61st Assault Helicopter Company

Fire Base 173rd Airborne Contents From VOL. 1, NO. 9 11 NOV 1968

Pilot Braves Typhoon To Save LRRP Team

Sp4 Adrian Acevedo

BONG SON- A Helicopter Pilot from the 61st Assault Helicopter Company recently braved typhoon winds and rain to make a dramatic rescue of a 173d Airborne Brigade Long Range Patrol which was being tracked with dogs by a North Vietnamese Platoon. Team F of the 74th Infantry Detachment (LRP) had been, searching for three reported NVA base camps in the northern An Lo Valley, an enemy stronghold 20 miles north of Bong Son when they detected enemy movement to their rear.
"We set up in a hasty ambush," said Sergeant Peter G. Mossman of Stamford Conn, leader of the six-man combined American Vietnamese team. "My rear security man Specialist 4 Chase Riley of Wayne NJ, killed their point man and two others fled. We searched the body, captured a Chinese bolt-action rifle and moved out about 150 meters." "We stopped and again and heard movement behind us, talking, and dogs barking," continued Mossman. "They must have been trying to track us with dogs and we couldn't get anyone on the radio, so we tried to break contact by moving as fast as possible."

Getting Closer

During the next three hours, the NVA force kept closing with the team. The Paratroopers however finally made radio contact with elements of the Americal Division and told them their situation. The Americal passed the word on to the 173d. But, the team was told, that no helicopters could fly in the typhoon which had been building up for a week, and to continue on their escape and evasion course.
Meanwhile, the decision was made to send four helicopters anyway in case the weather let up. A team ship piloted by Warrant Officer Sam M. Kyle of Castalion Springs Tn, a command and control ship piloted by Warrant Officer Dany Pennington of Crossett Ark and two gunships were sent to the rescue. The LPR's were notified and headed for the closest suitable pick upzone about 500 meters away while the weather and visibility got progressively worse.
"When we got to the pick-up zone, the NVA were practically breathing down our necks," said Mossman. "They couldn't see us though because the visibility was down to about 25 meters. We couldn't see the choppers either, but we could hear them, so we just kept signaling with a strobe light and just hoped."

No Sign of Team

Pennington reconned the area but couldn't locate the team, so he moved out to make room for Kyle. By this time, the team had made contact with the choppers, and were told that the gunships were leaving because the ceiling was so low they couldn't bring suppressive ground fire.
"I made the decision to stay and try to get them out," said Kyle, "because I'd sure hate to be in their position and have the choppers leave me. I figured this was their only chance because the weather probably wouldn't clear up for a couple of days, so I just kept circling lower and lower until I finally spotted their light."

Shocked Me

"I thought all the choppers had left," recalled Mossman, "so I was really shocked when I saw that beautiful ship loom up suddenly out of the rain. It took about two seconds for us to pile onto the helicopter in spite the trees, clumps of bushes, eight-foot elephant grass and the bouncing of the ship as it tried to keep steady in the storm."
"They sure looked happy when they got on," remembered Kyle. "Afterwards, one of the Vietnamese who couldn't speak too much English, came up to me with a big smile on his face and motioned for me to come and have a beer with him. That sort of made it all worthwhile."

For more stories from the 173rd Fire Base go to http://hometown.aol.com/e46piodet/fb173a.htm
This story used by permission of the 173rd Fire Base Web Master.