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Ashau SF Camp Rescue

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  • Ashau SF Camp Rescue

    On 10 March, 1966, HMM-163, led by LtCol "Chuck" House rescued many of the survivors of the Army Special Forces camp in the Ashau valley. Various personal descriptions of the mission can be found in the "Poems & Stories" section of this web site. The following USAF recommendation for the CMH for Air Force Major Bernie Fisher provides a wonderful description of the situation at the camp prior to HMM-163's arrival.

    NARRATIVE DESCRIPTION.

    MAJOR BERNARD F. FISHER DISTINGUISHED HIMSELF BY CONSPICUOUS GALLANTRY AND INTREPEDITY WHILE SERVING WITH FRIENDLY FOREIGN FORCES ENGAGED IN AN ARMED CONFLICT AS AN A-1E PILOT AT A SHAU, REPUBLIC OF VIETNAM ON 10 MARCH 1966 . IN THE FACE OF A STRONG AND DETERMINED HOSTILE FORCE ARMED WITH AUTOMATIC WEAPONS, HE LANDED HIS SINGLE ENGINE A 1E ON AN HOSTILE HELD 2500 FOOT AIRSTRIP, CRATERED BY MORTAR FIRE AND CLUTTERED WITH BATTLE DEBRIS CAPABLE OF DESTROYING HIS AIRCRAFT TO RESCUE MAJOR DAFFORD W. MYERS. AT THE TIME THE CAMP WAS UNDER ATTACK BY SOME 2,000 NORTH VIETNAMESE ARMY REGULARS WHO HAD FORCED THE 300 DEFENDERS OF A SHAU INTO ONE BUNKER WITHIN THE CAMP. HOSTILE TROOPS WITH AUTOMATIC WEAPONS HAD OVER RUN THE AIRSTRIP AND HAD POSITIONED THEMSELVES BETWEEN THE AIRSTRIP AND THE CAMP IN DUG-IN POSITIONS. OTHER TROOPS IN SIMILAR POSITIONS SURROUNDED THE CAMP AND WERE RAKING IT WITH AUTOMATIC WEAPONS FIRE FROM THE SURROUNDING HILLS. THE TOPS OF THE 1500 FOOT HILLS WERE OBSCURED BY AN 800-FOOT CEILING LIMITING AIRCRAFT MANEUVERABILITY AND FORCING PILOTS T0. OPERATE WITHIN RANGE OF HOSTILE GUN POSITIONS, WHICH OFTEN WERE ABLE TO FIRE DOWN ON THE ATTACKING AIRCRAFT. MAJOR MYERS' AIRCRAFT, ONE OF SIX A 1E’S OPERATING IN THE VALLEY AT THE TIME OF THE ACTION, WAS HIT AT 400 FELT ABOVE THE GROUND BY A NUMBER OF HEAVY CALIBER SHELLS OF UNKNOWN SIZE.
    UNABLE TO BAIL OUT BECAUSE OF HIS LOW ALTITUDE, THE SITUATION WAS FURTHER COMPLICATED BY COCKPIT SMOKE, WHICH MADE IT IMPOSSIBLE TO USE HIS FLIGHT INSTRUMENTS. FLAMES OUTSIDE THIS AIRCRAFT COCKPIT FURTHER HINDERED AND PREVENTED FLIGHT ORIENTATION.
    MAJOR FISHER ASSESSED THE SITUATION AND, CLOSING ON MAJOR MYERS' AIRCRAFT, GUIDED THE BURNING A 1E ONTO THE HOSTILE CONTROLLED RUNWAY WITH VERBAL COMMANDS AND ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE PILOT. AT THE TIME HE WAS GUIDING IN THE BURNING AIRCRAFT HE WAS PROVIDING SUPPRESSIVE FIRE AHEAD OF IT AND GIVING BATTLE INSTRUCTIONS TO OTHER MEMBERS OF THE CIRCLING FLIGHT. AFTER OBSERVING THE WHEELS UP FLAMING LANDING AND EXPLOSION, MAJOR FISHER OBSERVED MAJOR MYERS TO EMERGE FROM THE INFERNO AND ROLL INTO WEEDS ON THE EDGE 0F THE RUNWAY, HIS FLYING SUIT SMOKING.
