By Bill Kelbaugh
The recent Helivets discussion of the medevacs brought back a
The 9th ROK Infantry was guarding Highway 1 from Phan Rang up to north of Tuy
Hoa. We lived at the Division HG at Ninh Hoa. The Koreans would get
frustrated because the ARVN would piddle around in the mountains overlooking the
Korean AO and the Koreans didn't really know what was going on up there.
It was a dark and rainy night. The Koreans had sent a patrol up into the
mountains way out of their Area of Operations. It was out west of Dong Ba
Tin - probably 15 minutes or so.
The patrol got hit and took some KIA and WIA. Found out later that the WIA
did not have life threatening wounds, but mostly problems with lower legs,
ankles, feet, etc. The topography was really rugged and these guys could
never have made it out on foot.
Anyway, I was sitting around when they made up a crew and sent us down to the
regimental HQ at Cam Ranh City (on the land side of Cam Ranh Bay). We were
told that there was a problem getting a Medivac so we were going to try and see
what we could do. I was the aircraft commander; Wally Leeper was a senior
Peter Pilot; Moredia was the crew chief; I can not remember the door
We arrived at the regiment and were told that our Joker guns were on station.
We could not land, so they were going to drop a cargo net on a rope down to them
and try to pull them up. They were going to send a Lt. along to help.
They had Colonels and Majors out the wazoo watching the Lt. tie the rope to the
floor of the aircraft. Then the Colonels tied the Lt. to the rope so if
the rope went, the Lt. would go also. I guess that is motivation to do a
We took off and headed out to the location. The Jokers said thet there had
been some ground fire, but nothing for the last 20 minutes or so. Luckly
there wasn't any when we were there, because I was scared enough as it was.
They were well up in a dead end draw. Just enough room for us to hover
over the trees on one side and the gunships to fly a pattern on the other.
The base of the clouds were probably 200 or 300 feet above us so we could not
see the tops of the mountains. We turned off the lights and went in.
There was a Spooky circling around in/or above the clouds dropping flares.
Still really dark down in the trees. When we finally saw a flashlight on
the ground, but I was really worried how I was going to maintain a steady hover.
Must have been living right because suddenly in front of us was a tree about 20
feet higher than anything else in the area. Just put the nose right up in
that tree and we were able to hold a steady hover. While we were hovering,
one of the Jokers told Spooky that he needed to drop his flares a bit further in
our direction. I assume the guy was being directed by radar from Cam
Ranh. We then worried because we were looking up through the green house
and seeing flares glowing in the clouds right over us. Somehow they missed
Moredia, the gunner, and the Korean Lt. with the rope tied around his waist
dropped the cargo net down to the guys on the ground. Somebody on the
raido said to pull it up. They pulled with all their might and didn't make
any progress. Only thing to do was to try to hover straight up and fly
somewhere where we could land and let the guy out and come back to see if we
could do it again. I figured it would take all night, assuming we didn't
snag the net in a tree on the way up. Moredia was unbelievable in talking
us straight up out of the hole without catching a tree on the net. I will
never forget how calm he was.
We decided that the best thing to do was to go back and land on the runway at
Dong Ba Tin. We sweated bullets the whole way back about how we were going
to gently drop a cargo net at night with a man in it on a 75 or 100 foot rope
and not kill the poor guy. On the way back we heard a Medivac from Phan
Thiet calling that he was inbound. I contacted him and gave him a briefing
about the one tall tree to look for, etc. He went to the site and we
worried about our landing. We flew along in the cold misty rain and
thinking how miserable it must be riding in the cargo net.
We were on final into DBT when we hear the Medivac yelling about the Koreans
sending nothing but the "stiffs" up the hoist. He wanted to get
the wounded taken care of first after coming all the way from III Corps.
Again Moredia was outstanding in talking us down to where the cargo net made a
fairly gentle landing on the PSP runway. We hovered back from the net so
we could set down and the Medivac was still yelling about them sending up
"stiffs". As I looked down on the cargo net, it looked like half
a company of Koreans were getting out. Probably no more than 5 or 6, but
all the injured. No wonder my crew and the LT. couldn't budge the rope.
(Don't really know if they could have pulled one guy up that far, but we will
never know.) I immediately called the Medivac and
told him it looked like we had ALL the wounded.
The thing that amazes me to this day was the reaction of the Koreans getting out
of the cargo net on the runway. They were smilling and waving and acting
like they had just had the most fun ever in their lives. I was shaking,
and they were having a grand old time. I'm glad they didn't know how
scared I had been.
We went back to the regiment and were warmly greated by the Korean Colonel who
didn't have to worry any longer about losing guys out where they weren't
supposed to be. He rewarded each member of the crew with a case of OB
beer. After the "awards" ceremony, we flew back to Ninh Hoa.
While we were over at the refueling point, the Op's Officer called and asked
what had gone on. I told him the gist of it and he says "Sounds like
it ought to be a DFC, write it up and I will put it in for you." I
figured that if I had to write it up myself, I didn't need it. Besides, we
all had our very own case of OB beer. Guess you can say our DFC's came in
The crew chief, Moredia, was the real hero of the entire thing. Later
events made me wish I had written him up for somethng.
A couple of days later we had some occassion to land at Dong Ba Tin. There
was a new company fresh in country who were forming up there. I remember
one of them talking about some crazy SOB's who had been sling loading Koreans.
Postscript: Leeper and Moredia flew this mission with me. A month or
two later they were on BlueStar 811 which was missing in December, 1967.
Also on 811 were Strange and Crosby and a Korean Captain. The crew and
passanger of 811 were listed as missing until recently when the aircraft was
found and they were changed to KIA. Rest in Peace guys.
48th AHC Blue Stars
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