Stories

Night Extraction

by Ron "Tex" Mageors

We had planned to move down the ridgeline, across the saddle between the two peaks and up the next slope to higher ground before nightfall.  Things didnít quite work out the way we planned.

Company B was in the mountains to the north and west of 4-11, in dense growth and steep terrain, searching for the NVAís hiding places.  Those who have humped the jungle, scratching and clawing upward, then slipping and sliding downward thru vines and vegetation and mud and mosquitoes know the type of terrain I am trying to describe.

Anyway, moving a large number of men with heavy packs and tired and sore muscles, quietly down the side of a mountain takes time.  We barely reached the bottom of the ridge before darkness began to settle on our unit.  As the last remnants of light faded, we dug in for the night, preparing defensive positions as best we could, and got ready for a long vigil.  We were not in the most desirable of camping places, considering we had high ground on both sides, and radio communications were minimal at best.  I hoped "Charlie" was not watching.  At night in the "boonies," with no moon or stars, was like being blind.  At least it gave us a feeling of "if I canít see, Charlie canít see me."  Noise and light discipline was strictly enforced during times such as these.

Sometime in the night, two men were either bitten or stung by an unknown "creepy- crawler" and began to have seizures and convulsions.  Our medic tried to control the emergency, but did not have the needed supplies for venomous bites or stings.  The only alternative was a Medevac mission to remove the stricken soldiers.  After a few frantic minutes of trying to make radio contact, I was able to raise our firebase (4-11), and request a "dust-off" chopper be dispatched to our location.  I believe that the chopper was coming from LZ Bronco, so we had a little time to plan how to guide the pilot into the tight LZ.  It fell upon me to take the radio and a hand held strobe light into the little clearing and talk the pilot in.  He came on station and contacted us on the alternate frequency for instructions.  I remember telling him to show his landing lights briefly so I could get a fix on his position.  He flashed his lights a couple of times and asked for directions.  I switched on the flashing strobe, told him to remember that he had high ground on two sides, and come in and put his chin bubbles on the light.  He put me on my knees when he landed.  The two men were quickly loaded aboard, and the chopper lifted off, spun around, and vanished into the dark night.

Everyone, as quickly as possible, found their way back to the perimeter and their positions.  I donít think anyone slept a wink, and daylight was a welcome sight.

I will never forget that night, and I donít know if I ever felt any more vulnerable.  Standing in that small clearing with that strobe light flashing, I remember feeling that any minute, someone would zero in on that great big "bullseye" that was painted on my back.  I guess I was lucky, and "Charlie" must have been sleeping soundly that night.

Anyway, the best part was the two men were treated and returned to our unit a couple of days later.

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