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War Stories

Odom Rescue - Jul 69

News articles of the event - click here for Stars & Stripes article

The two crew members with Odom were Dennis Rogers and Marty Lalli

 

Update 28 September 2017: This article has the wrong guy lifting the 600 lb Drum. CPT Joest, the pilot in command was in the back seat of the Cobra and stayed there as he should have. 1LT Al Ward was the front seat pilot and got out to help on the ground with the rescue. He removed the 600 lb Ammo Drum.

(see Odom/Rogers movie from the Nashville 2012 reunion)

 

News

Vol 4 - No 29 - 21 July 1969

SP4 Paul Laderosa

CU CHI - What began as a routine hunter-killer mission for five men from Delta Troop, 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry wound up as a daring and heroic rescue and recovery of a downed chopper near the Cambodian border.

Flying at treetop level, the Cayuse observation helicopter started receiving fire from several enemy .51 caliber machinegun positions near Cu Chi.  The Cayuse burst into flames as several enemy bullets struck it.  The pilot, First Lieutenant Jerry Odom, skillfully regained control of the stricken chopper and headed for a clearing out of range of the enemy guns.

Odom maneuvered the LOH to a safe landing as he and his crew immediately evacuated the flaming cockpit.

After the Cayuse came under the first volley of enemy fire, Captain Mike Joest and First Lieutenant Al Ward kept a watchful eye on the small helicopter from their Cobra gunship flying overhead.

The moment the Cayuse touched the ground, the Cobra landed beside it.  Nothing remained of the Cayuse except a huge ball of flame as the five airmen looked at each other, wondering how they would all fly out in a chopper built for two.

Matters changed as the enemy zeroed in on them with small arms fire from a nearby woodline.

Joest decided the Cobra needed some immediate interior decorating as the enemy bullets whizzed by their heads.  He threw open the doors to the ammunition bay in the nose of the gunship and lifted out the massive 600-pound ammo casing.  Once the casing was removed, two of the pilots jumped into the gunship as the other three men straddled the landing skids with half of their bodies inside of the ammo bay.

The Cobra had no trouble lifting off the ground and headed back to Cu Chi with the three airmen huddled around its nose.  It made it to the base camp airstrip with all five men aboard without incident.

Some may question the ability of Joest to lift a huge 600-pound ammo case without help.  Joest returned to the scene of the daring rescue to retrieve the case the following day, and sure enough, he found it exactly where he had left it.  But this time as he tried to lift it, he found that he wasn't quite the superman he had been the day before.  He huffed and he puffed, but couldn't budge the case an inch.

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Update 28 September 2017: This article has the wrong guy lifting the 600 lb Drum. CPT Joest, the pilot in command was in the back seat of the Cobra and stayed there as he should have. 1LT Al Ward was the front seat pilot and got out to help on the ground with the rescue. He removed the 600 lb Ammo Drum.

(see Odom/Rogers movie from the Nashville 2012 reunion)

StarsStripes

Pacific Stars and Stripes Article Saturday, July 12, 1969, page 7

also see Odom Rescue - Jul 79


5 Lives at Stake, Pilot Lifts 600 Pounds

Saigon - Super-dangerous situations call for quick thinking, aided, if possible, by superhuman power. A 25th Inf. Div. helicopter pilot faced just such a predicament and acted accordingly.

Capt. Mike Joest and 1st Lt. Al Ward were flying a Cobra helicopter abut 15 miles northwest of Tay Ninh City in tandem with a light observation helicopter (LOH) piloted by 1st Lt. Jerry Odom.

Suddenly machine gun fire ripped into the LOH. The chopper burst into flames, but Odom managed to guide it to a safe landing in a clearing on the side of a stream.

He and his two crewmembers leaped from the chopper just as Joest brought the Cobra down beside them.

But the Tropic Lightning soldiers' problems had just begun: How do you fit five men in a Cobra gunship designed for two?

As the rest of the group held off North Vietnamese soldiers who had already crossed the stream, Joest threw open the Cobra's ammunition bay doors and heaved a massive 600 pound ammo case out of the chopper.

It left just enough room to get all five soldiers on board and barely time to escape as the NVA soldiers charged in.

Joest later said, "We went back to the site Monday morning to pick up the ammo case - I mean I was signed for it - and I couldn't budge it an inch."

The case was recovered later.