Battle of Chu Pong Massif. Central Highlands, near Cambodian Border.
My dad fought in Vietnam. He was a Crew Chief on a gunship for the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 1st Air Cavalry Division. He was in county from February 1966 to 1967.
His unit was “A” Troop, which was the reconnaissance troop for the squadron. In particular, he was part of the weapons platoon for the Troop (i.e. gunship platoon).
Here he is servicing his helicopter:
It was a Huey A-Model with dual M60′s on each side mount along with a rocket mount. He and the door gunner had M60′s slung from the roof of the helicopter by bungee straps.
Since they were the reconnaissance arm, they would fly first thing in the morning and at the end of the day (along with whatever else happened during the day). The way he explained it to me, he and the door gunner would sit looking out over the skids with a smoke grenade. They would come in low and fast looking for signs of activity. This often consisted of seeing footprints at river/creek crossings and evidence of turned over dirt. If they saw something, they would drop the smoke grenade, then the pilot would circle back and they would make gun runs. If they stirred up a particular large ant nest of activity, they would call for the Blues. The Blues were the organic infantry platoon with the squadron. If activity was discovered to be even more substantial, then the regiment would send in additional ground forces.
This was the normal daily routine.
March 30, 1966.
This is a day my Dad says he will never forget.
On this day, enemy activity was discovered and a decision was made to insert the Blues to get a prisoner. This decision was made even though the reconnaissance showed a large enemy force.
The initial insertion went as planned, but as soon as they were on the ground, all hell broke loose. It was apparent that they were completely outnumbered and surrounded.
Intense fighting took place while the squadron tried to extract the troopers on the ground.
Below is part of the after action report:
The platoon was instructed to withdraw to the LZ for extraction, but while doing so the enemy forces, conservatively estimated at Battalion strength, commenced firing at the platoon from hidden fortified positions. The platoon was quick to realize the necessity to fragment. The platoon leader, Captain John S. Sabine IV, was wounded during the early moments of contact and instructed his platoon to move to the LZ, leaving him if he slowed down its withdrawal. The Troop’s weapons ships (my dad was in the weapons platoon) were quick to diagnose the situation and make countless passes over the enemy positions in an attempt to relieve pressure on the Blue platoon as it gradually and painfully fought its way to the LZ. Several of “A” Troop’s weapon ships nearby, hovered over the ground troopers, absorbing tremendous volumes of enemy fire while the ships expended their basic load into the enemy positions. On several occasions, after having expended their entire basic load of rockets and machine gun ammunition, the pilots and crew resorted to the use of side arms and M-16 rifles, remaining on station, in an attempt to assist the overpowered Blue platoon.
Several aircraft were lost and it was a terrible day all around. How any of the men on the ground made it out alive and how any aircraft remained flying is simply a miracle.
But sadly, 14 men from my dads squadron did not make out alive.
When I was a kid (1984 or so), we visited the Vietnam Memorial. I remember my dad searching for his fallen comrades. He looked in the book, found the panel, then I remember him tracing the names with his fingers, tears in his eyes.
Below is a list of 1/9th losses on that day in March, way back in 1966. Each one has a story, and I wish I knew them to tell them. Maybe one day.
PFC John D. Jackson
“A” Troop Losses:
Cpt Burton A “Skip” Blanton
Cpt John Shaw Sabine, IV
SSG James W. Grady
SSG Dorse Riggs
SGT Raymond C. Robinson
SP4 James M. Arbuthnot
SP4 Howard O. Wright, Jr.
PFC Paul S. Ashline
PFC Robert J. Di Reda
PFC David L. McConnaughey
“B” Troop Losses:
WO Tyrone W. Hisey
WO Clyde L. Norvelle, Jr.
PFC L. V. Thomas, Jr.
Thank you for your sacrifice. My thanks will never be enough. Amazing men, everyone.
My Dad is alive and well and works for the National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Ga. He gives amazing tours, ask for him if you are in the area.