From CWO Snappy White 11/17/2021
CWO White posted this story to Facebook after I had asked for stories...
The Cowboys flew on some lifts with us, the Blackjacks, A Co, 4th Aviation. I flew as an Aircraft Commander on these lifts. The Cowboys' Gunships covered us going in and out.
After finishing one lift, we came back to Hansel Army Airfield, Camp Enari, 4th Division Base Camp.
As the Cowboys Guns landed and nosed into the revetments, one of the pilots fired off a pair of 2.75 Folding Fin rockets that had High Explosive warheads. I was in the revetment just behind this Gunship. It was an amazing "slow motion" scene that unfolded.
The 2 rockets drilled into the revetment wall just in front of us, 10 feet ahead of the rocket tubes. The rockets impacted too close for the warheads to arm.
The rocket motors were roaring flames, with smoke completely surrounding the Gunship. The 4 Gunship crewmen just stayed inside the helicopter. We were the next closest ship, in our revetment just behind them.
No one knew what would happen as those 2 rockets kept blasting their way through that 3 foot thick, sandbag filled, PSP (pierced steel planking) wall.
Suddenly the 2 rockets blasted out of the other side of the wall. As they came out the other side, they both pitched straight up, like two spaceships taking-off for the moon. Their rocket motors burned for about another second or two, then burned out.
The 2 rockets flew straight up into the clear sky for about 1000 or 2000 feet, out of sight. Then they nosed over and came straight back down.
By now the entire flight's crew members were out watching these 2 rockets coming down DIRECTLY OVER AND INTO THE 4th DIVISION’s HEADQUARTERS AREA, about a mile or two away. They vanished behind the buildings. We heard two 2 muffled explosions, then we saw the black smoke billowing up out of Division Headquarters.
The Cowboy Gunship pilot got out and walked around his ship. It looked like he was looking for any damage. He was a tall Captain. We stared at each other for a few seconds: me with a “shit-eating”, “you-fucked-up” grin on my face, while he had a sick, worried grin on his face.
We all refueled, rearmed, and went back to the business of war.
The 4th Division Commander, General William Peers HATED ACCIDENTAL DISCHARGES from any personal weapon. It was an automatic “in the brig, General Courts-Martial” for anyone involved in an AD.
Does anyone else recall the 2 wayward 2.75 Rockets???
I often wondered about that poor Captain Gunship Driver…
After Snappy posted his story, he got a response from John Bryan, with helicopter Falcon 87...
to: Cwo Snappy White
I Don't know where you got that story, but your rendition is totally incorrect. It was during a fuel stop while moving the 335th to Dak To, a totally administrative flight, with no escort involved. The Falcon pilot failed to disarm the system after pattern entry and, while fighting a tail wind while trying to park, fired a rocket that went underneath a revetment wall and hit a brand new "C" model just coasting down after a test flight. The rocket hit the aircraft in the left side fuel cell and a fire ensued that demolished the aircraft. The pilot, who goes unnamed here, was a 2LT. I am told he never flew again in the Army.
John Bryan - Falcon 87
Cwo Snappy White:
to: John Bryan
Well good for you. You were there then. My apologies for being mistaken.
However, I am not mistaken about being in the Blackjack slick that had pulled into the revetment about 2 ships back from “him” who ever he was.
He could have been a 2LT. He was not a WO. He had a crossed something or other on his collar, not a Squashed Bug.
If he had a tail wind getting into the revetment, then I did too. But what does a “tail wind” have to do with DISARMING your weapon system BEFORE entering the traffic pattern. The Stupid Asshole. What if it were your ship that that rocket hit? Would you still be so broken up in tears for him?
He fired a pair of rockets. It took the rockets a couple of seconds or more to power through the revetment, blasting fire and smoke back at us. I believe you are correct that one rocket did hit an aircraft on the other side. The other rocket went straight up and came down in the area of division headquarters. (this description is what I truly believe I actually saw. But who knows, it was a few years ago.)
