On the day of the operation that is covered on this tape one of the warrant officers, who was about to rotate, set up his reel to reel tape recorder in Flight Operations to capture the days events. He placed the microphone in front of the speakers and recorded on a slow speed and taped on each of the 4 tracks. He had no idea that any thing would happen. The quality is poor on the cassette, only a bit better on the reel to reel copy I have. In Flight Operations, there were two FM radios and a UHF. The FM radios were on the troop net and the squadron net. The UHF on the troop UHF net. We never changed frequencies the whole year I was there and I presume the year before. The enemy was listening we knew, but we figured that the actions of our unit were so fast paced that there was little useful operational information they could get.

I have a copy of the master tape and could make it available to any one who was serious about electronically extracting the operational communications and reproducing a better copy of it. I hope that some of today's Air Cavalrymen will gain a better appreciation for the heritage that they carry into the 21st century. "Old Bill's" may reminisce about when they were young, dashing, enthusiastic, believed in each other and the rightness of our purpose, and wonder about the fate of former comrades in arms.

The radio traffic starts during the 07:30 Morning Briefing in Flight Operations (C - 65 ). C-11 reports to C- 65 that C -12 has been shot down about 35 k from Cu Chi in the vicinity of the free fire zone (The Renegade Woods) just north of the Angles Wing where RT1 crosses into Cambodia. The Lt. Scout Team of C-11 and C-12 were returning from "Dawn Patrol" of the MSR and diverted from the MSR to check out a normally productive area about 10 K south of their return route. The weather in the area was fogy with low scudy clouds with about 1/4-mile visibility and 500 feet. On their first pass over the area they caught 15 - 20 VC seated at a long table in a base camp apparently assembling some type of munitions. The lead scout observer took them under fire and dropped hand grenades, which landed on the table and provided a secondary explosion. The wing provided covering fire and the VC returned fire. I believe they made several passes receiving more fire each time. C-12 took rounds in his transmission and managed to get about 500 m away from the action and set the OH-23G down in an old rice paddy. His wingman provided cover and increased his altitude to 2500' to be able to reach C-65 on his FM radio. The tape starts out almost inaudible, but improves as the scrambled elements of the troop depart the "corral" at Cu Chi and C - 6 briefs the assembling elements enroute to the operational area. (Please excuse the back ground music, how it crept in is a mystery, but it most likely is on one track and the operation on another.) The tape on the last part of the second side is for the most part inaudible, hopefully the listener will have by this time gotten some feel for air cavalry operations in Vietnam during the early years. The operation slowed down and like most operations dragged out most of the day. The results of the airstrikes and artillery fires were inconclusive. Because of the proximity to the Cambodian border (less than a 1/2 mile) Division was reluctant to commit ground forces to search the area. With out a reaction force the Air Cav Trp was reluctant to venture into the area with its 27 dismounted Aero-Riflemen and risk becoming decisively engaged. This free fire zone was like a stocked fishing pond, we would fish it out and it would get stocked every night from across the boarder. (Note: newly stocked fish are often the easiest to catch). It sat astride a major resupply route for the VC in the region. We had many prior and subsequent firefights in the area. The division fought over this place until it left in 1970.

Call Signs

• Saber - Squadron
• Saber 6 - Cdr.
• Saber Alpha - A Troop
• Saber Delta - D Troop (when on Squadron net )
• Saber ( A,B,C,D) 65 - NCS
• Centaur - D Troop call sign.
• Centaur 6 Troop Cdr. Maj. Fleming
• Centaur 65 Flight Operations (NCS)
• Centaur 3 Flight Operations Officer Maj. Vinson
• Centaur 4 Service Platoon Ldr (Also use call sign Stable Boy on support or medevac missions)
• Centaur 5 XO Maj. Fisher
• Centaur 30 Aero Rifle Plat Cdr. Cpt. Wilde
• Centaur 36 - 39 Lift Aircraft
• Centaur 35 Aero Rifle Plat Ldr Lt. Mosenthal
• C… 31Alpha - 34 Alpha Rifle squads
• Centaur 10 Aero Sct Plt Cdr. Cpt. Stephens
• Centaur 11 - 19 Lt Sct
• Centaur 20 - 29 Hv Sct
• Centaur 40 Aero Weapons Ldr
• Centaur 41 - 44 Weapons hogs
• Falling Yeoman - MACV ARVN District
• Pipe Smoke - 334th Maintenance Bn (downed Acft. recovery element)
• Issue - USAF FAC assigned to 25th ID
• Bolt Eco - E Co 725 Maint Bn. (DS Acft Maint)


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War Stories

Flight Operations Audio - 1967

Tom Fleming - Note: Audio was remastered (less noise) Mar 2014

Below is a restored audio tape made in Centaur Flight Operations at Cu Chi Base Camp during a mission in the free fire zone North of Route 1 where it enters Cambodia (Renegade Woods area). It is an example of a typical troop reaction to a downed aircraft. (1 hour and 26 sec long.) The Audio Bar should show the time hacks for use in talking about a particular section of the tape.

(See article The Way It Was - 1967 for description and photo of Centaur encampment.)