Dedicated to the Preservation of the
U.S. Air Force Helicopter History
David Michael Davison, Airman First Class, USAF (KIA)July 19, 1949 – December 05, 1969
Airman First Class, U.S. Air Force
On 5 December 1969, Airman First Class David Michael Davison was serving as a Pararescue / Recovery Specialist (PJ) with the 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron, 3rd Air Rescue Group, 7th Air Force, in South Vietnam.
On that day, A1C Davison was in a HH-53 helicopter, call sign Jolly 76, whose mission was to pick up survivors. Davis was killed in action over Laos when he was struck in the head by ground fire. His body was recovered.
The events of that mission are contained in the following JG 76 Mission Report dated 13 December 1969 and recorded by Captain Holly G. Bell, Aircraft Commander.
At this point the HH-53’s had been airborne for nearly three hours. Jolly 76 was low bird and Jolly 72 was the high bird. The low bird’s crew was pilot Capt Holly Bell, co-pilot Capt Martin Weeks, FE Sgt James Corcoran, photographer Sgt Lawrence Brown and PJ’s Sgt DouglasCrowder and A1C David Davison. In his after action report, Captain Bell describes what happened next.
“At 13:55, Sandy told us to approach from the west northwest at high speed and low altitude. We began to pick up ground fire from the top of the karst about a mile and a half from the survivors positions, and were under fire of varying intensity until we exited the area. A1C Davison was the first to spot and return fire from the #3 minigun position. Breaking out of the karst and over the open valley, the ground fire dropped off momentarily, then it increased tremendously. The Sandy’s were dropping CBU and firing 20mm cannon shells into the karst face and into the ground and as close as 100 feet of us. The FE mistook a string of CBU’s going off as really heavy ground fire and called for me to abort the attempt. He immediately realized his mistake and called for me to continue. I had started to roll right to exit the area, but reversed the roll and continued the approach. This placed me directly over Boxer 22 Alpha at high speed and headed directly into a karst face infested with gun positions. I saw one large caliber tracer round pass off to the right side. My main focus was directed to surveying the area below for the lowest possible area to hover near the survivor. JG 76 was nearly in a hover at this point when the entire crew called that ground fire was increasing. It really erupted. Through the noise of the engines, rotors and our own miniguns, it sounded like we were inside a pop corn machine. The Sandy’s executed a “Daisy Chain” around us as we slowed to make the pickup. JG 76 got directly over Boxer 22 Alpha when heavy ground fire erupted from all sides. We received multiple hits in the fuselage and rotor system and the aircraft began to vibrate badly. I knew if we took more hits, my Jolly would be shot down. I applied power and began to exit the area. As I flew by the karst face on the west side of the valley, I could see numerous caves along the base of the karst which held gun positions that were firing on us.”
“During egress from the valley, Sgt Corcoran called that A1C Davison had been badly hit. Dave Davison had bravely defended his aircraft by firing from his minigun position almost continuously until wounded. I told my other PJ to give him aid and we would RTB. Fellow PJ Doug Crowder ran to Dave to provide emergency medical care. Shortly afterward, Sgt Corcoran informed me that A1C Davison was dead. He had taken a small arms round through his head.
Sergeants Crowder and Corcoran reluctantly moved back to their duty stations. The FE then inspected the aircraft for battle damage. He found numerous holes in the fuselage, right aux fuel tank, and a small hydraulic leak in the forward cabin area. The aircraft was vibrating moderately as we climbed out of the area at 80 knots. I tried different airspeeds to see how it would affect the vibration. At about 105 knots, the vibration disappeared. This speed was maintained back to NKP. About 30 miles from NKP, the utility hydraulic system failed. We reviewed bailout procedures and discussed what was affected by this system failure. A shallow approach to a running landing was made at NKP. The brakes failed, so I used the rotors to stop the aircraft. Post flight inspection revealed hits in all rotor blades, swash plate, utility hydraulic system and numerous holes in the fuselage.”
After getting out of the Nam Ngo Valley, Jolly 76’s pilot immediately radioed the OSC. “Sandy 5, this is Jolly 76. My crew just advised me that the survivors are surrounded. We took small arms fire from every direction around the survivors. The bad guys have climbed up into the trees and were firing on us. You guys have to get that 23mm gun that is shooting at us from the cave. Over.”
“OK Jolly 76. I understand. I think I got the cave in sight. I thought I saw muzzle flashes out of there. We dropped nape and everything else on that mother and he is still hanging on. So, we’ll have to get him.”
Medals, Awards & Badges
Silver Star MedalDistinguished Flying CrossPurple HeartAir Medal with 3 Bronze Oak Leaf ClustersPresidential Unit CitationNational Defense Service MedalVietnam Service MedalVietnam Campaign MedalAir Force Aircrew BadgeParachutist Badge
The name David M Davison is inscribed on Panel W15 Line 27 of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.
A1C David M. Davison has Honoree Record 8221 at MilitaryHallofHonor.com.