Tieu Atar

Tieu Atar -18 August '68 Operational information for 18 Aug. 1968 concerning a firefight northwest of Tieu Atar as obtained from 1st Lt. Tom Garvey, callsign "BAT GUANO", who was the CO of A-234, 5th Special Forces Group, and Al Owen "STAGECOACH 20". "StageCoach 20" I saw your post on the 155th AHC web site, looking for a few slicks drivers that might have given you a hand. My name is Al Owen, way back then I was a WO-1 Aircraft Commander and the flight lead of a flight of 5 UH-1Hs from the 155th AHC based at Ban Me Thout that did lend a hand to a group of good guys that was having a little problem with the bad guys. By my records and sometimes shaky memory, the date was Aug 18, 1968. However, there were several days around Tieu Atar from the 17th thru the 19th that were very active. I was leading the group of 5 with my "new-in-country" Platoon leader as my co-pilot. I do not remember all of the details as to where we were going, or how we were put in touch with the group on the ground, but your description of the FAC "Pteradactyl 35", who was based at Ban Me Thout with us, is probably right on. My Platoon leader was a Captain (Infantry of course) and devised and directed our course of action. As I remember, we fell into a trail formation, placed all door guns on the left side of the aircraft and circled the area you guys had marked with smoke for us, laying down as much lead from our M-60s as we could. I'm extremely happy to know that we helped. I'm interested in getting your response to see if this might be the action you were inquiring about. "BAT GUANO" Thank you for taking the time to pass the information to me. At the time of the contact on what I remember as close to noon on the 17th of August, 1968, (and God knows I could be wrong about the date but hope I am not since it has been my "personal National Holiday ever since") I was using the radio call sign "Bat Guano" and running border ops out of Tieu Atar, A-234 located between the "Y" where the Ya Hleo river (a small river ) branched as it flowed south east coming in from the Cambodian border. The camp was about 23 klicks from the red line and about 75 klicks nnw of Ban Me Thuot. My name is Tom Garvey and I was a 1Lt and the CO of the camp, which I think was Select Canoe, operating under the B team, B-23, Plum Wages, LTC Raymond Reed was the CO. The incident took place about 12 klicks sw of Tieu Atar and Pteradactyl 35 (Jan Shyrock) said there were about two battalions encircling me, one other USSF, SFC Fred Henry, and about 80 montagnards. There had been a storm front between us and Ban Me Thuot and the slicks in question had been caught behind it and set down at some camp north of us, so since A-231 was the northern most of the 4 border camps out of B-23 (Bu Prang, Duc Lap, Ban Don, and Tieu Atar, south to north) I assumed the slicks were out of Pleiku but I am pretty sure they were heading back in from being stuck out on the border overnight when they overheard half of my conversation with Pteradyctal 35, (his half) and rode to the rescue. I do know that, had they not come in to help us we never could have held off what we tangled with that day. We started it. Talk about throwing a punch at the biggest sombitch in a bar. If you are getting me in touch with those guys and if you are one of them then please accept my deepest and most heartfelt thanks and understand that should we ever meet the dinner is on me. I send you all my best and hope only that your life is full and beautiful. I honor you if you are or even if you are not one of the men who saved a couple of guys tiptoeing through the tulips with their montagnards who were too young and full of themselves to comprehend that there are some dragons you just dont poke sticks at. Thank you, Thank you. Tom Garvey All my very best, bat guano sends.... "StageCoach 20" Tom...Good reading and a lot of memories are coming back.....I guess it was our flight that you described. We did go into a trail formation and both the crew chiefs and gunners were told to set up on the left side of the aircraft, and we circled to the left. That's 10 m-60s doing their thing !! The attachment I sent was a set of orders for the Air Medal with "V" that our platoon leader had recommended the 5 Aircraft Commanders for. The Pterodyctals were actually the 185th (RAC) Recon Airplane Company based at Ban Me Thout with us. "BAT GUANO" I'm really curious about the material you have. I gather its not an "after action report" but some sort of op order. I went down to the National Archives in Silver Spring Maryland about 5 years ago and had actual MOPSUM's that had my name signed to them, God knows who wrote them, I didn't, from that summer but some were missing and I didn't have access to August. MOPSUMs were the Monthly Operations Summaries every A-team had to fill out and send it. They drove us crazy, the air strip was washing away and even caribou couldn't land for awhile, the team house had been built by bull dozing into high water table ground in the fork of a river and had 8 inches of water on the floor