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D Troop 1st Squadron 10th Cavalry

(Shamrock)

24 August 1968

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Duc Lap Special Forces Camp

 Bob Young crashed between the shacks and the tall trees at the gate.

"Coutesy of Bob Chaison"
 

The Battle of Duc Lap was a battle where North Vietnamese forces attempted to overrun a United States Army Special Forces Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG)  camp between August 22–24, 1968.

Primary service involved, US Army
Quang Duc Province, II Corps, South Vietnam
Location, Duc Lap
Description: This was day three of the battle. The NVA made another major effort to smash the camp just before dawn. Their ground assault was timed to take advantage of the temporary break in air cover between the night time Air Force gunships and the daylight fighter bombers. The NVA attacked from the north hill and seized four bunkers on the main hill. Another NVA company approached from the southwest. They were stopped within grenade range of the main trench works. Air strikes were directed on the captured positions. When a napalm strike hit a CIDG company, they panicked and raced up the hill. The SF and Australians worked hard and order was restored by 0930H. The fight had been expensive for both sides. Things looked very grim for the allies. At 1000H SP5 Class Childs and LLDB medical SGT Le Van Lai, on their own, attacked and destroyed several NVA hard points. Caribou aircraft parachuted pallets of ammo and supplies. Two companies from the 5th Mobile Strike Force at Nha Trang airmobiled west of the camp during the morning. They moved through open fields and past piles of dead NVA. They were able to enter the camp through the breach blown by the NVA. Minutes later the 2d Mobile Strike Force was also able to enter the camp. Counterattack plans were made. At 1430H a Nung CIDG company attacked the NVA held bunkers and the Montagnard CIDG companies attacked directly up the NVA held hill. After two hours of hard fighting and great individual heroism, most of the northern hill was taken. One Montagnard commander Y-Gaul Nie was especially inspiring until he was killed by a grenade. The CIDG units hit the NVA positions from the top and sides as they cleared the hill. By late evening the NVA had either been pushed out of the camp or killed after five bloody hours. No prisoners were taken. The CIDG, nervous over several early encounters with bypassed NVA snipers, simply shot any wounded as they advanced. Duc Lap was a salutary Special Forces victory, achieved entirely by internal Special Forces lead mobile strike force CIDG units without outside infantry assistance. Casualties were KIA: 6 SF, 1 LLDB, 37 CIDG, 20 civilians; MIA: 9 CIDG; WIA: 13 SF, 7 LLDB, 80 CIDG. NVA losses were 303 by body count and probably much higher. The major camp weapons at the start of the battle were two 105mm howitzers, four 81mm mortars, one 4.2 mortar, and two 106mm RRs.
 

The source for this information was Green Berets at War P:205+
 

 

Bob/ Cyclic Chaison's  Account: 

The flight of inserting a "Special Mike Force" to help the Duc Lop SF camp was destine for trouble.

The composition was twelve aircraft and we Shamrocks were "sucking hind tit" on the flight.
Lead was a few 4th Avn birds, followed by few 155 Avn and us bringing up the rear. Mike Miller and "Ole" were chalk 10, me and Bob Teasly chalk 11 and poor Cpt Bob Young & David Summerlin chalk 12.

From my vantage point I could not believe my eyes. First revelation was what is happening; we
were systematically being eaten up with "RED" tracers. FRIENDLY FIRE !!! Our briefing said
nothing about heavy AA to be expected. I remember them saying expect "light-to-moderate"
ground fire. When Mike Miller and Lt Olson were engulfed in red tracers; I keyed up "Ole you are receiving
fire". Then he echoed the plight! As an FNG to have been decimated that first time out; I'm surprised
he ever set foot in an airc
raft again.

Next in line for the decimation was me and Bob Teasly. I stood the Huey on her tail and totally forgot
about Bob Young behind me. One could hear the bullets ripping by and getting closer. As they hit our
rotor tips, I went from 20 Knots 40degrees nose high to laying her on her side and kicking a shit load of
petal. She was singing/growling about the extreme out or trim and 3500 ft per min rate of decent. Bastards
gave up on me and went after "Tail-End-Charlie"; poor chalk 12. The whole time my CE and gunner were
shooting like hell and popped smoke. They complained that they were having troubles due to my erratic flight. I pulled out of my fall and inserted some shook up troops to the damn road at low level. My next fear was having a mid-air with one of the remaining 10 aircraft.

Like a surprise party there was a pair of Air Force F-100's helping provide cover. One of the "Starch-Wings" calmly came up on GUARD and said he was hit, spiraling in and on fire. His wing man reaffirmed he was indeed in deep shit. I'll never forget it. He calmly said "Well George I'm gonna punch out"; I would have been screaming my fool head off! I looked around for a chute and thought I saw it. I take off West heading after the chute to pick him up. The a "shit-hook" comes up on GUARD and he says he has him in sight. I say "NO WAY" I got him in sight. Well.... I'm a little concerned here now. Are we going to have a mid-air with a CH-47 or one of the many Hueys that are flitting here and yonder. I don't see a CH-47, nor Hueys and I'm still chasing what I think is the damn Air Force jock. I finally get up to what I have been chasing and would you believe I'm going after the damn canopy of the downed F-100! Just to the North and East of us there is a big ass explosion of the F-100 auguring straight into the ground. What an exciting afternoon! Two Hueys down in flames and now an F-100. The Chinook pilot says he's coming out with the Air Force pilot; I say "Great Thank God". I was so mortified that I had been risking life and limb chasing a damn piece of Plexiglas; I didn't say shit back to him, when he asked.

