LTC PETER KAMA, US ARMY (RETIRED)
RESUBMITTED THROUGH THE OFFICE OF
SENATOR INOUYE OF HAWAII
MEDAL OF HONOR RECOMMENDATION:
Guest Book entries by helicopter pilots started this upgrade process. Forrest Snyder's entry on the 40th anniversity of the "Battle for Charlie" sparked the endeavor. Dennis Watson's entries were paramount as he had a tape of the rescue.
All documents are posted that are pertinent to the submission. GEN Weyand and LTC Peter Kama initiated this process throught the office of Senator Inouye (HI), Medal of Honor recipient.
For all those contributing to the effort, thank you.
Recommendation upgrade to Medal of Honor information/documentation
"Easter Offensive" Spring 1972
North Vietnamese Army order of battle:
14 NVA Divisions
26 (separate) NVA regiments
1200 armored vehicles and tanks
artillery support at Division, 105mm and 130mm
Total NVA: 150,000 officers and men
August 1, 2012
Me Van Le LTC, Army of the Republic of Vietnam
Last active duty position: Airborne Division Operations Officer, G-3, 1975
Position during statement: Executive Officer and Commanding Officer, 11th Airborne Battalion
Current Residence: San Jose CA 95136
Occupation: Retired Senior Engineering Manager, Samsung Information Systems,
Major Duffy was the senior advisor to the 11th Airborne Battalion. We had previously campaigned with the battalion in the Tay Ninh Area of Operations and during the Cambodian Incursion, before the Easter Offensive campaign. However, during the two-week campaign at Kontum in April of 1972, Major Duffy was the finest combat officer that I have ever met.
The 11th Battalion of the Airborne Division of the Republic of Vietnam (470 men and officers) combat
assaulted on April 2, 1972 into Fire Support Base Charlie in an effort to stem or contain the offensive actions of the North Vietnamese 320th Division. We initially placed our units in the best defensive positions possible, taking maximum advantage of the terrain and the anticipated direction of attack by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA). Our position was located on Rocket Ridge north of Kontum and was designated Fire Support Base (FSB) Charlie. The initial contacts were with probing enemy forces and the battalion also received considerable enemy artillery, mortar, recoilless rifle, and rocket fire.
On April 11, 1972, while our battalion command post was under heavy incoming 130mm enemy artillery, Major Duffy bravely left the safety of our bunker to direct the friendly air strikes effectively enough to knock out one of the 130mm artillery pieces. He also directed friendly aircraft onto the massing enemy infantry positions. Risking his life and exposing himself to direct airstrikes was an extreme act of bravery.
On April 12, 1972, three of our four command bunkers took direct 130mm artillery hits within a few minutes of each other. LTC Bao, our Airborne Battalion commander, was mortally wounded. I assumed command of the battalion after he died. My bunker and Major Duffy's bunker both were destroyed.
During this entire engagement, even as he was the only one to survive from his bunker, Major Duffy appeared to be fearless, he calmly moved around the perimeter and directed airstrikes and automatic weapons fire on the approaching NVA Infantry to protect the battalion. He knew without his direction, critical American air support would not be available. He directed the aircraft and friendly artillery onto the NVA AA .51MGs knocking out four of them in order for us to get our last resupply of ammunition, water and rations. He even refused medical evacuation, insisting that he had to protect the battalion. His courageous actions saved our ability to continue to fight by getting us the needed supplies.
In the early hours of the 13th, the NVA attacked one of our company positions, Major Duffy, who passed out from a concussion with his radio in hand, was awoken. He directed a Spectre C-123 gun platform fires onto the attacking NVA force, killing and disrupting their night attack. He stayed awake the rest of the night directing flare ship support.
On the 13th , I continued to coordinate fires with Major Duffy, taking out enemy targets between us. We targeted our artillery, Vietnamese Air Force strike aircraft, both US Air Force and US Army attack aircraft and B-52 strikes against the NVA. The coordination was very effective and the
enemy suffered heavy casualties. Both Major Duffy and I continually exposed ourselves in order to effectively direct fire on the enemy positions. We both suffered wounds, but these were not serious.
On April 14, 1972, our situation became extremely critical. FSB Charlie was ringed by .51 caliber AA machine guns, denying us any further resupply. With the ammunition running out, I ordered a breakout from FSB Charlie. Major Duffy volunteered to cover the withdrawal with gunships, and I stayed with him at this critical maneuver. During this battle of the rear guard, both of us were wounded as Major Duffy was forced to work the gunships ever closer. On the last enemy assault, the NVA were within a few meters of our position, only his fire disrupted the attack. His efforts were instrumental in inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy and in saving the battalion during this phase of the withdrawal. Major Duffy and myself were the last two to leave the perimeter. As we broke contact, Major Duffy directed B-52 strikes on our former positions and the positions of the North Vietnamese.
I had sustained a sucking chest wound and I was incapacitated and Major Duffy temporarily assumed command of the battalion and led us out of the danger zone. Major Duffy then ordered Company 113 to link-up with the remainder of the battalion at first light, where we could reorganize and redistribute ammo and conduct a successful retrograde operation.
On the morning of April 15, 1972, Major Duffy returned command of the battalion to me and briefed me before daylight on the actions that he had taken during the night. At first light, I ordered a halt in order to reorganize and to await the link-up with Company 113. It was determined that Company 113 was unable to break out and link-up was not imminent. I gave the order for the Companies to move out, concerned that we had remained too long in one location.
As the surviving 170 paratroopers were moving from our night defensive positions, the NVA initiated a battalion size plus ambush with small arms, 60mm mortars, and automatic weapons. Our unit was devastated and scattered. Major Duffy and I organized the Command Group and Major Duffy led the breakout through the killing zone. Leading the way through the jungle, ignoring enemy fire, he found a LZ (landing zone). Major Duffy quickly organized the defense of the LZ with the 36 men that were left from our battalion, and utilized his emergency radio, quickly established communications with a FAC (Forward Air Controller). He requested an immediate helicopter exfiltration and many covering air strikes.
