August 7, 1967 – After Action Report
Documentation provided by Wayne “Crash” Coe
with help from Robert N. Gibeault
Note from Robert N. Gibeault
We are preparing to write the definitive story of the Ni Binh battle. I have interviewed E-4’s to general officers and have photo’s taken during the event. I am looking to interview any people that were involved that day, especially ‘Rat Pack’ crews, as they were not listed in the ‘Bauman Report’. I was wondering if you could create a hypertext link from the ‘report’ to my E-mail address. We hope to complete the project in the near future and will keep you posted.
187th Assault Helicopter Company Crews
Aircraft 930 UH-1 D Command and Control
Aircraft 819 UH-1D – Chalk one – Crashed 2nd insertion
Aircraft 932 UH-1D – Chalk 4 – Crashed on 2nd insertion
Aircraft 934 UH-1D – Chalk 6 – Crashed
Aircraft 829 UH-1D – Chalk 7 – to 24th Evac 5 WIA,
Aircraft 107 UH-1D – Chalk 2 (second lift) 1st lift, 3 or 5
Aircraft 854 UH-1D – Chalk 2 Hotel 3 WIA
Aircraft 817 UH-1D – Chalk 3, 2nd lift crashed .50 cal anti- aircraft fire
Aircraft 926 UH-1D – Chalk 8, to Phu Loi Red Xed
Aircraft 927 & 732 UH-1D
Aircraft 922 UH-1D – Chalk 4 Hotel 3 KIA/WIA
Aircraft 924 UH-1D – flew in after initial action from Tay Ninh Blackhawk 2
Legend For Above
Pertinent Excerpts from After Action Report for 7 August 1967 (Unclassified)
At 1200 hours, 7 August 1967, the 187th Assault Helicopter Company was released by the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division after conducting combat assaults. The company was to assume II FF Ready Reaction Force. On departing Fire Support Base Martha, the Air Mission Commander, Blackhawk 6, was notified by radio that he and his company were to report to the 4th Battalion, 12th Infantry, 199th Light Infantry Brigade. Blackhawk 6 reported to Thu Douc at 1230 hours to receive a briefing by a representative of the Battalion’s S-3 section. During this briefing, the concept of operation was explained, the locations of the pickup and landing zones given, and the estimate of one possible VC squad in the area was given. Blackhawk 6 asked about suppression and was told that there would be no preparation or suppression because friendlies were assumed to be there. Blackhawk 6 then went to the PZ to await the arrival of the rest of the company which landed at approximately 1300 hours. He then briefed the platoon leaders of the two airlift platoons and the gun platoon before returning to Thu Douc to pick up the command and control party, When they were aboard his aircraft, he took off, headed for the LZ, and called the lift ships out of the PZ.
Enroute to the LZ, the gun platoon leader, Rat Pack 6, Called Blackhawk 6 to inform him that there were numerous people on the ground near the LZ and that he saw numerous sampans loaded with people. Rat Pack 6 was approximately two minutes ahead of the C&C ship at this time. Blackhawk 6 then reported these observations to the Air Mobile Force Commander, Valiant Knight 6, said that there was no restriction on the civilians in the area from using the canals and that the people were probably friendlies. Valiant Knight 6 again specified that there would be no preparation or suppression. Rat Pack 6 had made a low pass over the area in the meantime and had observed people in camouflaged uniforms. He then asked Blackhawk 6 if there were ARVN’s in the area. This was relayed to Valiant Knight 6, but no answer was received from him. At this time eight lift ships were on one-half mile final to the LZ. Blackhawk 6 then reminded the flight to have visors down, harness locked, and to use negative suppression unless fired upon.
