Shot Down with Robbie
Robert J. "Mo" Moberg
The crew - WO Johnson, Crew Chief Smith, Gunner, I can't remember for
sure, I thought it was a young man named Gourley, myself in left seat. SFC
Walter (Doc) Simpson operating hoist.
The Recon team had been pursued on the ground for 2 days. Major (Eldon?)
Smith was flying the C&C with Maj Charles (Bruiser) Allen, the Delta
Commander. The Team could not find an LZ on the ridge line. The FAC
spotted the team through a small opening in the canopy. King went in and
pulled out 3 members, 1 American and 2 Viets, by jungle penetrator hoist
under heavy fire and taking numerous hits. Bruiser and Smith called the
aircraft off and ordered SFC Orville G (Robbie) Robinette, the Team Leader
on the ground, to "Get your Shit in order and find a safe LZ!" Robbie
replied, " I got my shit in order I'm just lookin' for that slick you
promised would get us outa' here!"
Knowing the team could not defend itself for long with only 3 of them left
I requested the C&C vector me to them as I hovered down the ridge with
skids in the trees using the triple canopy for concealment. The C&C gave
us directions. right 3 degrees, left 5 degrees, hold heading, etc. It
worked. I looked down and there they were. Doc ran the hoist down full
length. Over 200 feet. They couldn't quite reach it. I settled 'til the
blades were just starting to clip the top of the trees as the gunner and
crew chief reported receiving heavy fire. Doc reported SSGT Jay Graves on
the hoist. We couldn't move for fear of dragging Graves into the trees.
About that time I felt the aircraft rise as the bottom windscreens
disappeared and the cockpit filled with blue smoke. My right leg was
knocked left off the pedal by the buckled radio consul. I am sure we were
hit by a B40 rocket but can not confirm. The aircraft still at a hover
started to drift left. As I tried to correct I glanced at Johnson's death
grip on the cyclic. I screamed "I got it!" The aircraft still started
drifting when I realized I had no cyclic or pedals. I made the decision to
crash in the trees versus from 500 feet over the valley. I bottomed the
collective and saw the brush spinning around us as the aircraft went nose
down and then rolled upside down stopping about 6 feet from the ground.
I couldn't get the door open and screamed "Where the hell is my gun!",
when Doc poked me with his M16 from below and said "Here take mine and get
the hell out of there!" I crawled out through the nose. Doc and Smitty
were thrown out sustaining broken ribs. Johnson, the gunner, and I climbed
out sustaining broken pride! Doc and I climbed back up into the aircraft
to shut off the inverters that were still whining and Doc removed the
M-60s and survival kit. I also found my Car-15. Graves came over and
kissed me on the head and said, " I knew you'd come get me!"
Robbie came over and asked me if I wanted to take command and reminded me
of the policy that as Recon Team leader he was supposed to remain in
command. I gladly told him he was doing a fine job, to keep truckin', and
asked him what he wanted us to do. Robbie assigned us positions and fields
of fire in the ambush above a trail running well below the downed
aircraft. Bruiser advised us by PRC 25 to stay put until he could find an
LZ to send in a Platoon from the 93rd Ranger Battalion assigned to Delta
for backup. I divided the water and ammo from the survival kit as Doc set
up an M-60 above and behind me.
It became real quiet and as I lay there looking at my field of fire I
heard Vietnamese jabbering and saw a man stop running about 20 yards from
me looking away and down the hill. As he stopped the rest of his squad ran
into him bunching up. I was expecting the rescue Rangers but realized the
pith helmet and crossed harness looked strange. I glanced over at Robbie
who was licking his lips and slowly taking careful aim with his CAR. As I
looked back at the bunched up men in front of me the leader spun around.
The red star on his helmet stood out like a rotating beacon. Seeing the
Huey hanging above us he pointed and started to scream as my first burst
hit him. As I was trying to change magazines I was aware of the constant
M-60 fire over my head and numerous hand grenades being tossed into the
now totally decimated squad of NVA in front of me. Robbie gave a pullback
signal and I helped Doc carry the M-60 and extra ammo back up the ridge
North of the aircraft where we set up a small perimeter defense in a clump
of tall elephant grass.
As we lay there unable to see 3 feet in front of us we could hear enemy
troops coming up the other side of the ridge and firing into the trees
above our heads. One of the crew started shaking violently. Afraid he may
start firing and give our position away I quickly crawled down to him,
grabbed him hard by the shoulder and whispered, "Just remember, if you
have to die, there is no better way than fighting as a soldier for your
country." He shook his head yes and immediately settled down. I have
pondered that moment in similar circumstances many times since and
wondered what the hell prompted me to make such a statement!!! There ain't
no good way to die!!! And if your fighting for your life that is exactly
what your fighting for! Not your country!
A few minutes later Robbie crawled over and told me the Rangers were
in-bound and to follow him North. As we were pulling out we heard
Vietnamese screaming back and forth at each other and then heavy firing to
our front. Graves told me later that they were saying we are un-armed as
he and the Viet Lieutenant opened fire on them. The Viet Lieutenant later
told me they were saying don't shoot, we are out of ammo! I have often
wondered if we could have taken them prisoner???
We kept moving and started sliding down the hill to the East away from the
NVA. I could see Smitty having a problem carrying the other M-60 so I took
it and gave him my CAR. We fought our way through the under growth for
what seemed like 3 or 4 hours until Graves made contact with the Viet
Rangers. The Rangers set up a blocking force and we passed through to a
small LZ in a stream at the bottom of the mountain. A Marine CH-46 came in
and I started helping everyone aboard. I stood there in a daze from
exhaustion and adrenaline let down watching the ramp of the 46 being
closed and trying to take off with some small saplings caught in the ramp.
I realized I was NOT aboard when the aircraft settled back, the ramp
opened and Robbie reached out grabbing me by the back of the harness
dragging me in the aircraft like a sack of potatoes. We took off receiving
a couple hits as the gunners on the 46 were firing in all directions. One
of them even pulled out his .45 and fired out the window. I often wondered
if he knew the Rangers we right below us. We landed at Dong Ha for
refueling and inspection of the hits when I realized I was mostly naked
from the waste down. Those cheap Tiger fatigues had been completely torn
off in the brush. I have worn skivvies and two pair of "issue" pants on
every operation since!
Slicks from the 281st picked us up and took us back to Phu Bai. Major
Smith met me as we landed, put his arm around me, welcomed me home, and
escorted us to the TOC for debriefing. After a short debrief, Bruiser
ordered us all to Marble Mountain for more debriefing, rest, and let the
medics dig the thorns out of our asses, and tape up Doc and Smitty ribs.
I guess if we had brought back documents Robbie would have got the Silver
Star instead of the BS w/V. I received a ACM w/V, the crew received an AM
w/V. I think.