Capt Cliff Ohlenburger’s Journal from 27 November 1964 to 2 April 1965
Cliff Ohlengurger maintained a journal for his first four months in country while serving as a Firebird pilot. We have done our best to transcribe that journal and present it here.
- 27 Nov 64
We were up early and formed in the Company area (A501st) at 0630 and departed for Lawson AAF about 0700. The MATS A/C was late and the Army had a time refueling such a large quality of fuel and oil. After several refueling of the tankers and supplying oil from 5 gal cans we departed Lawson at 13:30 EST. We arrived at Travis AFB at 20:30 hrs PST. We were some 10 hrs in route.
- 28 Nov 64
The officers and men were up early and we had one accident (SP5 Townsend fell from the top bunk on to a concrete floor and was knocked out for a short while and was admitted to the hospital.) Here the Doc suspected a concussion and skull fracture. Townsend was left at the Travis AFB Hospital for observation. We departed Travis at 1020 hours PST. We arrived at Honolulu (Hickman AFB) at 1915 Hawaii PST. After getting settled in quarters for the night, 9 of us, officers, left for town. Seven of us ate supper there then split up. Lt. Lyal and myself looked in a few places and enjoyed what we could, we didn’t see much at night.
- 29 Nov 64
The MATS A/C was to leave at 1500 LCL time. We boarded the aircraft (A/C) about 1600, the A/C needed more fuel. We taxied to the run up strip and returned to the ramp. One plug in the #4 Engine needed replacing. After a supply problem of obtaining a spark plug and several other incidences which were almost comical we departed for Wake at 1730 local.
- 01 Dec 64 01:45
We arrived at Wake. Between the times we left Hickman AFB Hawaii and arrived at Wake we lost one day. To be exact we lost Payday (30Nov4) because we had crossed the International Date Line. After breakfast we departed for Guam 02:45 Wake time. We arrived at Guam at 07:15 local time.
- 02 Dec 64 22:45 local Guam
Our A/C departed for Clark AFB in the Philippines. We arrived at 03:50 2Dec64 local Philippines time. We departed Clark 05:10 and arrived at Bien Hoa (BH) at 08:30 local time. The rest of the day was spent filling out customs forms and paper work to receive travel pay for dependents and other paperwork necessary. We got settled in our quarters, which aren’t bad and shook hands with old friends.
- 03 Dec 64 04:30
My first mission - we departed before daybreak for the LZ to P/U troops. I flew as Co-pilot and M 6 gunner with the weapons platoon. They call themselves the “Bandits”. We were off the LZ at first light and were on the 1st objective at daylight. Our job was to support the Slicks (lift ships) by fire, while they are on the objective off-loading troops. After departing the 1st objective, we flew to another area to pick up troops and refuel. This area was an established field near a town I do not know its name yet (Tay Ninh) (No savvy the lingo). After refueling we set out for our 2nd objective. By the way at the first objective we did not receive any fire. As the slicks lifted off from the 2nd objective they received fire from their front. The target was engaged by machine gun (MG) fire & later by another outfit I believe to be the U.T.T. They engaged the same target with MG and Rocket Fire. We returned several times to the same locale during the rest of the day, each time receiving some fire.
Today we flew a total of 3:25. I would say approximately 20 suspected VC were captured. Several officers were wounded. The ARVN troops treat the VC with little respect. If they know or suspect strongly that they are VC, they are many times brutal trying to obtain information. Today I suspect several that were brought in for interrogation were shot. Shortly after being brought in they were moved to an area a short distance away and several single shots were heard during the day.
- 04 Dec 64 07:30
Flew 3:30 hrs today before noon. I flew with Capt. Hill of the 118th. We flew single ship missions. These missions were quite different than yesterdays. We went to numerous small villages (Can Gia & Nah Be) and made several recons. I also went to Saigon for refueling. All these missions were to the South in the Delta region along the coast. Flying lone ships, our take offs are spiral above the friendly town or villages to at least 1500 to 2500ft, then to your destination at 2500 to 3000ft. The approach at destination is at least 1500 to 2000 rate of decent at 80-85 K, staying over the friendly area completing the approach in less than 360 degree turn to keep from going over the same area twice. Also when going into the same area more than one time always attempting to make your approach different in order not to set a definite type pattern.
On single ship missions flight following is required and close watch is kept on the helicopters. As soon as possible after take off and on approach, Saigon Center is notified. There are code letters and numbers for most of the well used areas; if not other reference methods are used to pinpoint your destination. Some pointers which were given me were cross tree lines perpendicular on approaches and take offs as much as possible, do not make long slow decent directly into an area, on approach keep up the airspeed and rapid rate of decent with one or two turns before touchdown. Never feel that nothing can happen in an area that we have been several times before. Always change your pattern of approach. Fly at least 1500 to 2500ft if possible. This afternoon we went to Vung Tau on the coast to find an R & R villa. We looked at several. One looks like it will do with some improvement which the owner said she would do. We will have 11 rooms, individual bathroom & shower, living room with screen in porch and bar, and triangular court yard with grass, trees, and flowers, private entrance from street. This will cost us approximately $450.00 per month with maid service and utilities paid.
- 05 Dec 64
This morning nothing much happened except standby for missions. This afternoon we preceded on a troop lift which was called back just before our destination. Later we had a CS mission to an Area SE of Bien Hoa (near Binh Gia open field 1000 yds. N); approximately 30 minutes flying time. The 68th preceded us to draw fire and suppress any automatic weapons fire. Two minutes out from the area an L19 marked the LZ with smoke. On approach into the area we received fire and returned it. The Gun Ships engaged several targets. On the second lift into the same area later that afternoon we received heavier fire and all ships returned fire and fired continuously on approach. We received fire from many huts and all huts were fired upon. As we were on takeoff, automatic fire was received from the left about 300 feet-tracers passed under the ship. The target was engaged by door gunners and I fired on the target with the Liberator 4661 (16 gage shotgun made by Winchester using #1 Buck shot.) Automatic fire stopped. Also after liftoff and about 600 or 800 ft high several mortar rounds fell in the LZ. We returned to home base after dark. One A/C received a hole in the tail boom on the first lift. This was another reason for such heavy fire by door gunners on the second lift. The whole area was covered by tracers.
- 06 Dec 64
Today I did not fly and managed to get a few things done which until now I had no free time. I took my light weight fatigues to the tailor to have necessary insignias sewed on. This afternoon several officers went into town and I took some pictures and had a beer or two.
- 07 Dec 64
(Monday) Flew one hour today. Went to Saigon by vehicle to pick up and fly back one of our new UHIB.
- 08 Dec 64 (Tuesday)
Today I was given the job of Communications officer for A501st and I began to try and find all the equipment. The commo section personnel and I managed to find only part of our equipment. Most of it is still in the conex containers. We set up shop in a tent with concrete floor and wooden screened in frame. It’s not much but it’s all we have.
- 09 Dec 64 (Wednesday)
More commo work and I received my local area checkout which consisted of a flight to Saigon. I was shown the area around Saigon such as the ARVN hospital, American hospital and Battalion HQ. We then made several approaches into small military posts then returned to home plate (Bien Hoa). This took 1 hour flight time. I’m now cleared to fly in the area like I have been for the last week. The rest of the morning and afternoon we looked through more conex containers and accumulated some more of our commo equipment. We also began to set up the radios for operations. We needed a 292 antenna which I had to get from the 120th Aviation in Saigon. WO Freeberg will pick it up tomorrow.
- 10 Dec 64 (Thursday)
We finished the FM radio installation in Operations and began running WD-1 field wire for the switch board that will be located in Operations. We ran ½ mile of wire from Operations to the Company area, one for the old man (Maj. Henderson Commander), one for supply, the mess hall, and another to the BOQ. The commo team ran the 4 wires all at one time with a ¾ ton truck and made it into the gate at the Company area before dark. We also completed the FM set in operations to include the 292 antenna.
- 11 Dec 64
Began to install the UHF radio in Operations and finish installing the phones and switchboard yesterday. We also managed to obtain our commo van back from Maintenance. This will give us a place to work and keep our equipment. Today the generator was hooked up for our tent by my crew. This afternoon I went with LT Reynolds, who is a pilot on my fire team and we adjusted the new guns and rocket system on 92C (UHIB). We returned late this afternoon after 2:15 hours flying. That ship is ready to go.
- 12 Dec 64 (Saturday)
This morning we had a platoon meeting and discussed Gun Ship tactics and SOP’s. We also discussed emergency and downed ship procedures. After this we had a meeting on Forms. This covered A/C forms and after action reports, etc. By this time it was time for chow. After chow WO Lowery and I took a ship to Suoi Da Special Forces camp and scrounged 4 grease guns (45 Cal.) and 2 M1 carbines (30 Cal.). While we were there, three VC captives were brought in from a patrol. They were being questioned. They had 4 captives however one was wounded and died on the way. The patrol cut him open and removed his heart and one kidney, and cooked and ate it. This seems to be a tradition and belief that if they eat the heart and kidney of their enemy this makes them stronger. Another thing that is done as proof of a kill, the ears are brought back. As a matter of fact one of the pilots in the 118th cut an ear off of a dead V.C. I don’t believe I could do it, but he did and brags about it. I also understand he wanted the whole head. Personally I believe he needs to see the head shrink.
- 13 Dec 64
07:30 briefing on what to do in case of mortar attack again here at Bien Hoa. Also gave information on what was available to us in bunkers and the overall defense plan and our areas of responsibility. After this we had a class on Air/Sea rescue. This afternoon LT. Reynolds, who is on my fire team, and I adjusted and set the rockets and MG on one of our gunships. This takes several hours on a new gun system. First we bore site the XM6 gun system on the ground to alien with the flex sight. Then we adjust the guns in the stowed position. The pilot uses the guns in the stowed position and the co-pilot has the flex sight. Also the stowed position is sometimes used to adjust rocket fire on the target. What we do is set the MG where they are where the pilot likes them on a gun or rocket pass. Then the rockets are adjusted to hit the same place. We returned late that afternoon and I began taking care of commo problems. The wire team ran out of WD-1 wire and I had to get the Air Force out of the sack to get more wire.
- 14 Dec 64
We had fire team practice this morning and afternoon. I am a member of the gun platoon (the Firebirds), I am a team leader and my call sign is Firebird 93. My fire team consists of my co-pilot Lt. Reynolds and WO Freeburg and his co-pilot WO Paxton. We also have a spare man WO O’Byrne. We went to Bear Cat range which is located at a Special Forces camp. When we ask permission to use the range they said they had a live target for us. We picked up one observer in each ship (fire team 2 ships) and headed for the area. There had been a report of thirty VC in an area to the North of the camp and 3,000 meters east of the Highway on a creek. We made a recon of the area for approximately 30 minutes and found no VC and did not receive any fire so we returned to the camp.
At this time another observer boarded the helicopter and said they had an area they would like for us to expend our ordinance (MG and rockets). This area was known to be used as a staging area for the VC and six of their men had been killed a week before there. The observer guided us to the area and marked it with a smoke grenade. We made two firing passes and expended our rockets and a lot of MG ammo. We returned to camp and then to Home Plate. This afternoon we went back and expended our ammo on practice runs on the range. After returning to Home Plate I checked on my ammo crew and took care of a few mess hall problems. In the evening we had another platoon meeting and discussed tactics.
- 15 Dec 64
Today we supported the 48th Inf. at Tan Uyen. We arrived at their station about 09:30 and were briefed by the senior American advisor. He was Maj.__?__. The Major had a platoon of ARVN troops approximately 2,000 meters NE patrolling. There was possible VC activity in the area. He had another patrol approximately 6,000 meters north to the right of Hwy 16. Our mission was armed recon of both areas and to give assistance and engage any targets which the patrol requested. We also had an ARVN observer aboard; he is aboard to determine friendly from VC. Usually the observers are local officers who know the area and the people.
After reconnaissance of both areas for about one hour we departed for an area to the East approximately 3,000 meters. This area is a Free Fire Area the observer picked out a target for us to expend our ordnance. We first flew over the area at 1500 ft. and drew no fire. We returned the observer and returned to Bien Hoa (BH) to refuel, rearm and eat. After lunch at 1:30 we departed for Tan Uyen again. Tan Uyen has 155MM Howitzers and mortars.
This afternoon we were briefed by a young 1Lt. ARVN Intel. Off. He was on the patrol that morning. He was telling us he was very tired and sleepy. The reason was they don’t let the VC sleep or rest at night because they shoot harassing fire into suspected and known VC areas all night each night. He said, “But this also makes me very sleepy and tired.” We were to recon three areas this afternoon which were to the West of the Highway; if we received no fire or had no targets, and then we were to unload on two areas in the Free Fire Zone. These areas we know to be on a supply route. I picked an area along a wood line where several trails led off the main trail into the wood line. On my second pair of rockets the one from the right tube exploded twenty feet in front of the helicopter. We flew through the debris from the rocket. I fired two more pair of rockets. We then continued with the fire team to the second Area. We finished firing our load in one pass here. There was supposed to be rice stored in that area. The observer was returned and we went to Home Plate.
We had spent almost two hours flying time. Upon returning and shutting down the helicopter, I examined it and found the white blade of the main rotor had a 6” to 8” gash through the skin into the honey comb structure. I also found that the left hand chin bubble had a hole in it. This was caused by the exploded rocket. The gash in the blade was probably one of the fins off the rocket. There was also a dent in the leading edge of the tail rotor blade. The main rotor blade and tail rotor will have to be replaced. I suspect that the rocket caught a round from the door gunner. The hole in the rocket motor is what made it explode when it reached that point.
- 16 Dec 64
Today we were up early, 04:30 with a 06:00 take off for Vung Tau. We were to provide my fire team, Firebird 93, to form up with a118th fire team to escort a combat assault. We had twelve slicks from the 118th and two heavy fire teams, three armed helicopters each. Twelve more slicks from the 120th at Saigon met up with us at Vung Tau. We arrived there at about 07:00 and remained in the area until 14:15 this afternoon, all we did was waiting. The mission never got off. I do not know why or even where we were to go. There were over two hundred ARVN troops waiting to board the helicopters. We arrived back at Home Plate, (Bien Hoa) at 15:15 with a total of 01+15 flying time. This afternoon I went to the PX and bought an Akai (reel to reel) tape recorder and have been listening to music while I filled out a work order for remodeling the mess hall and writing this. It’s now 23:45.
- 17 Dec 64
Today I went to Saigon to try and get a few things we needed. I was to go in the morning but through several phone calls from here I found that I need not go early therefore I went this afternoon. MAJ. Cowell (?) and Capt. Taylor flew Capt. Stanford and myself to Tan Son Nhut Airfield there at Saigon. We first went to 145th Battalion HQ where Harold had business with S-2 and I had to talk to the Commo Chief. In talking to the Commo Chief I was able to get several things that we needed. Also made arrangements to pick up parts for our stoves which have been on order for several weeks and no one did anything about it. I did, and we will have them tomorrow. He said he would gather the things up for us to pick up Monday. We are getting 4 miles WD-1 field wire, several speakers for our intercom, two or three 292 antenna heads, the RF cable needed and approximately one mile of twenty three pair cable to use when our new compound is finished. We can hook all our communications, central music, Intercom, field phones, etc. without stringing up a bundle of WD-1. Also Sgt. Aronhalt is giving me a 24 Volt aircraft battery to use with a rectifier for running radios in Operations. I also started inquiring about getting an extra Jeep to use for transportation around the Compound, but haven’t had any luck yet. This evening we had a night flight and we flew 01+15 hrs. We made some practice gun runs to prepare for night firing.
- 18 Dec 64
Today I flew about 06 +15 hrs. We supplied the 48 Inf. ARVN again at Tan Uyen. They were sending their trucks to Saigon to pick up ammo. We made an armed recon of the road and gave them escort as far as Bien Hoa. From here they got police or military escort by road. This afternoon we again flew cover and recon for them on their return with their load of ammo. Our procedure on armed road recon and escort is to proceed in front to the next friendly installation and check for any enemy troop activity or road blocks. This includes any gathering of persons that might be a force to stop the ammo trucks. We fly in (S) turns over the roads with my wing man flying an opposite ground track from me. This way an enemy would not have a good field of fire on both ships at the same time. Also we both look at the road from different angles; this is done at an altitude of approximately 700 feet. Our job is to be able to see and this can’t be done from altitude. We will also draw fire from the enemy there by giving their location away. Well, everything went okay and no fire received on the convoy.
Our ARVN observer aboard gave us an area in the Free Fire Zone to expend our ammo and we flew to the area. We made a rocket run and expended our 24 rockets into the area and about 3500 rounds of 7.62 MG ammo We then made a third machine gun run and at this time we received fire from below. We then made another firing pass with MG on this area suppressing the fire. Tonight we flew again and went to Bear Cat range but couldn’t use their range. We made several practice runs in the area and then flew to Tan Uyen and asked if we could expend in the same area that we received fire this afternoon. They gave us permission. We thought we would teach them a lesson for shooting at us that afternoon. We again put 24 rockets and about 4500 rounds MG into the area.
I was having a little trouble this morning with making my gun runs at too high of an air speed and rate of descent. Capt. Stone showed me a technique to use and by the time the night was over I was doing okay. Still need practice though. The objective is to do a rapid deceleration as you roll out on your gun run slowing the helicopter to 60 K then pulling in 87% gas producer, then roll nose over with cyclic until site is on target. This way the helicopter does not exceed 80K and rate of descent not below 1000 per min.
