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Roland "Rollie" Booth  

Memories from the CAV

Jack,

Enjoyed your website entitled "Battle of Kontum" .... brings back many
memories of my time spent in the Central Highlands shortly before the
Eastertide invasion when all hell broke loose. Certainly our paths had
to cross but probably didn't know it at the time. What unit did you
serve in?

I was a 67N20 and served in four different units during my 1971 -1972
tour. One of those units (my third) was A troop 7/17 Cavalry (Ruthless
Riders), arriving there a day after Christmas 1971. A Troop was then
located in Phang Rang until it returned to the states in March or early
April 1972 but, I remained in country , re-assigned to the 201st
Aviation Company (Red Barons) in Nha Trang sometime in March 72. Here I
crewed OH-58's until I deros'ed in July, and it was in this unit that I
met John Paul Vann one day on the flight line shortly before his death.


Assigned to A Troops Lift Platoon, sometime near the end of January or
first week Feb 1972, my huey crew was giving a mission to support the
American advisors at An Khe. While at An Khe we lived upstairs in the
"Green House", the old French building next to the runway, and when we
would approach our 25 hour intermediate inspection period we rotated
with another A 7/17 crew and headed to An Son, Lane Heliport, bunking at
our sister unit, C Troop 7/17 and also Squadron HQ 7/17th at Lane. Our
call sign was "Rook 34".

The head advisor at An Khe was an American colonel (I believe his name
was Col Cress but not really sure anymore) who impressed me as a John
Wayne type of guy, someone you would want by your side when the balloon
goes up. He always wanted us to low level, everywhere. Once on a return
flight from Pleiku to An Khe, however, he had us low level down
through the Mang Yang pass, something we all thought was very stupid.
Anyway, I made numerous trips up to "Chicken Man Ops" in Pleiku, CORDs
HQ in Pleiku, Kontum, Ben Het and other outposts in the tri-border area
during the month of Feb thru early Mar 1972.

Throughout our month + long stay in central highlands, we didn't really
know what the big picture was (that was true for my entire tour) but
based on what we saw from our various missions in the area and from
discussions with other crews we knew something was brewing and that if
not careful, you could get yourself shot down. In fact we had just
landed at Camp Holloway one afternoon when they slung loaded a Huey in
that had 51 cal holes from front to rear. I walked over and spoke with
the crew who were all OK but clearly changed men from the whole affair.
We were around the Kontum area that day when we heard their May Day call
as I remember. Seems to me they were heading back to Pleiku when they
were shot down.

One night in early Feb ( not certain of exact date) the Col called us
upstairs to his room in the greenhouse and gave us a night mission
consisting of looking for camp fires and shooting them up. Initially
we thought this was a silly mission and didn't give it too much
credence. Hell, we had flown many night missions up to this point and
had never seen any camp fires. Surely he must be kidding, we thought.

Two of our units Cobras were flown in to An Khe for the mission and we
would be fly CC, taking one advisor and his Vietnamese RTO. At dusk we
took off for our little venture, flying south-south east from An Khe
towards Binh Dinh province somewhere but really not sure anymore Within
half hour out we finally located a camp fire, than another and than we
could see camp fires as far as the eye could see. I believe you would
call this a "Target Rich Environment". This was no small force and I'm
sure, no coincidence that we found these camp fires where we did. I
began to wonder what else was going on that the advisors were aware of
that we didn't know.

Initially we let the two Cobras attack and after 30 minutes they were
low on ammo. That's when the advisor let us get in the action with our
M-60s. After twenty minutes or so we broke off too, and headed back to
An Khe to re-arm and call it a night. I never heard anything more about
that engagement so itís been a mystery ever since. Hopefully B-52 s were
brought in afterwards. But, if it was in Binh Dinh providence, this
was most likely the 3rd NVA division forces, the so called "Yellow Star
division", according to Dale Andrade's book on the Eastertide Battle.
Of course I don't know for sure but have always had an interest in
learning about the events that occurred in the Central Highlands during
the Eastertide battle. Hence, me finding your website.

Roland "Rollie" Booth <rboothjr@comcast.net>
Mechanicsburg,, PA USA - Tuesday, June 14, 2005 at 06:58:30 (PDT)

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