Newsletter2

BLUE STAR

VOL I

21 June 1966

No. 2

 

UNOFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE

48th Avn Co (Airmobile) (Light)

IN COMBAT, REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM


EDITORIAL

We on the BLUE STAR staff are encouraged by the overwhelming reception Vol I, No 1 received last week. I want to emphasize that this is your paper, and encourage all of you to contribute to its success by submitting articles, jokes, cartoons, crossword puzzles or what have you, to any staff member or just drop it in Operations. Write it on anything, just get it in.

I have heard a lot of talk about the 101st, the Cav, and other larger units getting all the glory (publicity). Perhaps you can use this paper as an outlet to your hometown newspaper and get yourselves in the news.

Many thanks to those who have contributed to this issue and for the helpful hints we have received.

Staff: Captain James I. McDowell

1/Lt Loyd R. Stroup

SP/5 Stan W. Moreland

SP/4 Don Wallace

PFC Bill Van Oudenrode

PFC Allen B. Doktor


MORE THAN A DOCTOR

On 10 June 1966, five CH-46 Marine helicopters from Marble Mountain at Danang, Vietnam, were assigned the mission to fly to Dak To, Vietnam, to support the 101st Airborne brigade evacuating their wounded personnel from field locations to the aid station. During the initial flight from Marble mountain the CH-46s encountered bad weather resulting in one of them crashing into a 3000 foot mountain five miles northwest of Dak To Airfield. Members of the 10th Aviation Battalion Pathfinder team volunteered to conduct the rescue operation. They were airlifted to the base of the mountain where the helicopter had crashed earlier that morning. Because of the rugged and dense terrain they had to jump eight to ten feet from the helicopter to the ground. While the 48th Aviation Company provided armed helicopter support, the Pathfinder team broke trail through dense foliage, jungle, and enemy held territory. The team arrived at approximately 1000 hours, six hours after the aircraft had gone down, finding that the engine pods, fuel cells, and the tail assembly, which had torn clear of the cockpit and cargo compartment, were still burning. The other portion of the helicopter was untouched by fire. The Pathfinders found the medic, who was a member of the downed helicopter crew, in a dazed condition walking around some 75 meters from the crash site. They guided him back, during which time they were receiving sporadic sniper fire from unknown enemy positions. The OIC of the Pathfinders ascertained that the pilot and dazed medic were medically fit to crawl up to the top of the mountain, some four hundred meters away, with the help of his men. They were lifted by a hoist from a CH-46 hovering above and flown to the 48th Aviation Company aid station for medical attention by the Company Aviation Medical Officer, Captain Milton J. Sands. Captain Sands, through talking with the injured medic, learned that one of the remaining crew members had a suspected broken back and was to be airlifted out of the crash site. Fearing that if the injured man did have a broken back, an attempted airlift would greatly endanger his life, causing paralysis and even death; Captain Sands volunteered to go out to the crash site and administer immediate medical attention and determine the best method of evacuating the seriously injured personnel. With complete disregard for his own safety, Captain Sands was eased down through 60 foot trees atop the mountain by hoist from a helicopter. After being dropped to the ground he found himself alone and had to make his way down the incline to the crash site 400 meters away. Doctor Sands made a diagnosis of the injured men and found that the crew chief had to be evacuated immediately because he had a skull fracture and brain damage. He was also having trouble breathing and needed a tracheotomy. The mountain was so steep the helicopter could not hover directly over the crash site. The Pathfinders had blown a small opening in the dense jungle, enough to drop a sling into the area and hover a short distance from the open spot. To save this man’s life Captain Sands made the decision to have the helicopter snatch the injured man out of the hole and fly him to the combat rear area aid station where a tracheotomy could be performed and then be evacuated to Qui Nhon for Neuro Surgery. Since the gunner was already deceased they airlifted him the same way, but the co-pilot was coughing blood from internal injuries, had several fractured ribs, and shrapnel in his right knee. It was too dangerous to evacuate him the same way as the crew chief and gunner. Doctor Sands and the Pathfinders made a litter out of two ponchos and physically had to crawl 400 meters up the enemy infested incline to the top of the mountain carrying the injured co-pilot. He was placed on a helicopter and safely evacuated. Captain Sands, in an outstanding display of courage and professional ability, is credited with saving the lives of four seriously injured men and possible annihilation by the Viet Cong that were known to be in the area.


LEADING THE BLUE STARS

Our congratulations to CWO Shirion L. Temple, who this month became the first of the original Blue Star pilots to pass the 500 mark in hours flown in Vietnam.

