53. A LRRP Insertion I'll Never Forget By Douglas Schultz

On April 12, 1970 two ships from the 134th were sent to insert an eight man ARVN Long Range Recon Patrol (LRRP Team) into an LZ on top of a mountain just northwest of LZ Crystal. I had flown into the same LZ two days earlier with no enemy contact so I volunteered to do the insertion because of my familiarity with the LZ. It was a little tricky. You had to approach from the west, terminate at a hover above it and then swing your nose either North or South to lower yourself into the LZ. I set up a standard 3 degree approach to the LZ and did a standard School Book Approach to a hover. over here?

As I stabilized at the high hover, I was just getting ready to swing the nose when I heard something that sounded like someone beating on a garbage can. At first I thought I had stuck my tail rotor in the trees, but the helicopter was stable. Next, I felt what can only be described as a hot searing pain travel up my right calf and thighs. It was then that I understood what was going on. I pulled pitch went over the side of the mountain and started down to LZ Crystal. I looked over at Jack Coleman, my copilot, and he was slumped forward in his harness. I then tried to talk to the crew chief or to my C&C (Command & Control) ship but I heard nothing. I swept the instrument panel and saw the Caution panel lit up like a Christmas tree. That convinced me beyond a shadow of doubt that I had to set the helicopter down right now!

I picked out my landing site in a dry rice paddy and set up for a run on landing but then realized I had no control over my right leg. I could not push or pull with it so in those few minutes before landing I had to figure out how to apply right pedal when I lowered the collective. I decided to hook the tip of my boot behind the left pedal and pull it. If I needed left pedal I just relaxed on it and we swung left. Sometime as I went over the edge of the mountaintop and before landing the crew chief came forward and yelled to ask me if I could still fly. I told him yes, but I could not talk to anyone. I told him to put out a May Day call on the radio and then help Jack see if he was alive because he looked dead to me. The run-on landing took about 300 ~ 400 feet to stop. Once we stopped sliding, the C&C ship came zooming in over the top of us and landed in front facing us. I rolled the throttle closed and, as I did, the blades came to a screeching halt about 45 seconds later. Because we were close to a village, I pulled out my .38 and began aiming at the KY-28 (FM radio encoder device). The crew chief asked me what I was doing and I told him that I was going to shoot it like we had been instructed. At his request and promise that he would keep it secure I put my .38 away. I next turned around and looked at the carnage that used to be eight ARVIN LRRP's. An ARVN Captain with the LRRP's, had a perfect triangular shot group to the throat. Only one LRRP was not harmed and one was wounded, the other six were all dead.

The crew of the C&C ship and mine dumped Jack out of his seat and carried him over to the C&C chopper. Then they helped me hobble over to the ship and off we went to the Quin Nhon hospital pad. The door gunner and crew chief were at the ready to fire and stayed at their stations until we got above small arms range. The crew chief then came over to me and asked where I was wounded. I told him that I could wait but Jack needed help now. He was bleeding to death. He was hit once in the ankle, twice in the thigh, and one round hit him in his right side and lodged in his left lung.

When we got to the hospital pad they quickly rushed Jack into the Emergency Ward. I was setting on the side of the cargo floor when these two skinny aids told me to lie down and they would carry me in to the Ward. I asked if they would just help me walk in because I was afraid that they would drop me. Once inside they put me right beside Jack and I watched as they re-inflated his lung. Once they did that, you could tell that he relaxed and was breathing easier. They then moved him into surgery and that was the last I saw of him until we met up in the hospital in Japan. Myself, I was wounded by shrapnel from the right vertical pedal tube. The VC had hit it with a .30 cal round and left just enough metal to keep it attached. They told me that if I had pushed on it that it would have broken off. The metal from the pedal is what traveled up my legs. Fortunately for me, the round itself hit the bottom of the armored seat.

Unfortunately, the years have stolen the names of the crew who came to Jack's and my assistance I never did get to properly thank you for what you did. But know that every time I think of that day I remember your kindness, friendship, and bond of brotherhood. If it is not too late, Thanks from the bottom of my heart!

It was as I was recuperating in the Hospital that someone from MACV, I think, interviewed me. As we were talking he revealed that the ARVN Captain of the LRRP's had setup the ambush that we flew into. As the story went he had fallen in love with a girl from a lower cast. Because of this, he had disgraced his family.The only way to correct his problem was to commit suicide. His first attempt was to blow up the ammo dump at LZ Crystal (the ammo dump housing powder charges for the 105/155 howitzers did blow up on April 9th, 3 days earlier). When that did not work, he setup the ambush that we flew into. The MACV man also told me that latter that afternoon, while a pair of F-4's were lowering the mountaintop, one never pulled out of his bomb run. They figured that the .51 cal. got him.

As for damage to our ship, I have only heard stories of how bad it was shot up. I never saw any photographs or talked to anyone who did see it. I was told that they hooked it out of the village and back to Quin Nhon so it could be sent back to the States for rebuild. I guess that they hit every system on the helicopter including the bottom of the transmission. When they did, all the oil drained out of the transmission and that was the reason it took only 45 seconds for the blades to stop. To this day I wonder how much longer I had before the transmission would have seized.

AM Def Ser Cam

Last modified: Monday June 27th, 2022