SWOOP DOWN IN HEAVY FIRE FROM THE SOUTHERN CROSS FOR MARCH 30, 1969.
Electronic copy of article provided by Leslie Hines
Heroic Pilots Rescue Wounded
By SP4 TONY SWINDELL
11th Inf. Bde.
LZ BRONCO — Two Americal chopper pilots braved heavy enemy fire and miserable weather conditions to organize and direct the rescue of wounded members of an ambushed infantry company south of LZ Cork.
1LT Earl Ingram II (Columbus, Ga.) and WO Richard C. Cichowski (Westfield, Mass.) UH-1 pilots with the 174th Aslt. Hel Co., supporting the 11th Inf. Bde., were flying the 3rd Bn., 1st Inf. Command and Control (C&C) ship on routine missions off LZ Cork.
Suddenly, the radio blared that B Co. had been ambushed near a village by an estimated 100 enemy soldiers.
After the C&C ship arrived at the scene, approaching medevacs radioed 1LT Ingram for landing instructions, but a pick-up zone (PZ) had not been established yet because of intense enemy fire.
As soon as word reached 1LT Ingram and Cichowski that the PZ was set up, they directed their 11th Bde. craft in to evacuate five wounded soldiers.
Later in the afternoon, one of the companies pushed into the village and called for a dust-off to pick up a seriously wounded man.
As the medevac was about to land at the PZ, intense enemy fire caused it to crash.
C&C To Rescue
Another medevac was hit repeatedly and forced to withdraw.
1LT Ingram and Cichowski then swooped into the pick-up zone despite the heavy fire, secured the wounded soldier, evacuated him to the hospital, and headed back to the action.
"We were flying in some of the most miserable weather I've seen over here," Cichowski commented, "and decided to head home since we had done all we could that day.
"But then we got a call from one of the units who had a man who couldn't last the night unless he was evacuated."
As 1LT Ingram and Cichowski circled the now-burning village, they tried to spot the landing signals put out for them, but the scattered fires complicated the mission.
"They were trying to bring us in with flashlights and burning sticks," 1LT Ingram said, "and it was almost impossible to find them for the fires.
"As low as we were coming in I was sure that our rotor blades were going to hit a tree."
Bullets Riddle Ship
Cichowski made a perfect landing on the pick-up spot, but when the craft touched down a sniper opened up from 20 meters away.
Bullets crashed into the rotor blades, engine, and hit the armor plating on 1LT Ingram's cockpit seat. A radio telephone operator informed the lieutenant that the rounds were outgoing, to which the officer replied, "Tell that to my armor plate."
After withdrawing until another pick-up zone could be established, the chopper team repeated their hazardous low-level approach and successfully evacuated the wounded man.
Chichowski had nothing but praise for his fellow pilot: "1LT Ingram organized and directed four "Shark" gunships, two medevac aircraft, a recovery ship for the downed medevac, and the C&C ship. He really did a fine job."
An original copy of this document was donated to the Americal Division Veterans Association (ADVA) by LTC Paul Parham who served as Information Officer for the Americal Division.