Larry Russell B/227th
Bob Witt A/227th
Ed Donovan C/2-20 ARA
Ted Jenkins 478 HHC
Chris Christensen A/228
Grant Fossom A/228
Arnold A. Gugarty HHC, 1st Bn. 12th Cav
Allen Ney C/227th
Mike Hagler D,2/8th Cav
Death from Above - C/1st/8th CavBobWitt also sent
227th Battalion After Action Report
The Cavalry Magazine
Paticipants were 227 and 229 Assault Helicopter Battalions, 228 Assault Support Helicopter Battalion, 478 Heavy Helicopter Company, 2/20 Aerial Rocket Artillery Battalion, and 1/9 Air Cavalry Squadron. We have no data from 229 and 1/9, but are hopeful 227 th AVN BN
Larry Russell(B/227) I did not fly into the valley with B/227th on 19 April. Believe it or not I (being a very junior O-2) was doing TDY around I Corps as a payroll officer. Maybe they knew I was a magnet ass. I did however, fly a single ship recon with an ARVN BG aboard (STUPID) the week before! Saw nothing, heard nothing.... General had me fly too high to see much (except a 1/9th loach). Now that I know what was down there I wonder how many crosshairs were trained on me?????? I remember the valley was beautiful and well defined. Of course with the weather the way it was we rarely got to see it that way. The bordering mountain ranges were 4-5000 feet in height. They formed solid walls, with few passages east or west. Most of our flying was north-south, the general direction of the valley. I seem to remember most of the holes in the north and the LZ's in the south. I'll get back to this fact later. Almost dead center was a well traveled but cleverly hidden road. With psp bridges over the streams. There were roadside reststops with overhead cover. We found NVA versions of "Jiffy Lubes". 1/9th found a gasoline pipeline running adjacent to the roadway. We captured several GMC trucks and even a caterpillar bulldozer. The amount of weapons and ammo was huge. The article you mentioned said we lost about 21 aircraft. I seem to remember numbers approaching twice that. Steve Harper can attest to one of them as it happen right in front of him, and it was an H model so the report is wrong. I think Tolson was the CG at the time, so he surely can't contradict his own after action reports can he:-) We would depart Evans to the east and climb through holes till we got on top. Sometimes 10k feet.... brrrrrrrrrrrr..... cold in I corps in April. We would then call Evans GCA and fly vectors to the valley, on top all the way. I seem to remember about 30-40 minutes flight time. In the early stages we looked for holes and then spiraled down to the valley floor. Later on they had installed a portable GCA in the valley so we didn't need to hunt for holes. Oh goody! I remember flying as fast as our new H models would go, low level down the valley. Then we'd stand the aircraft on it's tail trying to stop. As we'd touch down and rock forward we'd be gone. All the grunts had heard about the huge aircraft losses and they were as anxious to get off as we were. That may have saved a bunch of downed aircraft. Most of the LZ's were south and the NVA probably had most of the AAA set up down there. We would enter the valley in the north were little AAA was deployed ( this is my opinion - not necessarily fact) - maybe Steve, Dave or Mel can add their thoughts. Flying low level keeps radar guided AAA in check. The top half of the mountain range was in the clouds a lot, so maybe they just couldn't see us at times. click........................................CLICK CLICK :-0 I remember our FM radios clicking when we were being tracked by radar. Or so we were told. If you stop and think about it, the only people that can probably tell you exactly what it sounded like are dead. We would be flying in formation .........click...........EYEBALLS WIDE! EARS SUPER TUNED.....................CLICK CLICK PUCKER FACTOR +10 DIVE DIVE!! TURN TURN!! We were told that if we ever heard a three clicker, it was confirmation of hits! Made for crappy formation flying for a while. We were so stressed out, that we'd shove the cyclic around when ever anyone clicked the mike. Spent a night or two in my H model, parked on the A Loui airstrip. Think I slept with on hand on the battery switch and the other on the starter button. Sure didn't like that place. So Mike.........file this one away. Next time I'll tell you about dropping flares at 10,000 feet at midnight................over the Vlley.........trying to help A-1E's spot a convoy of trucks heading south. Oh yes .......single ship.
Bob Witt, A/227th sends: Thats the way it was my friend. I was the sixth ship into Tiger, the LZ was on the top of pinnacle. Mike Dubberly was the AC as we departed the AAA was so thick we broke back towards Laos, the NVA were standing in ranks on the road at the base of Tiger shooting at us. One Of Delta company's Charlie models went down behind us and we broke back to pick them up, on the first pass we broke off after several hits that we thought had shot out our hydraulics, turned out that the control vibrations were probably from the onset of retreating blade stall, the result of super tight high rate of descent screaming ass approach, once the vibration stopped we went back in and picked up the Charlie model crew. we landed just across the little valley from where Buzz Whitmire and his crew went MIA ten days later. As we lifted off the Chinook came down over the top of us, as we flew over the crash site the crew was bailing out of the ramp, and going down from ground fire. We took more hits had wounded on board and after hearing the remaining guns report no luck for the chinook crew we departed for Evans. Mike got a Silver Star, I got a DFC, Company 6 raised hell that my SS had been downgraded because I was CP. Later that week saw the Crane go down from a direct 37mm hit in th cockpit while sling loading a dozer, everyone was on guard screaming at him to get out of the area, he crashed at the base of tiger, saw the 130 roll over and go in after making a lowlevel air drop to LZ Stallion ( A Loui ). Went into the valley 14 days took hits 11 times went down once. Once involved a six ship GCA from 14,000msl 6 degree glideslope, one minute seperation, guess the gooks figured that if one ship came out of the clouds in one place followed by another more would follow. Three was greased, we were five, green tracers in the clouds are shall we say "artistic". The FM buzz was usually followed by black puffy clouds. At night or IFR what caused the trotts was the sound of a near miss. I celebrated my 21st birthday flying over the valley. This was after TET and Khe Sanh. It is only by the grace of God that I'm alive with three wonderful kids and not rotting on the floor of the valley like Buzz and his crew. We pulled out the first week of May 68, the 101worst went back in in Aug and May 69 (Hamburger Hill). May 1968 Uncle Ho's birthday some little gook dropped a mortar round in the Evans ammo dump went off for 36 hours destroyed 200 helicopters on the ground, sat in a 20 man bunker with 60 guys for 18 hours hell of a first 90 days in Nam. (More on the ammo dump explosion at the end) Ed Donovan (C/2-20) Great guys A\227th and the rest of the kickass Cav. I was in the A Shau a lot during the 68 offensive. Had some interesting times to say the least. But to go to the F.M. signal thread...very real, very true. We had the information put out to us for whatever it was worth & it proved worth a lot. Single &/or double tones almost always proved out to be a precursor to fire from what appeared to be radar controlled sources. Made life a very aerobatic experience. If any one knows Gary Haynes, then a FNG Lt, he will be happy to explain the Ed Donovan p***ed off method of eliminating those sources of irritation. (Plus a lesson in retreating blade stall).
