The Rescue Attempt Continues
|During this time, numerous air
strikes were made to suppress the ground fire. At 3:15 p.m. Crown 1 was
relieved by Crown 2 and Hellborne 215 had been on the ground, wounded, for
Sandy 9 and 10 flew over the area to evaluate the around before another Jolly Green came in. There was no ground fire. Jolly Green 22 was low on fuel so Crown 2 suggested that Jolly Green 24 make the attempt. While Jolly Green 22 was still in the area, Jolly Green 24 made an approach. Stringer pulled the helicopter into a hover, and just as he did, flight engineer SSGT Robert H. Baldwin called, "Pull off, Ground Fire!" as he began to return fire himself. Ground fire was erupting from every possible angle, but now it also included fire from .50 caliber machine guns.
Stringer immediately pulled the craft up to exit. But this time the North Vietnamese grounds troops were ready from him. He was headed directly into an ambush of heavy ground fire. Stringer turned the helicopter to the right and dove down a ridgeline only to fly directly into ground fire once again. Apparently the pervious air attack had done little to soften up the enemy. In fact they had had time to bring in more and heavier guns.
Stringer advised Trail 33 and Crown 2 that the area was still hot. That ground fire was coming from the ridge to the right of Hellborn 215 and from spider holes (which the Vietnamese troops used like bunkers) immediately below the road.
Jolly Green 27, commanded by Major Stuart H. Hoag, arrived on scene and Stringer advised him that the area was still hot with automatic weapons fire 20 to 30 yards both north and south of the Hellborne 215. Also that Hellborne 215 was not moving and that radio contact had been lost. Any more attempts would have to wait.
Stringer on Jolly Green 24 left the scene to refuel. While on the ground he called Queen by telephone and passed his evaluation and recommendations.
At 4:45 p.m. Jolly Green 27, flying low and Jolly Green 33, flying high, arrived back on scene and shortly thereafter, Jolly Green 22 also returned. All three orbited the area as the site was again hit with CBU-19 (a tear gas like agent) and napalm.
The crews on the Jollies circling overhead were instructed to put on their gas masks in preparation for the use of the CBU-19, however all three crews experienced the same problem in that the microphone fittings in that the gas masks were not compatible with the crew helmets. If they used the masks, no voice communications would be possible either inside their helicopter among the crew or with other aircraft engaged in the rescue attempt.
The crew of Jolly Green 33 came up with an alternate plan. The flight engineer SGT David Rodriquez volunteered to remove his helmet and use a headset, with which the gas mask was compatible. The pararescuemen, SGT Ernest D. Casbeer, used an older type gas mask, which was compatible with his helmet. The co-pilot, Captain Paul D. Ashley devised a method of transmitting by putting his mike on his larynx. The pilot, Captain William E. Brennan had a different mike and was unable to jury rig any method of using it. The crew had devised a method of communications that would allow for the use of the CBU-19 and perhaps enable them to rescue Hellborne 215 on the ground.
CBU-19 was dropped on both sides of the Hellborne 215. Jolly Green 33 began its approach and entered a hover. However, in spite of the use of the CBU-19, in just seconds, Jolly Green 33 was driven off by ground fire. But in those few seconds of hovering, the flight engineer spotted Hellborne 215 lying on the ground partially covered by his parachute. The engineer could see that he was lying on his back with one leg under him, which appeared broken. He was not moving.
Jolly Green 33, left the area to refuel. While refueling, Jolly Greens 22, 27 and 33 received a message from Crown 2 to return to base. It was 6:30 p.m. and Hellborne 215 had been on the ground for a little over eight hours. The missions had been cancelled.
At dawn the next day, a ground team was inserted into the area. During their search in and around where Hellborne 215 had landed, no trace of him or his parachute could be found. All attempts to re-establish radio contact with him also proved futile. Under the circumstances, formal search and rescue efforts were concluded, Walter R. Schmidt, Jr. was listed as a Prisoner of War.