It was a rainy foggy morning in the Northern Coastal areas of the Republic of Viet Nam. The date was 4 April 1968. DUSTOFF 65 from the fourth platoon of the 498th Air Ambulance Company was field sited at the Hue Phuby airfield. It's home base was over 200 KM south at Lane field in Quin Yon . Operation "Pegasus" had just kicked off in the I Corps area, and the 68 Tet Offensive was underway. The Army's mission was to grind it's way through the Ashaw and Perfume river valleys and link up with and provide a rescue route for beleaguered Battalion of Marines who had been under siege for over 100 days at a remote airstrip in the Northwest corner of Viet Nam called Khe Sahn.
During the preceding night, Charlie Company of the 2/502 Infantry Bn of the 101st Abn Div became engaged in a tremendous firefight with North Vietnamese regular soldiers. They had suffered heavy causalities and were hold up on a hillside about 10KM from LZ Bastone in the Ashaw valley. The Division surgeon requested DUSTOFF 65 to make an attempt to hoist out some of the injured. It would be a 45-minute flight for DUSTOFF to make it to the pickup site deep in the enemy infested Ashaw valley. Lt.'s Mike Meyer and Ben Knisely waited until sunrise to attempt the mission. Upon arriving in the area - it was clear that the firefight was still ongoing - the company Cdr. continually "waived off" the DUSTOFF aircraft and radioed that the action was "too hot" to attempt a hoist rescue. The aircraft orbited overhead for nearly an hour before returning to Hue for fuel. It was the second attempt, an hour or two later that will never forgotten and is the subject of a great surprise story tonight.
During that mission, DUSTOFF 65 was hit by an enemy RPG missile while attempting to hoist several wounded soldiers. The helicopter crashed in the valley some ¾ of a mile from any known friendly positions. The chronology of what happened in the next 72 hours was a featured story in the Book - DUSTOFF, and is a tale like right out of a movie script.
[Reunion] [Ben's Comments]