HC-7 RESCUE 152(1) -1970 ??

HH-3A Sikorsky Seaking helo Det 110 Big Mother
Combat Day (2)

Pilot – LCDR Kenneth M. Kirkpatrick
Co-pilot – LTJG Gene A. Egan
1st crew – ADJ-3 Victor J. Martinez
2nd crew – AMSAN Raymond M. Lambert

9 man South Vietnamese Commando Team

Classified Rescue
I was never involved in a rescue attempt when I knew I was being fired at, but did make a couple rescues that were noteworthy.[1] The first one still causes me sorrow when I think about it. The information was classified at the time and although it has now been declassified, there is no unclassified record of this event. Because there is no record of the flight, I don’t know when it happened. A South Vietnamese commando team had been on a covert mission in North Vietnam and ran into an ambush. They went up the North Vietnam coast at night in a small, but relatively fast, river patrol boat and entered a river where they were to conduct some kind of commando operation. They ran into an ambush and were badly shot up. They managed to get back near the coast and called for help. They needed help fast and Gene Egan and I and our two aircrewmen were to provide it. I believe a young man named Lambert was one of the crewmen, and Victor Martinez was the other. These were all very young men, probably 22 at most.
We took off and headed for the coast of North Vietnam at a high rate of speed, while flying very close to the water to avoid radar detection. We located the mouth of the river for our entrance into enemy territory and flew up the river, maintaining our low altitude and as fast a speed as possible amongst the trees. It was late in the day when we found the South Vietnamese patrol boat. There were nine South Vietnamese commandos in the boat. Three were dead, three were badly wounded, another slightly wounded and the other two were okay. They were in a wide spot in the river, not too far from its mouth and there apparently were no Vietcong around to fire on us. We used a Stokes litter to hoist the dead and badly wounded aboard our helo. The Stokes litter is a basket shaped like a person with a metal frame. You can’t really fall out of it if it’s anywhere near level. We used a rescue sling to get the rest. Next we fired a rescue flare into the boat to set it on fire and left it behind. We started from the North SAR station off the coast near Vihn, but it was getting dark and we elected to go all the way south to the carrier where they had hospital facilities and we could land safely.
The Vietnamese who were alive and not badly injured were very frightened and the wounded were in shock and generally in very bad shape. They had never been in a helicopter before, had just been through a traumatic firefight, had seen some of their comrades killed and were unable to communicate with us in English. Several of them were shaking violently from fear and were throwing up. Our crewmen were trying desperately to keep the wounded men alive. It was now dark. We radioed the carrier that we had made the rescue, the condition of our passengers and asked that we be cleared to land as soon as we arrived and be met by medical personnel. When we approached at the carrier, we were told there was a ceremony on the flight deck and that we would be landing clear aft so as not to disturb the ceremony. We were directed to land with no lights on. We landed and shut down the rotors and engines as quickly as possible and the medics began to remove our passengers. The scene is etched in my memory. There were bright lights on the ceremony at the bow and our area was dark. The ceremony was to celebrate some anniversary of the ship’s commissioning. There was to be a cake cutting and the ship’s band was playing some lively, happy tune while we were unloading the dead and dying! I’ve never experienced two such disparate events going on simultaneously in my life! It almost seemed like it couldn’t be real, but a look at our passengers and our two boyish gunners quickly brought me back to reality.

[1] “A man must share in the perils of his time lest he be judged not to have lived at all.” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

A portion of Ken Kirkpatrick’s autobiography – (via email 7-10-2007 Ron Milam)

1) Numbering as per HC-7 Rescue Log (accumulative rescue number)
2) HC-7 Rescue Log
3) HC-7 Det 110 Rescue report – NONE
10) HC-7 History collection; Ron Milam – Historian

(Compiled / written by: Ron Milam, HC-7 Historian – HC-7, 2-1969 to 7-1970, Det 108 & 113)