Saturday, July 12, 2003

Radio Relay in Salem House

A Secret War Veteran remembers...

Don't know how things were done in the Prairie Fire AO, but in Salem House (zone Charlie) in east central Cambodia, radio relay was done by the FACs. A Pretzel FAC was in the air during day light hours anytime a team was on the ground with radio relay being one of the main missions. When it hit the fan fighters were called, usually F-100s from Bien Hoa or Phan Rang, and the FAC did his FACing thing. The last light mission "tucked the teams in their beds" and noted their position while the first light go made sure they were still intact then just kind of FACed around until they were needed, always staying in radio range, but offset from the team on the ground.
Prior to the Cambod invasion the OV was able to provide support for the teams with guns and rockets. The OV-10A had four M-60's mounted in sponsons on the fuselage and carried 28 ea 2.75 in FFAR (Folding Fin Aircraft Rockets) in four rocket pods. Before Cambodia the load was 14 White Phosphorous Rockets (Willie Petes) for marking targets and 14 High Explosive (HE) to hurt bad guys. Occasionally a Flachette (nails) rocket or 3 would magically appear in the tubes but this was highly frowned on by 7th AF. Between the guns and rockets the FAC had the capability of keeping the bad guys at least somewhat at bay until the fighters could get there.
After Cambodia no "offensive" weapons were allowed to be carried on the OV's operating in Salem House. The load was to be 28 WP's and the guns were to be de-charged with the ammo chutes disconnected. EL TEE Brad Mars (Pretzel 44) inquired if he had to empty the 6 rounds from his mighty .38cal Combat Masterpiece, the "briefer" from 7th was not amused by the question. The beauty of the new arrangement was the Pretzels could put in airstrikes in support of the SOG Teams, but could not provide the immediate help the aircraft was capable of. Maybe F-100's and F-4s were not considered "offensive" but not much made any sense by Aug of 1970 anyway. Since we were out on the Cambod border in NW III Corps away from the watchful eye of the weenies at 7th, WE CHEATED. I never sent a bird to Cambodia without guns, although some a/c went out with 28 WP's, but that was unusual. 
We had some heroic SOBs whose job it was to keep those poor bastards on the ground as safe and alive as possible and they sure as hell weren't going to allow 7th to interfere with that job.
One example. I was in the backseat with EL TEE Mars (Pretzel 44) when he found a truck park while VRing while the team on the ground was busy doing their recon stuff. Mars got a set of F-100s (Ramrod) from Bien Hoa and put them in on the truck park destroying some bunkers and trench line. To do this Lt Mars only needed 3 rockets and had 11 WPs and 14 contraband HEs on hand when a frantic call came in from another team on guard, Call Sign Cherry Girl, that they were taking heavy mortar fire and were in about to be over run. To this day I have no idea who or what Cherry Girl was or who they belonged to but Lt Mars was able to make the bad guys miserable until Cheery Girls' people, Cobra gun ships and Hueys, could come to the rescue. Don't know what ever happened. Hell, I was as illegal being in the backseat as the HE rockets were in the tubes.
Larry Hughes
NKP 68 - 69
Various Cambodian Operations 69 - 71

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