XMAS in Kontum (1967)
John "Jack" Mayhew
During the month of December 1967, the Intruder Task Force supported Project Delta from two base locations. First we lived, along with the men of Delta, in an abandoned school area in Kontum. Early each day we flew west to a jump site named Polei Kleng where we operated out of the small dirt strip located a few clicks from the Laotian border.
The previous delta at An Hoa had introduced members of the Rat Pack to Delta flying and they had come together as a team. Flying out of Polie Kleng we accomplished more than could be expected, to include recovering three of our crews that were shot down. Inserting the entire ARVAN Ranger Battalion in one morning, supporting them during an intense firefight, and extracting them the same day. Early in the morning of the that same day the FAC left the area with engine trouble and we controlled the tac air for the ground operation. At one point we had fighters stacked to fifteen thousand feet, and Wolf Pack was on station all day and never missed a beat. It was amazing to see a fighter jet dropping napalm on one area and the Pack giving the NVA “hell from above” on another area of the fight. On a different mission, we inserted elements of the battalion at last light in an area of Elephant grass using ladders, and recovered them the same night when they, or the NVA, set fire to the grass. We also received sufficient rockets to last the Wolf Pack for the rest of the war. (Lance Ham the Pack ammo officer, earned his forever name of “Rocket Man” when someone in the depot made a mistake and added a couple zeros to his rocket order, which resulted in him receiving several truckloads of rockets at the Polie Kleng site.) I suspect that they are still buried there.
On December the 21st our luck ran out and a transit gunship overlapped blades with one of our slicks that was starting up and we lost three slicks. More importantly, we lost Les Paschall who was KIA, and we had three other individuals injured and hospitalized. We cleaned up the mess, held a memorial service for Les and moved on toward XMAS.
On the 24th of December Major “Bruiser” Allen, the Delta Commander informed me that the ARVN Rangers were unexpectedly going home to Nha Trang that afternoon. That night we received orders to return to Nha Trang the next day. Earlier in the week, I had received a rather large package from home which included a XMAS tree and decorations, which we had put up in the mess tent that we shared with Delta. On XMAS, eve a Buck Sergeant named Stagman organized a scrounging team which procured Class VI (Liquor) supplies from the local army facilities and we had a XMAS party. The next morning we departed Kontum for home in a very loose formation. My strongest remembrance of the event was watching Dave Bitle walk (lead) Fred Mentzer to the helicopter and strapping him in.
When we arrived at Nha Trang Bob Moberg was watching from the ramp when he noticed one of the helicopters come to a stop as it cleared the runway and one of the pilots jumping out. Bob recovered the young man, who just could not wait any longer to visit his girlfriend in town. He became the Duty Officer for the next few days.
67-68 (Including Tet)
LTC then Major Charles (Bruiser) Allen
One of the first SF officers I meet when I arrived in the 281st was Major Charles (Chuck) Allen, Commander of Project Delta. Allen was a no-nonsense commander who was held in high respect by his men. He had assembled a unit that was made up of the most experienced reconnaissance men in the US Army. Allen, known by his call sign “Bruiser” was a giant of at least 250 pounds and had a reputation for being all business. It is said that at one point in his career his Commanding General was trying to persuade him to play on the division football team and when he refused and started to walk out of the office a Colonel placed his hand on his chest to stop him; Captain Allen knocked him out with one punch. This probably explains why he spent so much time in grade as a captain.
In Project Delta, Bruiser was a “take no prisoners” leader. When a recon team requested an early extraction, his usual response was; “break contact and continue the mission”. His flew in the 281st C & C on all the missions and was usually accompanied by Master Sergeant Simpson, known affectionally as Doc Simpson as he was the senior Delta medic. We had a good working relationship, He took care or the men on the ground, and we took care of the Intruders. We talked to the men on the ground when we were searching for their position or delivering fire support, but Bruiser or his sergeant issued tactical orders to them. In turn, he left aviation decisions to us.
Major Allen was respected and liked by the men of the 281st, When he died and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Doyle Creed, a Wolf Pack DG. 67-68 and I attended his funeral. We meet his family who was very interested in our interactions with their father. It was an honor to have served with him and his men. I personally learned a lot from him and he made our job much easier. RIP Bruiser.