target oscar-8

            sketch # 1 – oscar 8 target – 18km south  khe sanh at 179° 

        may 1967

target description:  the target can be described as shown:

            location:  geo coord:  n 16° 15’ 00”  e 106° 47’ 00”

                                     18KM south of camp khe sanh at 179°

            described as:  

                                    a relatively flat area, well improved; protected by heavy jungle canopy.

                                    Oscar-8 was approximately 1KM (north to south) by 3 KM (west to east).  the area was in a “bowl,” a defenders’ dream.

                                    area of oscar 8 protected by high (horseshoe-shaped ground) to the north / east / west, affording a perfect protective area, several hundred feet above the base of the oscar-8 area; anti-aircraft weapons (12.7 mm guns) were emplaced  (see the attached sketch).

                                    route # 922 passed through oscar-8, moving from the west to east toward south vietnam and ashau valley, approximately 15 km to the east of oscar-8.

                                    a stream passed through oscar-8 affording water for nva troops, support personnel, and/or encampments therein. 

history:  the target designated as oscar-8 became of prime

                        interest when the following was reported:

1.      u-2 high altitude flights reported a high volume of vehicular traffic in this area, during the hours of darkness; and, during the day when no low-flying

u.s. aircraft were not reconning the area.

2.      Text Box: -1-
nsa units had reported, on or about 01 jun 67, not less than 1,500 special agent reports* (spar*) from the area known as oscar-8, in a 24-hour period. 

*special agent reports (spar’s) were radio transmissions, intercepted, intended for the hanoi high command.  nsa radio direction finding equipment on high-flying aircraft fixed the oscar-8 area as specifically a high command field headquarters.  sog suspected that the commanding general vo nguyen giap himself, commander of the north Vietnamese army, was within this target area. 

call to action and mission:

            sog headquarters ordered command and control (C&C headquarters) danang, to draft a strike order for fob-1 (phu bai) to conduct the following action:

1.      TO infiltrate A HATCHET FORCE (U.S. LEAD PLATOON asap) AND IN THIS CASE TWO HATCHET FORCE platoons, Total forces:   55 montanards, and four (4) U.S. Special Forces unit leaders, into the area of oscar 8 via helicopter; infil to be completed not later than 04 may 1967.

                        2.  to attempt to kill or capture the vip giap in oscar-8; to kill all other enemy forces encountered.

 plan of action:

            on d-day at h-hour –1 hour (0600 hours) to strike oscar-8 target with nine (9) b-52 bombers, flying a “v of V’s” formation, with 105 he bombs* of 200 kg each, per aircraft, or 945 each 200kg he bombs.  *dumbbombs

            on d-day at h-hour (0700 hrs) to insert 58 men from fob-1 of SOG, launched from the khe sanh launch site, into landing zones in the heart of oscar-8;  infiltration to be accomplished by ch-46 marine helicopters,

            to sweep the area of oscar-8,  damaged by the b-52 strikes, and to capture the vip giap suspected to be in the target area.

            to kill and destroy enemy personnel and equipment, then prepare for a withdrawal not later than 1500 hours the same day infiltrated.

            to return to the khe sanh area for debriefing and after-action report, while captured personnel are transported to an interrogation site in the khe sanh area.

 plan of air support:  the following aircraft were to be made available, by the 7th U.s.air force high command. 

            nine (9) b-52 heavy bombers to drop he bombs in the oscar-8 target area at h-hours minus (-) one hour.

three (3) ch-46 Marine helicopters for troop transport and subsequent landing in chosen lz’s in oscar-8 target.

four (4) H-uid marine helicopter gun-ships to clear landing zones, and be on call to support the troop landing.

          two (2) A-1e Skyraider (on station) propeller-driven aircraft to support the hatchet force (Hf) infiltration.

            hillsboro the airborne command post to be positioned within 20km of oscar-8 target area, to control all tactical aircraft which may be required to support this operation.

            four (4) f-4c phantom jets for close air support of the ground unit(s), to orbit within 3 minutes of the target area.

            two (2) h-34 sog helicopters for sar (search and rescue).

            two (2) o-2 forward observer-type aircraft for team and tac air support.

the final briefing:  at 1600 hours, 03 may 67, the co of the fob launch site, khe sanh briefed the following persons: command pilots; hatchet force (hf) u.s. personnel; the sog h-34 pilots; and the fac pilots.  all personnel were set to infiltrate at 0700 hours, 04 may 67.

the action and infiltration:  at 0400, hours 04 may 67, I, with the fac pilot major alexander, lifted in an 0-2 aircraft to the target area vicinity.  time of flight from khe sanh to the loitering area (in this aircraft) was approx. 35 minutes.

            the pilot approached the target from the west, and approx. 15 km to the south of the oscar-8 target.  voice contact with the khe sanh commo system was established. alexander and waugh loitered in this position to await the forthcoming b-52 strike (codename:  heavy artillery).