Ted Jenkins sent: APRIL 19, 1968 Seems I recall that three CH54's left Danang that morning. All Cranes were overnighted at Danang in revetments (this was before Red Beach had revetments) and we would have to fly them to Red Beach at daylight for missions. Some of us lived on the airbase, next building to the "Jolly Green" pilots and some of our unit stayed at Red Beach. Sometimes we would just preflight and solo the ship to Red Beach and turn it over to another crew. On the 19th, I flew 418 to Red Beach and picked up the CO, Major Richard Cardwell. We arrived at Evans shortly after daylight but no missions were on the board for us so we remained at Evans on standby for any recovery or heavy load mission that might come up. The Cav ships began to leave en masse and we were just waiting around the aircraft not having any idea of what was really going on in the A Shau in the early morning until the radio chatter began to tell the situation in the valley. We began to hear reports of fierce fighting and many downed aircraft. We continued to sit around for an hour or so when the word came down that a backhoe and a dozer would have to be lifted in. Arty personnel had been put on an LZ (Tiger) but needed engineer equipment to prepare the firebase. Two Cranes would go, however, there would be no gun ship support. None was available. Didn't bother us then. We thought the valley was secured. I was flying 67-18418, with Major Richard Cardwell, at the time. Captain Arthur J. Lord and CW3 Charles W. Millard were in 64-14205 with Flight Engineer SP6 Michael R. Werdehoff and Crew Chief SP4 Philip K. Shafer. 64-14205 lifted the bulldozer, not sure of the size or weight, but the Cav had some great little dozers that weighed about 13,000. For some reason, I believe that this dozer was one of the 16,000 pounders, possibly a D4. Not positive about this, though. The sky was very overcast to the west and as we climbed over the overcast and were vectored west, radar at Evans said they "believed" they knew where we should start our letdown and when we cleared below just go left down the valley. We had the coordinates and the LZ was at the end of this range on a slender ridge or finger. 205 was leading. We were now hearing all kinds of radio traffic. Not the good kind. As soon as we dropped below the overcast, the gunfire started and the cockpit chatter from everyone in the valley never ceased. Other pilots were yelling "get out of there." We didn't know who they were talking to. Tracers followed us the entire way and never stopped. Some of them were almost indescribable, more like red and yellow bowling balls. I don't remember either of us saying anything until we saw 205 overshoot the LZ and make a right turn for another approach coming back in behind us. Then it was just, "oh shit." It was our good fortune that we sighted Tiger further out than 205 did and I'm sure their misfortune helped us identify the LZ and set up the approach early. One of our crew members said that 205 was coming back but they were behind us a ways and then he said, "Sir, she's blown up." The CH47 that had crashed earlier was still burning lying on the side of the hill right under our flight path. We made the LZ, and it seemed like an eternity hovering with our tail out over the CH47 while the load was winched down and released. At this time most of the tracers seemed to be coming from the rear. Major Cardwell then grabbed the controls, said "I've got it," and he was welcome to it. The Crane held the record for vertical climb but I believe we set a new record this day. We climbed straight up through the clouds until we got on top, contacted Evans, and then headed home. It was a silent trip back to Evans. I can't imagine the bravery of the crew of 205 to begin another approach after already flying through a gauntlet of anti-aircraft and automatic weapons fire. In one post, I think it mentions 205 crashed at the LZ. 205 was actually about 500 yards behind us in the middle of the valley. Later in the week when the weather cleared, we couldn't even see evidence of a crash. My flt records for that day only show 2.8 hrs but that was enough for me that day. However, the strangest part was that our ship, 418, did not take a single hit. Why? After 30 years, I still don't know and I am still thankful. After the 19th, took a couple days off but back in the valley to visit Pepper, A Loui, Goodman, Stallion, Cecil, Tiger, Signal Hill, etc., on 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 Apr and then into May. Do not personally remember the crew chiefs on 205 and I really feel bad that I have forgotten the names of crew chiefs on my ship. I know I should never have forgotten their names. I was told the flight engineer on my acft quit after that flight. One humorous side note: The 1st Cav, during that week, as you know, was in terrible shape for flyable aircraft. One day, there were more Cranes available for an early morning mission than the 228 BN had Chinooks, but that day was the exception. I really respected the Chinooks and their crews during the time I flew out of Evans and I feel that a lot of aircraft took off with some defects not being corrected. A couple of days after the big push into the A Shau, the Command requested the Marine Corps assistance until the Cav had it's aircraft flyable again. On this particular day, a Marine Major led a flight of three CH53's to Evans. (The following was related to us by CW3 George Ellis, who had recently replaced me as 478th liaison to the 228th Bn Operations) At the briefing, the Marines were told where they would be flying in the valley and what they would be hauling. All was well until the Major asked where he could pick up his gun ships and what their freqs were. Then, the bad news. No gunships were available. The Marine Major said they didn't fly without guns and would only accept external loads of 8,000 lbs or less. He left the briefing, gathered his crews and flew off. Someone must have said something that night because the next day we watched the three CH53's fly in again. This time they worked all day, just like the rest of us, carried same loads as CH47's and did a good job. They just got an introduction to how the 1st Cav operated. Does anyone else remember the Marines helping us for one day?? I still have my little green government memo book with lots of LZ's, coords, freqs, beacons, etc., just a lot of stuff, if anyone is interested. Ted Jenkins email@example.com 478th Avn Co 67-68 339th TC, 64-65 Official aircraft loss data shows" The crane 64-14205 on the 19th was lost at YD255095 The Chinook 64-13124 was lost at YD260120 7
Chris Christensen from A/228 sent: Very interesting about the Hook there Mike. It was an A model which I crewed for a bit in 66 after its flight eng was med evaced back to the states. It was always called the Lead Magnet. It was the one that while we were loading a couple of jeeps on the side of the runway at Dak To a C130 took off with a lowboy inside and drifted off to his right and as he went by one of our blades caught up to his rh wing and went up thru his external tank and into the wing and cracked the main spar. One hell of a ride on the ground and trying to get out of the Lead Magnet and jp4 all over everything. Old girl used to come back after every beating she took. Guess not this one. She was a tough old fat lady.
