Introduction to Revised Article
In January 2022, I published the following article which is a chapter from my book Red Markers: The Rest of the Story, available now at Lulu Publishing. The book recounts the history of the forward air controller unit — the Red Markers — I served with in Vietnam. This unit worked exclusively to support the Vietnamese Airborne and the American advisors — known as Red Hats — who served with the Airborne on the ground. The article describes one of the more memorable engagements that occurred in 1970 during the incursion into the Fishhook region of Cambodia to destroy enemy base camps and supplies. An original version lacked an important detail – the identity of a helicopter pilot who swooped in to pick up the occupants of a downed helicopter during the massive rescue operation. A reader who was there, former Captain Ron Wood, identified the missing hero as Major Jolly, commander of B Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment. Ron was a Cobra pilot, the Blue Max maintenance officer, and later a Blue Max platoon leader. Ron and Major (FNU) Jolly are included in this revised article.
The Vietnamese 6th Airborne Infantry Battalion moved with the rest of the 1st Brigade from Song Be during early May to reinforce the three battalions of the 3rd Brigade engaged in the Fishhook. The battalion headquartered at Fire Support Base (FSB) Oklahoma while its troopers maneuvered in the region. FSB Oklahoma was about ten miles inside Cambodia off Highway 7 on the eastern edge of the Memot Rubber Plantation. The fire base was the operational home of the 1st Brigade’s Artillery Battalion of 105 mm howitzers and the long range 8-inch howitzers of A Battery, 2ndBattalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment, the “Proud Americans.”
On 23 May, a task force of the 61st and 63rd Companies of the 6th Battalion encountered NVA troops during a ground sweep about eight miles southeast of FSB Oklahoma. After a brief fight, the NVA withdrew to the west side of a clearing oriented southeast to northwest. The Airborne retired to the east side. The battalion senior advisor, Red Hat Captain Jesse Myers, was overhead in a command-and-control helicopter. He called for artillery fire from FSB Oklahoma and asked Red Marker Control to divert some airstrikes to the enemy’s possible routes of withdrawal.
The artillery fire mission required extra caution. Only eighty meters separated the NVA on the west side of the clearing from the Airborne troopers on the east. The standard safe distance from an 8-inch round was 100 meters for unsheltered personnel. A miscalculation could be fatal. The howitzers’ alignment, elevation, and propellant charge had to be just right. The fire control center made its calculations and double checked them. Then, the battery commander Captain Lee Hayden double checked the “double check” by hand. Myers watched the first shots land on target and gave the okay to fire for effect.
A Red Marker FAC arrived on scene and orbited his Bird Dog to the east, waiting for a set of fighters scrambled from Bien Hoa. Myers briefed the FAC and shut down the artillery when the fighters arrived. They bombed and napalmed the western tree line as darkness fell. The Airborne dug in for the night. FSB Oklahoma stood ready if needed, but only sporadic small arms fire came from the opposite side of the clearing.
At dawn on the 24th, the NVA attacked in strength. The Airborne drove them back, suffering several killed and eight seriously wounded. Myers again called on the artillery at FSB Oklahoma and requested that Red Markers direct some airstrikes on the NVA positions. Red Marker 16, Lieutenant David G. Blair was already in the air. He diverted to the site to control immediate airstrikes aimed at possible routes of retreat. After the two Airborne companies secured the area, Red Hat Staff Sergeants Louis Clason and Michael Philhower requested Medevac. Myers relayed the request to brigade headquarters and asked for gunship cover. The request went out to the 1st Air Cavalry helicopter units at about 1100 hours. The Cav called on a Medevac Huey already in the air and scrambled two Blue Max Cobra gunships standing alert to cover the mission.
A Medevac helicopter piloted by First Lieutenant Stephen F. Modica, “The Wild Deuce” (official call sign Medevac 2), received the request for the evacuation. Modica was en route from Phuoc Vinh to Katum when he got the call. Red Hat Sergeant First Class Louis Richard Rocco happened to be hitching a ride with Modica. Rocco, a qualified medic and advisor to the Airborne’s Medical Bat-talion, sometimes volunteered to fly on Medevac missions. When Rocco heard Medevac 2 was going to pick up wounded paratroopers, he asked to stay on board and help. Modica landed at Katum, off-loaded some supplies, and picked up a ceramic chest protector for Rocco. The Wild Deuce departed Katum toward the task force location.
