L Z Lolo, Lam Son 719, 03 Mar 1971
By Gilbert Alvarado, CE, UH-1H 6816252
I am Gilbert Alvarado, the former crewchief for UH-1H 6816252 otherwise known as 252. I was the CE on 252 the day Steve Diehl flew our bird onto Lolo (3 Mar 71). Our right side doorgunner was David Mosier (the person wounded). I have spoken with LTC Clewell several times in the last two years. Going in that day I fired so many rounds that my M60 jammed (could have been a combination of things, such as left side wind resistance which contributes to left side mounted machineguns jamming, especially if the helicopter is flying at a fast rate of speed), I quickly tried to clear the weapon, but I didn't have time because of the number of people shooting at us, and I knew I had to immediately return fire. Therefore, I decided to use my M16 and started firing magazine after magazine (I carried a claymore bag loaded with as many M16 magazines as it could hold around my neck,something I learned while flying CCN missions and it hung on my chest). Then I heard David state he was wounded. The helicopter was shuddering, vibrating and shaking because we had been hit several times (later, I saw that our rotor blades had also been hit and the blades were split about an inch apart at the blade grips) and I thought we were going to crash. I quickly climbed over the South Vietnamese soldiers to check David out. He had an immense pool of blood under his seat and blood was spraying throughout the ship. David told me, "Gil you got to stop the bleeding." I then went through the first aid bags and tried to find something suitable to bandage the large gaping hole. His leg wound was so big that my bloodied hand slipped into his wound while I was trying to determine the size of it and placed a dressing (none of which we carried could cover his wound)
on it and tried to use some other dressings as a tourniquet. I heard Mr. Diehl call out the maydays and as I continued to render some first said, David continued to fire his M60.. A South Vietnamese soldier offered me his tourniquet stick, I thought about using it, but I then used a seatbelt as a tourniquet belt and tied his leg off above the wound (holding it tight as best as I could by using my hands). I was on my knees wedged between the M60/ammo can and David attempting to do this, and all the while David continued to fire. When Mr. Diehl did some fantastic flying and managed to slide the bird over the hill, we hit the ground fairly hard, yet somehow I managed to stay inside the bird. Before we flew over and down the side of the escarpment, I recall Mr. Diehl telling us to brace, I then kissed David on the nose and I told him, " I loved ya, man." I thought we were going to die. You see, David had stopped flying and had become the company's armorer. Right before our assault onto Lolo, we flew back to Eagle. David was armoring then, and I told him about the situation with Lam Son and that I needed him as a doorgunner. He had been my assigned doorgunner for a long time and we had been through some hairy missions together, especially the CCN ones. David was good and I needed a good doorgunner. That night he brought out two new machineguns, we cleaned them up and the next day we flew back to Khe Sanh with two new M60s and David Mosier as our doorgunner. I can't stress the heroism displayed by everyone on the bird, especially
of what I saw of David Mosier that day. Even though he was seriously wounded, he continued to fire his machinegun at the NVA. Ironically, David and I were never awarded the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry (individual award) like so many others were for our actions during Lam Son 719. I have quite a selection of photographs (to include the ones of the helicopters burning and Morris - these photographs were taken by crewchief Gary Boop, Gale's crewchief). I have kept in touch with several of the crewchief-doorgunners that were involved with the Comancheros (Gary Boop, David Mosier, and Clarence Garcia), all of whom I mentioned were there on March the 3rd. All of us were considered "old timers" since we had been there for over 9 months and were veterans of several CCN tours and everything that led up to 3 March 1971.
Gilbert Alvarado, CE, UH-1H 6816252
I want to share something else with you that occurred on my bird as we were going in. On our initial attempt to approach LZ Lolo, the enemy fire was so intense that we had to break off and circle while awaiting gunship support to help escort us in. I recall thinking that I had less than 40 days left in country and 3 March was not a good day because my older brother (1LT Raul Alvarado, Jr.) had been killed on 3 March 1969 while leading his platoon west of Chu Lai. As Steve Diehl (our AC) maneuvered our bird into the long final approach, I recall calmly asking him as I crouched behind my M60, "Mr. Diehl, we gotta go down there?" Steve Diehl's even response was, "Yes, Gil...our people are down there." Nothing more was said or needed to be said. It was a monumental statement and Dave Mosier (my doorgunner who was seriously wounded seconds later) and I just started putting rounds out as we went into Lolo.
Over the years I have often thought about my question. It wasn't that I wanted to run or bug out, I just asked what was on my mind. I had been flying combat assaults for a long time, survived two tours of CCN support, and Hill 30 and 31, and others. For a moment, and just for a moment, I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could start the day over again by doing something different. All it took to get back on task was Steve Diehl's statement. Talk about subtle leadership. It was a lesson I used later in life as I assumed leadership positions. If your soldiers trust you and your abilities, they will follow you into hell...just like I did 28 years ago.
Gilbert Alvarado, CE, UH-1H 6816252
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