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.
 

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