    CALLING FOR AIR RESCUE HELICOPTERS HE WAS INFORMED THEY WERE 15 TO 20 MINUTES AWAY. IN THE BELIEF THAT MAJOR MYERS WAS SERIOUSLY INJURED AND IN IMMINENT DANGER OF CAPTURE BY A VICIOUS AND BRUTAL HOSTILE FORCE, MAJOR FISHER ANNOUNCED HIS INTENTION TO LAND ON THE HOSTILE CONTROLLED AIRSTRIP TO EFFECT A RESCUE. ALTHOUGH ADVISED BY THE AIRBORNE COMMAND POST OF THE EXTREME HAZARD AND LIKELY FAILURE OF SUCH AN ATTEMPT, HE ELECTED TO CONTINUE. HE NOTED THAT MAJOR MYERS’ POSITION WAS ONLY 20 FEET FROM A HOSTILE GUN POSITION AND ADVISED THECOMMAND POST IT WAS DOUBTFUL A HELICOPTER WOULD SURVIVE A RESCUE ATTEMPT IN THE FACE OF EXTREME AND INTENSE HOSTILE FIRE SURROUNDING THE CAMP. HE DIRECTED THE REMAINING A 1 PILOTS TO PROVIDE HIM WITH FIRE SUPPORT AGAINST THE ANTI AIRCRAFT POSITIONS. THERE WERE APPROXIMATELY 20 SUCH POSITIONS IN THE AREA BEING REPORTED BY FORWARD AIR CONTROLLERS IN ADDITION TO OTHER AUTOMATIC AND SEMI AUTOMATIC WEAPONS POSSESSED BY THE ATTACKING SOLDIERS.
    PRIOR TO THE RESCUE ATTEMPT MAJOR FISHER EXPENDED HIS REMAINING ORDNANCE ON HOSTILE POSITIONS WITHIN THE CAMP WHERE THE DEFENDERS HAD REQUESTED A STRIKE AND BEGAN HIS APPROACH TO THE AIR STRIP IN AN ALREADY BATTLE DAMAGED AIRCRAFT. THE APPROACH WAS COMPLICATED BY GROUND FIRE FROM INFANTRY FORCES AND SMOKE FROM FIRES INITIATED BY BOMBS AND NAPALM. AS A RESULT OF SMOKE COVERING HIS APPROACH HE BROKE OUT HIGH AND LANDED LONG. REALIZING HE WOULD BE UNABLE TO STOP IN THE REMAINING DISTANCE HE APPLIED POWER AS HE PASSED MAJOR MYERS, WHO WAS ATTEMPTING TO WAVE HIM AWAY FROM THE STRIP AND WHAT APPEARED TO BE CERTAIN DESTRUCTION.
    HOLDING HIS AIRCRAFT, A FEW FEET ABOVE THE GROUND TO AVOID AS MUCH OF THE INTENSE GROUND FIRE WAS POSSIBLE, MAJOR FISHER BEGAN AN "S" TURN, WHICH WOULD BRING HIM BACK TO THE AIRSTRIP FROM THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION OF HIS FIRST ATTEMPT. THE SECOND LANDING ATTEMPT WAS SUCCESSFUL ALTHOUGH VIOLENT BRAKING. AND RUDDER ACTION WAS NOT ALWAYS SUCCESSFUL IN AVOIDING DEBRIS ON THE BATTLE-TORN RUNWAY. MAJOR FISHER UTILIZED ALL HIS FLYING SKILL TO MISS MORTAR CRATERS, SHELL CASINGS AND PIECES OF THE A 1E, WHICH NOW LITTERED THE RUNWAY AS A. RESULT OF THE FUEL TANK EXPLOSION. UNABLE TO STOP WITHIN THE CONFINES OF THE SHORT AIRSTRIP MAJOR FISHER'S AIRCRAFT WENT INTO THE OVER RUN AND THEN OUT INTO A HIGH GRASS AREA USED TO STORE EMPTY STEEL FUEL BARRELS. HE FELT THEM STRIKING AND FURTHER DAMAGING HIS AIRCRAFT. HIS POSITION WAS NOW AT THE FAR END OF THE RUNWAY FROM MAJOR MYERS’ LAST KNOWN LOCATION. APPLYING POWER HE BEGAN WEAVING HIS WAY, UNDER FIRE FROM VIRTUALLY ALL SIDES, TAXIING DOWN THE RUBBLE STREWN RUNWAY TOWARD MAJOR MYERS' POSITION. TRYING TO AVOID JAGGED EDGES OF METAL CREATED BY MORTAR BURSTS ON THE PIERCED STEEL PLANK RUNWAY (WHICH WOULD HAVE DESTROYED HIS TIRES) HE TAXIIED ALMOST THE FULL LENGTH OF THE RUNWAY ALTHOUGH MAJORS FISHER AND MYERS BOTH OBSERVED TRACERS AND HEARD THOUSANDS OF ROUNDS OF FIRE DURING THIS PERIOD, STRAFING FUNS BY THE A 1's IMPAIRED THE ACCURACY OF THE GUNNERS.
