DONALD BRUCE McCOIG
Warrant Officer, Aviator
281st Assault Helicopter Company
10th CAB, 17th CAG, 1st AVN BDE
From: Ventura, California
Born: January 21, 1946
Tour of duty began June 17, 1967
Killed in action when engaged by hostile forces
while conducting a rescue mission in
Thua Thien, South Vietnam on March 29, 1968.
WO McCoig was mortally wounded by hostile
small arms fire.
WO DONALD McCOIG WAS AWARDED THE DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS
FOR HIS ACTIONS ON MARCH 29, 1968.
The Distinguished Service Cross, also known as the DSC, is our Nation's second highest award for valor, second only to the Medal of Honor. The Distinguished Service Cross was created during the First World War and was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on January 2, 1918. The Distinguished Service Cross is awarded to a person who while serving in any capacity with the Army, distinguished himself or herself by extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of a Medal of Honor; while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing or foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing Armed Force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The act or acts of heroism must have been so notable and have involved risk of life so extraordinary as to set the individual apart from his or her comrades.
AWARD OF THE DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS
On 14 May 1968, Warrant Officer Donald B. McCoig,
281st Aviation Company (assault Helicopter), 10th Combat Aviation
Battalion, 17th Aviation Combat Aviation Group, 1st Aviation
Brigade, was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross
for actions on 29 March 1968.
"For extraordinary heroism
in conjunction with military operations involving conflict with an
armed hostile force in the Republic of South Vietnam. WO
McCoig distinguished himself by exceptional valorous actions on 29
March 1968 as aircraft commander of an assault helicopter on a
combat mission near Hue. After air strikes had pounded and enemy
stronghold, he volunteered to fly Vietnamese ground forces into the
area to conduct bomb assessments and search and destroy operations.
During the second airlift into the landing zone, his ship received
intense enemy automatic weapons fire which damaged the aircraft and
wounded his co-pilot and gunner. Displaying outstanding
courage and airmanship, Mr. McCoig continued into the battle area
under heavy fire and landed his helicopter. He then led his
men to cover, returned through the fusillade to recover the
aircraft's weapons and equipment. Remaining calm, he
skillfully treated the wounded until an evacuation ship arrived and
carried them to all to safety. Three more aircraft were shot
down in the ensuing action, and Mr. McCoig volunteered to return to
the raging firefight to extract the crews. With complete
disregard for his safety, he again flew into the area and landed
amid a curtain of fire. Bullets tore into his aircraft, but he
refused to take off until members of one stranded crew had climbed
aboard. As he became airborne the enemy forces concentrated
their full firepower on his ship and he was killed by a hail of
rounds tearing into the cockpit. Warrant Officer McCoig's
extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty, at the cost of his life,
were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service
and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United
Donald Bruce McCoig was born on January 21, 1946 in Van Nuys,
California. His parents were Donald Bruce McCoig, who died in
October 1966, and Phyllis McCoig, who died in May 1982. Donald,
known as "Bruce" to his family, attended Thousand Oaks High School
in Thousand Oaks California, and graduated in 1964. Following high
school, Donald signed on a lumber freighter and sailed as a deck
hand to and from Australia. Upon return from his sailing adventure,
Donald attended Venture College for a year, but left to join the US
Army. Donald married his wife Margaret (Margaret has remarried and her
new name and location remains unknown) in May of 1966, and left for the Army in June
1966. Prior to joining the Army Donald enjoyed driving his "Cobra"
sports car and spent considerable time rebuilding it. His physical
appearance and looks resembled that of Steve McQueen, and he was
often teased about the similarities. His surviving family
remembers him as an easy going individual who was a friend to all,
and one who was always ready and willing to lend a hand to anyone in
Following the footsteps of his father, who served as a Chief Warrant Officer in World War II, and his Grandmother, who also served in World War II as a member of the Women’s Army Corps, Donald entered the Army, completed basic training and graduated from helicopter pilot training in 1967. He arrived in Vietnam and was assigned to the 281st Assault Helicopter Company, Nha Trang, RVN on June 17, 1967. His death came as a result of hostel fire on March 29, 1968. His body was recovered and returned to his family who, after cremation, scattered his ashes at sea. For his service with the 281st AHC and to his country, Warrant Officer Donald Bruce McCoig was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star Medal for Valor, the Air Medal for Valor, and numerous other awards and service medals.
