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Old 21 October 2012, 00:25
Freebird Freebird is offline
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1977 Mindoro Crash

Thirty five years ago today, on October 21, 1977 a CH-53 crashed on the Philippine island of Mindoro, killing 24 of the 37 onboard. Our battalion, BLT 3/9 had just finished Operation Fortress Lightning and we were being transported by helos back to Subic Bay, where we would later board the ships and head back to Okinawa. This CH-53, with its crew of four was carrying 31 Marines and two Navy Corpsmen with all of their gear. It also had a water bull hooked to the lift under it. If my knowledge and memory serves me correctly, there was some type of problem with the tail rotor which caused it to go into a spin shortly after take off. It struck the side of a mountain, rolling down the mountain and eventually bursting into flames. I believe, or at least was always told that all of the 13 survivors were either thrown out during the spin or fell out as it rolled down the mountain. I do know that at least a couple of them were found in tree tops.

A few of these guys went through ITS in Camp Pendleton with me and we all went as a group to Okinawa in 1976 for a one year assignment with 3/9. At the time of this crash, we had less than 2 months until we returned to the states.

Unfortunately, news of this helicopter crash was then, and remains today overshadowed by the news of a plane crash in Mississippi a couple of hours earlier that killed members of the band Lynard Skynard.

Rest in Peace, Brothers. You are not forgotten.

  • Capt. J. L. Crapse
  • Capt. G. M. Gebhardt
  • Sgt. D. G. Smith
  • Sgt. C. W. Anderson
  • Sgt. W. E. Casey
  • Cpl. O. Hallam
  • Cpl. R. N. Bennett
  • Cpl. L. H. Ernsberger Jr.
  • LCpl. F. R. Aguirre
  • LCpl. A. R. Baker
  • LCpl. A. R. Dicag
  • LCpl. A. Suda Jr.
  • LCpl. S. R. Bowman
  • LCpl. M. L. Fitzpatrick
  • LCpl. H. J. Layne
  • LCpl. M. L. Quiane
  • LCpl. J. L. West
  • PFC J. P. Bauer
  • PFC K. M. Brinkley
  • PFC B. I. Jones
  • PFC M. A. Lafferre
  • PFC K. K. Schwartz
  • PFC D. A. Wright
  • HA S. R. Dolan (USN)
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Old 21 October 2012, 00:50
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Old 21 October 2012, 01:07
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RIP Men
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Old 21 October 2012, 01:10
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Rest in Peace, Brothers.
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Old 21 October 2012, 08:08
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RIP Marines



Very fond memories of Kilo & Wpns 3/9 (BLT), circa 80'/81'
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Old 21 October 2012, 08:21
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agonyea agonyea is offline
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Rest in Peace Warriors. Thank you for your service and sacrifice for this greatful nation.


Date: October 21, 1977
Time: 10:30

Location: Mindoro, Philippines

Operator: Military - U.S. Marine Corps

Flight #: ?

Route: ?

AC Type: Sikorksky CH-53 (helicopter)

Registration: 157139

cn / ln: ?

Aboard: 37 (passengers:? crew:?)

Fatalities: 31 (passengers:? crew:?)

Ground: 0

Summary: After lifting a water container the aircraft began rotating until control was lost and contact was made with the ground, shearing off the tail rotor and a large portion of the tail assembly. New engines were installed in the CH-53s to increase the power of the main rotor and on a whole to make the helicopter more powerful. However, it was soon evident that the tail rotor could not balance the increased power created by the main rotor. Under certain conditions the aircraft would become unstable and lose directional heading. Sikorsky warns of these conditions. To compensate for the mistake that had been made, Sikorsky designed and tested a bell crank system to stabilize the rear rotor. After seven years, this helicopter was still not retrofitted with the bell crank system. Gross weight of the container exceeded the lifting capacity of the helicopter. No restrains used by the passengers
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Last edited by agonyea; 21 October 2012 at 08:36.
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Old 21 October 2012, 08:42
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I found this website with alot of comments and an explanation from one of the Marines at the time. It is not from a accident investigation review board at the time, but you can go on to read page after page comments of this crash.

Semper Fi everyone, I just found this site today, and saw this thread.

I was in Subic Bay with Bn Supply, H&S Co, 3/9 when it happened.

I knew 2 who were on board, a big Hawaiian or Samoan guy (cannot remember his name) whom I pulled mess duty with in Camp Schwab, he was killed in the crash. The other was Michael Kane. I flew with him from Ft Hamilton in Brooklyn to SC and on to Parris Island, where we were in boot camp in the same Platoon (185). Kane survived the crash. From the way I remember it, he was injured (broken arm or leg), but somehow managed to get to a top of a hill, met someone there (rescue
team?), saluted and said "I'm a gunji mutha f-----r, sir!"



I just found this thread, in fact just found this site. I was a radio operator with 9th Mab (controllers of Op Fortress Lightning) I was on radio watch when that chopper went down. There was some confusion as to whether it was "part of the training" or a real crash for a few seconds.
Now as to the rest of this I have nothing other than the memories and what I was told happened. I was told that there were 2 CH 53's, one loaded with your brother and the others and one empty. I was told the pilot of the empty one radioed the other one to tell him to leave the water buffalo (trailer) and he'd get it. The other one said he could manage. It was a bit too much for the helicopter and when he lifted out of ground effect he lost lift and the tail rotor struck the mountain. I was also told that there was a MSgt or something like that who was throwing people out the back as the chopper tumbled down the mountain but I don't know if that's true either

The explaination I heard after it happened, is the 53 was fully loaded with Marines with full combat gear and alice packs, and in addition the 53 was carrying a water buffalo via cable below it. The cable snapped, whipped back up at the tail rotor, causing the 53 to lose control and rotate, ejecting several Marines out the back, and then subsequently rolled down a hill.

After it occured, I was ordered to Mindoro (nervously via 53) for the sole purpose of banding what was left of the 2 turbines and tail rotor stem to a couple of pallets. I believe those were the largest and/or most recognizable parts left of the accident.

My heart goes out to everyone who lost a Marine on that flight.

Semper Fi....

Ken Maddis

PS: Kane......you still around?

Here is the website:


http://www.leatherneck.com/forums/sh...er-Crash/page2
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Last edited by agonyea; 21 October 2012 at 09:01.
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Old 21 October 2012, 12:47
Hostile0311 Hostile0311 is offline
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Rest easy Brothers. Semper Fi.
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Old 22 October 2012, 13:11
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Rest in Peace men...
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Old 22 October 2012, 13:35
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Old 22 October 2012, 14:41
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Old 8 June 2013, 15:29
Seawarrior Seawarrior is offline
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I was there in that small LZ... It was a long 33 day op, I was one team away from getting on that Helo still in contact with some of Lima 3/9... It was a very bad day. ooRah!
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Old 8 June 2013, 15:50
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Seawarrior, welcome aboard dude.

Please fill out your intro post in the thread per the board's registration requirements and we look forward to having you here....
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Old 8 June 2013, 18:43
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R.I.P. Gents~
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