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War Stories

Cobra Saves Downed LOH Teammates - 3 Nov 69

 

News

Vol 4 - No 44 - 3 Nov 1969
By SGT Tony Camelo and SP4 John Haydock
Mentioned: Tom Sinclair, Wayne White, Charles Vierra, William Malinovsky, Larry Bruce

CU CHI - Under circumstances that seemed like the script for an adventure movie, three men of Delta Troop, 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry found themselves in a frying pan of fury, but scrambled out and put an enemy base camp into the fire.

While investigating Alpha readings - indications from "people-sniffers" that enemy is nearby - a Light Scout Team, an LOH helicopter and Cobra gunship, were hovering over a dense section of the Ho Bo Woods.

Suddenly the low-flying LOH received fire.  The pilots, Captain Thomas J. Sinclair of San Carlos, Calif., and Captain Wayne A. White of Columbus, Ga., were both hit in the leg.  The LOH faltered, hit the ground and rolled over on its left side.

Immediately, Specialist 5 Charles D. Vierra of Providence, R.I., the LOH's crew chief, pulled the two wounded men from the downed craft and helped them to safety in a nearby bomb crater, despite a hail of enemy small arms fire.

White later recalled, "I thought we could stay by the LOH, but when I saw the dust raised by the incoming fire and heard a lot of excited talking in the bushes, I felt much safer moving out of the area."

Vierra returned to the aircraft, took out his M-60 machinegun and ammo, and set up a 180-degree field of fire facing the enemy.

Meanwhile, Sinclair had struggled from the crater, found a landing zone about 20 meters away and waved the Cobra in for a landing.

The VC were screaming and rushing the area, but the Cobra touched down after blasting the enemy positions with rockets to back up Vierra's continuing fire.

The Cobra pilot, Captain William Malinovsky of Columbus, Ohio, said, "I knew it was a chance to pick them up, but it was a better one than they had down there with wounds."

Warrant Officer 1 Larry E. Bruce of Richfield, Minn., leaped from the Cobra and helped Sinclair unfasten the ship's doors and free the ammo pods.

While the wounded men were hustled into the gunship, Vierra kept up his suppressive fire until he ran out of ammunition, and by that time everyone had been loaded onto the Cobra.  It took off, carrying three hits it absorbed while on the ground and leaving the surprised enemy for Fire Brigade infantrymen.

They arrived soon in the person of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry.  A four-ship lift brought the company's third platoon to the scene of the crash and its first platoon soon arrived to link up.

The Golden Dragons moved quickly into what turned out to be a VC base camp.  The LOH was lying on its side, expended AK ammo scattered all around.  The Tropic Lightning troops formed a 360-degree perimeter and began searching the area, soon finding a vast tunnel complex.

The Dragons found a small cache, but the VC had fled.  The Americans stayed around long enough to secure the area while a Huey UH-1 came in to lift the downed LOH out of the area.

Sinclair, Bruce, Vierra and Captain William E. Malinovsky of Columbus, Ohio, commander of the Cobra who made the decision to land and then used his sidearm to help hold the enemy at bay, all received Silver Stars for their part in the action.  White was a awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross.  The five awards were presented in ceremonies the day after the incident.

LOHcrash

THEY WENT THATAWAY - Lieutenant Colonel Donald O. Crutchley of Bethesda, Md., 2d Battalion, 14th Infantry commander, and a 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry officer look over a cache found when a 3/4 Cav LOH was shot down and its crew had to battle out of trouble. Story on page 8. (PHOTO BY 5P4 FRANK DITTO)