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The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
Source: Gary Dombroski
I don't remember our team being launched for any night scrambles while we were at Quang Tri. What I remember best was that it was very cold in the huts we stayed in. We did have heaters in the huts, but had no oil to burn in them. Being somewhat innovative (and cold) we did find some wood that we broke up to fit in the heater and burned it to stay warm. It usually burnt out before morning, so most of us slept in our clothes and jackets.
Another thing that happened while we were on the ground at Quang Tri was another Hawk fire team landed to refuel and rearm after a mission in the area. One of the pilots slipped off the cross tube while refueling and spayed fuel into the engine intake - the aircraft caught fire. Luckily the ground crew nearby was prepared and got the fire out before too much damage was done. Also no one was hurt. The aircraft that had been burned was 67-15787; it was the aircraft I had been assigned as my regular aircraft. The maintenance officer was sent up from Phu Bai, did what he had to do to get the aircraft safe to fly - then evacuated it to home base by flying it home (with many caution lights illuminated).
Most of the missions we flew near the DMZ were preplanned combat assault missions. We did our normal escort of the Huey flights - occasionally taking some ground fire. To my knowledge, a Hawk aircraft never took a hit during these missions. (Cobras from other units did take hits; at least two had been shot down). We also got called out on some scramble missions for troops in contact. When we got to the area of the fight, we would provide close air support to the ground troops, often waiting for another fire team to come on-scene to replace us. Occasionally, we would have to go back to Quang Tri to refuel and rearm in order to return and replace the team that had replaced us. Typical Hawk missions except for one thing - when we were released from a mission (and had ordinance remaining on board) we often expended the remaining ordinance into North Viet Nam. I can recall several times that we shot at a huge North Viet Namese flag located a few kilometers north of a bridge between South and North Viet Nam. Don't think anyone ever hit it, but we felt it was worthwhile having our rockets hit anywhere in North Viet Nam.
One mission I particularly remember out of Quang Tri turned out not to be around the DMZ. As I remember, we were on our way to Quang Tri to spend the night as the scramble team when I got a call from Ops to land at the Project Delta pad. I hadn't heard of Project Delta before this, but when I contacted Quang Tri tower, they advised us where the pad was - we found it and landed.
We were met at the aircraft by armed soldiers in camouflage and after shutdown were escorted into a small hut. The officer in charge welcomed us, informed us a Cobra had been shot down on an extraction mission and we were there to escort some Hueys back in for the extraction and an attempt to get the Cobra crew. What happened next really took me by surprise. We were ordered to take off anything that identified us as Americans - give up our dog tags, wallets and anything else that might identify us. Then we were shown a map of the area we were going to be operating in. Let's just say it was to the west, wasn't on our maps, which didn't matter because we would be escorted by an Air Force Forward Air Controller (FAC) in a OV-10 Bronco and would have fast-mover support on call. After a very thorough briefing which included a lot of detail about big anti-aircraft guns and known surface to air missile sites I only had one question - what about 50 cal, 23mm and 37mm anti-aircraft sites. The answer was "we consider them small arms" didn't make me very comfortable. (I was glad that I was flying an aircraft with a 20mm cannon that day but was a little concerned I only had 21 rockets on-board). The mission would start as soon as we could refuel.
Note: Because of the weight of the 20mm system and ammunition, 20mm equipped aircraft carried three seven round rocket launchers instead of the two or four 19 tube rocket pods.
We repositioned to Quang Tri POL and refueled, we intentionally took on a couple of hundred pounds extra fuel because of where we were going. "Ready to go" (right!!) - I advised Project Delta Ops, then called Quang Tri tower for a runway take off.
Note: We usually departed Quang Tri from the POL area for a couple of reasons, the runway was made of perforated steel planking (PSP) that would often lift up in our rotor wash. The POL area was dirt covered by a light coat of tar - It usually presented no problems unless you needed a long takeoff run.
The takeoff from Quang Tri's runway was uneventful (yeah, the PSP moved around, but didn't come off the ground - watched it carefully as we took off. If it had come off the ground there was nothing we could have done but crash if we got entangled in it). Turned westbound, joined two Hueys coming off the Delta Pad. Climbed to about 8000 feet as we continued west to stay clear of a broken cloud deck below us.
What seemed like a long time later we were joined by the FAC. About 40 minutes west of Quang Tri, the FAC announced he had contact with the team that was to be extracted. He was going to make a low pass over the area and check out the LZ area and have a look at the area where the Cobra had landed. When he came back to join us, he advised us the LZ looked okay. It appeared the Cobra crew was still in the cockpit but were dead. To make a long story short, we completed the extraction without incident, did a flyby of the Cobra (both crew members were still in the cockpit, hanging forward in their shoulder harnesses and not moving). Climbed back to altitude and returned to Quang Tri.
Landed at the Delta Pad. Got thanked for our assistance and got our personal items back. Were then released to go to Quang Tri for our originally scheduled night standby and missions of the next day.
Needless to say, this was an emotional mission. Though we did not encounter any problems, it was evident that there was a group of people doing dangerous stuff. Each of the Hawk platoons (and I) did other Project Delta missions for a period of time during the 1970s. They were special missions in every sense of that term.