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Nov. 68
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Pacific Stars  and Stripes

An authorized publication of the U.S. Armed forces in the far east.

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   Scattered Ground Action

   Infantrymen Kill 26 Enemy

   S&S Vietnam Bureau

   SAIGON - U.S. military spokesmen here reported several widely scattered clashes in ground action Tuesday throughout South Vietnam.

   Some of the day's heaviest fighting was west of Quang Ngai city, 80 miles south of Da Nang.  GIs from the Americal Div.'s 11th Inf. Brigade killed 15 of the enemy and detained 13 suspects in a skirmish with an unknown-size force.

   Later, "Charger" units f the 196th Light Inf. Brigade killed a another eight VC during a sweep.  The infantrymen also seized rice caches totaling more than two tons near Tam Ky.

  Operating around the coastal town of Chu Lai, Americal troops of the 198th Light Inf. Brigade killed three communist soldiers.  They also took 17 suspects.  There were no U.S. casualties reported in any of the actions.

   An Army O1 "Bird Dog" plane was hit by enemy ground fire and crashed Tuesday 10 miles southwest of Hue.  The two fliers were killed and the light plane was destroyed.

   Patrolling south of Hue Tuesday, a unit of the 101st Air borne Div. found an enemy base camp which had been the target of Air Force strikes the previous day.  The camp, which consisted of more than 25 huts and bunkers, was destroyed.

   Enemy mortar teams zeroed in on bases of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and the 4th Inf. Div. Tuesday.  One mortar attack against the 173rd's base at An Khe in Binh Dinh Province was followed by a small enemy ground probe.

   U.S. casualties during the mortar attacks were called very light.  Counter-artillery struck back at the enemy's suspected firing positions, but results were unknown.

   In the Mekong Delta, gunship crews from the 164th Combat Aviation Group killed eight VC and detained 10 suspects Tuesday in scattered contacts throughout the area.  Apache gunship crewmen from the 7th Squadron 1st Air Cav. accounted for half the kills and all the detainees in a brief clash 15 miles east of Rach Gia.

   During the early morning hours Wednesday, enemy units lobbed about 100 82mm mortars rounds into the Ben Cau ARVN outpost, 45 miles northwest of Saigon.

01Nov68 B/123rd Avn Bn - Americal

   Troopers Drop In on Village for Visit

   That Catches Bashful Charlie by Surprise

   Photos by SP4  MICHAEL L. KOPP, S&S Staff Photographer



    HOUSES IN VILLAGE FOR VC. (LOH Tail number 16257)






   Not a VC But Bad Enough

   CHU LAI, Vietnam (Special)

-When a sentry starts seeing spots before his eyes he has usually been staring at that same old stump in front of his position for too long.

   When Pfc. Michael L. Rogers, a mortarman with D Co., 1st Bn., 6th Inf., saw spots he had a good reason.  The spots were on a 95 pound female leopard that was walking straight at him.

   "I had about 15 minutes of guard left when I saw something crawling under the wire," recalled Rogers.  "It was awfully low in the wire and I realized it was some kind of large cat.  It was pretty dark and I really couldn't tell what kind of a cat it was, but it was definitely large.

   "Once she got through the wire she started walking straight for me.

   "When she was about eight feet away I finally got it in my mind it really was a leopard walking at me.  I raised my M-16 and aimed for the heart," said Rogers.  "When I fired she jumped about three feet and started running.  I fired a couple of more shots and started yelling because she ran into the perimeter.

   "We searched the perimeter and found a blood trail leading back out through the wire.  The next morning we followed the blood trail about 50 feet past the wire and found the leopard."   The body was taken to a fire support base where a skinner went to work, making what will eventually be a prized trophy.


   A Whisker


   S&S Staff Correspondent

  I didn't know it , but I was about to make a choice between life and death.

  As I sat in the Chu Lai operations room of the 54th Medical Detachment.  I was asked if I wanted to go out right away or wait for a particular combat medevac mission.  Despite an itch to get to work, I decided to wait.

   An hour later I was playing with the company's pet monkey when the alert horn blared for two crews to man their aircraft.  I rushed to operations, where they told me one mission was a routine patient transfer and the other a combat casualty pickup.

   I chose the combat dustoff.

