War Stories

DAK PEK narrative

William R Hayes

The Plane I Went Down In. Date: 29-May-1968
Unit: 458 AS, 483 TAW
Base: Cam Ranh Bay

We were out in the field, when we (B Co) received orders to return to Bien Hoa airbase. Once at the base we began to prepare for movement to an unknown location, by loading c130s with our equipment.

During this time a LT came over to tell us this was a secret movement and we have been ordered to remove our unit patches from our shirts. This caused a stir with the men, hell we wanted the enemy to know who was kicking there ass. We complied with orders and reluctantly removed our beloved choking chicken patches. US line doggies never knew where we were going to be sent to kick ass, we went with the flow.

During this time of our preparing to move, there was a lot of speculation of where we were headed, but that all ended when a Vietnamese came up to us and said, "you go to central highlands to fight boco vc, you want to buy coke (drink)." So much for the bullshit secret movement. This was unbelievable, we don't know where we are headed, but the gooks do, "DAMN".

We board the aircraft and flew to pleicu and from there we loaded on c7 caribou (C-7B 62-4189) and headed to the special forces camp at dak pek. I was looking out the window of the aircraft, marveling at the beautiful mountains and valleys as the plane began it's approach to the airfield. ALL of a sudden the plane hit hard on the strip, I looked up and saw the pilots fighting with the controls. As The plane rolled on it's side I could see out the window, at this time the wing separated from the aircraft and a large fire ball erupted, when the plane rolled all the gear rolled on top of me and I was pinned. Then there was nothing but silence, then I heard someone yelled, "we're going to burn", then the scramble was on. I saw the crew chief pull the latch on the rear ramp, when it opened, the stampede was on, except for me, I was trying to get from up under all that gear. Finally I fought my way from under it and crawled, I was the last one out. All 26 passengers and crew survived. Welcome to Dak Pek. Click here for an arial picture of the landing strip. We "landed" up at the top of the picture and you can see the mark we left in the side of the mountian to the left of the landing strip.

Fire Base.

After everything had settled down, the bat began the mission. I guess all the companies were flown to the surrounding mountain peaks to secure the airfield. B CO was loaded on choppers and flown to a platue of tall elephant grass. My squad and I were on the first chopper, our job was to secure the landing site. Our chopper hovered above the tall grass and the door gunner gave me the signal to go. Out the bird I went, it was quite a fall to mother earth. I could not see my men as they hit the ground, but I could sure hear them. The sound was as if large sacks were hitting the ground, loud thuds and moans, then cursing, came from my unseen squad members. Once everyone was down and accounted for, we set up security for the rest of the company. Once the company was on the ground, we began to clear the ao and place fields of fire. The makings of a fire base began.

We shared this hill top post with the 4th ID, man what motley crew. We as airborne take pride in ourselves, even in the field, you could tell from afar who was who, just by the appearance of the troop. Again i`am not trying to put anyone down, but I was glad to get away from these guys. I know quite a few others felt the same as I did. This is the time we began to call our brothers in arms, the funky fourth.

Our operations kept us on the move from mountain top to mountain top, we did not see much action, but we learned how to be mountain goats. This lesson would help us when we made our final move north.