Bob Hoffman, Bandit Section Leader(1966-67)
remembers the incident and other things, "I can't say if
the Bandit Platoon leader was on the toilet when the Bandit Rocket
Force decided to attack Bien Hoa, but I know I was. It assisted
in my task at hand."
"They were, however, some of the best people I have known and they ALWAYS covered the Company at great risk to themselves. "
|Maj George Owens, XO and Commading Officer of the 118th in 1966 says, " The Certificate of Achievement was designed by the 118th 1SGT Ermil Sparks with the approval of the company XO about October 1966. LTC Walter Jones, CO, 145th CAB, was quite impressed with the Certificate as he always was with the performance of the 118th Thunderbirds."|
|Ted Jambon, 65-66 says, " I received one of those dandy Certificates of Achievement for the manner in which I performed my duties as 1st Plt. Ldr and as Operations Officer . Also, mine was for writing the first SOP for separate unit assault helicopter operations. It is signed by MAJ. George Owens our CO and LTC Walter Jones, the Bn. CO. As a matter of fact it is hanging on the wall just above my computer."|
The 118th AHC was doing a CA for an ARVN unit to the west of Tay Ninh about 1K or so from the border. We had ten slicks, four guns, a C&C and a smoke ship - all from the 118th. This was mid-morning and the first lift into the LZ. I believe we picked up the ARVNs at their base. The tactical area was a village either on or near the border, then a rice paddy area about a 400 to 500 yards wide, then a single tree line, and another rice paddy area that was the LZ. All ten slicks landed at the same time in this dry rice paddy, unloaded and departed. I can't remember details about the LZ prep, only that we departed and shut down at our staging area. I don't recall that we took fire during the CA or if we went in full suppression or just normal rules.
The C&C remained and at least one, maybe both, Bandit gun teams. The UH-1C with WO Alexander as AC and WO Larocque as CP and SP5 Simpson as CE and SP4 Gurnsey as gunner was shot down by what I was told was a .51 cal firing from the village. I believe they were making a gun run on the village at the time. They crashed about 300 yards from the village in the first rice paddy area.
We learned the ship was down by listening on the radios. Fire from both the ARVNs and the VC intensified after the crash as both sides tried to gain control of the ship. About mid-day someone saw that a smoke grenade was popped near the ship, so we believed that someone was alive there and wanted someone to land near it. The C&C wouldn't let us - saying the area wasn't secure, they were still taking heavy fire from the village, and we wouldn't risk another ship and crew. When the ARVN advance stalled, very late in the day, we were able to insert an American Infantry unit. This was in the 25th Inf Div's AO, so most likely they were from that unit. I was involved in this insertion but didn't get a real good look at the crash site. We went back, shut-down and went back to listening to the radios.
The GIs quickly fought their way to the gun ship about six hours after they had gone down. The VC broke contact in the face of the GIs. I believe the GIs found the bodies of the two pilots and CE but the gunner was not found. I don't remember if we pulled the ARVNs out that night or not, but I believe the Americans stayed there to secure the crash site. Not long after dark, we returned to Bien Hoa knowing that we had lost three KIA. A few days later we learned that Gurnsey had been captured, was held in Cambodia, and that he was badly injured. I left Vietnam on the 15th of January and distinctly recall knowing that Gurnsey had been repatriated and released by the Cambodian government.
About two years later, I met up with George Burchett who stayed with the 118th at least nine months after I left. He told me that Gurnsey never recovered from his injuries and had died in the States about six months after his repatriation. Submitted by Dave Evans at the VHCMA Reunion 6/25/99.