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"I always knew that I wanted to fly, I just knew I wanted to fly, the thought of going up there and flying the airplane, I thought was the ultimate, and of course to be a naval aviator was the pinnacle." (Video Interview, 30:55)

   Marvin Francis Pixton, III
Collection image
Marvin Pixton [2007]
War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Marine Corps
Unit: HMM-162 (Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron); VMO-2 (Marine Observation Squadron); HML-167 (Marine Light Helicopter Squadron); VT-1 (Training Squadron); VMA-214 (Marine Attack Squadron); VMA-311
Service Location: Quantico, Virginia; Pensacola, Florida; North Carolina; Vietnam; California; Rhode Island; Washington, DC
Rank: Colonel
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Marvin Pixton yearned to be a pilot from an early age and was disappointed when he failed the eye exam to become a Marine pilot. However, he retook the exam and passed it, going on to a 25-year career in the Marines. He served two tours of duty above Vietnam: one in helicopters (1967-8), the other in jets (1972-3). (His unit was the last to leave Vietnam.) He preferred the former, which allowed him closer contact with the men on the ground he was supporting. He survived several near-catastrophes, once watching a plane in front of his hit a mountain in bad weather.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (9 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: video (49 min.)
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»Wings of War
 Video (Interview Excerpts) (9 items)
Volunteered while in college for Platoon Leaders' Class, similar to Officer Candidate School; was attending University of Maryland on track scholarship; first days in service; visiting girlfriend on his first weekend in program, addressing an officer casually; picked on by drill instructor for his outfit; suit and straw hat. (03:45) Went to flight school to become a pilot; first job in squadron was property officer; unit had just come back from Vietnam low on equipment and about to embark on assignment in the Caribbean; he had to scramble to recover all equipment, catalogue and box it. (01:03) Tours in Vietnam, lost 30 percent of squadron; describes nature of his duties aboard Huey gunships; did everything from escorts to running airstrikes to being lead aircraft for Army's Special Operations Group. (01:38)
Family might have worried about him, not knowing exactly what he was doing; once he has to write to explain that his and another craft had been shot down; on the ground for a couple of hours; no one on the second aircraft survived; did two tours of Vietnam: in helicopters, stationed at Marble Mountain, outside Da Nang, and in A-4 jets, stationed at Bien Hoa Air Base, near Saigon. (01:11) Not much time for entertainment; flew missions at night; keeping two aircraft airborne from dusk to sunup to watch for blasts coming in to air bases to locate origin of attacks. (00:50) Preferred flying helicopters as he loved supporting ground troops; trying to rescue downed Army aircraft; caught in crossfire, went into weather and flying on instructions from control center; lead helicopter hit mountain and exploded, he pulled his up and they clipped the top of the mountain and crashed; first rescue helicopter didn't have room for all of them, so he and crew chief had to wait for a second craft. (03:59)
Dropping 500 pound bombs in Cambodia; his aircraft was hit, cockpit filled with smoke; managed to make it home. (01:14) Fascination with flying began in elementary school; in high school, lived near Pensacola, impressed with planes from nearby naval base; sees naval flying requiring more skill, landing aboard ships; failed first eye exam to become pilot; passed second and third time, the last the day after a big party where he abstained from drinking. (03:25) Too busy during mission to be scared; only afterwards, seeing where craft had been hit, did you wonder how you made it; close call when an incoming round lodged in the casing of a grenade canister; sense of invincibility; "it's not going to happen to you;" knew in bombing people, it was either them or him, as they were trying to shoot him down. (03:13)

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  October 26, 2011
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