Van Ky Chuyen
AH-1Gs at Dien Binh Bridge
Jack, In your "Aircraft Losses" map, I see that just one AH-1G logged as a "loss" near the north end of Dien Binh bridge, about 4 miles south of Tan Canh. As far as I knew, it is not in accordance with what I had seen then. There were two, not one, AH-1G left at Dien Binh Bridge's south end, which baffled me until now.
When the column of NVN tanks rumbled into Tan Canh, around 2 AM of 24 April 1972 no matter how little a town it was, maybe some crew had lost their ways and pressed on south, where no significant targets existed for their guns in the immediate vicinity of Tan Canh. The town locates at the junction of Highway 14, which runs north to south, and a road I can't remember its name now, which runs westward. A section of Highway 14 is the main street of the town. This main street links with the westward road at two junction roads 100m apart, one goes northwest, the other due west, they link again just 100m later, forming a triangle block, which housed the town's theater and a dozen stores.
I heard LAW M72s being fired at the advancing tanks, maybe by 42nd's troops who were on leave but wise enough to bring with them their weapons, with no known results, when those tanks passed the town's MP post. By dawn, when bomber-jets appeared, things went wild. Exulted at the sight of enemy tanks running about on the streets below, these jets rained bombs on those plumb targets. None hit home. Instead, whole blocks of town houses were leveled, others set ablaze. About 7 o'clock, people who survived that initial carnage poured out of their shelters with white sheets, religious flags to distinguish themselves from embattled sides. Remarkably, the guns all stopped for this exodus. Of course, this column of refugee ran south, toward Kontum, where their elected government sat.
On their way south, the refugee met several times by NVN troops who laid ambush along highway 14. Although seemingly uninterested in trying to prevent people going farther, those troops did block the road at places with their sentries. Those attempts were repulsed by a pair of Cobra gun ships, which flown very low in close support by both side of the road, strafed enemy positions with their awesome ordnances on board. Thanks to their intervention, the people broke through all those interdictions. During that melee, I did not recall that pair of Cobras being hit by enemy fire, or at least I thought so at the time.
Therefore, I was really amazed when two days later I found them parking (not crash-landing) close together some hundred feet at the south end of Dien Binh bridge (about 10 meters from Highway 14, on the west side of the road) in apparently good condition, almost perfectly intact with no observable damages. I was astonished further when NVN did not post any sentry over that valuable trophy, although they had troops in houses nearby, because I could freely do anything I wished with these fallen warbirds. I had climbed into their cockpits, extracted their remaining rockets from the tubes and laid them around to form a "HELP" sign on the ground nearby. I thought of demolishing them by putting grenades in their tanks with safety pins removed using rubber cords in their places. The fuel would made the cord snapped later when I was already away, avoid any suspicion on me. However, I failed to procure the grenades and dropped the idea when more NVN troops moved in the area.
Van Ky Chuyen
Van Ky Chuyen <firstname.lastname@example.org>
USA - Saturday, February 22, 2003 at 12:04:19 (PST)