SOG HALO Extraction of 22 JUN 71
I'm recently read SOG by John L. Plaster. I love the book and read it with interest and looking for that "story" that might have something to do with A/101, Comancheros. Although very exciting reading through the first fifteen chapters, nothing jumped out at me as a mission that I was on.
Then came Chapter sixteen "Fighting Soldiers From The Sky". As you may know this chapter has to do with the SOG HALO teams and there missions. I had a remembrance, although just partial, of an extraction that we performed for SOG in the summer of 1971. My memory told me that the SOG team had parachuted in and had injury's on landing.
Anyway on page 317 of "SOG", I read were Sergeant Major Billy Waugh, Staff Sergeant James "JD" Bath and Sergeants Jesse Campbell and Madison Strohlein were the member of SOG HALO team. They were put in a target DZ 60 miles southwest of Danang on 22 June 1971on a intensely dangerous night jump at 14,000' from a Blackbird. The book goes on to tell that Bath's chute had blown out the canopy center and he had almost no control in his descent. He got separated from Strohlein, Campbell and Waugh in the heavy rain and his chute collapsed on a tree branch and he plunged to the ground wrenching his knee and knocking himself out. Strohlein crashed through the trees and was caught up in the tree with his chute. He broke his right arm and could not operate his descender. In his harness with a broken arm he was stuck in the tree. He could only talk with Bath by radio. Waugh and Campbell landed safely. They all say NVA during the night but were not discovered by them.
The A/101 Avn., Comancheros, were the extraction birds the next morning. We had Bright Light teams on board a couple of our birds, but not on mine, when we went out at O dark 30. We first were going to go after Bath, but he said that Strohlein needed to get out first. We were redirected to the adjoining embankment to look for Strohlein. We had a hell of a time trying to find him. He was on the radio talking to us and trying to vector us toward him by the sound of our rotors. This was triple canopy jungle and we could not see him anywhere. We once thought that we were very close and he said he could hear us overhead. The rotor blades moved the jungle away and I saw him (I thought). I leaned out and threw a string to him and it landed at his feet. He just looked up at me and would not take the string. We were hovering about 25'-30' above "him" and I was motioning for him to grab the string but he would not. He just looked up at me and smiled. The pilots ask me what the problem was and I told him he would not grab the string.
Then for some reason I asked the pilot if the team was all round eyes or if yards were among them? While I was still motioning to try to get this "yard" to grab the string, the pilot came back with "All round eye team". About that time I got very frightened and reached back to grab my M16 as it was within reach while I was laying on the floor. Just as I locked and loaded it and stuck my head back out to shoot and this guy as he starts to take his gun from a position of slung over his shoulder. Now it seems like it took forever for all this to transpire, but could not of been more than a couple of seconds. I pulled the trigger before he got his AK up to aim. Why he did not shoot us before this I can't explain. He had enough time to fire his whole clip in the bottom of my Huey and me as I lay on the deck. This is the only time I ever shot any NVA/VC that I could see there eyes. I can still see it just as though it was yesterday.
After he threw a smoke we found out that Strohlein was actually hearing another Comanchero over him but was talking to and directing us. Then he popped smoke we found the smoke but could not find his location exactly through the canopy jungle. He warned us off because he heard NVA around him and we did not want to give his position away. The weather got real bad and we were almost out of fuel so we moved over to were Campbell and Waugh were and extracted them instead.
After going back and fueling up, we went back out again. We could not reach Strohlein on the radio, so one of the Comanchero birds rappelled in a couple of guys to go after Bath. They found him and all were lifted out on strings. After circling for a while and trying to reach Strohlein on the radio without any luck, his ridge was engulfed in fog so we could not get in to low level search for him. We finally started taking same light ground fire and again running low on fuel we had to leave.
The next day a Hatchet force platoon was inserted to go after Strohlein. They found his map and CAR-15. No blood was found, however AK and CAR-15 brass were around the location. Sergeant Strohlein was never found and is still listed as MIA. I didn't know about his fate until I read it in "SOG".
I was able to tell this story from the information I found in SOG by John L. Plaster and what little memory I have of the incident. It is heart breaking to now know the fate of Sergeant Madison Strohlein. I still have the feeling that if we had just tried a little harder we could have found him. I will look him up on the Wall the next time I get the chance.
At Fort Bragg there is a vertical wind tower where Special Forces HALO parachutists perfect their skills, Strohlein Hall, named for SOG HALO jumper Madison Strohlein, MIA and believed captured.
Richard A. Bittle firstname.lastname@example.org - COMANCHERO WEBMASTER 06
Comanchero - Co. A (Aslt Hel) 101st AVN, 101st Airborne, RVN 70-71
A Comment on this story by Chuck Petty, A/101 AVN 71
narrative on the CCN Halo jump brought back some memories. I haven't
really thought in detail about any of this stuff since then and my memory
has faded somewhat. I do know that I was one of the pilots on that mission
and I remember:
A lot of confusion on the radio about contact with the folks on the ground (were we really in contact with Strohlein or the bad guys?).
Hovering around waiting for the guy on the ground to grab the strings.
He was going thru the ruck (Strohleins?).
The "round-eye" team question.
We were going back and try again (or we tried one more time?) but the PZ was to hot.
AF tried with a Jolly Green and again too hot.
Anyway, thanks for the story
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