45. Cambodian Incursion April 1970 By Patrick Pavey

In April 1970 we had just started our movements into Cambodia. Camp Holloway had become a staging area for air units involved in this incursion. There was a forward base as well but I can't remember its name right now. All I remember was the red dust and clay, and that it was either just inside Vietnam or it may have even been across the border in Cambodia. I drew the mission of leading a gun team up to this forward base to stand by for any contingencies that may pop up. Roger Breckheisen was my wingman. I don't remember who were the peter pilots.

We made it up to the outpost after a quick stop in Holloway for a fuel. I was flying a slaughter ship and, I believe, so was Roger. My ship was decently healthy but Roger's was one of our weaker ships. Add to that fact we were operating in the Highlands where the DA was averaging 3000-4000 ft. This will come into play later. Nothing much was happening other than flights in and out of the forward base, picking up and dropping off LRRP and Ruff Puffs. We waited for a mission and it finally came. A flight of snakes(Cobras) with a slick had been in way too deep and they were running out of fuel in no-man's land. A plan was formulated to get some fuel to them but it meant they needed cover. We were the only team available.

A slick was topped off with as much fuel as they could hold, even tipping the bird a bit (one skid sat on a pile of ammo boxes or something) so they could over-fill it. Then they threw a portable pump on board to make the fuel transfer. We then escorted the bird out to where the two snakes and lone slick sat, waiting nervously for fuel. Our job was to distract any bad guys and they were there, make no mistake. It took about 15 minutes or so to get enough fuel transferred to the three birds so they could beat-feet back to safer territory. All during this time we kept circling above with eyes peeled for anything. It was going on dark and this made us real nervous.

The final snake was filled with enough fuel to make it back to safe territory and was departing when the excitement we had been waiting for started. The snake and the final slick started taking fire as they departed the LZ. The snake pilot reported his 20 minute light never went out and figured his 5 minute light would be on before he could take the time to return fire so he wasn't going to hang around. It was up to Roger and me to give the cover needed. I rolled hot into where the tracers were coming from with rockets and the mini's. As you can imagine, my night vision was immediately shot. I kept my run going until I heard Roger yelling over the radio to break immediately. I think my door gunner got a couple palm tree fronds on the break, we were a bit low. Roger continued in on his run and laid down a few more licks. We didn't get any response from our single runs so we decided it was our turn to split the area as well. It was still a ways to the forward base and with night falling we wanted to get there. By the time we turned east though it was much too dark to see anything and the forward base had shut down to lessen their visibility as a target. We had only one choice and that was to return to Holloway.

This was a scary flight as we were essentially IFR in the dark. You probably remember how dark it could get over there. Even with the moon and stars it was dark. Well, on this night there was a cloud cover so there were no stars or moon to help. I flew by compass and a bit of a prayer, guessing where Holloway should have been. I was never so relieved as when I saw the lights of the Christmas Tree (that refueling area on the west side of camp Holloway,) We were low on fuel and it was a beautiful sight to see. Roger and I requested straight-in approaches for refueling. Our next stop was going to be Quin Nhon on the way home.

As we were refueling a sensation came over me, I'm not sure what it was but obviously something was wrong. I called Holloway Tower and asked what was up. Holloway was under mortar and rocket attack. Now this was the calmest tower operator I ever heard. You could hear the siren going off with rounds impacting in the background and he continued at his post. I informed him he had a gun team at his disposal, realizing the Playboys would be up soon but not as fast as we could get airborne. He gave carte blanche clearance as we saw fit so we took to the air. Now here it gets a bit funny. My crew was aware of what was going on and they immediately jumped on board to go. But Roger's crew must have been out of it because the crew chief continued to fill his bird while all this transpired. As you probably remember, 900 lbs. of fuel was all you dared carry on those C models in the Pleiku area. Roger had something over 1300 lbs and his bird was definitely no muscle machine, even by C model standards. As I was grabbing air with an rpm of 6200 to 6400 (okay, my numbers may not be exact but you get the picture) Roger was orbiting about 50' above the concertina wire trying to milk something more than 5900. He nurse maided the bird into the air and finally got up with me.

Back to the war now. We arrived on station while the last rockets were still coming in. Trouble was, this was not our AO and we didn't know where the friendlies were, even in broad daylight, and we couldn't see anything on the ground. We did make attempts to get clearance to fire at what we saw as rocket flashes but to no avail. We burned up enough fuel so Roger could land safely and then returned to Holloway. I was really steamed about not getting clearance to open up but as I said earlier, this wasn't our AO and we probably would have blown up some papa san sneaking a cigarette rather than Charlie lobbing rockets. It was bitter though, especially when we walked past the remains of a GP medium tent that had housed some flight crews TDY to Holloway for the Cambodia trip. There were casualties but I don't know how many or how bad.

The story goes on but from this point it was fairly routine so I won't bore you with any more. I'm sure that there were Demon slicks involved in various sorties into Cambodia from that point until we withdrew but I don't remember any specifics. As for the Devils, we weren't invited back as I recall. Most of the missions were outside our flight range so we picked up all of the coastal stuff such as sniffer missions, LRRP insertions and so on. There was plenty of that still going on.

AM Def Ser Cam

Last modified: Monday June 27th, 2022