Meanwhile, two Blue Max Cobra gunships scrambled from Hot Alert at Quan Loi. The aircraft commanders First Lieutenant George Alexander Jr., call sign Precise Sword 12, and Chief Warrant Officer–2 (CW2) Paul Garrity, Precise Sword 12A, were airborne within the requisite two minutes from the time the alert horn sounded. Quan Loi Tower cleared the flight of two to take off to the south. As Alexander and Garrity smoothly nosed over and headed down the runway, CW2 James “Bugs” Moran manning the front seat of the lead ship radioed Blue Max operations for mission information.
“Blue Max ops, this is Precise Sword One Two airborne on scramble. Mission brief. Over.”
“Roger, Precise Sword Twelve. Mission is Medevac escort for pickup at XU5101 in a hot LZ. Depart Quan Loi heading 290 degrees, about seventeen klicks. Ren-dezvous with Medevac Two coming out of Katum.”
“Roger, Blue Max. Copy all. Heading 290.”
Precise Sword flight tuned in Medevac’s standard frequency 33.00 FM and met The Wild Deuce on the way to the LZ. Meanwhile, Blair flew his Bird Dog back to Quan Loi for fuel and rockets. Another Red Marker FAC arrived on scene with a flight of diverted fighter aircraft. Myers again shut down the artillery while the Red Marker directed more bombs into the western tree line. A few minutes after the airstrike finished, the trio of helicopters was several miles from the clearing.
The Red Hats monitored the Medevac frequency awaiting contact. When Mede-vac 2 called in, Myers briefed them on the situation and suggested a run in from the south. Precise Sword 12 and the Wild Deuce descended to treetop level two miles out. Precise Sword 12A remained high to cover them both and give direc-tions to the LZ.
“Medevac Two, hold this heading. I’ve got the clearing in sight about one klick. I’ve got green smoke on the eastern tree line.”
“Roger, Twelve Alpha. Got it.”
All Hell Broke Loose
The Wild Deuce and Precise Sword 12 came in low and fast just above the treetops. Modica wanted to give any North Vietnamese gunners only the briefest glimpse of the helicopter before setting down, loading wounded, and speeding away.
Red Hat Clason, advisor to the Vietnamese 63rd Airborne Infantry Company com-mander Lieutenant Thái Kim Hwang, stood in the clearing and watched green smoke spew from the grenade he had popped. Behind the tree line, Philhower, advisor to 61st Company commander Captain Nguyễn Văn Nghiêm, manned the FM radio. They all heard the distinctive whup-whup-whup of the Huey’s blades well before it entered the clearing.
Lieutenant Hwang had stretcher bearers waiting outside the tree line with the seriously wounded troopers. Hwang and Clason waited tensely, hoping they could load the men without any trouble. Modica brought the ship into the clearing, lined up on Clason, and expertly flared for touchdown.
Then, all hell broke loose. AK-47 and .51 caliber machine gun fire ripped into the cabin from the western tree line. The Cobra gunships responded immediately. They returned fire with 2.75-inch high explosive and flechette rockets, mini-guns, and 40 mm grenade launchers, hoping to suppress the enemy fire long enough for Medevac 2 to complete its mission. The low bird turned hard to the left in front of The Wild Deuce to get lined up on the source of the fire. The high bird dove straight at the NVA positions and un-leashed a salvo of rockets. The Medevac’s door gunners opened up with M-60 machine guns. Rocco fired his M-16 out the left door into the trees. Modica felt two enemy slugs glance off his “chicken plate” chest protector. At the same time, a third round shattered his left knee. The Medevac pancaked into the clearing. Copilot Lieutenant Leroy “Lee” G. Caubarreaux swiveled his head to give Modica some shit for such a bad landing, then realized Steve was hit. Lee immediately grabbed the controls. “I’ve got the ship!” he shouted over the intercom. As he pulled pitch and poured on full power, Caubarreaux jabbed the FM key, shouting now to the two Cobra gunships,
“Precise Swords One Two and One Two Alpha, we are outta here! Cover us!”
Sergeant Clason hot-footed it out of the clearing as Medevac 2 spooled up and started to climb. But safety was a long way off. Coming in hot and low to the clearing had made the bird harder to hit. Liftoff was a different matter. The UH-1H heli-copter took time to get back up to speed and out of the clearing. The NVA gunners got a clear view of the slow-moving Huey and unleashed everything they had. The entire western tree line lit up. From the left seat, Modica saw the RPM sliding past normal minimum and knew they were in trouble. He switched to VHF Guard channel and broadcast,
“The Wild Deuce is going down! XU5101! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! XU5101!”
