0 – 1 min 24 seconds: Initially, you can hear the tower “Centaur 21 you are cleared for departure” as the gun team is cleared for takeoff from Cu Chi. To record this mission, the mike had been taped in the open position, so most of this 1 minute and 24 second segment is just “noise” and some inaudible radio talk as the two helicopters head for C Troop’s location.

1 min 24 sec: You hear “this is 6” as the helicopters pick up the ground commander’s conversation. The number 6 is used by commanding officers, and in this instance, it is short for “Sabre Charlie 6”… his complete call sign. You’ll hear 6 asking “Are these your people or somebody else’s,” and this is just radio transmissions between 6 and other ground soldiers.

1 min 53 sec: You hear the intial try for contact: “Sabre Charlie 6, this is Centaur 21.” Basically, Centaur 21 in the lead gunship (a team of two gunships was standard for such missions) is trying to contact Sabre Charlie 6 on the ground, as the two gun ships have been scrambled to support 6’s ground troops in contact with the enemy. You can hear that SC6 had a lot of things going on, so he does not initially respond to the radio call. You hear 35 (the platoon sergeant) calling 77 about getting an “echo mike” which is “EM” (i.e., enlisted man) to come drive a “track” (likely, an armored personnel carrier) as someone near does not know how to drive it.

2 min 24 sec: “Sabre Charlie 6, this is Centaur 21 over.” The second attempt to get in radio contact with SC6, and SC6 responds this time.

2 min 28 sec: SC6 tells Centaur 21 there’s a recoilless rifle position on his right flank. He says his Sabre Charlie 35 can mark it, so the two gunships will know where the U.S. troops are.

2 min 58 sec: SC 6 radios SC 35 (his platoon sergeant) and puts him in radio contact with Centaur 21.

3 min 05 sec: SC 35 tells Centaur 21 that the gunships are directly behind his position on the right flank.

3 min 20 sec: SC 35 tells Centaur 21 that in the wood line about 20 meters in front of him is where the “rockets came from” (likely rocket propelled grenades or RPG). He describes the location of the VC as just beyond a burning hay stack.

3 min 40 sec: Centaur 21 asks SC 35 if he has any “friendlies” in front of him, and he reports negative. Basically, Centaur 21 is trying to make sure the gunships know exactly where all the good guys are before shooting rockets and miniguns.

3 min 56 sec: Centaur 21 says “very good” and we’ll be “rolling in” in about one minute. Basically, to shoot rockets from a C-model Huey, you’ve got to go get lined up so that you are not shooting over the good guys, so it takes about a minute for the two gunships to get in position before we “roll in” (i.e., point the helicopter down toward the target and start the gun run shooting rockets and miniguns, plus the two door gunners in back with M-60 machine guns can fire at will as well providing cover to the sides). Here are pictures of UH-1C-model gunships and their weapons configurations.

4 min 58 sec: You hear the gunship behind Centaur 21 asking, “Are we breaking left?” and the response is “Breaking right…over the open field.” After you finish shooting on the gun run, then you turn (or “break”) either left or right (the idea being not to fly over the target where the bad guys are), and the helicopter flying wing needs to know ahead of time which way the lead gunship is planning on breaking.

5 min 10 sec: Centaur 21 says, “Okay, let’s see what we can do here” as they get ready to roll in for the first run.

5 min 25 sec: First gun run made. You can hear rockets exploding when they hit the ground and lots of minigun and machine gun fire from the helicopter.

5 min 35 sec: SC 35 tells Centaur 21 the rockets were “in line” and on target.

5 min 54 sec: Centaur 21 says, “Roger, and we’ll go try it again.” Basically, on the first run, about 25% of ordinance has been expended, so the two gunships are ready to go again now that SC 35 has confirmed the area hit during the first run was on target.

5 min 56 sec: SC 6 commanding officer has been monitoring this radio conversation between Centaur 21 and SC 35 and tells 21 not to expend all ordnance completely as he wants to “work in conjunction with an air strike he has coming.” In most missions, air force jets with napalm, etc. were not part of the action, so this may have been a significantly large unit of enemy troops since the air force was called in to support SC 6’s unit.

6 min 5 sec: Centaur 21 says “Roger and we only expended ?? percent, and that’s all.” SC 6 says “Good show.” It’s difficult to understand Centaur 21’s audio regarding the percentage of ordnance expend in the first run, but likely around 25%.

6 min 15 sec: Centaur 21 radios “40” who is Centaur 40, aircraft commander of the gunship flying wing. Sort of hard to hear, but Centaur 21 tells 40 that we are going to expend 25% more ordnance on the next run, but we want to save some per SC 6 instruction. Centaur 40 says “Roger that”

7 min 10 sec: Second gun run begins. You can hear door gunners shooting M-60 machine guns, and then the sound of the rockets hitting the ground.

7 min 35 sec: You hear SC 35 calling Centaur 21 with an assessment of the second gun run, “That’s very good. Right in on the position.”

7 min 40 sec: Centaur 21 responds that they still have 50% of ordnance remaining
A bit more audio, but hard to understand. Bob Taylor wanted to record the entire mission, but it ended here.

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War Stories

Sabre Charlie 6 Gunship Support Mission - 68

Audio by Bob Taylor - Text Narrative by Rick Williams

Below is a restored audio tape made in mid to late 1968 by Robert "Bob" Taylor, Crew Chief of Heavy Scouts Gunship (UH-1C) number 444.

Two UH-1C model Huey gunships from D Troop (Air) (i.e., the Centaurs), ¾ Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division have been called to support C Troop, ¾ Cavalry, commanded by Sabre Charlie 6, CPT Bill Shaffer. Sabre Charlie 35 is SFC Alvie Cooper. Centaur 21 Gun Team leader, is 1LT Rick Williams in the lead gunship (444). Flying his wing is Centaur 40, perhaps Charlie Johnson in a Heavy Weapons "Hog" gunship.

Watch the time on the audio bar (If your browser shows one) and relate it to the time hacks in the scrolling text below (8.5 min).