It is also true that a lift company that was NOT from the Pleiku area did come to fly in the assaults with us. It was called “The Battle of Dak To”, and their call sign was Cowboy. When we landed back at Hansel AAF the Cowboy Gunships where escorting some Company. I thought it was the 336th that came as “re-enforcements” for us, as we had lost 5 slicks in 3 days flying out of Dak To into hills 887 and 1335. That Company was Callsign “Cowboy”. For some reason my mind seems pretty clear about that. It could be that only the Cowboy's Gunships were there, not the slicks. The pilot of the "wayward" gunship was a "COWBOY", and he was the Gunship Leader that came back with us to refuel.
BUT it was a long time ago.
No doubt I did witness the firing of the pair of rockets. No doubt it was 33-something Company. And no doubt their call sign was “Cowboy”. The rockets did power their way through the revetment. It took a while. Fire, smoke, and particles of earth were roaring back at us. And, 1 of the rockets did fly straight up. We were ALL watching it to see where it was going to come back down.
Some things do not leave the mind. So I say, between your story and my eye witness account lies the true story.
Thanks for keeping my last two brain-cells in line.
Cwo Snappy White
A comment from the moderator:
After reading this story a few times, it seems to me that we are talking about TWO Accidental Discharges here. One with a Falcon gunship and one with a Cowboy gunship. With the number of sorties that were made, it seems reasonable to have more than one such incident. Just a thought.
And the conversation turns to Dak To
to: Cwo Snappy White
I Don't remember anything about Hills 887 and 1335...but I sure as hell remember Hills 1338 and 875.
Cwo Snappy White:
to: John Bryan
Yeah, I may have misdialed some numbers. I think the other hill was 889. There were 3 jungle covered “hills” forming that ridge line.
Seemed like Mountains to me. I know, the '889' was meters. Hansel AAF was 2,500 feet and everything north and west from there was “up hill.” I should remember them well. I spent many hours flying Snoopy Missions around them months before the battle started, as well as during Christmas and New Years of 67/68.
And on November 19, 1967. I was shot down and crashed on the side of one. I spent 29 days in the 71st Evac hospital. I had a compression fracture, L1. My injury was so “minor”, because of all the troops being pulled off of those “hills”, that I never got to the top of the evacuation list. I finally “broke out” of the hospital, went back to 4th Aviation. I talked the flight surgeon into releasing me for flight and spent another 72 days flying - including TET - and DEROS'd home on Leap Year Day, 1968.
to: Cwo Snappy White
I think you "misdialed" many things.
Cwo Snappy White:
to: John Bryan
Maybe so. But I did not misdial the FACT that early in the morning of November 19, 1967, I was leading a flight of 6 Blackjack Hueys during an assault onto the side of 1 of those “hills”. We had 4th ID troops on board and we were assaulting the SIDE of a peak a few clicks south and west of 1338. We took hits in the LZ. I was leading the flight out, still taking hits.
At 800 feet AGL out of the LZ, K-freak’n-BOOM!, and the engine RPM hit the peg. The rotor RPM quickly fell off, and the aircraft pitched down and left. I shut the engine down, slammed the pitch down and gently moved the cyclic aft. Below us was triple canopy jungle on the side of a steep “hill”. There was a gray bamboo hut in a small opening in the huge trees. My blades fit through that opening, clipping off small limbs. I decelerated to zero forward speed down into that hut. I pulled pitch when I was about halfway through the hut, which turned out to be a chicken coop. We (my crew) knew that because suddenly the helicopter was full of chickens and 1 rooster. We crashed into the sloping growth. The helicopter rolled over, tearing itself apart and lighting up.
The 4 of us climbed out with what we had secured to us - clothes only, no weapons, nothing except my co-pilot. This was his first combat mission. I did not even know him. He was a German - Pete Haunch (misspelled, if he reads this, he will know it’s him). He was a VERY COOL fellow for having less than 2 hours of combat flying.