- 19 Dec 64
I did not fly this morning because I was waiting for WO Outlaw who is the Field Service Advisor from Saigon. Thursday I made arrangements for him to come down to get his suggestions and approval on our plans to remodel the EM mess hall. He came and approved our plans and suggested the right way to get all this done and helped us on a few other things. Tonight we went to a hail and farewell party for the 145th Bn. We were welcomed into the BN and had a real nice steak. After this a few awards were given out to those departing and the thing broke up. Capt. Stanford and I were going to spend the night in Saigon and see the town the next day but it was a VC holiday-the anniversary of the French being thrown out of Viet Nam. The next two days were expecting trouble so we did not stay.
- 20 Dec 64
Today we slept later and had a sandwich for dinner then went to III Corps for a briefing on tomorrow’s practice company lift. This is the first time the whole company (A501st) was to act as a team. We lifted the III Corps Special Forces to an LZ. They needed practice departing the helicopters into the objective and we needed practice landing and taking off from the LZ.
- 21 Dec 64
This morning we got up early, had another breakfast of eggs and bacon and tomorrow we will probably have bacon and eggs. Crank time was 08:00. The troops loaded at 08:15 and we departed. The first lift did not go so well which was to be expected. We took off from BH and made a triangle to make a 30 min flight. We dropped off the troops and departed back to BH via a thirty minute route for refueling. After refueling we picked up the troops via the same manner. Each time the Company looked better. We in the gun platoon did real fine. There were a few little things wrong, but compared to the slicks we did real fine.
Tonight we had night firing and went to War Zone D again with targets picked by the 48th Inf. at Tan Uyen. All in all it looked real good. We started several fires in the target area so I guess we did some good. My Crew Chief, SP/5Cowen, had his door gun double feed and the first of the two rounds blew up outside of the chamber. The point of the second round set off the first round which was not all the way in the chamber. He got powder burns and minor lacerations on the left arm from the bicep down to his wrist. That is what is called a million dollar Purple Heart.
- 22 Dec 64
This morning again practiced to build company proficiency. We (A501st) flew for approximately 02 + 30 hrs. That is flying time. All in all the Company looked real good. Several mistakes were made, namely flight paths were repeated i.e., over the same real estate. This would give the enemy a chance to set up for you. This morning the flight was caught above a low cloud layer which was thin at first and as we flew it became thicker. The Flight Leader Capt. Jessie James made a 180 degree turn and then descended through the cloud layer. The worst part of this was the whole flight was in a slight turn with inexperienced pilots, and had this been a thicker layer, they could have gotten into a vertigo situation which could have been disastrous in a close formation. Also we in the gun platoon fly approximately 200 ft. lower and to the outside of the formation. If we loose complete sight of the other helicopters, there is no way to know where they are especially when they are in a turn.
There was also some trouble when the flight would go from formation of V’s into trail formation. The helicopter on the end would almost come to a hover and have to go into a hairy flare. At the critique we discussed our problems and suggested that the lead helicopter increase its airspeed and the following helicopter go into trail as the opening presents itself by the helicopter ahead increasing airspeed. Another thing we found that the flight leader has to think of his armed escort helicopters if he wants protection for his flight. His turns must be shallow so the armed helicopter on the inside of the turn does not have to slow his airspeed to much and so that the outside armed helicopter does not have to increase his airspeed to above 80 or 85K in order to maintain position to give fire protection. The armed helicopters are loaded so heavy and have all the drag from armament systems being on the outside that high airspeed is hard on the airframe and it begins to shake and shutter. In one case the flight went into trail and then turned into the LZ for the extraction (this was taking place all at the same time). The turn was too tight and Firebird 33 team on the inside had to do S turns to maintain their airspeed and position in the flight. The FB31 fire team on the right could not keep up with the flight. Therefore, could not give suppressive fire as the flight was on approach into the LZ. This is the most vulnerable time for the slicks because they are not only low, but they are slowing their airspeed. We are glad this was only a practice in a friendly area.
This afternoon we prepared for our night combat assault. The Company Commander (Maj. Henderson) and Operations Officer reconned the area and all coordination was completed late in the afternoon. We took off at 19:00 and headed to the West. There was a slight glow of day light on the horizon which it made it easy for the flight to keep up in formation. It also made it easier for us to follow the slicks. The problem came when we turned from a SW to an ESE direction to Bearcat Strip; there were few town lights and no visible horizon and the haze was thick and it became dark as pitch after turning away from the lighted horizon. At that time the flight began to spread out and loosen up. The bottom half of the navigation lights are covered with tape so they cannot be seen from the ground. We began to lose sight the flight because there were no navigation lights to go by. Then we moved closer and higher so that we could see the helicopter navigation lights. The approach into the LZ at Bearcat was too steep and the lights were non dim, there had to be a last minute turn at the bottom which through a lot of us off. I then began to make a left hand orbit.
On approach Lt. Schenke (one of the slick pilots) lost reference with the ground because the lights to land to were obscured by another helicopter. He began to drift to the left and touched down toes first on the skids and a little sideways. The chin bubble was busted when the helicopter rocked up on the nose. The troops departed the helicopter and the flight lifted out. While on the first approach the 31 fire team had made the recon and received no fire and reported to the flight leader landing directions and enemy situation. The fire team was asked to depart the area as stand by. When he departed it was directly into the helicopters on approach. Firebird 96 our platoon leader, Capt. Stone, called for FB31 and 32 to break out. They broke away less than 50 ft below the flight. Another thing that didn’t help at the bottom of the approach that first time was that a flare was set off on the ground about 500 meters to the left front. This had a blinding effect, like shining a spot light in your eyes on a dark night. The extraction of troops worked out much better, but it took too long on the LZ because the ground troops were not organized enough to get into the helicopters quickly.
- 23 Dec 64 Wed
Today is to be our Company readiness inspection by 145th Bn. The morning was to be spent cleaning up equipment and platoon areas and the inspection at 13:30. This morning at 08:30 Capt. Crouch our XO stopped me and said “Olie, the inspection team will include the Communications Section so it will have to be ready for inspection.” The Communications job had been taken away from me 1½ weeks prior, so here I was with Communications and the Mess Hall. So off I go to get things straight. So I was running between Communications and the Mess Hall. Lt.Walgreen, who is the 94th Signal Detachment Commander, was also supposed to take Company communications but he has been busy enough with Avionics. The 94th Signal is our avionics Support Detachment. The inspector arrived early at 13:15 and Lt. Walgreen and I escorted the team to our sections. The team also inspected security at SOI and SSI’s, etc. There were a few minor discrepancies, but nothing big. All in all Communications was excellent. They commented that we were in better shape Communications wise than the other unit that have been here for years. Also our Mess Hall is the best in Viet Nam. This is because of our superior mess and communications personnel.
- 24 Dec 64 Thursday
Today was to be free, but as it turned out Bob Hope and his show was to come here at 14:00 and a classified mission came down and practice for this was needed. The practice was to be for dispensing CS gas with a helicopter and to learn to fly with a gas mask on. Before this came up, Capt. Stanford and I went to Saigon. We didn’t get there until 12:00. Stanford had to get a few things done for Operations and Intelligence and I for Communications trying to scrounge up some things. Well there wasn’t enough time to scrounge the things we needed. We went to dinner at the 145th Villa with the S2-S3 Section and returned about 13:45. We waited until approximately 15:00 before anyone would come and pick us up. The Bob Hope show was on and there wasn’t anyone to fly a helicopter. The boys said the show was real good and the opening statement was “Hello Advisors.”
- 25 Dec 64 Friday
We were up this morning at 03:30 for the mission which was practiced yesterday. We ate at 04:00 and were briefed at 05:00. We departed here before daylight and arrived at Tay Ninh just after daylight. This operation consisted of almost 150 helicopters. One Battalion was brought up from the Delta to participate. It was suspected that this area had many VC and was a prisoner of war camp which had four Americans and several ARVNs. The idea was to dispense tear gas and CS in the area to make the VC unable to fight so the prisoners could be taken back. There was no contact in the area. I don’t believe a shot was fired. I believe it was just as well that they weren’t set up for us with all the mistakes that were made on our part.
The first thing the smoke ships, as they were called, began to smoke the wrong area approximately 500 M to the South and was at a slow airspeed when they crossed a large open space where the VC was to have been. When they began to smoke the right area they were then to high in Altitude and airspeed and we, the gun ships, had a hard time protecting them. The correct procedure is to descend at 80K from altitude to the objective then slow the airspeed to 40 K over the trees with the skids at the top of the trees. This blows the smoke into the trees. The 40 K makes it possible for the Firebirds to give continuous support in a race track pattern. As it was they were 50-75 feet above the trees at 50-55 knots and it made it almost impossible to maintain an effective race track pattern for continuous support. Also there were too many turns and too steep of turns, made on approach to the objective. The second pass was better. Another ship from another unit was throwing CS grenades from their ship and passed just over us and almost hit us with them. If I had not seen them and made an evasive maneuver they would have. Just behind the second pass of smoke the lift ships landed the troops in the LZ. Later when all the troops were removed (extracted) we were assigned another target to pre-strike and lay smoke. Two passes were made again and we departed the area. I heard only one shot fired in this area. We arrived back at Home Plate at about 15:30.
I had Christmas dinner in the Mess Hall and it sure was good. We had turkey, ham, dressing, gravy, fruitcake, nuts, rolls, cake, candy, and the works. (Mincemeat pie, pumpkin pie, tea, potatoes, etc) That Mess crew of mine sure can put out a meal. They began serving at 12:00 and continued hot chow until 18:00. That takes lots of work. After eating, I laid down and didn’t wake up till 19:00. We were expecting trouble here at BH because of the Halloween incident here. Also the VC said they would eat Christmas diner here. About 21:00 one of the guards at the gate accidently shot his rifle. People began to scatter and there was plenty of excitement. Every one began to find their weapons and ammo.
- 26 Dec 64
Today is my fifth anniversary. This morning we had our operational formation. The Bn. Cmdr. Came down and told us how proud he was of us. During the formation some crews were unloading the CS powder from the smoke ships and the wind was in our direction. Everyone including the Bn. Cmdr. was coughing and crying. Finally even the work was called off in the area.
- 27 Dec 64
Last night we flew 1+ 30 and expended our ordinance on our favorite area in war Zone “D” just across the river by Tan Uyen. My machine guns quit firing after a continual burst and could not see tracers to bring me on target. It was black and no visible horizon. The rocket sight was too bright so I had to turn it off. My rockets did go into the right area. On the second pass one of my rockets did not go off and began to cook off in the tube. I ejected the pods as soon as the crew chief informed me that it was burning in the tubes. By this time we were out of “D” Zone and over friendly area. Hope we didn’t give anyone a headache.
Today we were on ten minute standby from 06:50 until were departed for Song Be. We departed for SB at 11:15 and returned at 16:30. Our mission was for recon. They had an air strike using 500, 1000 lb. bombs, rockets and Napalm. There were three AIE’s. We reconned the area for receiving fire, but we received none and did not see any activity. After lunch we reconned another area that had reported VC activity. We again received no fire or saw any activity. One funny thing happened at lunch. We went to the Mess Hall there and one of the Captains (Grunt) or (Ground Pounders) said as we walked in, “Oh are you going to eat?” I replied, “Even Army Aviators eat.” This is one thing the Ground Commanders seem to forget that we do eat. They many times will eat in shifts and expected us to keep flying without eating. You always have to tell them we are going to eat now. Someday they will be educated.
- 28 Dec 64
This morning we were up at 05:00 and were on the flight line at 06:30. We were on a 10 minute reaction time standby. We had a mission, three Fire Teams, to be on station at 09:00 at Bien Gia southeast of Bien Hoa. We provided armed escort for a motor convoy with a reinforced fire team (three armed helicopters). The convoy was moving soldiers and their families from there to Ba Ria. There was some sparse VC activity, but nothing much happened. We flew approximately 3+00 on this mission. At 12:30 we reported back to Ba Ria, and at 13:15 we were dispatched to Bien Gia to give support to ground troops who were marching into the town where there were reported two Companies of VC.
The FB31 fire team caught five VC in the open running away and took care of them with rockets and MG. As the troops moved into the town, we were refueling; the 31 fire team placed rocket and machine gun fire into the town where the ground troops were receiving fire from the VC. When we relieved them on station we drew fire from the same area and then began to teach them a lesson for firing at us and them. We went in with rockets and MG through the area. At the time we received fire; my helicopter 923 received a 30 cal. round from the bottom on the left hand side just in front of the gunner-crew chief seat. The projectile passed through the floor and out the door. As a matter of fact it passed between my crew chief’s legs (Sp.5 Klapkowski). We supported the ground troops until they left in late evening. The VC force was so great that they could not hold or move forward. We arrived at Home Plate (BH) at 08:30 and had flown a total of 09+15 hours and expended 48 rockets and 6,000 rounds of 7.62. We were credited with 20 killed and 31 wounded by the ground advisor.
- 29 Dec 64
Today we were again on standby. At 09:30 we were alerted for troop haul escort. We had twelve slicks to escort from our Company, A501st, and some fifteen from another Company escorted by the Bandits of the 118th. We took the 33 Ranger Bn. into Bien Gia. On approach into the area we began to receive automatic weapons (AW) fire and heavy AW fire. Several ships were hit on the first lift and one had to set the ship down in a secure area so that Metro (our maintenance team) could repair it. After the second lift into the area, a little more to the southwest, several ships received rounds. We had fire teams in the area all day. There were a total of five ships downed. One Crashed and burned just before it could make it to a secure area. The crew was hit but no one killed. There was one pilot shot in the leg and a Crew Chief hit that I know of. I do not know how many others were wounded. I understand there were several. There were many wounded troops and one of the ARVN units gave up and the American Advisor was captured. I also understand there were several American Advisors wounded, should find out more tomorrow.
We flew some 04+40 hrs today and refueled at 20:45. There were at least five or even six 50 cal. Machine gun (MG) positions in the area controlled by the VC and all kinds of other automatic weapons. As a matter of fact it sounded like you were down range when a rifle company was target practicing. We flew over the same area for over five hours yesterday and never received any 50 cal. fire. During the time it took to arrange the lift of troops into the area over night and into the afternoon, the VC was set up covering the helicopter landing areas. Talking to some of the old timers this was one of the worst they have seen and the most 50 cal. machine guns they have seen in any objective area.
- 30 Dec 64
Another day started out with 10 min standby. At 06:45 we were alerted to line up on the PSP runway to escort the slicks carrying troops to the LZ. We returned to the town of Binh Gia where we were yesterday. Late yesterday we heard 28A, who is one of the American Advisors, on the radio saying that his ARVN unit was giving up, throwing down their arms and that he was being captured. It’s hard to realize how this affects you to hear a fellow American say this on the radio and there being nothing you can do about it. As of today, he has not been found nor any of his unit.
This morning we took off at 09:30 and escorted some twenty slicks with troops, these being ARVN Marines, into the area. We (A501st) made two lifts along with the 118th. The 118th returned with a third lift. Some fire was received but very little. Later today I understand there was some activity again in the area. Late this evening one of the 68th gunships was shot down and reports say there were no survivors. The helicopter apparently exploded before it hit the ground. The helicopter was an armed UH1B with two 50 cal. MG mounted. WO Morgan and WO Asbelt were Pilot and Copilot. I don’t know the crew. Evidently they were shot down by a 50 Cal in that local. Also one of our fire teams is in an area about three clicks north of Ben Cat.
A Special Forces camp was overrun by VC last night and two American advisors were killed. They hauled out the two Americans with the other armed helicopter and our slick; they hauled out many of the most critical wounded ARVN troops. Lt. Reynolds said one of the Americans must have been caught asleep because he was shot in the head at close range and the whole back of his head was gone. The last few days have been real bad all around this area. Tonight we, my fire team and one slick, are on a 3 minute standby for airfield defense. The slick is for flare drop so we can spot troops and targets on the ground. At 12:45 one of the Airfield guards saw someone on our helicopter line and called the A.D (Airfield Defense). They called us and sent up our flare ship to drop the flares to light up the area around the flight line. The ship dropped seven flares from 3000 and only five opened. No one was found but it was interesting. We were up until about 03:00.
- 31 Dec 64
We were off duty at 06:20 this morning and returned to the hutch to shower, eat and change. We were not committed until after dinner. This gave me time to have a talk with my cooks and check on a few problems including communications. This afternoon we (FB93 Fire Team) were on standby and at 17:30 we picked up Col. Anderson at 3XXX who is airfield security officer to take him on the evening recon of the airfield.
- 01 Jan 65
Up early this New Year’s morning at 05:20. We were to takeoff at 06:45 to Ton So Nute (Saigon). We had a heavy fog and did not take off until about 10:15. We flew low level there, refueled and waited for other units to arrive from the Delta. On station time was to be 14:00 at Binh Gia. We lifted over 400 troops from there and proceeded to Vung Tau and lifted some 800 troops to the same area. We received a little fire today, but we had a good air force prestrike with eight A1E’s on call overhead. Another thing that helped was that this time we moved our LZ to the east away from Binh Gia about three clicks. With some 1200 troops in the area maybe they can do some good. There have been some eleven Americans wounded or missing in action on this operation. I do not know how many ARVNs killed or wounded and am not sure of the number of Americans. Yesterday another helicopter was lost, shot down, in that area. It was 10:00 pm before I was through eating and taking a shower. These days are getting long.
- 02 Jan 65
Out of bed at 05:45 and airborne at 06:50-didn’t have time for breakfast. We were to take off at 06:45 and had to preflight and file a flight plan. We went to Tan Uyen to provide overhead cover and visual recon. We had a briefing and picked up an observer, Lt. Mo. We flew to Phuoc Vinh to escort a convoy from there to Bien Hoa. The 48th Inf. was to add on to the convoy when it arrived at Tan Uyen. The convoy was in route to Saigon for ammo. There we picked up an American Lt. Col. ? and a Vietnamese Major and few to a little village on Hwy. 24 about 8mi South of Song Be. There the Col. and Maj. obtained more information on a couple of villages up the Highway. One of the villages had not been heard from in two days and reports are that they have given up and turned over their weapons to the VC. The VC gave them a chance to give up or they could destroy their village; women and children included. The village next to it and another village had their homes destroyed, have hidden their weapons and left. The other left with weapons and all.
