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LRRP Kills 7 Before Being Lifted Out; First Battle For 2
PLEIKU, (4th INF-10) - For two members of the small reconnaissance team the fight was a literal baptism of fire. The entire team came close to death. The Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) from the 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division had tangled with 15 North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Regulars. Although the odds were not in the recons' favor, the small unit managed to kill seven of the enemy before being lifted out of the hot spot. "We were sent in to recon targets of opportunity," said Sgt. Lawrence R. Willey, leader of the patrol. "We could fight ourselves, or if we thought it too much to handle, call in artillery or air strikes."

The little group was inserted at the base of the Chu Go Mountain complex, about 40 miles due south of here, two days before the fire fight. The steep hillsides and ravines, thickly covered with a double canopy, were to be the team's stomping grounds for several days. Willey was beginning his 14th patrol. Specialist Four Charles Ditterman was on his third, and Sp4 Russell Oliver and SSgt. Loyd W. Lee their first. "We searched the valley around Hill 600 for the first day but found nothing except some fresh tracks around a small water hole," Willey said. The following day the group heard movement and saw three NVA in the area.

Air strikes were called in and three secondary explosions were reported following the bombing. Since it was too late to check out the area, the patrol headed for its night location. As they reached the secluded spot and set up for darkness, the men heard noises in the brush moving in their direction. The noises stopped about 100 yards short of he LRRP's night position. "They were looking for us," said Willey. "They were definitely looking for us." At daylight the searchers continued towards the LRRP position and moved right in on them.

"They thought we were on a hilltop but we were on an abutment just off it. The NVA moved right past us, 15 of them. We killed the first five and moved out," the sergeant said. With the rest of the team making it for the landing zone, Willey stayed behind to cover their flight. "Two more NVA came over the hill and I cut them down. Then I followed the others," said the team leader. The escape, as all LRRP exits, was pre-planned, but complicated. All but Willey had received shrapnel wounds during the brief fire fight. But they kept going for about 2000 yards. At the landing zone there was still a thick canopy overhead, broken slightly by a small hole. A helicopter couldn't land, but a rope could be dropped. While gunships peppered the escape route with machinegun bullets and rockets, the team was pulled, one by one, into the hovering chopper. "The NVA were still chasing us," said Willey after the extraction, "but those gunships really slowed them down."