We “ran through the jungle” downhill until we came to a river and found a small clearing. A very brave Aircraft Commander named Jay Haan (I think that is how he spells it), who was my #2 wingman, somehow followed us to the little clearing. His blades were cutting limbs as he came down close enough for the four of us to jump from the side of the slope into his cargo area.
Off we went to the nearest aid station first, then later in the day Jay came back and flew us to the 71st Evacuation Hospital.
Nov 19 was the day of the huge assaults by the 173rd into hill 875, where they got torn apart.
I spent the next 29 days in the hospital tied to a bed in traction.
So, yeah, I may have gotten some hill numbers mixed up. But I did not get the Accidental Discharge rockets wrong. I was not more then 60 feet from him when he punched them off. I watched the rocket go up and come down. And it hit, looking straight out over the low hill the TOC was on to the other side where division HQ was located a couple miles away.
I was able to send all of my war-time tactical 1:50 maps home. One of my boys has them in Denver. I’m going to see him for Christmas. All those “hills” are marked up with everything that took place from March, 1967 to Leap Year Day, 1968. (Less, of course, my 29 days “leave” in the hospital). I will go read my “tick marks” on the maps, and my diary. That should “reboot” my poor, alcohol preserved, last 2 or 3 functioning brain cells.
In the meantime, I assure you, John, that I have many hours flying around those mountains. 1338 (I believe that is its height in meters) was the “backbone” of the “ridge line” that encompassed all those “hills.” I also know that 875 was the hill where the 173rd Airborne got chopped up and bombed.
There was 889, 823, 72(?) and 887. They were peaks that were on the flanks of the long ridge with the highest ground at 1338 meters.
I flew close to 1000 hours there in the Central Highlands.
I “Snoopy-ed” just above the trees and 40 to 60 knots getting air sick from reading the map and putting the “marks” on it as the operator called them out. I hated flying co-pilot in Snoopy. I was so happy when I became the Aircraft Commander and did not have to read the map.
Yeah, I missed it by 3 numbers. The 335 came up there to support the 173rd. They got chewed up on 875.
Dak To was the 4th ID’s “stomping grounds.” There were MANY “hill” numbers all around. And I Snoopy-ed all of them at one time or another, more than just a few times.
Then I had to step in.
Here (on Daktomemories) is a map of the Dak To area, with all of the hills and firebases I could identify. If there are any not on the map, please let me know so I can add them.
Cwo Snappy White:
to: Ernie Camacho
Yes, Ernie. There is “Rocket Ridge”, with “hill” 1338 one of its most prominent features.
That long ridge line towering over Dak To was “home town” for the NVA that pulled off the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
Along that Rocket Ridge line, both north and south sides, are many numbered peaks from around 500 to 1300 meters.
I have flown the Snoopy (people sniffer) ship all around those peaks.
Our Snoopy Crewchief, William D. Biever, along with the Snoopy operator, and Snoopy A/C Lt. Allen and his crew, are dead along the sides of that ridge somewhere. There was one survivor from Allen’s crew: Ray Livermont. 3 survivors: WO Red Reese, WO Pete Mangum, Gunner Richard Swaysgood. I have flown with all of them, all Brothers, all will LIVE FOREVER.
I spent 11 months, 1069 hours according to my logbook, flying in II Corps Central Highlands. One month was spent in the 71st. Hospital.
Then in 2003 to 2006 I lived up there. My wife -TODAY- is working there with “the mountain people” as she calls them. My wife is the supervising doctor for IOM-UN, International Organization for Migration-United Nations.
I will be back there for TET and be living there until around start of schools here in Florida (My 14-year-old son is in High School here). Should any of you come to visit Vietnam let me know. I’ll look you up while you are there to drink a beer or two.
I am a bit old - 79 this January. I'm banged-up a bit, and severely pickled with cheap wine, Lancers and Mateos. But I'm still cruising at 90 knots. However, I have to say that many of my instruments are Not in the Green...
WO Snappy White
In case you're wondering about that "People Sniffer" Snappy refers to, here is more detail about "Operation Snoopy": Click Here