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Airstrikes Get Patrol Out of Tough Spot
PLEIKU, (4th INF-10) - After fighting off a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) force for three hours, a small group of tired soldiers tumbled out of the evacuation chopper at their home base. Minutes before, the tiny force, a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) from the 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, had been plucked from a flaming hilltop which an estimated NVA company had attempted to seize. The men had been on the summit about one and a half miles from the Chu Pou Mountains, for three days, calling in artillery and airstrikes on what appeared to be a large NVA concentration. Only that morning the patrol had guided Air Force fighter bombers to a target and had watched large secondary explosions blossom skyward.

It was estimated that the LRRP could hold off a company trying to storm their position. Apparently realizing this, the NVA force crept up the sides until it was within easy striking distance of the small defending force. The siege began at 8 p.m. Sounds of movement in the nearby brush were the first warning of the attack. One of the Americans spotted three figures. A burst of M-16 rounds drove the intruders back down the steep side. From all around the defenders' position the night erupted into bursts of small arms fire and flying grenades. Specialist Four Russell Oliver, the patrol leader, saw the patrol was in trouble. "If you wait until morning to get us out," he told his radio operator, "there won't be anyone here." Specialist Four Joseph F. Camper radioed brigade headquarters for assistance. By this time an Air Force forward air controller (FAC) and a flareship were circling the hilltop. The flares lit the night and kept the enemy at bay.

During the wait for air power, 175mm guns from the brigade headquarters splattered the hillŐs slopes with continuous fire. The enemy, unrelenting, tried three or four assaults during the artillery barrage. "Here they come again," shouted Camper in the middle of one radio message. With his set still open, the sound of gunfire and bursting grenades was heard back at headquarters. One enemy grenade plopped into the LRRP's position, but it was a dud. Another was tossed over the lip of the hill but bounced back, exploding among the attackers. The Skyraiders were soon zooming overhead. The FAC asked the infantrymen where they wanted the strikes. "Feel free to do anything you please as long as you don't shoot us," replied Camper. The planes worked over the top of the hill, dropping their ordinance within 30 yards of the small group. With the attack broken and summit still lit by flares, the LRRP leader called again for extraction. "Where's the ship to get us out of here?" By 11 p.m. the chopper lifted out of the area with the LRRP members safely tucked into its belly.