BigWindow BackArrow top
War Stories

'Flashlight' Mission Darkens VC Outlook



Vol 4 - No 23 - 9 June1969

By SP4 John T. Agnoletti

CU CHI - It was a dark, moonless night in the jungles of Vietnam. Three Viet Cong sleeping in a bomb crater were suddenly illuminated by a powerful light from the sky and killed with a burst of minigun fire. When Delta Troop, 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry, is around, the enemy can't always rely on the cover of darkness to provide security.

One of the missions the airmobile troop performs is referred to as the "flashlight" mission. This consists of night flying with a UH-1D helicopter with a powerful light attached to the side of the ship. The Centaur pilots, flying low level, observe the terrain closely in their hunt for the enemy.

On a recent night, Delta Troop commanding officer Major William R. Laird of Tampa, Fla., and Warrant Officer John M. Hofman of Palm Beach, Fla., were credited with seven enemy killed and eight sampans destroyed on a flashlight mission.

Laird and Hofman were flying in an area where 3d Brigade elements had made contact during the day. The pilots spotted three Viet Cong in a bomb crater and immediately engaged them with a minigun. All three were killed and eight enemy sampans were found in the area, destroyed by Centaur firepower.

While flying back to Cu Chi, Laird was in radio contact with Alpha Troop of the 3/4 Cavalry. Movement had been detected outside Alpha's night defensive position, and the flashlight was needed to check the area.

In searching around the perimeter, Laird spotted five Viet Cong setting up a mortar position. When they opened fire, the ship's doorgunners claimed four of them.

This was a typical Flashlight mission for the Delta Troop Centaurs. They headed back to Cu Chi.