At about fifty feet in the air, gunfire and aerodynamic stress ripped the tail boom from the ship. The Huey spun out of control, crashing to the ground on its right side. Smoke billowed from the chopper as the fuel tanks burst into flame. In his C&C chopper, Myers “watched in horror as the Medevac seemed to land, then shot almost straight up and fell to the ground on its side thrashing, briefly like a wounded quail.” He thought at first it had fallen on Clason.
In fact, Clason was not hurt. The Medevac crew was another story. Sergeant Gary L. Taylor, right side door gunner, died on impact, crushed by the aircraft. Medic Specialist 5 (SP5) Terry T. Burdette was badly burned and suffered multiple fractures. Crew chief and left door gunner, Sergeant Patrick Martin, was thrown clear and knocked unconscious. Rocco was also thrown clear, breaking a wrist and hip. Modica’s leg was shattered, and Caubar-reaux suffered a crushed right shoulder, broken arm, and back injuries. He was trapped beneath Modica as the ship caught fire.
Precise Sword 12 lined up at low level to attack the tree line point blank with flechette rockets. Even before Alexander got lined up, Bugs Moran in the front seat swiveled the minigun under the Cobra’s chin, spraying the tree line. Meanwhile, Garrity and his copilot Warrant Officer (WO) James Nabours rolled in from above and plastered the tree line with rockets, minigun fire, and 40 mm grenades. Both ships took numerous hits, but the Cobras pressed the attack. At one point, Moran asked George on the intercom, “Are we gonna die here?” Ignoring the tracers flying past, they made repeated head on passes into the NVA positions.
When Medevac 2 smashed into the ground the ground, Sergeant Philhower dropped the radio handset and sprinted toward the clearing, leaving Captain Myers overhead in the dark. However, Myers knew the paratroopers and Red Hats would try to get any survivors out of the downed Huey. Lieutenant Hwang immediately sent a skirmish line of 63rdCompany troopers forward to provide covering fire. Clason and Philhower approached the wreck while the Vietnamese moved their wounded troopers away from the landing area. The Blue Max gunships kept attac-king the NVA positions while the Red Hats pulled survivors from the burning wreckage and helped them to the friendly tree line. Lieutenant Alexander noticed that one person getting people out of the burning Medevac “was not wearing Nomex — very odd for an aircrew.”
Myers radioed FSB Oklahoma about the crisis in the clearing and asked for more artillery fire. The 8-inchers stepped up the fire on the western tree line, keeping the NVA’s head down. At one point, each weapon at FSB Oklahoma had several rounds in the air at the same time. The enemy did not venture into the clearing in force.
Failed Rescue Attempts
Modica’s Mayday call attracted numerous helicopters wanting to pick up the injured crew and the wounded troopers. Precise Sword 12 escorted the first ship, call sign Killer Spade, as it approached the field. Intense ground fire erupted, repeatedly hitting the Huey, and Killer Spade aborted the attempt. Meanwhile, back at Quan Loi, Captain Henry “Hank” O. Tuell, III, aircraft commander of Medevac 1, learned that the Wild Deuce was down. He shouted to his pilot Lieutenant Howard Elliott, who was in the shower,
“Get your butt in gear! We gotta go get Modica and his crew!”
Elliott scrambled into his Nomex flight suit and boots. Tuell had the Huey cranked when Elliott arrived at the revetment still dripping soapy water. Medevac 1 ap-proached the clearing from the south, also escorted by Precise Sword 12, and took ground fire that wounded Tuell. Elliott took control and flew back to Quan Loi to get medical attention for Tuell. Mean-while, Garrity alerted Quan Loi they needed to launch the Cobra section sitting Blue Alert. This situation was not going to be resolved quickly.
Lieutenant Thomas Read, Medevac 12, and his copilot Lieutenant Monty Halcomb were in the air forty miles away northwest of Song Be when they heard the Mayday call. They sped toward the Fishhook and soon spotted the smoke rising from Medevac Meadow. They arrived just as Medevac 1 was taking hits and struggling to get out of the clearing. At this point, Precise Swords 12 and 12A were low on fuel and out of ammo. The relief section of gunships led by CW2 Maurice A. “Mac” Cookson came on station to support subsequent rescue attempts. Cookson asked Alexander to mark the enemy position for him. Alexander replied,
“No can do. I’m Winchester. Just lower your nose toward that western tree line. The enemy will mark his position for you.”