The first village which is right on Hwy. 14 was reported to have two Caucasians (whites) with the VC. We suspect Communist Advisors. When we arrived at the village it was deserted with no visible life. This is usual indication that the VC are there. The Viet Nan Maj. reported a command post (CP) location which we used our rockets and MG on. We then returned to Song Be to rearm. This was about 12:30 and they fixed us a sandwich and we were on our way back to the village to unload our ordnance again. After this we returned our observers to Phouc Vihn to pick up another Vietnamese observer, a Lieutenant, to cover the convoy. We found the convoy spread out from Bien Hoa to Tan Uyen. It was about 15:45 and we stayed on station as long as possible and returned our observer. We requested that Firebird 36 Fire Team relieve us on station. On the way back we unloaded our ordinance on a designated VC area.
Tonight after chow we were again on standby for the air field alert. Col. Anderson and a Captain came by about 09:00 and wanted to make an air field recon and test using large search lights which have been placed just north of the runway. They are on high ground but only about ninety feet making the lights actually thirty feet above most of the other ground. We found that from the air the search lights would light up only a small long area and as soon as the light was not touching the trees or ground you had only a haze which you could not see through. At the same time he had troops on the ground to see if it gave them enough light for patrolling. Altogether we flew 7+45 hours today and 45 minutes was at night.
- 03 Jan 65
We were off standby at 05:30 this morning. I took a shower, ate breakfast and went to bed. I awoke at 10:30, and went to eat after getting things straightened here and was called for a scramble while at the 118th Villa. An A1-E Air Force plane had crashed some 80 miles South of Saigon. We departed within 20 minutes and arrived after 45 minutes flying time. The aircraft wreckage could not be recognized as an airplane. It crashed in a mangrove swamp area and three quarters of the aircraft was under ground. There was a cleared area around it where its ordinance must have gone off. The only thing you could find was a pile of rubble burning slightly. There were no possible survivors. Evidently they were making an airstrike on a VC village and the aircraft must have been hit. This type aircraft usually has an American pilot. My fire team unloaded our 24 rockets and about 5,000 rounds 7.62. Maybe that will pay them back some. We flew 2+25 hrs.
- 04 Jan 65
This morning we went to Ap Bo La north of Tan Uyen and performed Areal Recon (AR) and screening for the ground troops which were on a small ground operation. There was a report that a VC unit had moved through an area about two clicks west of Ap Bo La last night and had five American prisoners with them. We searched the area and ground troop tried to flush them out but without success. We provided cover for a Dust Off helicopter (Med Evac) which had to pick up five wounded ARVNs to take to Saigon. They were wounded by booby traps and mines. At 11:30 we went to Phuoc Vinh. They in turn sent us to Hon Quan thirty minutes North of Phuoc Vinh (PV).
We refueled and had lunch (hot dogs). Oh well, it was better than the usual C’s. Here they had a planned recon for us checking roads and villages where there had been reported VC activity. We were half way through with this when we got a call to expedite to the area south of Song Be (SB) where we had been a couple of days before, off Hwy 14. We understood that the ground unit “Lunch Room 66B” was held up by automatic weapons fire. When we arrived at the area it took almost thirty minutes for the radio operator, who I found out later was a clerk typist, to identify the target. I placed a pair of rockets in the area I thought might be the one and he adjusted me from there. On our second pass we hit the area. After expending our ammo we flew to SB to refuel and rearm. We picked up two different observers and returned to the area and struck another target for them then returned back to SB. We picked up our old observers and headed back to Hon Quan. On the way we struck an area target for them and dropped off our people. We did not complete our mission for them because we had to be back at PV at 16:30 for a combat assault. At PV we accompanied the second left and remained for overhead cover over the LZ and provide protection for the C & C (Command & Control) helicopter. Not a shot was fired and no VC found. We returned after dark; another 6+50 flying time for the day.
- 05 Jan 65
Up at 06:00 and takeoff at 07:40 to report to Phy My. On arrival there was a change in plans and we were to fly to Ba Ria. We radioed ahead and were told to continue to a LZ approximately six clicks east of there to recon and lay a pre-strike after the VNAF was through with theirs. The VNAF was ten minutes late as usual and the whole operation schedule messed up. After the Air Force (AF) pre-strike we struck likely targets and made a low recon. We marked the LZ with yellow smoke and advised the slicks of the enemy situation. We received no fire in the LZ and recommended no suppressive fire on landing. We returned to Ba Ria to rearm and refuel. The 120th Razorbacks (we call them Piggy’s) relieved us to provide overhead cover and to screen the area as the ground commander desired. After 1+20, we relieved them and continued to screen an area around the objective about two clicks. The objective was a village and not a shot was fired.
The village was almost empty except for some women, children, and old men. The rice fields around the area were being harvested and there was an over abundance of young men working in the fields. It’s expected that the operation was detected and the VC men went to work in the field to look as though they belonged there. It always seems that if an operation takes more than 24 hours to plan, the VC have either set up for helicopter ambush in likely LZ’s or have vanished. After chow another stunt was dreamed up that was to take four fire teams, two at a time, and recon a large area to gather intelligence information with a second purpose to use the Lazy Dog (LD) on a lucrative target. A large amount of information was gathered. Several 50 cal. positions were found and some small VC unit and automatic weapon positions were also found. The LD was used and I do not know their outcome.
We screened west of the Hwy between Ba Ria and Binh Gia. We received fire in several locations and returned for debriefing. At this time we (Firebird 93 fire team) were given the task of low level recon at several positions found and three proposed LZ’s for tomorrow. The Col. said “we want to know what is there and we want it low level”. We proceeded with our mission. We had about 1+15 minutes before dark. We were just through checking three places; one the top at a small mountain which was a suspected Observation Post (OP) with AW positions and VC field positions which had fox holes covered and circular AW positions. As we were completing these and starting on the rest of the recon we were called back to pick up a map overlay.
I was to recon a stream and rice patty area leading to two proposed LZ’s. I elected to check part of it on the way back. Just as we got to the area and turned down stream staying along the left hand wood line, trying to be exposed as little as possible and to at least be exposed from only one wood line, my wing ship radioed that his gunner had been hit. About that time all HELL broke loose. I broke right to see if I could give him any help by fire. During this time it was like being down range from an Infantry Company in the attack. Fire was coming from everywhere. My wingman was climbing to altitude and I followed allowing him to pass in front of me in case he had aircraft trouble from another hit. Sgt. Kitchen, one of our gunners from the 25th Infantry Division, was hit in the hand and forearm and elbow. The bullet ricocheted off of one of the gun barrels on our XM6 kits and must have split, one piece going through his hand and the other through the roof of the helicopter. The projectile was of 30 cal. class and also cut the intercom wires between pilot and CE. The crew chief, Sp4 Donley immediately took charge of the situation and began giving first aid. An artery was cut in Sgt. Kitchen’s hand and the blood spurted on the rear seat, all over the pilot and co-pilot seats, instrument panel and on the windshield. He lost a lot of blood fast. The CE cut off Kitchen’s glove and fatigue sleeves then applied a tourniquet above the elbow. He then began to place field bandages on the wounds to help stop the bleeding by pressure. During this whole thing he was not strapped down in the helicopter. We were at 2000 feet proceeding to Saigon. He closed the cabin doors and gave Sgt. Kitchen morphine, which he had never done before and gave it correctly. As for as I am concerned; he saved Kitchen’s life by stopping the bleeding quickly.
We found later that the helicopter also had another hit in the cabin area. The crew on that helicopter was WO Freeberg Aircraft Commander (ACC), Pilot WO O’Byrne, CE Sp4 Donley and Door Gunner Sgt. Kitchen. We had Sgt. Kitchen to Saigon and at the hospital within thirty minutes from the time he was hit. It is a twenty minute flight from where we were. We returned to BH with no further incidents. On the way to Saigon we radioed the map coordinates of where we took the hit and three fire teams expended in the area. We did not complete our original mission of complete recon.
- 06 Jan 65
Up this morning at 04:30 and took off at 06:00 to VT. We refueled and stood by until 09:30. At this time two Battalions (Bn.) of rangers were picked up on a rubber plantation near Bien Gia and air lifted into one of the proposed LZ’s to the north where earlier yesterday we had not received any fire while screening. The objective was the area where we got hit. It appeared that the V.C. had set up an ambush in that area yesterday suspecting or knowing that it was a proposed LZ. They were set upon both sides of the area and covered the complete LZ with AW fire. Sure hope that they do some good in there today and catch the VC with their pants down. They were to move south by foot to the objective.
- 07 Jan 65
Today we supported the 48th Infantry at Tan Uyen. They had a two Battalion operation to the S and SW of there. Initially the Battalion that was due west (22 Merit Badge) was doing real fine but while we were in the briefing a report came in on the radio that they had contact with the VC and had killed four, wounded two, and captured three or four. Four weapons, two carbines, one Springfield 03 rifle and a automatic weapon and grenade launcher had been captured. The unit SW had no contact with the VC, (21 Merit Badge). We departed to provide overhead cover and recon for both units.
About the time that we left, 22 reported two wounded and requested armed support and Med Evac. We responded and were overhead in less than three minutes. They were in thick jungle underbrush and they were being shot at by snipers. We had a hard time locating them and we finally had them ignite a smoke grenade to find their position. The Med Evac, (Dust Off), arrived in fifteen minutes, but had to stand by almost one hour because the unit could not move through the thick jungle with their wounded because snipers pinning them down. Before two of the wounded could get to a clearing for medical help, they were KIA. The total for the day was two KIA and four WIA, ARVN troops. Also, a multitude of documents were captured in the same location giving indication that the VC unit was the C 303 and that they had maimed and killed the ARVN Bn. Cmdr. a couple of months prior. Needless to say the captured VC at the end of the day became KIA. Soon after the unit disengaged and moved out of the jungle Artillery fire was brought on target using 155 MM howitzers from Tan Uyen. This was preceded by a VNAF air strike with MG and bombs.
We, Firebird 93 fire team, expended some 24 rockets and 4,000 rounds 7.62 in the area. While on recon yesterday ahead of 21 Merit Badge, we spotted a large number of men departing from their work in the field and walking rapidly away. We stopped several with the helicopter by flying low in front of them and throwing white smoke. All of the Vietnamese and Vietcong know that when white smoke is thrown that you are receiving fire and that you will return to fire upon them. The troops moved in and policed them up for questioning. Soon after this when both units moved into their common first objective; one from the north, the other from the south, both units began to move toward their final objective and just ahead of them several people began to disappear along a trail. One man was on a bicycle and he exited into the brush as we flew over. This is usually a good sign of a VC. Our observer gave permission to fire. We expended 8 rockets there and 2,000 7.62. After completing our mission and seeing that the troops were into safe territory near Tan Uyen, we expended our load of ordnance into a known VC location, just north of where the day’s operation had gone on. We used 24 rockets and about 10,000 rounds of 7.62. The door gunners don’t get to shoot much so we made run after run on the area allowing the door gunners to fire as much as they wanted. One of our gunners was even outside the helicopter with one foot on the rocket pod shooting to the rear.
- 08 Jan 65
today we had 10 minute standby all day and we completed little projects around our platoon area on the Flight Line (The Snake Pit). We also came up with some good ideas for putting an intervalometer inside the helicopter cockpit giving the pilot the capability of select each rocket tube individually and be able to reset the intervalometer to recycle it for misfires.
- 09 Jan 65
Today another standby day. My fire team was on standby for 3XXX. They had two marine units moving by motor convoy from Saigon to VT, Leatherneck 1 & 2. We were to give them overhead assistance if they needed us. We were on an on-call basis. At first they (Major Wheeler) wanted us to have our fire team on standby at the soccer field which is just a hop across the PSP runway here at BH. I talked them out of that so that we could work around our platoon area. At 07:30 I took one ship over to get the briefing as to what was to happen that day. While there all that was there was disorganization. I’m referring to mostly the Vietnamese. They had no idea what was going on. Capt. (unknown) briefed WO Paxton and me on the situation and we were to pick up an observer. We had already begun to inquire as to where he was. All the ARVN people would say is, “he be here few minutes.” Finally I told them to get me an ARVN officer for an observer. They came up with two corporals with no radios. I again tried to explain. This time they came up with one who is in training to be an officer and a sergeant. Again I explained I only wanted one and I took the one in training.
It was 10:30 before I returned with the A/C to the platoon area. The rest of the day was spent working on little projects including writing letters and napping. WO Paxton and I were going to try to fix a hole for an outdoor latrine. An idea popped into our heads. A couple of days before we had gotten some electrical type explosive caps so we decided to take part of a 2.75 in rocket motor, which is made of nitro-cellulose and make an explosive charge that would dig us a hole. First we took a post pole digger and dug a 4foot hole in the ground and inserted about an 8 inch piece of rocket motor with the explosive cap inserted, then we covered the hole; it only fizzled. We thought that it wasn’t packed tight enough. During that afternoon we tried several things with no results. We still have a post hole. We were released at 18:30 hrs from 3XXX.
- 11 Jan 65
Up early to fly to VT, we arrived just after day light and no mission had been planned. This was the whole Company (A-501st). One fire team had been sent down last night. We had heard that we were going to move to VT for thirty to ninety days, but weren’t sure. We were here at VT all day and my team flew one mission that was to escort the old man (Major Henderson) on a recon. On the recon we checked a road at low level which had many road blocks along it. They were long deep holes or trenches ¾ of the way across the road. Paper signs indicated that it had been done by the 151st VC Bn. We returned to BH about 17:30 and were told we were to move to VT tomorrow. We had a mission for a CA at 06:20 in the morning at VT. That meant that we had to leave BH at approximately 05:15. We were to return to BH about noon and have the afternoon and evening to pack and move. Most everyone second guessed the idea of having all afternoon and evening to move and packed up their belongings this night.
- 12 Jan 65
Up at 03:30, chow 04:00, transportation to flight line at 0430; departing time 05:15. We arrived at VT before daylight and refueled and were briefed on the operation. The Company was to make two full lifts and part of another to a LZ less than seven minutes flying time across the bay from VT. My fire team Firebird 93 reinforced by Firebird 96 were to make the LZ recon. Troops were to be into the LZ at 06:45. I made the recon at first light. We could just see. The LZ was rice fields with high dikes. We drew no fire from the area. I advised Rattler lead of the situation and recommended no suppressive fire. We marked the LZ with yellow smoke and climbed to 1500 feet over the LZ to provide over head cover and to be on call if the ground troops needed any aerial weapons help. Firebird 97 fire team said they received fire from a clump of trees as the Company was lifting out. Firebird 97’s wing man expended some rockets and MG into the area. It ended up that they wounded one civilian.
The Marine unit that was dropped in the LZ was to take a mountain and set up a blocking force in the area. By the time the second lift got to the area the eager marines had already taken the mountain and were at the top. They received no fire and found no VC. The whole area is an Island and mostly fishing villages. Another unit was taken into the Island from the north by junks (Vietnamese boats). They began to move through the Island from the north. Along the canals the Marines ahead of the junks took a captive (suspected V.C.) from a small boat. We flew approximately 01+30 on that mission and were released.
The Company (A501st) was then on standby for another operation east of Ba Ria along the road we reconned yesterday. Two units were moving down the road; one from W to E and the other from E to W. They were clearing the road and filling the holes. We were released at 12:30 hrs, returned to BH and then had to return to VT by 14:00 with all our gear. We had less than one hour to remove our gear from the hooch, return to the flight line, load our gear in the helicopters and pull pitch. After arrival here (VT) I was able first to move my fire team to a hotel down town because we were to be on airfield standby all night. The crew members were moved into buildings on the airfield. The men are overly crowded. We returned to the flight line at 18:00 and found they had no place for my officers or crew to sleep. I was not going to let my crew sleep in the ship or under them. I began looking for a home for them. At approx. 19:30 hrs everything was taken care of and crew to their quarters. The officers had cots in the 61st Operations and the enlisted men in Bldg. 31. We were not needed during the night.
- 13 Jan 65
Firebird 93 team had standby, 15 min reaction time. We also had the all night standby.
- 14 Jan 65
Today my fire team was off. We slept in, ate dinner. I talked to Ed Skelton who I have not seen since Ft. Benning. We were neighbors for 2 years there. Went to the back beach, got some sun and had a chance to swim a little. This is winter time here and we were the only ones there. It was relaxing to get away. We returned, showered and back to sleep. O’Byrne and I ate dinner downtown and had real fine dinner. I had fried shrimp and onion rings.
- 15 Jan 65
Takeoff at 13:30 to Phy My for providing convoy cover. There were a total of nine vehicles. Eight (2½ ton), one ¾ ton), and four of the 2½’s were loaded with troops going East of B.H. The other four empty 2½’s were going to Long Thanh (LH); to load ammunition and then return to Phy My. The other four were off loading troops and returning to Long Thanh and return with the convoy to Phu My.
The convoy finally left Phu My at 14:20 and we picked up a Captain at Long Thanh who observed the movement of the other four 2½'s with his troops to their destination. We flew to B.H. to refuel. Here I found out that Capt. Erwin was killed just S of B.H. that morning. He was one of the pilots who came over with us from Ft. Benning. Their helicopter struck high tension lines and crashed and burned. Capt. Erwin, his gunner and ARVN observer were killed. The Co-pilot is in serious condition and the CE is in the hospital. It is a real shame to lose lives over here by just accidents. After refueling we returned to escort the convoy to Phy My then returned to V.T.