The NVA were oblivious to tremendous losses that they were sustaining and continued to close in and placed effective fire on the first extraction helicopter. Major Duffy immediately placed suppressive fire on the enemy gunners who were in a stream bed. He worked two sets of A-Is and two sets of Cobras. The second and third lifts got out without taking as much fire. At this point, there were only five of us remaining on the ground, including Major Duffy who refused to leave before everyone was out safely. Even though Americans had priority in evacuations, Major Duffy advised he would be "the last man out." The NVA regrouped and stormed the Landing Zone. As we drove for the aircraft, my S-3 Captain Hai was hit in the foot and was knocked out of the aircraft. Major Duffy, who was standing on the skid directing airstrikes, reached out and caught him and threw him back into the helicopter. Major Duffy continued to ride the skid until we cleared the LZ. The aircraft took numerous hits and the left side door gunner was hit in the chest. Major Duffy immediately jumped in and grabbed him and began to perform mouth to mouth resuscitation as he applied pressure bandages. The young door gunner died in Major Duffy's arms.
We rode to the Medical Evacuation facility. Major Duffy had been wounded six times over the last three days.
Major Duffy was an expert. He was where we needed him. He routinely exposed himself to enemy fire. He was fearless and a real leader for the paratroopers. His fighting abilities, especially with the strike aircraft, was incredible. His unselfish devotion to his duty and the men he commanded not only saved the 11th Airborne Battalion but also the destruction of two complete battalions of the NVA's 320th Division. His ability to coordinate and advise was paramount to the survival of the command. Though Major Duffy was wounded several times, he never flinched. He was the last to leave the FSB Charlie, and he took command in the moment of need. He held the command together during a night withdrawal, and was the last man to get on a rescue helicopter. Major Duffy trusted the ARVN paratroopers and they trusted him. I personally thank Major Duffy for saving my life. Without him, I could not imagine how and what my life would be. As a counterpart and on the behalf of all of my surviving paratroopers, I deeply thank him. He is my hero and I respect him as one of the greatest soldiers of all time.
Major Duffy performed with distinct bravery, expert knowledge, and tenacious fighting abilities. He deserves this nation's highest decoration for valor.
August 1, 2012
Me Van Le
This statement is to support the award nomination for John J. Duffy.
In mid-April 1972, a substantial North Vietnamese Army (NVA) force hit Firebase Charlie on Rocket Ridge in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. I was flying as pilot-in-command of an AH-1G Cobra attack helicopter that day. I was flying as the second aircraft in a fire team providing support in Kontum Province.
I was flying as wingman that day to Chief Warrant Officer Dan Jones. We arrived at Firebase Charlie to find a very poor situation. The firebase was surrounded with the enemy advancing in strength from three sides. The South Vietnamese were fighting hard, but the enemy assault was relentless.
We fired rockets, mini-gun, and our grenade launcher on concentrations of enemy in close proximity to friendly positions. All friendly positions were being hard pressed, and some being overrun. We also fired on enemy weapons positions that ringed the base. The ground fighting was the worst I had seen, and we received intense enemy fire directed against our Cobras. Major Duffy relayed that the battalion had heavy casualties and the battalion commander had been killed. He was requesting all the air support he could get. We expended our ordnance on targets that Major Duffy directed us onto, and then went to Kontum airfield to rearm and refuel.
By the time our fire team returned to Charlie, the situation had deteriorated dramatically. When we arrived, it was dusk. Major Duffy had directed other attack helicopters in our absence and employed A-1 Skyraiders and jet fighters around the firebase as well. Nonetheless, the enemy continued their attack and the situation for Major Duffy and his airborne battalion was deteriorating. The South Vietnamese defenders were being killed and their positions being overrun.
Major Duffy told us he was wounded, but would continue to work us. His focus on the radio was entirely on doing what he could for his South Vietnamese comrades. At times, while he had his microphone keyed, directing us, I could hear him giving orders to his counterparts who were fighting for their lives. I could also hear him dealing with casualties that were occurring all around him. I never heard him express any concern for himself. He would not ask for his own extraction. He seemed committed to fighting to the death with his battalion.
As the situation deteriorated further, he began asking for us to place our fire within 3 meters of his position. I have never seen greater bravery displayed in combat. His actions were affecting the best possible defense under overwhelming conditions. This fight marked one of the opening moves of the NVA’s Easter Offensive. This 1972 Communist campaign turned out to be a much larger series of battles than the more well-known 1968 Tet Offensive.
As darkness settled on the hilltop, the enemy overran the last remaining South Vietnamese positions of Firebase Charlie. Major Duffy called and reported he was rallying survivors and heading off the firebase. He asked us to expend our remaining ordnance right on top of the positions he was leaving. I was surprised how calm he sounded, and by his actions could tell how much in charge he remained, and how his heroic actions were the only hope for the survival of anyone left alive on the ground. Another team of Cobras from our unit, the 361st Aviation Company, joined us in the final moments of the battle, also firing on top of the base and covering the withdrawal of Major Duffy and the survivors of the battle.
While flying the next morning, I was surprised to hear radio calls for the extraction of a small element of the 11th ARVN Airborne Battalion from the valley floor east of Firebase Charlie. The badly mauled group was led by their wounded advisor, Major Duffy. The extractions were made by elements of the 17th Air Cavalry. I was amazed that anyone could have survived the concentration of North Vietnamese forces I had seen attacking Firebase Charlie. I have no doubt that without the actions of Major John Duffy as the American advisor for that unit, all would have been killed or captured.
William S. Reeder, Jr.
Colonel, U.S. Army, retired
In April 1972:
Captain, U.S. Army
361st Aviation Company, "Pink Panthers"
Camp Holloway, near Pleiku, Republic of Vietnam
Forward Air Controllers (FAC) were typically Air Force aircraft used to spot and mark targets then call in and manage fighter-bombers to engage/destroy target. Aircraft type either O-1 Bird dog or 0-2 Cessna 337 Skymaster or OV-10 Bronco
(FAC1) Forward Air Controller. Call sign: Covey 555 (Triple Nickel). Directed UH-1’s to extraction point. Also managed fighter bombers,
(FAC2) Forward air Controller. Call sign: Covey 317. Came on station to relieve Covey 555.
This audio is 48 minutes long. It begins with Covey 555 establishing visual with Pallbearer Lead.
(FAC555) Pallbearer lead, this is triple nickel
(PBlead) Go ahead triple nickel
(FAC1) Pallbearer lead, this is triple nickel. Do you recall where firebase 5 is?
(PBlead) I’m generally familiar with the area. Roger that.
