No Man Left Behind Part 1

Pat Bieneman 1968-69



July 7, 1968. We were called out on a mission to help extract a LLRP team. The team had spotted some NVA moving toward them and finally had to call in ARA. Between the small arms fire and a couple of erratic rockets all of the LRRPs were severely wounded.

We arrived in the area and were told that the trees were too thick and the choppers could not land. I was sitting behind the door gun on the left side. I got tapped on the shoulder by the guy sitting next to me asking if I wanted to repel to help with the extraction. I asked if anyone had volunteered and he said yes, Fellin. I said I’d go. I climbed over everyone and made it to the other side of the Chopper. I asked if anyone had a "Swiss seat", "D-ring" or gloves. I was told no.

I stepped out onto the skid. I had my M16 rifle, gas mask, 2 quarts of water, 25 magazines of M16 ammo, 10 smoke grenades and the PRC-25 radio on my back. I took one step off the skid and slid 10 to 20 feet before I let go of the rope. Luckily for me the trees were thick. I slid through the branches which helped break my fall. The next thing I knew I was looking up and my leg was wrapped up in the rope. Someone looked down from the helicopter and I motioned to my leg. I got a knife and cut the rope. Both SP/4 Fellin’s and my hands were burnt. His a little less severely than mine, only because he had on a thin pair flight gloves.

SP/4 Fellin and I assessed the situation. When the Medevac chopper came on station I told him that we had five severely WIAs and one KIA. th He told me to send up the five WIA’s. The medic lowered a Jungle Penetrator and one at a time we loaded the WIAs onto it. When the fifth one was brought on board the pilot called down and said they would be back as soon as possible for us. Red came on and said all of Charlie troop was above for our protection.

It seemed like it took several hours before the medevac chopper came back with just the three of us on the ground. Finally we loaded the KIA (SP/4 Sprinkle) onto the jungle penetrator and sent him up. Next we loaded all of the equipment onto it and sent it up. SP/4 Fellin looked at me and said you go up first. I didn’t argue. The penetrator rises very slowly and it spins very slowly. The whole ride up all I could think is that Charlie was down there somewhere and he’s drawing a bead on me right now and I’ll be dead any second. The total amount of time on the ground was 2 hours and 20 minutes.

When we got to the Evac hospital they put ointment on my hands and bandaged them. Most of the skin had been burnt off my palms, and between my thumbs and forefingers. For the next two weeks, when I went to take a shower I would put plastic bags over my hands and then used rubber bands on them or blousing rubbers. To use the latrine I would use almost a whole roll of toilet paper. It seemed like I couldn’t find any help.

For our actions , we both received the Soldiers Medal. In part the certificate reads "repelled 70 feet from a helicopter hovering above thick jungle canopy". Thank God it was thick. SP/4 Sprinkle is buried in Mechanicsburg, PA. Two of the others after making it home have since died. The other three understandably don’t want to talk about it. I only know this about the five that were wounded by talking to other LRRPs. Someday maybe they will talk to me.