Khe Sanh Hill Fights of ‘67
Compiled by Ray Stubbe
All Rights Reserved by the Author
POSTURING 27 April 1967
An AO flying overhead early in the morning of 27 Apr sighted 15 - 20 NVA manning an OP outside a bunker at XD 782448 at 081 SH; two hours later he sighted a large gun approx. 6-ft. long on wheels approximately 3-ft. in diameter, at XD 785450.
All units of 3/3 moved into close proximity shortly after first light on the 27th, and medevac of casualties was completed by 270727H. Thereafter, 3/3 commenced overland movement to the KSCB perimeter, arriving at 1130H.
At 1400H, 3d Mar Choppered M/3/3 and M/3/9 to SOP KHE SANH. M/3/3 arrived at 1610H to replace K/3/3, which departed at 1500H to Thon Son Lam (the "Rock Pile"). M/3/9 arrived at 1730H to replace B/l/9, which departed at 1630H. What remained of B/l/9 flew out of KSCB on one C-130 to Dong Ha and then trucked out to Camp Carroll that night. Several days later, they were listening on their radios to the action at Khe Sanh, how all the thousands they'd seen were running into trouble: "We couldn't believe it. We were all looking at each other and saying, 'What the hell did we run in to!?"'
In addition, the remaining company of the SLF, F/2/3, arrived at Khe Sanh and assumed the mission of reserve. B/1/12, the SLF battery, arrived at 1900H and was laid and ready to fire by 2150H. 2/3 realigned itself during 27 Apr while assisting in the neutralization of Hill 861 by supporting arms. 2/3 remained to the south of the hill (at XD 812432) with the companies oriented to the west of the command group.
Two recon inserts were attempted on 27 Apr to provide surveillance to the west and north of the battle area.
At 1245H, Capt Don McPheron, pilot of a section of aircraft (EP- 171 ) and his wingman, 1stLt Thomas P. Berry, took off from Khe Sanh to insert a recon team. After completing this, they again took off from Khe Sanh at 1315H for a second recon team insertion. They were to insert team BREAKER at XD 723443. Two KLONDIKE gunships from VMO-6 located the zone, reported it appeared to be satisfactory, and made some low passes. Capt McPheron entered the zone while Lt Thomas Berry remained in a 2000-ft. orbit overhead. On touchdown, Capt McPheron's aircraft received heavy automatic weapons fire from a treeline only 10 yards from his aircraft. Although Capt McPheron attempted to depart, his aircraft became uncontrollable and crashed into the 2800-ft. high zone. Since Lt Berry was carrying 4 recon troops he was unable to make an immediate pick-up of the 9 survivors of the crash. He proceeded directly to KSCB, Offloaded the passengers, and retumed to the zone. The 9 survivors, meanwhile, were taking fire from two tree-lines while the gunships made low passes attempting to suppress the enemy fire. The 9, (5 were wounded), began to move down the slope, off the ridge, as their aircraft began to bum, attempting to escape the enemy's automatic weapons fire.
Lt Berry resumed and commenced his approach, orienting his helicopter sideways to allow the gunner to fire the .50. He still did not know where the survivors were as he proceeded below the ridgeline and moved his helicopter up the slope, hugging the terrain. This made it possible for him to bring his aircraft as close as possible while avoiding some of the automatic weapons fire from one of the beelines. Even late in the approach, he still was unable to locate the survivors until Capt McPheron's co-pilot, 1stLt T.R. Llewellyn, stood up in a bomb crater where they were located and waved by crossing his arms. The mountainside was extremely steep. Lt Berry was unable to land, and hovered with the right main wheels on the mountainside as the downed crew and the recon team, under the direction of the recon company's First Sergeant, J. L. Medvecky, crawled down the hill and were pulled into the aircraft by the gunner, LCpl Sanders. Cpl Wilson, the Crew Chief, fired from the door window because the .50 would not elevate sufficiently up the hill. Lt Berry's co-pilot, 1Lt Andrew Parker, was concerned that the rotor blades would strike the ground at any time due to the steep gradient of the mountain. Bullets impacted into the ground around the helicopter, particularly the area around the cockpit, but Lt Berry remained calm and held his position. After a very uncomfortable length of time in the zone, it appeared that all were aboard. Lt Parker raised the ramp, and Lt Berry took off, dropping down the mountainside to gain airspeed. 20 minutes after EP-171 had been shot down, the wounded were receiving medical treatment. The second recon team was successfully inserted at 1420H at XD 745541, but extracted two hours later due to contact and numerous sightings in the area.
By the end of the day, artillery support, which fired 632 rounds on the 27th, was reorganized into an artillery group with two batteries: one in support of each battalion, and a detachment of two 155mm howitzers and three 4.2" mortars in general support. Air support for 27 April consisted of 136,000 pounds of ordnance, delivered primarily on Hill 861. The bombs consisted of 250 and 500 pound mixtures along with 18,000 pounds of napalm.