(FAC1 to Sandy Aircraft) OK, the big tall ridge, it’s the tallest ridge along that ridgeline. We are just to the south of the tallest area on that ridge line. There’s quite a bit of smoke coming up. Should be no problem to find. From Vo Din I believe it’s a heading of, about, I’d say 320.
(PBlead to FAC1) Roger. We’re headed off the red ball toward your location.
(FAC1 to PB lead) OK and it’s on the east side, excuse me, the west side of the blue line.
(PBlead) OK, We’ll keep an eye out for it.
(65 "other" airraft) And, uh, triple nickel, 65.
(FAC1) Roger 65, Triple Nickel.
(65) Ah, your replacement, 517, I have him holding over Dak To at this time. I was going to let you finish expending the Sandys. He can come over. You want to break for another thing or what?
(FAC1) OK, he’s gonna have to come in. I’m running kind of T-T on fuel and, ah, let’s see… Sandy, this is triple nickel.
(Sandy) Go ahead.
(FAC1) Rog. How many drops do you figure you have left?
(Sandy) Ah, we could probably be fired out in one to two more passes.
(FAC1) OK, try to fire out in one. And, uh, do you still have me in sight? I got somebody rolling final at this time.
(Sandy 5) OK, that could be Sandy 5 if you will clear me in.
(FAC1) OK, 5 you are cleared hot. And, if you can, from where the CBU(?) is coming up from the tree line, to the left, to the left about 50 meters.
(Sandy 5) Roger that. I’ll be all along that.
(FAC1) OK, you’re cleared hot.
(PBlead) 33 and 35, lead, are you up Covey Uniform?
(PB33) 33’s up.
(PBLead) Lead’s up Covey uniform.
(FAC1) OK, Sandy 5, you’re next?
(Sandy 5) That’s affirmative. You want a little further left again?
(FAC1) Roger. Left about 50 meters and long about 50, down that ridgeline where it branches off to the SE.
(Sandy 5) OK, I got where you want it, I believe.
Garbled PB transmission regarding lead assuring flight is on same frequency.
(DG) How do you want us to go in there as far as our guns are concerned?
(MG) They’ll tell us
Intervening transmissions between triple nickel and fighter bombers performing different mission under triple nickel’s control.
(FAC1) Break, break. Pallbearer lead, triple nickel.
(PB33) Go ahead triple nickel.
(FAC1) Do you have the smoke coming up from this area? There’s quite a bit of willy pete smoke coming up.
(PBlead) Roger. Looks like due west of the shiny church or whatever it is.
(FAC1) OK..Uh..maybe you’re right. There’s two of them. OK, right. I’m due west about a mile and a half. Do you have me?
(PBlead) I don’t have you but….yeah, yeah, I do have you. You’re in a turn at this time?
(FAC)1 Roger, rocking (wings)
(PBlead) Roger, good tally.
(FAC1) OK, I’ll give you a bingo on Dusty Cyanide. He’s on this push and he’s got about 37 people, most of them wounded. There’s ground fire all around him. You’re gonna have to work it for yourselves. I don’t know if you’re gonna want to go in there. We’ve been working the ridgelines, so forth, around here. Up until now we’ve received B40’s and light caliber fire. Nothing heavy up till now. Over.
(PBlead) Roger. Listen, my Undertakers should be up this push also. Maybe you could give them where the bad guys are.
(FAC)1 OH..uh..Break, break. Any undertaker, triple nickel.
(UT22) And Covey. Undertaker 22.
(FAC1) Undertaker 22 this is triple nickel and is 23 OK?
(UT22) That’s affirmative. They’re both alright.
(FAC1) OK, fine, and where are you at this time?
(UT22) I’m right at trail under the slicks.
(FAC1) OK, do you have a tally on me?
(UT22) Say again please.
(FAC1) Do you have a tally on me at this time?
(UT22) Not at this time. No.
(FAC1) OK, do you have the willy pete smoke coming up right off the top of the ridgeline there?
(UT22) That’s affirmative.
(FAC1) OK. I’m right over the willy pete smoke at 4,000…..in a left hand turn. Now I’m in the clouds.
(UT22) Covey triple nickel I got a tally on you.
(FAC1) OK I’m gonna swing around and you get ready for a bingo on…generally over the friendly right now.
(UT22) Ok Covey I lost you at this time.
(FAC1) OK do you have me again. I’m coming around toward the willy pete smoke?
(UT22) OK I got a tally on you now.
(FAC1) OK, get ready for a bingo. OK, Dusty, bingo me when you can.
(DC) OK…bingo, bingo, bingo
(FAC1) OK, bingo, bingo. You read it?
(UT22) That’s affirmative.
(FAC1) OK. Can you hear Dusty Cyanide this push?
(UT22) That’s affirmative.
(FAC1) OK why don’t you take over. I’ve got to really head out. There’s another FAC inbound. He’ll have air available if you need it.
(UT22) OK, fine. And they’re all down there in that valley, right?
(FAC1) Roger that. They’re down in the valley in the trees. There’s bad guys on the ridge lines all around them. To the south he’s been taking mortar fire, about 700 meters south. However, there is another friendly location reported down there. I think they are possibly in contact so I wouldn’t expend down there if I were you.
(FAC1) OK, uh, I’m gonna have to di di out. Dusty, sorry I couldn’t stay a little longer. I couldn’t get you out but (unintelligible)
(DC) No sweat, man. You did a good job. I don’t think I got (unintelligible).
(FAC1) Ok, fine. There will be one more FAC in the area. Pallbearer lead should take over and get you out without any problem.
(DC) Hey, I appreciate it. Next time I see you I owe you a big bottle of scotch.
(FAC1) Roger that.
(UT22) Dusty, Undertaker 22.
(DC) Say again call sign. This is Dusty, over.
(UT22) Uh, roger, Undertaker 22.
(DC) Undertaker 22?
(UT22) Undertaker 22.
(DC) OK. I gotcha Undertaker 22. That’s a hard one for me. I can’t say the "T"s. Ah, my situation is I got 37 personnel. I only got 4 wounded, all walking. Every time we’ve broke out trying to leave here, every time we got to the open area we got fired on. They had everybody fall back (interrupted by another radio on same frequency.)…pretty hard to break out now. The people, they’ve had it. I’ve got a few good effectives and that’s about it. Ah, I’ve got the command group with me also. A couple of them wounded, over.
(UT22) Roger. I got a general idea of where you’re at down there. I got four slicks up here with me also and if we can we’re going to try to get your people out of there.
