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War Stories

Another Scout Killed in the Mushroom - 5 July 1971

by Steven Borden - comments by Don Borey, Joe Hoover and Kim Jacobsen

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mushroom CW2 Edward Lewis Mortimer, also known as "Ed" or "Louie" was flying his LOH Scout aircraft on a morning Visual Reconnaissance mission in the area along the Saigon River called the Mushroom. He was the low bird, or scout, of a "Pink" team with an AH-1G Cobra Gunship flying above him for cover.

At the Mushroom, Mortimer when down low "on the deck" and began his search for enemy positions. He was flying over a relatively flat area when he found them. Unfortunately they found him at the same time. As he started to turn away and radio the situation to the Cobra overhead, the enemy opened up with considerable firepower. His bird was struck with sufficient force as to cause it to loose power and crash. Ed Took a round through his leg, which severed an artery. His Crew Chief SP4 Glenn "Randy" Nicholas received a broken back during the crash.

Even with his serious injuries, Nicholas was able to pull Mortimer from the wreckage and was talking to the Cobra overhead on an emergency radio. The Cobra radioed back to operations to let them know a bird was down. This caused the Troop to launch everything flyable. The Cobras took off first and helped relieve the Cobra covering the downed crew. They kept firing on the area around them to keep the enemy away, while back at Lai Khe Huey's were being loaded with troops and a doctor to launch a rescue mission.

Two times the rescue Huey's tried to land near them and both times were driven away by extremely heavy fire. Almost all of the ships were hit, and two had to return to Lai Khe, barely making it before their Huey's quit. A third attempt was successful.

With troops on the ground securing the area the Huey with the doctor landed and made the pickup of both men. They immediately returned to the hospital at top speed. The other Huey's went in and recovered the ground troops.

Ed died enroute to the hospital. He had lost too much blood from the injury to his leg.

SP4 Glenn "Randy" Nicholas received the Silver Star for his heroic actions in trying to save CW2 Mortimer.

 

Comments

Don Borey: We were operating out of Lai Khe that day. I was not assigned to fly any missions that day. I was in my room when I heard the alarm, a siren I think, go off indicating a troop scramble. I grabbed my gear and ran to the flight line. I saw Skip Petrie in the back seat of a cobra running up. He waved at me to come over. I threw my gear into the copilot seat and climbed in. As I was trying to get strapped in, Skip had the cobra out of the revetment and was taking off. He filled me in on what was going on. We arrived in the area and made contact with the c&c who was trying to coordinate the operation to rescue Mortimer.

We picked up cover for the slick going in to pick up Mortimer. I think we could see the enemy advancing on the pick up location. Skip punched off a pair of rockets which impacted fairly close in on the right side of the slick. The slick had picked up Mortimer. They then pulled pitch and headed to the evac. We learned later that CW2 Mortimer bled out on the way to the evac hospital.

I recall that the troop had been assigned a RVN Brown platoon that day as a reaction force. When the call came in that Mortimer was down, the Browns balked at getting on the slicks to go rescue him. They said they were only with us for training that day. After some delay, one of the Squad leaders with our Blues got some of the Browns to go with some of our Blues. I always felt that the delay may have contributed to Mortimer's death.

That's my recollection.

 

Joe Hoover: I was flying C&C for the Hunter-Killer team the day Mortimer was shot down. My gunner was Terry Smith (Smitty). CPT Tommy Erby and CW2 Kim Jacobsen were the C&C pilots that day. CPT Don Phillips was flying the Cobra. There were a lot of NVA in the area. We made two approaches but CPT Erby refused to land with all the shooting. SP4 Glenn "Randy" Nicholas (gunner/observer on the Loach) had to carry Mortimer in the woods to get away from the NVA.

It took a few minutes to figure out what happened that morning. Mortimer was a real quiet guy, didn’t talk much. He would be on the deck for several minutes and not say anything. Most of the scout pilots would keep up a running dialogue about what they were seeing. But Mortimer didn’t. When he was shot down, at first all we knew was we saw he had crashed. We did not know he had been shot down at first. As I recall, we were getting ready to break off, get fuel and possibly lunch. Mortimer said “wait, I think I see something” and that was it. It became a scramble from that point on.

We (C&C aircraft 448) did not sustain any hits. But I think the Cobra flown by CPT Phillips was hit. I remember Forty-Oh saying something like “that little bastard just stood there and shot at me. He hit my turret.” As I remember it, our first approach was not “hot” because we were not sure why they crashed. So we went in at 60 knots, normal descent. We had come to a hover and were descending to land. The Army liaison to the ARVNs was a Captain riding with us and marking the map. I don’t remember his name but he was getting out of our aircraft when we heard shots. (At first, I thought it was rounds from the LOH fire cooking off) CPT. Erby took the controls and pulled pitch. That is when it started to get crazy. I was telling him (lying) that it wasn’t enemy fire, just rounds cooking off in the crash. Between the Captain liaison, Jake, Smitty and myself, we convinced CPT. Erby to go in again. The frustrating part was he did another normal approach, 60 knots normal descent, taking the same heading as before. We were just about to hover when we heard shots again so he pulled pitch and left. I didn’t return fire because the shots were coming from our six and the tail was moving back and forth. Neither Smitty nor I shot suppresive. The first time was because we didn’t know the situation. The second time we still didn’t fire because CPT. Erby said we couldn’t. Not wanting to give him an excuse to abort the landing we held our fire. I never actually saw the enemy that day. I would have preferred to do some suppressive fire but was more concerned about getting to Mortimer and Nick.

 

Kim Jacobsen: Mort took fire and landed hard.. I was flying the Huey with Captain Erby in the left seat. He had virtually no aircraft commander time but on that day he was. I executed an immediate high overhead and came to a hover after cutting a little brush over Mort and Nick and could see his face in my right chin bubble. I told my my crew to get the ropes out. We started to take fire. Instantly Captain Erby grabbed the controls and flew the helicopter up and out of harms way. By the time enemy fire had been suppressed and a Medevac could get Mort out safely, he bled to death. It is a deeply painful memory.