The Battle of Kontum
I'm afraid any memories of mine would be insignificant compared to what I have read on your site. I would watch you guys fly out every day and wondered what kind of day you were going to have. Towards the end of my tour, I saw the OH-6's being sling loaded back in and that gave me some idea. On my final trip to Kontum, I saw the fire teams working the sides of QL14. I don't remember whether the APC's were still stationed on the sides of the road every half mile on the highway or not. Entering Kontum was like entering a bunker. Everyone was hard at work preparing. It was a massive change from the other times I had been there. We knew something bad was going to happen. I'm just glad I wasn't there for it.
After I got back I was starved for news of the action. My Grandmother had a welcome home party for me. I remember telling an uncle who had served in WWII of what was about to happen. He told me, not to worry about those people and that I would never see or hear from them again. That really angered me, but he was right. He also added, "Don't vote for McGovern!"
One tragedy that really stands out in my mind is the last flight of Chickenman. The unit (3rd Aviation Co.) was flying in formation into Holloway and one of the tail UH-1's hit the power lines on QL14 and went down. We were all watching at HHC 52nd CAB and it was a tragedy of the same proportion as watching the Challenger explode. As I recall, no one was killed, but they were banged up pretty good. They only had days left in country. I went up to Holloway Tower and it was pandemonium.
I remember the times that they sent the nighthawk, "Cougar Revenge" up after a probe of our perimeter. The siren would blow and we should have gotten into the bunkers, but we always got on top or sat on the water tower. Somehow we knew that Charlie wasn't going to hit us with you guys up there. I think that the Air Force base was a different story. Those guys paid for their good meals and concrete barracks with a periodic visit by 122's. Every once in awhile we would get to see the snakes work out. To us it was the 4th of July.
As I said in my post on your site, I really came to love the Montagnards. These were, from my perspective, a quiet, loving people who cared little for the trappings of civilization. When I left, I had a maverick M14 and a M2 carbine that I had traded a CAR 15 for. I asked my buddies to take them up to Kontum and give them to the "yards", knowing that they were going to need them. Most of the photographs that I took of the native peoples of Vietnam were of the Montagnards. I have a couple of photos, before the battle, of the families who guarded Kontum airfield which I have attached. The little Montagnard girl actually has a baby on her back.
I see that you managed to get the roster of the 344th ADD. I remember a couple of the people, Greg Pace and Major Hardy.
Again, thanks for the great website and the time that you have invested in it! Now I know what happened from several perspectives.
Dan Thomas <firstname.lastname@example.org>
USA - Tuesday, March 21, 2006 at 19:59:54 (PST)