Sturkey, a Marine Corps helicopter
pilot, deployed to Vietnam in May 1966.
Sturkey and his squadron, HMM-265, flew
the new Boeing H-46 helicopters (which
are still in use with the Marine Corps
today in 2001, 35 years later).
are some of the photographs depicting
the Vietnam War that Sturkey saw in
1966-1967. He took some of the
photographs from his helicopter cockpit,
and others from the ground. The
squeamish need not fret. There are no
pictures of dead bodies, and no pictures
of blood and gore.
pictures are Sturkey's unless otherwise
fall of 1966, Marines and the North
Vietnamese waged a bitter see-saw battle for
control of the heavily jungled Nui Cay Tri
Ridge ("Mutter Ridge"). Here, amid
debris from artillery fire (from both good
guys and bad guys) a Marine M-60 team fires
at the enemy. (USMC Photo)
reaction team swoops in by helicopter to
land beside a typical small village --
hidden under the trees -- in the rice basin
south of Da Nang. Are there good guys,
or bad guys, in the village? The
helicopter crew and the Sparrowhawk team are
about 15 seconds away from finding out.
great THUNDERMUG, the HMM-265 squadron
mascot. The toilet basin held
invigorating libations. To quench his
thirst, one simply dipped his cup in the
Hit by enemy
AAA fire, a doomed H-46 from HMM-265 trails
smoke and flame. The H-46 crashed, and
exploded upon impact, in "Helicopter Valley"
on the afternoon of 15 July 1966 -- the
fifth H-46 lost in the valley that day.
Of the 16 Marines aboard (4 crewmen and 12
Grunts) 13 died in the crash and fire.
Although severely burned, the remaining
three Marines survived. (Photo
courtesy of Haas Faust)
enemy fire, this Huey crashed in the
mountains. The remains have been
externalled back to base at Marble Mountain
by an H-46.
"slick," a heavy-hauler, externals a
shot-down Huey back to Marble Mountain in
the spring of 1967.
enemy AAA fire, this H-46 from HMM-165 made
a forced landing in the river. In this
photo, a maintenance crew is removing the
rotor blades and preparing the fuselage as a
"sling load." When all is ready, an
H-53 will external the downed helicopter
back to base for repairs. (USMC Photo)
hovers above its sling load, a downed H-46.
(USMC Photo A-421672)
see my missing Aft Pylon?????? On 1
September 1967, a mechanical problem ripped
the aft pylon -- transmission, rotors, and
all -- completely off of this H-46 from
HMM-265. Fortunately the accident
happened on the ground, not in flight.
(Photo courtesy of Jim Connacher)
pokes through the charred wreckage of an
H-46 from his squadron. During the
pre-dawn hours of 27 January 1967, this
helicopter was flying an emergency ammo
resuppy mission. Shooting a GCA into
the Khe Sanh airstrip in blinding
(zero-zero) fog, the H-46 flew into a Huey
that had parked on the runway (the fog was
so thick the Huey could not air-taxi).
Both helicopters were incinerated by the jet
fuel and the load of ammunition.
crumpled remains of the front half of a
doomed H-46 sunbathes in the Marble Mountain
H-46 -- or, what's left of it -- that has
taken its last flight.
portion of an H-46 from HMM-164 has found
"peace at last" in the Marble Mountain
cannibalized hulk of a Sikorsky H-34 that
has taken its last flight.
the city of Hue, flying toward the South
China Sea, Sturkey photographs one of the
most beautiful sights on earth.
Looking eastward toward the sea, he snaps a
picture of the shallow inland lagoon.
It is filled with dozens of these
arrowhead-shaped fish traps.
(USMC Photo) Mutter Ridge, a killing
ground. The desperate, brutal fighting
on Nui Cay Tri Ridge (called "Mutter Ridge"
by the Marines) see-sawed back and forth for
weeks in the fall of 1966. Only blind
luck determined who lived, and who died.
In this photo, Marines drag their wounded
and dead brothers-in-arms toward a Huey from
VMO-2. Note that all of the vegetation
has been stripped away by artillery and air
Photo) From this outpost at Gio Linh,
Marine artillery hammered away at the North
Vietnamese. The North Vietnamese
artillery in the DMZ could reach Gio Linh,
plus locations as far south as Dong Ha.
