The United States Marine Corps VMO-6 Observation Squadron saw extensive action on Okinawa during WW2 and went on to serve during both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. They became the first USMC helicopter to participate in combat operations when they took part in the Battle of Pusan Perimeter in August 1950.
In 1964 a new aircraft was assigned to the squadron and it received its first Bell UH-1E in August of 1965. VMO-6 was a part of MAG-36 and shipped out to Vietnam on the USS Precinct on 1st September 1965, they began operating out of 'Chu Lai'.
After receiving training from the US Army their helicopters were converted to primarily a gunship role and the majority of missions were to provide close air support to infantry and reconnaissance units. Operating from Chu Lai they participated in the following operations; Quang Ngai, Double Eagle, Blue Marlin and Duc Pho.
Whilst providing support to marines on Hill 488 on 15th June 1966 their new squadron commanding officer, Major William J. Goodsell, was killed in action when his helicopter was shot down.
In a separate operation Captain Stephen W. Pless and his crew rescued four soldiers under fire from a beach where they were about to be overrun, their chopper being heavily overweight and skimming the sea as the pilots tried to gain lift to get airborne. For their heroism 3 crew members were each awarded the Navy Cross.
Capt. Pless received the nations highest award, the Medal of Honor and became the only Marine aviator to receive this award during the Vietnam War. The combined crew (details at bottom of page) represent the highest decorated air crew to fly in Vietnam.
In October 1967 the squadron moved just South of Hue to Phu Bai, and a month later the squadron moved on to Quang Tri. In July 1968 the squadron received its first fixed wing aircraft since WW2 when they took delivery of a number of Cessna 0-1C Bird Dogs that were utilised to direct air strikes.
These were followed in October 1968 when the first consignment of six OV-10A Broncos joined VMO-6 at Marble Mountain, they began combat operations within 18 hours of arrival at Quang Tri.
The squadron flew in support of Marines at Khe Sanh, Con Thien, Lao Bao, Don Ha, Gio Lihn, The Rock Pile, Vandegrift Combat Base, Ben Hai and Fire Base Argonne. They also supported operations such as Apache Snow, Maine Craig, Scotland 2, Rice, Kentucky and Purple Martin.
Their biggest action was Operation Dewey Canyon between the 22nd January and 18th March 1969 when marines engaged Communist forces near the Laotian border. All three squadrons aircraft were involved with Hueys providing gunship support for 3rd Recon, escorting insertions, extractions, re-supply and medevac missions. Fixed wing aircraft provided forward air control, aerial recon and artillery spotting.
FINAL YEARS: In October 1969 VMO-6 departed South Vietnam for its new home at Marine Corps Station Futenma in Okinawa, from there they participated in exercises in places such as Cubi Point in the Philippines, Atsugi in Japan, Toega in South Korea, and The Republic of China.
On January 1st 1977 the squadron was deactivated, its personnel and aircraft were assigned to Headquarters & Maintenance Squadron 36.
Aircraft Commander: Captain Stephen W. Pless
Medal of Honor
Co-Pilot: Captain Rupert E. Fairfield, Jr.
Crew Chief: Lance Corporal John G. Phelps
Door Gunner: Gunnery Sergeant Leroy N. Poulson