  As we flew toward a point marked on the pilot's map. I wondered what I was getting into. I soon found out- an infantry platoon on a grassy hillock had just broken contact after an enemy ambush.

   We landed rapidly.  Infantrymen helped two wounded buddies through our rotor blast and into the chopper. Then they lugged two poncho-shrouded bodies aboard.

   It was a grim flight back to the Chu Lai hospital.  A pool of red spread over the floor of the chopper.  One of the ponchos flapped in the wind, revealing a gory head wound.

   The sun was sinking behind a cloud bank when we lifted off the hospital helipad.  Just after we were airborne, our radio crackled an ominous message: a medevac had been shot down.  Our pilot pulled our Huey through a stomach-knotting turn and we headed for the crash scene.

   All we had to go by was a set of coordinates.  After an interminable few minutes of searching in the gloom, I finally saw it.  A bright ball of fire and a pall of greasy black smoke marked the wreckage on a steep hillside above a rice paddy.

   We circled over the area.  I took some pictures, but all they show is fire and smoke.  How could I show the hearts and courage of guys like the medic who just recently given up a safe hospital job for medevac duty and now was down there somewhere?

   We dropped almost straight down, at nearly 2,000 feet per minute, onto the hillside.  Infantrymen lifted four men into our chopper.  One was wrapped in a poncho and did not move.  One was in extreme pain. The other two huddled on the floor and clutched the chopper frame like birds in a storm.

   The crew chief was trying to ask an infantryman where the other crewmen from the downed dustoff were, but the noise of our rotors and the infantry's massed covering fire drowned him out.  The soldier on the ground was gesturing wildly for us to get out of there, and finally, realizing there would be no more evacuees, we did.  Bobbing and weaving over the hillside at treetop level, we were lucky.  We got out without being hit.  We climbed rapidly and flew straight and fast for the hospital at Chu Lai.  No one spoke.

   At the hospital, the drawn searching faces of the 54th's CO and XO met us.  In the flurry of doctors, nurses and orderlies they did not yet know the worst.  But after looking closely at all four patients - and identifying the body of his medic - the CO turned to me and spoke quietly.

   "I'm glad you didn't choose to go on this mission, Mike; they're all gone."  The chopper that crashed was the one whose earlier routine mission I had declined to go on.  They had received the call which led to their deaths.

   Later, Spec. 4 Philip Taylor, who was on the downed chopper and was thrown clear of the crash, told me what had happened.  His unit, Bravo Co., 1st Bn., 46th Inf., 198th Inf. Brigade, of the Americal Div., had been in contact with VC all day.  Toward dusk, he and the two dog handlers and their dogs were wounded.  A dustoff was called.

   After picking up the wounded, and while receiving enemy fire the chopper rose to a hover, and then moved up the hill in a nose-down attitude (normal take-off procedure.)  It cleared a row of trees, then suddenly began to drop, tipping forward.  The aircraft either flipped over, or hit some more trees, and burst into flame on impact but did not explode.  It seemed broken in two.  His buddies tried to free the crew, but they were engulfed in flames.  Then we arrived with the second dustoff.

   I left the hospital that night shaken by the specter of death which dustoff crews face each day.  How close I had come to dying I discovered later when I checked the flight records of the two aircraft.

   The crews of the 54th keep flying, knowing well that Charlie pays no heed to the big bright red crosses painted on their mercy ships.


   'Snatch Team' - They'd Rather Capture Than Kill


   S&S Staff Correspondent

   CHU LAI, Vietnam

- He was whizzing only feet - it seemed like inches - over the treetops when he spotted the little man in black pajamas.

   CWO2 Allan Levy wheeled his OH6 Skeeter into a tight, 180-degree turn almost on top of the startled Viet Cong.

   Trapped in a clearing with nowhere to hide, the VC unlimbered his rifle.  The move was his death warrant.  Before he could get off a shot he was cut down by Levy's machine gunner.  

   The enemy was dead.  Levy moved on, trailed by three other choppers.  He was feeling a bit less than triumphant.  The had wanted the Communist soldier alive.

   Levy had been flying point on an Aero Scout "snatch" mission.  The objective had been to find, isolate and capture one or two of the enemy and bring them in for questioning.