- 15 Jan 65
Primary standby today which will continue through the night until 07:30 in the morning. Today we flew overhead cover and recon for Leatherneck 2 which had an operation ENE of here. There was no contact with the VC. A road block was destroyed which was booby trapped. One interesting thing did happen while we were flying low level recon for Leatherneck 2. We had asked him for his unit’s locations. About this time smoke appeared from an area to the South 1K from a WP grenade. He said he had not marked with smoke and we had spotted his location on the ground inside the town. We then found out that it was an artillery smoke round which the supporting artillery had used to mark center of sector. No coordination had been made with us or other aircraft in the area. We immediately left the area. This evening just before dark we made a recon of the peninsula as part of our mission of primary standby. Most of the day has been spent waiting. Our evening airfield recon took approx. 45 min. I went to Bed at 12:30.
- 16 Jan 65
Got up 05:45, takeoff at 06:30 for morning recon. Return 07:15. Departed for the Hotel to clean up and shower. My wing crew is off today. After cleaning up, O’Byrne and I returned to the flight line to take 921 and 926 to B.H. for P.E. We were to remain with the ship until it was completed. I managed to get to the PX and see my Mess Sgt. in the dispensary with strep throat. The helicopters were through with their PE at 22:45. We then had to replace the weapons systems; this is a 2 hr. job. After moving the ship to the firebird area (Snake Pit), obtaining lights and replacing the weapons systems, we departed about 00:30 and arrived at VT 01:15. Upon returning we found that missions had been planned late and that Operations and Intel. Officers were in a briefing. We were then briefed on the morning’s missions and hit the hay about 03:00.
- 17 Jan 65
Got up at 05:30. Today is my son’s birthday. Steven is one year old today. Our standby for missions began at 07:00. At 08:30 the standby Eagle type flight was scrambled to the operational area, just to the east of the area that Leatherneck 2 worked in the other day. Leatherneck 1 was out today. After arriving at the area no landing zone had been picked and no contact with the VC had been made. We were not really needed. Then Maj. Wheeler who was running the show requested that we make a flyby of the area as a demonstration of force. We now are the “A” Co.501st demonstration of force Company. It is estimated that it cost the tax payer $300.00 per hour to run a UH1B helicopter. There were 17 helicopters in the area flying 45 minutes each for nothing. As we were returning, my fire team was requested to return to the area to provide recon for Leatherneck 1. We were out a total of 01 + 30 and returned V.T. Today my team was to be the secondary standby and we would normally return to the hotel for standby. It was about chow time so I told the primary team, FB91, to go to chow at the hotel and that we would stand in for them while they ate. Twenty minutes after they left an emergency alert came down stating that the VC had two Americans pinned down and they needed support. We were told to report to Ham Tan which is up the coast about 40 minutes flying time.
Upon arrival we found that the deputy Province Chief had been shot in the head while in a helicopter. The situation was that while in the operational area around Mepu Da Sroi, north of Ham Tan about 70K, the deputy was shot while the helicopter was on approach to the town. The ground advisers thought they had the VC all to the west and the province chief, his deputy and the advisor to the chief wanted to talk to the ground advisor. Smoke was put out and landing was suggested from the east, when the helicopter was about 100 feet from touchdown and 50 feet in the air they began to receive ground fire. One hit the deputy in the left temple and the helicopter took a total of 7 hits.
Shortly after we arrived at Ham Tan, radio contact was lost with the two American advisors on the ground at Mepu Da Soi. The last radio transmission was that they were surrounded and were in hand to hand combat with the VC. An L19 was requested for radio relay and to try and gain radio contact with the advisors “Able Mable 75.” The L19 arrived about 01:45 after being requested and no contact were made nor any movement seen in the area.
At the same time UH1’s were requested for a second company lift into the area. The helicopters (A501st & 118th) began to arrive about 17:00. By 18:15 the helicopters had been refueled and departed for the LZ about 18:20. My fire team went along with a Razor Back team for LZ recon and preparation fires if needed. We picked the LZ 1K SW of the town. No fire was received on the recon. One Razor Back helicopter reported fire as the troops were being let out on the LZ. Suppression fire was used on the clump of trees from where the fire came. The flight separated after the drop off to depart to their home stations. We returned to Ham Tan to drop off the observer and to refuel before returning to V.T. The fueling was real slow because they were fueling us out at 55 gallon drums. We arrived at V.T. at 20:30 hrs. Ate and went to bed.
- 18 Jan 64
Got up at 05:45. Today primary stand-by, we flew a grand total of 01+10. We were given several fire zones today and had a mission to escort Rattler 6 and two other of our helicopters to Binh Gia. The three helicopters were taking fifteen troops and their equipment to the district HQ there. The landing pad was small and the helicopters had to go in one at a time. Since we have been here in VT we have not worked together as a Company (Slicks and armed ships) and the slicks have forgotten that if they want to be covered on landing and takeoff there are certain procedures to follow. The last helicopter finally operated as should be after informing the first two what they should have done. After departure from the area we escorted Rattler 6 on a short recon just to the north of the HQ along the road. After completion we were released to expend in the free fire zones as we desired. I picked two which were close together (YS433 830 & YS420 766). The first was just west of Binh Gia; the other off the NW corner of the plantation SW of Binh Gia. After this we departed for V.T. We were on duty all night. Nothing happened.
- 19 Jan 65
Up 05:00, ate and had to be ready for a briefing and pitch pull at 06:45. By 07:00 the personnel did not show so we called off the mission and returned to the hotel to eat and shower. At 11:00 hrs Firebird 96 called and wanted us to take 921 to BH for PE. Bishop and I took the ship. By the time we got transportation we did not leave until 12:45. Went to the PX bought an AKAI tape recorder M7SP, a few blank tapes and ate supper. The ship was not ready tonight. On the way to BH, I called Bear Cat and received permission to shoot in the fortified area across the highway to the west. WO Bishop was with us from the Airlift Platoon to train as a member of a fire team. I had him in the right seat and demonstrated a rocket run into the area. He then made a couple of rocket runs and a stowed MG run. On the way from VT to Bear Cat I had him practicing rocket runs by using the technique of deceleration to 60 K, 85% gas producer, engage target and shoot. He did real well on the target area.
- 20 Jan 65
Departed Bien Hoa after the PE was finished and we had replaced the armament equipment. We arrived in VT about 11:30. This was my fire team’s day (FB93) to have secondary standby. When I got back we took over secondary standby. We relieved the primary fire team FB91 to go to chow then we returned to the Hotel. At 14:00 we were informed that there was a free area target and a couple of places to look at. Firebird 92 asked if my team wanted to go along to expend. We did and expended east of Binh Gia. We returned and flew 01+10. This evening we flew the evening recon. Picked up the observer and flew 01+15. After Firebird 91 returned we departed for the hotel to eat and clean up. After chow I went to get a haircut and that has been the most relaxing time I have had while here. They cut my hair, shampooed it, a manicure, facial massage and head massage. It took about 01+45 and cost 2.25 Piaster. My shoulders and neck were also massaged. OB and I had a beer then I went to bed.
- 21 Jan 65
Got up at 05:45. My fire team had the primary standby mission at 08:45. Heard this morning that the two Americans captured above Ham Tan were found dead and returned to Saigon. Sure wish we could have helped them. Our mission this morning was to recon the area from Ap Nam to Binh Gia 10 K east & west-specific areas. We made two trips, the second we expended into two areas. One SE of Binh Gia along a creek in VC territory where a house was being constructed under some trees in the jungle at Coordinates YS555 715 and in between the mountains NW of Ba Ria at Coordinates YS316 696. We expended a total of 24 rockets 2,000 MG.
Late this afternoon the Firebird 96 fire team and mine, FB93, escorted three slicks on a snatch mission. The idea behind this mission is to find a isolated hutch or a couple of people who are alone, send in the two slicks with six troops each to pick up the people and take back for questioning. This is done in VC territory to gain intelligence information. We departed about one and one half hours before dark. The third slick is a command and control helicopter usually carrying the G2 officer.
The area we selected was along a road and we were looking for someone to pick up, while on low level recon of a hay wagon the 96 fire team passed over a hutch were after a couple of passes spotted several persons laying in the grass; on the third trip around they spotted a weapon in one’s hand. About this time they began to run for a wooded area. We received permission to shoot from the C & C helicopter and FB96 rolled in on a firing pass taking under fire the wood line that the VC were running into. After they expended we engaged the area and took under fire an area not covered by their fire but where we saw VC moving into. Then we began to screen the area N & E of the hutch along the woods. Firebird 96 escorted the two slicks into an LZ in front of the hutch. The troops departed the helicopter into the woods and hutch. They found blood everywhere and killed two and captured two weapons. The slicks were called back to pick up the troops after about 15-20 min.
As the helicopters were pulling pitch a VC threw a grenade toward the helicopter and began to run along a bushy creek. I spotted him and made a firing pass at such an angle as not to endanger the slicks, my pair of rockets just missed his head and landed about 10-15 feet behind him at the time he was running toward the brush which was also toward the helicopter. He stopped momentarily and the CE on the left side of the ship cut him down with the door gun. On our second pass my pair of rockets landed in the same group of bushes where we saw two more VC dive into. By this time we had expended all our rockets and our MG’s were not working.
About this time one of our helicopters, (A501st ) that was operating just up the coast asked for help. There was a Marine unit that had engaged a VC force, 2 Bn. in size, and they were greatly outnumbered. Firebird 96 departed from the area with only MG’s and I had nothing working and requested return to VT for refuel and rearm. I returned and was ready for takeoff in 15 min after touchdown. That was completely reloading 7.62, rockets and refueling. I gave a call to FB96 and our help was not needed. The Marine unit now had air support.
My crew ate and returned to the flight line, we were primary standby. By this time there was a request for a fire team to remain on station all night. Two other fire teams were requested and arrived in the area about 24:00 hrs as our third team was on station. They were the Piggy’s, the 118th Razorbacks, and they were to relieve my team. As they arrived into the area the lead ship called receiving fire and the whole area was taken under fire, they did not know where the friendly forces were and I believe they fired into friendly forces. I have yet to go on an operation where they are also involved that they don’t receive fire the very first thing. We had flown over the same area for 01+20 hours and had not received fire, so had the other previous teams.
The Smokey aircraft was on duty dropping flares for continuous lighting for the operational area and they did a tremendous job. The team was Smokey Blue. They had only a few flares left and the ground forces were going to be supported by artillery. We headed for an area that had been requested for an air strike and Smoky Blue dropped the remaining flares over the target. All five armed aircraft engaged the target expending 100 percent; we hit the exact area and returned home. We refueled and rearmed and got to bed about 02:30. A Bandit team from the 118th arrived plus many slicks to go on an operation in the morning. Bedding was a problem so they took our standby and slept in operations.
- 22 Jan 65
Today I began my three day R&R in V.T. I slept most of the day without realizing that the first day was gone. Had a few beers with Ed Shelton and headed for bed about 24:00 at the villa.
- 23 Jan 65
My second day of R&R. Got up at 09:30 had a steak at Cyernos and looked around town. This evening had a few beers with the boys.
- 24 Jan 65
This is my last day of R&R. Got up at 10:00 and spent most of the day doing nothing. I moved back to the hotel this afternoon. WO Bishop and I began to borrow tapes and we set up our tape recorders then began to go to work.
- 25 Jan 65
Last night my crew had standby and is the backup crew today (one crew off). This evening we made the airfield recon. During the afternoon Bishop and I began production recording, we had three (reel to reel) tape recorders in my room. We used one tape recorder to play the original tape and the other to cut the reproduction tapes. We have completed one full tape and about one half of side one on another. We are recording at 3 � speed. Most of the commercial tapes are recorded at 7 � speed. This allows twice as much to be recorded on a tape. We are also trying to arrange our music to have the same type on each tape. We worked until about 00:45.
- 26 Jan 65
Today we are secondary standby. Our first mission was escort for a combat assault performed by our company (A501st). We lifted Leatherneck 1, 2 & 3 into the old airstrip at the plantation SW of Bien Gia. We (Firebird 93) escorted on the left side of the formation while Firebird 97 was on the right side. Firebird 91 made the LZ recon and performed the suppressive fire. We expended one half of our ammunition on suppressive fire into the landing zone. The door gunners on the slicks got trigger happy and began to fire between five and six hundred feet above the ground on approach. Tracers from the door gunners on the slicks were passing thirty feet in front of my helicopter. They were not to begin firing until they pass below us on approach and we remain at three hundred feet above the ground on our passes. Also they are to fire only on the edges of the LZ at the bases of the trees. This time they were firing straight out of the doors into our flight path. We had to climb to five hundred feet above the ground to stay out of the line of fire.
Later in the day we had a mission to engage the top of a mountain NW of Ba Ria. There is an antenna there that we needed to destroy. Earlier I had noticed some glint from antenna wires on this mountain and reported that to the G2 which resulted in this mission. We took five armed helicopters and expended our ordinance in the area and received some fire, we did not destroy the antenna. The base of the antenna is in concrete but I am sure that we did some damage. Late this afternoon after completing the G-2 recon, my fire team again expended on the antenna area but from a different direction.
- 27 Jan 65
Today we had primary standby. Nothing much happened until 15:00 this afternoon when we made a special recon for Major Rogers at Long Xuyen east of Ba Ria. After takeoff on the recon, Leatherneck called for assistance, he was in a firefight with the VC. We spotted smoke and headed for the area where the firefight was going on. As we passed over 81mm mortars were going off below and there was a multitude of ground fire. We did not think that Leatherneck 2 was in that area. Firebird 96 took lead and proceeded north to the area he thought Leatherneck 2 was in. We did not find them and asked for coordinates, the coordinates placed them in the town we had passed over and saw smoke and mortars firing. We could not get into the area until they stopped firing the mortars. The VC broke contact when we arrived and dispersed. We checked the area at low level but could not fine them. We were given suspected areas and expended in two passes NE of town. We returned to VT to exchange helicopters so that we could complete the recon for Major Rogers. The recon was completed after the exchange, we returned about 18:15. We had supper at the snack bar and took night stand by at operations.
At 23:55 a call was received at operations for support at Long Than which is north of Phy My on highway 15. We were on station in 20 minutes. By this time VC contact had stopped. Flares were dropped by the slick and a target was given to us. After verification and identifying the target by its location to the town (SW corner), we expended 50 percent. They informed us that was the wrong area and to move NW from there. After further verification of the target as the SW corner of the town itself we moved our fire 500 meters to the NW and we again expended 50 percent. At this time they radioed to stop firing, by this time we had already expended our remaining rockets but stopped shooting MG. They then referred us to the NW corner and we marked with flares and tracers; then used most of our 7.62 in that area. At this time we had just enough fuel remaining to return to V T. The rest of the night was quiet.
- 28 Jan 65
Got up at 05:00 to prepare for the morning G-2 recon. We departed at 07:00 and was gone some 1+45 and found nothing. My crew then returned to the hotel to cleanup. Paxton and Bishop were off today and I was to fly Firebird 96’s wing. We were not needed so I took my time and had a steak for a late breakfast. At about 09:45 I received word that we were leaving VT to return to BH. I returned to the hotel to pack all my junk. I had moved almost everything that I had to VT and was all set up with three reel to reel tape recorders recording tapes, what a mess. All my stuff was at the flight line by 13:30 and takeoff time was 14:30. We did not take off until 16:45.
After arriving at home plate we found that we could move into the villa that had been built for us in BH. My fire team began to gather all our baggage and take it to the villa. All the doors were locked and no white mice (local police guards) were there. The XO and I departed to talk with the police captain having someone (a guard) at the gate. We got two guards later. We picked up the keys and I returned to let the people in. By 24:00 hours I had moved all my equipment from the compound at the airfield to the villa and hit the hay.
- 29 Jan 65
Got up at 04:00 for a combat assault at 06:00 with a briefing at 05:45. The combat assault mission was successful and the LZ was secured by the ground force that was there. We returned for stand by and are still here. The lift was from Phuoc Vinh to about 9 K east of Tan Uyen. We returned back to BH for standby and released at 18:30 to return to the villa to eat. At 21:30 the lights went out and we had no auxiliary power. I showered and finished putting my room in order, also had a briefing on tomorrow’s mission. Wrote a letter and hit the hay.
- 30 Jan 65
Up at 04:00 then departed for VT at 06:00 for a combat assault. After refueling and waiting for the troops to arrive, my team (Firebird 93) was to make the LZ recon and mark them. There were four landing zones required, #1 for 6 helicopters, #2 for 4, #3 for 4, the first three LZs dropped off troops at three minute intervals. The flight return to VT to pick up more troops for LZ #4 which could handle all 14 helicopters.
While waiting for the flight to return we provided screening to the South along the main road. This was at Xa Long Tan (YS 485 658). There were several people leaving the town and we were instructed to stop them and make them return. One was a donkey cart with a family aboard; another was a Lambretta scooter taxi, several OX carts and a man on a motor bike. We made several passes low and slow and pointing for them to return to town. The Lambretta would not stop even after several passes. We then shot our MG about twenty feet in front of them, after about three passes with myself and wing man, they stopped and turned around. However one man got out and pointed that he wanted to go on to the next town. We convinced him to return when we put a couple of burst about ten feet in front of him. After the first burst in front of the Lambretta, that family returned. Further down the road several OX carts continued to move away. We finally stopped them by shooting only a few feet in front of them. We then escorted them back to the town. By this time the flight (slicks) was returning and we reconned and marked the fourth LZ then returned to VT with the flight.
This evening we performed a G-2 recon which included a recon to the north toward Binh Gia and to the south and east down a creek valley to Xa Xuyen Moc (YS655 685) where there were reports that a VC Bn. was moving toward the area. We reconned real good especially the mountain to the north of the town which in the past has been used by the VC for mortars and direct fire by MG into the town (Nui Dat). We then returned to VT for chow.