    AFTER BRAKING TO A STOP NEAR THE LAST POSITION HE HAD SEEN MAJOR MYERS, MAJOR FISHER UNBUCKLED IN PREPARATION TO LEAVE THE AIRCRAFT IN THE BELIEF THE OFFICER HE WAS ATTEMPTING TO RESCUE WOULD BE SO SEVERELY BURNED AND WOUNDED HE COULD NOT REACH THIS AIRCRAFT. ON HIS WAY OUT OF THE AIRCRAFT HE MET MAJOR MYERS AND, FROM HIS POSITION IN THE COCKPIT, HELPED MAJOR MYERS ENTER. DURING THIS TIME MAJOR FISHER COULD HEAR BULLETS STRIKING HIS AIRCRAFT.
    LATER GROUND CREWMEN COUNTED 19 HITS ON THE AIRCRAFT.
    THE A 1E PILOTS ABOVE REPORTED THEY WERE NOW OUT OF AMMUNITION THEIR STRAFING RUNS WOULD. BE "DRY" IN AN EFFORT TO SUPPRESS AS MUCH HOSTILE FIRE AS POSSIBLE AND BLUFF THE HOSTILE GUNNERS AT THE EDGE OF THE AIRSTRIP. TURNING HIS AIRCRAFT AROUND, MAJOR FISHER SAW HE HAD LESS THAN TWO THIRDS OF AN ALREADY TOO SHORT AIRSTRIP AHEAD OF HIM. CALLING ON ALL HIS SKILL HE APPLIED POWER AND WORKED HIS WAY THROUGH WRECKAGE AND DEBRIS GAINING ENOUGH SPEED TO LIFT OFF AT THE OVER RUN. FLYING JUST ABOVE THE GROUND AT INSUFFICIENT AIRSPEED TO CLIMB, HE GRADUALLY BUILT UP SPEED, STILL UNDER INTENSE HOSTILE FIRE, AND BEGAN A CLIMB INTO THE 800 FOOT OVERCAST ABOVE THE, VALLEY. THROUGHOUT THIS ACTION MAJOR FISHER AND FIVE OTHER A 1E PILOTS WERE MANEUVERING THEIR AIRCRAFT UNDER INTENSE HOSTILE ANTI AIRCRAFT FIRE IN A "BOX" APPROXIMATELY ONE MILE SQUARE, RINGED WITH MOUNTAINS UNDER COMPLETE HOSTILE DOMINATION ON ALL SIDES AND ENCLOSED BY AN 800 FOOT CEILING. DURING THE DEFENSE OF THE CAMP BY THESE AIRMEN ONE OF THE SIX WAS SHOT DOWN AND ONE WAS FORCED TO RETURN TO BASE BECAUSE 0F EXTENSIVE BATTLE DAMAGE.. THREE OF THE REMAINING FOUR AIRCRAFT, INCLUDING MAJOR FISHER'S HAD SUFFERED BATTLE DAMAGE BEFORE THE DECISION TO ATTEMPT THE RESCUE WAS MADE. THE LANDING WAS MADE BY MAJOR FISHER IN THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE FORE
    {{{Line Missing from my copy. JHB)
    COMPLETE CONTROL OF .THE CAMP AND WAS, IN FACT, IN CONTROL OF THE AIRSTRIP. DIRECTING HIS OWN AIR COVER, AND POSSESSING THE KNOWLEDGE THAT THE AIRSTRIP WAS NOT ADEQUATE FOR A 1 OPERATIONS UNDER FAVORABLE CONDITIONS, HE CHOSE TO LAND HIS BATTLE DAMAGED AIRCRAFT ON A HOSTILE-CONTROLLED RUNWAY FURTHER COMPLICATED BY BATTLE DEBRIS AND PARTS OF AN EXPLODED AIRCRAFT. HE PERFORMED THIS RESCUE IN THE FACE OF SOME 2,000 ARMED AND NEARLY VICTORIOUS HOSTILE TROOPS. HIS DETERMINATION, HIS INCREDIBLE DISPLAY OF COURAGE IN THE FACE OF A RESOLUTE AND HEAVILY ARMED HOSTILE FORCES, THIS COMPLETE DISREGARD FOR HIS OWN LIFE TO EFFECT THE RESCUE OF A FELLOW AIRMAN, AND HIS RESOLVE TO CONTINUE DESPITE ADVICE BY OTHERS OF THE SEVERE HAZARDS INVOLVED, REFLECT THE HIGHEST IDEALS OF AMERICAN FIGHTING FORCES ABOVE AND BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY.