As of 17 June, Mr. Temple had accumulated 516.1 hours in the 6 1/2 months he’s been flying in RVN.

That’s being up in the clouds quite a lot.


IS THE GRASS REALLY GREENER?

A very common occurrence in the life of a Blue Star aviator is providing aerial support for friendly ground elements when only a helicopter can assist them in their relentless conflicts with the Viet Cong. At times, the Blue Stars have combined their efforts with other aviation units to successfully bring about the completion of their mission. These massive and complex operations are more commonly known as "Romeo Foxtrots". One of the more recent of these took place on the afternoon of 8 June in the vicinity of Dak To, RVN. At approximately 1600 hours, our Joker aircraft (armed helicopters) were called upon to lend gun support to the H-43 Air Force helicopters, known as "Pedros", which were evacuating casualties of the 1/327th Infantry Battalion. Landing was difficult so the Pedros were accomplishing their mission by winching up the troops.

Captain Ivan C. Swift, who has taken part in many such missions in the past, was now giving his assistance on the PRC 25 (radio) in Operations because of his recent appointment as assistant S-3 Officer.

The Jokers and Pedros relentlessly continued their mission. The time was now 2330 hours and Captain Swift was fully realizing that his duties as Operations Officer can be just as trying as those of an aviator who is physically taking part in the night’s activities. The mission was coming to a successful end when an emergency re-supply call reached our assistant S-3. The ground forces were said to be "starving", not having eaten all day, and running short of medical supplies and ammo. The 48th reacted immediately. 32 cases of C-Rations, 30 pounds of medical supplies, 60 pounds of ammo, and 2 hours later, the mission was completed and our long day was over. After gathering up all the landing lights from the runway on the morning of 9 June, Captain Swift was finally headed for his bunk at 0130 hours. I’m sure Captain Swift slept soundly, and dreamt of all the bigger and better Romeo Foxtrots yet to come.

PFC Bill Van Oudenrode


CAN YOU IMAGINE

Sergeant Roggow transferred to Washington, D.C. to take charge of the Pentagon cafeteria?

Sergeant Hall giving 3 sets of fatigues and a pair of boots to all personnel for Christmas?

The "Strip" being moved from Phan Rang to accomodate the 48th and promote American-Vietnamese relations?

CWO Swanger in the field?

SP/5 Dove not burning the pot roast?

CWO Mahrt making mail pick up just once? "Damn, I missed it again".

SP/5 Morales as a tower operator?

Captain Delius receiving PCS orders to Phan Rang?

 

CAN YOU IDENTIFY

An officer known as "magnet ass"?

A crew chief known as "sis" or "mums"?

A gunner known as the "crier"?

A Warrant Officer known as "AK-47"?

A maintenance officer called "Speedy"?

The two garretroppers of the 48th?

The pilots responsible for blowing over "Big 6’s" Latrine a few days ago?

The Blue Star Engineer requiring only NINE rounds for artillery adjustment?

An officer branded "lightning"?


WHY ARE THE 48TH BLUE STARS BEST?

The answer you hear most often is, they have good pilots. However, we Blue Stars know there’s much more to it.

True, we have the best pilots, but we also have a group of assets which allow the stick jockeys to be "number one".

Why do we have clean, dry fuel available at all times?

Why do we have the most aircraft flyable and in the best condition?

Why do the best aviators sleep and eat well?

Why do we have lights, water, vehicles and ammo when we need it?

Why do we have the most livable community in Dak To?

Again I ask "why is the 48th best"? The answer is simple, we have the Best Men! To make this point clear, check the Blue Star aircraft against anyone’s hanger queens. Our aircraft have never looked better.

Major Frank J. Gundaker (Killed In Action 1 August 1966)


BLUE STAR TWINS

Did you know we had two brothers in the company who are identical twins? It’s true they are Louis and Juan Barrera of the Security Platoon.

The twins hail from Benovides, Texas. They joined the Army on 2 Aug 65 under the "buddy system", and have been together ever since. Back at the ranch (Phan Rang) they pull the same shift at the main gate nights, and relieve one another days. Louis and Juan enjoy doing the same shift, and enjoy their time off together.


OUR CONGRATULATIONS TO:

Captain Carl R. Jones

Captain James T. Radford

Captain Johnny K. Gower

Captain Louis T. Cox Jr.

Captain Walter H. Burch

Captain Robert D. Delius III

-- We see your names on the Majors list.

