"On the morning of 27 November 1967, I was in a perimeter deep in enemy territory as directed by the 5th Special Forces. We had been in contact continuously and had called for an emergency extraction. The extraction was to be from a position west of Dak To, deep in the jungles out of range of supporting artillery. The unit to be extracted was an 80 man force that had been inserted the day previous. We had two killed and four wounded the previous day. An aircraft from the 189th Aviation Company had attempted to extract the wounded the previous evening and had received twelve hits with the Aircraft Commander (AC) receiving multiple serious wounds requiring evacuation and the pilot receiving on leg wound. The aircraft received battle damage of sufficient magnitude to require major repair work. The attempted extraction was preceded by a close air strike by an A-1E aircraft controlled by a FAC. The jungle canopy was too thick to permit even limited observation from more than 500 feet actual altitude. The 80 man force was unable to move from the bomb crater in the midst of 120 foot trees where it was pinned down at the time of the extraction. The unit was running low on ammunition and had run out of water. The situation was critical. I saw the flight from the 189th Avn. Co. arrive. They began an orbit out of sight from my position. By this time six more of the 80 man force were wounded. Sporadic fire was being received from three quadrants. Light mist surrounded the area which I later found out would force the rescuing aircraft to use a twisting route to reach the LZ which was invisible from altitude as it was extremely small and surrounded by jungle.

Upon arrival MAJ Sanders made contact with this unit and requested smoke. He began a low level orbit to check for enemy troops, and to locate the LZ. He saw our smoke coming out of what appeared to be the middle of the jungle but later proved to be our hole in the jungle made by a bomb crater. It did not appear to me to be large enough to permit a helicopter to land. I later found that it allowed two foot clearance for the blade and the tail could be jockeyed down through the canopy. We continued to report firing and the four gunships with CPT Hooper, WO Jones, WO Durham, and WO Ginac as aircraft commanders, WO Butler, Wo Ochotsky, WO Kreutz, and WO Webster as pilots, PFC Leburn, SP5 Shooships, SP4 Tipton, and SP5 Schenk as crew chief/gunners, and SP4 Buchanan, SP5 Tillman, SP4 Williams, and SP4 Reigadas as gunners began firing runs to relieve pressure from our encircled troops. The firing runs were made at extreme low level to enable observation of effect as well as to evaluate the threat. From my position it appeared that they grazed the tree tops. These low level runs were made with the full knowledge that a well armed and determined enemy was at that position. The firing passes were of such extreme accuracy and brought so close to our defending friendly troops that the threat of being overrun was virtually eliminated. The gun ships continued to fly low level passes to draw fire and thereby locate the hidden enemy. The mission commander continued to orbit above the site. MAJ Sanders directed the first UH-1H in. The LZ was again marked by smoke but because of its small size and the high jungle canopy could not be located by the "slick". MAJ Sanders dropped to approximately 500 feet absolute altitude and orbited over the ringed LZ, calmly directing the slicks into the LZ. I shall describe the approach as I saw it from the ground. This description must be said for every other approach and departure. The slick came from the East as all other quadrants, in spite of a tremendously accurate volume of fire from the gun ships, were occupied by an emplaced enemy who was delivering a significant amount of small arms and automatic weapons fire throughout the engagement. The approach was through wisps of fog above the tree tops. In all landings except that of the C&C ship direction and vectoring was received from the C&C ship. The smoke from the LZ was barely visible. As it was invariably thinned after having risen 100 to 120 feet through the canopy. The ship arrived over the LZ which was a bomb crater that had destroyed some small trees. Some demolition had created a frying pan effect with the handle pointed west so the aircraft had to come to a hover at the LZ at 120 feet facing east, perform a pedal turn and snake down into the LZ. All members of the crew were actively assisting the A/C by directing turn left or right to clear the tail rotor and main rotor blades through the confined column down to a one foot hover. (The ground was badly contoured by the bomb and to set down the skids would result in loss of the aircraft). While the A/C and pilots held the aircraft at a hover the rescued personnel jumped aboard the aircraft. It should be remembered that the area was so confined the 24" movement to either flank or 48" movement forward would result in a blade strike and perhaps the loss of the aircraft. The piloting in this situation was flawless. All the while fire from tree quadrants was being received in the LZ. The A/C take off was completely vertical for 120 feet then movement forward. The gunships placed fire on the flanks of the approach and departing UH-1H helicopters and through their complete disregard of their personal safety these crews made it possible, when no other system could make it possible, to extract the surrounded forces. The extraction was completely successful. All of the live and wounded were extracted although the dead could not be reached because of the intense enemy fire in the area. Not one troop carrying helicopter received any damage through the fantastic team performance of the crews in the seemingly impossible LS, and through the amazingly close fire support furnished by the gunships who continued to operate at tree top level. As the last lift was completed a company sized force of NVA was seen massing 900 meters to the north of the position in an attempt to overrun the ground forces. Had this lift not been completed it is most probable that the entire friendly ground force would have been destroyed.

The slick crew were AC's WO Borders, WO Benton, 1LT Schmidt, WO Rice, WO Dyer, WO Baker, WO Howard, WO Peters (119th AHC). The Piltots were WO Thybony (119th AHC), WO Fish, 1LT Heslin (119th AHC). 1LT Lindsey, WO Sonier, WO Swint, WO Sparks, WO Brooks. The Crew Chiefs were SP4 Hayes, SP5 Sullivan, SP 4 Miller, SP5 Springberg, SP5 Reimer, SP5 Kock, SP4 Ralph E. McJunkin (119th AHC), SP4 James M. Pyland (119th AHC). The C&C ship & mission commander was MAJ Sanders, ass't mission commander and pilot MAJ Leva, crew chief SP5 Alden, and gunner SP4 King. Gunner SP4 Desper, SP4 Hebert, SP4 Groves, SP4 Goff, SP5 Karnes, SP4 Cheek, SP4 Charles M. Corbet (119th AHC), Nicholas Postolites (119th AHC).

In view of the extreme danger of the mission, the difficulties presented by the landing zone and the constant hazard of enemy fire I strongly recommend the mission commander and C&C ship AC MAJ Sanders for the Silver Star, the ass't mission commander and C&C pilot MAJ Leva for the DFC, all other AC's for the DFC the remainder of the crew for the Air Medal with "V" device."

John J. Holland
Cpt. Inf.
FOB #2
Hornet Company Commander