(DC) That should be no problem with 4 slicks. If you want us to leave our helmets behind we will but our weapons we take with us, over.
(UT22) Ok. Is there any way you can positively identify your location?
(DC) Yea. I got T-T smoke. I got five and I can pop ‘em when you get the slicks on in here. What looks like the best Lima Zulu, to the echo or whiskey, over?
(UT22) Seems to be to the echo down there.
(DC) OK. They worked that area out. That’s were I was heading for when I stopped here when I seen the lima zulu there but he cleaned the ridge tops off and I think we can get in there, no problem.
Approximately 45 seconds radio interference, unintelligible.
(UT22) And , Sandy, undertaker 22, when we put your slicks in where do you want them? Where did you have the majority of the fire coming from?
(S5) Ok, Undertaker, Sandy five, we didn’t observe any ground fire while we were in there at all. The Covey’s will be able to better able to answer that.
Radio interference – Unintelligible.
(FAC1) Undertaker 22, Triple nickel
(UT22) Go ahead Triple Nickel.
(FAC1) OK, the heaviest ground fire we took was off to his SW and also off to his east. However, the friendlies are positioned 700 meters to the SE. There’s also another friendly location. That’s where we received the heaviest ground fire so I suspect the other friendlies are in contact. They’re all Victor November, no English speaking. Over.
(UT22) OK. Understand to the west of that is where you would expect the fire?
(FAC1) Roger, you’d be best to talk to him. I’d say you’d be clear to the east up to the base of the main ridge line. There are fire bases on the ridge line. However I don’t know if they are still friendly. Nobody is really certain. Some of those outposts may have been taken over. But, I’d say to the east right up to the base of the major ridge line. You’d be clear to the west and to the north. If you have good contact with him he can generally talk you in to where you ought to go.
(FAC1) OK and good luck down there. Hate to be rude and run but I’m pretty T-T.
(UT22) OK, unintelligible.
(FAC1) OK, 22, triple nickel.
(UT22) Go ahead triple nickel.
(FAC1) Can you talk to Dusty?
(UT22) That’s affirmative.
(FAC1) OK. We’ll see you later. I’ve gotta go off push.
(UT22) Rog. Sandy, undertaker 22. Sandy, undertaker 22.
(Sandy) Undertaker 22, Sandy 5.
(MG – internal to DW) Do you have the guns? (Cobras)
(DW – internal to MG) No, just smoke.
(UT22) Ok. Were you guys flashing a mirror and if so would you do it again?
(Sandy) Say again, babe. We’re RTB to channel 89 right now.
(UT22) Sorry about that. Dusty, Undertaker 22.
(DC) Undertaker 22, this is Dusty, over.
(UT22) Roger, were you guys flashing a mirror down there?
(DC) Say again last, over.
(UT22) Roger. Were you flashing a mirror down there and if so will you please do it again?
(DC) Oh, yea, we were. OK. I’ll get it back out.
(FAC2) Dusty, this is Covey 517. I’m right on top of you right now?
(DC) Not yet but I’ll give you a bingo. OK, bingo, bingo, bingo. You see that little creek down there? Nice clean one.
(FAC2) Yea. I got your shiny.
(DC) OK. And your call sign is 317?
(FAC2) That’s affirmative and we have two flights of Jupiters on the way. I don’t know what they are carrying yet but if you want, we can put them in to soften up the area also.
(DC) I just don’t have any targets. I hate to say it but got a lot friendlies scattered around here and all the enemy we’ve spotted are snipers and every time we moved we got shot at, over.
(FAC2) OK, rog. We’re going to try to get you out and if it gets too hot we’ll have the Jupiters on station here waiting.
(DC) Yea. I went ahead and had them choppers continuously working. We got all kinds of people scattered all over this area. We had 250 when we broke out and they scattered. I don’t have locations on all of them. I got one other unit I got a fix on. I’d like to get out of here and start helping locate ‘em. Over.
(FAC2) Yea. It’s hard to be out searching for your own guys, isn’t it?
(DC) Yea. They’ve had it pretty hard. I got overrun last night. We took about 1,000 rounds of 105 and, anyway, some of them first time in combat. Bunch of young kids. Over.
(UT22) Covey, Undertaker 22.
(FAC2) Go ahead Undertaker 22.
(UT22) OK, I got my slicks out here and they’re ready to come in. I think I’ll try to get ‘em out right now if that’s possible.
(FAC2) OK. You got a tally on his position?
(UT22) That’s affirmative. I had them pop smoke. When do you think those Jupiters will be on station? Maybe it might be better to wait for them.
(FAC2) Dusty says it’s gonna be hard to put ‘em in because he has his people scattered all over. We’ll have to wait and see where the ground fire comes from and put ‘em in ??. I’ll check with Outlaw and see what time they’ll be on station and we can work from there.
(MG Internal to DW) Put me on 2 (UHF radio)
(MG) Embalmer 3 this is Embalmer 6.
(FAC2) Check with Outlaw and see what time they’re gonna be on station.
(DC) Be advised the area is small arms. Since we’ve got planes flying over I haven’t heard any ground fire in the last hour. Over.
(UT22) Roger. Pallbearer lead Undertaker 22.
More than one radio makes conversations impossible to understand at this point. General idea is that Embalmer lead is asking FAC2 when the Jupiter’s will be on station. Embalmer 6 is attempting to contact Embalmer 3. Covey 517 is talking with Covey 555 about ground situation. UT22 is attempting to contact Pallbearer lead. Undertaker 22 is talking with DC about eminent extraction.
(UT22) Dusty, Undertaker 22.
(DC) Undertaker 22 this is Dusty, Over.
(UT22) I got my slicks out here. They’re setting up for single ships. When I get them around pop smoke.
(DC) OK, man, I’ll do that. We’re moving out to the LZ now. What time is the ETA, over?
(UT22) Roger, they should be no later than five minutes.
(DC) We’ll start moving out to the lima zulu. If I take any incoming I’ll let you know.
(UT22) OK, fine.
(MG – internal to DW) Do you know where we’re going?
(DW – internal to MG) No, but follow that ship.
(UT22) Pallbearer 5(?), undertaker 22, let me know when you get into position so you can see the smoke.
(DC) I missed that last…(unintelligible).
(UT22) Dusty, Undertaker 22.
(UT22) Dusty, Undertaker 22.