Congratulations to Captain Robert G. Inglis. Captain Inglis had his Captains bars pinned on by Lt. Col. Fern, Commanding Officer, 10th Aviation Battalion, before a formation of officers on 16 June 1966.

We are very happy to see five new Sergeants First Class (E-7) in the company. They are:

SFC Lawrence E. Hoitt, our intelligence Sgt.

SFC Gilbert McCollough, our Operations Sgt.

SFC Alvin C. Fletcher, 1st Airlift Platoon Sgt.

SFC William Jackson, 390th TC Detachment Maintenance Sgt.

SFC Job M. Christopher, Service Platoon Sgt.

Congratulations on your well deserved promotions.


EIGHT NEW BLUE STARS

The 48th recently welcomed eight helicopter pilots transferred from the First Cavalry Division (Airmobile). This transfer accomplishes two objectives, it offsets rotation dates for the 48th and the First Cav Div as the two units arrived in country on separate dates. These experienced pilots bring to the 48th backgrounds from such diverse tactics as armed helicopter reconnaissance, aerial rocket artillery and helicopter troop deployment. The pilots joining the 48th are: Capt Johnny K. Gower, Capt Lloyd A. Schmid, CWO Perry L. Jackson, CWO Kenneth C. Faba, CWO George A. Weckerle, WO John W. Hart, WO Joe L. Roden, and WO Gerald A. Towler.

These eight aviators bring to the 48th an accumulation of 3,346 hours Vietnam combat flying time and more than 12,200 hours total flying experience.


FORTUNES

Recently and unexpectedly, two helicopter crews of the 48th Aviation Company (Blue Star) had their usual role of supporting the infantry reversed, and in a manner they shall never forget.

The crews on a cross country flight in two UH-1 helicopters were within 20 minutes of their destination when they encountered low hanging clouds and heavy ground fog hugging the ridge to their front. As darkness approached and after repeated attempts to get over the ridge they decided they had better return to the refueling area they had just departed some 40 miles to the west. As they headed their Hueys westward they discovered the weather in the air through which they had just flown deteriorating. Large gray thunder clouds lumbered over the hills and ground fog was steadily creeping into the valleys. The clouds were bringing on darkness earlier than usual. The two helicopter crews were suddenly finding themselves entrapped by one of the most severe hazards to Vietnam flying, the summer monsoons.

Both crews had their automatic direction finder tuned to their new destination and the needles indicated SW to the station, when suddenly the course indicators spun 360 degrees and fell limp pointing to the floor. A quick glance at their navigation charts indicated the station they were tracking goes off the air daily at 1800 hours. Still no reason to be excited, the mission commander, James F. Thurmond tuned his UHF radio to contact radar guidance. Within seconds radar contact was established and both crews took a heading of 200 degrees, which would have taken them directly to the station if it had not been for a huge thunder storm dead ahead. As Captain Thurmond neared the edge of the storm he encountered zero visibility. He turned his navigation lights on bright and radioed his armed helicopter escort, piloted by James F. Price, to close up and follow him in a left 180 degree turn. Both aircraft banked and after approximately two minutes, which seemed more like two hours, and a little tossing about by the enlarging storm, the aircraft again reached clear air. The quiet was broken when the Air Force radar controller announced, "Blue Star 616 (48th Aircraft) this is Pyramid Control, be advised we are unable to continue radar service due to intense thunder storm activity between your target and this station." Odds are heavily against two navigation aids becoming unreliable at once, but in enemy territory even once is too often. As the sun set, the two helicopters were surrounded by clouds stretching from the jungle floor to heights unknown. The chopper pilots were unusually quiet and busy with their maps. They pinpointed their location over National Highway #14, but to attempt flying under these clouds and with poor visibility of night, would be asking for trouble. Their map indicated nothing within 30 miles except villages of unknown allegiance and the jungle.

