A demonstration of firepower from Dillon Aero…
Laying down some lead
A demonstration of firepower from Dillon Aero…
Laying down some lead
by Rod Carlson
It was nearly noon and I was sitting in the cockpit looking up at rotor blades turn slower and slower and finally lurch to a stop. Our helicopter had just touched down at an obscure landing pad on the outskirts of Danang.
Bruce Lake reached over his head to the instrument panel and flipped the lever that turned off the screaming turbine used to power the aircraft’s systems during shutdowns. Helicopter aircraft commanders typically order their copilots to handle such details, but Bruce Lake and I were pals, both first lieutenants and he simply wasn’t that kind of guy. Bruce Lake hefted himself out of his armor-plated wingchair and squeezed through the narrow passage to the cargo compartment that was like the inside of a commuter plane but without seats.
Even though we’d only flown a few minutes from Marble Mountain Air Facility to the home of the First Marine Reconnaissance Battalion. Our crew chief, Jawarski and our gunner Davis, both corporals, had already opened the overhead doors and were examining the engines and hydraulic lines. Like two Mayo Clinic specialists, their gloved hands were poking around in our chopper’s innards in search of the slightest imperfection.
In addition to another H46 tandem-rotor helicopter parked behind us on the acre-sized steel landing pad, there were two Huey gunships, each with loaded rocket pods and machineguns bristling from every orifice. The gunships had arrived just ahead of us were waiting for us. Of the four pilots, three were captains and the other a real pro, Major Dowling, had a shiny gold oak leaf on his cover. Like us, they wore green fire-proof Nomex flight suits and for taking notes, they were carrying the kneeboards which when flying were held with elastic to their thighs. Strolling toward us they looked like a casual foursome headed for the first tee on a Saturday morning.
Compared to Bruce Lake, I was new to the Squadron, call sign “Highboy,” and still had much to learn, but I’d flown 1st Recon missions and was fascinated by its encampment that was built like an Incan village on the sides of a small mountain. Actually it was less a mountain and more of a overgrown, tropical butte, a Shangri-La rising several hundred feet above the valley floor just west of the city. From where we stood on the landing pad, the recon headquarters was hidden beneath thick jungle vegetation. Climbing the near vertical slope required slogging up a series of crude stairways and following a winding, switch-back trail ever upward.
Along the trail there were small red signs with yellow letters spelling words like ARMORY and INTEL that identified the function of various shed-like structures. The sign by the door that Major Dowling held open for the rest of us simply read OPS. We filed inside and arrayed ourselves in a casual arc in the center of a relatively large room near an island of desks covered with radio gear and occupied by a half dozen or so Marines. The walls were covered with pale-green topographic maps, each with a clear acetate overlay amply annotated by a black grease pen.
Against the outside brightness at the end of the room, a silhouette of a man stood motionless. When our shuffling and milling had subsided, a colonel stepped forward. He was old, rock trim, with a chiseled face and a bolt-cutter jaw. There were plenty of folding chairs about, but he didn’t suggest we sit.
“Here’s the deal,” he said moving close to one of the maps and squinting. “Lunch Box is a seven-man patrol that’s been out here a week, supposedly patrolling along this route.” He pointed to a black line that snaked erratically within a dinner plate-sized area on the map. “I say supposedly because we haven’t heard from them in five days. For certain, they haven’t been captured. They’re either dead or purposefully silent. If the latter, they’re being dogged and in constant contact with the NVA.” I didn’t know much about recon but I knew that “constant contact” meant a running gunfight in the jungle. Even though the colonel was calm, it sounded about as bad as it could be.
The colonel gave us the exact map coordinates, the bearing and distance in nautical miles from the Danang Tacan station, our only radio navigational aid, and most important, Lunchbox’s radio frequency. Then the colonel’s expression sagged. Suddenly he seemed older and tired. He ran his eyes over us, looking at each of us, and then quietly said “God speed, Gentlemen.”
Gravity expedited our descent and soon we were gathered in the shade of our helicopter. Major Dowling stood on the aft ramp and outlined the mission, repeated what we’d heard on the mountain and added his view of what was going to happen. Nothing fancy, we’d fly in loose formation, slow to not outrun the gunships to a point five miles short of where Lunchbox would hopefully sing out. Then, and not until then, we’d know how bad it was and we’d improvise from there. With all heads tilted forward, we studied our maps as the major spoke, his words, no doubt, accompanied by our own mental images of the terrain and anticipated action.
