PRELUDE - January 30, 1968
Since arriving in country on November 23, 1967, this has proven to be such a strange war. As a UH-1H (Utility Helicopter) driver with the 92nd AHC in II Corps, I expected to be doing a lot of formation flying and carrying troops into combat almost everyday, but so far this hasn't been the case. The airlift platoons have mostly been involved in single ship operations, doing all kinds of ash & trash missions. We have supported Americans, Koreans, and Vietnamese. The only big operation so far has been with the 1st Bde, 101st AB Div conducting Operation Klamath Falls in the area from Phan Thiet to Bao Loc to Da Lat. We flew a few combat assaults of Vietnamese Rangers. We also hauled chow, water, ammo and flew quite a few missions with a "people sniffer". Many monkeys lost their lives because of that great invention. We have also flown numerous LRRP Team insertions and extractions.
As a unit, we feel very lucky so far. We have lost only 1 aircraft and crew. Our gun platoon leader (Derby 6) and his crew were KIA during a night mission on December 7, 1967. (Only 2 weeks in country)
The support ship mission for the Military Assistance Command Viet Nam (MACV) to Da Lat has been a great one. The old "French Resort" town is beautiful. Huge mansions line spacious avenues. Many restaurants are downtown. To top it off, an all girl's college is across the street from the MACV helipad. Life seems great here. There is no evidence of war.
Today, Bob Meacham (My AC) and I (Stallion 505) flew 3.3 hours supporting MACV near Phan Rang. We carried mail, food, supplies, and did a few recons along the coast. Kind of a short day, but the unit is having a company party later and we are looking forward to it.
Wouldn't you know, upon arrival at Dong Ba Thin, the Operations Officer says that we have flare ship standby tonight along with 2 Sidekick crews (UH-1C Gunships). We parked our ship in the "hot spot" and we loaded up 40 MarkV Flares. No beer for the crew tonight, but the steaks were good! Shortly after 11:00PM we hit the sack in the alert shack.
SHOCK - January 31, 1968
A tremendous explosion rocked the alert shack shortly after midnight! The alert siren went off and we heard numerous other explosions as we ran to the ship. Bob was in such a hurry that he ran out in his underwear and boots. He managed to run into the CO who told him to go back and finish dressing. While he did that, I started the aircraft and then we took off with the Sidekicks in under two minutes. I saw that several Hueys were burning on the north side of our airfield. To the east, at Cam Rahn Bay, the entire fuel storage area appeared to be in flames. We climbed to 2,500 feet and began to drop flares over Dong Ba Thin. I dialed in the Armed Forces Network (AFN) radio and there were reports that bases were being attacked all over the country.
With the light from our flares, the Sidekicks looked for targets of opportunity. Sadly, none were found. There were no in-coming mortar rounds, rockets, small arms fire, or ground attack. At least 5 Hueys were burning in their revetments. After 2.8 hours of flight, we were ordered to land, refuel, reload with flares, and standby. The rest of the night was quiet.
AFTERMATH - January 31, 1968
Daylight has returned and what we see is frightening. 3 of our aircraft have been destroyed and 1 has been damaged by satchel changes which had been tossed in them by sappers. The 608th TC Co has lost 2. The VC had successfully penetrated our perimeter which was manned by Korean soldiers. Somehow they have also completely evaded capture. We will not again feel safe! Reports are coming in that many bases and cities have been over-run, to include Nha Trang, Ban Me Thuot, Qui Nhon, Da Nang, and Hue. The first battle of the war, in Da Lat, is going on now. The Sidekicks are going to Da Lat! We will no longer get to R&R there.
My crew and I fly 9.1 hours today. We see things that we didn't think could or would happen. Numerous helicopters destroyed or damaged, many bases attacked or over-run, too many dead and wounded. The New War has begun!
92nd AHC (Stallion 505)(Nov67 - Aug 68)
Your account of the night when everything broke loose is the same one I have been telling for years. Never thought that I would talk to the dude that lit us up like a fooball field at the Super Bowl.
The Koreans would also come out to our Det just before night and then after dark, they would go out west of us on ambush patrol. Also they would fire random Artillary. Fire.at different times. That night we were in our Hutches when a loud Boom ,boom. boom. One of us made the statement that the Koreans were sure close. WE walked out the door, saw the flash @100M off our fence ,heard the SWOOSCH go over our heads ,then behind us saw Cam Ranh going up in flames, the flashes sure wasn't Korean's. Slim and I ran and got on top of the bunker.and got on the net radio with DBT (TOUGH SWING 28) and all stations reported in and were being hit. WE could see where the flashes were but all we had was M-14s and a M-60. and so far the mortar team had fired over us and not at us. We asked for the Reaction team but got word --No luck -that you had lost choppers and that the A.F. runway was out and the Koreans had taken hits. There was no more fire from the tubes so we stayed frozen and watched. THEN --these flares lit us up like 12 noon. Slim & I hugged the top of those sand bags and I could see every goosebump on his arms. Man did we try to look like a sand bag. We stayed untill day break and nothing else happen. We loaded up on the old 2 1/2 ton and headed for DBT to eat breakfast. When we got down to the entrance,there were two barricades on the road with GI's & clay mores and as we turned in to the mess hall everyone was still in full field gear Then they told us that they were still under Red Alert and were looking for the Sapper team ,so we went back. We were very lucky!!
James "Barney" Reynolds
Det. 2, 330th Radio Research Co, ASA
1 mile south of DBT on Hwy 1.
This is the way I remember the night of Tet. I was in the commo bunker on switchboard duty. I must have dosed off when BOOM, BOOM, BOOM. I thought we had come under mortar fire or were under ground attack. I had worked the late shift enough that I was instantly alert. I called Maj. Miller the first Sargeant and all the others that were on the list according to procedure. Got my M-16 and got back where I couldn't be seen through the small window that faced the EM barracks untill Sgt. Hildebrand got to the bunker and let me know what was happening on the outside.We had top secret material in the bunker and I was to stay inside to guard it untill I was relieved. It wasn't long before Maj. Miller, SSG Wills, SGT. Hildebrand and other necessary personel were there and we sat up our command center, started operating with the Crypto code and destroying the old code pages. After things had calmed down a little,and the bunkers had all called in to report what was happening to Maj. Miller, he volunteered SGT Hildebrand, Dennis Poole and me to go out on the flight line to search for anyone who was still there and hadn't made it back through the wire. It was.VERY DARK, pucker factor 10! I didn't realize untill sometime later that if there were anyone left and they were on the ground we would be skylighted as we walked around out there. The next day someone came into the bunker and asked if we had seen what was happening over in the Korean area. We went outside and climbed on top of the bunker and could see over into their area. They had all the ones that were on guard the night before standing naked at attention. They had one man tied to a pole and were using a bull whip on him. He, I found out later, was in the bunker nearest where the sappers had come through. Later someone said that several others had fallen out because of the heat. I also heard that there were satchel charges under the fuel bladders that had not gone off. We were very lucky there. Things were very different after that and we knew that this was for real!