  

 at 0545 hours, alexander and i, scanning the skies to the south and east, noticed at altitude of approx. 30,000 feet, in the early-morning dawn, con-trails approaching the target of oscar-8.  no aircraft could be spotted.  as the con-trails approached on an azimuth of 330°

         we viewed from the air to the target of oscar-8 which was becoming vaguely visible in the dawn’s early light.  smoke from several early-morning cooking fires were spotted in oscar-8, as these nva units prepared the morning rice meal.

            at exactly 0600 hours, these 3 sets of v of v b-52 aircraft, passed over the oscar-8 target dropping a total of 945 (250 kg he dumb bombs into oscar-8 target area)

 

             the fac viewed the 9-ship 52 strike on oscar-8; as the last bomb exploded, maj. alexander and i, as the sog fac, flew above the target area.  we, in the 0-2 aircraft noticed the following:

 

                   1.      from the highway# 922, to the base of the high ground marked as (1) not less than 30 nva attempting to extinguish secondary fires burning in numerous locations.

2.      a the base of the high ground, in the northern portion of oscar-8, marked aS (2) 15 – 20 men attempting to roll barrels (apparently fuel) away from a ferocious fuel-type fires.  several secondary explosion occurred at this time.

3.      noticed several grass shacks and houses burning in the area marked aS (3).

4.      received heavy 12.7 automatic weapons fire from the high ground in the areas markeD (4).

            The pilot (air forces maj. alexander) “juked” the o-2

 aircraft to evade the withering automatic weapons fire, which was actually being fired down upon the fac aircraft.               

            I immediately attempted radio contact to the airborne ch-46 troop carriers, due to land in random lz’s in oscar-8 within 15 minutes of the last b-52 bomb impacting. Major Alexander and I noticed, in the western side of oscar-8, two marine gunships straffing an area intended as a landing zone for the ch-46.  both these gunships was shot down by ground fire, crashing near the landing zone area.

            both alexander and I, called on the uhf and vhf radios to abort the landing of troops; however, the landings were in progress.

            as we looked on in trepidation, two (2) ch-46’s were shot down while still airborne, prior to touch down,  the ch-46’s were approximately 50 to 100 feet in the air, when both were shot into two separate pieces.  troops could be seen tumbling from both of the aircraft, as these aircraft crashed into the lz’s.  the nva guns were shooting down at the targets, from elevated positions as shown (see sketch).

            alexander flew to 4,000 feet above the landing zone to make clear contact with hillsboro (airborne CP), while I contacted the commander of c & C detachment who was at the launch site in khe sanh.

            as i scanned oscar-8, nva ground fire took on every bird in the sky, for two (2) h-34’s were attempting to move into the lz’s to pick up survivors.  one of the h-34 aircraft was raked with enemy fire, and burst into flames  crashing directly on route # 922.  I spotted the h-34 crew members scurring out of the h-34 to the south of route # 922.

            two f4C phantom, fighters were conducting airstrikes as directed by the fac, on the rims of the horseshoe ridge,

as I observed, ONE PHANTOM Covered THE a 2nd STRIKING PHANTOM, THE STRIKING PHANTOM WAS STRUCK IN THE RIGHT WING, WITH THE WING EXPLODING AND THE PLANE exploding in the air.  NO PARACHUTE APPEARED AS THIS PROUD BIRD CRASHED INTO THE GROUND, bursting into a fireball.

            TWO A-1E sKY RAIDERS WERE NEXT IN LINE, AND WERE PROVIDING AIR STRIKES ALONG THE HORSESHOE RIDGE, WHEN ONE A-1E, passing LOW TO DROP NAPALM DIRECTLY ON THE ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNS, WAS CHOPPED APART BY ANTI-AIRCRAFT FIRE.  NO PARACHUTE WAS SPOTTED AS THIS FINE AIRCRAFT CRASHED INTO THE RIDGELINE.

            I HAD RECEIVED An FM  CALL, CLEARTEXT, FROM THE GROUND TEAM, WHO WERE pleading FOR TACTICAL AIR.  THE TEAM LEADER RELATED HE AND APPROXIMATELY 25 INDIGENOUS HF MEMBERS WERE IN TWO BOMB CRATERS, AND HOLDING THEIR OWN.  THE TEAM LEADER REQUESTED TACTICAL AIR; PREFERRING NAPLAM AND CLUSTER BOMB UNITS, TO BE DROPPED WITHIN 30 METERS OF HIS POSITION.  I attempted to calm the team leader, and “rogered” his request.  I requested a headcount asap.

            THE TEAM POSITION COULD BE SPOTTED BY TWO (2) BRIGHT RED PANELS MARKING THE EDGE OF THE FRIENDLY AREA (AT THE EDGE OF EACH the bomb craters) the hf personnel used as fighting positions.

            A time check showed 0800 hrs. two HOURS HAD PASSED SINCE THE INITIAL B-52 “V FORMATION HAD PLASTERED OSCAR-8.  WE RECAPPED OUR REQUEST FOR TACTICAL AIR  BEING HANDLED BY THE AIRBORNE CP ‘HILLSBORO’ WHO WAS At 10,000 METERS AND OBSERVING THE ACTION. 