Donald is survived by his widowed aunt by marriage, Clara May McCoig, of 2422 La Estrella Street, Henderson, NV. Mrs. McCoig also served as an Army nurse in World War II. Donald has two cousins, Dava McCoig Lambert of 6 Veeder Avenue, Barre, VT, and Russell McCoig of 2940 McCoig Avenue, Las Vegas, NV. Both of his cousins are the children of his late uncle, David Clarke McCoig and his aunt, Clara May McCoig.
Col. John W. (Jack) Mayhew, USA, (Ret)
"Intruder 6" 7/67-2/68
On a personal note: when I started to work on this project I set out to find a hero. Instead, I found two. In Donald McCoig I found an individual who was liked all the other members of the 281st AHC and as such, at the time of his death he was simply doing his duty to his unit and his country. Several individuals who served with Don in the 281st AHC have come forth with their recollection of him as an individual and as an Army aviator. One of the following recollections is from the WO Robin Hicks the Aircraft Commander who was flying with "Mac" (as his buddies referred to him). At the time of his death WO McCoig was flying the helicopter and when he was hit he fell forward, freezing the controls. Robin reacted immediately by taking control of the severely damaged, out of control helicopter, and returning it to the hot landing zone. The severe flight attitude of the aircraft and heavy ground fire rendered the remaining crew members helpless and as such Robin was left to function on his own. Following the controlled crash back into the LZ they immediately came under heavy ground fire and were forced to evacuate the aircraft and join the Special Forces team operating out of a near by bomb crater. Later in the day Robin Hicks and his crew removed Donald's body from the aircraft and placed him in a bomb crater were they spent the remainder of the day and night. Throughout the night they were under heavy fire and the threat of being overrun by the superior NVA force. At daylight the Special Forces Advisors and the ARVN troops involved in the mission set out on a forced march seeking an LZ from which they could be extracted. Robin and a Marine Captain carried WO Donald McCoig's body on the march through rugged jungle country, reaching a recovery LZ late in the afternoon. Only then did Robin surrendered Don's body to his fellow Intruders who were flying the 281st recovery aircraft. I trust that anyone reading this report will understand the stress that Robin has endured as a result of this action and that certainly he deserves great credit for his skilled actions and response to a critical situation. There is no doubt that his actions saved the lives of those crewmembers and passengers who were not killed in the initial attack on his aircraft. His actions in caring for the body of his friend and fellow Intruder speak for themselves. For his heroic actions Robin was awarded the Silver Star and earned the highest respect of his fellow Intruders. JM
(Note: I served with Donald McCoig until 2/68 and knew him to be a superior aviator and an all around outstanding individual. At the time of his death The 281st was under the command of my friend Don Ruskauff, whose comments are below.)
LTC. Donald (Don) Ruskauff, USA (Ret)
"Intruder 6" 2/68-7/68
483rd Maint. Det. "Wrench Bender 6" 7/67-2/68,
1039 Bench Ct
Anchorage, AK 99504
"The 281st Executive Officer, Maj. Sinclair had taken an advanced party to the operational area and started a series of operations while I completed some support details at home base. The very first insertion of friendly forces met with fierce resistance. My recollection is that on the day of his death WO McCoig was piloting an aircraft that was badly shot up in the first stages of the operation and could not continue. Before Maj. Sinclair could release him from flight duty that day, he voluntarily took command of another flight into the area because he believed he could execute a landing more safely in the landing zone because he was more familiar with it. It was on this flight that he met his death. I joined the advanced party just as the downed crewmen and the ground force were being recovered. They had to fight their way out of the combat zone to another pick up area and carried WO McCoig's body with them. Late that night Maj. Sinclair and I officially identified his body. Men who can elaborate on the difficulties and stress of these couple of days are Robin Hicks, Wendell Allen, Ken Smith, John Wehr and John Galkiewicz. WO McCoig was held in high regard as a person, and as one of our best and coolest aviators under fire. I am proud of having served with him."
Those following personal recollections along with a summary of the combat mission after action report, covering the operation in which Donald Bruce McCoig gave his life, are recorded here. Of note are the statements by Norm Kauffman, Robin Hicks and Kenneth Embrey, all of whom had a major role in this mission.