It was mighty quiet for what seemed an endless period of time as the birds circled the skies in now desperate hope of finding some way out. Suddenly the silence was broken by Captain James McDowell, Aircraft Commander of the armed chopper, when he sighted two lights approximately 2 kilometers to his left. He radioed Blue Star 616 that he sighted what might be a U.S. Special Forces Camp. Captains Mac and Jim Price decided to make a low pass over the lights. With the two door gunners, SP/5 Gerald A. Kohl and PFC Bobby R. Hamby alerted and the aircraft weapons in the armed position, the pilots brought their Huey over into a shallow dive and came in clipping over the tree tops at 100 knots. Five hundred meters out Captain Price let out a hardy yell, "those guys down there are American, we’ve got it made." They pulled up and radioed to Captain Jim Thurmond and his pilot Captain Jack Horne to standby while they landed to check out the situation. When they approached the area the Infantry troops lighted their gasoline filled cans forming a huge flaming H, a mighty friendly sign to these weary but now overjoyed pilots. 1/Lt Ronald P. Cuerno met

met the crew as they stepped from their aircraft, and he was immediately overwhelmed by these happy aviators. The circling aircraft contacted Pyramid Control, who relayed a RON (Remain Over Night) message to Blue Star Control. Captain Jack Horne yelled out as he stepped from his Huey, "I never thought those white stars on your vehicles could look so good. Boy, is it great seeing you guys." The Infantry troops turned out to be Task Force Harris from 2/5th Cav of the 1st Air Cav Division, commanded by Major Arthur M. Harris. Just twelve days earlier TF Harris had started building a C-130 landing strip out of the wilderness which had so plainly showed up as jungle on the aviators’ maps.

The Infantry hosts supplied their guests with a tent, and though it rained all night and the mud was a foot deep, no one ever knew two happier helicopter crews.


GETTING SHORT

During the next month or so, the 48th will lose some of its strength when a few of its strength when a few of its Enlisted Men become civilians.

The 286th Medical Detachment will lose the services of SP/6 Guster Damphie and SP/4 Ronald A. Relaford. SP/6 Damphie will join his family in Detroit on 13 July and SP/4 Relaford will be in Philly on 25 July.

A couple of helicopter crews will have to be re-manned when SP/5 Alvin T. Fukunaga, a crew chief from Hawaii, and James P. Smith III, a gunner from Daytona Beach, Florida, wave good bye to the 48th. Alvin T.’s ETS is 5 July and Smitty’s is on the 11th of the month.

On 30 July, the 48th will lose SP/4 Ronald L. Geier and SP/4 Kenneth P. Lawrey. Ron Geier will leave Operations a man short when he departs for Tacoma, Washington. Ken Lawrey is one of our armament men and he’ll be headed for Detroit.

PFC Adolph W. Hartung IV, of the motor pool, will be back in California on the 23rd of July.  I know you guys hate to leave all this heat, but that’s the breaks of the game. Good luck to all of you, we’ll miss you.


BLUE STARS WEEKLY HIGHLIGHTS

14 June

48th furnishes 2 UH-1Ds and three armed UH-1Bs in support of the 10th Aviation Battalion on a combat assault lifting an ARVN force.

General Seneff, 1st Aviation Brigade Commanding General and Colonel Marr, 17th Aviation Group Commanding Officer had dinner with the Blue Stars.

15 June

0840 hours seven Blue Star UH-1Ds lifted the 1/327th platoon sized Tiger Force on a combat assault. Four Joker aircraft provided escort and pre-struck the LZ as the Air Force completed their strike.

0930 hours the 48th provided seven UH-1Ds to 10th Aviation Battalion for a company sized combat assault.

1045 hours the 48th Blue Stars made an administrative lift of 144 troops.

1300 hours the Blue Stars and Jokers made a recon with 101st LRRP (Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol).

1800 hours the 48th inserted the LRRP using 3 UH-1Ds and 3 UH-1Bs (Story on page 7).

16 June

0800 hours five UH-1Ds and two UH-1Bs moved the 1/327th Infantry Tactical CP.

1050 hours two UH-1Ds supported 129th Aviation Company in extracting two Special Forces patrols in contact with the enemy (SEE STORY   ).

1530 hours the 48th Blue Stars picked up the 101st LRRP.

17 June

0712 hours two Joker gunships sent on fire mission for 1/327th Infantry (Story on Page 7).

0830 hours two Jokers dispatched to escort dust off aircraft (Medical Evacuation).

1255 hours the 48th put in one ARVN company and extracted another.

1600 hours the 48th conducted a two company administrative lift.

*******************************************************************************************

By the way, the next time we have an, alert, would one of you first platooners make sure your leader gets his boots on the right feet!

********************************************************************************************


SINGING PILOTS

Congratulations to Captain Donald Kelsey and Captain Robert Delius who placed second and third in the 1st Aviation Brigade song contest conducted in Saigon last week. The lyrics and music are originals by Blue Star members.

"A Chopper Pilots Day" came in second and "I’m A Red Hot Pilot" wound up third. Look for the third place winner in next week’s issue.