On very short final, chalk two (AC WO James R. Conde, PP Robert J. McMorine) reported, “Chalk two, receiving fire from three o’clock.” Almost simultaneously, all the aircraft reported receiving fire from all directions. The Rat Pack was on position to cover the flight and immediately began to fire rockets, mini guns , and 40 mm grenades into the area along the north and south side of the LZ. The lead helicopter began to depart the area immediately after letting off the troops. Chalks two and Four (AC WO Robert W. Seay, PP WO Samuel E. Jones) did not land but aborted with wounded aboard and went to Hotel 3. As the flight was departing the LZ, Chalk six, LT. Connelly, in aircraft 66-934, reported that his aircraft was badly hit and that he would have to land , then, almost immediately, he reported engine failure and entered autorotation at which time he also suffered the loss of hydraulics, His autorotation was successful into the nearest open area. Chalk seven , LT. Eshelman, followed his ship down and evacuated the crew, weapons, and radios. Chalk seven had been unable to land in the LZ, so he left his seven troops as a security force. However, in his rush to help get the crew out of the downed ship, one US enlisted man from the seven aboard LT. Eshelman’s ship was hit on the head by the still turning rotor blade of 66-934. He was evacuated along with the downed crew and the mortally wounded infantry company commander. Thus, Chalks one, three, five, six, and eight landed in the LZ and unloaded troops. Chalk Two, aircraft 66-854, had diverted to Hotel 3 with the pilot wounded in the elbow followed by Chalk four, aircraft 66-922, with two wounded infantry men aboard and numerous bullet holes in the ship. Chalk seven had departed for the 24th Surgical Hospital with five wounded aboard. Chalks one, three, five, and eight returned to the PZ. All eight aircraft had received hits but had remained in the LZ long enough to evacuate the wounded from the first lift. Chalk eight shut down in the PZ to assess damage. At this time , a message was received at Tay Ninh that aircraft were hit, aircrews were wounded, and more lift ships would be needed. The last remaining flyable aircraft was immediately dispatched to the operational area.
The Flight Leader, Capt. Presson, reported that there were four flyable aircraft in the PZ and that they were loaded. Chalk eight, aircraft 66-926, was cleared for a one-time flight to Phu Loi with numerous bullet holes throughout the aircraft. Aircraft 66-932, had now joined the flight as the fourth aircraft. Blackhawk 6 was monitoring the ground commander’s frequency and asked him what the situation was on the ground. He replied that the ground forces had not received fire for more than thirty minutes and that he considered it safe to bring in the next lift.
Capt. Presson was then directed by Blackhawk 6 to bring in the second lift and that no fire was being received in the LZ. The second flight brought in along a route further south than the original route, but the LZ was the same. Again, on short final, all ships were suppressing along the right side of the formation. All four helicopters were hit, but no crew members received wounds. As the flight came out of the LZ, Chalk 4, Capt. Wagner in ship 66-932, reported that he was losing power. He set his aircraft down approximately 1000 meters southwest of the LZ. Chalk 1, Capt. Presson, went down with him to extract the crew, weapons, and radios. As he neared touchdown his ship’s tail rotor drive shaft was severed by automatic weapons fire from the left. The aircraft, 66-819, spun to the right and crash landed, but no personnel were injured. Chalk Two, WO Britt, then came in to extract the crews, radios and weapons of both downed ships. In the meantime, Chalk three, aircraft 64-13817, was hit again coming out of the LZ, Chalk 3 (AC WO Wayne R. Coe PP WO David Webster), lost the complete tail rotor and cyclic control, the ship spun violently toward the ground. WO Coe, the Aircraft Commander, rolled off the throttle and lowered pitch. This action slowed the spin. At the last minute, he rolled on throttle and pulled pitch. This action slowed the spin and cushioned the impact. Three crew members were injured but not seriously. The fourth was unscratched. This crew was evacuated by an aircraft from the 118th AHC, Thunderbirds, whose crew had witnessed the crash. Aircraft 64-131817 had been shot down by 50 caliber fire and was totally destroyed by fire.
At this time , light fire teams from the 162nd Copperheads, 116th Stingers, and the Razorbacks were on station. The last Blackhawk aircraft, Blackhawk 2 in Aircraft 66-924, reported in to help Chalk two, WO Britt, had now returned to the PZ with the two crews and equipment and was assessing damage. Blackhawk 6 had instructed his pilot Blackhawk 3 to keep the 269th Combat Aviation Battalion informed and to request assistance from AAE. AAE stated that no help was available and within a short time called and said that the copperheads were released to a new mission.
