Stars and Stripes
10 Feb 1968
Scout Copter Crew Joins Battle, Gives Good Account
LANDING ZONE BALDY, Vietnam (IO) - A pair of OH-13 scout helicopters returning from a routine reconnaissance mission, decided to look in on an air assault and wound up killing 31 members of the 2nd North Vietnamese Army Div. three miles northwest of here.
Their curiosity was the start of a battle which claimed 128 enemy, members of both NVA and Viet Cong units.
At approximately 11 a.m., tube and aerial rocket artillery were preparing a landing zone near the village of Tra Kieu Nam for an air assault by elements of the 1st Bn., 35th Inf. The elements were planning a cordon and search of the village to look for Viet Cong.
As the barrage pounded into the landing zone; W.O. Phillip Flanagan, of Virginia Beach, Va., and W.O. George Francioni, Richmond, Va., decided to have a closer look.
Flanagan spotted five uniformed enemy soldiers with weapons running from the scene. Francioni opened up with an M60 machine gun and an M79 grenade launcher, killing the five.
Suddenly, a platoon-sized element sprang up a couple of meters away in a tightly-knit group and began to run towards a stream bed east of the village.
"It was the most I've ever seen in one group in a single area since I've been over here," recalled the 20-year-old Francioni.
Flanagan called for aerial rocket artillery and gunships. But everybody seemed to be busy with other missions, so the two scout ships took things in their own hands.
The enemy broke up into small groups of 10 and scattered.
Five tried to escape by hiding in a clump of bushes where they proceeded to fire on the scout ships. Flanagan and Francioni and their respective doorgunners cut them down in a matter of seconds. The ship was not hit.
"As soon as we spotted them it was pure mass confusion," Francioni recalled, "I've never seen anything like it."
While Flanagan and Francioni headed back to LZ Baldy, Maj. George D. Burrow, commander of B Troop, 1st Bn., 9th Cav. 1st Air Cav. Div., and his crew appeared on the scene.
After receiving fire on a wide swing, Burrow directed his gunships on top of the crowded NVA and gunned down 10 along the stream bed.
"We go an indication of their position when we received fire as we made a wide swing. We worked on them from a distance before moving in on top of them. By then they were really scared," said the 35-year-old major.
Meanwhile, another company was told to stay in nearby rice paddies as the gunships poured 7,000 rounds into the enemy. "On several occasions one NVA would shoot at us and we would uncover five or six in the bushes," said W.O. Larry Kreps, co-pilot.
When Burrow ran out of ammo, he flew to an adjacent rice paddy and reloaded ammo from another gunship.
On the third pass over the stream bed they killed five more NVA and Pfc. Mike Simpson, doorgunner, shot it out with one NVA who showed determination in attempting to down the gunship. Simpson finally won out, but not before the NVA had put a scare into the crew every time he aimed his AK47 automatic rifle at the gunship.
"We threw everything at them, expending all our M16 ammo and innumerable grenades," Kreps said after the long fight.