(DC) Undertaker 22, Dusty, over.
(UT22) How far away are you from the LZ?
(DC) I’m moving toward the LZ. I’m on an LZ right now.
(UT22) OK, and uh
(?) Three four come in please.
(MG – internal. Unintelligible. Something to the effect of turning right.)
(DG – internal. You’re clear right.)
(DC) OK, I got white smoke out.
(UT22) OK. I got smoke out here on one of these ridge lines.
(FAC2) OK. The smoke on the ridgeline was Sandy’s ordinance I believe.
(DC) I got white smoke, white smoke out now.
(DC) White smoke out, white smoke out.
(UT22) Uh, roger Sandy.
(MG internall to DW) Stay in position so you can possibly see the LZ.
(DW internal to MG) I gotta get around behind him.
(MG internal to DW) I know.
(Gladiator aircraft) Undertaker lead, Gladiator 24.
(MG) Gladiator 26, Embalmer 6, are you holding north with a flight of four?
(DC) A lift ship just come over.
(Gladiator aircraft) That’s affirmative. I would take lead if I knew where your lead ship is.
(MG) OK. Stand by. We’re working with the ground on uniform also.
(Unknown) Pallbearer lead say position.
(MG) Smoke right quick.
(DC) Yea. I’m gonna pop another one.
(DW internal to MG) They gotta give us our own frequency if they expect us to get anything done.
(DC) Unintelligble. Something about smoke.
(DC) OK, we’re out here in the open. No problem spotting us, over.
(DG internal to MG) What do you want us to do if we take fire?
(DW internal to DG) If you take fire give em hell.
(MG to DG) If you take fire and can identify the exact place it’s coming from I want you to shoot the guy who’s shooting at us.
(DG) All right.
(MG to crew) We got friendly out here..all over the place.
(DW to DG) In other words, don’t rake em.
(DW) OK, I got chalk three..don’t have him..OK lead’s on final
(DC) OK. He’s coming in. They all have guns on automatic lock.
(UT22) Roger Dusty. We’ll be in in just a second.
(MG internal to DW) OK you got that one. (Huey)
(DW internal to MG) Right
(PB35) 35 is directly over the smoke.
(UT22) Dusty, Undertaker 22.
(DC) 22 this is Dusty, over.
(UT22) OK as soon as you have a slick in sight we’re gonna have you direct him in. We’ll get him down into it but I’ll have you direct him right into it.
(DC) OK, can do.
(PB Lead) Lead is on final. I’ll be landing to the echo.
(PB lead) 22 say Dusty’s position from smoke on the ridgeline.
(MG internal) We’re taking fire.
(DC) You’re coming in. 12 O clock. Slow down, slow down. Drop down, drop down. About 200 feet, 200 feet. I’m coming up. Bingo, bingo, bingo. You’re on me. You’re on me. Bingo, I’m at your 3 O clock. 25 feet. We’re at your 9 O Clock 25 feet.
(MG internal to DW) OK, is that chalk three?
(PB33) 22 this is 33.
(PB33) Undertaker 22 Pallbearer 33 uniform.
(UT22) Go ahead 33.
(PB33) Yea. How bout getting a slick and giving him a vector in there.
(UT22) That’s what we’re trying to do.
(DC) 250, 200 ft, 150. Bingo on the LZ. Bingo, Bingo, Bingo. Here I am, mate, down here, over.
(FAC) OK Dusty, stand by. We’ll get em in for you this time.
(MG internal to DW) I think we just flew over them didn’t we?
(DW internal to MG) I know we did. I know what the problem is.
(MG internal to DW) Don’t go across the trees.
(DW internal to MG) OK
(MG internal to DW) OK, there..??
(DW internal to MG) I got the ass.
(DW internal to MG) There goes chalk three. Talking to them on Victor or UHF
(MG internal to DW) UHF
(PB33) 22 is sandy’s position west of the smoke that’s on top of that ridgeline down in the valley?
(FAC) OK, guys. This is Covey 517. Keep a heading of about 180-170. The ridgeline has a smoke on it. He’s right on the eastern side of the tree line.
(PB33) Lead, did you monitor that?
(DW) Lead, chalk four.
(PB33) What do you need chalk four?
(DW) Roger. I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on our here.
(PB lead) Lead is on a long final for the LZ at this time.
(DW internal to MG) I know where they are now. I can get in there with no sweat.
(MG internal to DW) OK. Now there goes a gun rolling in. Now, let’s see. Can you pick up the other slick? That’s on a long final?
(DW internal to MG) There he is.
(MG internal to DG) That means we’re number….where’s the other one?
(PB lead) OK. I’m on, looks like about a mile and a half final right now.
(DW internal to MG) Can you take this thing a second and let me turn my tape over?
(MG internal to DW) OK, can you see…oh, I see him.
(DW internal to MG) OK I got him.
(DW internal to MG) Have you got it or you want me to take it?
(MG internal to DW) You got it.
(PB lead) OK, Dusty. This slick on final. Have you got a tally on me? Give me headings left or right.
(DC) Straight in on me. Look like a Cobra. People standing by. No you’re not. You’re a lift ship. There’s a Cobra in front of you isn’t it.
(PB Lead) That’s affirmative.
(UT24) Call a bingo on the snake Dusty.
(DC) Got you in sight. About 300 ft, 300 ft. OK.. di…di..di..di. OK, my troops are moving out, troops moving out. You got 10 on this load, 9 on all the other loads.
(UT24) OK, he’s at my six now lead.
(PB Lead) Got a tally on him.
(PB33) 35 you got a tally on him?
(PB35) Rog. 35’s final right now.
(PB33) 35 leave a smoke.
(PB33) Lead leave a smoke.
(DW) And 33 leave a smoke.
(MG internal to DW) I haven’t seen where they landed yet. Have you?
(DW internal to MG) No, but lead and two are gonna leave a smoke.
(PB Lead) Lead’s coming out.
(DW internal to MG) Lead’s coming out.
(PB35) 35’s short final
(PB Lead) Keep going 35. I’ll break to your right.
(DC) Immediately to my south in that wood line, 25 meters.
(DC) I got small arms fire 25 meters to my sierra.
(DW) Chalk four’s turning final.
(DW) OK, you still got him, sir.
(MG) I got him but ..
(PB lead) Taking fire! Taking fire! Taking fire!
(DW internal to MG) Who is that?
