War Stories 2
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A DOG'S TALE
By: Flight Platoon SGT James McDonald
The Medevac call was, a Trooper Hit.... We
went out on a balls-to-the-wall, pick-up and wound
up with a Shepherd in a rigid litter that was
passing as a GI. It seems the Scout Dog had a head
wound, with an Abdominal Patch Bandage (APB) on like
a bonnet, and he looked like the 'Grandmother
Character' in Little Red Riding Hood.
Truth: You won't believe this. The handler had accidentally cut the
dog with a machete while they were tracking the enemy. No one had thought of
complications or SOP (Standing Operating Procedure) and, because of their
love of the dog, the Ground-Pounders wanted an immediate pick-up. The Patrol
Leader called in a WIA (Wounded in Action) Medevac request.
We picked up a Blue Max (Gunbird) escort, as the AO (Area of
Operations) was known to be periodically hot. After we boogied to the
coordinates, we established ground radio contact and called for the smoke.
The gunner identified the smoke color as 'goofy grape,' which was verified,
and, as the crew chief and gunner directed the AC (Aircraft Commander) down
through the canopy, I kicked off a semi-rigid litter through the hole in the
triple canopy jungle and started lowering the hoist.
On the ground, the patient was strapped in and hooked to the hoist
cable. I spoke to the pilot over the intercom: "Patient is hooked up, I'll
take the slack, and you take the weight" (which he did). "Okay....here he
comes....half-way to the skid....at the skid......(then, a long
pause)....the patient is half-way back down.......the patient is back on the
ground." The gunner and I had gotten the hell scared out of us, for as we
reached to grab the canvas handles of the litter of the hooded semi-rigid
litter, all I could see was the Biggest Rack of Teeth I'd ever seen in my
life. I think I pissed my Nomex pants. The pilot roared, "What the hell is
going on back there!" I said, "Tell them to un-hook the litter, and I'll
retrieve the cable and send it back down with the jungle penetrator for the
dog handler to ride up on so we can get that 'Big Bad Wolf' in the
Everything went smoothly, as the handler came up and sat in the
gunner's hell hole and helped in getting the patient inside the chopper. The
dog's handler apologized, saying that he didn't think there would be a
problem, considering he had sent the dog up in a secured litter. I said,
"Yes, like a barracuda in a rowboat." All went smoothly, after that, except
when we came over the FSB (Fire Support Base) wire and landed on the pad.
The battalion aid station's dog ran out to jump in the helicopter
because we sometimes gave him a ride to POL (Fuel point) and back. When we'd
drop off a patient, we'd let him get in a little flight time and return him
to the pad. This time, however, as he was in mid-jump to enter the aircraft,
he caught sight of that big "Rack of Grandma's Teeth" and was confronted
with a 'snarl' as he'd never heard. That dog did a 180 in mid-air, butt
scrunched, paws paddling and did a spectacular, medal-winning, side-roll
flip and hit the ground running, in the other direction. Not only did he get
points for his acrobatics, but he was graded highly for his swift sprint
back to the aid station. I never saw that dog again.
Ironically, the scout dog was an active duty Soldier, complete with
name, serial number, 201 file, as well as medical and dental records. I
think, as an SFC, I did outrank him. After all, he WAS a dog, but on this
run, he was a Priority 2 pickup, which graded him above Vietnamese Soldiers
and civilians. If they had only known - I'm sure Vietnamese American
relations would have been greatly affected.
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When was the last Medevac Mission?
By James M. McDonald
Although 26 March 1971 officially marked
the end of duties in Vietnam for the 1st Cavalry
Division, President Nixon's program of "Vietnamization"
required the continued presence of a strong U.S.
fighting force. The 2nd Battalion of the 5th
Regiment, 1st Battalion of the 7th Regiment, 2nd
Battalion of the 8th Regiment and 1st Battalion of
the 12th Regiment along with specialized support
units as "F" Troop, 9th Cavalry and Delta Company,
229th Assault Helicopter Battalion helped establish
the 3rd Brigade headquarters at Bien Hoa. Its
primary mission was to prevent enemy infiltration
and supply routes in War Zone D.
The 3rd Brigade was well equipped with helicopters from the 229th
Assault Helicopter Battalion and later, a battery of "Blue Max," aerial
artillery units and two air cavalry troops. A QRF (Quick Reaction Force) -
known as "Blue Platoons," was kept in support of any air assault action.
"Blues" traveled light, fought hard and had three primary missions; 1) to
form a "field force" around any helicopter downed by enemy fire or
mechanical failure; 2) to give quick backup to Ranger Patrols who made enemy
contact; and 3) to search for enemy trails, caches and bunker complexes.
"Blue Max," "F" Battery, 79th Aerial Rocket Artillery, was another
familiar aerial artillery unit. Greatly appreciated by troopers of the 1st
Cavalry, its heavily armed Cobras flew a variety of fire missions in support
of the operations of the 3rd Brigade. The pilots of "Blue Max" were among
the most experienced combat fliers in the Vietnam War. Many had volunteered
for the extra duty to cover the extended stay of the 1st Cavalry Division.
On 30 March 1972, General Giap of the North Vietnamese Army began
an offensive across the DMZ in a final attempt to unify the North and South.
By 03 April, these thrusts became a full-scale attack. More than 48,000 NVA
and VC troops hit Loc Ninh. Two days later, on 05 April, the North
Vietnamese threw massive assaults against An Loc and announced that by 20
April, An Loc would be the new capital of the South for the North
In April and May, stepped up bombings by B-52's helped blunt the
North Vietnamese invasion. Large groups of enemy soldiers were caught in the
open fields, and entire NVA units were destroyed. Helicopters and gunships
from the 3rd Brigade saw heavy action at An Loc and Loc Ninh, engaging heavy
armor as well as ground troops. The intensity of the fighting took a heavy
toll on them. For example, on 12 May, five Cobra gunships were destroyed in
less than 30 minutes by Chinese Surface-to-Air (SA-7) Missiles. On 15 May,
relief units, moving down Highway 13, broke through and helped lift the
bitter siege of An Loc.
The North Vietnamese were reeling from massive losses and began to
withdraw to their sanctuaries in Cambodia and Laos. Their spring offensive
aimed at cutting South Vietnam in half and capturing Saigon had been
decisively smashed. The helo air effort of the 3rd Brigade had turned in a
magnificent performance in support of the remaining advisors with the ARVN
During the period of 05 April through 15 May 1972, more than 100
T54 tanks, armored personnel carriers and anti-aircraft guns were knocked
out in the area around An Loc. By 31 March 1972, only 96,000 U.S. troops
were involved in the Vietnam combat operations. In less than two months
later, the last of the 1st Cavalry Division, the 3rd Brigade, began its
"Stand Down" in a phased withdrawal and was bought back to the United
States, completing the division recall on 26 June 1972, which had started
over a year earlier on 05 May 1971. The 1st Cavalry Division had been the
first army division to go to Vietnam and the last to leave. I want to find
out when was the "LAST MEDEVAC MISSION FLOWN IN RVN"?
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