Fom: Norman Kauffman "Bandit 24"
PO Box 104
New Florence, PA 15944
"The company area was deserted when I reported in to the 281st in January 1968, because most of the company was on a Delta at the Oasis. Don McCoig was the first pilot that I met that day. I had no idea what the mission of the 281st was, and I was probably really scared at 19 years of age but was too proud to admit it. Don was a really friendly guy and there was none of that new guy/old guy routine with him. He showed me around, helped me find a place to sleep, and generally helped me get squared away as well as a new kid could at the time. I flew with him on several occasions after my in-country check ride with Harry Skaar, but then I was assigned to the second platoon and we didn't fly together because he was in first platoon. I'm not sure why we both ended up at Hue/Phu Bai on a Delta together but we did. He and I were flying together the morning he was killed. It was the Bomb Damage Assessment insertion, and we were using the craters from an Arc light for an LZ. On the second lift in, Don told me to take the controls. He said it was fairly easy and that I needed to start learning the ropes. We were landing two ships in the LZ at one time. On short final at about 15 feet the lead ship made a go-around and just as I keyed the mic to ask Mac why, pieces of Plexiglas and metal began flying through our cockpit. A round came through the floor, the right pedal, and struck me in the right foot knocking my foot from the pedal. The nose of the aircraft yawed wildly to the left and Mac grabbed the controls, corrected the yaw and landed the aircraft. The engine was not running, so we exited the aircraft and ran to a bomb crater where I told Mac that I had been hit. When we were picked up by the next ship in the LZ, Mac insisted I be flown to the dispensary to be checked out. It was a superficial wound and we returned to the FOB. I assured him that I had seen the needles split and that the engine had quit causing the aircraft to yaw. He insisted that the yaw was caused by my foot being shot off the right pedal. I'm sure that we did not shut the aircraft down, and the rotor blades stopped turning almost immediately. Mac insisted on going back out that afternoon with Robin Hicks because he told me he wasn't sure we should have left the ship in the LZ, but flown it out instead."
From: Robin K. Hicks, Aircraft Commander UH1-D
"Bandit " 11/67-11/68
"I got there mid November of 67 and 10 days later was wounded in an attack on Nha Trang. I did not get out of the hospital and back on flying status until 16 Dec 67. This prevented me from getting to know most of the guys. I flew with Don a few times, but I was kind of shuffled around as the other 7 guys I had come over with were pretty well linked up with the same ACs a lot. I did a lot of flying and made AC on 23 Feb 68. Ironically, I was the first to make it from my group. On 29 March the incident happened. There has been a lot of talk about this and I am now realizing why after listening to some of the pilots and researching written data. I was the AC on 227 for all three lifts, but somehow everyone has made Don the AC and me the co-pilot. The after action report, which I read for the first time about 3 weeks ago, even indicates this. By the third lift we were getting a little short on pilots and aircraft both. My copilot Mr. Allen was to be lifted in with the maintenance crew to help prepare the downed aircraft to get slung out. I did not have a copilot and McCoig was not injured and did not have an aircraft. It was decided that he would go with me. The only thing that happened was that when we started to get in McCoig got all nervous and looked worried. I asked him what was the matter and he told me that he did not feel comfortable flying the right seat because he had been in the left seat for so long. He asked me if he could fly left seat. It made sense to me, I felt comfortable in both seats because I had almost equal time in both. We both knew we were probably going to get into a bad situation and wanted to take advantage of every thing that would be in our favor. I said yes, let’s do it, and we traded seats.
I do not know what I could say about McCoig that couldn't be said by every other pilot involved in that operation. McCoig was flying and on take off we got hit hard. He took a round right above his left eyebrow and his head swung around and looked straight at me. Blood was "gushing" out so badly that I thought that his jugular vein had been hit. He went stiff on the controls pushing in right angle and the ship was shaking violently and going towards a tree in a nose high attitude. I was on the controls but could hardly go over them and when I told the gunner to come forward and pull him off the controls the gunner responded that he couldn't because he was hit. There were still either 6 or 7 people aboard, including the crew of one of the marine aircraft. I kept after it and McCoig finally went limp and I could move the controls and tried to keep from hitting the tree or crashing. I was told to get the aircraft back into the LZ, like I actually had a chance of doing that, but tried and actually pulled it off. Every emergency light on the instrument panel was lit and I found out later that the ship was smoking from somewhere. I shut it down and things went to hell after that."