Mac did as suggested, and a stream of tracers erupted toward his ship, precisely identifying the NVA locations. Mac responded with flechette rockets trailing their telltale red smoke. The Precise Sword flight limped their damaged Cobras to Quan Loi. Maintenance grounded Alexander’s bird until they could install a new set of blades. Alexander pulled a slug from Garrity’s seat and presented it to him some years later, preserved in an epoxy pyramid.
Cookson and his wingman continued the attack on the NVA tree line while Medevac 12 assessed their options. Read and Halcomb decided to approach over the friendlies in the eastern tree line rather than coming in from the south. They came in just over the trees, made a right hand U-turn, and started down fast with their tail pointed at the NVA tree line. The NVA opened fire from the west and the north as Medevac 12 reached about 100 feet. The crew heard and felt the ship taking hits. The Huey began a severe vertical vibration at about fifty feet from the ground. Read aborted the descent, slowly climbed above the trees, and called, “Mayday.” He set the wounded bird down in a clearing to the east and shut down the engine as CWO Raymond Zepp, Medevac 21, arrived on scene. Monty Halcomb jumped out of the Huey to assess the damage as Zepp landed close by to pick up the crew if needed. Although there were numerous bullet holes in their ship and major damage to one rotor blade, Read and Halcomb decided to try to get it back to Quan Loi. They just barely made it. The ship went to the scrap heap a few days later, slung out under a CH-47 Chinook.
Medevac 21 took off from the clearing and flew back to the Meadow to make a fourth rescue attempt. However, Lieutenant Caubarreaux ordered him not to try. He said the LZ was too hot and there was no sense possibly losing another ship and another crew. As the day ended, Medevac had lost three ships, one still smoldering in the Meadow and two heavily damaged – including one that had to be scrapped. The crews of the two damaged birds made it back to safety. But the injured crew of Medevac 2 and the wounded paratroopers would spend the night on the ground with no medical care except first aid.
Clason and Philhower were awarded the Silver Star for their actions. Vice President Agnew presented the awards at a ceremony shortly afterwards. Sergeant First Class Rocco was recognized several years later for rescuing survivors from the chopper and administering first aid before he became immobilized from his injuries. He was awarded the Medal of Honor, which was presented by President Gerald Ford in February 1974. The Medevac pilot and crew also received awards for bravery. Modica received a Silver Star and Caubarreaux, Taylor (posthumously), Burdette, and Martin were each awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross. Those were not the only awards conferred, for this engagement was far from over. Unbelievably, despite braving intense enemy fire in repeated head-on attacks, the gunship crews received no such awards.
Jesse Myers knew what needed to happen next. The two Airborne companies had run into a buzz saw. But they had given better than they had gotten in return. They had a good defensive position and overwhelming artillery and air support. The only thing they lacked was mobility. Ideally, they would pull back and bring in a B-52 Arc Light mission to pound the enemy. However, the paratroopers could not withdraw because of the number of injured on hand. They would not abandon their wounded, and they could not easily move them. They had to hold their position until after a successful evacuation of casualties. Some of the enemy fire now came from the north and south sides of the clearing. The NVA may have been attempting to flank the two companies, or at least be in position to score more hits on helicopters they knew would be coming. Myers adjusted the artillery to com-pensate.
That afternoon, the Red Markers diverted more strike aircraft to Medevac Meadow. Myers informed them of the expanded targets. For several hours, fighter aircraft bombed and strafed the enemy-held tree lines on the north, south, and west sides of the clearing. Red Marker 26, Lieutenant Lloyd L. Prevett, flew his longest mission of the war – 4.8 hours. His twin engine Oscar Deuce carried seven white phosphorus rockets under each wing. During his mission, Prevett expended all fourteen of them, one at a time, marking different strike locations with smoke around the perimeter. After running out of Willie Pete, he marked targets with smoke grenades tossed out of the pilot-side window. Prevett controlled mostly F-100s, with at least one flight of A-37s and Vietnamese A-1Es. Prevett recalled:
“One interesting note is I requested a flight with wall-to-wall nape and 20 mm, figuring it would be a standard load of snake and nape. I was shocked when a flight of two F -100s showed up with just nape and 20mm. When I put them in, the nape uncovered a fortified bunker and of course, no snake to employ. Took care of that on the next flight. My hat is off to all the fighter pilots that showed up that day. They put their asses on the line to ensure each and every drop was right where it was needed. Gives me shivers today thinking about what everyone did to try and protect the guys on the ground.”