"A CHOPPER PILOTS DAY"

Verse 1

In the early morning hours

Before the sun is bright

You can hear the turbines turning

As the choppers lift for flight.

A sleepless night is over

The pilots on their way

To face the fear and danger

Of a chopper pilots day.

Chorus-------

A chopper pilots day, my boys

A chopper pilots day

We face the fear and danger

Of a chopper pilots day.

Verse 2

The VC will be hiding

For they know so very well

Should a gunship pilot spot them

He’ll blast their soul to hell.

The smell of battle fills the air

The landing zone is near

The flight turns on its final leg

No place for cowards here.

Chorus - - - - - - -

Verse 3

Machine guns chatter and rockets flash

An awesome sound and sight

But a welcomed one for us it is

For it causes Charlie’s fright.

Our choppers settle on no-man’s-land

And now troops depart

Charging into battle

To win, in each man’s heart.

Chorus - - - - - - -

Verse 4

An extra second on the ground

Could end a pilot’s life

And leave a tearful mother

Or a very lonely wife.

We clear the ground above the trees

There comes a blinding flash

There on our right a ship is hit

We watch the awful crash.

Chorus - - - - - - -

Verse 5

A gunship comes onto the scene

To cover the crew’s escape

A slick ship lands to pick them up

We pray they’re not too late.

Then through the smoke we see them rise

Into the morning sky

A lucky crew is on that ship

T’was not their day to die.

Chorus - - - - - - -

Verse 6

All crews are now accounted for

We hear our leader say

We breath a sigh, "We made it"

Through a chopper pilots day.

 

Written by

Captain Jack Horne

CWO Bill Moore

Phan Rang, Vietnam


BLUE STARS BRING THE LRRPs IN

15 June -

As dusk slowly turned into night and the sun disappeared behind the mountains the stealthy LRRPs and the equally stealthy Blue Stars winged North on another recon mission into no-man’s-land. The last minute coordination between air crews and LRRPs had been accomplished and all that remained was the swift run to the drop off point, a remote jungle clearing. The Blue Stars with their Joker escorts peeled off one by one from formation and the lonely final run to the LZ commenced. All senses were at high key for the moment of truth was at hand as the Blue Stars swooped down the into the vulnerable area to discharge their precious cargo. As the skids brushed the ground the LRRPs dashed for cover and the angry whines of the Jokers could be heard as they flashed by providing that most important fire cover should Charlie be there. 

The LRRP’s faded into the jungle shadows and the Blue Stars hastened their departure into the protective night. At drop time + 15, the LRRP team leader radioed their "All Clear" to us, signaling the Blue Stars to return to home base where they remain on standby pending a call from the LRRP’s that they’re in trouble, at which time the Blue Stars return to bail them out.

- - - "Another Chopper Pilots Day" - - -

Captain James T. Radford


SPECIAL FORCES AIDED

16 June -

This morning two of our slicks were called on to help the 129th Airmobile (our sister company) rescue two 40 man CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense) guard patrols and their Special Forces advisors who were surrounded by the enemy. This ASAP mission was received by Blue Star Operations at 1050 hours. By 1100 hours the crews of 778 and 779 were in the air and linked up with the 129th. The friendly patrol was heavily engaged and pinned down by Charlie, who was within 25 meters. The aircraft orbited overhead until a one ship LZ was hacked out of the bamboo. The Hueys then soared in one at a time and successfully extracted the patrol while under heavy enemy fire. On their return flight to the staging area, with the patrol safely in their ships, they received an emergency request to exact another CIDG patrol also pinned down. In routine fashion the crews dropped off their passengers and reported to the new location. They extracted the second patrol with the professional ability they had exhibited in their earlier rescue.

SKILL NOT LUCK! Well done -- CWO Moore, WO Stitzle, SP/4 Baca and SP/4 J. Smith of 778 and WO Mason, WO Towler, PFC Manton and SP/4 Brown of 779.

WO Towler’s comment after the rescue was, "I’m too short for this kind of mission".

WO Fletcher S. Stitzle


JOKERS ATTACK VC

17 June -

As dawn approached the foggy Dak To Valley, Blue Star Operations received an urgent call for two gunships to help out a company of the 101st Airborne Brigade.

Within minutes Jokers 98 and 93 were airborne in answer to the distress message. Captain Morris R. Steenson, the Joker flight leader, established contact with the Infantry company and quick coordination identified the area where fire was requested.