    I PERSONALLY HOLD NO RESERVATIONS IN NOMINATING MAJOR BERNARD F. FISHER FOR THE MEDAL OF HONOR:
    SIGNED: LIEUTENANT GENERAL J. H. MOORE, COMMANDER.

  • #2
    Ashau Rescue

    Incredible.

    So, was the MOH awarded?
    Last edited by Ray Norton; 08-06-2004, 16:47.
    /s/ray

    Raymond J. Norton
    1513 Bordeaux Place
    Norfolk, VA 23509-1313

    (757) 623-1644

    Comment


    • #3
      CMOH

      Bernard Fisher, Major, USAF, was awarded the MOH and is on of the 130 current living MOH recipients.

      Duke Dearing
      "Lead, Follow, or Get Out Of The Way" - Semper Fi - Duke

      Comment


      • #4
        LtCol Charles A. House poses with Capt John D. Blair IV / A Shau Special Forces "CO"

        LtCol Charles A. House , "CO" HMM-163 , whose helicopter was shot down during the evacuation of the A Shau special forces camp, poses at Phu Bai with U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers and South Vietnamese irregulars who survived the enemy overunning of the base. Capt John D. Blair IV , USA, who commanded the U.S. Special Forces Camp at A Shau is to the right of LtCol House.

        242 of the total 434 men at the camp were KIA.

        HMM-163 flew 131 sorties and rescued 161 of the 186 survivors, including 10 of the 12 U.S. Army advisors.
        Attached Files
        Semper Fidelis

        George T. Curtis

        Comment


        • #5
          Follow-up - 2 days later

          Battle of A Shau Special Forces camp information
          for HMM-163
          VMO-2
          For date 660312

          HMM-163 was a US Marine Corps unit
          VMO-2 was a US Marine Corps unit
          Thua Thien Province, I Corps, South Vietnam
          Location, A Shau SF Camp

          Description: This morning, seven UH-34s from HMM-163 and two escorts from VMO-2 flew through extensive ground fire and evacuated 34 more survivors including two Marine crewmen and five Army advisors. LTC House, the HMM-163 CO, later commented that 21 of the 24 UH-34s used by the squadron had to be replaced as a result of these three-days of evacuation operations. When LTC House's interview with CBS correspondent John Laurence was released in America, an investigation was ordered. LTC House had the dubious distinction of receiving a Navy Cross and a letter of reprimand for his part in these operations. Marine helicopters, most from HMM-163, flew 131 sorties and brought back 161 of the 186 survivors, including 10 of the 12 Army advisors who got out. In all 248 of the 434 man A Shau garrison were either missing or dead, including five US SF soldiers

          The source for this information was USMC 1966, P. 63

          Comment


          • #6
            A Shau Special Forces Camp

            .


            One of the first significant actions in the A Shau Valley was the 1966 battle for the Special Forces camp at the south end of the valley just five miles from the border with Laos.. This outpost stood astride the invasion route to Hué and Danang and was a stumbling block to the NVA offensive strategy. The NVA struck the camp in March 1966. The defending U.S. Special Forces and Vietnamese irregular soldiers were supported by U.S. airpower and put up a heroic two-day defense. Bad weather limited the effectiveness of air support, and the numerically superiority NVA forces eventually overran the camp. The action resulted in the award of the Medal of Honor to Air Force A-1 pilot Major Bernie Fisher for the rescue of his wing man, Major Jump Myers, from the runway at A Shau.


            US Army Photo (USA Center for Military History)
            Attached Files
            Semper Fidelis

            George T. Curtis

            Comment


            • #7
              MOH Rescue photo

              The two Majors together
              Attached Files
              Semper Fidelis

              George T. Curtis

              Comment


              • #8
                Ashau Camp with Meyer's A-1 on Runway

                Here's shot, probably taken a day or two later, of Maj Meyer's
                A-1 on Ashau runway. At this point bad guys owned the camp.

                About a week after our mission, an Army Mohawk pilot told me the N. Vietnamese had laid out U.S. bodies on the runway so the Army sent in a mission in to pick them up.
                Attached Files

                Comment


                • #9
                  More on HMM 163 Ashau Rescue Mission

                  My initial post is the Air Force General's CMH recommendation, not the medal citation. Provides great insight on what HMM 163 found on the scene about an hour later that day.

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