The Navy Cross



              The  President of the  United States  takes  pleasure  in  presenting the NAVY CROSS to


for service as set forth in the following


                   For  extraordinary  heroism  while  serving  as  a  Pilot  with Marine Medium Helicopter  Squadron 364 in the  Republic of  Vietnam  on 22 February 1969.   First Lieutenant Donovan launched as  wingman in a flight of two CH-46 transport helicopters assigned  the emergency  medical evacuation  of a seriously wounded  Marine  from  an  area  north  of  the  Nam O Bridge  in  Quang  Nam Province.   When the section leader's aircraft experienced mechanical difficulties and returned to its base, First Lieutenant Donovan resolutely elected to continue the mission.   Approaching  the  designated  area,  he  observed  a  hostile rocket launching site and dispatched  his gunships to  destroy the  emplacement.  When informed that the injured Marine  was in a  critical  condition,  First  Lieutenant Donovan,  undaunted by the extremely heavy  volume of enemy fire and lacking gunship support,  fearlessly maneuvered to a  landing on the  fire-swept area and embarked  the  casualty.   Wounded  by  fragments  from  hostile  grenades  and mortar  rounds  which  also  severely  damaged   his  helicopter  and caused it to vibrate  violently as it lifted  out of the zone,  he  ignored  his  painful injuries as he fought to regain control of the CH-46 and then skillfully maneuvered it to the nearest medical  facility.  After receiving medical attention and ascertaining  that his aircraft was operable,  he boldly launched  on  a  second  emergency  medical evacuation mission and  again  entered  an  extremely  hazardous  area,  without gunship  support,  to take  wounded  to a medical facility.   Informed  that  eight seriously injured Marines in another  area required immediate  evacuation,  First Lieutenant   Donovan  unhesitatingly  proceeded  to  the  site,   coordinated   his approach  with  gunship  fire,  and  landed  in  the  perilous  zone.  He resolutely remained  in  his  dangerously  exposed  position  until   all  the  casualties  were embarked,  and  then  lifted  out  of  the area.  As he began to depart, he learned that additional casualties had been brought  to the landing zone,  two  of  whom were in critical condition.   With complete  disregard for his own safety, he again braved  the  heavy  volume  of  enemy  fire  and  landed  in  the  fire-swept  area, embarked  the  wounded  Marines, and  departed to the nearest medical facility.  By  his courage,  superior airmanship  and  unwavering devotion  to duty in  the face of great personal  danger,  First  Lieutenant Donovan  was  instrumental  in the accomplishment of the hazardous  mission and upheld the  highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

For the President,

s/sJohn H. Chafee

Secretary of the Navy

Crew of YK-5

1stLt. Joseph P. Donovan Pilot
1stLt. Samuel J. Ware Copilot
Cpl. Ernesto Gomez Crew Chief
Rank? Cook Gunner
Rank? Reinhart Gunner

After Action Report



My aircraft ( YK-5) had been assigned the night medical evacuation (medevac) mission the evening of 22 February 1969.  1stLt. Donovan, the helicopter aircraft commander, and his copilot 1stLt. Sam Ware had preflighted YK-5 earlier and he told me I had time to go for a cup of coffee while he and the copilot conducted a pre-flight briefing.  The gunners names I do not remember.  Generally they preferred to do "their own thing" rather than hanging out with the crew chiefs.  In many cases these gunners were members of the squadron and they had maintenance or other functions to perform when they were not "flying guns".  However, I had conducted my own briefing of the gunners and had checked their 50 cals. and made sure their inter-communication system (ICS) connections were working.

The bird and the crew  were ready for the evening medevac. I had just finished buttoning her up when I heard the whooshing of incoming, followed immediately by their exploding on impact in and around Marble Mountain Air Facility.  As the rockets and shells rained down on our location, I started the auxiliary power plant in preparation for engine start as Lt. Donovan and Lt. Sam Ware ran toward the chopper.  Lt. Donovan asked as he approached, "Gooie, are we ready to takeoff?, I doubt the tower will be in operation."  I replied, to reassure him, "The bird is ready and I'm sure there won't be much traffic."

As we lifted, we could see that Marble Mt. was getting hit bad.  There were flashes of incoming visible for miles.  As we reached about 2,000 feet I could see that every one in the area  was taking incoming.  DaNang was being hit heavily.  Our radios were alive with Marine ground units requesting a medevac for their wounded.

Our first pickup, as assigned by the DaNang Direct Air Support Center (DASC) was just north of DaNang.  As Lt. Donovan was receiving a zone briefing from our VMO gun ship escorts, the whole side of a mountain opened up on us.  Over the intercom I head Lt. Donovan say, "Gooie, tell me those aren't SAMS".  I looked out and saw what looked like flaming basketballs heading our way and said, "We'll soon find out."  Our gun ships broke away to engage the Viet Cong (VC) gunner  position that was directing fire at us.

As the Marine radioman, in the medevac LZ, brought us in I started looking for the four medevacs we were to extract.  It was difficult to see through the smoke of the incoming.  A grenade went off nearby and Lt. Donovan yelled out over the ICS, "I'm hit!".  I noticed black pajamas, normally worn by the (VC), running by my helicopter.  I told my gunners to hold their fire because we also had Marines in the vicinity.  The corpsman ran off the chopper to assist getting the four medevacs on board, then we lifted to head back to the hospital at the Naval Support Activity (NSA), DaNang.   While in the NSA hospital LZ,  our onboard corpsman attempted to render first aid to Lt. Donovan, but he refused saying, "We gotta go, too many need help."  Later I gave Lt. Donovan a piece of cellophane cigarette package wrapper to try to stop the bleeding (as I recall, the wound was to his thigh).

We departed the NSA location and received another mission from DaNang DASC to pick up a wounded Republic of Korea (ROK) Marine.  The ROK Marines were assisting in the Vietnam War and had a number of out posts in the area south of DaNang.

Throughout the night DaNang DASC had numerous missions for us to pick up wounded Marines throughout our area of operations (AOA).  Not too many other helicopters got off the ground that night.  Finally, the incoming stopped and the radios calmed down.  It was now almost dawn.

I had never before seen as many Marines come on board our helicopter to thank us, the whole crew, for our support. The Grunts promised us personal visits, money, whiskey and their thanks again.  I had been kissed and hugged by grateful Marines, after picking up his buddy.  We had refueled under the flashes of incoming rounds.  We had flown all night from out post to out post.  We were shot at by, and flew through, rockets, 51 caliber machine gun rounds and other assorted small arms.  We had grenades thrown at us.  I had seen black pajamas in the LZ.  Lt. Donovan had managed not to pass out but he was very weak.

Finally at dawn, we again were in the NSA DaNang hospital LZ after convincing Lt. Donovan  that he also needed medical assistance.  He fought us all the way but we convinced him to relinquish command of YK-5 to a relief pilot as we were pushing him into the hospital where his wounds were cared for.  Later that day after returning to Marble Mt., the gunners and I were exhausted beyond belief.  I took a few more hours cleaning Lt. Donovan's blood from the cockpit area, I believe some of it was green.  Then I went to bed.

The next day I returned to find YK-5 had several new patches covering her wounds from the night before and  two or three new rotor blades.  YK-5 and I were ready to fly again.

Submitted by:
    Ernesto "Gooie" Gomes, former Cpl. USMC

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