61st Assault Helicopter Company

Mid-Night Scramble

Gordon Wax (Spec 5 - crew chief #132 Starblazer)

I don’t recall the time, during 1969 - not sure what month or season other than I know it was not monsoon, but one night the guns were scramble out to the south west toward An Khe to support a LRRP team who were being chased by the NVA. The gunship team was lead by WO Peter Swanz, co-pilot WO Nagey in my ship. I would be interested in filling this story out some with others who remember it from their perspective.

Anyway, we got on site and flew up and down the valley in which the LRRPs were located. They whispered into their radio that we were flying passed them on each pass but they were under canopy and we could not make visual contact with their flashlights. I think they did not want to use the strobe because of the amount of light given off. The gun and slick teams stayed on site until we were getting low on fuel. Mr. Swanz dispatched the remainder of the flight back to English while arranging for a relief flight which was then being scrambled from English.

Our single ship stayed on site, continuing to look for the LRRPs while the relief teams flew out. We were able to find the LRRP team then we handed them off to the relief teams who made the extraction. At that point Pete decided that we did not have fuel to return to English. So he headed toward Phu Cat AFB, hoping to get there before we exhausted the fuel.

As that part of the flight developed, he decided we did not have fuel to get to Phu Cat so he looked for a MACV outpost at the mouth of the valley. The gunner and I pulled our M-60s off line and wrapped about 300 rounded around the barrel, got smoke and WP, and our personal weapons ready if we had to make a night jungle landing. We talked about setting up a defensive position away from the chopper where ever and how ever it landed; if we could. Mr. Swanz and Nagey finally spotted the outpost and we landed with just a few pounds of fuel left.

As we jumped up and down pounding each other on the back and hollering, a MACV advisor came running out (with the low level run) shouting that the outpost was being mortared and that we had better get under cover. We followed him into the bunker where we spent the rest of the night shooting the breeze and dozing off.

The next day a slick brought a 55 gallon drum of JP-4 for refueling. We then headed for Phu Cat to really fill up on fuel. The AFB always had better PX food, so we ate before heading back to English. The last of the flight finally got back to home base but just a bit later than everyone else.

That scramble was just one of a bunch of times that the Starblazers and Lucky Stars stayed in there until the last man was out. If anyone remembers that mission I would appreciate adding their remembrances to help fill the story out more completely. While we flew as a team I always felt alone with just the crew in my ship.