I turned East again and went to the first burning aircraft and the was nobody home at that crash site. That was the 155 Avn bird that went down first. Next I turned toward Duc Lap camp where Cpt Young had crashed. I asked on guard if anyone had gotten to them yet? The reply set me on my ear; "The Oscar crew are gone". I was asking about survivors to be retrieved. That response told me they were dead... I sadly turned tail and headed back to BMT to refuel and check out why my blades were whistling dixie. Till today I still see that damn piece of Plexiglas, doing a slow and easy "falling leaf" display, just like a parachute floating down from the heavens. 

On the flight back to BMT we hear two more crippled Hueys have to precautionary land/ auto to the road south of town. Me being tied up "chasing windmills", I don't get to save anyone crash landed on the way back to the staging area. Post flight damage report was rather mild considering we flew through a quad 50 encounter. We had clean 50 cal holes in the blade and all indication they were a few feet forward of our radio and battery compartment. So the 50's were within a yard of entering the forward cabin area. Thank God for small favors. So the count was rather heavy for light  to moderate ground fire. Two Huey's down in flames, two on road with precautionary, and one F-100 most spectacular crash I have ever seen!

Thank the US Army for training us as well as the did. They knew we were getting into deep shit and prepared us mighty good...  


Bob/ Cyclic Chaison
Shamrock 31
 

David Summerlin's Account:
 

I remember parts of that day like it was yesterday day and part (crash/post crash) is a fog at best. The morning of August 24, 1968 I had been in country about one month and was front seat on a snake but can't recall AC--maybe Tom Demos. Think that afternoon the battalion commander took the front seat to use as C&C ship. I was in the tent playing cards with 3 or 4 guys--Jim McCollum (spelling slightly off I think) who I went through flight school with was one of them. Cpt Young came in in a hurry and asked if anyone wanted to fly slicks that afternoon-sounded like fun to me so I volunteered. Last thing McCollum said was "don't get your ass shot off".
 
First flight in was uneventful though Young cautioned me to stay on the controls in case he took a round--that made me realize I wasn't a tourist. Second time around we were shot to shit as reported above - seem to recall the tracer rounds coming up looking like basketballs. We took some rounds in the console between me and Young and electrical smoke was so thick you couldn't see out. Crew chief was on a skid giving directions and Young would kick it out of trim to occasionally get a visual. Saw him in the hospital in Na Trang later and he said we were hit again at 100-150 feet which is when he yelled "no collective" and I pulled-seems like we had started rolling to one side before crashing. Apparently my face went into the instrument panel  (I knew before taking off the seat belt lock was defective) and that sliced open my left eye and probably concussed me somewhat but I recall fire and pulling some ARVN's out-some dead I think.
 
I would love to get a list of gunship, slick and scout pilots and crews and rifle platoon members in the summer of 1968 if such is available as I just don't recall a lot of the names. Also didn't know about the Presidential Unit Citation-nice to hear.
 
David Summerlin


Mike Millers's Account:

Having arrived in Pleiku on 20 August 68, I was assigned to D Troop and flew, 23 August, in the back seat of a Huey to Bam Me Thuot . The flight on 24 August was my first combat flight in country and I was Bob Olson’s PP (Peter Pilot) that day. I talked to Bob a couple of years ago and he remembers well that day and that flight. As I recall 1LT Olson was the lift platoon leader and flew lead on this mission. Not sure if we were a Shamrock flight of 4 or 5 but I do recall Bob Olson being very vocal about the flight lead from the 4th Aviation Battalion leading the flight at small arms altitude. Our second sortie Bob was even more vocal about flying the same flight ground path and altitude. It was on our second trip that CPT Young was shot down and I remember well the feelings I had with my first combat mission as I saw CPT Young’s bird emitting smoke as it went down. We made other trips but not as flight of 14-16 Hueys! We (Shamrocks) completed the mission as our own flight, and flew down and back at tree top level [talk about adrenalin]. I do not recall the names of the CC and DG on our aircraft but needless to say, when that mission was over, I was convinced I was not returning home alive.

Mike Miller

Shamrock 48

August 68-69

Bob Young's Account:

 

I don't remember much about V.N. but I do remember that day. I guess I have blocked most of it out. I don't remember names until I talk with someone a little while. We were very lucky that day to live to talk about it. I remember being hit and going down. I didn't have a collective, all I had was the cyclic. I tried to get to the base camp but landed in the wires, Good thing I didn't make it as I understand the bad guys had over run it by then. I remember hitting hard tail rotor first as I was flaring it as much as I could. Next thing I knew was a helicopter was landing close to us. I made it to them said we had 4 Americans to get, I don't know if they were on all ready or not. Next thing we were at the Hospital. A bad day but a lucky one.


 

     

     
  Cpt Bristol-reading-book. Camp gate in background and blues
seeking shade while on standby. August-Sept 1968

"Coutesy of Bob Chaison"

 

 

 

 

Bob Chaison and a gun pilot flying peter-peter.  This photo was days before Duc Lap. Reason being; word came down from Div./Army "no snake drivers
to fly slicks or scouts"! The loss of Dave Summerlin was too much of a loss to the gun platoon. Too highly trained of a pilot to "sand-bag" with the slicks. You can see what the Army thought of slick drivers. Hi Hi

"Coutesy of Bob Chaison"

 

 

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