(DC) ??? woodline sierra, 25 meters away.
(PB35) Three-five’s coming out.
(DC) 25 meters to the woodline. To my Sierra. To my Sierra.
(UT22) Roger good copy.
(MG internal to DW) OK, I just lost him.
(DW internal to MG) Over the ridge. He’ll leave a smoke for us.
(DW) Chalk four is two miles.
(DC) Cobra, Cobra, they’re 25 meters away. They’re in that wood line. Go get ‘em.
(DC) Cobra, Cobra, they’re 25 meters away, to my sierra, to my sierra.
(UT24) Roger, Dusty. We’re inbound. Keep your heads down….(sound of 24’s minigun firing.)
(PB33) 33’s out, breaking right.
(DW) Chalk’s four’s a mile.
(DC) Cobra, Cobra, they’re 25 meters to my sierra.
(DW) I know they’re down there.
(DC) Over the woodline. Get it down. All the way, all the way down.
(MG internal to DW) Just coming out..
(DW internal to MG) There go the gunships. Beautiful..beautiful.
(DC) Good show Cobras.
(DW) And chalk four’s short final.
(MG internal to DW) Do you have the people?
(DW internal to MG) G…D… that was close.
(MG internal to DW) I don’t have any people.
(DW internal to MG) I don’t either but if they’re down here we’ll get ‘em.
(MG) OK we need some guidance. Where’s the people?
(DW internal to MG) They’re over here.
(PB33) Dusty, Undertaker 22. Where do you want these people taken?
(DG & DN internal) Taking fire…
(DW internal to crew) I think we’re taking fire. We’re taking fire.
(DW) Chalk four’s taking fire. Be making a go around.
(DW internal to MG) Sir, if I didn’t see B-40’s I’ll kiss your ass.
(MG internal to DG and DN) Ok, hold your fire.
(DW internal to MG) OK, if I didn’t see B-40’s sir I will kiss your ass.
(DG internal to crew) I got a round stuck..2 rounds stuck in my barrel.
(PB Lead) We took fire just about due east of that LZ.
(MG internal to DW) Ok, let’s come right.
(DW internal to MG) You got it, sir. OK.
(PB33) Six, you think you can get back in there?
(MG) That’s affirmative. I couldn’t see the people that time. I don’t think we had a smoke left from number three.
(DC) unintelligible, something about woodline.
(DW internal to DG and DN) Did you see any people?
(DG internal to DG) Yea, I sure did.
(UT22) Dusty, are they still down there in that same woodline?
(DC) Yes we are but just one gun.
(UT22) Dusty you still on the LZ or moving away from it?
(DC) We’re moving to the whiskey…er…to the November echo.
(UT22) Roger, I’ll be in with 20 mm.
(DG internal) There go bad guys right there, right there, on that trail.
(MG internal) There’s a what?
(DG internal) There’s bad guys carrying rockets back there.
(DW) OK, Undertaker, we got people all along these trails our here, out your 9 er 3 O clock.
(MG) Whole bunches of ‘em.
(DG) I ain’t gonna be able to shoot this gun no more.
(UT24) Unless you draw fire don’t engage.
(MG internal) OK, do you know where the friendlies are?
(PB33) OK, 22, this load of people I got on board I’ll be taking them into Tan Can and coming back out if you need any help.
(DW internal) I really didn’t see any people.
(UT22) Dusty, Undertaker 22, how was that?
(UT22) Dusty, Undertaker 22.
(DC) Garbled Radio.
(UT22) OK. We shot the area up. I’ll bring in my slick and we’ll see what happens.
(DC) Still got small arms. We’ve moved about 25 meters. We’re gonna stop here. We got five people left. Over.
(MG) 22 this is six. I’m on a supposed final. I don’t really know where the people are.
(MG) 22, you got me?
(MG internal) I’m right under one of them.
(MG internal) OK, watch for the people.
(DC) On target…On target.
(DG internal) My 60 doesn’t work.
(MG internal) OK
(DW internal) OK, that’s the LZ up there. Where the people are I don’t know.
(DC) Still got small arms fire. Still got small arms fire. Automatic rifles.
(MG internal) We got yellow smoke over there.
(MG) 22 we got yellow smoke way to the north over there.
(UT24) OK, if you hang a left, turn left one-eighty, six.
(MG) Left one-eighty.
(U24) Still drawing small arms fire from the tree line down here. Ok now turn right. Right 90.
(MG internal) OK, I see where they are.
(UT24) Right 90. Across the tree at your 12 are the friendlies and bad guys are in the trees.
(DW internal) Right here’s the people..here they are.
(MG internal) You see ‘em?
(DW internal) Right, got ‘em in sight.
(DG internal) Right there
(UT24) Bad guys at your left. Friendlies at your eleven.
(UT24) 24 is in on your left.
(MG internal) OK, I got friendlies off on the left here too.
(DC) Ease down.
(DG Internal) We’re taking incoming over here.
(MG internal) That’s rockets.
(DW internal) Snakes
(MG internal) OK, I got friendlies American type, coming down.
(DN internal) Clear down left
(MG internal) Watch the blades.
(DW internal) OK, sir, you’re clear down over here. Just kind of hold it down and let them crawl on. It’s gonna be real rough.
(DW internal) I’ll monitor the gages
(MG internal) Still on the controls.
Crack of first round through the cockpit.
(MG internal) Still on the controls.
Crack of second round throught cockpit. This is the round which struck Dallas Nihsen. Penetrated right front just above windshield, missed my head by about a foot, traveled diagonally to left side of aircraft, through transmission well and struck Dallas in the back.
(DN internal) Hey, hey, hit!
(MG internal) We’re taking fire.
(DN internal) Hey, hit.
(MG internal) Still on the controls
(DW internal) He’s hit. Nihsen’s hit, sir! Sir, Nihsen’s hit! Nihsen’s hit!
(DW internal) OK, I got it. We got one hit. We got one hit.
(DG Internal) Go! Go! Go! Go!
(DW internal) Go, Sir.
(DG internal) Get outta here!
(MG internal) OK, we’re coming out.
(DW internal) Roger, you’re good, you’re good… you’re good.
(MG internal) We’re coming out. We got one wounded on the left.
(DW internal) You’re OK
(MG internal) we got everybody on?
(DG internal) Everybody’s here.
(DG internal) Go ahead, go ahead.