“We’ve got first dibs on two F-4 Phantoms if we need help,” Major Dowling said. “And we probably will because of the heavy vegetation. They’ve got full bomb loads of 500 pounders. Crank up when you see my blades turn.” He started toward his gunship first at a walk, then running. Bruce Lake and I walked up the ramp toward Ski and Davis who helped us into our twenty-pound armored chest protectors affectionately known as “bullet bouncers.”
Within minutes, our gaggle of four was flying slow in a relaxed formation through and around billowing clouds, some round and wispy, some towering and dense, some starkly white, and others pink or yellow. Below, stretching to the horizon in every direction was a choppy ocean of green rolling, undulating hills interspaced with sharp and jagged ridges and peaks. Everywhere a carpet of dense green, everywhere, except for a ribbon of silver, an endless river snaking around the uplands.
To deny the NVA time to react, Major Dowling had it figured so that we’d get to our destination exactly on time. But time was running out. We were getting close. I repositioned my shoulder holster so I’d know exactly where to reach for my .45 automatic. Bruce Lake noticed my final preparation for battle and, undoubtedly sensing my nervousness, nodded his approval. “There they are,” he pointed at the two Phantoms just before they disappeared behind a towering cumulous cloud, but not before both had left their calling cards, corkscrew trails of black exhaust.
We watched the pair of Phantoms make their practice runs. They circled around to the north and then dove, one after the other, into the jungle. They pulled up at the last second and soared back to altitude as though being swung on the end of an invisible rope and then disappeared behind a mountainous cloud.
In a few seconds, just as we’d finished our orbiting turn, the Phantom appeared again in the distance. Evading a cloud, he’d circled too far to the south and was now descending rapidly and banking hard to the right, to get back on course. The Phantom didn’t move to the left or right or up or down. It just kept getting bigger in our windscreen. With our mutual closure rate of 500 knots, the Phantom was on us in a flash, but by then, Bruce Lake had cut the power and bought us a hundred feet. The Phantom’s shockwave hit us like a fist as it passed so close we could see the small type on the olive drab bombs under its wings.
We looked at each other. Bruce Lake was expressionless. All I could do was laugh, “I guess he didn’t see us,” I said. Bruce Lake just scowled and shook his head. During those few seconds when we’d almost died but didn’t, our phantoms had over flown the target and each dropped a five-hundred pounder. We couldn’t see the bomb, only cloud of black smoke and dirt and shock waves rippling through the jungle in concentric circles like a pebble tossed into calm water. After two more runs, Major Dowling said, “Highboy One, you’re cleared in, play it cool, the zone could still be hot. Call your final approach.”
Bruce Lake cut the power, pushed the nose over into a vertical dive and banked the helicopter into a steep right-hand turn—instantly we were spiraling down at 2000 feet per minute directly over the brown smudge surrounded by green jungle. With each revolution, the landing zone grew larger until I could see splintered trees and deep craters. At what looked to me like the last second, he raised the nose, added some power and radioed “Highboy One on short final,” and then over the intercom to Ski and Davis, who were looking down the barrels of their fifties, “Be careful. Don’t shoot to the west, that’ll be Lunchbox.”
The landing zone was an open wasteland of craters and splintered trees. I pointed at a level swath of dirt and Bruce Lake nodded. Still descending, he waited, then banked the helicopter to the right, added power to brake us and kicked in enough right rudder to complete the U-turn just before he landed. Except for the deafening racket of the two gunships loosing their barrages of rockets and machinegun fire, we were on the ground, alone, in a naked, painful silence. I felt my fingers inching toward the .45. Just as my gut was about to explode, Ski yelled and I looked back to see that he’d left his .50 and was back at the ramp pulling a Marine into the cabin. Behind him, others were now clambering aboard. Then Ski sprinted forward toward his gun yelling “Got ’em all, let’s go.”