The Jokers started their work in earnest as the ground commander adjusted fire from 2.75 rocket and 40 mm grenade bursts. Pass after pass was made by the Jokers until they had expended their rockets and grenades. They continued their support until the ground commander called "well done, we can move in on them now".

As the Infantry moved into the area which the enemy had occupied, blood trails were found and the two Jokers were accredited with an estimated 5 VC KBA (Killed by Aircraft). Returning home, for breakfast, the Jokers prepared for another days work.

Captain Morris R. Steenson


BLUE STARS & JOKERS TEAM UP AGAIN

18 June -

"Just another chopper pilot’s day", is becoming quite a saying with the pilots of the 48th, but many are starting to wonder if this statement isn’t becoming an everyday occurrence.

Once again the Blue Stars were called upon to extract troops out of the heavily wooded mountains Northeast of Dak To. For the past three weeks this area has been known to be a well fortified enemy position heavily entrenched with bunkers and spider holes.

A flight of four, led by Captain Radford, was assigned to lift A Company, 1st of the 327th Airborne Infantry plus the TAC CP to a new location south of their present Command Post. Aircrafts 774, piloted by Captain Radford and WO Klinger, 889, flown by WO Towler and WO Mason, 776 flown by CWO Harrel and CWO Paulson, and 773 flown by Captain Burch and Lt. Stroup began extracting troops from PZ Suzanne located midway up the mountain.

The Pickup Zone was a typical carved out opening that the Blue Stars have become accustomed to. A small opening cleared by hand just large enough for one helicopter to set down like a well fitted part of a jigsaw puzzle.

The first lift was uneventful except for the normal uneasiness and sweaty palms from trying to put a helicopter in a hole the size of the Main rotor blade. On the second lift, as WO Towler and WO Mason were on short final, Automatic weapons fire suddenly opened up from a small ridge line to the right of the pickup point. As the Infantry dove for cover, WO Towler and WO Mason immediately executed a maneuver that any short timer would have done. A hard right peddle turn. They tucked the collective under their arms, and parted the grass halfway down the side of the mountain. Joker elements led by Captain Jones were immediately called in to lay down suppressive fire. After hitting the line with rockets and machine guns 889 once again attempted a landing. This time no fire was received and the troops were safely lifted out. Either Charlie had been eliminated or he was too busy keeping his head down.

Blue Stars and Jokers combine into a mighty tough team that’s IMPOSSIBLE to stop.

WO Jerry Towler


BLUE STARS & JOKERS TEAM UP AGAIN

18 June -

"Just another chopper pilot’s day", is becoming quite a saying with the pilots of the 48th, but many are starting to wonder if this statement isn’t becoming an everyday occurrence.

Once again the Blue Stars were called upon to extract troops out of the heavily wooded mountains Northeast of Dak To. For the past three weeks this area has been known to be a well fortified enemy position heavily entrenched with bunkers and spider holes.


JOKERS SAVE THE DAY

- - - - - - This happened last week but we thought you’d like to read it, though admittedly a little late- - - - - -

Early on the morning of June 7, three Jokers, the 48th Aviation Company gunships, were returning from an escort mission when they heard an urgent radio call from "B" Battery of the 320th Artillery Battalion, requesting an immediate air strike at their location. Captain Donald R. Kelsey, flight leader of the Joker flight, decided they had sufficient fuel to strike and still return to base camp. The Jokers reversed their flight path and proceeded to the Artillery position. Captain Kelsey coordinated with the ground commander, who marked his position with red smoke. The Jokers were astounded to find the enemy dug in only 25 meters from the friendly troops. The enemy had moved in during the night, dug in, and had the Artillery Battery pinned down with sniper and automatic weapons fire.

The Jokers each made six gun runs, strafing the enemy with machine gun, 2.75 inch rockets and 40 mm grenade fire. At first, they were hesitant in firing so close to the friendly position, but after repeated requests from the ground commander, they brought their fire in close. At one time the radio operator shouted, "You got them", as a rocket knocked out the automatic weapon. One their sixth pass the Battery commander called a "Cease fire" and his troops counter attacked the enemy positions.

When the Jokers returned to base, Intelligence reported 66 Communists killed with the Jokers receiving credit for 37 KBA. The Jokers received a hearty "thank you" from the Battery commander. The Artillery unit had been under attack since early dawn, and at one time the VC had taken over one 105 mm Howitzer. Without the Jokers help the Artillery unit could easily have been overrun.


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