance Cpl. Lenhard grab my leg, turning around I found him lying on his back with his right leg twisted under him and he was slapping his right thigh with his right hand. I notified the pilots immediately, initially thinking that Lance Cpl. Lenhand was hit in his right leg and it had been broken by the gunfire. By this time the pilot was already "red lining" the rotors and the airspeed to get to the nearest aid station at LZ Baldy. John had in fact been hit under the left arm, the single bullet entered between the front and back halves of His Bullet Bouncer ricocheting and exiting his lower body. My bird receives numerous bullet strikes; but we were able to return to the marble Mountain air facility. We never made it back to our intended LZ nor heard of the status of our original medical evacuee; I am sure that another bird completed the mission.

I have flown this particular mission in my mind many times since that day. I recall Lance Cpl. Lenhard flying as my aerial gunner numerous times and that he was a very competent member of the aircrew. He was also my friend.


Lt. Col.. John L."Jack" Pipa, USMC (Ret) recalls: I was the copilot of the aircraft in which Lance Cpl. Lenhard was killed. The site was on the top of a ridge line in the clouds were moving in and out of the zone. We couldn't shoot a normal approach, we had to go to a clear area and try to hover over the zone. When Lance Cpl. Lenhard was hit we took several other hits in the airframe, including several up through the bubble under my feet. I still have the bullet bouncer I wore that day with two holes in it for a souvenir.
Lenhard was hit hard so we went to the nearest available medical facility at LZ Baldy. He was rushed to the operating room and we shut down to check for other damage. I remember standing at the door of the operating room and watching the medical people working frantically over him while I prayed. When they finally shook their heads and gave up, I was crushed. I remember it vividly. Out of 1,332 missions there are very few that I remember in detail, but that one will stay with me forever.


Information provided by:

HMM- 364 Command Chronology
HMM-364 after action reports
Cpl. John L. Lane USMC
Col. David McSorley USMC (Ret)
Cpl. Denver Cavlins USMC
Sgt. John D. "Crash" Crider USMC
Lt Col. John L. "Jack" Pipa USMC (Ret)
Cpl. Gary "Jersey" Howard USMC



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