Late in the morning of the 6th, friendly units set up a defensive perimeter on the rim of the volcano overlooking Bon Sar Pa, south of Duc Lap.
On 9 Nov while flying a hot resupply into the volcano, 2 155 aircraft were hit by .50 caliber fire and B-40 rocket fragments, resulting in one pilot wounded. He was later returned to CONUS.
On 11 Nov another aircraft was hit by 12.7mm anti-aircraft fire SE of Bu Prang, wounding one crewman. Later that morning one passenger was killed and 2 wounded when their aircraft took hits from 37mm anti-aircraft fire near Bu Prang.
One of the more significant actions took place on 17 Nov when 155 Falcon gunships expended 5 times on enemy locations near Bu Prang. As a result of Falcon gunship and Tac Air Support, 72 enemy were killed, more than half of which were credited to the Falcons.
In separate actions on the 17th, 2 Falcon gunships received damage from enemy fire.
On the 21st, Falcon guns expened 3 times on enemy locations, receiving credit for 23 enemy killed by air. During this action 3 gunships were hit bt ground by ground fire.
On 22 Nov, 2 Falcon gunships on standy-by at Gia Nghia were called to Duc Lap where they engaged enemy targets. Both ships took damage from ground fire and the pilot of one ship was wounded in the leg, causing his return to CONUS.
On 25 Nov another 155 ship took hits from ground fire while resupplying the volcano, wounding the pilot.
The activity at the volcano had now reached the point where the Stagecoach slicks performing resupply to the troops on the rim would always receive ground fire, either enroute to or from the volcano, or from within the crater of the volcano itself. Launching out of LZ Mike Smith, these resupply helicopters had to alter their routes and landing patterns every time they ran a mission. There were confirmed .50 caliber positions around 3 sides of the volcano, with heavy small arms and troop concentrations on the 4th side.
In addition there was one small spot on the rim suitable for landing and this pad was constantly wracked with direct mortar, rocket, and artillery hits. An aircraft landing on the volcano had to be fast. If the cargo couldn’t be kicked off or the wounded loaded within 27-28 seconds, they would have to wait for the next trip, because within 29-30 seconds after touchdown, a mortar would strike the pad. Many a StageCoach aircraft got an added boost on take-off from the concussion of a mortar round directly behind it.
This resupply and medevac mission put the crews under a great strain. Going into the volcano as many as 4, 5, or 6 times in one day under theses conditions put the crews under so much pressure that the ground commander insisted that the crews be changed daily so as not to overtax the same people day after day.
On 27 Nov, a gunship covering a volcano resupply mission received heavy ground fire and was forced to make an emergency landing in enemy territory. The crew destroyed the radios and cipher equipment before being safely extracted by another gunship. The gunship was destroyed in place.
On 4 Dec, while extracting a wounded ARVN from the volcano, the resupply command and control helicopter drew heavy fire, wounding a pilot.
It must be remembered that the battle of Bu Prang-Duc Lap was a full scale effort by the enemy. Although not mentioned in this history, the events and circumstances surrounding all operations 28 Oct-28 Dec required aviators and crews to daily risk their lives in an effort to provide support to the beseiged firebases and outposts.
Many more medevacs than are recorded were actually flown. Many more enemy were killed than the Falcons were given credit for. This is a result of the fluid maneuvering of both friendly and enemy units.
The constant enemy activity, the fact that if asked to pull a medevac a Stagecoach aircraft would go into an area that had been the target of over 200 enemy artillery rounds that day, the fact that though enemy mortars were sure to follow a resupply by seconds, all confirm that under under the most severe of conditions the 155 Falcon- Stagecoach team can and will provide optimum support, without reservation and without delay to the units which it serves.
The last and by far the busiest quarter of 1969 left in its wake a great sense of accomplishment, and a feeling of relief that the ordeal of 2 months was over. Although acting as controlling agency in conjunction with Vagabond Forward, the 155th operations had handled as many as 50 additional aircraft daily during Nov and Dec. This put quite a strain on 155 operations.
In addition, the company flew more hours than any other company in the 10th Avn Bn for long periods, still maintaining an extremely high aircraft availability record.
Although 28 aircraft from the 155 received damage from ground fire the knowledge of the enemy and terrain proved to be a factor in minimizing damage to aircraft. Aircraft from other units, in trying to support the 155, proved that anything less than a complete knowledge of terrain and tactics creates a dangerous situation. Hour for hour, the 155 took less damage from ground fire than outside units unfamiliar with the area of operation.
On 26 Dec 1969 Maj Dean Owen relinquished command of the 155 Av Co to Maj Gerald M. Luisi, formerly assigned as Assistant Div Aviation Officer of the 25th Inf Div.
The change of command ceremony was held at Camp Coryell. Major Owen was presented the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry by Col Kanh of the 23rd ARVN Div.
1 July-30 Sept:
After a period of seven weeks without an enemy attack on Camp Coryell, the longest period of respite the 155th had seen in 2 years, the night quiet was again broken by incoming rounds. On 23 July at 2333 hours, 5 B-40 rockets and 10 82mm mortars struck the compound. Due to increased bunker facilities, and the overdue nature of the attack, the rounds inflicted negative damage.
Again, there was a long period without enemy attack on Camp Coryell in July and Aug. Finally, the compound was attacked on 12 Aug. Early in the morning, a total of 37 rounds struck the compound, landing not only in the corral and dustbowl, but in the billeting areas as well. 10 B-40 rockets and 27 82mm mortars impacted, causing damage to 4 UH-1H’s and one UH-1C, 10 structures, and 4 vehicles. 11 personnel were wounded during the attack. Falcon gunships and a flareship were launched, but because of difficulty encountered in getting clearance to fire, returned with negative results.
The 155 was not subject to enemy attack during the entire month of Sept.. In late Aug and early Sept. of 1968, the 155-supported areas of Bu Prang and Duc Lap were the targets of a long, hard-hitting offensive by the enemy. Duc Lap in particular was the focal point of enemy activity in the 155th’s area of operations during that year.
All sources of information gathered thus far in 1969 indicated that the enemy was planning a 1969 offensive aimed once again at Duc Lap.
The end of the summer monsoon and the beginning of the winter monsoon brought about a great increase in enemy activity in large parts of the 155’s area of operation. Although the rainy weather precluded any large scale enemy activity during July and Aug, toward the end of Sept the lessening rainfall afforded the enemy greater ease of mobility, as was indicated by large troop buildups in the border areas west and SW of Duc Lap.
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