KHE SANH (Cal Anderson)
Mid-year 1965 to July 1966:
FACs: Cal Anderson, Dave Ferrell, John Hanna, Dave Holmes, Jesse Couch, Dan Packard, Bob Willis, (others will be added as we get inputs). Dan Packard, Dave Holmes and Dave Ferrell were all shot down and lost the the Coveys.
The Khe Sanh FACS flew missions over the central part of Laos, almost due West of our base. Our mission was basically the interdiction of troops and supplies flowing down the Ho Chi Minh Trail, using 01-E Bird Dogs. Using the Call-Sign of Hound Dog, we generally flew 3 to 4 hour missions since our area of operation was a good distance from home station.
Khe Sanh was initially a model Special Forces site and received a number of VIPS. However, after the TigerHound mission moved into Khe Sanh and the planes were on station, the Viet Cong mortared the entire place, destroying all the buildings and the planes. All that was left standing was a brick fireplace. Our dining hall was a tent, and the cook stove was the open fireplace. Coffee was made in a large pot, with the coffee simply dumped into the water. We drank coffee from a coke can, after the ground coffee settled to the bottom. We slept in an underground bunker. To get into our quarters, you first climbed down into a mortar pit and entered a tunnel. The tunnel led to a room that was about 10 feet by 10 feet, where five Air Force pilots lived.
Since the Special Forces team was usually short personnel or out on recon, AF folks had to pull rotating guard duty at night, as well as checking the head space on the machine guns and the like (Oh, Joy!)
After the initial aircraft were destroyed, we had two revetments that we dug into the ground. The ramp leading down had a 30 degree angle, and we were required to put chains around the 0-1 landing gear in order to lower and remove the aircraft with a truck.
In addition to the Green Beret team, there was a SOG detachment, 200 CIDG (Civilian Irregular Defense Corp), 5 Air Force Pilots, 3 mechanics, and Intelligence Sergeant, and a radio operator. There was also a small detachment of Vietnam LLBD, the counter part of our Special Forces.
Of course, there is always the camping story. One calm and balmy night, we received a message that there would be an attempt by a North Vietnam assassination team to kill as many Americans as possible. No sleep on this night. Our detachment commander made a decision that we would form a circle with M-16s pointing outward and sitting back-to-back, we would defend ourselves. Of course in retrospect, one well tossed grenade would have killed us all. No lights that night, but lots of ragged breathing, and stiff joints from trying not to move a muscle, or make any noise. Hours seemed like days. Sometime in the wee hours of the night we got word that the assassination team had "been taken care of." Relieved is not the word. The next day we received a message that two Special Forces guys at another site had been killed by the NV infiltration teams. Are we living right?
Khe Sanh had its good points. The elevation was about 1500 feet and the oppressive heat pervading in most of Vietnam was not present. There were impressive water falls and lots of great scenery. In short, the view from the air was superb.
According to Capt Cal Anderson, Hound Dog 56, flying over Laos could be very boring or life-threatening. He recalls a mission where a SOG team had been inserted into Laos to monitor traffic and provide intelligence. The Team was being tracked and receiving some long-range fire. They asked to be extracted immediately. We rapidly put together a team of Army hellos, Air Force A-1s and Hello gunship. After that, events happened so fast is is hard to remember the facts. "I could count over 30 enemy troops shooting at the 11 man team, and didn't know the actual count of enemy forces. I was receiving auto fire (and later determined that I had a number of hits to the Bird Dog), but I was firing my M-16 toward the enemy troops to stop their advance. About this time the A-1s and the Hellos Gunship arrived and things really got confusing. In short, I marked the enemy with red smoke and put the S-1s and the Army gunship on alternating passes. One Army hello got half the team on a ground pickup, but the ground fire was so intense we could not get the other hello in for a pick up. The other hello dropped 2 ropes for a pickup of the remaining troops. I can see it in my mind to this day. There were four team members hanging on to a rope and firing their weapons at the enemy. We extracted all the Team with no losses." To this day I stand in awe of the SOG capabilities and professionalism.