Lloyd did not record the number of strikes he directed, but was amazed on his way back to Phuoc Vinh at the amount of grease pencil writing on the side window. He had scribbled on the plexiglass the standard info for each flight — mission number, call sign, number of fighters in the flight, ordnance load, and expected time of arrival on scene. Given the number of strikes Prevett controlled, it is a wonder he saw anything through that window.
The Skymaster could fly for more than six hours when conserving fuel with a lean mixture at cruise power setting. After directing airstrikes with the mixture rich and power often at max for almost five hours, Prevett’s O-2A was near minimum fuel when he landed at Phuoc Vinh. The crew chief refueled and rearmed the Skymaster, cleaned the inside of the window, and the detailed record of those strike missions was lost to history.
Radio operator Sergeant Jim Yeonopolus manned Red Marker Control outside the Airborne Tactical Operations Center at Quan Loi. The firefight and his job became more hectic about 1500, when the FACs called for additional airstrikes. As daylight faded, the fighting became more intense. Earlier, Red Hat Sergeants John A. Brubaker and James H. Collier asked Yeonopolus if he would accompany them to the Meadow and stay on the ground overnight to call in air support if needed. Jim told them he would be more effective with his full set of radios at Quan Loi. In any event, Brubaker and Collier could not catch a ride into Medevac Meadow that afternoon.
Red Markers continued to direct airstrikes into the enemy positions until nightfall. Lieutenant Gary Willis, Red Marker 18, controlled two more F-100 flights just before dark. According to Captain Myers, the Red Markers directed thirty-six tactical air sorties during two days at Medevac Meadow. Myers saw one FAC make low passes to drop canisters of water to the Red Beret troopers who had not been resupplied for two days. Most of the containers missed the mark or burst upon landing, but some made it into the perimeter intact. Early the next morning, the Medevac crew chief and copilot retrieved from the destroyed Huey a few glass bottles of saline solution that survived the wreck and fire. It was all they had to drink that day.
Overnight, artillery support from Oklahoma became even more important. The NVA attacked the Airborne position three times during the night and were repulsed each time. Oklahoma responded with precise artillery fire, sometimes extremely close to the eastern tree line. Many of the gunners had not slept much during the prior forty-eight hours. The Red Hats also called on flare ships and Air Force gun-ships to help defend the Airborne posi-tion.
A Rescue Plan
Myers returned to 6th Battalion’s com-mand post at FSB Oklahoma, monitoring the situation on the ground via the radio net. At the firebase, he received a surprise visit from Lieutenant General Michael S. Davison, II Field Force Commander, who asked simply, “What do you need, Captain?” Myers replied, “Sir, I need a B-52 strike.” Davison said, “You’ve got it.” The general ordered an Arc Light mission for 1500 hours the next day.
Brigadier General Robert M. Shoemaker flew in later to be briefed on the situation. Shoemaker was a principal architect of airmobile warfare concepts and an experienced helicopter pilot. He flew his own command and control (C&C) chopper throughout his tour. Shoemaker listened to all the information about the condition of the wounded (there were now about forty casualties), the resupply situation, and the ability of the troopers to hold on. He vowed to round up additional resources and return in the morning with a plan.
Overnight at Quan Loi, Shoemaker ordered the local Medevac, Blue Max, and Headhunter commanders to design a rescue operation. Blue Max committed six gunships to the mission, half the entire C Battery fleet. Headhunters provides two Cobras and a Huey as a C&C bird. The Medevac platoon had lost so many aircraft the first day that it borrowed several Hueys for non-combat missions. That freed up enough Medevac birds to send four on the rescue. Three flew as primary and one as backup.
Early the next day, Shoemaker flew into FSB Oklahoma to brief the Airborne and the artillery commanders on the plan. Major Jolly of B Troop also arrived with his C&C helicopter. After a fifteen minute briefing, everyone left to rendezvous at Medevac Meadow with the Hueys and Cobras coming from Quan Loi. An additional C&C helicopter carried the 6thAirborne Battalion commander Lieutenant Colonel Trương Vĩnh Phước, Battalion Senior Advisor Captain Myers, the battery commander at FSB Oklahoma Captain Hayden, and the Vietnamese artillery commander. General Shoemaker flew his own Huey in overall control.
