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187th AHC

Newport News Herald, Newport News, VA.


"Local Chopper Pilot Assists in VC Rout"

Submitted by Deborah Burns Frazier, Daughter of Joseph Burns.



SAIGON (AP) -- A U.S. Army assault helicopter company surprised a Viet Cong platoon Saturday while the choppers were working with troops of the U.S. 25th Infantry Division near the Cambodian border, 47 miles northwest of Saigon. Officers called the action that followed a "masterpiece of coordination" between the helicopters and infantrymen.

Twenty-two enemy were killed in the encounter, the Army reported Sunday.

Spokesmen gave this account: The first helicopter lift went into the landing zone without incident. A spotter plane saw two Viet Cong in high grass near the landing area, and a control helicopter commanded by Maj. Joseph Burns of Newport News, Va., saw 18 more enemy.

Orbiting the area, Burns ordered his crew chief, Spec. 5 Harold Tharp of Alamorgordo, N.M., and Gunner Spec. 4 Charles Hartman of St. Louis, Mo., to lay down suppressive fire.

Then another helicopter fire team, called the "Rat Pack," arrived on the scene and began making firing passes. It was commanded by Capt. Gerald R. Kunde of Oshkosh, Wis.

Ground troops pressed from the right, and the "Rat Pack" blocked the enemy from the west.

"It was a masterpiece of coordination between ground and air elements," Burns said. "When the ground troops began their push and the Rat Pack began hitting with rocket and miniguns, the enemy became disoriented and began running everywhere to get away."

Another lift of troop-carrying helicopters commanded by Capt. Ron Cody of Champaign, Ill., dropped down and unloaded additional ground troops.

The Rat Pack helicopters continued to pursue the enemy and reported destroying three huts and two bunkers.

"There were a lot of VC and weapons down there," Kunde said. "It was a good day for us. We had the VC in the open and they were completely disorganized. They ran right into open rice paddies."

"It was a significant encounter," added Maj. Burns. "We caught them by surprise and fought them on our terms."


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