Copyright © Stephen Perry. Pictures donated from Stephen’s personal collection.
Upon my return from Saigon in mid-February 1968, I was shocked to find so much had changed at FOB1. Several large buildings had been completely destroyed by NVA 122mm rockets and the fires that followed. All that remained of those buildings was the concrete slabs where they once stood. Not only were there missing buildings but friends were missing as well. Among the missing were my ST Idaho teammate and friend Tim Kirk and my roommate and friend Ken Cryan. My One Zero Glen Lane informed me that Tim and Ken had gone with the Hatchet Force to Khe Sanh to help reinforce FOB3 after the Tet offensive. My friends later had participated in the rescue mission to the Special Forces Camp at Long Vei. (read “Night of the Silver Stars”)
Transfer of skilled and experienced team members to Khe Sanh, normal rotations back to the “world” and combat losses had left FOB 1 very short of experienced recon men ready to carry on the mission of SOG. After the NVA were devastated during their attacks on Tet, they ran back to the cover of the jungles and mountains along the western border of Vietnam. This was our AO (area of operation) and MACV wanted an immediate assessment of enemy strength and movements.
Aerial view of FOB 1
Glen Lane met with me the day after my return from Saigon and asked me if I felt comfortable carrying the radio on our next mission. He informed me that ST Idaho had been assigned an area along the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos and that our mission was to plant top-secret sensors along the roads and trails that would enable the CIAg to count vehicles and troops moving along that section of the road. Furthermore, we were to wiretap any communications lines that we found along the way. Glen said that we would be traveling light and would take a total of six men on the mission.
I did not know it at the time but I was being assessed and trained to take over the One Zero spot on another team. When it was time for the VR (visual recon) of the area, I was told to grab my weapon and my web gear and join Glen in the briefing room. The Operations officer explained the mission and the urgent need of information. He uncovered his charts and outlined our target area and the area that reportedly had some sort of transmission lines. He also showed us the listening devices and explained how they were to be deployed as well as the wiretap device.
O2 Skymaster (Covey)
After the briefing, we were driven to the Marine Airfield at Phu Bai where we boarded an O2 Skymaster for our flight over the target area for our VR.
This is the first mission where I would carry the radio (PRC25) and also my first VR. It was a hot steamy morning and I was pleasantly surprised that the aircraft was air conditioned. We took off and headed west south west toward the Ashau. The scenery was absolutely beautiful with rolling hills and mountains covered with a carpet of green. There were occasional clusters of bomb craters and a few areas cleared by the Montagnards to cultivate their food crops. All of a sudden I noticed green tracers going by the plane into the sky followed by bursts of antiaircraft rounds in the air nearby. The pilot said to hold on as he took evasive action to avoid the enemy’s ground fire. Shortly thereafter Lane pointed out on his chart that we were approaching our target area. We quickly located a small clearing which was only about 2000 meters from where we needed to go. We marked it on our maps and after passing by the target area had the pilot circle back for another look. The clearing looked like a good LZ that was small and would require us to rappel in. We were also able to ID and mark two alternate LZ which could be used for insertion or extraction. Lane informed the pilot that we were all set and we had a quiet ride back to Phu Bai.
When we arrived back at the camp, we went to the St Idaho team room and found our Vietnamese team members waiting and ready to go. Accompanying us on this mission were Zero One Mr Tu, Hiep Nguyen, Sau, and point man Ha. Lane told Tu to have the men on the airstrip and ready to launch at 1300 We just had time for a quick sandwich at the mess hall, a last minute equipment check and the walk to the strip. The weight of the radio was similar to what I normally carried but seemed completely different than my normal rucksack. Our mission was to plant the sensors, do the wiretap if transmission lines were found, and to get out as quickly as possible.
Kingbees used on this mission
The flight to the LZ was uneventful and we were pleasantly surprised that the Kingbees were able to drop close enough to the ground that we were able to jump out without the rapel. As soon as the choppers were clear we moved to a position within the treeline. Lane checked his topo map and motioned for Ha to lead us due north. He had Hiep warn him that we were approaching the road and to stay low and quiet. We headed down a little valley and within one half hour Ha signaled to stop. He pointed out a clearing ahead and what appeared to be a well graded road. Lane instructed the team to stay put and cover him as he moved to the roads edge and planted a set of sensors. When he returned he had Ha move in a direction parallel to the road in search of transmission lines or other signs of the enemy.
Several hundred yards up the road we observed an area where a hill had been cut back for the roadbed and there were caves dug into the bank. In the caves were stacks of boxes and in one a loaded truck was parked. We marked the position of the caves on our maps and moved on another hundred yards when Ha signaled us to stop. We had come upon a well traveled footpath. Lane had the team cross the trail and told me to drop an Eldest Son packet on the edge of the trail.(Eldest Son was a top secret program of sabotaging captured enemy ammunition and planting it behind enemy lines). What I dropped there was an original “unopened” box of AK47 ammo. Sau covered our tracks and planted a few M14 mines in our back-trail. Since we were approaching one of our alternate LZs, Lane had me call Covey for an extraction. We moved toward the extraction LZ and were picked up by our Kingbees without incident.
This mission was picture perfect and one of the only missions I was on where there was no enemy contact. The mission was accomplished with planted and working sensors, planted Eldest Son and B52 airstrikes with secondary explosions called in later that day on the enemy’s supply caves.
Fellow team member who disappeared with his team in Laos
Read more about SOG missions in my book Bright Light, available from the publisher at http://booklocker.com/books/4871.html
I have read Stephen’s book and highly recommend it. Thank you, Stephen, for this story and for your service! Welcome Home, Brother!
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