Submitted by -1LT Robert Brewster, Headhunter 37, 3rd PLT Qui Nhon, Sep '70-Oct '71
Including Pleiku, LZ English and Phu Cat, I was also stationed with the 219th Aviation Company at Qui Nhon. This incident was probably late spring 1971 where we received a emergency mission request that there was a company of US types surrounded and in trouble. They needed immediate fire support. This call came into our platoon around midnight or just before. I was the only one able to fly. I took off from Qui Nhon in pitch black darkness, no moon and no horizon. Could not see a thing until my eyes adjusted to the dark and I headed for the "Crows Foot" or "Wed Foot" area in the mountains west of Phu Cat.
I had all my lights turned off in the aircraft including all the navigation lights on the outside. I could not even see the instrument panel so I flew by feel. I was petrified of being shot down for I knew that everyone could see and hear me. Both my legs were shaking so much that I could not hold them on the rudder pedals and the pedals were vibrating and rattling when I did put my feet on them. I made contact with the ground unit CO and attempted to locate their position on the ground. But, they were pinned down so low to the ground that they could not even give me a good fix. He said that they were as low as they could get but could hear me overhead. I saw ground fire and some flashes but could not make out who was who or from what direction. My ground CO told me that they were surrounded by a large enemy force and needed to have arty brought in.
I was in contact with the TOC and two fire bases. I had each fire base fire off a spotting round so that I could get a fix on the ground guys. As I remember this was not working well for it was so dark that all I could see was a big flash and not able to specifically pinpoint where our guys were located. It took probably 5-6 spotting rounds from each artillery position before I had any confidence that I knew where they were and could safely walk the arty to their position. As I gave each arty fire base a command to fire I would ask the ground commander where the round landed compared to their position. In only this way could I figure out direction and distance. Finally, I gave the order to fire for effect and that is when all hell broke loose. Artillery rounds were landing everywhere including on top of what I thought was the location of our guys. Usually fire for effect got five rounds per battery. I think there were twenty rounds that hit the ground. To my chagrin, I had three not two fire bases firing for effect. It was momentary terror and chaos. I kept calling my ground contact. No response. I called again. No response. Holy crap what did I just do? Then I received a call that they were OK. The bad guys had stopped shooting but our guys were not going to move anywhere until daylight. I stayed overhead until my fuel remaining was only enough to get back to Qui Nhon. I had been out there for three hours. I flew back to Qui Nhon, refueled and flew back to the AO where I stayed over head until daylight.
I can't recall if it was then or later in the morning that I spoke with the ground commander. He told me that the artillery rounds hit everywhere that they were supposed to hit. He also shared that when daylight came and they started to move out, they saw hundreds of enemy bodies laying everywhere around their positions.
What a night! Even though I flew 299 combat missions during my year, other than night watch over Pleiku, this would be my first and last night mission into total blackness.
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