The most decorated air crew of the Vietnam War. Left to Right: GySgt Leroy Poulson, LCpl John Phelps, Capt Rupert Fairfield, Capt Stephen Pless. USMC Photo.
In January 1969, Pless (second from left) was presented the Medal of Honor at the White House, along with 3 other servicemen. (Drew Dix is the last man on the right.)
On 19 August 1967, an Army CH-47 Chinook flew north along the coast of Vietnam. It came under heavy ground fire a mile south of Chu Lai and was forced down on the beach of the South China Sea. Four soldiers exited the aircraft to inspect the damage sustained.
As they inspected the bird, a grenade suddenly exploded in front of the chopper and small arms fire followed after. The soldiers sprinted towards the rear of the aircraft to board and escape the ambush. The pilot saw enemy soldiers emerging from the trees nearby and bullets kicked up the sand all around. Next mortar rounds began falling around his aircraft. He hastily yanked the chopper back into the sky, without realizing his passengers had not yet made it back on board.
As he gained altitude, the pilot saw the four soldiers stranded on the beach with the enemy closing in. He called over the radio for help from anyone who might be listening.
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