Rescue Of Two Americans From the 57th AHC Huey
Jack, reading your history, Phase II, on May 6th I saw the piece about the rescue of the survivors from the 57th AHC. I rescued Spec Lea and Capt. Keller in the afternoon and then rescued the two American Advisors from Polei Kleng that night.
We received word that a possible radio communication had been made with a crewmember who had been aboard the 57th AHC UH-1H that was shot down on April 24th. It had been reported that there were no survivors of that aircraft when it was shoot down because the aircraft burned and no one reported seeing any survivors. This aircraft from the 57th had just picked up rescued advisors from Dak To II that were rescued earlier in the day from Tan Canh by John Paul Vann's aircraft. The two American's were Capt. Keller and Specialist Lea who had evaded south from the crash site to a Montagnard village. (Jack you wrote about this in Phase II Border Camps May 6th and it is in Dick Hites story -- 57th Helicopter Tail Number 69-15715 -- in the Memories Book).
Our Cobra gunship, Undertaker lead, received instructions that we go in and check the area out to see if we could determine if it was a trap or the real thing. After flying over the area I decided it was real. I briefed Undertaker Lead of what we were going to do and hoping my instincts were correct, we quickly landed in the Montagnard village. The landing site was in thick jungle and I didn't think Undertaker Lead could see us. Two American soldiers came running out to our LOH-06. As they were climbing into the LOH one of the Undertaker Cobra Gunships providing gun cover came crashing through the jungle at my three o'clock, landing about 25 meters from us. Since no one is allowed to talk on the operational channel when an LOH-6 is working on the deck except for the LOH crew, we had no idea what was happening out-side the village. --- This SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) was decided on because LOH-6's were lost in the jungles when they could not communicate with their guns because others were talking on the radio. ---
The Undertaker gunships that were receiving fire - and one of them was shot down -- were communicating on another radio frequency while we were rescuing the two Americans so we were unaware of there situation. As we lifted off with the two Americans, the second LOH-6 that had been on stand by came in and rescued the two Undertaker gun pilots.
Sounds like the 7/17th Cav had their "shit together" for this mission. I do not remember where we took the two survivors for debriefing and medical aid. But as they departed the LOH, one of the survivors grabbed me on the shoulder, kissed my helmet and gave me a spoon he had used in his 12 days of surviving and evading. I believe it was Capt. Keller. - Jim
Jim Stein <JimS@palecek.com>
USA - Friday, August 15, 2003 at 11:40:43 (PDT)