34. Freeing POW's A Lucky Break By Cary Mendelsohn
On November 6, 1970 I was flying a slick in the Tuy Hoa valley near the river when I overheard two gunships from the 238th AWC (Gunrunners) talking to each other about a small group of NVA they had sighted on a trail about a mile east of the river. They had spotted 4 NVA who were escorting 3 apparent prisoners (Vietnamese) who were tied together by a rope.
I guess I was feeling a little bored at the time so I broke in and told the Gunrunners I would go down and check it out if they would put a couple of rockets near the NVA to scatter them. The gunships agreed and fired several rockets roughly 100 feet in front of the group. The group took cover with the NVA going one direction and the prisoners in another. My crewchief and door gunner engaged the NVA with their M-60's as we approached and managed to wound all 4 of the NVA.
After pretty much incapacitating the 4 NVA, and with the gunships providing cover, we landed in a small clearing nearby. The CE and gunner jumped out, ran over and disarmed the NVA, then rounded up the 3 prisoners who had taken cover in nearby bushes and brought all 7 of them back to the ship. The CE and gunner (whose names I can't remember, nor my pilot's) did a great job. They jumped out to chase the NVA down with little regard for their own personal safety and had everyone back in the aircraft in less than 5 minutes.
The four NVA had all been hit by our M-60's and were terrified but it didn't appear that they had any life-threatening wounds. The 3 prisoners were not injured and could not speak English but they were clearly happy to be free. We flew the group back to the ARVN compound at Tuy Hoa North and turned them over to the ARVNs. I never did learn who the prisoners were or what the whole thing was all about.
Roughly 4 weeks later in early December, I returned from a routine mission and learned I had missed a ceremony in which I had been given a DFC, the CE, Ken Snell and gunner, Gach, a Bronze Star with V and my copilot an Air Medal with V. I was also informed I was going home the next day. I had completed 11 months on my second tour and my wife was 8 months pregnant. It seems that my brother had persuaded the Army to give me an early DEROS. I arrived home 1 day before my wife gave birth. Due to the Vietnam War I was able to see my wife pregnant a grand total of one day out of two births.
The CE, Kenneth Snell, and gunner did an incredible job. It took a lot of guts to do what they did. I guess we were all pretty fortunate that day.
Last modified: Monday June 27th, 2022