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"KLONDIKE - rolling in hot"
Brief History of Marine Observation Squadron Six
Marine Observation Squadron Six was established as an active aviation unit on 20 November, 1944 at Quantico, Virginia. After a short training and qualification period with the OY-1 observation aircraft, the squadron was transferred to Camp Pendleton, California to train with the 6th Marine Division, which was formed at this time.
On 26 January, 1945, the squadron departed for Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Additional training was accomplished and the unit completed staging for its participation in the operation to take Okinawa. Shortly after D-Day, 1 April, 1945, VMO-6 moved ashore and began operations from Yontan Airstrip which was captured from the Japanese. During the battle for Okinawa, VMO-6 flew twelve OY-1 aircraft on a variety of missions. These missions included artillery spotting, message pick-ups, photo reconnaissance and the evacuation of wounded in litter equipped OY's
VMO-6 participated in the battle of Okinawa until its conclusion on 21 June 1945. The squadron was awarded the first Presidential Unit Citation for its accomplishments during the Okinawa operation as well as the Asiatic Medal with 1 battle star.
On 8 July, 1945, the squadron departed for Guam, where it remained until deployment to North China on 12 October 1945. This was a peacetime occupation and was ended by the southward push of the Chinese Communist Forces. VMO-6 was awarded the China Service medal for its service in North China.
VMO-6 returned to the United States and practically disappeared into the hills of Camp Pendleton until July of 1950. Chappo Flats has been the home of VMO-6 between its tours of duty overseas. The call came again….
With the addition of HO3S-1 helicopters and pilots of HMX-1 Quantico, Virginia, VMO-6 became the first active Combat Helicopter Unit in the United States Marine Corps when it departed for the Far East on 14 July 1950. VMO-6 arrived in Kobe, Japan with four HO3S-1 Sikorsky Helicopters and eight OY-1 fixed wing aircraft. The unit staged through Itami, Air Base, Japan to Korea.
Almost immediately VMO-6 began making a name for itself. The command capability of the helicopter was tried and proven with great success. The OY-s flew convoy escort for the First Marine Brigade as well as observation and reconnaissance missions. On 4 August 1950, VMO-6 flew its first casualty and was followed by an ever increasing number of “evacs” from day to day. Capt. Victor A Armstrong (now Colonel) flew the first night Evac of the Korean War.
VMO-6 continued to operate successfully in Korea, flying dawn to dusk reconnaissance flights, rescue evacuations and artillery spotting in support of the 1st Marine Brigade attacks and counter attacks. VMO-6 received their new observation aircraft, the O6-1’s late in 1951. About the same time they replaced the HO3S’s with the HTL-4 Bell Helicopters. Then in July 1952 the squadron received twelve HO5S-1 Sikorsky helicopters.
During the thirty five months of combat in Korea, VMO-6 flew a total of 7067 wounded men with serious wounds, classified as emergency “EVACS” these casualties were flown to various field hospitals and hospital ships. VMO-6 was awarded its second Presidential Unit Citation for its action in Korea along with the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, the Navy Unit Commendation Medal and the Korean Service medal with five battle stars.
In March of 1955, VMO-6 was ordered back to the States. The squadron arrived at NAS North Island, San Diego, California, and proceeded on up to Camp Pendleton. On 22 April 1955, the squadron was once again at Chappo Flats Airstrip.
VMO-6 remained at Camp Pendleton supporting the First Marine Division, training pilots, observers, crew chiefs, mechanics, and all personnel it takes to make up a fighting outfit. Ready to go if they were needed. And they were needed…..
VMO-6 again left for war. Leaving Long Beach, California 11 August 1965, they arrived at Chu Lai Republic of Viet-Nam on 1 September 1965. There was a brief indoctrination with the Army at DaNang, then the squadron began operating out of Ky Ha airstrip at Chu Lai. VMO-6’s call sign Klondike soon became known through out South Viet Nam.
During the fiscal year 1967 VMO-6 won the CNO Safety Award for the second year in a row, thus bringing their total accident free hours to 40,773. An all time high for VMO squadrons was attained with 16,468 hours, 35,321 sorties, and 10,643 combat missions flown.
VMO-6 continued to distinguish themselves in combat support operations throughout the I Corps area. The squadron kill record soared to 806. The “huey” gunships escorted 3623 medical evacuation missions. The “huey” slicks carried 1345 medevacs.
This book is a reflection of the hard work and hard play of the officers and men of Klondike.
"A well done to the men of Klondike. The record of VMO-6 is such that each of you may be justly proud. Through all the hardships and dangers of war, I have found your courage and performance to equal every challenge and every call.
The Klondikers who have given their lives, we mourn with pride, those who have shed their blood and those who carry on, you have served well the Marine Corps and your country."
Lt. Colonel Joseph A. Nelson.
Commanding Officer 27 March, 1967.
Lt. Colonel Nelson was the commanding officer of VMO-6 when the 1967 Cruise book was created. He was also in command when Stephen Pless flew his historic POW rescue mission for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Colonel Nelson has many personal accounts of the men of his squadron - the Klondikers - Valor Remembered will publish some of those in these pages.
Colonel Nelson is a veteran of three major wars, and untold other actions. During World War II he flew fighters in the Pacific and witnessed the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki from the cockpit of his fighter. He fought again in the Korean War. In Vietnam he was first put in charge of the construction of the air base at Chu Lai. He commanded VMO-6 for most of 1967, a period of time when the squadron was heavily engaged in combat throughout the I Corps area. Despite numerous hard fought battles with the enemy, not a single member of his squadron was killed while Joe Nelson was in charge. After leaving VMO-6 Colonel Nelson was assigned the task of preparing a contingency plan for the final evacuation of American personnel from Saigon. Years later Colonel Nelson's plan was followed in the actual evacuation under fire of the thousands of American and Vietnamese from Saigon.