One Ride with Yankee Papa 13

Photographer Larry Burrows’ Report From Da Nang, Vietnam

Cover of LIFE Magazine April 16, 1965 Vol.58, No.15


Vietcong zero in on vulnerable U.S. copters.

In a U.S. copter in thick of fight a shouting crew chief, a dying pilot

It was another day’s work for the U.S. Marines’ Helicopter Squadron 163 in Vietnam. In the sultry morning the crews huddled at Da Nang for the final briefing on their mission: to airlift a battalion of Vietnamese infantry to an isolated area about 20 miles away. Intelligence reports indicated that the area was a rendezvous point for the communist Vietcong, who come down the Ho Chi Minh trail from the north. Among those listening at the briefing were Lance Cpl. James C. Farley (below), crew chief of the copter Yankee Papa 13, and life Photographer Larry Burrows, who had been covering the war in Vietnam since 1962 and had flown on scores of helicopter combat missions. On this day he would be riding in Farley’s machine and both were wondering whether the mission would be a no contact milk run or whether, as had been increasingly the case in recent weeks, the Vietcong would be ready and waiting with 30-caliber machine guns. In a very few minutes Farley and Burrows had their answer, as shown in his chilling photographic and word report on these pages. And after Yankee Papa 13 had limped back home bullet-riddled and blood stained, Burrows received a special souvenir from Lt. Colonel Norman Ewers, the squadron skipper. Said Ewers as he handed Burrows a set of air crewman’s wings an emblem given to some few Marines and damned few civilians: “You’ve earned it”.

Just before take-off, PFC Wayne Hoilien and Farley give their bird a stem-to-stern going over. The crew chief found a kinked fuel line, which might have led to an engine fire.

Then, as the flight begins, the two adjust their head sets and unlimber the machine guns (below) for what lies in store.