most of the rainy season and these monthly reports stalked us better than a "hunter killer" team. Here are a couple of more things to jar your long term memory. Most of it you couldn't have known anything about but a few details you might. Pteradactyl 35 was a small observation plane out of what we called 155 aviation. Within the unit it may have been broken down more than that but to us it was all 155 over by the road out to East Field past the ESSO station with all the air holes in it from TET. 35 was very low on fuel because he had flown south below Duc Lap (A-239) to cross the border and fly illegally up the wrong side of the red line to get to us. He'd seen that Bat Guano was a call sign on an operation behind the storm front and he wanted to help us if he could. He used up a lot of fuel getting to us and arrived around 0700. He headed northeast to have some "grease" with the team and save fuel if we needed him. Between our location and the camp, about 12 klicks ssw of the camp, he saw major fresh trails in the elephant grass and tipped us to a stream junction where there might be activity. He flew on to the camp and we headed up there arriving before 1100. It was a big base camp, a stopover place and was empty, there wasn't even a distant rifle shot from a trailwatcher. We settled in. About noon or maybe 1130 the 'Yards got visuals from our ambushes and 35 got into the air. He was dangerously low on fuel. He confirmed about two battalions encirling us and we told him to mark them after telling us he had willy-peter on his wings. I remember the words "Let it happen" and the world blew up. He marked them about 75 meters from us, and they shot the bark off the tree I was near, and the long antennae off one of our prick-25's. Then they shot out the 25. It went on awhile and stopped. I got into a fight with the leader of the Yards over an M-16 I'd given him that he was very proud of and had jammed. We switched rifles, I had to get him back to work, he said thank you in French, I gave him the finger, he flashed a big smile and ran away laughing. His 16 was useless. Henry was very very pissed at me. There was a maybe ten or fifteen minute respite and 35 was telling me some slicks heard him talking to us and were heading back in after being stuck out on the border overnight. They were coming to us. He had to leave or crash and I had an orange panel out in the clearing near my tree. He was going to target it if he ran dry, trying to stay until the slicks had us visual, I could hear them. One detoured to Tieu Atar to pick up ammo for the 'Yards, we were low after the first dance. Then there was this wonderful sound in the distance. To this day I stop my car and open my sunroof or let a sentance trail off and watch a huey in the sky till it is out of sight and hearing.... I couldn't recall the name and used "Thundering Herd" in a story I wrote. 35 left and made it on fumes back to Tieu Atar. The slick leader asked me to mark and I had Henry throw me some smoke. I had two and he gave me two more. We were all over the hill, more of a slight rise, and I wanted my Yards inside of the ring before starting that "King on the Mountain" game that kicks off when you mark with smoke. Everybody wants the real estate inside the circle of smoke. I ran across the hill and threw smoke. I took fire and ran in another direction and threw more. I ran past two NVA, that I thought were yards, and they were besides themselves and couldn't get off a shot. I was yelling, they were facing in the wrong direction, and maybe I was the first American they'd seen after coming across the red line only about a few hours earlier and I'm giving them hell in a language they don't comprehend. I wouldn't have gone near them had I known who they were. I ran back up the rise and tossed a third grenade and that was all I could get off. Thundering Herd was laughing at me. The NVA started this incredible loud War style battle yell and it was time. Herd was laughing because in my haste and lack of style I'd thrown three different colors of smoke. There was (I think) purple and red and yellow. I told him my mother dressed me funny as a kid and to shoot it. They did. In the middle of it, I remember getting kicked by Dolly who now had my rifle, I had no weapon. He was trying to tell me the slicks were shooting at us. It was the finest and harriest flying and shooting I'd ever seen. It looked like an amusement ride on the boardwalk with every slick flying in a too tight for regs circle, nose to tail and steeply banked, with the down side gunner firing right at us. I tackled Dolly. No one could hear anything. I couldn't have told you to do anything differently if I'd wanted to. It was like mud wrestling and he slithered out of my grasp and ran back to the ambush site. And then it stopped. Not one 'Yard was scratched. A really big NVA with a Russian pistol was 25 feet from me. I'd never seen him there. He was very very dead and bigger than either Henry or myself, which is huge for a VietNamese. Hank swore he was Chinese but nothing ever came of it. I