The entries below concerning the events at the time of Kenneth Kessinger's death are from the Pop-A-Smoke site.
Submitted by John Boden, VMO-6, pilot of gunship on site
It was in the late afternoon after almost completing a 24 hour medevac stand-by in which the two crews had flown
numerous missions. The pilots had been alternating duty between the pick-up bird and the gunship.
I can not say for sure but I believe Al Dean was flying the right seat and opted for the pick-up for this flight. We
were just north of the II Corp line about 5-6 miles from the beach. The pick up was on a large flat hill top and I
believe there were 2 wounded with 4 marines carrying them on litters.
We were directed to the northeast area of the hill to avoid the area to the south of the hill from which the Marines
were receiving sporadic fire from the enemy. We received no warning of potential mines that I can recall.
The slick made a spiraling approach to the LZ while the wounded waited with the 4 men carrying them. As the bird
flared into a hover in preparation for a landing, the four marines began to run to the bird with the wounded. Just
before the bird set down from their hover a huge explosion occurred and everyone and everything just disappeared.
The crew in my plane was stunned, shocked and in disbelief.
We made contact with the troops to the south of the hill who had no explanation of what had happened. We made
immediate contact with the DASC to request additional Medevac pick-up birds and another gunship. They
estimated about 1 hour before their arrival. We then made contact with a headquarters base located on the west
side of the hill. To conserve fuel we landed at there position. We were able to learn in detail the ground situation
and maintain contact to be ready to assist and provide cover for the birds enroute.
Dark fell in the interim, but the planning we were able to do while at the HQ and the coordination with the troops
on the ground allowed us to return to the same general area of the blast, and pick up all the KIA and wounded
without further incident. The flight home was IFR on top, low fuel and a radar controlled let down over the water.
Radar instructions were as usual "You are cleared VFR when you can see the water." There were many tough
flights, but none so emotionally devastating. The loss of good friends in such a quick and unexplainable way lingers
with me to this day. We learned later that it was a 500 lb. bomb with wires leading from it that caused this most
unique and horrible incident. Any family members who wish to contact me are more than welcome.
Submitted by Jay Fitzpatrick/Cpl. Fits, present on the ground with G/2/7
The day before the incident I was on patrol and spotted one USMC tank atop one of two hills. Didn't think much
of it then. Next day my company did a sweep towards the two hills which were very close to the water. We shot up
alot of VC and civilians as I recall. I remember firing on several VC in the water and one young girl being brought
in shot in the arm or leg. We had many captured weapons and did quite a bid of damage that day but I didn't feel
good about it. Late in the afternoon the Captain decided to split the Company and stay the night upon two hills.
My platoon (2nd.) went to the south hill and the other plt(s) went to the north hill. (The hill I saw the tank on the
day before). My squad had just reached the top when a small explosion occurred and we saw/heard that on the
other hill a Marine was hit. I had a very good view of the opposite hill because it was lower and barren. Two
choppers came for the medevac and as one hovered above, the other came in but did not touch down. I was
watching. The stretcher with the wounded man came up and an explosion erupted and it was all gone, in an instant.
I saw the front of the chopper catapult south. The chopper circling then left. I can only imagine what they
thought. It was not yet dark so my squad was directed to cross the hill into the small valley and assist with the
wounded. I was volunteered. Another squad leader came up and said to sit tight - he would take a few men from his
squad and help. At least one more explosion occurred from that valley - but I think there were two. They were big
and all night we searched for the dead and wounded. By morning I searched the base of the hill and found wires
(which I think were rigged just that day to take out the tank the next time it set up on the hill). I also found the
body of the squad leader that took my place and many other buddies when the sun came up.
Submitted by Carl Zarling, Corpsman G-2-7
On April 5, 1967 we were setting in for the night and a listening post was to be established on the opposite hill. At
the first explosion, I ran down the hill I was on and up the other hill to find Bob Cote had been severely wounded.
He had a through and through wound in his lower abdomen.
I yelled for a Priority 1 evac and began bandaging his wounds, trying to stem the flow of blood. Within fifteen
minutes, I could hear the chopper coming in. Due to the slope of the hill and the fact that we did not know what
caused the explosion, the chopper eased in and hovered inches of the ground. The Marines picked up Cote, who we
had on a poncho and had him about half way through the door and I had just stepped in past the cockpit to throw
his gear in. The last thing I saw was a flash of reddish orange coming from under the bird.
When I came to, the chopper was gone and the hill was on fire. By this time Lt Toepritz, Glenn Bristow, Jim Bolten
and several other Marines had come up the hill to aid in getting the new casualties off the hill.
I had been taken back to the other hill and was waiting for the next evac when there was another explosion. Not
long after that, a Chinook [possibly a Marine H-46] came in to evacuate the casualties. The next day the remains of
the rest of those killed were brought in to Chu Lai. I just recently learned about the com wire that it is said was
used to cause the explosion.