By Kenneth Embrey, (deceased)
I was the Crew Chief on 227, when it was shot down on March 29,1968,
killing CWO McCoig at an LZ in the Ashau Valley.
I had only been in country a couple of months when we were called up to Phu Bai to replace the Rat Pack in support of Project Delta. I don’t remember being there more than 2 or 3 day before we were shot down. One afternoon right after we got there, while working on my aircraft, I saw rockets being walked in toward us. Not knowing exactly what was going on, Sergeant Seaton, who had a whole lot more experience in the country, informed me that it was not friendly fire and led the way to the bunker.
I do remember flying a recon mission the day prior to the incident whereby the LZ’s to be used that day were determined and saw the area where the Air Force had blown the canopy off the top of a trail used by Charlie and there was a convoy of trucks down there that had quad 50’s on them and green tracers the size, to me, of basketballs were being fired at the aircraft.
The day of the incident was hot and sunny. We left the FOB around mid day after the officers got a briefing. We were assigned Recovery (Medical) and would fly behind the Command and Control Ship. Our job was to pick up wounded or downed members when C&C told us to.
The mission for the flight that day as I remember it was to insert a company of ARVN Rangers and some Nungs along with their American advisors in a combat assault in reaction to intelligence gathered by Delta in previous days. This was not a typical Delta mission and was my first hot combat assault.
WO Robin Hicks was the Aircraft Commander, a maintenance warrant officer, Wendell Allen was the co-pilot and Lionel Wesley was the Gunner. We also had an SF medic called “Doc” with us. In addition to our normal equipment, we had a McGuire Rig and a winch with litter basket.
The combat assault got underway with 3 slicks from the 281st pulling the initial insertion. For some reason, aircraft 135 went down in the LZ amidst heavy enemy small arms fire. The other two came out and a Marine CH46 came in smoking from around the pylon. It was able to make it out of the LZ but I understand, didn’t make it back to safety. The 2nd Marine 46 came in and made a hard landing. We were at altitude and fairly far away and sometimes I was on the wrong side of the ship so I am not able to describe everything that went on in the LZ up to that time, but did know that two ships were down in the LZ, aircraft 135 and the Marine 46. I remember lots of discussion over the radios and I think that aircraft 127 went down and picked up the crew from 135. Any way, we were all about out of fuel and flew back to the FOB.
McCoig who along with Norm Kaufman were the pilots on 135 were at the FOB before we took off again after refueling. Kaufman was wounded in the foot and went to the hospital. There had been some discussion on whether or not there was the possibility of flying 135 out so McCoig volunteered to take the maintenance officer’s place on 227 and for some reason flew left seat while Robin Hicks moved over to the right seat. We also took on 6 to 8-5 gallon canisters of smoke in the aircraft. We returned to the LZ.
When we got back to the AO, the guns set up a pattern and we went in with C&C and kicked off the smoke. By that time the remainder of the flight caught up with us, went into the LZ to drop off the recovery and maintenance people for both 135 and the Marine 46 and to pick up wounded from the ground element. All aircraft including the guns were reporting ground fire. About that time someone decided that the LZ wasn’t secure enough to conduct recovery operations on the downed aircraft, so the hole ships were ordered to start picking up the recovery and maintenance crews. Aircraft 127 made it out but Aircraft 228 apparently received fire and returned to the LZ and shut it down. 113 and 129 recovered the crews of 228 and maintenance personnel and some wounded. Then another Marine 46 crashed hard in the LZ. We were then directed to move into the LZ to pick up the crew of the 46. I was on the left side and McCoig had me go hot with my M60 real early in that that was where all the ground fire was coming from. Wesley on the other side of the ship couldn’t fire because that was where the friendlies were. I think McCoig flew into the LZ and we quickly loaded the downed crewmembers from the 46, which with Doc who was already on board made 7 or 8 passengers, a full load. I think the crew chief from 46 had made it into the perimeter of the ground element. Upon departure from the LZ we received ground fire and McCoig was hit with the first bullet directly in the forehead. Then all hell broke loose. I was out of M60 ammo by this time and grabbed my M14 and was trying to get a clip into it. Fuel was flying all over my face. In the meanwhile, Hicks jumped on the controls as the aircraft went into a nose high attitude and with a tremendous yaw to the right. He kept screaming for me to come up and get McCoig off the controls but centrifugal force was trying to throw me out and I was holding on to anything I could grab just to stay in the aircraft and could not make it forward no matter how hard I tried. Finally McCoig relaxed enough to allow Hicks to regain control and somehow, got us back into the LZ.