After chow Major Wheeler the aviation liaison officer to the marines, called us to report to his location for a briefing. When we arrived I found they wanted to go to the Xuan Moe area at 23:00 and use all the firepower of one fire team (2 armed UH-1Bs with 7.62 and 24-2.75 inch rockets) to engage the mountain Nui Dat. This was to discourage the VC Bn. which was to attack the town tonight. This town has been crying wolf about being attacked for the last two nights. Intelligence reports show that the VC could not have moved down that far, plus we reconned that area less than two hours before and found nothing. The compound in the town had two tubes of 105mm with ammo and the night was black with no horizon, some low clouds forming and a 30K wind at 2500 feet. We had a slick helicopter available with flares but they do not always work. I informed the Major and the Marine representative that with all the indications and the condition of the night it was not worth the mission. They had tried to get VNAF but they would not take the mission. Our little fire team could not do much in this situation. It is a twenty minute flight up there so this would only give us about forty five minutes on station before we had to return for fuel.
Our main purpose for being a VT on duty all night is for the protection of any small village that might come under attack at night and needs immediate reaction. This estimate includes some time on station, refueling and rearming on our return. I did not feel that it was worth it with all the information we had. Another factor is we were the only fire team in the area, any other fire team was at least fifty minutes flying time away and if one of our helicopters were shot down we would not have any help for at least 1+30 in an active VC area. One of the marine Majors said that he thought that we should do it and Major Wheeler did not have enough balls to say no, so we went.
When we got to the area the flares would not work and we wasted forty minutes on station trying to get some of the flares to work. There was another aircraft in the area and we could not find out who it was, we asked Major Wheeler to find out who it was; he came back later with there are no friendly aircraft in the area it must be VC (that was bright). This aircraft was flying in the area with all the lights on, come to find out that it was a Mohawk from VT. Before we left I informed the Major that they would probably get all kinds of reports that we were firing into the village and into the wrong area due to the expended 7.62 brass falling at night and the remains of firing the rockets. Sure enough he was waiting on the ground to find out why we had shot into the town etc.; I assured him that we did not and in less than forty five minutes he called again inferring that there were casualties in the town and that the door gunners were shooting up the town. The door gunners shot only on our break and into the same area that we were. The people on the ground have no depth perception at night watching rockets and MG tracers; it always looks closer than it is. After our helicopters were refueled and rearmed and talked to the Major several times we got to bed about 02:00. We were to make another G-2 recon at 06:30 the next morning.
- 31 Jan 65
At 07:00 the marine observer, an American Captain, came in and woke us up. He did not have a Vietnamese observer with him, and he said he could not get one out of bed. In ten minutes we were airborne for the mission. I should not have taken the mission because legally I am required to have a Vietnamese observer. He wanted to go to the area that we had shot the night before and to recon another area just west of the town. I showed him where we had shot last night and why the report was as such about us shooting into the town. There were several hutches outside the lighted area of the town and our firing passes were over the edge of the lights. Also the 30 K wind helped to blow the brass, links and rocket debris into the town.
We returned with a total of 1+00 flight time. Again the Major met us at the landing strip and I informed him that we could be back after we took care of the helicopters and ate breakfast. He said that the he had another mission for us. I told him I would go when my crew had eaten. We were ready to depart about 09:20 for Leatherneck 1 (Capt. Daneley’s) location YS477 596. I called when five minutes out and shortly after had spotted several VC flags in the town of Xa Tam Phuoc (YS452 585) and along the road running to the south east. We decided to get them. The first one we got was along the road on an archway entrance over the road leading south of the main road. We made several passes around the area and received on fire. Then we shot up the area around the flag and at the base to set off any booby traps. I then hovered beside the structure and the crew chief reached out and pulled off the flag. There were two more beautiful flags where the road entered the town. The archway was covered with flowers and greenery with the flags up on either side. Again we passed over the area several times and received no fire. I made a low approach and flared to a hover in between the flags, the gunner on the right got that one and I moved to the left and the crew chief pulled on that one, I moved a little and the flag ripped in half. I set the skids on the arch, broke it and the rotor wash blew it down. Along beside the road every few feet were small paper flags, we moved down to the road and picked up one of them. That was a total of four flags in just a matter of minutes.
About that time Leatherneck 1 called us and said that he still did not have us in sight, I told him that we were picking up VC flags and that we would be there in a couple of minutes. We shut down at his location for a briefing then went on his recon. During the recon he showed us a large VC flag at the west end of Xa Long Phuoc (YS440 642). The flag was atop a large tree in an open field. We were thinking that it might be booby trapped and asked permission from the Vietnamese observer, a Major “Bn. Commander”, to shoot into the tree with MG and rockets. He said “go ahead it was in a VC village”.
We made our firing passes so that we were shooting away from the village and engaged the tree. All our rockets except two went into the tree with tree burst and a pair of mine at the base. We expended 16 rockets in the tree. There were only a few limbs left on the tree with the flag drooping on its pole off to one side. I ask Firebird 94 WO Freeberg and WO O’Byrne if they wanted to pick up this one and they jumped at the chance. They got it and we left to finish our recon.
We had noticed several other flags in the village itself and would go back to get them. We dropped off our people and returned in about fifteen minutes. There was not a flag or decoration to be found anywhere. The people had brought them all in. I guess they figured if that was what we were going to do to a lone tree with one VC flag in the top, then what would we do to the village with all of them that they had up. We then returned to the first area and the same thing, all the flags were gone even the little ones along the road.
We continued down the road to the southeast and found another that we could get to and make a real slick pick up. We came in low level, did a quick flare, put the flag right beside the helicopter and the gunner on the right grabbed it while I was still moving real slow and we headed for VT. We had a total of six flags and could not find anymore all the way back to VT.
After noon chow we were relieved by another fire team at 14:15 and returned to BH. My fire team got paid; O Byrne was sick and saw the flight surgeon and was placed on quarters for a few days. After fixing a couple of generators, one for auxiliary power and the other for wall lighting, I showered, made a tape for the wife and hit the hay.
- 01 Feb 65
Got up at 06:30, then to the Snake Pit for standby. We cleaned up our captured Russian carbine for display in our trophy room and bar at the villa. I even got to sleep a few hours before chow. We also have standby all night here at BH. Tonight is Vietnamese New Year and all was quiet until about 23:00 when the fireworks started. You get kind of gun shy over here and soon we began to hear gun shots with the fireworks. Then we began to hear automatic weapons fire, at this time I came straight out of bed. Soon the whole perimeter of the airfield and each little compound in the area became a maze of tracers. The ARVNs began shooting into the air just to celebrate and watch the tracers. There was even a 50 cal. In the bunch and someone set off a round of 105mm. in the 3XXX compound and numerous mortar flares were seen. It soon calmed down and we got back to sleep.
- 02 Feb 65
Today remained at the villa and managed to get a couple of hours of sleep. I also re-arranged my room.
- 03 Feb 65
Up at 04:30 for a combat assault at Tan An. My fire team supported Axe Blade (old 68th) on the LZ east of Tan An. We returned to BH for standby and took off for VT after chow. We again had the honors of standby there. Our mission this evening for the G-2 was to recon Xa Long My coordinates (YS490 550) and the mountain area north of Ba Ria coordinates (YS294 710) and south from there. On our recon I spotted some hutches on the top of the mountain along a ridge line. They were hidden and had not been noticed by any of our previous recons or any other fire team. The observer said shoot and we did. On our first pass we expended 100 percent of our rockets and were on target. On the break I noticed several other hutches and then we made several machine gun runs on the other areas. We returned for chow and nothing else happened during the night. We picked up two VC flags and one VC banner in the area of Long My. The flag was at Ap Lo Gam (YS510 545) and the banner at the end of the village to the south east (YS513 541).
- 04 Feb 65
Up at 06:00, take off at 06:45 for recon around the north end of the mountains west of Ba Ria and then to expend on the mountain again on the other hutches we saw yesterday afternoon. We expended and started some good fires with the WP. We made several passes, two with rockets and MG and several with MG only. During the last pass the crew chief SP/5 Dunston , hit the top barrel on our XM6 MGs and a piece of the shrapnel pierced one of the hydraulic lines and we were losing hydraulic fluid on the gun system. We turned off our gun system in time that we did not lose all of the fluid. Returned to VT and I lost the servo assist completely on approach for landing and sat it down on the PSP pad without incident. We were around most of the morning trying to find another hydraulic line and found one just before noon. The other fire team came down to relieve us to take our helicopter back for maintenance. We returned at noon this afternoon and I began to do some taping off of WO Clapps Teak tape recorder and started a folk song tape.
- 05 Feb 65
Departed for Phuoc Vinh tactical operations center at 07:00, when we arrived they sent us to Song Be. After refueling at SB we flew to coordinates YU345 069 about 20 K east of SB. Here we picked up Captain Howard and made a recon for him. There were two spots we fired upon for him then returned to his location. Before we took off we ask him if he could get us two cross bows and he had one of his men round them up while we were gone. These were ones used by the Montagnards (Vietnamese mountain people) used for hunting and the front of the stock was dark and had hair on it. He told us that when they killed an animal they would dip it in the blood and then put some of the animal hair on it for good luck.
We also took some pictures and tried to buy one of their knives off one of the men for 200 P and they are getting smart and said no 500 by showing their fingers. After several tries we left and returned to SB. We ate and rested until about 14:30. They had a second mission for us to recon several areas that we had worked about a month ago. After our briefing we tried to takeoff, my UH-1B did not want to go. She would drop to 6200 RPM when trying to hover. After trying everything I knew, we decided we needed to get this aircraft back for maintenance to look at. In order to get off the ground and airborne I had to put the gunner in the other aircraft and drop my loaded rocket pods. I just did make it off the ground thanks to a gust of wind that blew in.
Upon return we had another mission, as soon as possible (ASAP) waiting. Other fire teams could not be found. We had flown 3+30 already. I changed aircraft and we took off for ______ coordinates _______. When we arrived there was no one ready and it took twenty minutes to get an observer and they just wanted to look at a couple of small areas where there were suspected VC. We found no VC and decided to get a couple of flags. We got two, one flag at coordinate’s _______ and the other at coordinate’s ________, both at the same village. The first one was on a bamboo frame, when the gunner tried to break the flag off we ended up with the whole top section. I thought that the gunner was shaking his head for me to go because he had the flag but he was telling me that we had one half of the frame dragging underneath the aircraft. The gunner was still outside of the aircraft with one foot on the skid and the other on top of the rocket pod. He kicked it loose and we went to get another one. We made MG runs on both before we picked them up. The second one was easier to get even though the pole had to be cut with a knife.
We returned the observers and departed for BH with another 1+30 for a total of 5+00 hours flight time. We ate and recorded the rest of my folk music tape and we were up until 02:00 trying to get things straight after being briefed on the combat assault for tomorrow.
- 06 Feb 65
Up at 05:00 and departed for the airfield at 06:00 and took off at 06:45. We were to lift two battalions into three LZs in war zone D and E which is NE of Tan Uyen coordinates _______, ______, _______. Lift units included the 118th, 68th, and A/501st. Some fire was received and one aircraft from the 118th went down just northwest of the last LZ, the engine blew up but I do not know why. After the lifts were completed we returned to BH, had coffee at the air force snack bar, then we returned to our villa for standby.
I finished a tape of Roger Williams and a Christmas tape. I am either early or late with the Christmas music. After dinner we left for our standby at VT. We arrived about 15:00 and departed on our G-2 recon up toward Binh Gia. We made a recon of the area to the west around a small hill coordinates Ys395 730, as we flew over I spotted a man moving under a large tree and it appeared to be a well used area and that there more people there. There were reports of two battalions of VC in the Binh Gia area and in the same area we were checking out. We unloaded in the area and returned to VT, reloaded the aircraft and departed for chow. We were expecting a VC attack at Phy My tonight, we were sleeping with our clothes on.
- 07 Feb 65
Nothing happened last night, we were up at 05:45 ate chow and took off at 06:30 to pick up an observer at Ba Ria then to stand by at Phy My. We were on call to support a motor convoy of the airborne brigade moving from Saigon to VT. This afternoon the marines are moving from VT to Saigon. We flew 03+30 today. This afternoon we flew convoy cover and Firebird 97 was stand by at Phy My. We heard last that night Pla Ku was hit by the VC and seven Americans were KIA and some seventy eight wounded. This afternoon we (America) reacted by air striking bases and staging areas in North Vietnam. Tonight we have been preparing for air strikes we might receive from North Vietnam or Cambodia. The aircraft have been dispersed so they are not close together and 50 cal. Machine guns have been set up around the airfield. There are enough pilots on standby to fly out all our aircraft in case incoming hostile aircraft are detected. All of us have enough clothes and equipment to last us a couple of days ready to go. I wrote a letter and recorded a little more than one half a tape of good soft music tonight.
- 08 Feb 65
- 09 & 10 Feb 65
Up at 03:30 and took off at 05:15 to VT. We were lifting three battalions of Red Hats into two areas west of Binh Gia coordinates #1_______ and #2______. There were two lifts out of VT and two out of Ba Ria. There was an excellent prestrike by the Air Force (Americans) on LZ#1 and LZ#2. There was also a prestrike by the 68th just prior to the lift aircraft arriving in the area and suppressive fire by the escort aircraft and the door gunners aboard the slicks.
The first LZ was obscured by smoke and “A501st” company was leading, they made the LZ, Myrth (118th) was following and had to go around, Gin and Axe Blade followed and made the LZ. The rice field in LZ #2 had been burned off and “A501st” company went IFR on touchdown but was ok. On departure the same thing happened and one aircraft turned over and burned. The gunner received a broken leg. There was such close timing between flights into the LZ that there was not time to depart singularly or in pairs. Captain Jones was flying and Captain Taylor from the 118th with him. There was a total of four aircraft shot down on this assault. One Gin (120th) aircraft took several hits and the copilot was hit four or five times and was killed. There was also a crew chief hit in the same aircraft. That aircraft was later flown out. One of the Raiders aircraft crashed but no one was killed. There were some thirty VC weapons captured and some thirty eight or forty confirmed VC killed and there were several ARVNs killed or wounded.
Red Hat 4 had to stay and secure LZ #2 so that the aircraft could be evacuated. He also had to stay and protect the dead and wounded that could not be evacuated earlier. As it became evening and night the VC began to work. My fire team Firebird 93 and Lt. Renolds team Firebird 97 reinforced by Firebird 96 were the only two teams available and that evening we went to their location to assist them.
When we arrived we found that they needed all the help that they could get. We stayed with them all through the night and until late the next morning flying a total of 16+20 from the time we had gotten up that morning. Lt. Renolds team flew approximately the same number of hours as we did. We had a flare ship overhead with constant lighting and early in the morning we had A1E Air Force assistance that was requested at late evening and we did not receive that help until about 02:00, before this we were there by ourselves supporting Red Hat 4. Red Hat 4 at LZ#2 had with him a FAC (Forward Air Controller) who also used his radio and call sign directing our fire support. He was calm, cool and collected. There were several times he was scared or shook up but you cannot blame him when mortar and machine gun fire are incoming as well as the loud noises made by the VC all around him. They were surrounded by a large force of VC. Every time that the VC would open up on them we would open up on the VC. We were giving air support up as close as 50 meters to the friendly line. The VC were close enough that we could hear them screaming over the mike of the FAC when we were shooting. The VC could not fight this, all they had to do was shoot a couple of rounds or one mortar and we began to fire also. There was a VC radio operator (maybe Russian Advisors) that came up on our frequency and kept saying “cease fire, cease fire”. By this time we knew the voices of those who we were working with and then had assurance that we were really hurting the enemy.
There was one time about 2 AM that that they came under heavy mortar and MG attack. This was one of the few times that there was a lag in flares and a space between fire teams. I was relieving Firebird 97 on station at the time and only about two minutes from LZ#2. Red Hat 4 (FAC) said “hurry 93 and get those damn flares back”. We were balls to the wall with our UH-1B helicopter and made several low passes with MG and used a couple of rockets and the attack stopped. This went off and on all night anytime the VC did not think the LZ was being covered by air support.
After daybreak the VC broke contact and the A1Es expended their loads each time before they left. I guided one of the airstrikes during the night and marked the target with tracers from our aircraft. The A1Es did not have FM working so they could not talk with the FAC. The FAC told us where he wanted them to strike and we marked and adjusted. This also helped silence the VC. They used single release on the bombs so they would last longer. This was an all American show in the air; we had American pilots all the way, the A1Es, flare ships and our fire teams. This was another factor for the success.
Once during the night we began to receive artillery (155mm) from Phy My which was H&I (Harassment and Interdiction) fire and is non adjusted firing. It was close to the right spot but was more dangerous than doing any good. We were directly in the line of fire and the projectiles had to fall in out path of flight. As soon as I saw the incoming artillery I had my fire team scatter to the south east. I then began to go through channels to stop the firing. It was shut off quickly and we got back to Red Hats location.
There was a lull in at this time in both air cover and flare cover and the VC started it again. We zapped them again and the flare ship was back in short order. After the VC broke contact in the morning RH 4 again secured the LZ and the medical evacuation aircraft was escorted in to remove the wounded and KIA. After this the units began to link up and move to objective 71 to the south west.
At about 10:00 our fire teams were released and placed on an on call basis in case they got into trouble again. This would be relayed through ALOFT, our L19 relay team. They were with us on duty all night relaying messages etc. My team went to eat and we all had ham sandwiches, even they tasted good. All night we only had time to rearm and refuel at VT and eat “C” rations while we were flying. After eating we returned to our aircraft and Firebird 97 crew were on the way to chow. We were to standby at our helicopters. We laid down under our aircraft about 10:45 and we all fell asleep as soon as we were horizontal.