Beginning at 0930, Red Markers directed a series of strikes into the perimeter of Medevac Meadow controlled by the well-bunkered NVA. When the airstrikes ended at 1100, the fleet of sixteen helicopters arrived on station – eight Cobras, four Medevac Hueys, and four command and control birds. According to Myers’s description:
“The plan was for the landing zone to be ringed by artillery fire, friendly troops, and gunship suppressive fire. After we were airborne, we first adjusted the artillery. There were two Vietnamese 105mm batteries, a 155 mm battery, and the American 8-inch battery. The artillery prep was fired and the wood line was smoked and then the extraction was started. Arty fires were not shut down, but shifted to form a corridor through which the Medevac ships were to fly. The gunships formed a continuous ‘daisy chain’ whereby suppressive fire was kept on the area of greatest enemy concentration.”
After the artillery adjustment, Shoemaker flew his chopper at low level the length of the field to check the safety of the corridor before clearing the gunships and Medevac birds to proceed. CW2 Mac Cookson led the flight of Cobras with Captain Ron Wood in the front seat. The Blue Max birds to flew a south to north pattern con-centrating their fire on the western tree line. The two Headhunter gunships flew east to west at the north end of the field firing into the northern tree line being careful not overlap the Blue Max pattern. Mac ordered everyone to save some ammo “just in case something went wrong.” His caution was justified.
The plan worked almost to perfection. The three primary Medevacs came in one at a time, loaded up, and took off in sequence. The first two made it out of the clearing without significant damage. CW2 Richard Tanner, Medevac 24, came in first and picked up the surviving crew of Medevac 2 at about 1115. Captain Jack Roden, Medevac 7, landed second and took off with most of the wounded paratroopers. The third ship, Medevac 25 commanded by CW2 William Salinger picked up the remaining seriously wounded. His ship was hit heavily as it took off. It sank back to the ground and caught fire. Before the backup bird flown by CW2 Denny Schmidt, Medevac 23, and his copilot Monty Halcomb could react, Major Jolly radioed from his C&C ship, “Saber Six is inbound! Cover me!” Before the blades on Medevac 25 had stopped turning, Jolly dropped his Huey into Medevac Meadow beside the burning ship. Salinger and his crew shuttled the wounded Vietnamese aboard the rescue bird. Jolly exited the hot LZ with Blue Max providing cover with their remaining ammo. However, Jolly’s ship was badly damaged. He barely made it to a nearby cold LZ and safely landed, to be picked up later by another Huey.
Several days later, General Shoemaker presented “impact” awards to some of the rescue participants in a ceremony at Bien Hoa Air Base. One recipient was Cobra aircraft commander CW2 Mac Cookson. Mac received a Silver Star for his contribution to the rescue. Captain Hank Tuell, aircraft commander of Medevac 1, stood beside Mac in the award formation and received a Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart for the first day’s combat. Nineteen days later, General Shoemaker received a Silver Star. At FSB Oklahoma, commander of the Vietnamese Airborne Division General Dư Quốc Đông presented a Cross of Gallantry to Captain Hayden and Lieutenant Granberg for the excellent work by their 8-inch battery. Red Marker Radio Operator Jim Yeonopolus was awarded a Cross of Gallantry recognizing his work coor-dinating strike aircraft for the Red Marker FACs during the engagement.
Back in the Fight
Relieved of their serious casualties, the Airborne companies withdrew a couple of klicks to the southeast. Resupply choppers soon arrived with food, water, ammo, and medical supplies. At 1500 hours, the promised Arc Light mission hit Medevac Meadow. A light helicopter flew over later to assess the damage. Surviving NVA drove it off with ground fire but not before the pilot saw numerous dead and a lot of destroyed concrete bunkers.
There is no official estimate of enemy casualties, but the NVA must have suffered tremendous losses. They made four frontal assaults across the open meadow into the dug-in Airborne position. The artillery units at FSB Oklahoma poured extremely accurate fire into the NVA tree line. Air Force fighters bombed and strafed the NVA bunkers with thirty-six sorties during the two days. Blue Max Cobras flew at least thirty sorties expending rockets, minigun, and 40 mm grenades into the NVA position. The B-52 Arc Light mission dropped eighty-one tons of explosives. That totaled a signi-ficant amount of ordnance in a relatively small area.
The 61st and 63rd Airborne Companies swept the area the next day. They captured weapons, signal equipment, and some wounded combatants. Some of those were in a hospital complex. Clearly, this was part of a major base camp area. The two companies continued to battle in the Fishhook until withdrawn with the rest of 6th Battalion on 25 June. At that point, each company had about forty effective troopers remaining of their original hundred.