Grant Fossom (A/228) sent: Have read many of the great posts the past few days on the excitement of the A Shau excursion in April '67, so thought I would throw my 12 cents worth in (anything a Cav Hooker has to say is always worth more than 2 cents!!). 228th Bn S-2 briefed us early in the operation that there was radar controlled AA and that a tell-tale indication that they were looking at you to add to the stencils on their gun was a tone (not beep) on the FM. We were told that they need to get two good "locks" on a target for altitude and heading, then the third lock was "katie bar the door". we changed heading at least 90 degrees when we heard the first tone, then would often hear a tone again in a few minutes and repeat the procedure. This was while flying at 6-10,000 trying to find a hole to dive through into the valley. On one sortie with an external load (flight of two beautiful Chinooks) at 10K, with a VNE of 50K because of the max external load, I was weaving all over the place trying to find the valley through the clouds when I spotted a large break in the clouds which allowed me to use my superior map reading skills and determine that we were way over the border in Laos. We turned around and were heading back when my CE (looking through the cargo hatch) said that there were black puffs of smoke below us that looked like air bursts. They were probably at least a 1000 feet below us but we had no desire to check their ability to adjust manually. Since evasionary moves are somewhat futile at 50K in a bird that really only "waddled" with a load at that altitude, a load of PSP and two water blivets were air mailed to our antagonists below. Did not hear any sound before the air bursts. On a note about aircraft losses in the A Shau. I know that at least 5 Chinooks were destroyed. The two mentioned in earlier posts both went down in flames on the first day. The A/228 Hook went in inverted about a mile from the LZ (can't remember which one). AC was CW2 Don Winskey, a second-tour pilot with only about two months in country. The pilow was also a returnee CW2 who was on his first or second operational mission. We were told that no effort would be made to rescue the crew since no one could have survived. The two pilots did survive, however, and after spending the night E & E'ing, made it to the LZ by following the sound of the chainsaws of troops clearing fields of fire. I visited them in the evac center at Phu Bai. They were both burned, but not life threatening and didn't look bad enough to be really scarred. Neither returned to the unit, however. A/228 had another Hook destroyed on LZ Tiger. Apparently a RPG blew off one of the engines and the aircraft settled on the load it was dropping off and was destroyed by fire. No loss of life--pilot was WO Doug Martin, can't remember who AC was. Two other CH-47 losses I know of were from B and C/228 (don't remember which). One aircraft was hit by an RPG in the controls closet while offloading at an LZ about mid-valley. The aircraft would have beat itself to death if not for the swift action of one crewmember who pulled the main fuel shut-off levers in the cargo area. I saw this bird as we evlauated whether we would be able to sling it out. Another loss was called a combat loss, but was, I belive, due to pilot error. When diving through the clouds, the windshield would fog up inside due to the rapid change in temperature and humidity, making it nearly impossible to see out. The side windows on a Hook don't allow enough room to get a head out far enough to see much in front of the aircraft. I think the pilots did not plan for this contingency and overshot the LZ, going into the trees. No injuries. Well, that's enough for now. Just a parting note. Was at Camp Evans for some kind of battalion ceremony right after A Shau and MG Tolson came up to me and asked me if I was enjoying my tour. I thought that was kind of dumb--guess he was just trying to start a conversation. I was not my usual jovial self that day and responded with "Not really, am I supposed to?" My CO drug me away and chastised me (gently) for not showing enough respect.
Pat Murphy (C/228) sent: Just a note to let you know that if you look on page 24 of the September 1968 Air Cavalry Magazine, you will see my ship, Crimson Tide 472, with it's butt sitting on the edge of the LZ being unloaded as the front end is hovered. If I had known that this photo was being taken, I would have come out of the bird and posed for this guy. A color photo of my ship being loaded somewhere in the Nam is also on the inside of the front cover. I have zealously guarded this copy of the Air Cavalry Magazine for 28+ years now, because it contained pictures of me and my bird in action in the Nam. The photo on page 24 also appeared in the 1st Cav's newspaper, the Cavalair, on January 1, 1969. The casualties you talk about were passed on to me from friends returning from missions on that violent April 19th, 1968. My ship was to lead our company's flights that day with the CO on board as pilot, but I remained on the ground due to some type of red X due to battle damage received on April 3rd near Khe Sahn. I did not the exact numbers, but I knew it was bad. I lost my firsr ship, Crimson Tide 109, on April 23, 1968, to causes unknown, in the A Shau after a full day of missions. We went down about 6PM. The Hook in the pictures was the new replacement I crewed from early May until I went home in January, 1969. Thought you would like to know.
Arnold A. Gugarty (1st/12th) sent:
I remember air drops into the valley. The planes
would fly in, lower than the
mountain tops. Charlie had a heavy machine gun up on one of the peaks and
our infantry could not get at them for several days.
Every time a plane came in, you could hear the
MG firing at it. One day, as the
MG was firing, one of the engines on a C-130 blew up. I believe the MG got it!
