David Walter Sterling

First Lieutenant
HMM-364, MAG-36, 1ST MAW
United States Marine Corps
04 March 1944 - 26 January 1969
Gladwin, Michigan
Panel 34W Line 089



Naval Aviator

DFC, Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for David Walter Sterling

22 Jul 2003

At about 3 AM on the morning of 26 Jan 1969 two CH-46s launched from Marble Mountain on an emergency medevac mission. The pick-up aircraft, CH-46D BuNo 153997, was crewed by

There was no moon and visibility was limited by haze. As the flight proceeded to the west at an altitude of 3,000 feet, Meyer's aircraft ran directly into the side of Ba Na Mountain, the only terrain feature in the area that extended above 3,000 feet. While it couldn't be proven, it was postulated that Meyer probably was flying instruments and depending on the Danang TACAN for navigational purposes. Other aircrews had experienced Danang TACAN errors of 40 degrees or so in the vicinity of Ba Na Mountain, and post-crash reconstructions of the flight route indicated that a 40 degree lock-off would place the aircraft exactly at the point of impact on Ba Na.

The chase aircraft, piloted by 1st Lt Don Robbins, attempted to lower crewman LCpl Curtis P. Knox to the crash site to check for survivors, but when the jungle penetrator cable was fully extended Knox was still 50 feet above the ground. Robbins abandoned the attempt, only to find that the hoist retract was inoperable and Knox could not be hoisted aboard. Knox dangled below the CH-46D while Robbins flew six miles to the nearest secure landing zone, where he gently lowered his aircraft until Knox was safely on the ground.

These seven men, and the other Purple Foxes who served in Vietnam, are remembered by the women who waited at home, whether mothers, sisters, wives, daughters, or friends. Those women, the

Purple Foxy Ladies
Purple Foxy Ladies

continue to support today's Purple Foxes of HMM-364 as they serve our country.

the Purple Foxes

on-line or go to our unit page
on The Virtual Wall

A memorial initiated by the
Purple Foxy Ladies

30 May 2005

Thank you, David, for answering your nation's call to service. Your efforts were not in vain and will not be forgotten. You displayed the courage and selflessness of a true patriot. You are greatly missed.

From a family friend,
Dave Nunn

The President of the United States
takes pride in presenting the


posthumously to

First Lieutenant
United States Marine Corps Reserve

for service as set forth in the following


"For heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight while serving with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, Marine Aircraft Group Sixteen, First Marine Aircraft Wing in connection with operations against the enemy in the Republic of Vietnam. Early on the morning of 26 January 1969, First Lieutenant Sterling launched as Copilot aboard the lead aircraft in a flight of two CH-46 transport helicopters assigned the emergency medical evacuation of a seriously wounded Marine from an unsecure landing zone southwest of DaNang in Quang Nam Province. Realizing the urgency of extracting the injured man, First Lieutenant Sterling, undaunted by the total darkness, hazardous mountain terrain and threat of hostile fire, resolutely elected to assist in attempting the evacuation. As the helicopter approached the site, First Lieutenant Sterling was monitoring his radio for a briefing on the tactical situation in the landing zone when his aircraft was observed to suddenly veer to the right, and almost immediately, there was a flash and an explosion which fatally injured all the occupants. Aware that the CH-46 had crashed into a mountainside, the wingman approached the crash site to determine the fate of the helicopter and its crew and was forced to abort his approach due to intense enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire. First Lieutenant Sterling's courage, resolute determination and unwavering devotion to duty in a bold attempt to save the life of a fellow Marine were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the service of his country."

/s/ W. H. Buse, Jr.


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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