Charlie Troop 1/9th Cavalry The Siege By Armond Salazar C Trp 1/9 Cav Blue

Posted on April 5, 2017

13


 

I arrived in Vietnam in August 1965. When we landed on a beach in Vietnam, we unloaded our helicopters from the boats we then  flew them to An Khe.

When we landed at An Khe we were told our mission, according to Captain Charles Knowlen, was to secure the place and clear the terrain and make some pads for helicopters to land and even a C-130. For those who don’t know what is, a “pad” is a place to set the helicopter down on. We, the Troopers of Charlie Troop 1/9th Cav did that. We lost a Marine soldier helping us but we completed our mission. I remember the troops arriving that had come by boats and a C-130 landing on our improvised landing strip to deliver supplies.

Once the remainder of 1st Cav came, we silently left and retreated into our own world: Our platoon was called “the Annihilators.” We were the infantry. A small platoon of men. I believe our jobs were never defined well on purpose because we had so many different jobs and since we were the first Air Cavalry Blues in Army History no one really knew for sure what we were suppose to do. But we camouflaged ourselves and went out on small missions both day and night.  In the evening we would be taken by Hueys and dropped somewhere in the jungle. We would then cut our way with machetes through the thick of the jungle while watching and fighting the enemy. We fought through many small battles and then we would be picked up by Hueys.

We slept in the jungle where at night it was usually quiet but sometimes the  rain was pouring on us and snakes liked the warmth of our bodies. Yet we couldn’t move because the enemy would hear us. Many times as dawn approached we would lay back and not even breathe because the enemy was going by on a trail. We  followed trails but never walked them. Thus we avoided “Booby Traps” and ambushes.

We had many “close encounters” and we fought as best we could. But because Charlie Troop patrols were always small, ranging form five to ten, we were aware we were no match for the enemy and so we relied on our good friends, the Hueys Troop Carriers, the Scout Helicopters and Gunship helicopters.

Our gunship pilots, door gunners and crew chiefs were the best in this world and they remain the best. Our Scout Pilots, Gunners and Observers were also the best. They all dared the odds and tried to keep us Blues safe. They did an excellent job. I went on many missions with the  C Troop 1/9th Cav and I can say that I am alive because of these courageous the men on those choppers.

I remember rappelling a couple of times and the pilots stuck with us until we were safe on the ground. You would repel when the helicopter could not land. A rope would be tied to the helicopter and you would put on a harness and gloves and then you would step out onto the skids and ease off slowly sliding down the rope to the ground.

One night, with Captain Knowlen,  we ambushed a trail where the North Vietnamese soldiers came fully armed. I remember laying low on side of the trail and laying Claymore mines and triggering them when the enemy was in sight.  I remember opened fire at the same time. We could barely see the enemy in the darkness of the jungle but we knew we hit them hard and fast.

Unbeknownst to us this was just not an isolated enemy platoon but a whole North Vietnamese Army division coming into the war. Obviously, they came after us full force! We moved back to a small clearing and Captain Knowlen made us take a stand in a small clearing of the jungle. It was like a semicircle and we stood there to fight back with fixed bayonets, M16’s and 45’s.

I remember our Captain saying “I will be back” and rushing back through the jungle. I then realized he was going back to get the troopers that were disoriented in the darkness of the night. I could hardly see my buddies lying next to me, right and left. As a matter of fact, my buddy on the right came in late because Captain Knowlen had brought him back! I was delighted.

As the darkness of the night came over us laying on our stomachs, all we could see peeking above our clearing was explosions and fire and more explosions and traces. I remember lying there and thinking of Colonel Custer in the battle of the Big Horn.

I talked to my buddies right and left and they said “we are going to die here!” I said “no way”.  We fought back against a whole division and ran out of ammunition. That is when the good old pilots and gunners and crew chiefs came to our rescue in the dark of the night. They dropped ammo boxes behind us and we could crawl back and get the ammo. We fought hard. As I laid there, I realized that the enemy was trying to get to us using the trees above to fire on us and also running toward us and crawling toward us. I don’t remember what time of the night it was. I know I was exhausted and thirsty. I told my buddies left and right to fire up to the trees then to hip high and then straight parallel to the ground. They did so. When I crawled back for more ammo I told our Captain Knowlen that we will not survive unless something happens soon. I guess he listened to me.

It was dark except for the fire of explosions and tracers. We fought all night long. I never lost faith. Suddenly, in the middle of the night there was this familiar sound of Hueys coming in. My heart pounded with happiness and thanked our Almighty God. But, how can that be, I asked myself? Hueys cannot fly in the night. They never had before.

Suddenly, in front of my eyes large explosions appeared from the Hueys above. I then realized that it was the Gunships coming to our rescue again. It was a great relief to me. Now we could see the face of the enemy right in front of us and although we never were involved in hand to hand combat we were prepared for that.

Many times I and my buddies both on the right and left of me saw enemies appearing in front of us but we shot them before they came in contact with us. In the dark, the Hueys had no bearing and their rockets came just in front of us, but this was a good thing because the enemy was on top of us!

If it wasn’t for the first ever night raid in the war by the U.S. by the brave pilots and gunners and crew chiefs of the Hueys, I would not be writing this story.  They saved our lives and I am very grateful to them and I will always be.

I was exhausted come sunup and I could hear Huey sounds and then troops from the 1/9th and others  moving in front of us. My buddies and I buried our heads on the jungle floor and thanked God. We also mourned our two troopers killed that night.

What makes me always remember this event is that I witnessed these two people, a Sergeant and a Trooper always fighting with each other from the time we left Ft Benning, Georgia and even while in the 11th Air Assault. I remember I used to ask James Parrett, “why do you always have to fight with the Sarge (SFC Florendo Pascual)?” He would say “because he is a Mexican asshole!” They died together lying side by side that night!  Brother protecting Brother.

I missed them both! The best of all Americans!!

By the way, this battle is what caused the battle of Ia Drang (November 14-18, 1965) to begin. So after the night of resurrection, the C Troop 1/9th Cav, went into battle again and although the higher authorities didn’t like us very much, we made a difference and no one in this world will ever know, except for the Blues of  Charlie Troop 1/9th Cav: The Blue Annihilators.

Advertisements
Posted in: Armond Salazar