   Aside from the Skeeter, the operation usually involves two UH1 "Huey" gunships that stay within a quarter of a mile from the little scout copter, ready to provide covering fire if the Skeeter runs into heavy opposition, and a lightly armed "slick" chopper that hangs high over the other three.  That's the one the "snatch team" rides.

   The Skeeter leads the way, buzzing over the terrain close enough to the ground or trees to give an old time crop duster the jitters.

   Flying low like that gives the OH6 pilot a chance to sneak up on the enemy - to spot the quarry before the quarry spots him.

   If suspicious looking men are spotted, the Scout zooms in.  And when there are more than one or two, the Huey gunships come in.

   The Hueys can be on the spot in seconds, blazing away with their two M60 machine guns, rockets and mini-guns.  The object is to separate one or two of the enemy let them know they're covered and hopelessly outgunned, then bring in the slick ship.

   The slick team dashes in fast.  The snatch team, usually an officer or NCO and three Marines, leaps out and surrounds the suspect.  The captor is hustled into the chopper and hurried back to Chu Lai for questioning.

   Sometimes it doesn't work that way.  Sometimes the VC would rather fight than switch.  That's why the Aero Scout Co., 123rd Aviation Bn. (Levy's outfit), has killed enemy since it started its snatch work last March.

   But they've also managed to put the snatch on about 500 suspects, and more than 300 of them have turned out to be Viet Cong or North Vietnamese.

  No one is telling how much these captives tell, but knowing that a few words from one of them could save many allied soldiers' lives is enough to keep the aero scouts flying low.


   Americal Ends Drives With a Kill Ratio of 15-1

   S&S Vietnam Bureau

   SAIGON- Two brigades of the U.S. Americal Div. closed the books on a pair of long hard campaigns at midnight Monday, with a total of nearly 12,000 Communist soldiers reported slain.

   The operations were "Wheeler-Wallowa" and "Burlington Trail."  U.S. deaths in the long term operations were about one-fifteenth the Red figure: 812 killed.

   "Wheeler/Wallowa," which started Sept. 11, 1967, saw the 196th Light Inf. Brigade of the Americal searching out and ripping into enemy forces near Tam Ky, 40 miles below Da Nang.  The 14-month sweep accounted for 10,020 enemy deaths, more than 5,000 suspects captured and more than 2,000 Red weapons seized.  Cost to the 196th was 683 killed, with 3,599 wounded.

   "Burlington Trail," which began seven months ago only ten miles from the older sweep, killed 1,931 Reds.  More than 1,000 suspects were seized, with some 500 weapons captured.  The brigade suffered 129 killed and 985 wounded.


   Counter-Mortar Unit Picks Off VC

   LANDING ZONE BRONCO, Vietnam (Special)

-The counter-mortar radar unit high atop Mt. Montezuma here makes the  life of a VC mortarman a dangerous if not short one.

   CWO Charlie Hardaway, Colorado Springs, Colo., officer-in-charge of the 6th Bn., 11th Arty's counter-mortar unit, and his nine-man crew are in their 11th month of providing target detection for return fire mortars and artillery supporting the 11th Inf. Brigade base defense system.

   During that time the radar unit, working closely with 81mm mortar crews on the hilltop which are rotated from each of the brigade's infantry battalions, has chalked up 20 confirmed locations, four captured mortar tubes and has two confirmed kills to its credit.

   "This figure may not sound too impressive," Hardaway says, "but we usually can't get anyone to the enemy mortar site until the next morning.  The infantry checks the sites and usually finds base plate impressions and aiming stakes, but by that time the VC have removed any casualties or damaged equipment.  Our kill figure could easily be much higher," he added.

   The radar crew explained that the VC normally work with a pair of tubes, but the radar has picked up as many as six tubes firing at one time in different areas.

   "If we can determine the general direction of fire, we can have the data to the guns before the round hits.  If we can get immediate clearance, we can have counter-mortar fire on the position in no time at all.

   "The radar we use was originally designed for conventional warfare where there are definite battle lines," explained Hardaway, who has 10 years of experience in radar.

   "Over here, where there are no fronts we have a more difficult time locating the direction of the target.  We overcome this by using what is called a 'BC' panoramicsocope," he added.

  The radar unit can cover a complete 360 degree around Montezuma and its effective even in the heavy rains.