Blackhawk 57 WO Conde, then reported in from Hotel 3 with a load of troops. He had been chalk two and had secured a new pilot from Chalk four as WO Jim McMorine had been wounded. Their ship had made it to Hotel 3 with wounded aboard but had been grounded there with heavy bullet damage. WO Conde then made a single ship insertion into the area near 66-819 and 66-932 to put his troops on the ground as a security force. He then departed for the PZ with Blackhawk 2 who was instructed to take an inventory of crews and aircraft and report to Battalion Operations Center.
At this time, Blackhawk 6 received a report that an aircraft from the 68th AHC Top Tigers had been hit and had been destroyed in the LZ. He turned back to the LZ to see what had happened as the Top Tiger Ship had not called the C&C ship before entering the LZ. He apparently had been cleared by someone on the ground and had been informed that the area was secure. His approach terminated within fifty meters of an automatic weapons position. The enemy gunners waited until the ship was very close to termination and then raked the cockpit with fire killing one aviator.
The gun teams immediately hit the north side of the LZ. Initially, we heard that one of the Top Tiger crewmen was wounded and that three were killed. This was later revised to one WIA, one KIA, and two uninjured. The Black Baron smoke ship, Smoky, flown by Capt. Kambrod, volunteered to try to pick up the wounded crew member. As Smoky approached the LZ, he was hit by intense automatic weapons fire and both the gunner and crew chief were wounded in spite of gunship cover. He departed the area to get medical treatment for his wounded. Razorback 35 Capt. Conner, then tried to get in to the LZ while being covered by Razorback 36. He received intense automatic weapons fire and his gunner was hit in the neck. His ship was badly hit and the right rocket pod began to burn. The aircraft commander then jettisoned his rocket pods and departed the LZ to the north. Blackhawk 6 told him to turn left away from the heavy fire, which he did. Razorback 35 then made a forced landing near a Popular Forces Camp near the LZ at coordinates XT 801061. Blackhawk 2 who had volunteered to go into the LZ if needed, followed Razorback 35 down and evacuated the crew chief to the 12th Evacuation Hospital at Cu Chi.
Blackhawk 3A, Lt. Eshelman, then requested permission to go in to pick up the wounded Top Tiger crewman. The gun teams on station were instructed to cover him, and permission was granted by Blackhawk 6 to make the attempt. On final after a fast, low-level approach, Blackhawk 3A received the not unexpected intense automatic weapons fire. Ignoring the hits on the ship, Lt. Eshelman landed and waited while the wounded Top Tiger crewman and two ARVN’s were loaded aboard his ship. He then lifted off and exited the LZ, all the while under intense fire from numerous automatic weapons. He had stayed on the ground for approximately ninety seconds during which his aircraft was heavily damaged. Due to a severe vibration, Lt. Eshelman set his aircraft down near the Popular Forces Camp. Blackhawk 8A followed him down, transferred the wounded man, and evacuated them to Cu Chi. LT. Eshelman’s aircraft, 66-829, had to be recovered by a Chinook.
Blackhawk 6 then returned to Di An to refuel his aircraft and for a conference with the acting commander of the 269th Combat Aviation Battalion and the 12th Group Commander. Blackjack 6 then recommended that a Fire Fly team be put over the area at night to prevent the enemy’s escape. The situation was discussed with the ground commander who agreed. The recommendation was accepted and COL. Psaki, the Group Commander, told the ground commander that the fire fly team would be sent in. Blackhawk 6 then returned to the operational area with the C&C party. After the situation stabilized, the C&C party was inserted in the troop location. After the last aircraft was evacuated and all security forces had been extracted, the company was released. The company assembled at Cu Chi at 2000 hours where it remained overnight because of severe thunderstorms in the area. The unit returned to Tay Ninh at 0830 on 8 Aug 1967.
William F. Bauman MAJ., INF Commanding