ABOVE: Flight of "Huey" helicopters fires 2.75-inch rockets at communist positions near South Vietnam's border with Laos.

BELOW: Secondary explosions from communist ammo dump triggered by a B-52 "Arc-Light" mission. Photos: Edward Rasen

  "And the next thing you knew there was normal military activity taking place. The first sergeant got out in front and started yelling, kicking ass and taking names.
  "By this time, my team leader was about to wet his pants; this is a storybook situation, and with this particular operation everything right that could happen happened. He got back  to  the  TOC  [Tactical Operations

Center]  radio  relay.  We  put  in  an air

 request right away. It just so happened there was a flight of 105s coming back from up north on a Rolling Thunder mission. They'd hit bad weather up there at first light, so they couldn't expend. They were coming back hot. They had full loads on.
  "We put a request in. They were turned over to us immediately. It was really too quick even to get a FAC [Forward Air Controller] out there. In the meantime, this battalion started taking their jackets off and lining up in a PT formation; dress right, cover down, you know.
  "And then, by god, they started doing exercises, regular military exercises. Well, what happened is that the team leader was given instructions to let his smoke go, and make it. And as I say, everything happened timing on it couldn't have been better planned if a genius had done it. They threw the smoke, did a 180 and started making it back. And about the time the smoke popped, here came the jets in on short final, the smoke coming up through the trees.
  "The team's last report said there was some scurrying around over there; jets came in at treetop level and salvo-dropped everything they had. The entire PT formation was engulfed in napalm and 500 pounders. They would not go back over to do a bomb-damage assessment. We sent the Nung platoon."
  "That was your bomb-assessment platoon?"
  "Yeah, that was the BDA team, because I always felt that if I had a Nung platoon out there, they would do what they were told by their American leaders if they were separated on the ground and gave any intelligence at all back to the adviser, we could believe what they said.
  "And, of course, we commanded the Nungs. We did not command the ARVN. We were advisers to them. But the Nungs we paid 'em, we fed 'em, we commanded 'em. They were just like another troop. So we sent the BDA platoon back in later that afternoon, after we got the team out. That team was on the ground probably 14 or 15 hours at the most. In the morning, they were probably on the ground and working for an hour.
  "We have no way of knowing how many we cooked, but the indications were that hundreds were killed. It's a fluke, I guess that things fell together and that there happened to be a flight of Tac Air available right at the moment we asked for it, and that the request was approved immediately. The flight came in right as the smoke popped, and they were right on target.
  "When we sent the Nungs back in, we found  burnt weapons and uniforms. We
didn't find many bodies a lot of them had  been  taken.  We didn't  think  it  was


wise to go searching the whole valley for them. But we did find indications of a lot of deaths: arms hanging in trees and that kind of stuff.
  "That was one of our main missions: to find something and bring smoke in on 'em, because we always operated out of artillery range, except when the Cav had their eight-inchers out there."

Changes And Corrections

  I poured myself another cup and said, "That was the perfect recon, but it wasn't always like that. I remember that when the Project started, the Americans didn't even go out. Let's see. The Project existed for about six years, from '65 to what 70, 71?"
  "Yeah," Allen replied, "for a long time it was just a base for training Vietnamese in certain operations. It wasn't an operational unit. It was the old stigma of having the Vietnamese in command, not being able to fly the American flag in the compound, being the adviser and all that stuff.
  "The sophistication I talked about before, that we built into it, came from the fact that I required the 281st to be in direct support and actually attached to us. We almost made them part of the Project, you know. They wore tiger suits and they wore the Delta triangles. We required that the Air Force guys move down there and be part of the unit: get to know the guys and live with us, right in the compound. We had Marines in there too, the strategic communications group that ran the scramblers and stuff between us and III MAF were attached to us and lived with us. Some of those Marines were with Project Delta for nine months. We required that they be part of the unit. They trained with the unit; everybody did. It was one unit, not just a conglomeration of attached units.
"And, as such, we actually commanded the unit before, all operations had to be commanded and okayed by the Vietnamese counterpart, which would plan an operation to get the least contact. When we were holding the hammer there, we controlled everything that ran the operation: money for the compound, gas for the trucks ('Use my jeep, Thieu Ta, if you want to go out tonight'), ammunition, air strikes, air support. We had a hammer so we could say if we want to fly the American flag we will fly it. We plan an operation, and if you want to come along you can.
"In fact, during my tenure there we did run one or two operations where we left the Vietnamese in the compound. We caught all kinds of hell about it though.


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