This emergency resupply mission
came late in the day 5 June 1964 as light was quickly fading and most of
the squadron's crew members had departed from the flight line. The Army
Special Forces advised the Squadron Duty Officer that one of their hilltop
outposts some twenty miles south of Da Nang had been surrounded and under
sustained attack for quite awhile and was running low on ammo. If they
didn't get a resupply they wouldn't make it through the night.
Two UH-34 (Dog) crews from Marines still in the squadron area were quickly formed. The lead aircraft piloted by CWO Bob Patton (his crew unknown) and the chase aircraft piloted by 1stLt. Ron DeBrincat with Cpl. Warren F. Smith acting as the crew chief and LCpl. Larry R. Henderson flying as the gunner (the co-pilot is unknown). At the same time two Army UH-1B (Hueys), of the 52nd Aviation Battalion better known as "Dragon Flight", were being prepared to provide armed support of the mission. Another name had been fondly given to the Army gun ships of "Guardian Angels" for reasons which should be quite clear.
The Army Special Forces delivered the ammunition which was loaded aboard CWO Patton's aircraft and the flight of two Uh-34s and two Army gun ships lifted into the darkening sky and turned south of DaNang.
As the flight was enroute Cpl. Warren R. Smith recalls, "I remember our pilots trying to raise the base on the frequencies they had been given without any success. The pilots queried the crews to determine if anyone could speak French because English was not raising anyone. We must have flunked the test as I don't remember ever hearing from the base under siege. As we came into the area of the outpost we had spread out the flight to make sure we found it. I was looking out the door at the lead UH-34's when I saw a stream of tracers arc up from the jungle toward it. The stream fell behind it and we were flying above its effective range. At just about the same time I saw the tracers I also saw the base and there was no question they were taking a lot of fire".
The Hueys made several fire suppression runs while Patton and his flight orbited at a safe altitude. These gun ship runs did little to suppress the enemy fire. Bob Patton suggested that he commence his approach to the zone with the gun ships in trail, to his left and right sides, concentrating their suppressive fire on the heaviest enemy tracers. The gun ship support allowed CWO Patton to deliver the sorely needed ammunition and depart the zone without incident. However one of the Army Hueys was hit in the fuel system and was streaming a JP-4 fog behind the aircraft. The Huey pilot assessed his situation and decided he would not have enough fuel to make and didn't want to risk an in-flight fire any longer than he had to. The Huey pilot advised that he was going to put it down as soon as he found a suitable landing site. CWO Patton immediately joined up on the Huey to extricate the crew once they found a clear spot to land. They found a little sand bar area by the side of a small river close to a village and set down. Before the Huey crew could unfasten their seat belts, shoulder harness and unplug their headset cords, CWO Patton was on the ground beside them and both aircraft were now receiving fire from the adjacent village..
Cpl. Smith continues his recollections, "As soon as the skids of the Huey hit the deck, and Patton's Dog settled beside him, the whole area lit up with tracers going everywhere. I remember looking out the door and thinking it looked just like the movies I had seen when the Japanese were attacking our ships in WII. Lt. Ron DeBrincat brought me back to reality by asking "don't you think you should be giving some of that back to them Smith." I grabbed my M-60, locked on to tracer paths following them back to the source till they stopped, and then went looking for another stream. The other Huey dove into the fight. I was trying to watch the aircraft flying around us and look for tracer streams to lock on. I was getting concerned that the remaining Huey might fly through my fire. LCpl. Henderson was firing his AR-15 out the window at targets the best he could with his limited firepower. Soon Patton'srescue UH-34 was off the ground with the crew but we still had a problem".
"The Huey crew didn't have time to take their 4 M-60s and ammunition from the downed plane. There were quite a few of the enemy down there that would enjoy obtaining that kind offirepower.I heard the pilots communicating with various commands in an attempt to find some Rangers who would provide overnight security for the aircraft. None were to be found".
"It was then thought if we could get enough firepower from the remaining two choppers trained on the downed bird we might get it to burn. Purposely destroying a military aircraft isn't something the average flight crew wants to take on without higher approval. It took a number of radio calls before approval was given to try torching it. It was now pitch black out and we could not see the Huey. We all thought we knew where it was and tried to touch it off with our remaining ammo. The next day when they finally did get a Ranger team out to the plane, the only wound they could find in it was the original single hole in the fuel system. We felt a little embarrassed with our marksmanship but all that wild firing in the night must have put the fear of God in the folks on the ground and changed their mind about coming near the Huey".
Ron DeBrincat relates, "I must say that Bob Patton, with his quiet demeanor, is one of the finest officers and pilots that I have had the honor to be associated with. For his efforts associated with this emergency resupply and the extraction of the Army pilots, he was definitely deserving of being awarded the Silver Star."
Information provided by:
Warren R. Smith, former Cpl. USMC
Ron DeBrincat, former Capt. USMCR
|CWO-2 Robert F. Patton||Pilot|
|SSgt. Thomas C. Lamere||Crew Chief|
|SSgt. George L. Summers||Gunner|
LAST UPDATED: January 6, 2008
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