The engagement at Medevac Meadow impressed Myers in a number of ways, as he wrote in his letter to U.S. Army Aviation Digest:
“I saw time and again the courage and concern of one pilot on behalf of another. I saw outstanding teamwork between Vietnamese and American forces, be-tween air and ground forces, and between combat and combat support forces. I saw magnificent employment of air/ground coordination to provide massed fires.
“I saw commanders all the way up to the three-star level who were vitally interested and concerned for the welfare of their men and who were willing to get personally involved to remedy a bad situation. And finally, I saw raw courage and heroism displayed time and time again by U.S. and ARVN soldiers alike.”
 The description of the following event is based on numerous sources, some of which contain conflicting detail: Dust Off: Army Aeromedical Evacuation in Vietnam by Peter Dorland and James Nanney; magazine article by then Captain Stephen F. Modica, U.S. Army Aviation Digest, June 1975; letter written by former Red Hat Major Jesse W. Myers in response to that article; emails among various surviving participants, including former Lieutenant Jerry Granberg and Ralph Jones (artillerymen), former Sergeant Patrick Martin (Medevac crew chief), Major (R) Jesse Myers (Red Hat), Colonel (R) Hank Tuell and former Captain Monty Halcomb (Medevac pilots), Major (R) George Alexander, former Captain Ron Wood, CW3 (R) Mac Cookson, and former CW2 Paul Garrity (Cobra pilots); Oral History and other statements by Warrant Officer Rocco; mission statements by Alexander, Garrity, and Tuell; various reports of related awards and citations/orders; and other sources as individually footnoted.
 Grid Coordinates XU425098, per the History of the “Proud Americans” at https://proudamericans. homestead.com/VIETNAM_1963-1971-1.pdf
 Emails July 2021, former Lieutenant Jerry Granberg, second in command, A Battery, 2nd of the 32nd Field Artillery.
 Medevac Platoon, 15th Medical Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), and C Battery, 2nd Battalion Aerial Rocket Artillery, 20th Artillery Regiment, 1stCavalry Division (Airmobile), known as Blue Max.
 See Glossary for explanation of Hot Alert.
 Unidentified but likely Lieutenant Mayberry, Red Marker 19.
 Flechette warheads contained hundreds of steel nail-like projectiles.
 The grid coordinates Modica screamed into the mike designated a one-kilometer square of territory about five miles inside the Fishhook north of Tay Ninh Province, South Vietnam. In an article Modica wrote for the magazine U.S. Army Aviation Digest, he incorrectly stated the coordinates as XU5606, which is right on the border of Cambodia and Vietnam rather than five miles inside. Chalk that up to the “Fog of War” and frailty of human memory. Interestingly, “5606” is the designation of the hydraulic fluid used in the Huey, which might explain why the number came to Modica’s mind while writing from memory about five years later. According to the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots’ Association, XU507010 is the six digit grid coordinate for the downed Medevac, tail number 69-15121.
 Lt Alexander, Precise Sword 12, did not see the tail boom break away, but did notice that the tail rotor was not operating as the Wild Deuce tried to climb. Both Vietnamese company commanders stated that the tail boom hit a tree and broke off, which could have been caused by the rotor being inoperative.
 Another Cobra pilot, WO Brian Russ, claims to have been flying Precise Sword 12 with Alexander in the front seat. Aircraft commander Alexander disputes that claim. Cobra commanders Garrity and Cookson also believe that Russ was not involved in the mission.
 Rocco’s oral history recorded in 1987 testifies to the volume of fire. The crew does not believe they would have gotten safely to the tree line without the protection of the Blue Max Cobras. The damage inflicted on the helicopters speaks for itself.
 Statement by George Alexander in possession of the author. Note: That person could have been Red Hat Rocco, Clason, or Philhower, who all wore camouflage fatigues. Modica and Caubarreaux wrote that Rocco pulled them from the wreckage. Both Vietnamese company commanders credited Clason and Philhower and stated they did not see any other American.
 Details of the failed rescue attempts are primarily from several sources:
- Undated document titled “MEDEVAC MEADOW MISSION FLOWN BY LT. GEORGE ALEXANDER AND CW2 PAUL GARRITY,” copy in possession of the author,
- Peter Dorland and James Nanney, Dust Off: Army Aeromedical Evacuation in Vietnam, Center of Military History, United States Army: Washington, DC, 2008, 101-106, and
- Statement of Monty Halcomb, copy in possession of the author.
