Gerald Owen NortonHospital Corpsman 2nd Class
HMM-163, MAG-16, FMFPAC
United States Navy
31 December 1938 - 06 October 1962
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The database page for Gerald Owen Norton
Gerald O. Norton was 23 years old when he became the first Navy Hospital Corpsman killed in the Vietnam War. He was flying on a UH-34D (Dog) helicopter which was assigned as the SAR (Search and Rescue) aircraft in a gaggle of 20 helicopters carrying Vietnamese troops south of Tam Ky, Vietnam.
It is stated that his helicopter experienced catastrophic mechanical failure and crashed into a mountainside killing all on board except the pilot. Among those killed was the first of three Navy Flight Surgeons killed in Vietnam, 28 year old LT Gerald C. Griffin.
I write this not only as a former MEDEVAC Corpsman but because his/their place in history should be noted. I would appreciate hearing from anyone who actually knew Gerald Norton or has detailed information regarding the incident.
A Note from The Virtual WallThe SHUFLY program used Fleet Marine Force Pacific helicopter squadrons to augment the very limited Army aviation presence in Vietnam. The Marine squadrons rotated in and out of Vietnam, and moved around the country as required to provide necessary support to the Army of the Republic of Viet Nam (ARVN).
As noted above, on 6 Oct 1962 Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 163 (HMM-163) was providing lift support for a 2nd ARVN Division operation in northern SVN, perhaps the first time SHUFLY had operated that far north. UH-34D BuNo 145790 had been tasked for SAR and maintenance support. Eight men were aboard the aircraft:
UH-34D 145790 was SHUFLY's first fatal loss, but hardly the Corps' last in Vietnam. Over the next 13 years 700 men died in Marine helicopter incidents in Vietnam. It is ironic that both the first and the last USMC helicopter losses in Vietnam were operational rather than combat losses, and that both involved "body not recovered" situations. Captain William C. Nystul and 1stLt Michael J. Shea were lost in the crash of CH-46D BuNo 154042 on 29 April 1975 while providing SAR coverage during the evacuation of Vietnam.
"You guys are the Marine's doctors -
There's none better in the business than a Navy Corpsman ..."
-- Lieutenant General "Chesty" Puller --
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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