The plane must have been loaded to the gills
because he could not get his nose
up with only three engines. He kept circling around over our heads getting lower
and lower. I guess the air crew was trying to push some of the load out the back
door but with the nose down, no luck.
Finally, the plane went into the trees half a
mile away from us. There was a
tremendous explosions and a massive fireball. No survivors, of course.
Another time, a fighter jet had some kind of
problem over head. I don't know if he
was shot down or had mechanical problems. Two fliers bailed out and parachuted
down. Every 'chopper around came and flew circles around the two 'chutes. They
were telling Charlie not to shoot at the fliers or else...
Arnold A. Gugarty
HHC 1st Bn/12th Cav
1st Cav Div
APO SF 96490
Mike Hagler D 2/8th Cav sent:
Bob Witt sent:
Attached are Photos related to the NVA shoot down of a C-130 dropping supplies on the LZ Stallion Drop Zone in the Ashau Valley in late April 1968 (26th?).
This link is a good narrative of the AF C-130 ops in the Valley. (C130 Hercules Headquarters)
These Photos were provided to me by the son of the C-130 Navigator. He is
working with the POW/MIA team in efforts to recover the crew. A medic from B
1/12 took the in-flight photos, he became KIA in July 68.
The C-130 took heavy AAA (51 cal & 37 MM) as it began it's run to the drop zone. The crew began jettisoning the cargo of 105 mm Howitzer rounds and made an attempt to circle to the west and land at LZ Stallion, Taking more fire as they circled. It then appears that the pilot attempted to put the aircraft down in a manner so as to avoid Cav Troops on the ground.
Click here for A Shau pictures
On 19 April 1968, the 227th Assault Helicopter Battalion, commanded by LTC W.F. Dixon was prepared to commit its maximum available resources in the third massive heliborne assault within a month, Operation/Delaware/Lam Son 216. The plan of operation was to simultaneously assault into the A Shau Valley and to insert a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol to secure "Signal Hill," a 4879 foot peak 5 kilometers northeast of A Loui Airfield to be used as a vital communications relay station. At 0730 hours, 19 April 1968, the weather, which was to play a harassing part throughout the 29 day operation, was a thin overcast on the plains and solid overcast above the valley. The cloud tops, however, were at about 4500 feet. The top of Signal Hill was above the clouds. With the main assault aircraft on a temporary weather hold, Co B, 227th AHB, with 4 UH-1H helicopters, a command and control ship, and 2 escort gunships from D Co were suddenly in the position of the lead assault element. Carrying an aircraft load (ACL) of 5, the 4 lift aircraft departed Camp Evans, climbed through the thin overcast, and were vectored to the initial landing zone. It was briefed to be a single ship LZ and intelligence reports had spotted anti-aircraft positions along the ridge to the northeast and a heavy concentration of assorted weapons in the valley floor to the west. The initial approach was attempted directly to the west, approaching the hill mass at a 45 degree angle. The first view of the LZ showed it to be a bomb crater on a 40 degree slope surrounded by 50 foot trees. Touchdown was impossible and the LRRP’s would have to be repelled from about 30 feet. The lead aircraft was unable to maintain a position over the LZ and made a "go around." The second aircraft attempting the drop lost power and crashed into the LZ, sliding down the hill into the trees. The approach axis was shifted from west to east and the lead aircraft on a second approach successfully repelled his load and extracted a miraculously uninjured crew of the downed aircraft. A total of 14 sorties were lifted into Signal Hill without further incident with constant improvement being made on the LZ. From the initial assault it looked like a milk run as no significant anti-aircraft fire was encountered. Concurrent with the Signal Hill lift at 0930 the main assault, augmented by the 229th AHB, for a total of 40 lift helicopters and 8 supporting gunships were launched from a marshaling point just southwest of Camp Evans. With 10 aircraft each, Co led by Major Darwin A. Peterson and C Co. Led by Major Edward L. Burkhalter, each escorted by a pair of gunships, lifted off with an aircraft load (ACL) of 6 in the White and Yellow flights respectively. This assault was to establish a fire base stop a 3580 foot ridge on the northwest edge of the A Shau Valley. LZ Tiger would command the approach of RSR 548 into the northern end of the valley from the west. The entire flight into the A Shau was forced to climb to 6000 feet to fly over the clouds and descend one ship at a time into the valley through holes in the overcast. The aircraft first made their approach from the west to a less than adequate LZ forced by a bomb crater in a small saddle stop Hill 122B. From the time the first aircraft came through the clouds, it was apparent that it would be no ordinary assault. Despite the 209 tactical air sorties and 21 B-52 strikes, each aircraft approaching LZ Tiger ran the gauntlet of withering anti-aircraft fire, including .50 caliber and 37mm guns. The enemy gunners inflicted damage on a total of 25 1st Air Cav Div aircraft this first day. It was considered to be the most formidable air defense yet faced by the 1st Air Cav Div in Vietnam. The enemy fire was not the only problem so-encountered by the relatively inexperienced aviators. For the first time the pilots were experiencing a loss of RPM due to the high density altitude. The aircraft was unable to maintain a high hover on LZ Tiger and could not sit down in the LZ without hitting the trees with the blades. The ACL was lowered to 5 on the second lift and than to safely make the lift. Blade strikes accounted for the loss of 6 aircraft before the LZ was finally curved out enough to allow the aircraft to touchdown. With 20 sorties into LZ Tiger the decision was made to split the lift into a lower LZ approximately 900ft below the original LZ creating an LZ, (Tiger Lower), and redesignating the upper location (Tiger Upper). After a number of sorties into Tiger Lower, the intense fire from the valley floor to the east and south prompted the remaining lift to revert back to Tiger Upper. During the shift, a D Co gunship was shot down southeast of the Tiger Upper, but managed to crash land on the road with no casualties; the crew was inordinately extracted. The lift into the two Tiger LZ’s was complete at 1300 hours. The air assault of the 1/7 Cav Bu to establish LZ. Vicky on the