 Killer Spade was the unit call sign used by B Company, 229th Aviation Battalion (Assault Helicopter), part of the 1st Cavalry Division.
 Emails and telecon, Jan 2022, with Cecil M. (Monty) Halcomb, former Captain, USA pilot on Medevac 12, later aircraft commander of Medevac 8.
 Winchester – flyers slang for “out of ammo.”
 A basic rule of modern warfare – “Tracers work both ways.” Tracers help a gunner see how close the gunfire is to the target, but they reveal the gunner’s exact position.
 Jesse Myers recalls advising Medevac 12 to make such an approach. Monty Halcomb does not remember that communication.
 Halcomb telecom. Also, Joe Baugher’s Serial Number website lists UH-1H tail number 69-15139 as written off on 26 May 1970. That may have been Medevac 12. http://www.joebaugher.com/usaf_serials/1969.html
 From Halcomb. Lee used Modica’s survival radio to communicate with Zepp.
 From the Citation to accompany the Congressional Medal of Honor awarded to Warrant Officer (then Sergeant First Class) Louis Richard Rocco.
 The Blue Max aircraft commanders, Lt. Alexander and CW2 Garrity were recommended for the Silver Star, but that paperwork was lost. To date, each has been awarded an Air Medal with V device for Valor. Attempts to upgrade the awards to Silver Stars have been denied.
 Snake and Nape – Air Force slang for High-drag bombs (“Snake”) and Napalm (Nape”). This was a standard ordinance load for situations with troops in contact.
 Colonel Lloyd L. Prevett, USAF (Ret), emails Dec 2020.
 Most of those strikes were controlled by Red Markers Dave Blair and Byron Mayberry (both now deceased) and Lloyd Prevett.
 The FAC who made these drops is unknown. None of the surviving Red Markers or crew chiefs remember such a mission. Medevac pilot Monty Halcomb recalls a sector FAC, call sign Rod 15, who flew from Quan Loi as being the one involved. The Rod FACs supported the 5th Vietnamese Infantry Division, a unit not involved in the Fishhook operation. However, if Rod 15 were in the air, he would have heard the Mayday call and could have learned of the plight of the men on the ground. The author continues to search for Rod 15.
 Emails, Jan-Jul 2021, former Sergeant Patrick Martin, crew chief on Medevac 2, Medevac Platoon, 15th Medical Battalion.
 Lieutenant General (R ) H.G. “Pete” Taylor, telephone interviews, January 2021.
 Local commanders were Majors Mike Haggerty, Donald E. “Gene” Wilson, and Jolly, respectively. “Headhunter” was the nickname of the 1st Squadron, 9thCavalry Regiment of the 1st Air Cav. B Troop was located at Quan Loi.
 The borrowed helicopters were from “Dust Off,” the 45th Medical Company, Air Ambulance, out of Long Binh.
 Shoemaker logged 14.3 hours flying time on 25 May 1970 per Individual Flight Record, DA Form 759-1, Archives Texas A & M University – Central Texas
 From Myers’s letter to U.S. Army Aviation Digest, undated but shortly after June 1975.
 Myers does not know the location of the Vietnamese batteries engaged in this effort. The Vietnamese had their own forward observers and controlled their own batteries.
 With white phosphorus shells to screen the evacuation flight path.
 Per General Order Number 2605, Award of the Silver Star Medal (First Oak Leaf Cluster) to Brigadier General Robert M. Shoemaker, 13 June 1970. The first award of the Silver Star and of a Distinguished Flying Cross to then Colonel Shoemaker came in 1965 as a Battalion Commander with the 12th Cavalry Regiment.
 In an earlier description of this engagement, the identity of the helicopter that picked up the Medevac 25 personnel was unknown. Subsequently, Ron Wood Identified Major Jolly and the participation of two Cobras from Jolly’s unit. Telecon and emails with Wood, December 2022.
 A so-called impact award did not go through the normal steps requiring recommendation, review and approval. An appropriate authority could grant such an award to give immediate recognition for actions that had a significant impact on a battle or mission.
 Peter Dorland and James Nanney wrote at page 106 in Dust Off: Army Aeromedical Evacuation in Vietnam that nine Silver stars were awarded to pilots and crewmembers involved in the rescue. I have not been able to confirm that number. Dorland and Nanney did not cite to a record. Unfortunately, both those men are now deceased.
 A newspaper article on 26 May reported very few casualties on both sides. It was obviously incomplete. “Fort Lauderdale News”
 Myers letter.