(DW internal) Go, sir. 40 lbs of torque, lookin’ good. Don’t know if we’re hit. Gages are green.
(MG internal) Comin’ up over the ridge.
(UT24) OK, I got people moving in the grass but it looks like friendlies.
(MG internal) We’re taking fire.
(DW internal) OK, sir, we’re looking good.
(MG internal) Are the gages OK?
(DW internal) You’re gages are OK. You’re 40 lbs of torque. Everything’s green.
(MG internal) Check Nihsen.
(DW) Sir, he’s moving. He’s OK.
(MG internal) Hey, get Nihsen in. (Slumped over toward outside of aircraft, restricted by seat belt.)
(DW internal) He’s strapped in, sir, he can’t go anywhere.
(MG) OK, we got the man on the left (Interrupted)
(DG internal) Get some altitude. My gun is jammed up again.
(UT 24) Did you get our Uniform Sierra man?
(MG) That’s affirm. We got the Uniform Sierra and my Uniform Sierra on the left side is hit.
(DG internal to someone in back) You OK!?
(UT24) OK. Well, let’s not just shoot at ‘em unless we can draw some fire.
(MG) OK. We’re off and we got the Uniform Sierra off the ground and we got the man (DC – John Duffy) working on the guy in the left seat. My code name Nihsen’s hit.
(MG) OK, give me a count of how many people we got.
(Pallbearer 33) 24, understand they got all the people outta there?
(UT24) We got the American and there’s people running all over down here.
(DW internal) He (Duffy) says he’ll be ok if you get him the F..k outta here. Let’s go.
(DW internal) Hospital, sir.
(MG internal) Kontum?
(DW internal) Kontum,….hospital.
(MG internal) Do you know where it is?
(DW internal) No sir but you better call somebody and get a lead ‘cause we gotta’ get him to the hospital.
(DW internal) I’ll find out.
(DW) Undertaker, Unertaker, Embalmer six.
(UT24) Go ahead six.
(DW) OK, where’s the hospital? We gotta’ get there and we gotta get there now.
(UT24) OK, head for Kontum. There’s a Dustoff pad…there’s med station there.
(DW) Ok but I need to know for sure. I ain’t got time to be led around in circles.
(Pallbearer 33) Go to the MACV pad.
(DW) OK, MACV pad.
(UT24) Contact Kontum tower and he can talk you in from there.
(DW) Roger. Will do.
(MG) Come up Kontum tower.
(MG internal) All gages are still looking normal?
(Kontum Tower) Roger, I say again, the runway is closed to fixed wing aircraft at this time. We got an AH-1G down on the runway. Hold south for another 10 minutes until we can get the Cobra off the runway.
(DG internal) Get some altitude.
(MG internal) Is someone working on him?
(DG internal) Yea, they’re working on him.
(MG internal) OK, I don’t have time to do that) (to gain altitude)
(Gladiator 446) Kontum tower, Gladiator 446
(Kontum tower) 446 Kontum.
(Gladiator 446) Roger, 446 is about a mile out here to your west. I’d like to change my destination to the ARVN Hospital for landing.
(Kontum Tower) Roger 446, report 2 miles.
(Gladiator 446) Roger, 446.
(DW) And, Kontum, 469.
(Kontum Tower) 469 go ahead.
(DW) Roger, 469 just came off a firebase that was overrun. We got one U.S. and one VNAF injured. We’d like direct to the MACV pad for the hospital, please.
(Kontum tower) Roger, 469. Land at pilot’s discretion. 469 say number of miles out at this time.
(DW) Roger, I’d say approximately 8 or 10. We’re just trying to alleviate any problem.
(Kontum tower) Roger, 469. Give me a call 5 miles out.
(DW) Sure. Will do.
(Gladiator 446) Kontum tower, Gladiator 446, final.
(Kontum tower) 446…garbled…hospital
(DW internal) OK, sir. Everything’s green.
(MG internal) Roger
(DW) Kontum, 469.
(Kontum tower) 469, Kontum
(MG internal) I think this other guy down here is wounded too.
(Kontum tower) 469, Kontum tower.
(DG internal) He got shot in the foot.
(MG internal) OK.
(Kontum tower) 469 Kontum tower.
(MG internal) How ‘bout Nihsen? What does he look like?
(Kontum tower) 469 Kontum tower.
(DW internal on private) He look bad, sir.
(DW) Kontum, this is 469.
(Kontum tower) Roger 469. You want me to give MACV a call and tell them you are inbound with VNAF and American wounded?
(DW) UH, roger. VNAF looks like he might be OK but the American’s in bad shape. Please hurry.
(Kontum tower) Yea, will do.
(MG internal) What people did you see off to our right?
(DG internal) They were everywhere. There was one guy gettin’ ready to throw a grenade right behind us.
(DW internal) Things were pretty hairy down there.
(DG Internal) I quit flying today.
(MG internal) who?
(DG internal) Me
(MG internal) Why?
(DG internal) Why? I got a wife and one kid. Just had a baby when I was home on leave.
(MG internal) What do these guys have?
(DG internal) I don’t know. I hope Nihsen’s alright.
(DG internal) They were all over the place.
(DW internal) Do you know where the MACV pad is, sir?
(MG internal) Yea. That’s where we refueled(?)
(Gladiator 446) Kontum, 446.
(Kontum tower) 446, Kontum.
(Gladiator 446) Kontum, 446 is off the hospital. Be crossing your (?) for refuel.
(Kontum tower) Roger, 446. Report left base landing POL.
(Gladiator 446) 446 Roger
(MG internal) This is the right road, right?
(DW internal) I hope so, yes.
(DW internal) All instruments still green.
(MG internal) Garbled…I know we got hit.
(DW internal) I think you did an outstanding job. I want you to know that in case we don’t make it back.
(MG internal) What do you mean, "if we don’t make it back?" Maybe Nihsen’ll make it back. Let’s get Nihsen back.
(DW internal) I really do. I think you did an outstanding job.
(MG internal) Have they got Nihsen out of the seat, or what?
(DG internal) They haven’t moved him yet. They just laid him down.
(DW internal) They’re (Duffy) working on him. They’re doing everything they can, sir.
(MG internal) OK
(DW internal) If I know Nihsen, he’ll pull through.
(Ruthless 384) Kontum tower, this is Ruthless 384.
(Kontum tower) 384, Kontum
(Ruthless 384) 384 FOB pad. Request reposition to your station at this time.