Sometime later Firebird 96 came to me and gave me some instructions and I went back to sleep. About 12:00 I woke up, jumped up and thought that I was to relieve 97 on station. When I awoke there were armed aircraft all over the place. Some from the 68th, 118th and the Piggy’s were there, but no 97. I did some checking and found we had been released to go back to BH and that 97 had already left. Earlier that morning Firebird 94 had assisted us. I went to the pilots of 94 and said to them while they were still sleeping “let’s go”. They sprang to their feet with half closed eyes and started jumping into their aircraft; they too thought we were relieving 97 on station. They looked all around and saw all the other armed aircraft and could not believe it. I had to kick some of the crew chiefs and gunners to wake them up. We arrived at BH about 13:00 and got to the villa about 14:30 after filling out reports. I took a shower and went to sleep and woke at 23:30 checked the board for flights, back to bed, set the alarm and woke when Freeberg knocked on the door at 06:00 to go to chow. Each crew in my fire team expended (320) 2.75in rockets, (40,000) rounds of 7.62 and consumed (1200) gal of JP4 jet fuel and logged 16+20 flying time on this operation.
- 11 Feb 65
Up at 06:00 flew to VT at 08:00 and back on station today providing cover for the Red Hats until they could get settled for the night and secure, we logged 08+15 flying time. We covered their movements from objective 71 to objectives 72, 73 and 74. They met some resistance and were moving through heavy jungle.
The night before while I was sleeping the Firebird 94 team was on standby at Ba Ria, nothing happened. We picked up overhead cover this morning at an area where they found a VC hospital area. The Red Hats had some more wounded and KIA to be evacuated, we escorted the Med Evac and after this RHs 4, 5 and 6 began to move on toward their objectives. Late in the afternoon RH 5 met with heavy resistance and we again gave them close air support. They again had more wounded that needed Med Evac. I picked out an LZ and guided them to it, they secured the LZ and we escorted in the Med Evac. Red Hats 4, 5 and 6 then began moving toward objective 72 and to link up with RH 7 who was moving in the opposite direction starting at Phy My through objective 7,5,4,3and 2.
The idea was to merge on the VC from two directions giving them only a north and south escape route. RH 7 did not meet with much resistance except when he got into the thick jungle and only 1K away from RH 4, 5 and6. Small VC unit attacks slowed down RHs 4, 5 and 6. Through the jungle they had more casualties and had to carry them. The only LZ I could find safe was to the rear of RH 7 about 300 meters at the edge of objective 72. RH 7 had several wounded and sent a team to clear the LZ and secure it. We escorted the Med Evac to pick up RH 7 wounded and they, the RHs, departed back to Phy My without linking up with 4, 5 and 6. RH 5 was leading through the jungle and when they came to the LZ we again assisted in the evacuation of their wounded. After this they had a long distance to walk, about 5k, but it was easier traveling because there were many logging trails to follow.
By late evening and after darkness they were in Phy My and picked up by truck and returned to Ba Ria. We provided cover all the way for them. Our last helicopter returned to BH about 20:00 and Firebird 97 remained overnight at VT on standby. My fire team, Firebird 93, remained overnight at Ba Ria as standby. Nothing happened during the night and the RHs had no trouble either.
The facilities at BR weren’t much. Most of the crew slept in or under the aircraft and a couple of us slept on cots in operations to be close by if anything comes up. This evening my crew went to eat and a Major who was one of the cadre at their training center, came in to the mess hall to raise hell with me for coming in after 19:00 and because so many of us have been eating in their mess. He hollered out in the mess hall “where is Captain Ohlenburger”? He was in civilian clothes and I did not know who he was and did not care. I said as loud as he did “RIGHT HERE” he then asked me to come there and he started in on me with statements like “don’t your people bring rations (“C” rations) with them”? I told him yes they do but I will not have my crew eating Cs three meals a day everyday of the week when there is a mess hall available with “A” rations. He said it put him in a bind there with a comment like “when we should have steak we only get tube steak” (hot dogs). I said “that was too damn bad but we were fighting a war and we were needed there and that he would support us unless he wanted to move all of us out of his area. We finally agreed that we would pay five cents extra per meal to help pay for his help if we came in again after normal meal hours. He shut his mouth and said no more about us eating there.
- 12 Feb 65
Up at 0600 and ate in the mess hall then flew to the area where RH 4, 5 and 6 were to recon and provide overhead cover. Note: no more written that day.
- 13 Feb 65
Up at 05:30 and takeoff at o6:30 to VT with Captain Stone Firebird 96. He and I went to Ba Ria for the awards ceremony. General Kahn was there to decorate the commanders of the Red Hats and to present the high metals to the Vietnamese soldiers. It was quite a shindig, there was a band all in white, colors presented and a cluster presented to the unit by General Kahn for their guidon. All the units were there in uniform around the parade field. Captain Stone was our representative for the Firebirds and was awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Valor with a silver star. I believe there are three grades of this award; the lowest is bronze, the middle silver and the highest gold. All the members of 93 and 97 fire teams will receive this award plus others that I do not know at this time. After the awards the young school girls dressed in their typical white and put flower lays around every ones neck, it was very beautiful. One of the Red Hats took me aside and gave me one of the AK-47 assault rifles captured on that operation. We ate at VT and returned to BH about 15:00. Ate supper, made a tape to the family and went to bed.
- 14 Feb 65
Up at 06:00 and to the flight line at 07:30, we departed for VT at 09:45. Stand by for a possible extraction of Special Forces. Extraction was not needed. The Firebird 91 fire team was released to return to BH and stop in route at Xuan Loc, pick up an observer and check out a road block. We all slept until 17:00, went to eat at Cyernos and returned for standby. The night was quiet.
- 15 Feb 65
Up at 06:00, stand by until about 10:00 when we were to escort two H-34s into an area to extract some troops. By the time we arrived at the area the H-34s had already removed the troops and we returned with a total of 00+30 flying time. This morning I went to talk with the Special Forces people that were still here at VT. They are moving out tomorrow. They gave us three M2 carbines and eight banana clips. Out of their bags Sergeant Adams gave me a set of tiger striped jungle fatigues. We returned to BH about 14:00. I managed to write a letter, record half a tape and clean my 03 rifle. At 00:20 we were alerted to remove our aircraft from the flight line within fifteen minutes. This meant that we had to be on the flight line ready to go. We were released from the flight line about 02:20. There was information that the air field might be attacked tonight.
- 16 Feb 65
Up at 06:00, to the flight line at 07:00 for preflight and run up. We had our company and Firebird patches sewed on, went to the PX etc. and returned to the villa for standby. I recorded some tapes and recorded one to send to the wife. Tonight my fire team was changed around; I lost WO Freeberg to the 97 team and was given Lt. Jefferies. There were several reasons for this; one of our fire teams was working much better together than the others. Second the 97 team needed a good wing man and an older more stable person within that team. I received their wing man to get him squared away.
This individual is one that offends everyone who works with him. He means well but is always expressing his ideas and is always telling people how to do things or how they should be done even if that person is more qualified than he. He wants to impress people with what he knows or thinks he knows. Anytime someone comes up with an idea he always has at least a few changes that should be made. This individual seems to live in a world all of his own with him at the top of the list. He tries hard to get along but just can’t seem to make it. Conversations always center on things he has done and thought up to do. By the time we get through with him he should be just another guy realizing that there are other people who are right and have good ideas.
- 17 Feb 65
Up at 05:30 and our take off at 07:10 to Xuan Loc. We (Firebird 93 team) were to work with them until 12:00 and return to VT at 13:00. When we arrived we were briefed and took off to recon a highway and check out several spots that were used by the VC as tax collection points. We found no road blocks and expended along a trail leading south from the highway. When we returned we rearmed refueled and made a recon of another area. We expended along the ridge of a horse shoe shaped mountain, returned, ate and flew to VT.
Upon arrival we were briefed on an operation taking place around _______ by the coast. The play of the game was this; the amphibious Junk forge was going to simulate a landing on the beach and fire into the village trying to force the VC out of the village into the woods and mountains. Navy 6 the American advisor with the Junk force had trouble with their guns therefore called off the pre invasion fire. We were to orbit beyond the mountains along with the A1Es while the L-19 with the FAC aboard would observe movement of the VC and call us in when they saw movement. When the pre-invasion fires failed we were called in to recon. On our recon we spotted two individuals running like hell inside the village with rifles but disappeared into trees inside the village. Later we spotted several men moving off the road quickly outside of the village along the coast, we fired and only one of them got away. After this we saw no more movement and returned to VT. Later we escorted the command and control aircraft on a recon and returned. No activity during the night.
- 18 Feb 65
Up at 05:30, ate, later relieved of standby and returned to BH at 17:30. Flight time 00+30
- 19 Feb 65
Up at 06:00, to the flight line for preflight and run up 07:30. We had secondary standby. Had patches sewed on, ran around on post taking care of a few things that our fire team members needed to do. Ate lunch and had standby at the villa. Began to rearrange the room and cleaned the O3 rifle and the Ruger .357 (single six) pistol which I carry. I recorded one of my tapes, (country and western music) to send to Donnie.
At 19:30 we were called out to the airfield for a fifteen minute standby to evacuate our choppers if we had to. There was a coup going on in Saigon, General Kahn was trying to maintain his place in the government and someone else was trying to get him out. General Kahn was supported by Air Force General ______ and enough military that it was suppressed. After about one hour we were released and went back to the villa. This alert was for the whole company (A-501st). My fire team (Firebird 93) was called out from secondary standby to replace Firebird 91 that was on standby at VT for Bien Gia. We were alerted that Bien Gia was being hit by one battalion of VC and that Firebird 91 has been committed to give cover at BG. The main gate into BH was closed to all traffic because of the coup in Saigon so we were picked up by helicopter in the rice field next to the villa. We remained on alert all night and slept on the PSP next to the helicopter.
- 20 Feb 65
My birthday is today. Returned to the villa at 06:00, ate breakfast, showered and went to bed. Later I finished putting some things up in my room; the cross bow, a VC flag and moved some footlockers etc. At 09:30 we were called out to go to VT. When we arrived we found that the standby had been called off for a few days. All the troops were gone from down there to Saigon because of the coup. We left VT and returned to BH then proceeded to Tan Uyen to make arrangements for training our new gunners when they arrive and get a target to expend on. We then returned to BH.
- 21 Feb 65
Up at 06:30 to the flight line at 07:30 for preflight and run up. After run up we began to clean up our area, the flight line hutch, the grounds, trash barrels, the aircraft and ammunition area. Our party for the gunners and Lt. Reynolds was to be this afternoon starting at 14:00. At 14:00 we departed for the flight line and the party. We had charcoaled steaks, potato salad, baked beans, potato chips, sodas and plenty of beer. The drinks were iced down in a ¼ ton trailer. Toward the end of the party after everyone was feeling good and it wasn’t long when the platoon sergeant, Sgt. Shoemaker, was carried bodily and put in the ¼ ton trailer full of ice water. Soon to follow was Cpt. Stone the platoon leader, myself, the other fire team leaders and it went down the chain of command from there. We managed to dunk many others our XO Cpt. Crouch, the operations officer Capt. Cary, platoon leaders, Capt. Schwin and Capt. James. Later we called up the Intelligence officer Cpt. Stanford and got him. Sp5 Mobley from maintenance came up on his motor bike to ask about a maintenance procedure we had on one of our aircraft and he was captured. When he got up and realized that everyone was wet and surrounded him, all he could say was “Oh shit,” he was smartly removed from his motor bike and dunked. Soon after all the beer was gone we policed the area and left.
- 22 Feb 65
Got up at 06:30 then to the flight line at 07:30. We were primary standby and Firebird 97 team was going to work on the flight line hutch. I scrounged three sheets of plywood from R & U to build a simple bar and shelf to be used as a room divider at the villa. The dimensions were simple and required very few cuts. The scraps built the shelf for the top. After I build this one, R&U can build the rest of them. WO Paxton and I went to the Air Force carpentry shop and cut the plywood and hauled it to the villa.
At 13:30 we picked up an observer, Cpt. White, at the soccer field and made a recon of all the area north of the airfield up to the river and some into War Zone “D”. This morning firebird 96 had been shot at south of the river, we figured that the VC were moving down from D Zone toward the airfield and decided to check it out. We found nothing but workers in the field and wood choppers but no one would shoot at us. We returned after about 01+30 flight time. We returned to the villa for supper. After supper I built the bar and put split bamboo around the sides. I became engaged in a conversation with Cpt. Crouch and we finished about 01:45 and I had to get up at 05:30.
- 23 Feb 65
Got up at 05:30 with take off at 07:20 to VT. When we arrived I called the Red Hats to find out what the mission was. It was to provide a striking force in case the motor convoy between Saigon and VT got into trouble. Our area of responsibility was from Phy My to VT. We were to standby at Phy My while the 97 fire team provided overhead cover from the BH check point to Phy My. We were released at 15:00 and picked up our new man, 2Lt. Thorne, from the airlift platoon to train him. We then flew to Saigon where WO Rhodes had to pick up his passport to the Philippines so he could visit Hawaii where his wife will meet him for R&R.
This was the first time for me to be in the city of Saigon itself. We returned about 17:30 and made the airfield recon which is required to be performed by the airfield standby team; tonight is our turn. After chow we went to the flight line for standby. At 01:20 we were alerted that a small outpost on the west side of the river across from the airfield was being overrun. They did not want flare ships up. We departed within just a few minutes. When we arrived the VC broke contact and departed. It was so dark we could not pick out the exact spot but just flying around the area ran them off. We logged 00+45 flying time.
- 24 Feb 65
Returned to the villa at 05:45, ate breakfast, showered and went to bed. We were to start gunner training at 09:30. We went to Tan Uyen to coordinate for a target and picked up an observer. There were no observers available but they gave us a target location in War Zone “D”. We also found out that two battalions were being pulled out of this area to go to ______ for a while. After about forty five minutes shooting I found that Lt. Thorne and the new gunner needed something else, they were not hitting anywhere near the target. By the tracers it appeared that they were but the bullet strike was about one hundred meters beyond the target. After we had expended our rockets on several targets, I flew to the river and picked out a spot that could be easily identified on the bank. There was a small stream that emptied into the river and the mouth of the stream was an excellent target that the gunner could see the strike of his bullets. The water is an excellent means of showing where the bullets are striking, it also shows the grouping. After about eight passes the gunner was able to keep a good grouping and hit the right spot. We returned to the Snake Pit to rearm, refuel and eat.
At 15:30 we had a mission with 3XXX, it was a training mission; we escorted three slicks from the 118th who were lifting the new people 3XXX was training. These ARVN soldiers had not been in a chopper before and had to practice loading and unloading. We then proceeded on a recon mission. We were to recon the area north and north east of BH and south of the river. There were 18 troops aboard the slicks and the observer would pick out an LZ near some workers in the field and they would go down and check their papers. We flew a total of 01+30. After returning we went to chow and the villa. I worked on the room.
- 25 Feb 65
We had standby at the Firebird ramp hutch until lunch then standby at the villa. WO O’Byrne and I cut out Firebird letters for our sign and I worked on my room. We also recorded one of my tapes on his M-8 recorder which he brought back from Hong Kong.
- 26 Feb 65
Got up at 06:00 to the flight line (Snake Pit) at 07:15 and took off for a mission at Phuoc Vinh. We refueled and picked up two Americans then flew to Xa Thai Hung about 13 K east of Tan Uyen on the river. We dropped off the two Americans there and picked up the province chief who wanted to make a recon 6K north east to a village. The village was located where the Song Be River and the Song Donj Nai came together, coordinates (XT151 285). We did not find anything on the recon and returned the province chief. The Americans remained and we departed and called Merit Badge Control for any further mission. Our release time was 10:30, it was then 09:45 therefore we did not have time for another mission.
On the way back from Phuoc Vinh we spotted some people in that area and expended some 7.62 MG there which is in Zone “D”. We expended all our rockets and 7.62; that gave the new gunners a chance to shoot and gave Lt. Thorne a chance to do more shooting with the flex guns. Today he did a real nice job. On our return we rearmed, refueled and found that we were not part of the combat assault this afternoon. We were released to finish our Firebird sign. After chow we, WO Paxton, WO O Byrne, Lt. Thorne and I picked up all the material and went to the Air force carpentry shop to rip the plywood for the Firebird letters and to finish the shelf on my bar. We then went to the Army compound R&U to use the jigsaw to finish cutting out the letters. We returned to the villa about 16:00, put my shelf together, ate chow and departed for airfield standby.
- 27 Feb 65
We had to be up at 03:45, chow at 04:00 and takeoff at 05:45. Page was blank after this.
- 28 Feb 65
We were up at 05:00 with take off at 06:20 to VT for a combat assault. We refueled and stood by for loading troops to take to LZ #1 coordinates (___ ___) and LZ #2 coordinates (___ ___). The troops from VT were to go into LZ #1 and the troops from Bien Gia were to go into LZ #2. We took off at 08:15 and escorted twelve lift helicopters (slicks) with two heavy fire teams. A heavy fire team consists of three armed helicopters rather than two with one having all rockets (48). The Rattlers (A-501st) lead the flight, I Firebird (FB) 93 supported FB 97 on the left and FB 96 supported FB 91 on the right. There were some one hundred and forty seven (147) helicopters in this lift. Units were brought up from the delta to participate in this combat assault; the largest operation to date.