As Bruce Lake applied max power and catapulted us into a shallow climb, I was jolted by heart-stopping explosions. Just behind my head Davis had started shooting his .50. Davis wasn’t taking any chances. The recon team wasn’t either—I looked back in time to watch them using the butts of their M-16s to break the windows and start shooting out both sides like a stagecoach hightailing it through Indian country. By fifteen hundred feet, we’d leveled off and I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned and saw a face covered in camouflage paint and a weeks’ worth of dirt. It was Lunchbox leader. His large, white teeth gleamed as his lips mimed “thank you.” I watched him go back to his men who were leaning against their backpacks, grinning and slapping each other and enjoying the cold breeze blowing through the open cabin. I looked over at Bruce Lake. He was leaning back in the seat, with his fingers light on the controls, and a slight, self-satisfied smile on his lips. After a few peaceful minutes, we were back on the ground. As the recon team shuffled down the ramp, their colonel was there to greet them. I could see his face as he counted heads and then he look up at us and smiled.
Then, just as we were about to take off, I realized that someone was standing by my side window. One of the recon team was looking up at me. He was gaunt and small, dwarfed by his pack. He had the look of someone who’d grown up impoverished, maybe working in an Appalachian coal mine. Over the drumming of the rotor blades and the howl of the engines, he rose to his full height and yelled, “Anytime, anyplace you need help, just holler and I’ll be there,” He then saluted smartly, smiled and walked away. I clicked the mike and repeated what he’d said.
As we both watched him trudge toward his comrades, Bruce Lake replied softy, “Semper Fi, Marine.”
I reached for a knob on the instrument panel, dialed in a new frequency, reported mission complete and added that Highboy was available.
I checked my watch. We’d flown just 53 minutes. The afternoon was still young.
Written by Marine Michael Ryerson
They came in low and hot, close to the trees and dropped their tail in a flare, rocked forward and we raced for the open doorways. This was always the worst for us, we couldn’t hear anything and our backs were turned to the tree line.
The best you could hope for was a sign on the face of the man in the doorway, leaning out waiting to help with a tug or to lay down some lead.
Sometimes you could glance quickly at his face and pick up a clue as to what was about to happen. We would pitch ourselves in headfirst and tumble against the scuffed riveted aluminum, grab for a handhold and will that son-of-a-bitch into the air.
Sometimes the deck was slick with blood or worse, sometimes something had been left in the shadows under the web seats, sometimes they landed in a shallow river to wash them out.
Sometimes they were late, sometimes…they were parked in some other LZ with their rotors turning a lazy arc, a ghost crew strapped in once too often, motionless, waiting for their own lift, their own bags, once too often into the margins.
The getting on and the getting off were the worst for us but this was all he knew, the man in the doorway, he was always standing there in the noise, watching, urging…swinging out with his gun, grabbing the black plastic and heaving, leaning out and spitting, spitting the taste away, as though it would go away…
They came in low and hot, close to the trees and dropped their tail in a flare, rocked forward and began to kick the boxes out, bouncing against the skids, piling up on each other, food and water, and bullets…a thousand pounds of C’s, warm water and rounds, 7.62mm, half a ton of life and death.
And when the deck was clear, we would pile the bags, swing them against their weight and throw them through the doorway, his doorway, onto his deck and nod and he’d speak into that little mic and they’d go nose down and lift into their last flight, their last extraction.
Sometimes he’d raise a thumb or perhaps a fist or sometimes just a sly, knowing smile, knowing we were staying and he was going but also knowing he’d be back, he’d be back in a blink, standing in the swirling noise and the rotor wash, back to let us rush through his door and skid across his deck and will that son-of-a-bitch into the air.
They came in low and hot, close to the trees and dropped their tail in a flare, rocked forward, kicked out the boxes and slipped the litter across the deck and sometimes he’d lean down and hold the IV and brush the dirt off of a bloodless face, or hold back the flailing arms and the tears, a thumbs-up to the right seat and you’re only minutes away from the white sheets and the saws and the plasma.
They came in low and hot, close to the trees and dropped their tail in a flare, rocked forward and we’d never hear that sound again without feeling our stomachs go just a bit weightless, listen just a bit closer for the gunfire and look up for the man in the doorway.
Mike Ryerson was an 0844/0846 with 11th Marines at Chu Lai (hill 69) and then an FO with 5thMarines for a while before being transferred to 3rd MarDiv, 12th Marines(hill55) and then to the DMZ (Dong Ha, Charlie 2, Con Thien) with 4th and 9th Marines. Feb ’66 to Mar ’68 (yes, 25 months!) email@example.com
Today America lost a warrior, the Marine Corps lost a Brother, a family lost a loved one, and I lost one of my best friends. In the early 1980’s, Cpl. Kent Cagle honorably served his country as a United States Marine. I was proud to have served with him and call him a brother.