was told to duck and crate of grenades and ammo came crashing down on us. Your aim was perfect, you took out our last Prick-25. We didnt care. About and hour later Colonel Reed in a C&C Huey coming back from Pleiku, set down after picking up some things from Tieu Atar and gave us a case of hot beer and some shoeleather tough steaks wrapped in tin foil and another radio and an M-16 for me. An awesome treasure. Jan Shyrock was aboard the Huey, hitching a ride back to Ban Me Thuot. Dolly gave me a yard bracelet off his wrist and a hug and we had a beer that shot all over us in a shower. We laughed until we cried. I sat down with my back to the tree that had no bark and began to make another c-ration tin can cup of terrible gray instant coffee because I had kicked an earlier one over when the yards came running up from the ambush, trying to tell us about numbers of "VC" larger than they could count. It was a very good cup of coffee. Gotta run, I am now very late for work but I thought you deserved hearing about some good you once did. There is another angle to this story but it takes more time.... More from "BAT GUANO": Did you ever have any experience with Montagnards, specifically, did you ever gain any insight to their belief in dreams. This is specious of my referring to the story I told you having another angle. I am pleased that the flying circus I saw on the 17th (?) were recommended for Air Medals. You deserved them. I hope they came through. If not, I award you all one, because, I was an eyewitness. Had "higher" seen what you did that day they would have court martialed you for endangering government property. Life is good. I'm happy to be here. Be well, Bat Guano sends..... "StageCoach 20" I transcribed the orders and sent it...hope it worked....I'll put you a copy of the orders in the mail, if it didn't work this time...... "BAT GUANO" I read you five by. Thanks for the continued effort. I can't believe I've had the date wrong all these years, but it's more than possible. I do remember sitting up late one night in the team house at Tieu Atar and typing a long letter home in which I hit the wrong key and not having a way of erasing it just left it as it was. It may be that is what happened. I have a friend who said she has copies of old letters and I'll take a look at that. It was a hallowed pleasure to read the names of the men who flew cover that day. No doubt about it, It was you guys who came in and saved us that day. It may be too much to ask you to recall if the smoke was three colors or if one of your Hueys diverted to the A-site to pick up ammunition for us. The ship that did it, probably wasn't over me when the enemy charged. I'd still like to thank you for getting in touch with me. If your organization, has a way I can thank the other crews I would like to do it. I am here today because of what they did. No doubt about it...Bat Guano sends..... Award Citation for the described action DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY HEADQUARTERS 1ST AVIATION BRIGADE APO San Francisco 96384 GENERAL ORDERS "NGUY HIEM" 28 NOVEMBER 1968 NUMBER 7906 AWARD IF THE AIR MEDAL FOR HEROISM 1. TC 320 The following awards are announced. Awarded: As indicated in standard name line. Date Action: 18 August 1968 Theater: Republic of Vietnam Reason: For heroism while engaged in aerial flight in connection with military operations against a hostile force: These men distinguished themselves by exceptionally valorous actions while piloting UH-1 helicopters in support of a besieged friendly unit west of Tieu Atar. Arriving at the scene of action, they found the enemy troops aggressively assaulting the small friendly force. They quickly maneuvered their ships into position for a "Daisy Chain" flight pattern, and began a series of firing runs over the advancing enemy forces. In spite of continual ground fire from enemy automatic weapons, they continued attacking until their devastating fire finally routed the attacking forces. Their courage and tenacity in the face of continuous enemy fire aided directly in breaking the enemy attack. Their actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon themselves, their unit, and the United States Army. Authority: By direction of the President under the provisions of Executive Order 9158, 11 May 1942, as amended by Executive Order 9242-A, 11 September 1942 and USARV Regulation 672-1 dated 21 February 1968. LANGENFELD, JOSEPH J. FIRST LIEUTENANT, CORPS OF ENGINEERS, United States Army, 155th Aslt Hel Co Awarded: Air medal with "V" Device MCGINNITY, ALLAN E. WARRANT OFFICER, W1, United States Army, 155th Aslt Hel Co Awarded: Air medal with "V" Device OWEN, ALVA A. WARRANT OFFICER, W1, United States Army, 155th Aslt Hel Co Awarded: Air medal with "V" Device REYHER, SHELDON R. WARRANT OFFICER, W1, United States Army, 155th Aslt Hel Co Awarded: Air medal with "V" Device ULAKOVIC, JAMES J. WARRANT OFFICER, W1, United States Army, 155th Aslt Hel Co Awarded: Air medal with "V" Device FOR THE COMMANDER: OFFICIAL: JAY B. WILLIAMS COLONEL, INFANTRY CHIEF OF STAFF