Once on the ground, we continued receiving fire from the tree line but this time I was on the friendly side [of the aircraft]. Hicks couldn’t exit out the right door because they had us zeroed in and every time he moved his armor plate they would hit it. He eventually crawled out over the console and came out the left cargo door. Wesley had made it out somehow and came crawling under the nose cone with both his and my M60 and all the ammo that he had left. There was a bomb crater about 20 feet from where the aircraft landed and using our downed ship to serve as cover, we eventually made it to the bomb crater. After the fire died down a little, due in large part to Air Force fighters working the tree line, we recovered McCoig’s body and moved it inside the perimeter of a defensive position that a small Ranger Team had established next to the LZ. By this time darkness and bad weather forced us to remain on the ground that night. We received steady mortar, B40, and small arms fire all night.
Real early the next morning we were told that a large NVA force was headed our way, and that we needed to find an LZ which could be used to recover our dead and wounded. We headed out with first me and Wesley and then Hicks and a Marine LT carrying McCoig’s body. There were several dead and wounded in our group. One Ranger had taken a direct hit from a mortar and didn’t take a very big poncho to carry his remains. The gunner from the 46 was real unlucky. He had been hit in the left side when we loaded him, then he took another round in his lower gut when we came back in the LZ. He died after we got him in the perimeter. One Special Forces guy had two bullets in the chest and was white as a sheet from the loss of blood but walked out of that mess.
We moved toward the river and with all that water around us, we had nothing to drink. Man, I was thirsty. At the time, I was carrying a wounded Special Forces Captain web gear. It had a canteen with some purifying tablets taped to it so I filled it with that nasty river water, threw in a handful of tablets, shook it a couple times and drank it down.
We walked all morning, then all afternoon. The terrain, once we got out of the river, was real dense bush. I can remember seeing aircraft of all makes and services in the air and the artillery from Firebase Bastogne was pounding the mountains surrounding us. The weather had lifted and it was hot and muggy in the jungle and my mouth was dry as a bone. The SF guy with the two holes in his chest gave me some hard candy but I couldn’t develop enough spit to swallow it. Sometime in the late afternoon of that day, we located a clearing that could be used as a pickup point. We watched the guns work over the sides of the PZ and between the napalm and other work, the PZ was secure. Just before dusk, we got out of that place. Marine 46’s picked up the dead and wounded first and even 281st aircraft were there. Some people were sent to Bastogne (where I heard they got attacked that night) in order to get a shorter turn around time but I was one of the last out and got a ride all the way back to the FOB.
I don’t remember how many days we stayed at the FOB before we went back to Nha Trang but it wasn’t long. Once back, I was assigned another ship but got real deep in to the bottle and eventually asked to be reassigned to Maintenance Platoon where I stayed the remainder of my tour. Most everything after that day is blurred in my memory due either to the alcohol or my mind giving me some relief from the guilt fear, and other emotions I felt at the time. K.E.
John Galkiewicz "Bandit"
115 Nevils St, POB-20,
Harrogate, TN 37752-0020
"I'm glad he had a hand in teaching me how to "really" fly. He was the one that nicknamed me ‘The Kid.’ I sure hope his kin visit the 281st website. I remember he could have been a double for Steve McQueen (the actor). I also remember that he had a prized "Cobra" sports car that he liked to race."
1746 Palmland Drive
Boynton Beach, FL 33436
"I flew with Mr. Mac many times and he was a gentleman and a kind man...Every time I needed some one to start up a chopper to test out an engine or track blades he was more than willing to work with us on the ground....Some times our maintenance officer was busy with something, Mr. Mac would test fly the chopper for us...I think of him always. I visited the wall and found his name on it...I cried when I touched his name....I will always remember him and all the other men of the 281st...They where and are a great bunch of men.....Lets keep the rotors turning"....
Mike Cook donated these sample 281st AHC patches that he has been carrying around for over 30 years. Mike's story was that way back when, the 281st leadership was trying to come up with the unit patch, Don McCoig had these designs made up as examples of possible patches. Obviously, none of these was adopted, but McCoig kept these designs and apparently Mike ended up with them.