In 1983, the NCOIC of my shop at the Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, California sent me to headquarters (Receiving) to pick up the new guy, his name was Kent Cagle. I drove over to admin, walked in and announced to a room full of newly-arrived Marines, “Which one of you is the 5982?” Kent smiled, raised his hand, and said “That’s me”. I said, then let’s go!
A 5982 is the military occupational specialty (MOS) for a computer repair technician. Our H&MS-16 shop desperately needed another 5982 to support our UNIVAC computer systems to keep the Marine Sikorsky and Boeing helicopters flying.
It didn’t take long for Kent to fit in. He had a somewhat sick sense of humor like only Marines can appreciate. He was always laughing or making the rest of us laugh about something; and, he was a good technician. We had a small tight Automated Data Processing (ADP) shop on base; a family who operated 24 hours a day to provide support to the Marine Aircraft Group (MAG-16).
Kent was passionate about many things but his love was basketball. I remember going to a Mater Dei High School basketball championship game with Kent in Santa Ana. While we were sitting midway in the stands, one might think Kent was coaching the team from up high. I’ll never forget that game only because I was so excited to see Kent’s enthusiasm for the game. When we had friendly basketball games on base with the guys, Kent would automatically be a player and a ref and he’d let nothing by without speaking up.
Whether it was impromptu trips, playing a game of Spades, video games, or working serious tech issues, Kent was always the one we wanted around us. He added value to our experiences, love to our gatherings, and support when we hurt. Kent was always there for all of us with his smile or hand on your shoulder. His smile and laugh are as visible today as they were when we were young Marines. Writing this is the toughest thing I’ve done in a long while but I’m also glad that I can help others to remember Kent; he would have done the same for me.
After 9/11, Kent, J.R., and Paul sent me flowers to express their condolences for losing one of my work colleagues in the Twin Towers. That really touched me that my Marine buddies did that for me.
J.R. Haecherl, Paul Harrington, Marcelo Quiachon, Bob Thompson, Gunny Ransome, and the rest of us will keep your memory alive! We love you Brother and we’re better because we knew you.
My heart goes out to Kent’s family, loved ones, and friends. I’m so sorry for your loss. Kent was loved so much and he loved and talked about his family and kids every time we spoke.
My good friend and Marine Roger Herman once shared the following, which I think is very fitting and would like to include it now as I remember one of my best friends, Cpl. Kent Cagle.
“I now know why men who have been to war yearn to reunite. Not to tell stories or look at old pictures. Not to laugh or weep. Comrades gather because they long to be with the men who once acted their best, men who suffered and sacrificed, who were stripped raw, right down to their humanity.
I did not pick these men. They were delivered by fate and the U.S. Marine Corps. But I know them in a way I know no other men. I have never given anyone such trust. They were willing to guard something more precious than my life. They would have carried my reputation, the memory of me. It was part of the bargain we all made, the reason we were so willing to die for one another.
I cannot say where we are headed. Ours are not perfect friendships; those are the province of legend and myth. A few of my comrades drift far from me now, sending back only occasional word. I know that one day even these could fall to silence. Some of the men will stay close, a couple, perhaps, always at hand.
As long as I have memory, I will think of them all, every day. I am sure that when I leave this world, my last thought will be of my family and my comrades…..such good men. ~from “These Good Men” by Michael Norman
Semper Fi and take it easy on Chesty, let him make a basket or two when the two of you aren’t guarding the streets of Heaven.. And I’m certain Jessica is thrilled to see her Dad. R.I.P. Brother. See you some day again.
Cpl. Wally Beddoe
On Memorial Day Monday, I was flying back to JFK from a West Coast trip and was looking forward to finishing up a book I’d been reading. The Author, Ron Winter, is a member of the USMC Combat Helicopter Association, of which I have been the webmaster since around 1997. Ron sent me the book a while back and it was added to my stack of books I wanted to read. “Masters of the Art: A Fighting Marine’s Memoir of Vietnam” was well worth the wait and anticipation.
Ron opens the book with his detailed stories of Marine Corps Boot Camp at Parris Island, S.C. and Sgt. Starbuck, one on his drill instructors who would change Ron’s life forever. Now anyone who has ever been to Marine Corps boot camp and survived would be taken back as they read the various stories of training, Marine Corps Style!
