Experiences of a 68th AHC Pilot

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    Hot PZ along the Song Be

by Major Tom Moody
Commanding Officer of the 68th AHC -- May - Oct. 1969


The LZ in which the Top Tigers landed on 20 June 1969.

Photo by WO1 Billy Hamblin.

 For a large view of this diagram see Billy Hamlin's Photos under the Top Tiger section of this site.


On June 20 1969, the 68th AHC was in support of the 5th ARVN Infantry Division. The ground troops were engaged in a search and destroy mission in a known Viet Cong infested area. Having completed the sweep through this area the ground elements moved to the pick-up zone. The only suitable PZ in the area was a narrow cultivated field, paralleled on one side by the Song Be river and on the other side by dense jungle.

On the first extraction the flight received heavy automatic weapons fire from the tree line. The location of the fire was pinpointed and the Mustangs were called in for support with mini-gun and rocket fire on the target.  Artillery fire was also called in to support the last aircraft lifting off.

On the second extraction the flight again received heavy ground fire, this time from both sides.  Shortly thereafter, while refueling we came up with a plan on the best way to get the remaining soldiers out of the PZ.

The third and final extraction began with a low-level approach across the jungle and a fast ninety-degree turn into the PZ.  As the flight was on short final, the PZ received intense mortar, rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire.  Both Mustang fire teams were working over both sides of the PZ.  Door gunners were laying down intensive covering fire and artillery support was walking in closer to the PZ.  Several aircraft were hit and a crewchief wounded.

As the last aircraft lifted off, artillery was called in on top of the PZ.  Because of the aggressive action of the Mustangs, door gunners and the calm, cool pilots, the extraction was completed with a minimum number of casualties or damaged aircraft.  The professional standards, resourcefulness, team work and courage under fire was in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflected great credit on every one involved in this operation.

The following received the DFC: Major Tom Moody, Cpt. Everett King, Cpt. Dewey Gregory, Cpt. Rehofus Esters, CWO George Manly, WO1 William Bock, WO1 Jeffery Haertlein, WO1 Billy Hamblin and WO1 Charles Kornack.

All other crewmembers received the Air Medal with "V" device, and one received a Purple Heart: Sp5 Joe Castro.

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Revised: June 29, 2012 .

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