            I HAD NOTICED, WHEN THE SOG H-34 IMPACTED ON ROUTE # 922, THE THREE CREW MEMBERS HAD SCRAMBLED FROM THE BURNING BIRD, AND MOVED TO THE SOUTH, UPHILL.  THIS INFORMATION WAS PASSED ASAP, TO THE NET CONTROL IN KHE SANH.

            MAJOR ALEXANDER RELATED THE BIRDDOG WAS LOW ON FUEL, AND REQUIRED FUEL.  a replacement fac overlapped our bird;  i  “rogered” the rtB (RETURN TO BASE) FOR FUEL, REQUESTING aLEXANDER TO FLY HIGH IN ORDER TO PASS INFORMATION OF KHE SANH AND DANANG DURING THE SAME TRANSMISSION. 

             My  (radio call sign “mustang”) contacted LTC harold K. Rose, the co of C & C, who was at khe sanh, and whose call sign was “gunfighter.”  I, radioed to gunfighter to take out a pad, so I could relate the count of aircraft lost.  I also asked gunfighter to sit down, for if he were not sitting (gunfighter) then he would probably collapse when told the number of birds shot down in the target of oscar- 8.                  

        target oscar-7  u.s. aircraft shot down in the target

      

        I recited the following; (1)/(2) 2 each ch-46 shot in two pieces (each) over the drop zone; (3) one h-uid gunship destroyed on the lz, (4)  one h-34 shot down on attempt to rescue; (5) one f4c phantom jet shot down with no parachute; (6) and one a-1E shot down over the target, with no parachute. (7) depicts the bomb craters where the hatchet forces was defending its existence.   the airway was silent for at least one minute.  I had expected this.  gunfighter said to me, “What do you recommend,” with my reply being,  “bring up another hf from phu bai, for reinforcement for rescue may be necessary; quickly call for not less than two ch-34 sog helicopters for rescue purposes.” “I related (that) hillsboro (airborne cp) had ceased all bombing in North Vietnam, and had at least eight (8) sets of jets stacked up and orbiting within 5 minutes of the target.  hILLSBORO HAD ALSO CALLED FOR RESCUE BIRDS (CH-53 jOLLY green gIANTS TO RELOCATE FROM THAILAND TO CLOSER STRIPS IN SVN  bombing runs were constant, and the replacement fac was in  contact with the hf commander on the ground.   the horseshoe ridgeline was being plastered with tons of he bombs, as the usaf unloaded their cargo(s).

            on arrival at khe sanh,  i noticed two h-34s with blades turning on the strip; i ran to one, jumped aboard, and grabbed the pilot (mustachio) by his leg, as he sat on his perch in the pilots chair.  i had no commo now, but related to mustachio by voice (that) i  knew exactly where the crew of the shot-down sog bird was, south of route # 922, and gave the sign of “thumbs up” to mustachio, which indicates to lift off.  without hesitation mustachio lifted –                                                             

dropped down across the barbed wire protecting the khe sanh, as he picked up air speed and lift, turning the h-34 west.

            mustachio flew the h-34 wsw to the target area, “balls to the wall,” as i communicated to him to come into the target from the west, and south of the target of oscar-8.  on arrival to the south of the target, and south of route # 922, all aboard the h-34 scanned the ground for the crew of the destroyed h-34 lying burned directly on route # 922.

            mustachio and I saw a mirror (hand-held signal mirror) at the same time, as mustachio cut power, practically diving to the area of the mirror.  on nearing the ground, mustachio’s bird took ground fire, but this was disregarded.  we swooped into a small clearing, near the mirror site, i then noticed the three Vietnamese crew members (hiep the pilot, with his co-pilot, and crew chief) in an area about as large as a five sq. foot opening.  the area was surrounded by fern-like leaves and bamboo thickets. mustachio lowered the bird, with the skill that only he possessed, as the crew chief and I grabbed the hands of the three downed crew members, one by one; pulling these men into the h-34.  mustachio tarried not; i then gave him the ‘thumbs up’ signal, for we had the three aboard.  I slapped mustachio’s leg, and yelled for him to haul his ass out of the area, as we lifted off in a hail of green tracers. mustachio plowed through several small trees whose branches burst apart, as the rotor blades chopped into these branches and trees.  i screamed for mustachio not to fly to the north, for this would take us directly over the horseshoe ridge of oscar-8, that ridgeline rife with nva anti-aircraft firing positions.  i noticed the sound of the h-34 blades had taken a different “pitch”, as one or two of the four rotor blades had been damaged during the drive through the trees, changing the bite of that blade.   we limped along to the west and south, gained altitude, and turned northeast toward khe sanh airstrip.

            I smiled at this h-34 crew, and let me say, these men were three happy chappies.  all three had minor 2nd and 3rd degree burns, from the crash, but they would surely live.  this crew had done well, and were out of the danger zone.  a special forces medical team met us on the airstrip a khe sanh where this crew were treated immediately.  all recovered to fly again.

note:  sad to say each of these men was killed in action in subsequent sog operations. note:  this operation continues on page # 9 to be prepared.                                                                    

BY: SGM WILLIAM (BILLY) wAUGH

The sketches below were previously furnished by Billy and has some extra notes: