November 23rd, 2016, 10:56 PM
We called on Puff quite often. Late summer of '68 our battalion was inserted on the south bank of the Ben Hai River (separates south and north Vietnam) just about mid-country and we were to sweep back to the east toward the coast. We were inserted about mid-day and had a CH-46 go down in the LZ because of mechanical problems. A repair crew was supposed to be flown in to repair it so it could be flown out, but afternoon became evening and it was clear we would be there for the night watching over that chopper. We moved away from the LZ and Puff (we seldom ever referred to them as Spooky) came on station about 10 PM or so and fired intermittently around the downed chopper to keep away any adventurous NVA. Puff stayed on station all night with relief ships as necessary. Puffs were a beautiful sight, firing their red tracers at such volume that it appeared they were firing nothing but tracers, and you could not hear the sound of individual rounds being fired, it was instead just a loud buzzing noise. And you couldn't see Puff at night. If you watched the sky for it all you would see was a red line suddenly appear in the sky and go to the ground. They were a wonderful supporting arm. Anyway, about 5 AM we received word that no more ships were available so another method of protecting the chopper would be needed. Someone decided that 8 inch guns, likely from C-3, could provide fire and it could be placed far enough away from the bird not to damage it but still deter any adventurous NVA. We were waiting for the first round to be fired and our arty FO told us when it was fired and we watched it detonate. It was a direct hit on the chopper and blew it into a million pieces. All that effort by the Puff crews was for nothing, and no telling how many rounds of 7.62 were wasted. After that, we saddled up and went on our way. Twenty-one days later we were finally extracted for a few days rest.