There have been seven days of bombing by B-52s in the operational area. The troops are to check out this area for bomb damage and to collect information on the effect on suspected VC activities in that area. Did the bombing drive them out, were the bombs in the area where they did some good etc. Today we have B-52s on call, A1Es (American pilots, A1Hs (VNAF) escorting and pre-striking; on this operation. There was 01+45 hours of pre-strike by the B-52s, the A1Hs and the 68th. On approach we escorted the slicks with suppressive fire and the A1Es were 400M on either side using 20mm and bombs. This was all close and effective support by the A1Es and we had the same on LZ#2. Note: After picking up the troops at Bien Gia and while in route to the LZs, the VNAF in their A1Hs picked a target that was directly in our flight path. They dropped bombs even though we were over their target area; some of the bombs went through our formation. We returned to VT and had standby for reserve forces if needed. We were released at 18:30 and returned to BH.
- 01 Mar 65
Got up at 05:00 with takeoff at 06:40 and flew to VT. We had standby on the PSP until about 09:30. At this time two of our heavy fire teams took off for the operational area to recon for VC activity and looking for bomb damage. I supported the FB 97 fire team and FB 96 supported the FB 91 team. The FB 97 team was to recon northwest of the operational area and the FB 91 team to the south east. We found no movement and returned to VT. There was reported by one of our slicks that just north of VT in the mangrove swamp area, that several junks were grouped together in several places offloading boxes. By the time we had refueled and then received permission to investigate, the junks were gone and we could find no trace of the junks. There were only a few fishing boats in the area. Rattler 6 (Maj. Henderson) rode with me on that trip.
- 02 Mar 65
Got up at 08:00 today, this is our backup day and we remained at the villa and worked on our firebird sign. We went to town to buy some things we needed. The total bill was 940 Piaster for all the items, two pots, plastic flowers and beaded doorway drapes. When we returned we completed the entrance sign except for the split bamboo trim. I also fixed a light to shine on it out of a coffee can.
Just after supper while I was taking a shower we were scrambled because ______ was under attack. This time the whole platoon was scrambled and off we went. The town is just north of Tan Uyen. The 68th, Bandits and ourselves were on station. The fire teams expended their ordinance in the area around the town from west to north and to the east. They held my team off to find a definite target. In the mean time the weather was building up with thunderstorms, high winds and heavy rain. About 20:30 it was IFR and everyone departed the area. Capt. Gunter was leading, we had a strong east wind and had lost sight of the town due to the heavy rain and had been blown about 8 miles to the west. When we were released to return to BH, he turned south and flew to what he thought was BH. When we got there he realized it was To Pu Mi. He called for landing instructions, after landing at BH we were on standby until 23:45.
- 03 Mar 65
Got up at 06:00 with takeoff at 06:50 and refueled at VT then took off to pick up troops at Dat Do coordinates (___ ___) and lifted “Circus Tiger” 63 to coordinates (___ ___) along the coast south east of Xuyen Moc. This was the 33rd Ranger Battalion; we used five armed helicopters to escort sixteen slicks. We made three lifts into this area and the last lift did not require all the slicks. We then returned to VT for standby.
After lunch, 13:30, we took off for a pickup of troops at Xuyen Loc. We picked up a Red Hat unit and moved them to coordinates (___ ___) east of Xuyen Loc on the highway. Last night an outpost 10K east of there was overrun by the VC and all the people killed. I do not know how many but there were several judging by the number of trucks sent to the outpost to pick up the bodies. One armed helicopter said that there were bodies all over the place. Before we picked up the last of the RH unit we were diverted to Xuyen Moc to pick up the reserves there and take them to the same location along the highway. Myrth (118th) picked up the remaining RHs. We returned to BH after making these last two lifts. It was 18:30 when we touched down at BH.
On the first lift from coordinates (___ ___) east of Xuyen Moc to the highway, Firebird 94 lost tail rotor control on his helicopter. The tail rotor remained on the helicopter but there was no effect from the pedals. They also got a sudden yaw to the right and some to the left which was uncontrollable. We returned to BH. I moved up close and could not see anything missing from the tail rotor and advised them to make a running landing at BH beside the PSP runway 15 on the dirt. The pilots were Lt. Jefferies and WO O Byrne. Jefferies made slow turns and kept his airspeed around 70 to 75 knots, the helicopter streamlined real fine. He made a long fast approach to a running landing with a very slow deceleration. Just before touchdown they spotted some bent up PSP and diverted to the PSP runway on touchdown. The helicopter veered left and off the runway onto the dirt over a small ditch beside the PSP. The helicopter rocked up on the toe of the skids, bent the cross tube and the chin bubble scraped the ground. This touchdown with no tail rotor was real fine and with no real damage to the aircraft. The control inside the tail rotor gearbox failed. I do not know at this time what all was wrong with the helicopter.
- 04 Mar 65
Got up at 05:00 and took off at 06:40 to Xuan Moc with fourteen UH-1B slicks and five armed helicopters. We picked up troops there and airlifted them to the same place as yesterday along the highway. We then returned to BH for standby. This afternoon I took care of a few things on post and tried out a motorcycle that belongs to Sp5 Shepard a crew chief with the lift platoon. It was a 1959 Norton 650cc bike. It is in real good shape and I may buy it. I recorded the first half of one of my tapes (#6) for Capt. Stone and WO O’Byrne.
This evening we were returning from the flight line after I took the Norton back and one of the boys, Lt. Jeffries, stopped us on the road and said that we had to scramble a fire team and to report to Phuoc Vinh ASAP. When we arrived at the Snake Pit we untied the helicopter, quick preflight then started up. About that time the crew chief and gunner arrived, they jumped in and we departed for Phuoc Vinh. When we arrived we found that all they wanted was to recon north and west of there. It had been reported that two companies of VC were moving in that way. They were reported about noon and radio traffic indicated that they would attack that night. Our recon was to be low level and it was. We found nothing and the advisor wanted us to expend our ammo in the area. We shot up every place we thought that someone could hide. We set grass fields on fire with smoke grenades and set fire to old hooch’s in an abandoned village with tracers from our door gunners. We returned to Phuoc Vinh about dark and dropped off our passengers then returned to BH to eat.
- 5 Mar 65
Got up at 05:00 and I had to take Cpt. Ginter’s fire team this morning because he did not get a ride back to BH from Saigon last night. I had planned on going to Saigon today to shop but now I cannot. I did however send two of my people so they could get away from here and they had some things to do there. OB bought a car (Mustang) from International Motors. He returned about 10:30. When I returned to BH to refuel from a mission about 11:00, Cpt. Ginter took back his fire team and I returned to eat and remain at the villa. I worked on my room this afternoon. Late this afternoon I sanded my shelf and bar then scorched them with a blow torch it looks real good. WO Patton and I went to the market in BH and I bought two rug mats, two baskets and a large shallow basket that is used to dry rice. I also picked up some extension cords to hook up the lights in here. Ate supper and finished up the bar and hung up the bead curtains, everything looks real nice.
- 6 Mar 65
Got up at 0430 and took off at 06:15 then refueled at VT. We, A501st, picked up troops at Ba Ria flew them to Bien Gia, picked up troops at Bien Gia and flew them to Ba Ria. We switched over eleven hundred troops and their families on this mission. After completing the mission here we refueled at BH then flew to ______ and picked up eighty troops and flew them to Phuoc Vinh. On the way back we called Tan Uyen for a target to expend on. They gave us an area that was supposed to contain a VC printing press facility at coordinates (___ ___). We returned to BH, ate and remained at the villa until 15:00 then departed for the flight line (Snake Pit) because as of 15:00 we were on 15 minute standby. On the way we stopped at the market and looked at baskets for everyone to put their dirty clothes in for laundry pick up at the villa. I had Sp5 Shepard come out to the flight line with the motor bike, I will buy it today. He had a few things done to it and it runs much better. I bought the bike today.
We were invited to a party at the 68th tonight and we departed about 19:30. There were five of us that went, Capt. Stone, WO Freeberg, WO Paxton, WO O Byrne and I. We took along four gunners so they could have a night in Saigon. The party was real nice and I had a chance to see some of the old boys in the 3rd. WO Webber and WO Hammer were throwing a party, promotion type. They had a Western Band and that sure did make me homesick. The party was real enjoyable; it was nice to get away from BH.
- 7 Mar 65
Returned from Saigon about 07:30, showered, changed cloths and departed to the flight line for standby. Today my team is on 10 minute emergency standby. We remained on the ground all day. Before chow I cleaned up my motorcycle at the maintenance area with a gunk gun. Dropped it off down town to have the gas tank welded it is leaking pretty bad. We also had standby all night but nothing happened. I wrote some letters and drew a large firebird head to put on the back side of our hallway sign.
- 8 Mar 65
Got up at 04:45 and returned to the villa, showered, shaved and went to bed. Woke up at 11:45, ate, went to the Snake Pit to standby for Firebird 97 team so they could go to chow. Went to the market in town and picked up thirteen baskets to be used for dirty cloths; the hooch maids have been using beer and pop boxes in the hall and it looks like hell. The woven baskets look real good. I checked with both R&U and unit supply for plywood to make firebird heads, neither had 3/8 or ½ inch plywood. Went to the PX then went to pick up my motorcycle at 15:00. They had welded the tank but it was not installed on the bike. WO Paxton and I went to the market and picked up two more baskets, one for the CO and the other for the XO. We then picked up my bike and returned to the villa. I hooked up the lights I bought the other day down town and worked a little on my room.
- 9 Mar 65
- 10 Mar 65
Got up at 06:00 to the flight line at 07:30 then preflight and run up. We are on 10 minute emergency standby; this is used in case an aircraft goes down in this area so that a fire team can secure the area while the rescue aircraft removes the crew and armament. I cleaned the Red Chinese sub machine gun (AK-47) that the Red Hats gave the platoon as a token of their appreciation for our work the night that they were in trouble. I took it completely apart, cleaned it and put on preservative oil. Also rough sanded the stock. I also cleaned a 1917 Springfield with an infield action which they gave to me. We were called out at 11:30 to a reported crash site. When we arrived there was nothing there, we reconned the whole area, escorted a slick and a fire helicopter then returned and was relieved for chow and released at 18:30.
- 11 Mar 65
Got up at 06:00 to the flight line at 07:30 for preflight and run up. Waited for CWO Campbell to return from a flight to take Capt. Ginter and I to Saigon for IP (Instructor Pilot) check rides. We were able to take off about 10:30 and I flew first while Ginter went to battalion headquarters. After I was through with my check ride we went to the battalion soccer field, shut down and went to the PX. I bought a National cassette tape recorder (small) and cheap ($8.50) for the folks. We Returned to BH for chow. Made a tape for the folks, one for Donnie and recorded a tape on the AKAI tape recorder. Mailed the tapes home and made arrangements to pick up plywood and some tools to build a bar at the villa. I went on post to get ideas for a bar from Sgt. ______ who runs the EM (Enlisted Men’s) Club and has done a very commendable job of improving the old one. It will be the best EM Club in South Vietnam. I talked with him for about two hours and got some real good ideas.
- 12 Mar 65
Got up at 06:00 to the flight line at 07:30 for run up then returned to the villa. I made measurements for a company bar while Paxton did paper work for awards and O’Byrne made measurements and cut bamboo to trim the Firebird sign. After chow we went to R&U and supply. R&U split the bamboo and we got ½ inch plywood from supply. We gave one sheet of the plywood to the EM club and went to the Air Force carpentry shop to cut the plywood then returned to the villa. I marked off the rough cut plywood for finishing cuts and sent another team to split several 2X4s into 2X2s. When they returned, I had to go to R&U to get a sharp hand saw. Firebird 96 and I had a beer then returned to the villa, ate supper then Paxton and I started sawing. By 11:30 and with the assistance of WO Freeberg we completed the two main sections of the bar. We still need to make the corner pieces, the service shelf and draw up plans for a sink and the finish work that is needed.
- 13 Mar 65
Got up at 04:30 with take off at 06:10 for a CA out of Tan An with LZs at coordinates (XS 680 570 and XS683 570). We (A501st) picked up troops at Tan An and Bien Phuoc. My team, Firebird 93, had the LZ recon therefore we departed five minutes ahead of the flight. We received negative fire on our recon and marked the LZ with yellow smoke. We then picked up the left side of the flight on approach to the LZ, escorted them out, remained on station and did the same for the second flight. We then remained on station long enough to escort the junk force landing at coordinates (XS 700 563) which was to be the blocking force to the east. We monitored the objective area until we had to return for fuel at Tan An.
When we returned on station no contact had been made with the VC but the ground troops had several suspects. We were requested to check out an area that the Psywar helicopter received fire. We did not receive fire there and Typhoon 46 requested that we recon an area north of the LZ and south of the river. Some VC was reported departing in that direction. While observing, the door gunner spotted a man floating across the river holding onto a log with a rifle. We confirmed what he saw and we were given permission to fire upon him. We expended rockets and MG on him and Firebird 96s crew chief SP5 Muzic finished him off, he had been hit several times. The rockets were close and he was probably hurt just by concussion. We then strafed along the river edge and later it was reported that we killed ten along there. The ground forces were moving into that area and confirmed the kills.
We were low on fuel and departed for Ben Luc. After rearming and refueling we returned to Bien Phuoc for standby. Shortly we were called out to pick up a captive and bring him back to Bien Phuoc and later went to Tan An for standby and to eat chow. We were released about 15:30 and had permission to expend along the Bo Bo Canal coordinates (XS 420 870). We were requested to shoot any hutches, san pans or people that were there and we did. We left nothing but about two miles of smoke, fire and destroyed hutches. We had one visible kill in the canal. We returned to BH to rearm, refuel and for chow at the villa then returned to the Snake Pit for airfield recon and night standby.
- 14 Mar 65
Got up at 04:45 and returned to the villa at 05:30 after all night standby; showered, made a tape for the wife on the new recorder then went to bed. I woke up at 11:15, had chow then relieved Firebird 97 on 10 minute standby. I returned to the villa and worked on the bar, finished shelves and corner pieces, put up the tools, showered and went to bed. In between I worked on the motorcycle carburetor and ate supper.
- 15 Mar 65
Got up at 06:00 with take off at 07:45 to Tan Uyen where we were briefed on the operation and were then requested to standby until needed. Three ARVN were wounded and two VC were KIA and two wounded. At 12:00 the Second Division called and took us away from the 48th and to report to ______; on arrival there was no one to meet us so we waited about 15 minutes and someone showed up and we ask him to check and see what we were recalled for. There was an operation going on north of there and they wanted us to standby. I went to the Tactical Operation Center (TOC) thirty minutes later and found that they had one fire team on station another relieving them and still another on the ground at ________. At this time I informed LTC. Palmer that it appeared that we were not needed and that I wanted to take my team to chow. He finally agreed and we returned to BH.
We then had our operations check with AAE and they advised us to remain at BH on 30 minute standby with our slicks for the extraction. After chow we remained at the villa until about 14:30 when we were alerted for the extraction. On takeoff we were informed that the troops had not made it to the LZ and we returned to the Snake Pit. Again at 18:30 we were again called out and picked up the troops and returned them to their original location. We returned to BH after dark, ate and went to bed.
- 16 Mar 65
Got up at 05:45 with take off at 07:15 to Hon Quan about a forty minute flight north on highway 13 coordinates (XT765 875). We had coffee and were briefed on the recon they wanted us to make. We only had about 1 hour of fuel left and they were out of fuel there therefore we needed to go to Phuoc Vinh for refueling. This gave us only about forty minutes for the recon; it is at least a 20 minute flight to PV. We expended our ammunition in three places, coordinates (___ ___), (___ ___) and (___ ___); then rearmed and refueled at PV then we were to report to ______ for another recon. We expended only 7.62 there in one area along a Y where two creeks come together at coordinates (___ ___). As we were finishing the recon, the Firebird 97 team was receiving fire between us and PV. We dropped off the observer and headed to that area. We expended there and then to PV to rearm and refuel. It was after 12:15 then and we were to report to Song Be for another mission. PV TOC gave us permission to eat there and informed Song Be.
After chow our mission was changed to Long Hoa. We were to support a lift there. This was an Eagle type flight. We picked up the flight in route where we assisted the 118th. We lifted the troops into an LZ to the west of Long Hoa coordinates (___ ___) and we made two lifts. There was a prestrike by VNAF, the 68th and on the right, east, by the armed escort on that side. There were two VC villages almost completely destroyed and burned to the ground. We lifted in ______ 22 and 23 and there was another unit that moved in by foot and had been pinned down. There was some fire received especially on the right hand side, Firebird 96 received one round in the tail pylon; he had the Hog and supported the Bandits on the right. We, Firebird 93 team, had the left side and could not suppress on that side because of the friendly troops on the ground there.
We refueled at Tan An, returned on station and were later relieved by Playboy 16 then we returned to TA for standby. We relieved Playboy 16 later. They had struck another village in 21’s location and controlled a VNAF strike on the village. When we arrived people were leaving that village and the surrounding villages. We made low level recons checking the people for weapons and for VC. Previously the Psywar helicopter had dropped leaflets and told through their loud speaker systems that both the old and the children could leave the villages. We made low level recons checking the people for weapons and VC, (fighting age men). All men of age had several women and children around them and were leaving the area.
Later, on recon I began to receive automatic weapons fire and had one hit in the copilots windshield, the round hit at such an angle that it just popped out (spalled off) a chunk of Plexiglas windshield which hit me in the left knee, on the pilots side, it hit so hard that I thought that I had been hit by the round. I locked my shoulder harness and told WO Paxton that he had the aircraft also I told my wingman that I had been hit and we broke off contact. On checking my knee there was no hole in my pants nor was there blood coming from my leg so I again took control of the helicopter. The fire came from the adjoining village to the one that the 118th had just destroyed. This village, where I received the hit, was the ground forces objective and was reported to have one battalion of VC there.
