My Recollections Of The Battle Of Cung Son
By Robb Robichaud
My most memorable slick operation was when Cung Son got over run by a division of NVA. I volunteered to be the AC of the flare ship and still vividly remember getting scrambled in the middle of the night. We were the first ship launched and flew west into the black night with no horizon. We had to fly IFR most of the way until I saw mortar rounds sailing through the dark sky and tracer rounds streaking all over the place.
I made contact with the Cung Son American ground base enroute. They were reporting bad guys inside the perimeter and needed flares so they could see where the NVA were. A team of Devil gunships were right behind us and we began dropping flares from 3000 feet. Most lit up but some crashed to the ground. I remember that my crew chief had set the fuses for a higher altitude and the flare parachutes didn't open up. I saw some of the flares burning on the ground inside the confines of the outpost. Looking down we could see the NVA scattered all around like ants attacking a food source.
NVA mortar rounds were being lobbed in from a hill top into the friendly American outpost. The radio chatter was crazy at the time between the Devils and our troops on the ground, who were ordering friendly fire onto their location. Tough call asking your compatriots to fire onto your location, but there was no option at the time. The bad guys were everywhere.
I gave the location of where the mortar fire was coming from to the Devils and we flew over the top of the hill. The door gunner and crew chief opened fire with their 60mm on the NVA we saw loading the mortars. Soon one of the Devil gunships opened up on the hill top. I saw two bodies around the mortar tube and others running for their lives under the glare of a descending flare.
We stayed on location until all the flares had been dropped. We were also trying to give directions as to where the NVA were but after a while it was fruitless. They were everywhere. More Devils and 238th Gunrunners arrived at Cung Son and it became a full scale battle through the night. We returned back to Tuy Hoa and went to OPS where they told me to get one of the gunships ready. By this time it was daylight and the
fast movers, F-4's from Phu Cat had been scrambled.
I launched with a team of two and headed to Cung Son. I remember talking to my roommate, WO Chris DiMaggio, who was returning with his Mike model empty of ordinance from the battle. His chin bubbles were shot out and he needed another ship.
Robie, it is crazy out there. It's a free fire zone. Just unload everything you got quickly. Don't worry about friendlies because the gooks are in the wire. Just open up on anything moving. The fast movers are on the way and might be there by the time you get there.
When we arrived, the Phantom F-4's had done their work. It was unbelievable the carnage and destruction that was visible. Dead NVA bodies were scattered to the four winds. Some dead were lying around a crater that a Phantom 500 pound bomb had made. The firebase that had been over run had NVA dead hanging on the wire and were also inside the perimeter. Buildings were on fire and there was still some door to door fighting going on in the village.
We searched the surrounding AO, but the majority of the NVA division had retreated to the jungle and hills. We circled the hilltop where the mortar rounds had been coming from that evening. All that was there was the mortar tube's heavy base plate. There was no sign of wounded or dead enemy. They must have carried them off.
Then we received a report of NVA off in the north. We found a group of retreating NVA in the area. The problem was they were deep in the hills, under cover and after unloading our load of mini-guns and rockets, we returned to Tuy Hoa to hot refuel and rearm. By the time we returned to Cung Son, it was all over.
As I recall, a few days later, General Ky visited the area and those who of us who had participated in the Cung Son were also there. I met the general as he awarded the Gunrunners, Devil and Demon crews with Vietnamese medals. To this day I can't remember the name of the medal. I never kept the medals I received in Vietnam. I was proud to have served my country and believed that those who died were the ones who deserved those honors. I was one of the lucky ones who didn't get physically harmed and kept my experiences to myself. I didn't want to tarnish those who gave their young lives in that far distant land.