Note: This is part of a series. You can read part one here.

After seven days of weather delays, false starts, and enemy rocket attacks at the top-secret Military Assistance Command Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) compound in Kontum and at the Dak To launch site, Green Beret Capt. Eugene McCarley gave the order to move out to 15 Green Berets and 120 Montagnard mercenaries who were based in Kontum, at Command and Control Central (CCC).

McCarley was the commanding officer of the B Company Hatchet Force selected to conduct a mission far beyond the area of routinely authorized SOG operations: This operation planned to go south of the Bolovens Plateau on Sept. 11, 1970, and would go deeper into Laos than any SOG operation in history. The CIA’s Operation Gauntlet was launched Sept. 3, 1970, with 5,000 irregular troops, according to DoD reports. The communist North Vietnamese Army was attacking in force, bogging down that operation. Company B’s mission was to take pressure off of the CIA’s operation by “raising hell in Laos,” McCarley told SOFREP recently.

On the morning of Sept. 11, four of the powerful, Marine Corps CH-53D Sikorsky twin-engine helicopters in HMH-463, based at the Corps’ Marble Mountain Air Facility, landed outside the CCC compound and loaded up the 136-man unit. SOG brass had turned to the Marine Corps’ aviation wing that flew the largest troop carriers to reach deep into Laos, 25 kilometers beyond the normal SOG area of operations. A fifth CH-53D helicopter followed the flight as the SAR (search and rescue) aircraft in case one of the four choppers got shot down.