(Kontum tower) Roger 384. Wind calm. Altimeter 3004. Report on the go.
(Ruthless 384) Which way you landing?
(Kontum tower) Roger 384. Landing 090. Report right base landing ??
(Ruthless 384) Roger, thank you.
(Gladiator 446) Kontum, Gladiator 446 is left base for landing POL.
(Kontum tower) 446 roger. Clear to land POL.
(MG internal) We should have the hospital frequency there. 45 something, I think.
(DW internal) Frequency for what, sir?
(MG internal) Is that an American hospital or Vietnamese?
(DW internal) Don’t know, sir, but it’s the only one they got.
(MG internal) OK
(DW internal) And, tower’s calling for us to make sure.
(DW internal) And all instruments still green.
(MG internal) You better make sure there’s no firing out of these places. We’re west of the red ball.
(DW) Kontum 469.
(Kontum tower) 469 Kontum
(DW) Roger. If we stay west of the red ball and north of your location, will we be clear?
(Kontum tower) Roger. You should be clear. Understand you’re about 3 or 4 miles out at this time?
(DW) Uh, roger that.
(Kontum tower) OK, 469. Winds calm. Altimeter 3004. Report your final MACV.
(DW) OK. And you did give the hospital a call, right?
(Kontum tower) That’s most afirm. I gave the hospital a call and they got the medic out there now with stretchers and stuff. I told him you had two pax, one was pretty hurt pretty bad.
(DW) Thank you very much.
(Bandit 773) Kontum tower, Bandit 773.
(Kontum tower) Bandit 773, Kontum
(Bandit 773) Uh, roger. Say tail number of snake on your runway.
(Kontum tower) Roger, 773. The last three is 036.
(Bandit 773) Understand it’s a cougar?
(Kontum tower) That’s a negative. It’s a Ruthless, 036,
(Bandit 773) OK. Thank you much.
(Ruthless 006) An Kontum, Ruthless 020, ready for departure.
(Kontum tower) 020 hover to and hold short runway 09. Wind calm. Altimeter 3004. Report holding short.
(Ruthless 006) Roger that.
(Ruthless 384) Kontum tower this is 384, entering extended right base for runway 09.
(Kontum tower) 384 roger. Continue approach.
(Kontum tower) 384 wind calm. Suggest you land south side of the active. Hover on down parallel to the runway. I got an AH-1G coming out of POL for departure.
(DG internal) Looks like they hit Nihsen to the right side.
(MG internal) OK. Missed his chicken plate?
(Ruthless 384) Kontum, Ruthless 384, half mile final for landing your active, with the cobra, pitch down.
(Kontum tower) Roger 384. Wind calm. Clear to land. Request you hold off to the east side down there by the cobra.
(DW internal) You know where we’re going now, sir?
(MG internal) Yea…garbled.
(Ruthless 384) Tower, Ruthless 384 is holding short with a good hover garbled.
(DW) Kontum, 469 is on a long final.
(Kontum tower) 469 wind calm. Negative reported traffic MACV pad.
(DW) Roger that.
(DW) Kontum, 469, would you give us a look out the window there and tell us if we are heading in the right direction for the hospital, please.
(Kontum tower) Roger 469. I got a tally on you. You’re heading just parallel into it if you want to make an approach 09. You’ll see that its sorta got green shutters, real long buildings and you’ll probably see somebody on the chopper pad with stretchers.
(DW) Green shutters real long building.
(Kontum tower) Roger that. And there’ll be a orange and white, low, steel tower sticking outta there. You got a tally on MACV.
(MG internal) I see it.
(DW) Roger that. Thank you much.
(Kontum tower) 020 wind calm cleared for takeoff
(Ruthless 020) Roger that. Like a right break, right downwind departure and I’m sorry I hurt that aircraft on 90.
(DW internal) You got wires.
(Kontum tower) Sorry about breaking that aircraft on 90?
(Ruthless 020) Roger. 036 belonged to me at the beginning of the day.
(Kontum tower) Roger that, it’s hard when they break our aircraft.
(Ruthless 020) Roger. We’ll go do ‘em a damn-damn.
(Kontum tower) Roger that. Sounds good.
(DG internal) Clear down right.
(DW internal) I’m gonna get out and see if I can help them, sir.
(MG internal) Go ahead.
Tape ends at 48 minutes
- Born on April 1, 1943 in Ha Noi ( North Viet Nam).
- On 1954, he immigrated to Saigon (South Viêt Nam) with his family.
- Graduated from the National Military Academy, Da Lat, Class of 1964.
Throughout his military career of 10 years, he served in the Airborne Division, first in the 7th Battalion and in the 11th Battalion.
Hai has been engaged in many fierce battles including the battle of Dong Xoài, Ha Lào, Charlie, Binh Gia, Khe Sanh, Kontum, Pleiku, and Quang Tri. He was wounded three times in battle.
Hai has been honored with 17 awards and decorations including The National Order of Viet Nam Knight Class, 4 Gallantry Crosses with Palm, 5 Gallantry Crosses with Star and 3 Wounded Medals, and U.S. Bronze Star with Valor.
On April 30, 1975, when Saigon fell to the communist, Hai and his family immigrated to the United States.
In 1978, he graduated from Silicon Valley Technical Institute. Hai worked as an Electronic Engineer for companies such as Data Point, Ampex, National Semiconductor, and Silicon Graphics. He retired in 2004 after a 26 years career in electronics.
Hai is currently living in San Jose, California with his wife, children, and 4 grandchildren. He enjoys reading and writing. He has written for several Vietnamese magazines, newspapers, short story books, and was the Chief Editor of Vietnamese Da Hieu magazine.
Góc Bien Chân Troi (2000)
Nho ve… Nguoi Lính Nam Xua (2011)
Biography of Terry Griswold, Major (retired)
Terry Griswold as a young officer served in the biggest battles of the Viet Nam war with courage and distinction. He led patrols behind enemy lines, directed rescues and worked the critical airstrikes only American's were authorized to direct.
Post Viet Nam, he served more than 20 years in the Army and served with elite Special Forces, Special Operation units and Intelligence. Terry retired as a Major. He went on to become a Corporate Consultant for special operations, counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism.
Terry co-authored the definitive book: Delta, America's elite counter-terrorist force , available on Amazon.
Terry is currently retired and lives in Kansas with his wife, Debbie.