Ronald James Scharf

Private First Class
United States Marine Corps
06 October 1948 - 27 July 1969
Kenton, Ohio
Panel 20W Line 061


Purple Heart (2), National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Ronald James Scharf

27 July 1969


by Ruth Crates
05 Jan 2006

At the time of this incident I was a scout sergeant attached to India 3/5 during Operation Durham Peak. We were on the summit of Hill 881 and observed the CH-46 being shot down, crash and burn. A patrol was launched immediately. All bodies found at the crash site were evacuated out. Although two Marines were reported because the dead did not match the manifest, nothing was found.

J T McGaughey
LtCol USMC (Ret)

Notes from The Virtual Wall

On 27 July 1969 CH-46A BuNo 154018 from HMM-364 was shot down while conducting a medevac mission in support of 3rd Bn, 5th Marines. Eye-witness reports indicate the crash probably was due to both hydraulic boost systems being shot out, rendering the aircraft uncontrollable. That much is clear enough, but after that it gets a bit cloudy.
  • First, all available records indicate there was only one fatal helicopter incident in Quang Nam Province on 27 July 1969.

  • Second, everyone agrees that incident involved CH-46A BuNo 154018. The HMM-364 site says there were eleven live people aboard - ten Americans and one prisoner - while the HMM-364 Command Chronology states
    "On 27 July 1969 at 1530 hours, 17 miles SW of Da Nang, Quang Nam Province, RVN. Crew of YK-10 (bureau number 154018) of HMM-364 flying on an emergency medevac mission. Upon departure from the pick-up zone the aircraft received intense small arms fire and automatic fire. Aircraft impacted uncontrollably, exploded and burned. Aircraft consumed by fire. All crew and passengers were killed. Eleven lives were lost."
  • Third, there's no dispute that the supported ground unit was Lima Company, 3/5 Marines. The 3/5 Command Chronology contains the following entries:
    "271215H [12:15 PM, 27 Jul 1969] - Co L (S&D) at (AT971215) found what is believed to be an aid station. Results: 1 USMC KIA, 1 NVA KIA, 1 NVA POW"

    "271535H [3:35 PM, 27 Jul 1969] - Co L (Medevac mission) at (AT971405) Medevac chopper took fire and crashed at AT970404. On board were two pilots, 1 crew chief, two gunners, two corpsmen, one USMC KIA, one NVA POW, and two chasers from L company. Security could observe three bodies burning and pulled one body out of fire. No known survivors. Results: 5 USMC crew members killed, two USN KIA, 1 NVA KIA, 2 USMC KIA from Lima Company."

  • Fourth, one man from Fox Battery, 2/11 Marines, was involved. The 2/11 Marines Command Chronology confirms that F Btry 2/11 was in direct support of 3/5 Marines and provided their Forward Observer teams. The casualty database and the Central Identification Laboratory Hawaii database confirm that one Fox 2/11 radioman was killed in a helicopter crash in Quang Nam Province on 27 July 1969.

  • Fifth, the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots' Association states that ten men were killed in the crash, noting that an NVA POW was aboard - but the VHPA lists only five names.

  • Sixth, it's clear that one or more wounded were aboard. The 3/5 Chronology clearly states they had placed the body of one Marine aboard. On another site Robert Garcia states that he "was bumped off [the helicopter] because our wounded and the POW's took priority."

  • All sources agree there was one NVA POW on the aircraft.

  • And finally, the casualty database, 3/5 Command Chronology, and other sources indicate Lima 3/5 lost three men on 27 July:
    • Cpl Ralph D. Storm, Union City, CA (Silver Star) (coded as a ground casualty)
    • LCpl Leon R. Barickman, Lewisville, MN (coded as an air casualty)
    • Pfc Paul M. Du Charm, Washington, DC (coded as a ground casualty)
LtCol McGaughey's comment above both clarifies and confuses the issue - he confirms that all bodies were recovered ... but how many, and who were they?

The 3/5 Marines say they had one ground KIA (Corporal Storm, whose actions while assaulting the NVA position resulted in both his death and a posthumous Silver Star) and two "chasers" (prisoner guards) aboard the aircraft. The two chasers had to be LCpl Barickman and Pfc Du Charm, the other two Lima 3/5 Marines who died on 27 July 1969.

HMM-364 had six aircrewmen aboard the aircraft, not five as stated in the 3/5 Chronology or four as named in the VHPA database.

Only one Navy Corpsman was aboard the aircraft, not two; HM1 Charles L. Hackworth of MAG-16 was the only Corpsman who died in Quang Nam Province that day.

One member of the Fox 2/11 Forward Observer team was aboard, Pfc Ronald J. Scharf. Although the records are unclear, he probably had been wounded in the ground action and was being evacuated.

Counting the NVA POW there were eleven living men aboard the aircraft, and one body being evacuated. It therefore appears that ten Americans died in the incident, just as stated in the VHPA database, and eleven all told as stated in the HMM-364 Chronology. The only discrepancy is 3/5's failure to account for Pfc Scharf, who didn't actually belong to them - by leaving him out the 3/5 Chronology shows only ten living men and Cpl Storm's body aboard the aircraft. The ten Americans who died were

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Last updated 08/10/2009