June 13, 2004
Raymond Clausen, Who Served in Vietnam, Dies at 56
By Richard Goldstein
Raymond M. Clausen Jr., a helicopter crewman in the Vietnam War who was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing fellow marines stranded in a minefield under enemy fire, died May 30, 2004 at a hospital in Dallas. Mr. Clausen, who lived in Ponchatoula, La., was 56.
His death was announced by the Harry McKneely & Sons Funeral Home of Ponchatoula. He had been treated for liver failure, Rick Lottie, a spokesman for the Clausen family, told The Daily Star of Hammond, La.
Mr. Clausen, a native of New Orleans, enlisted in the Marines in May 1966 after attending Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond.
On Jan. 31, 1970, Private First Class Clausen, assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 of the First Marine Air Wing, flew as crew chief on a mission to rescue marines who had inadvertently entered an area containing American-laid mines while pursuing enemy troops near Da Nang.
Private Clausen guided the pilot to a landing in a patch of tall grass cleared by one of several mine explosions. Twenty marines were nearby, 11 of them wounded, one already dead, and the other 8 in place, fearful of setting off additional mines if they moved.
Private Clausen disobeyed an order by the helicopter pilot to remain on the craft. "I told him, `No, sir, I'm going off the plane,' " he recalled in an interview with The Dallas Morning News last January.
He leaped from the helicopter, ignored the presence of hidden mines, picked up a wounded marine and carried him back to the craft. Several other marines followed his path to the helicopter, knowing it would be clear of the mines.
Private Clausen then directed the helicopter to another spot and resumed his rescue efforts. His citation said that despite the threat of further mine explosions, he made six trips out of the helicopter. On one of them, a mine detonated while he was carrying a wounded marine, killing another member of the stranded platoon and wounding three other men.
"Only when he was certain that all marines were safely aboard did he signal the pilot to lift the helicopter," his citation said.
President Richard M. Nixon presented Mr. Clausen with the Medal of Honor at the White House on June 15, 1971.
Soon after leaving military service in 1970, Mr. Clausen was in an auto accident that left him in a coma for several months and impaired his ability to work, The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported. But he spoke often to veterans' organizations.
Mr. Clausen is survived by his wife, Lois, two brothers and a sister.
Medal of Honor
CLAUSEN, RAYMOND M.
Rank and Organization: Private First Class, U.S. Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing
Place and date: Republic of Vietnam, 31 January 1970
Entered service at: New Orleans, Louisiana
Born: 14 October 1947, New Orleans, Louisiana
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 263 during operations against enemy forces. Participating in a helicopter rescue mission to extract elements of a platoon which had inadvertently entered a mine field while attacking enemy positions Pfc. Clausen skillfully guided the helicopter pilot to a landing in an area cleared by 1 of several mine explosions. With 11 marines wounded, 1 dead, and the remaining 8 marines holding their position for fear of detonating other mines, Pfc. Clausen quickly leaped from the helicopter and, in the face of enemy fire, moved across the extremely hazardous mineladen area to assist in carrying casualties to the waiting helicopter and in placing them aboard. Despite the ever-present threat of further mine explosions he continued his valiant efforts leaving the comparatively safe area of the helicopter on 6 separate occasions to carry out his rescue efforts. On 1 occasion while he was carrying 1 of the wounded, another mine detonated, killing a corpsman and wounding 3 other men. Only when he was certain that all marines were safely aboard did he signal the pilot to lift the helicopter. By the courageous, determined and inspiring efforts in the face of the utmost danger, Pfc. Clausen upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the U.S. Naval Service.
This photo is circa 1985. Thanks to Sammy Davis for the photo
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