Rescue of 'Chatterbox' 21-2 Crew

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Statement of Major John A. CHANCEY  077369/7562 USMC

On 28 March 1968, I was pilot of a CH-46D, flying in the �Supergaggle� mission 71, an emergency resupply  of the hilltop outposts around Khe Sanh in support of operation Scotland. The second ten-helicopter lift of the day was to the fartherest and hottest of the outposts, Hill 881S.  I was leading the second section of the first division and, as expected, we received heavy fire going into and coming out of the zone. The number four aircraft received extensive damage from .50 caliber fire and had to depart for Dong Ha; the leader (Swift 10-0) joined on him to escort.  As I was climbing out  over Khe Sanh, Seaworthy, one of the UH-1E gunships, reported that a CH-46 was downed as he came off  881 and another CH-46 was needed to extract the crew.  The CH-46 had been hit and had to autorotate into the  NVA- controlled area between 881 and Khe Sanh.

I turned back and started an approach to the downed aircraft and informed the crew of the situation.  The first landing was made about 100 meters away as I observed part of the downed crew crouched near the aircraft returning enemy fire that was hitting the ground around them.   My two gunners immediately opened up with tremendous volleys of .50 caliber  to provide suppressive fire.  The second time we landed about 25 meters from the aircraft and dropped the ramp to take the crew aboard, but the snipers and automatic weapons fire were so intense that they were having difficulty getting away from their aircraft.  Several automatic weapons, including .50 caliber, were firing at the downed crew and at my aircraft now, some from as close as 50 meters away.  My gunners, Sgt. WILLIAMS and Cpl. IGL,  did not move from their guns even though the aircraft was receiving  a substantial number of hits, well placed around the gunner�s windows, but continued to move from one target to another, effectively and accurately providing the maximum suppressive fire for the downed crew.  The crew chief, Cpl. ALTAZAN, in addition to coordinating the activity in the cabin area and providing the pilot with information on the status and progress of the downed crew, grabbed his M-16 and joined in identifying the sources of fire and suppressing it.

After about 3-5 minutes in the zone, engaged in an intense firefight with the NVA surrounding the downed crew, Cpl. IGL was hit in the face with an enemy round.  Cpl. ALTAZAN sat him down and checked the wound and advised the pilot of the situation.  Meanwhile Sgt. WILLIAMS, realizing that the heaviest fire was coming from that side jumped into the same exposed position and manned Cpl. IGL�s gun, firing murderous volleys of accurate fire onto the various enemy positions.

The downed crew still had not been able to get into my aircraft, so I lifted out of the zone to allow the UH-1E gunship to hit the area with rocket and machine gun fire.  After the gunship made 1 or 2 passes dropping ordnance,  I made another approach and  landed in a closer, though somewhat more exposed spot to pick up the crew.

The automatic weapons fire was even more intense now, but Sgt. WILLIAMS and Cpl. ALTAZAN courageously stood by their guns, exposing themselves clearly in the face of the heavy fire and continued to deliver accurate suppressive fire.  Cpl. ALTAZAN, observing that the downed crew were still making little progress getting aboard our aircraft, and realizing that our aircraft could not stay in the zone much longer without the risk of sustaining enough battle damage to render it unflyable, departed the aircraft and ran across the open area to the downed crew, openly and willingly exposing himself to the intense enemy fire to help get the downed aircrew to safety.  With his somwhat forceful encouragment and assistance the five crewmen from the downed aircraft made their way to the ramp and aboard my aircraft.  During this time my gunners were putting out such a volume of covering fire that they might have been mistaken for a whole weapons platoon, and they continued to do so as we lifted safely out of the zone with everyone aboard.

During this fast-moving few minutes when the pilot was being distracted so frequently, Lt. HOPPER, my co-pilot demonstrated professional competence and courage far beyond his experience level.  He monitored the cockpit thoroughly and through his actions prevented the pilot from making any mistakes under pressure that could have placed the aircraft and mission in jeopardy.  He assisted in spotting the sources of enemy fire and at the same time monitored the radios to keep the UH-1E gunship informed of the situation, leaving the pilot free to coordinate the crew activity.  His  calm and courage contributed substantially to the success of the mission.

In the process of completing the rescue Cpl. IGL and two of the downed crewmen were wounded by gunfire and schrapnel and the aircraft received extensive battle damage from the forward cabin area to the aft rotor system.  Over 1000 rounds were expended by my gunners in addition to that fired by the downed crew.  The cool determination, professional proficiency and courageous actions of my crewmembers were directly responsible for the successful rescue of 2 pilots and 3 aircrewmen.  Except for their courage, sound judgment and dedication in the face of heavy hostile fire the rescue could not have been successful.  Their actions in the face of such odds were in the highest traditions of the Naval  Service and should be rewarded with appropriate personal decorations.

                                                                                     s/s   John A. CHANCEY

Crew of YK-4

Maj. John A. Chancey Pilot
1stLt. William O. Hopper Copilot
Sgt. Kenneth A. Altazan Crew Chief
Cpl. Lawrence A. Igl Gunner
Sgt. William M. Williams Gunner

Major John A. Chancey's Distinguished Flying Cross for this mission.

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