Day two March 3rd Lom Son 719, Khe San. After three trips
into FSB Lolo the previous day that resulted in 1 huey downed, a round
(7.62) through the chin bubble, what seemed like a simple emergency
re-supply of ammo to a fire base that resulted in being charged by what
looked like hundreds of NVA up one side of the base while the ARVN ran
down the other side and then being over loaded with ARVN in full
retreat, I wondered how much worse it could get?
It didn't take long to find out. Another insertion was ordered into
FSB Lolo that morning. A/101 lost a bird on the first run just off the
LZ but the crew had survived. Every bird that went in after that wanted
to extract the crew but the stumps were so tall you couldn't land to
pick them up. We went back to Khe San and re-loaded with fuel and ammo
and were ordered back to our AO for a briefing and Maj. Clewell took
over as one of our pilots because he wanted to see first hand what was
We circled for a few minutes before we started into the LZ and while I
was staring out the right door I saw a mortar rd. go bye just beyond the
rotor blades that was so close I could see
Chinese writing on it! I couldn't figure out if they were trying for us,
or aiming at Lolo. On our final approach Ron Kuhn and I were pouring in
the rounds when I saw 3 NVA next to some boulders with rifles in the
air. I burned them. After unloading in the LZ, Clewell did a 360 in the
LZ looking for our crew with no success and asked if we were clear to
depart the LZ. I then noticed we still had one ARVN I reached over to
shove him off and discovered he had been shot. I then pulled him back
from the edge of the door and said we were clear up with one wounded,
Man was he bleeding. He had more blood coming out of him than I thought
people had! I started working on him to try and stop it Ron had to come
and help he had an entry and exit wound and we put a strap on his leg
and both of us kept pressure on the wounds and an artery and finally
stopped the flow then the bastards started on us with the 37mm over the
horseshoe in the river below just like always. I wanted to shoot back
but was afraid the ARVN would start bleeding again. We finally dropped
him off at a field hospital and returned to the AO where we were going
to change pilot's again.
After another refueling and ammo, we picked up some more ARVN's and
went back to Lolo. On that insertion, we dropped off the ARVN's and were
still trying to get info on the status of our crew with no luck but we
heard they were in contact with one of the crew on a PRC 25 and a med-evac
was trying to get to them. What a pair they had! to go in that LZ with
no 60's was insanity as far as I was concerned, but they got them out!
Our next mission was a re-supply to a FB I don't remember. after
dropping off the supplies, the pilot asked "clear up?" Ron said clear
and I said wait, an ARVN was waiving at us to move over and make a pick
up. It turned out to be ARVN body bags that had sat out in the sun for a
couple of days. They were translucent bags and the sight was horrible
and the smell was worse
everyone but me hurled I hadn't eaten the morning but got the heaves
After dropping them off at some ARVN camp we returned to the AO and
secured the bird for the day. I was finally over that body bag thing and
started to feel hungry and told Ron I was going to get something to eat
and headed to our mess/briefing tent and he said he would be over in a
few minutes. About 10 or 15 minutes I wondered where he was and went
back to the bird to find out what was taking him and found him trying to
wash the blood off the floor with his canteen, I then grabbed mine and
together we did the best we could with what we had and then went to the
tent together to find something to eat.
It wasn't five minutes and two bites into a can of C's when Maj.
Clewell walked into the tent and said "listen up!, command says we have
some journalists stranded on a firebase in Laos and I volunteered the
Comancheros. Any body interested?" We were all thinking HUH? (too long)
Clewell then said OK, I'm going how about you Federovich? he said yes.
Then Clewell looked out of the tent and asked, what bird is that? and
pointed outside at our bird and Ron said 103 sir! Is it ready to go?
Clewell asked and Ron said yes sir! Clewell said ok, lets go. I turned
to Ron and asked, are you going? Ron replied "it's my bird" I said aw
shit! here we go again!
So, off we flew into the wild blue sunset and I'm thinking to myself,
man, it's going to be dark by the time we get there, and we ain't coming
back from this one! After circling around over the border waiting for a
couple of cobra's for support who never showed for some reason, Clewell
contacted command that we had no gunship support and command said we
were clear to return to Khe San. Clewell stated that we hadn't come this
far to turn back now and proceeded to fly into Laos. At this point I
figured we were screwed!
So, off we went to Laos and after it seemed like forever, we arrived
in the vicinity and called for a flare and spotted the base and
immediately started on final approach. Clewell and Federovich decided
our best chance was to land just outside the perimeter figuring that
charles had the base zeroed in . (good call) Federovich took over the
stick and came in fast. We hit hard and bounced off the ground hard and
back into the air and down again. I thought DAM! that had to screw up
the landing skids. So we sat there looking around asking where the hell
Then from the perimeter a lone person came running down the hill towards
the bird and stopped to take off all his camera's before climbing in.
This was taking entirely too dam long for me and I jumped out onto the
ground and looked up the hill towards the base and six others were
crouched down as if to see if the first guy would make it I waved at
them to get their asses down there now. We had already been there too
long as far as I was concerned and mortars were already starting to come
in on the base. They all ran down then and started to climb in as if
they were going to hurt themselves and I proceeded to assist them in
(with dignity) yelling go, go, go, we cleared up and pulled pitch and I
looked up towards the base to see someone get blowed off the top of a
bunker and rounds were starting to walk down the hill right where we
were at a moment before. Maj. Clewell yelled I can't see shit! can you
guy's? Ron and I leaned out and all I saw was trees coming at us and
yelled "pull it up! pull it up! You could hear tree tops hitting the
bottom of the aircraft and then clear them. all of this time you could
hear small arms fire but no hits. We flew low for a little bit to gain
airspeed and try to avoid small arms before ascending because we were a
little heavy. After gaining a few thousand feet I swear it sounded like
everyone exhaled at the same time and I thought dam, we got away wit it!
So, Back to Khe San we went and it seemed almost quiet I remember
flying into some clouds and how pretty it was that it was all green from
the light on my side of the bird with a flash of red from the beacon. At
that point the journalists wanted to go to Quang Tri so Clewell radioed
in and that's where we headed. About half way there, Clewell said Hey!
Is this fuel gauge working?
and starts taping on it (like that's going to fix it!) and asks Ron when
was the last time you refueled? Neither of us could remember at that
point so we figured we were running out. By the time we got to Quang Tri
it was socked in to a couple hundred feet and tried to spot a couple of
flares from the tower with no luck. We knew we were somewhere over the
landing strip and Clewell said that's it, we cant wait any longer and
started a spiral decent I was thinking oh great! now we're going to
crash in the fog. What seemed like eternity, fuel low, and all, we
popped out of the clouds with a couple of hundred feet to spare and
taxied to a fuel point and set her down. I jumped out, opened Clewell's
door, shut mine and proceeded to start fueling up and looked back
towards Clewell and saw what appeared to be one of the journalists
trying to kiss Clewell's boots while Clewell was pointing at the hole in
the chin bubble.
So there it is, the story behind "Just say it was the Comancheros"
Glenn Nichol, Comanchero Door Gunner 11/1970-5/1971