northeast side of the valley began at 1330. This fire base was located directly east of LZ Tiger on a low finger tucked up against the eastern wall of the valley. LZ Vicky was a 2 ship LZ and again was formed by bomb craters. The initial flight path was from Tiger directly cast across the valley landing to the southeast. The intense enemy fire from the valley floor had hit several aircraft and destroyed a 229th AHB aircraft necessitating a quick route change. A relatively secure route farther north was found with the aircraft skirting the open valley and hugging the eastern wall. The final approach was made from a dog log to the southwest. By 1630, two-thirds of the lift was complete and the planned lift of a third battalion was canceled due to increasingly bad weather and low visibility. By this time the aviation resources had dwindled by half from both maintenance and enemy attrition. The battalion’s maintenance crews doing a job throughout the day had restored all repairable aircraft by nightfall. During the day, the 227th A.B. had lost 2 aircraft that were not recovered and over 75% of the fleet had required maintenance. Maintenance crews worked throughout the night to prepare for further lifts the next day. We had miraculously taken no serious casualties though other elements of the 11th Aviation Group did suffer: KIA and WIA. The 227th had carried a full infantry battalion into the A Shau Valley. (20 Apr 68) The second day of the assault into the A Shau began with an aircraft hold due to a low overcast and fog on the valley floor. At approximately 0900 Major Burkhalter led C Company’s yellow flight followed by A Company’s white flight to assault a ridge line 4 kilometers southwest of LZ Tiger to establish a third fire bas--LZ Pepper. The approach was made form the north along the ridge into a slope studded with stumps. Again the aircraft could not touchdown and experienced power loss at a hover. The lead aircraft crashed, but all crew and passengers escaped with only minor injuries. The crash, however, closed the LZ until members of 2/9 Cav repelled with chain saws to expand the LZ. Upon resumption of the lift, the new lead aircraft came too close to the trees on take off and also crashed. Again the crew got out unhurt. These two crews remained on Pepper for two nights due to bad weather restricting any further flying into the valley. Only one infantry company was airlifted into LZ Pepper before the weather halted all operations. * See Appendix 2 for total loses of 227th and 11th Group for 19 April 1968. Koony anti-aircraft fire was limited mostly to small arms fire with some heavier caliber fire to the north. Two infantry battalions plus one company now occupied territory in the A Shau Valley. The 227th AHB had lost two aircraft to a poor LZ on D=1 and had suffered three slightly wounded. (21-22 Apr 68) Bad weather prevailed throughout the entire day on 21 April 1968 with not air assaults being conducted. D Co with 6 aircraft was on standby to haul a badly needed resupply to LZ Tiger. Shortly after noon the aircraft took off at 1 minute intervals with an 800 pound sling load under each aircraft. One by one, the aircraft were radar vectored to a point over LZ Tiger. Each aircraft had to feel its way through the holes in the overcast creating a separate approach axis for each. The gambit proved quite effective and a total of 14 sling loads were taken into both Tiger LZ’s before the weather again closed. For most of the crews, it was their first actual instrument flight. No other aviation action took place on the 21st. The 22nd brought much improved weather conditions and the air lift into LZ Pepper continued with a maximum of aircraft again committed. Anti-aircraft fire was harassing but far less than previous days. At the day’s and the 3rd Brigade was firmly entrenched in the A Shau Valley with 3 Infantry battalions plus supporting artillery. (23-24 Apr 68) On the 23rd of April, no major moves were made by air. LZ Goodman was secured by ground attack as aircraft resources were used to resupply all units in the valley. On 24 April, A Co and B Co with 6 aircraft each joined the 229th AHB to air assault elements of the 1st Bde into LZ Cecile, 2 kilometers south A Luoi Airfield. Again weather played a significant part forcing the lifts to climb as high as 11,000 feet to clear the cloud tops. Once over the valley and through the holes in the overcast the aircraft delay-chained from 13 Evens to the new 12, covered a route by the guns of both 229th AHB and 227th AHB, Cecile was a two ship 12 at the southern end of a ridge about 2200 feet high. Although all aircraft were exposed to sniping fire on the approach the main threat came from an automatic weapons position about 500 meters down the ridge to the southeast. Since the approach was made to the south, the enemy gunners get crack at each aircraft as it departed no matter which way it broke. Very few hits were sustained, however, and no aircraft were lost as the lift of the 2/8 Cav on to Cecile was completed prior to 1400 hours. Late in the afternoon B Co. was given the mission of an emergency re-supply of 12 Cecile. The 2/8 Cav had run short of ammunition and supplies after making contact on the landing zone. A hole was found in the overcast and the six aircraft climbed on top at 6000 feet. A radar vector was obtained to get out to the valley and the calling in the A Shau Valley was forecast at about 800 feet. When the aircraft arrived a hole was found in the vicinity of 12 tiger and the ships proceeded in trail from 8500 feet to 800 feet above the valley floor. The ships low level was another story. The flight received heavy automatic weapons fire during the entire traversing of the valley floor. One ship was hit in the engine tail pipe, but remained flyable. The aircraft found a hole to climb through near 12 Tiger and exited the A Shau. (25 Apr 68) On 25 April 1968 the 1st Brigade took advantage of improving weather and quickly air assaulted the 1/8 Cav into A Loui Airfield, establishing LZ Stallion. The 227th AHB played a minor role in this maneuver because very little resistance was not on the assault. (28 Apr 68) On 28 April the 227th AHB committed ships to lagger during the night at LZ Stallion. The weather had varied between low ceilings and ground fog in the morning to high calculus clouds in the afternoon. This had seriously restricted the operations because at the time when the valley floor was clear enough for operations, ships could get into the valley due to the high, dense, clouds surrounding the A Shau. The laggered ships could support units in the valley