Gio Linh formed the northeastern corner of
the lethal no-man's-land, "Leatherneck
refuel. An H-46 from HMM-265 has been
inserting Recon teams into the mountains in
the early summer of 1966. Here, it
air-taxies to the fuel pits at remote Dong
Ha -- before the big military build-up.
on Hill 55. This desolate hill, on the
coastal plain south of Da Nang, commanded a
birds-eye view of the fertile rice basin.
From Hill 55 one can see all the way (1) to
Da Nang, to the north; (2) to the ocean, to
the east; (3) to the Que Son Mountains, to
the south; (4) to Charlie Ridge and the
"Arizona Territory," to the west. The
Marines occupied the hill, as the French had
done in decades past.
relax between combat missions. A pilot
and his crew chief rest behind their H-46.
The crew chief, on the left with his back to
the camera, wears the old type flak jacket.
The pilot (Capt. Billy "Mad Dog" Collins,
seated) wears the bullet-bouncer chest
protector, sometimes called a "chicken
Photo) Two H-46s from HMM-161 land in
the "Arizona Territory" west of An Hoa.
The region drew its name from the rugged and
hostile badlands of the American Southwest.
The Marines and the North Vietnamese
contested the Arizona Territory for the
duration of the war.
Photo) EP-166, from HMM-265, prepares
to load ARVNs (soldiers of the Army of the
Republic of Vietnam) west of Hoi An.
Note that this H-46 crew has elected to
mount M-60 machine guns instead of the more
common rapid firing .50 caliber weapons.
America -- the C.I.A. at work. An
immaculate silver C-47 (from the airline
that did not officially exist) sits on the
dirt runway at Dong Ha in early 1966.
Note the "Air America" painted on the rear
Aircraft Photo) A Marine maintenance
crew and its mascot (the dog, rescued from
the stew-pot) pose in front of their giant
H-37 "Deuce" at Marble Mountain. The
cantankerous Deuce proved too complex, too
advanced, too far ahead of its time.
But, it paved the way for the new H-53.
Photo) A tight squeeze. An H-46
from HMM-262 slips into a landing zone
between boulders and trees in the Que Son
Between flights, Sturkey poses in front of
his H-46 at Marble Mountain in the early
summer of 1966. He wears the old type
soft body armor. The new bullet
bouncer would not be available until July
Photo) Marine and North Vietnamese
infantry duel in the mountains south of the
DMZ. Note that all jungle vegetation
in the foreground has been sheared away by
artillery and air strikes.
Photo) An H-46 from HMM-161 externals
howitzer ammunition to an artillery outpost
west of Cam Lo. Because the outpost
itself is a lucrative target, everything is
heavily sandbagged. Empty ammo crates
make an effective sidewalk to keep Marines
from getting mired in the mud during the
at Cam Lo. When the monsoon arrives,
the ground will turn into a sea of mud.
remains of an H-46 that has been externalled
back to Marble Mountain, never to fly again.
spring of 1967, Marine engineers began
constructing this framework for the massive
command bunker at Khe Sanh. When
completed, the roof would be 10 feet thick.
It could withstand a direct hit from
anything except the largest North Vietnamese
snapped this quick photo from the cockpit as
his H-46 swooped down to insert a
Sparrowhawk reaction team. An infantry
patrol had been taking fire from the
village, under the trees. Would this
prove to be a milk run? Or, a hornet's
nest? The helicopter crew and the
Grunt passengers were about 10 seconds away
from finding out.
steak party! On the beach at Marble
Mountain, pilots and aircrewmen not on the
flight schedule take a much-needed break.
The steaks aren't visible, but the trash
barrel is FULL of Carling Black Label cans.
Note the concertina in the right background.
maintenance line at Marble Mountain in the
winter of 1966-1967. Marston matting
walkways kept the maintenance teams out of
the mud. On the right are the
maintenance tents of HMM-263.
HMM-265 shuttle in and out of Can Lo during
Operation Hastings in July 1966. They
are externaling sling loads of artillery
shells to the cannon-cockers in the
mountains to the west.
cockpit, Sturkey snapped this photo of
Grunts lining the asphalt runway at Phu Bai.
These Grunts would board the helicopters for
an attack in the mountains (visible in the
background) to the west.
The hardest thing to do. At Dong Ha,
Grunts sit on the ground, alone with their
thoughts, waiting to be whisked by
helicopter into the ongoing fighting in the
mountains (visible in the background) to the