by CSM William Edge
|This operation sounded screwed up from the get go. It seems that
a helicopter pilot had reported that he had spotted a couple of radio antenna
wires strung between two trees out in the bush. The intelligence folks
had then decided that it had to mean there was an enemy radio station operating
there. So on that flimsy bit of deduction, my A Detachment was alerted
to mount an operation to the location and find the station, destroy it.
bring hack some hard evidence and every one would be happy. Having no say-so
in the matter, our team leader said, " Well let's get our act together
and go look".
It was my job to write up an operations order. using the famous 5 paragraph method shown in the manual. I wrote it up and named it Operation Plunder: No one on Detachment A 334 believed for a moment we would find anything; much less a radio station. We got the mission because it was in our AO (area of operations).
We laid on 15 helicopters to haul out troops and two Cobras for gun support. If we could squeeze 8 men in each Huey, we would have 120 men on the operation. The usual load was 7 men. but the strikers did not weigh nearly as much as 7 GIs with full rucksacks. I would go in on the first slick, but first we had to locate a place large enough to get three or four helicopters in at one time. Why? Because it gets damn lonely on the ground if you have to go in one by one. Especially if it does turn out to be a hot LZ. That means an opposed landing in an area where the folks on the ground are likely to greet you with all sorts rifle and machine gun fire. That has a tendency to put your entire day’s schedule out of whack. The suspense is in not knowing till you get there.
Things began to go wrong from the outset. We had scheduled to go in at first light, but the helicopters had been sent somewhere else on a priority mission. That meant someone else was in deep shit and needed them more than we did. So we were on hold. It was not until 1300 hours that we were told they were inbound to lift us out. It would take us 30 minutes to load and a 40 minute flight. That meant we would be on the ground only a few hours before it got dark. The strike force was prone to not want to do much fighting at night and I agreed with them 100%.
The jungle is no place to be wandering around at night. The lead pilot spoke with me and the team leader and made it very plain that he thought the whole thing was a wild goose chase. Besides, his flight had already had a very busy day. Well, I was not too enthused myself, but orders is orders, so we loaded up and took off' into the wild blue. After all, the Army promised Fun, Travel and Adventure, and we were