We then began to destroy the village. One of the Playboys (16) had a Hog and Firebird 96 had a Hog within the fire team. I split my team, I covered Firebird 96 and O’Byrne covered Playboy 16; we went in on our gun run side by side. Firebird 96 covered the left side and Playboy 16 covered the center and we followed them, we left the whole village burning then followed up using 7.62 on it. When we finished I called in the A1Es that were overhead to finish off the village. We returned to Saigon to rearm and refuel and we were later released. We then went to Tan Uyen to expend so the Hog rocket tubes could be cleaned. We expended on an area target then returned to BH with touchdown at 19:30. I ate chow, showered and went to bed. Note: the Plexiglas that spalled off the windshield hit so hard that it drew up a blister and feels as if I had been hit with a hammer on the outside of my left knee. It hit hard enough that my knee hit the cyclic and rolled the helicopter to the right.
- 17 Mar 65
Got up at 06:00 and went to the Snake Pit at 07:00. I did not have a aircraft available but sent Paxton and O’Byrne to support the Firebird 91 fire team as a heavy fire team for a combat assault. Jefferies and I waited for 922 to get out of maintenance. In the mean time I started my flight physical. After lunch I returned to the airfield then to try and finish the physical and pickup x-rays on the Air Force compound. I went to the PX and bought some blank tapes and an A/C adaptor for the small tape recorder, I also bought a Sansui 500 Amplifier and AM/FM tuner. I returned to the villa, set up the amplifier and tuner, and tried them out as well as the A/C adaptor. After supper I fixed up the chest of drawers that they finally got for each room. I had to bring it in, take it out of the crate and put it together. I also tried recording a tape of Capt. Young’s and I did not like it. The fellow that he recorded it from did not use much technique in recording therefore it was a bad tape.
- 18 Mar 65
Got up at 06:00 went to the Snake Pit at 07:00 with a take off at 07:30 for Xuan Loc. When reporting I found that they wanted us to escort a train. Yes a train. The train was leaving BH in route to Phan Thiet with ammunition and troops. We had to fly back to BH and escort the train almost ¾ of the way to Phan Thiet. We left them after we had them through the most likely areas to be mined or ambushed. They had continuous L-19 cover, both American and VNAF; also had three A-1Es overhead. Firebird 91 team was on recon north of Xuan Loc and ran into a hornets’ nest. They received all kinds of automatic weapons fire and quickly left the area. About 15:30 we made a recon to the south of Xuan Loc where there had been reported to be a VC road block, when we arrived we found nothing and returned to XL. They kept us just in case they needed us and were released at 17:30 and returned to BH. We had supper late and returned to the villa. I listened to Armed Forces Radio wrote a letter, showered and went to bed.
- 19 Mar 65
Got up at 05:00 to the Snake Pit at 07:00 with take off at 07:30 and report to Hong Quan at 08:00. We picked up two passengers and dropped them at Phuoc Vinh where we also refueled and were told to report to Hong Quan and return at 12:00. We arrived at Hong Quan at 09:00; the ceiling was low and they had a recon planned to the north of there. We had coffee and waited for the weather to get better.
About 09:45 it was much better. The Special Forces Camp ______ to the north of there had a VC boy that had escaped from a VC camp where he was a cook and had given himself up. He gave the location of the camp and we were to find it and expend on it. When we got there we found that a Captain, Lieutenant and a Sergeant, all Americans, had been killed by the VC unit that the boy was from. They had a picture of the VC leader who had killed them; he was wearing the Captain's 357 magnum pistol. Needless to say the Special Forces people wanted that man real bad and could not wait to get into the helicopter and go to the location of the VC camp and let us expend on it. We took off without the VC boy but going by what he had told the Vietnamese observer and map location. We returned and picked up the boy and he pointed out the area and we expended on it. The area included one hut near a garden area and I put a 2.75 inch rocket right in the top of the hooch and set it on fire.
On return we received a call from the ALOFT aircraft that we were to report to Xuan Loc ASAP. We dropped off the observers and the boy at Hon Quan and left for Phuoc Vinh to rearm and refuel before departing for Xuan Loc. We arrived at XL about 12:30; we ate and relieved a Bandit fire team on station. When we arrived in the operational area we found the village burning in the southern half. The Bandits had expended all their ammunition and we were informed that all the friendlies had left to the north toward the troops and that the VC was in the village. Some VC had tried to leave to the south by sampan down the river and by foot along the river and a creek to the east. We were advised that all was fair game. All the Americans had been pulled off the operation for some reason which they did not tell us, (would not tell us is more like it). The only American ground advisor was Bowling Ball, Col. Wattsworth. The only other Americans involved was the ALOFT aircraft and helicopter fire teams. The Bandits caught the VC in the open along the river bank escaping to the sampans. The VC set fire to the southern part of the village as they left. We finished the job and we sunk all of the sampans. Some were trying to get away by drifting down stream, we sank those also. We also destroyed several buildings with rockets. At the end the village was completely destroyed coordinates (UT 750 450), 45 K north east of XL.
We returned on station about 18:00. The troops were in and around the village and had been there for quite a while. They were approaching the gate when we left the first time. Most of the troops were departing back to their Command Post (CP) and we were to give them overhead cover for as long as we could due to darkness. Bowling Ball requested that we expend south of the river in the wood line before it was too dark, we did and then after dark we returned to BH. The CP was at Xa Phuong Lam coordinates (YS480 720).
- 20 Mar 65
Got up at 05:30 to the Snake Pit at 06:30 with takeoff at 07:00 then to Xuan Loc at 07:30. They had us on standby to find out what the ARVN were going to do. As of this time they had no idea. We had two armed helicopter teams there; Firebird 91 and my team Firebird 93. Later in the morning they decided to have some of the American advisors link up with their ARVN counterparts. They, the ARVN, were moving a security force to the village and wanted overhead cover; we arrived to find that the artillery was firing and ALOFT briefed us on the troop positions. The artillery stopped, we made our recon and the troops began to move into the village. The friendly villagers were held at the gate until the security force had been positioned; then they were let into the town to pick up their belongings that had been left there. We provided screening for the whole area. We also tried looking at an area that had been fired upon by the artillery earlier but it was in heavy jungle and we could find nothing.
We were then released to eat and refuel then be ready for takeoff by 12:00; this included our Firebird 91 team. We were to provide overhead cover for the troop convoy on return. The convoy was to kick off at 14:00 but did not move until 15:30; Firebird 91 took the first part. We relieved him at 17:00 and the convoy was now off highway 20 and on highway 1 going toward BH. Part of the convoy was continuing to Phy My and Long Thanh. We escorted them until the last of the convoy closed at Long Thanh at 18:15. We were released and returned to BH.
After late chow I began to record a tape and changed my room around and put up the bamboo to hang the bead curtain on because the pine board did not look good. I also made room for two soft chairs and an end table, they are bamboo and look real fine.
- 21 Mar 65
Got up at 06:00 to the Snake Pit at 07:00; we, FB93, had a 10 minute standby for a reaction force. After preflight and run up we unloaded ammunition received and were released for chow at 12:00 0n a 30 minute standby. FB91 team returned to the Snake Pit after chow and was called out about 15:00. At 15:30 we were alerted to relieve them on station. When we got airborne we were to pick up the flight at ______ and escort the flight to LZ coordinates (___ ___) then return to _______to refuel and rearm. FB91 remained as overhead cover until we released them. They received fire in the area and we began receiving fire when we arrived.
Transport 33 requested that we check out a location where they suspected they were receiving rifle grenade fire from. When we arrived over that area we received fire and my wingman O Byrne expended a pair of rockets then FB94 received fire and FB96 placed two pair of rockets under him. Transport 33 requested that we stop firing because it sounded close. In an area just southeast of the first area we did not fire because we did not know 33s location. We had him mark his position with smoke and had his lead elements with smoke. We then engaged the target that was 400 meters northwest of his lead elements. Also ALOFT 16 gave him the location and he said that he had no troops there. During our firing passes Transport 33 halted our fire and said that it was way to close and that the troops had stopped moving. We moved out of his area because he (33) did not seem to know where he was. Later he said that we had sustained three friendly casualties. I advised him that we were shooting 400 meters northwest of the marked position of his lead elements. He rogered and said nothing more. We received more fire later to the west by 21s location but did not return fire. We were returned to a standby position by FB97.
- 22 to 24 Mar 65
Pages were blank.
- 25 Mar 65
Received a new man today, WO Coyan.
- 26 Mar 65
- 27 Mar 65
Got up at 04:30 and took off at 06:10 to pick up troops at Phu Loi then to Tay Ninh. Refueled and made three lifts out of there into LZ coordinates (XT375 758). On the way to Tay Ninh we received fire from two 50 cal. (12.5mm) and another 12.5mm at coordinates (XT520 340); this was about 07:00 and we suppressed. My door gunner put his MG (7.62mm) right on one of the 12.5mm gun locations. FB94 and FB96 used both rocket and MG, FB97 team used MG and the firing stopped. On the lift the 118th flight was lead and everyone received some fire but not much. Fuel was short at Tay Ninh and had to be flown in by both Army and Air Force. We stood by as a reaction force if needed and was released about 15:30. There were about 110 helicopters involved in this operation including the 114th from the Delta. On return to BH we were released. I taped, showered and ate.
- 28 Mar 65
Got up at 06:00 to the Snake Pit at 07:00 with takeoff at 07:30 to Song Be. On the way up we made a communications check with Typhoon 66A for Typhoon 60B at _______. On arrival at Song Be we refueled and were to support 60B and 66A and 66B on an operation to the east-southeast. The VC had stolen three jeeps and three trucks a few days ago and they were looking for them and the VC unit. We picked up the American ground advisor and a Vietnamese observer then flew to 66A and 66Bs location.
All they wanted us to do was recon the road that ran through their objective area. On the recon we found some vehicle tracks off the road coming from or going to a heavily wooded area to the north. The night before it rained and all previous tracks were covered up; we followed the tracks to the south and east. We found where the tracks again turned off the main road toward the east. We followed the road through the jungle to an area near an old village Rang Rang coordinates (___ ___). Here the road ended and we found many gardens along the river, suspension bridges and the trails were well used. The ground underneath the heavy jungle umbrella was cleared and structures were there. We were not sure of the status of this area and were low on fuel then went to Phuoc Vinh to refuel. That is the Sector Head Quarters, we reported our findings and they said it was an open area in War Zone “D” and we were free to expend there. Also with this report they would request an air strike using Lazy Dog and Delay action bombs. We returned the American Major, advisor, and the observer because we had only a short time left to report to BH for another mission. On the way back we expended on the area that we found, it was hard to engage the target because the trees were so tall. We could not find the area from low level or from higher; we could only see it when almost on top of it. We finally had to mark with smoke and make our passes by headings from several easily identified clearings. Many shots with rockets had to be snap shooting by dipping the nose quickly to a steep angle then get a couple of rockets off in a hurry before building up high air speed.
We returned to BH, rearmed and refueled and ate lunch. After lunch we departed for Loc Ninh which is north of Hon Quan to support the Special Forces Group there with two lifts into small areas. We had seven armed UH1B helicopters and ten UH1B helicopter lift helicopters (slicks). My team, Firebird93, performed the recon and marked the LZ. We received no fire therefore recommended no suppressive fire. The operation was real successful. They captured two VC and one being the province chief. They got a cross bow off of him which I was given later. They remained in the two areas about one hour and were extracted. My team, FB 93, remained for overhead cover and was later relieved by the FB 97 team. Later we escorted the helicopter flight for the extraction. The four lift slicks for LZ Green did not wait for a proper escort but picked up the troops anyway.
On return to Loc Ninh I remained to scrounge what I could. For trading material I took along one case of American Beer and four boxes of 38 Special ammunition. I got in return, the cross bow, two M2 carbines, two tiger stripped fatigue tops, with a promise of many more and two walkie-talkies. We returned to BH about 18:00; I did some tape recording, ate and went to bed.
- 29 Mar 65
Got up at 0600. We, A501st Firebirds, supported the 118th with five armed UH-1B helicopters. They had a troop lift at ________ Coordinates ___ ___. We had artillery prestrike on the LZ and the troops were picked up at _________. My fire team (FB93) followed up on the right and we had one more fire team on the left.
- 30 Mar 65
Got up at 0530 with takeoff at 0645. Picked up observers at Phy Loi, received a briefing then took off to refuel at ______. We waited for the slicks to load the troops then we made the LZ recon, marked the LZ with smoke and remained on station as overhead cover.
- 31 Mar 65
Got up at 0530 with take off at 0640 to Cu Chi.
- 01 Apr 65
Got up at 0530 with take off at 0710 to Tan An. There was a low cloud cover and we went on top to Tan An. The cloud cover was fairly thin there and not much better on the deck. We descended through a thin spot to the pickup zone. Soon it cleared to a broken condition and we took off with the troops to the LZ coordinates ___ ___. The LZ recon was made by the FB91 team and they marked with smoke. Initially we received no fire on the LZ. The flight broke left on departure and flew to An Loc to stand by with the reserve force. It was now IFR at An Loc therefore the flight returned to BH to refuel; Saigon was also IFR. We, Firebird93, found a thin spot at Tan Son Nhut (TSN). Firebird 91 remained on station as overhead cover and Firebird 97 had expended on the right side of the LZ when fire was received as the flight departed; they went to BH to rearm and refuel.
After we refueled we relieved Firebird 91 on station, they had to leave because of low fuel and to rearm. When we arrived there was no fire team there to provide cover or brief us on the location of the ground troop. Just as we were finding where everyone was Firebird 97 arrived on station with Firebird 96 supporting. They took over providing cover because they had a Vietnamese observer aboard. We, FB93 team, went to Tan An and refueled; then on to An Loc to join up with the troop lift there. Here we, A501st, picked up troops and lifted them into LZ _____. Later we took in a second lift into LZ _____.
The units on the ground ran into more resistance than they expected. Two units were taken in by water and all the units were trying to bottle neck the VC. Two of the units ran into heavy fire and the reserves from An Loc were then committed. When we, FB93 fire team, were released to return to BH, Firebird 97 remained on station for overhead cover. When we returned to the operational area we were directed to report to Duc Hoa (XS599 960) within one hour (1300 hrs.) it was then 1200; we had chow on the ramp and took off at 1230.
When we arrived we found that the operation was already in progress. We found that the operation that was planned was the same as the six or eight previous ones. We were to lift two battalions of troops, call sign Crazy tiger 62, into that area. The first LZ was ___ ___. There was a prestrike by VNAF, artillery and the 68th. In the LZ heavy fire was received. The second lift out of Duc Hoa (DH) was put in a different LZ ___ ___ about 800 meters north.
Extremely heavy fire was received here and one of our, A501st, helicopters was shot down in the LZ on takeoff; while the flight was lifting off one of our gunners was killed by a bullet in the head and one of the pilots in the downed helicopter was slightly wounded. Dust Off and Snake Doctor went in to pick up the downed helicopter crews. The whole time they were receiving heavy fire, rounds were kicking up dirt all around their helicopters during the time that the crews were getting in. Firebirds, the 68th and Bandit fire teams remained for overhead cover.
Editor's Note: The gunner killed during this operation was Jerry Wayne Osborn, pictured at right.
A third and forth troop lift was made out of DH into the same LZ, only in a different direction. Each time heavy fire was received by both small arms and automatic weapons. On the third lift WO Capers was wounded in the right shoulder. All the time in the LZ or while escorting, it was like sitting on top of a popcorn popper. All you could hear was rounds being fired at you. My helicopter took a hit in the tail pylon and O�’Byrne’s helicopter took a round in the tail rotor drive shaft. Later in the evening a medical evacuation was attempted for two Americans that were wounded but said heavy fire was received and they had to lift off. The crew chief was out of the helicopter trying to get the wounded into the helicopter and was left in the LZ. The crew chief was KIA along with the two wounded which died, they were Crazy Horse 62 and Crazy Horse 62A (Capt. and Sgt.).
Playboy 17 later received a radio call from the only American advisor left Crazy Tiger 62 and said that the ARVN would not fight and were walking off. He and the Dust Off crew chief had been separated. Playboy 17 went down to get them and the sergeant guided him by giving directions while he was on approach. Just at the last moment while on final approach the radio was shot off the sergeants back. Playboy 17 got out of his helicopter and spotted the sergeant across the canal and the sergeant was so tired he could hardly move and could not swim. WO Davis swam across and brought him back but could not find the Dust Off crew chief so they departed.
We returned to BH about 2100 hrs. We then had stand by and had O’Byrne’s helicopter repaired.
- 02 Apr 65
I got up at 05:30 we took off at 07:00 to Duc Hoa (DH). We had four armed helicopters to escort and provide overhead cover for Snake doctor while preparing the downed helicopter (UH1B) for evacuation by an H-37, and to cover our two slicks providing re-supply. When we arrived, a 68th team was on station, the supplies were not ready and the downed helicopter site was not secured. We remained on the ground until the re-supplies were ready; my fire team FB 93 went to recon and mark the LZ and FB 91 team escorted the slicks.
Upon arrival I found that the troops had linked up during the night near the second and third LZ and had received only light fire during the night. I drew no fire on recon; then we escorted the three slicks with supplies into the LZ. I then had the ground troops move forward and secure the downed helicopter after they had their supplies. We then escorted in two more helicopters (Rattler 31 & 34) after they had picked up additional supplies. While in the LZ they also brought out the wounded.
We returned to TSN and refueled and back to DH. We were needed to escort Dust Off to pick up dead and wounded. FB91 again escorted for more supplies and pick up wounded. After the troops were resupplied the first time they moved into the LZ areas so the dead and wounded could be picked up. The three KIA Americans were found. We escorted in two Dust Off helicopters and assisted FB91with the slicks. We returned to TSN, refueled and were requested to return to DH for another lift. This time more troops were lifted into the first LZ we used yesterday. Crazy Horse 65 & 62 had secured the LZ, no fire was received. Myrth (118th) led the flight into the LZ, they made two lifts and we (A501st) made one; we returned to BH.