Pacific Stars and Stripes information
for 38 ARRS DET 10
336 AHC

For date 680512

38 ARRS DET 10 was a US Air Force unit
336 AHC was a US Army unit
Primary service involved, US Air Force
An Xuyen Province, IV Corps, South Vietnam
Location, Ca Mau
Description: The following is an edited version of an article titled "Jungle Rescue - Ordeal in VC's Back Yard" by Bob Cutts S&S Correspondent. Chet Walborn could see it all too clearly. The little FAC plane lay in the clearing on its back, a tangle of wreckage. Across the Son Qua Lon River were the VC positions - new bunkers and trenches. The outpost where the plane had crashed, Nam Can, was still a hornet's nest of confusion. Surrounded by the U Minh Forest, the tiny post had been hit by more than 100 mortar shells before dawn. One Vietnamese soldier had died and nine were wounded. It was obvious the VC across the river did not intend to leave the outpost standing another night - not with two Americans in it. The Vietnamese in the outpost were milling around close to panic. FAC Walborn, circling in his own plane below the thick cloud cap knew help was on the way - but not how much. The jungle was ominously quiet. Walborn knew he was in a tight spot - Nam Can, 30 miles south of Ca Mau and the closest government outpost to the southern tip of the Mekong Delta was Charlie's back yard. There was no way in except through the minute helipad next to the mud walls - it was practically a bull's eye to the mortarmen who inhabited the U Minh. But the men on the ground FAC CPT Charles Louvern and his observer, Marine LTC Ted Culpepper, had to be gotten out - now. They had lost all oil when their engine took a hit earlier, and had no choice but to try to pancake down onto Nam Can's helipad - there was nowhere else to go. North of Ca Mau, a solution was winging its way to the scene - Two H-43 Huskie rescue choppers: "Pedro 91" flown by Larry Conover, and "Pedro 39" piloted by Tom Precious were swooping in from the 38th Air Rescue Sq., Det. 10, at Binh Thuy AB, near Can Tho. It was a long flight, and Pedro 91, ten minutes ahead of its sister ship, was already low on fuel. Conover had to stop at Ca Mau for gas - circling the thick cloud roof, he finally found a hole and dove straight through it - he had only 20 minutes' fuel left. This left Tom Precious and his crew, CPT Don Van Meter, copilot, Sgt. Jim Parks, pararescue, and SSGt. C. Touchette, crew chief, to make the pickup. Walborn had meanwhile scrounged up a three-copter fire team from the 336th AHC, the "T-Birds". He told them to hold off above the clouds while he brought in the Husky figuring to surprise the VC with a split second pickup before they could open fire. He was wrong. As Precious came in on a beautiful pattern and flared to a landing six mortar shells hit all around him in a barrage. The jungle across the river exploded in a maelstrom of fire. Mortar flashes lit up the jungle like a pinball machine. "David 30", as Walborn was call-signed, didn't know it, but the entire U Minh-II battalion, reinforced by a heavy weapons company, was doing the shooting. It was the Yankees who got surprised. Touchette, who had left the Huskie to find the Americans, made a running dive for the open door, and Precious pulled out. The Americans were nowhere in sight. Everyone on the ground was running for bunkers. Now Precious was low on fuel and had to turn for Ca Mau. But Conover was airborne again and headed from Nam Can. Walborn knew the only hope of suppressing ground fire that heavy was with bombers, then gun helicopters. But T-Bird now had fuel problems, too. There was just enough left for 15 more minutes over Nam Can - not enough time for an airstrike. It would be now or, maybe, never. As Conover pulled into sight, David 30 decided to gamble. He asked T-Bird ships if they would try to suppress long enough for another rescue attempt. They said they'd try. He asked Pedro 91 if he'd go in. The helipad was still being splattered with mortars. "If the T-Birds'll cover, we're game." OK, It was set. Swooping in low, on T-Bird Huey dropped two smoke bombs out across the river. Only one ignited. Then, in a beautifully coordinated pattern the three gunships swooped in across the river, blazing away with machineguns and rockets. Walborn flew low to draw fire off Nam Can. Behind them, Conover settled into Nam Can. Louvern, in sweat-stained flight suit, appeared. He ran to the helicopter dragging a badly wounded Vietnamese. But now, the panic-stricken Vietnamese soldiers started to rush the copter. They all wanted out of the outpost. There was of course no room in the tiny Huskie for 50 Vietnamese. They started to rock the plane. They were packed so close that Culpepper, in the background, couldn't get near the plane. Conover hovered up a few feet off the deck, swept back and forth the force the Vietnamese to get their heads down. Finally he plopped down next to Culpepper - and the Vietnamese rushed him again. Culpepper, also unhurt made a flying leap into the copter. Meanwhile, the T-Birds were running into troubles - the VC were throwing mortar shells up into their paths. One chopper was hit, but stayed aloft. As Conover broke away, it was over. The helicopters disappeared toward Ca Mau. Things got quiet again. But Walborn, in David 30, knew where to look now. Scanning the skies, he saw the two fighters he had ordered coming in, and he put them to work. Napalm, rockets, bombs, and 20mm cannon wreaked vengeance on the U Minh II battalion. Photo Caption - CPT Tom Precious (left) and CPT Larry Conover atop their H-43 Huskie.
Comments: CPT Precious, Tom; pilot; ; CPT Conover, Larry; pilot; ;

The source for this information was 6805pss.avn supplied by Les Hines

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Date posted on this site: 05/13/2023