in case the A Shau weather deteriorated to the point that ships could not get in while the floor of the valley allowed airmobile operations. Co. B of the 227th AHB was the first unit to stay in the valley at night accompanied by 2 D Co. gunships. The program of staggering six (6) aircraft at LZ Stallion continued for three days and then the plan was shifted to one (1) flare aircraft longer for night illumination, since a flight from A Co. had been hit by a heavy mortar barrage while laggered at A Luci. During the remainder of the operation the battalion performed general support of the ground tactical units. The majority of missions being devoted to re-supply of the fire bases and movement of personnel to and from the A Shau. (10 May 68) On 10 May the extraction phase of Operation Delaware began. The weather, Which had been poor throughout the operation began to deteriore’s and the decision was made on 7 May to begin the extraction on 10 May. A Co., 227th AHB was assigned the mission to extract two battalions from the A Shau Valley. The battalions involved were the 1/7th and 5/7th Cav. The flight leader had been briefed the day before the move by the ground commanders on the execution of the mission. Twelve lift ships an two gunships were committed the next morning to begin the extraction of the 5/7th. Plans had changed considerably from the briefing that was given the previous day and the flight was to take the entire battalion back to Camp Evans, instead of the airstrip at LZ Stallion and await further orders. About 1200 hours a company of the 2/7th Cav came into heavy contact about 2 kilometers norhwest of LZ Pepper. The flight was to extract the unit back to LZ Pepper. The extraction was accomplished smoothly with the assistance of two gunships from Company D, 227th AHB 2 fighters and 8 ARA rocketships. Once this was completed the flight returned to LZ Stallion to wait for the 1/7 to get into a pickup posture. During the time that the extraction to LZ Pepper, the 229th AHB was extracting the 3rd Regt, 1st ARVN Div., from 12 Upland Lucy. Several of their aircraft had maintenance problems and the S-3 of the 229th requested that the 227th flight extract the last twelve sorties of the 3rd ARVN Regt. And take them to LZ Sally. The weather was quite bad and the extraction was conducted low level. Upon completion of this move the flight returned to LZ Stallion. About 1600 hours the Battalion Commander of the 1/7th informed the Flight Commander that he was ready to be picked up. Coordination had to be made with CH-47s to pull out the artillery and the night was rapidly approaching. During this mission, two aircraft from the flight had to break off to assist in an emergency re-supply of the 2/7th Cav. The entire mission for the day was accomplished without incident, with the outstanding support that was given to the lift aircraft by the gunships of Co. D, 227th AHB. For the remainder of the extraction place of Operation Delaware, the aircraft of the 227th AHB gave maximum air-support t the ground commanders. The 227th Avn Bn accomplished its mission during Operation Delaware/Lam Son in an outstanding manner. Perhaps the most significant feature of the entire mission was the total reliance on the Airmobile concept. The 1st Cav operated in enemy held territory that proved to be a veritable stronghold. The A Shau Valley was extremely well defended by numerous anti-aircraft weapons, to include 37mm guns. Thought to be no match for the bug guns, and though operating for the first time (at least initially) beyond the range of friendly artillery, the slow moving helicopters proved to be quite elusive and consequently suffered only a reasonable number of losses in light of the goals achieved. This operation was a real tribute to the flexibility of the Airmobile Concept. The problems encountered by the 227the were only overcome by the sheer determination and true professionalism displayed by all members of the Battalion. Adverse weather conditions offered the most pressing difficulties, but by establishing navigation aids and laggering aircraft at LZ Stallion, weather problems were minimized. The terrain also played an important role in affecting au mission capabilities. Due to high altitudes coupled with high temperatures the density altitude was such that loads had to be cut and pilot techniques had to be of the finest to avoid accidents. On top of this, the First Team met stiff enemy resistance at every turn of the A Shau. Besides the anti-aircraft weaponry, the enemy had developed elaborate defenses to safeguard his highway through the Valley. He was firmly entrenched on the hillsides and ridge lines and only grudgingly gave up his ground. The aviators of the 227th never waived and eventually the enemy guns were silenced by the coordinated efforts of the First Team. All of these problems eventually fell on the shoulders of maintenance personnel at Camp Evans. These people worked night and day to repair damages sustained along with normally scheduled maintenance. The maintenance effort was outstanding in keeping the 227th availability at a high. By this maximum output and coordination the 227th was able to help insure the success of Operation Delaware/Lam Son. APPENDIX 1. 227TH Avn Bn SORTIES TASKS PAX CARGO HOURS UH-1H 13,667 5,849 19,117 1,112.7 3,561.8 UH-1C 1,146 427 — — 538.1 HOURS BREAKDOWN LOG RRF CC TNG MISC 1,201.6 1,654.6 335.9 91.9 227.6 AIRCRAFT HITS Hit Flyable 18 Hit Not Flyable 9 Shotdown Not Recovered 1 Combat Loses 4 Crashed Not Recovered 1 INJURIES 227TH PASSENGERS ENEMY (CONFIRMED) KIA 6 KIA 1 KIA 13 WIA 8 WIA 9 --- AMMUNITION EXPENDED 7.62 324,625 Rounds 2.75 1,139 Rounds 40mm 1, 650 Rounds VALOR AWARDS GIVEN BY COMPANY’S 25 APR THRU 17 MAY 68 COMPANY A COMPANY B COMPANY C COMPANY D TOTALS SS 1 2 2 5 DFC 20 17 20 26 83 AM w/V 26 17 18 4 65 Soldier’s Medal 6 6 Purple Heart 2 2 11TH Avn Co. SORTIES TASKS PAX CARGO HOURS UH-1H 25,059 11,035 34,864 1,181 8,177 UH-1C 2,200 605 — 1,507 AH-1G INJURIES KIA 18 MIA 13 WIA 22 AIRCRAFT LOSSES Hit Flyable 9 Hit Not Flyable 43 Totally Damaged 15 AIRCRAFT LOSSES (19 APR 68) HIT FLYABLE HIT NOT FLYABLE UH-1H 4 8 UH-1C 2 1 AH-1C 1 CH-47 2 6 CH-54 1