From: Bob "Mop" Mitchell, 281st AHC Historian
"Bandit 24" 5/69-5/70
617 Diamond Grove Rd.
Pinson, TN 38366
E-mail: [Bob is now deceased.]
(NOTE: Bob kindly researched the operations reports that covered the mission for which Don and Robin Hicks were flying support.)
The following are excerpts from 5th Special Forces Group, DET B-52, Project Delta After Action Report for Operation 68-2:
Codename: Samurai IV DTG [date time group]: 030468-040468
Tactical Area of Responsibility: A Shau Valley
The first narrative is that of MAJ Charles Allen, Commander Project Delta:
"(4) 29 March 1968. During the support of an infiltration of two Ranger companies, one UH-1H was shot down, but the crewmembers managed to make a soft landing on the LZ. The enemy fire wounded the pilot lightly. The next aircraft into the LZ dropped their passengers off and picked up the crew to the downed aircraft. A Marine CH-46, attempting to extract recovery personnel who had been placed in the LZ, was shot down in the LZ. A 281st UH-1H landed to pick up the Marine crew and was on the way out of the LZ when it received enemy fire, which killed the aircraft commander and damaged the aircraft so that it had to land on the same LZ again. One other UH-1H and another CH-46 were shot down in the vicinity of the LZ."
The following excerpt is from Annex C, 281st AHC Aviation Support, to AAR 68-2 Operation Samurai IV written by (unsigned, but probably a joint effort between 1LT Carney, S3 Air for Project Delta, and the 281st AHC Commander):
"bb. 29 Mar 68: DTG: 290615H Mar Project Delta FOB received estimated 12 rounds of 122mm rocket fire. 3 rounds landed inside perimeter. Neg casualties or damage sustained. 1st lift 91st Abn Ranger Bn (-) and CIDG Nung BDA Plat inserted into LZ in center of ARCLIGHT strike zone vic coord YD554037. TAC air prep and gunship placed suppressive fire around LZ prior to insertion at DTG: 291030H, Bn HQ reported receiving M-79 fire on the LZ. At DTG: 291032H during second lift one UH-1H A/C [McCoig, Kaufman, Robb and Schleher] crashed on LZ, crew extracted DTG: 291045H remainder of second lift inserted into LZ. During insertion SA/AW fire and est B-40 low ground vic coord YD553040. TAC air and helicopters placed suppressive fire with negative results. By DTG: 291500H ground fire had subsided with only sporadic SA fire. 30 additional personnel from 1st Ranger Co, Recon Team 3 and helicopter maintenance personnel were inserted into LZ. A smoke screen was placed on ridge line to the West of LZ by Delta air elements, while maintenance personnel rigged UH-1H and CH-46 helicopters for extraction. By DTG: 291545H Ranger elem. reported they had been receiving sporadic but steadily increasing to heavy W, M and M-79 fire from the West and North of the LZ. Gunship and TAC air support was employed. DTG: 291600H 1 CH-46 crashed on LZ, hit by MG and SA fire, at 1603 1 UH-1H A/C shot down in LZ, at 1606 helicopter which was hit by enemy fire returned to LZ and crashed [Hicks, McCoig, Embry, Wesley]. Ground fire had increased and fire was received from the West, Northwest and East of the LZ. TAC air and armed helicopters placed continuous suppressive fire utilizing both light and heavy ordnance. One CH-46, with cal sign SPACE 1-5 ceased communications at DTG: 291610H Mar. DTG: 291749H Sr. Ranger Adv reported continuing heavy contact and trying to break contact and move to the high ground. Adverse weather conditions closed over Delta AO causing TAC air support to terminate. Spooky arr. on station DTG: 291900H to continue support."
From: Stephen A. Matthews
"Rat Pack 15" 6/68-6/69
30 SW Pepper Tree Lane
Topeka, KS 66611
(NOTE: Steve kindly researched the unit records and provided the following information.)
The full AAR, contributed by Ken Kunke, then Asst. Ops. Officer, is located at 29MAR68.
An excerpt from the 281st AHC After Action Report written by MAJ Bobby Sinclair, 281st AHC Air Mission Commander for Delta Operation 68-2.
