From Jocko Podcast 186 w/ The Frenchman Doug LeTourneau. Taking a Secret War to The Enemy
The sounds of King Bees in the distance and the crashing thunder of B40 rockets slamming into trees above his head shook LeTourneau out of his moment of introspection and turned his undivided attention to a crescendo of AK-47 fire from the enemy. ST Virginia responded with volley after volley of full and semi-automatic gunfire while LeTourneau and Cho fired several M79 rounds toward the densest section of the jungle where the AK-47 gunfire was emanating.
Through the gunfire someone popped a smoke grenade which brought the King Bees closer to ST Virginia's location in the jungle. Over the din of gunfire, Childress and Cowboy told everyone to put their swiss seats on and prepare for extraction. In short order a King Bee was hovering over ST Virginia more than 125 feet above the jungle floor. Letourneau, Cowboy, Cho and Huynh hooked their D rings into the old McGuire rig that hung from the end of the ropes and shortly were being lifted out of the jungle. As the quartet of recon men was being lifted into the air, the NVA unleashed another salvo of AK-47 gunfire and several B40 rockets. Shrapnel from the rockets hit them with varying degrees of size and velocity - all of them were wounded.
It was during those explosions that LeTourneau realized his CAR15 had somehow been caught in a rope above him, just far enough away that he couldn't reach it.
He pulled out his M79 and launched a 40-millimeter grenade toward the NVA positions. Now all he could see of the enemy were hundreds of muzzle blasts from AK-47s green tracer rounds eerily climbing toward the quartet of ST Virginia men. Before he could reload his M79 the King Bee began to move away from the target area, surprising him because the men had not yet cleared the jungle. Instead of continuing to climb out of the target - moving straight up until the men cleared the jungle’s triple canopy of trees and vegetation, the King Bee was moving away from the target area due to heavy enemy ground fire. In recent months at least two King Bees were shot down during string extractions from hot targets, but these facts were unknown to LeTourneau at the time.
Shrapnel from the B40 rocket exploded around ST Virginia men, stinging them with bits of hot metal and further spooking the King Bee crew. LeTourneau began to violently collide with tall jungle trees. Feeling like a metal ball in a pinball machine, LeTourneau karoomed off several more trees as at least one more B40 exploded in the treetops, again showering him with shrapnel. A tree branch hit LeTourneau from the side and turned him upside down in his rope swiss seat.
As the rope began to slip down from his hips, LeTourneau remembered Spider telling him how a One-Zero from another team had recently been shot out of his Swiss seat during a rope extraction. Another tree struck LeTourneau before he was able to muster a surge of strength and momentum to reach up and grab the rope above him as his body finally cleared the treetops. The only thing between him and certain death below on the jungle floor 200 feet down was the single piece of rope tied into the King Bee.
JSM: Just another day in SOG.
JW: Just another day in SOG huh.
DL: And I had 13 of those like that.
JW: When you're getting hit with all that and you're shooting back, hanging from a string - I mean, that's just completely insane that no one died on that rope on that extraction.
DL: And you're also spinning, getting knocked around and the air is flowing past you and you're just trying everything you can do to stick with it. That was my first mission. Later on I finally realized that I didn't have an extra D-ring on my web gear to strap in. That's why I was falling over backwards. I did that twice then I finally found out from my good buddy here, Tilt, that I was doing it wrong.
JW: It’s unbelievable, when I when I read these things, it's just hard to even fathom the mayhem. You're talking about all these B40 rockets which is basically like an older RPG - it's crazy!
Going back to the book:
With one final urgent pull LeTourneau was able to move himself upright in the Swiss seat as the King Bee continued to climb higher into the sky, distancing itself from the fury of exploding V40 and AK-47 gunfire while gaining airspeed. As the King Bee ascended, the heavily sweating LeTourneau clung to the rope as another sensation overwhelmed his body - chattering teeth. Within a matter of minutes, the King Bee had climbed to an altitude of more than 5,000 feet where the air is thinner and much colder than on the jungle floor. So much colder that Letourneau’s body began shaking violently from the dipping temperatures as the King Bee continued to climb into the safety of higher altitude. In ordinary circumstances, few people would ever think about freezing to death over Southeast Asia but for the men in C&C, it was just another hurdle they had to clear.
As the King Bee headed East, LeTourneau looked down on the spots in the jungle that appeared to be good LZ's thinking “Why don't you land there?” But ST Virginia's collective agony continued until the King Bees finally landed in South Vietnam. By that time every member of ST Virginia had their circulation cut off to their legs. They couldn't stand or walk. All they could do is unhook from their Swiss seat, grab their stuff and try and get the circulation going again in their legs while the door gunner helped them to get back to the King Bee. When the team returned to the Quang Tri launch site before heading south to Phu Bai, Childress pulled LeTourneau aside and told him “Take good care of that radio - you're gonna take it on the next mission whether you like it or not!”
JW: Was he gonna make you bring the shot up radio?
DL: Yeah he did. We did. It saved Tilt’s life in the end.
JW: How's that?
JSM: That Christmas Day mission.
JW: Was that the same radio? You brought a shot up radio in the field?
JSM: He did, not me!
DL: I got a hundred-mile skip out of it!
JW: That’s ridiculous!
From the troopers
★ THINK ★
Talk about an impossible situation! How do you respond in impossible situations? Do you overcome or do you come up short?
★ ACT ★
Think of one area of your life where you’re tired of coming up short. What’s one small action you can take TODAY to get a small win? Small wins add up! Share with #DEFCOR on social.
Grab the book here.
Want the perfect jeans just like The Frenchman was wearing while he was karooming off the tree tops? Grab ‘em from Origin Maine here.
Show the enemy which side you’re on with a vintage MACV-SOG T-shirt.