Ron’s talent for writing is realized immediately. His descriptions of the bases, ships, and squadrons he was assigned to simply bring the book to life! From MCAS New River to Quang Tri and Marble Mountain, Ron recalls the challenges, the motivations, and the fun of it all. His recollections as an avionics technician and of flying as a gunner in the CH-46 with HMM-161 make it seem like it was last month’s SITREP you were reading.
The title “Masters of the Art” refers to survival. Survival in war by those fighting in it and also those affected by it; working and sacrificing to survive life’s hardships.
Now remember, I’m reading this on Memorial Day and my mind was already flooded with thoughts of our heroes who never made it home from our country’s battles. As I read my way through the final pages, I’m pretty sure somebody on that plane had to wonder why I looked like I just walked out of the gas chamber (if you know what I mean). The way Ron ended his story was so moving, I literally was shaking.
I’d like to share this part of the book with you. The war for Ron was well over and Ron was attending the dedication of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial (The Wall) in D.C.
“… just before the dedication speeches commenced, as a military band started playing the various services’ anthems. They played “Anchors Away” for the navy and got a nice round of applause. They played the songs for the air force, the coast guard, and the army, and each time, another nice round of applause.
I quietly told my companion, “Watch what happens when they play “The Marine Hymn.”
“What do you mean?” she asked
“Just watch”, I repeated.
The last strains of “The Caissons Go Rolling Along” were just dying away, and the accompanying applause was dying out, with just a pause, the band struck up “The Marine Hymn.”
And from out of the hundred-thousand-plus crowd gathered before the memorial, a roar erupted that was sustained throughout the course of the Hymn. She looked at me with a perplexed look on her face and asked “How did you know?”
I had a feeling of pride in me that was so powerful it threatened to burst my chest, and I was afraid to answer her because I didn’t want to show how much it meant to me. But I did manage to say, “They’re Marines.”
As I turned to the final page of Ron’s book, he wrote “I tell my children that for a brief time in my life, I walked with heroes and giants, was privileged to be included in their company, and to be called “Marine,” using the highest definition of the word.”
Ron has written a very powerful, honest, and moving book and I highly recommend all who read this to consider adding it to your own reading lists.
Gen. (ret.) Al Gray, former Commandant, USMC, said that “Masters of the Art” was superb! I agree!
Well done Marine!
Being the webmaster for the USMC Combat Helicopter Association since 1997, I am familiar with many of the members, squadrons, aircraft, stories, terminology, bases, etc. so “Cleared Hot”, like Marion Sturkey’s “Bonnie-Sue“, was an educational read for me.
Although I was a Marine stationed on a helicopter base in the early 80’s, I was too young to be in Vietnam but I am fascinated by the stories and admire the men and women who were there. Stoffey prefaces his book with a comment that if you were there, and saw it differently, write your own book. Speaking with other VMO-2 pilots who were there, I would have to agree with Stoffey. Each pilot has a unique story to tell about their experiences.
“Cleared Hot” took me away to a virtual visit to Marble Mountain Air Facility and into the skies over Vietnam. Stoffey does such an outstanding job keeping the reader informed, not assuming any prior knowledge. Following the different phases of his tours was interesting; from the UH-34D to the OV-10, the stories are really interesting and they give a very good general idea of what it was like to be a VMO-2 pilot in Vietnam. The helicopter and Bronco pilots were instrumental in supporting the grunts on the ground.
After all, in the Marine Corps, supporting the grunt on the ground is what it’s all about!
You can find “Cleared Hot!” on Amazon.
On February 7, 1969, a Marine helicopter crashed in Vietnam, killing six of the seven on board.
On February 7, 2007, a Marine helicopter was shot down in Iraq, killing all seven on board.
Both helicopters belonged to the Purple Foxes of HMM-364, a Marine Corps helicopter squadron.
In 2007, a female Marine pilot by the name of Jennifer Harris was flying the helicopter when it was shot down by insurgents.
The irony with these two incidents is, Captain Jennifer Harris while on her mission, was also flying a flag in honor of Gary Young, killed 38 years earlier in Vietnam on the same day. The flag was to be given to my good friend Stephanie Hanson, Gary Young’s daughter.
This story is one of so many in the Marine helicopter community.
Today, February 7, their lives and the lives of their crews are on my mind.
Gone, But Never Forgotten!