A JOURNEY INTO THE A SHAU VALLEY "The feeling the majority of the men had upon first coming into the valley was a sort of fear; distinctly different from that felt during Hue or Khe Sanh. We had heard so many stories about A Shau...the possibilities of running into large concentrations. We had a fear of the unknown. We thought that just around any corner we would run into a battalion of North Vietnamese." Captain John W. Taylor Co, A Company, 5/7th For the most of the year rain clouds hover low over the A Shau Valley, a slit in the mountains 45 kilometers west of Hue. Triple-canopy jungle clings to its steep sides. Close to the Laotian border, remote and usually hidden from the air, the valley has been used as a major way-station on the Ho Chi Minh trail and a North Vietnamese army base. It was the jumping-off point for the enemy's Tet offensive against Hue. Since a Special Forces camp pulled out of the area in 1966, no Free World forces penetrated the A shay, and the NVA began to think of it as an inviolable sanctuary. Operation Delaware-Lam Son 216, spearheaded by the airmobile 1st Cav, changed all this. The swift-moving Skytroopers, fresh from their relief of Khe Sanh earlier in the month, leaped into the A Shau without ground support on April 19 of this year, slinging artillery pieces below giant helicopters, pouring out murderous fire from rocket-carrying gunships. They showed the3 NVA that there was no such thing as an enemy sanctuary in South Vietnam. While administering this lesson, the men of the 1st and 3rd Brigades seized tons of abandoned supplies and equipment. "It was as hot a place as we've ever gone into," said Maj. Gen. John J. Tolson, then 1st Cavalry Division commander, referring to the heavy anti-aircraft fire encountered by the Skytroopers during the first two days of Delaware. Most dangerous were mobile 37mm guns camouflaged in the jungle and capable of hitting targets at an altitude of 25,000 feet. Fifty caliber machine guns added a red wall of tracers. But, despite the heavy enemy resistance, the 3rd Brigade successfully secured landing zones in the northern end of the valley. The 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry assaulted into Landing Zone Tiger, and to the northwest the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry landed at LZ Vickie. Two days later, the 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry assaulted into LZ Pepper, seven kilometers southeast of Tiger. Once on the ground, the Skytroopers found the going easier. On April 20, Delta Company.5/7th found an overturned truck loaded with 200 unserviceable bolt-action rifles near LZ Tiger. A blood trail led away from the vehicle. This was the first sign that Operation Delaware was going to turn into a gigantic treasure hunt, punctuated by small, sharp clashes with scattering enemy units. Bravo Company, 5/7th spotted five NVA on Highway 992 just after securing its LZ and fired at them, killing two. It was the first ground action for the 3rd Brigade. The Skytroopers began to move south along the margins of the valley. On April 21st, units of the 1/7th made light contact and killed NVA. Working east to establish a new LZ, the battalion found two enemy bulldozers, one with USSR stamped on it. It became apparent that engineer units of at least battalion size had been working in the area, building and repairing the vital road network. Some stretches of NVA highway were constructed in corduroy style, with mud chinked over a base of logs. The 1/7th took the bulldozers along as it fought toward LZ Goodman, which had been scouted by the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry and Air Force reconnaissance. On April 23 the NVA loosed a 60mm mortar barrage on LZ Tiger and probed the perimeter in platoon strength. With the help of aerial rocket artillery (ARA) and air support, the Skytroopers held, killing six NVA and capturing one. In the days to come other LZ=s would be bombarded, but the enemy, unwilling to risk major defeat, would offer only token resistance on the ground as the Cav. joined by ARVN and Marine units, plundered the rich caches. Concurrent with the air assaults, elements of the 8th Engineers, the 13th Signal battalion, and the 52nd Infantry rappelled from choppers to establish the Signal Hill relay station for communication between Camp Evans and the valley. To supply the isolated cavalrymen by ground convoy was impossible. Supply by air depended upon two things: clear skies and control of the A. Luoi airstrip in the central A. Shau. Accordingly, the attack was timed for early spring when fog and rain were at a minimum, and on April 24 the 1st Brigade moved to seize A. Luoi. The 2/8th Cavalry, as lead element, landed on LZ Cecile, atop a high hill over looking the airstrip. Next came 1/12th and 1/8th Cavalry Skytroopers, who converged on the strip and set up LZ Stallion. Long unused, A. Luoi was covered with dense green foliage. PFC Lenwood Smith, Garland, N.C., a rifleman in the 1/12th, said, AWe cleared out the vegetation, secured areas for demolition teams, and cut power lines. We figured that the NVA had been pretty well scattered by the heavy bombing in the area.@ Toward dusk on the 25th, the hills around Stallion echoed with excited shouts and the rumble of a truck motor. From the north bounced a green vehicle, covered with waving American soldiers. Men from Delta Company, 1/8th had found five Russian trucks one kilometer north of the LZ, and were driving one back. AWe had a little trouble getting supplies,@ said SP4 Joe McClure of the 1/8th. AWhen we first got into the valley we had to get water out of a bomb crater. But later we used those Russian trucks to haul supplies for us.@ Logistical problems were soon eased. In two days the airstrip was in condition to receive C-7A ACaribou@ aircraft, and by May 5 big Air Force C-130's were carrying their payloads to Stallion. Meanwhile Alpha Company, 1/7th had found three flatbed trucks with 37mm anti-aircraft weapons mounted on them. A 1958 Russian-Chicom adaptation of the 1939 Russian 37mm anti-aircraft gun, they had been used recently. Three days later Charlie Company, 1/7th found four more in the same area. By the end of Delaware a dozen of these guns--more than a full anti-aircraft battery--were in the hands of the 1st Cav. More than 50 trucks which had once traveled the Ho Chi Minh Trail with impunity were destroyed by artillery and airstrikes. At times the confused NVA left their headlights blazing at night, offering perfect targets for the Cav=s gunners. The 227th Aviation Battalion had landed elements of the 5/7th Cavalry on Tiger, a tiny opening which Alooked like a bomb crater on a cliff@ to First Lieutenant William H.W. Anderson, Jr., Raleigh, N.C., aircraft commander for the 227th =s Charlie Company. The 5/7th began to interdict movement on Route 548. Enemy vehicle losses mounted. At three in the morning on April 27, Delta Company, 5/7th was attacked by an estimated enemy platoon. A ring of flame sprung up around the forward operations base as the Skytroopers zeroed in on weaving shadows. Their aim was good: the next morning 12 dead NVA were found outside the perimeter. And the hunt continued. Tipped off by 1/9th sightings, Delta Company, 1/8th had unearthed the first of the A. Shau=s big caches on the 26th. Captured were 315 Soviet K- 44 rifles, a 60mm mortar tube, 36 Soviet mine detectors, 30 flame-throwers, 202 Chicom protective masks, 225 pounds of medical supplies, 600 122mm rockets, 2,00 23mm anti- aircraft rounds, 20,000 assorted small-arms rounds, 100 pounds of dynamite, six tons of rice, 60 cases of canned meat, 70 37mm anti-aircraft rounds, and three B-40 rockets. The next day the 1st Brigade began pushing out from LZ Stallion. 