No Deals at Quan Tri
a letter from
Former Commander of the 281st
I don't remember the exact date, but sometime late in October, 1969, enemy activity
became so intense throughout the nights at Mai Loc, our base of operations, the
Delta Force Commander ordered meto begin evacuating the helicopters back to the
Marine base at Quang Tri each night after our mission situation seemed secure, and
be back at Mai Loc early each morning for that day's activities.
On our first night going into Quang Tri, we were flying in our normal travel
formation, with the 'slicks' leading, and the 'guns' trailing. As we entered their
airspace, I established communication with the tower, identified the flight, and
requested landing instructions. We were cleared for landing, and about half-way on
down-wind, we began to experience automatic weapons fire from our right. I
immediately contacted the tower for permission to return fire, but was informed we
were in a friendly no-fire zone, and denied that permission. We landed the flight
without anyone taking any hits. The second night was a repeat of the first, again we
were denied permission, and again we were able to land without anyone taking fire.
Before we departed Mai Loc the third night, I briefed the flight crews we would
depart in the same formation as the previous two nights. I wanted radio silence en-
route and also en-route, I wanted the 'guns' to pull forward and lead, but that I
would continue to establish radio contact for landing. Also, I briefed the gun
platoon commander that if we were fired on, that without command, the 'guns were
to return fire so intense those firing on us would not have any doubt who we were.
Everything went pretty much as planned, and when we started receiving ground
fire, Wolf Pack blew them away. This upset the Marines, and after we were on the
ground, I was met at the aircraft by a member of the Marines, and was 'seriously
counseled, but after that night, we never received ground fire in the traffic pattern
at Quang Tri.
A few days later, on 7 November, 1969, MG Burdett, First Aviation Brigade
Commander, arrived at Mai Loc for an 'unexpected' visit. I met his aircraft,
reported to him, and he and I conducted a very 'casual' walk around our helicopter
parking area, and enjoyed a 'casual' conversation about conditions in Viet Nam. As
we approached his aircraft for his departure, he told me that he was not that
familiar with our day-to-day operations, and that because of the sensitivity our
mission, I should not discuss those activities with him; that he didn't know what I
had been doing, but whatever it was, just continue doing it. We said farewell, I
saluted, and he departed.