The best book I’ve ever read! I highly recommend reading the book “Bonnie-Sue” by my good friend Marion Sturkey. When I started it, I could not put it down. If you are a Marine, especially a rotorhead, you will not be disappointed in Sturk’s stories about a Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron in Vietnam.
Marine Corps helicopter crews and infantrymen found little glory waiting for them in faraway Vietnam. Instead, they found themselves mired in a life-and-death battle with tenacious Sino-Soviet pawns.
Marion Sturkey, a Marine Corps helicopter pilot in Vietnam, combines fascinating detail with grim realism. After-Action-Reports, Unit Diaries, and hundreds of records from the Marine Corps Archives create the outline for his riveting chronology. Onto this framework the author weaves personal accounts from the helicopter crews and infantrymen. Day by day, he breathes life into this eloquent saga of Marines at war.
The reader steps through a looking glass into the crucible of combat. Through real men in real places — no pseudonyms — one sees the madness, the passion, the love, the horror, and the loyalty shared by pilots, aircrewmen, and infantrymen.
Mike Clausen was one helluva Marine! He earned the Medal of Honor for bravery in Vietnam (more below).
I first met Mike in Pensacola, Florida during a Marine reunion. Over the next four or five years I would communicate with Mike over e-mail and help him with his technical (computer) questions. I saw Mike three or four times after our first get together. Mike died in 2004 but will never be forgotten.
Members of the USMC Combat Helicopter Association remembers Mike:
Vietnam War 1965-1973
Medal of Honor Recipient
Raymond Michael Clausen, Jr., who was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam in January 1970, was born October 14, 1947, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He graduated from high school in 1965, then attended college for six months.
He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve at New Orleans, March 30, 1966 and was discharged to enlist in the regular Marine Corps, May 27, 1966. Private Clausen received recruit training with the 3d Recruit Training Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, California, and individual combat training with the 3d Battalion, 2d Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Pendleton, California. He then completed Aviation Mechanical Fundamentals School and the Basic Helicopter Course, Naval Air Technical Training Center, Memphis, Tennessee.
Upon completion of his training in April 1967, he was transferred to Marine Aircraft Group 26 (MAG-26), Marine Corps Air Facility, New River, Jacksonville, North Carolina, and served as jet engineer mechanic with HMM-365 and, later, as guard with MABS-26.
In December 1967, Private Clausen was ordered overseas where he was to serve as jet helicopter mechanic throughout his active duty service. Joining the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, he was with H&MS-36, MAG-36 until September 1968, then with HMM-364, MAG-16 until the following August.
Private Clausen returned to the United States, where he joined MAG-26 at New River for duty with HMM-261.
In November 1969, he began his second tour of duty with HMM-263, MAG-16, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific. On August 19, 1970, upon his return to the United States, he was released from active duty.
A complete list of his medals and decorations include: the Medal of Honor, the Air Crewman Insignia and the Air Medal, both with three Gold Stars, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Purple Heart, the Presidential Unit Citation, the Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal with one silver star and one bronze star, the Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Palm, the Vietnam Campaign Medal with device, and the Rifle Sharpshooter Badge.
Private Clausens parents are Mr. and Mrs. Raymond M. Clausen, Sr., of Hammond, Louisiana.
Rank and organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.
Place and date: Republic of Vietnam , 31 January 1970 .
Entered service at: New Orleans , La.
Born: 14 October 1947 , New Orleans , La.
Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 during operation against enemy forces. Participating in a helicopter rescue mission to extract elements of a platoon which had inadvertently entered a minefield while attacking enemy positions, Pfc. Clausen skillfully guided the helicopter pilot to a landing in an area cleared by 1 of several mine explosions. With 11 marines wounded, 1 dead, and the remaining 8 marines holding their positions for fear of detonating other mines, Pfc. Clausen quickly leaped from the helicopter and, in laden area to assist in carrying casualties to the waiting helicopter and in placing them aboard. Despite the ever-present threat of further mine explosions, he continued his valiant efforts, leaving the comparatively safe area of the helicopter on 6 separate occasions to carry out his rescue efforts. On 1 occasion while he was carrying 1 of the wounded, another mine detonated, killing a corpsman and wounding 3 other men. Only when he was certain that all marines were safely aboard did he signal the pilot to lift the helicopter. By the courageous, determined and inspiring efforts in the face of the utmost danger, Pfc. Clausen upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the U.S. Naval Service.