"... Feeling that an even chance existed to recover the crew of Space 1-6 [Marine CH-46], I directed Intruder 227 [Hicks, McCoig, Embry, Wesley], the medical recovery helicopter, into the landing zone to recover this crew. Intruder 227 landed in the landing zone, reported three crew members on board and exited to the north. I observed 227 on take off, received a call saying "We're hit, hit bad!" I immediately queried "Who’s hit and where are you?" The reply was "This is 227, McCoig is on the controls, I can't get him off and don't know whether I can control it or not!" I had been maintaining visual contact with 227, observed him in an extremely nose high right turn approximately 300 meters north of the landing zone. I advised 227 to have a crewmember get the Aircraft Commander off the controls, to continue his turn and try to make it back to the landing zone. 227 reported that he would try to make it but that the engine oil pressure had dropped to zero. I observed the helicopter return to the landing zone, land and shut down....
Just prior to departing the area to regroup and organize another extraction attempt of the downed crews and ground force casualties I received word that Warrant Officer McCoig had been killed, the other Intruder crewmembers were OK and that one Space 1-6 crewmember was seriously wounded....
A recovery flight was organized to attempt extraction of the wounded and dead, however before it could be launched the Delta FAC reported that low ceilings had sealed off the area. He stated that it would be impossible to maintain visual flight into the area. The decision was rendered to delay further recovery attempts until the weather improved. Reports received during the night revealed that the enemy maintained continual pressure on the ground elements; engaged in frequent probing attacks around their perimeter and gradually reduced their combat effectiveness as reflected by the casualty figures....
The morning of 30 March arrived with low ceilings and low visibility prevailing. Extraction of the ground force with its mounting casualties could not be attempted until the weather broke. Throughout the morning and early afternoon the enemy force maintained continual pressure on the ground elements. An NVA prisoner was captured by the ground force during the day and his interrogation revealed that an NVA Battalion was moving toward the friendly position from the northeast. It appeared as though total annihilation of the ground forces was a possibility to be considered....
At approximately mid-afternoon the weather broke sufficiently for TAC air to strike around the perimeter of the friendly elements...
All available aviation support was requested to extract the unit, however by 1700 that afternoon all that had arrived on station were 3 Dust OFF helicopters from the 571st Medical Co (Air Amb), and two MAG-36 CH-46 helicopters. .... It was decided that complete extraction of all elements would be attempted with resources then available.
With this limited support the lift began at 1820 hours: An hour and three minutes later the landing zone was cleared. ... Space 1-1 with full knowledge that gunship support was no longer available, reported he would attempt to extract all remaining personnel if I could vector him through the smoke to the landing zone. This was successfully accomplished and the extraction from this area was completed. ....
Although it is difficult to distinguish and separate the degrees of heroism displayed by personnel involved in this action I feel four aviators deserve consideration for award of the Distinguished Service Cross or its equivalency. These being first of all Warrant Officer Donald B. McCoig., as Aircraft Commander of Intruder 227, when he, at complete disregard for his own safety, piloted his aircraft back into a landing zone in which he had previously been downed in an attempt to recover fellow aircrew members. With full knowledge that at least four additional helicopters had met a similar fate, he landed, loaded the crew on board and received fatal wounds while exiting the landing zone.
Secondly, Warrant Officer Robin K. Hicks who regained control of the mortally stricken helicopter after Warrant Officer McCoig had been hit and returned it to the landing zone through a withering hail of gunfire. This action allowed the crewmen on board to link up with friendly elements....
From: Robert J. "Mo" Moberg
Delta Operations Commander and 281st AHC Executive Officer
"Bandit 26, Intruder 5" 67-68
Jusmagthai Box R3183
APO AP 96546
"Robin: Don Ruskauff wrote me about McCoig and you after I left. I sat in the Infantry Bar and cried. God bless you and Mac."
This tribute to WO Donald "Mac" McCoig was prepared in connection with 10th Combat Aviation Battalion Memorial & Dedications by the 10th Aviation Brigade at Ft. Drum, NY. The 10th AVN BGD dedicated five Aviation Brigade buildings (Avn Bde HQ, 2-10 Avn HQ, 2-10 Avn hangar, 1-10 Avn hangar, and 3/17 Cav hangar) to 10th CAB individuals. The individual from the 281st AHC which they selected was WO Donald B. McCoig.
(Ret) Jack Mayhew represented the 281st AHC, and spoke of
Donald, Robin, Ken, and Lionel on behalf of the 281st AHC.
A MAN IS NOT DEAD UNTIL HE IS FORGOTTEN
ONCE AN INTRUDER ... ALWAYS AN INTRUDER