Steve Ratcliffe's account:
We got scrambled out to a squad of the 11th brigade that was in contact
with the bad guys out in the mountains just to the northwest of Duc
Pho. I don't remember who our wingman was. (If anybody knows who was
flying with us that day, let me know.)
We were flying around shooting up the countryside when Shark #590
developed a fuel starvation problem. Mr. Clark, with his great flying
skills, quickly got us out of the contact area and was looking for a
place to put it on the ground. We were about 20 feet off the ground,
directly over a two-tier rice paddy, when the engine finally quit!
Mr. Clark maneuvered the aircraft to the right in order to land on level ground.
We hit the ground pretty hard and bounced a couple of times.
Since this was my First and Only Crash during my tour, I was getting my
stuff together to be ready to find a good fighting position when we hit
While we were still in the air and Mr.Clark was looking for an LZ, I took my M-60 off the
bungee cord and gathered up some extra ammo ready to do my thing when we
landed. The only thing I forgot to do was buckle my seatbelt. I was
wearing my monkey harness, which I had on a reasonably short length.
We hit the ground rather hard, and when we did my M-60 went in one direction and I bounced
out of the helicopter in the other. That is until I reached the end of the harness strap, when it jerked
me back against the aircraft like a dog on a short leash.
We were lucky nobody was shooting at us.
We broke a chin bubble during the landing and spread the skids, but that's all. The grunts came in to
secure the aircraft. We got picked up and made it back to Duc Pho in time for Christmas Dinner.
We didn't want to see Bob Hope that day anyway.
(Editors note: Losing an engine in a fully-armed UH-1 gunship at low altitude and low airspeed, then maneuvering while autorotating into a soft rice paddy, is NOT a rookie maneuver. WO1 Clark did an excellent job in minimizing damage to the aircraft and injury to the crew.)