6,500 rounds of ammunition and 800 gallons of fuel were captured in scattered areas. The 1/12th found two grease pits and one rack for a truck near Stallion. It took a while for the Skytroopers to realize that there weren't any NVA regiments waiting to ambush them around the next bend. Enemy tanks had been reported in the A. Shau, and their presence was another unsettled factor. Some of the heaviest fighting of the campaign was done by Delta Company, 1/8th, which ran into an entrenched NVA company on April 28th while exploring another large cache. Five cases of 122mm rockets, 135 cases of 57mm rounds, 35 cases of black uniforms, two tons of unhusked rice; a large quantity of diesel fuel, and 187 cases of Russian assault rifles were found by Delta Company, but not before it had penetrated stiff resistance. Following a corduroy road, which the enemy had camouflaged by bending and tying trees into a tunnel above it, the Skytroopers found and destroyed a large NVA element and killing three of the enemy, Delta Company withdrew and let artillery and airstrikes pound the area. The next day Delta Company again moved up the camouflaged road. When riot gas seeped through the foliage, the men had to don masks. They pushed forward and uncovered huge storage bunkers. As they were examining the contents of these bunkers, amazed at the size of the find, there was a crackle of enemy rifle fire. Delta Company returned it. After an hour and a half of battle, a tank began firing at the cavalrymen from a camouflaged position. The situation looked grim until SGT Hillery Craig, Winter Park, Fla., wriggled forward, saw his opening, and knocked out the position with two light antitank weapon (LAW) rounds. When the NVA began to outflank Delta Company it withdrew, its count of the spoils still incomplete. ARA and tube artillery bombarded the area again. The 2/8th Cavalry, working south from LZ Cecile, was policing up a large cache of electronics equipment, when it received orders to drive the NVA away from the cache Delta, 1/8th had discovered. Making full use of their superior firepower, the Skytroopers built up pressure against the APunchbowl@ area, crushing resistance by May 3, killing 30 NVA in the process, crossed the valley floor and searched out its corners, uncovering more supplies at every turn. The 5/7th, manning the dominating position at Tiger, kept a stranglehold on the A. Shau, hindering the enemy's efforts at both retreat and reinforcement. The 3rd ARVN Regiment entered the picture, finding a cache with 1500 grenades, 15 antitank mines, eight 140mm rockets, ten boxes of TNT, and 10,000 small-arms rounds. On May 3 the ARVN's found 560 rounds of 37mm ammunition. Skirmishes continued: on the 1st, Alpha Company, 1/7th encountered an enemy force of unknown size which blew a command-detonated mine and fired on the cavalrymen with automatic weapons from four directions. ARA and tube artillery decided the battle in favor of the Cav, three NVA were killed. Alpha, 2/7th made light contact with an estimated NVA platoon northwest of LZ Pepper, killing three more. Generally, however, the enemy preferred to remain hidden in the canopied forest, abandoning his supply areas to the 1st Cav. On May 2, elements of the 1/7th Cavalry discovered a pair of 22-ton trucks in dense growth and a trench complex containing 500 37mm rounds. Six graves, a month old, were found nearby. As always, the artillery stood ready to fire. For example, Bravo Battery, 219th Artillery, the first battery to reach LZ Stallion, had fired 4,800 rounds by May 4. When Delta Company, 1/8th was fighting for the Punchbowl cache, the Redlegs "prepped" the enemy position with 445 high-explosions, four quite large and one believed to be a detonating fuel dump. Later that day, when Delta Company called for artillery to cover its withdrawal, Bravo Battery responded with 216 rounds. The previous day it had tried 600 rounds in support of 1st Brigade forces. "They'll shoot all day and all night for the `grunts' without complaint," said LT Lars A. Showalter, San Francisco, the fire direction control officer. On May 11, scouts from the 3rd Brigade observed two charred rocker sites abandoned by the enemy, and captured one rocket. These positions, from which the NVA had bombed the landing zones when the brigade initially penetrated the A. Shau, were graphic proof of the success of the Skytroopers. In three weeks the Communist sanctuary had been eliminated. The NVA had lost over 300 killed, and material losses were enormous. The valley belonged to the 1st Cav. What did Operation Delaware mean? For SSG Bill Vincent, San Diego, Calif., it was a time of testing and discovery. "Going into the valley was my first action in Vietnam. We landed on a highway that ran through the floor of the valley. It impressed me. It was obvious they had heavy construction equipment for the road." His was an individual war of sweat and sinew. "These are the steepest hills I've ever had to climb. With the loose sand, it was hard to make any upward progress. We had to use ropes a couple of times to haul ourselves up." For CPT John W. Taylor, Upper Montclair, N.J., commanding officer of Alpha Company, 5/7th, "the Delaware operation exemplified the ideal use of the 1st Air Cavalry Division. This was probably our most important mission." Perhaps Captain Douglas L. Verdier of the 1/12th Cavalry had the last word: "The only things I worried about were the anti-aircraft guns. I was sure we could handle anything we encountered on the ground. We went in well loaded with supplies, so we didn't have much trouble with that. Ammo was no problem: everyone went in carrying at least two basic loads. The mission was intended to be a reconnaissance in force. We destroyed a hell of a lot out there. That was the mission we were sent out to do, and we did it." For additions - deletions, please contact:
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