Note: This is part of a series. Read part one and part two here.

Capt. Gene McCarley had the men of MACV-SOG B Company hatchet force moving north well before the sun rose on day two of Operation Tailwind—a mission deep into Laos to take the pressure off of the CIA’s Operation Gauntlet in the Bolovens Plateau farther west in southern Laos.

“We zigzagged a lot during that mission because we didn’t want the NVA to get a good fix on our position, as we knew they’d try to pin us down and attack us in force if that happened,” McCarley told SOFREP.

Within an hour, NVA soldiers hit first platoon with automatic weapons fire, B-40 rockets, and mortars. Two squads maneuvered against the enemy while McCarley directed air strikes against the enemy position. The tactics worked. Because of the thick jungle, they weren’t able to get an accurate body count, as McCarley continued to march north. However, SF Medic Gary Mike Rose knew the casualties were climbing among both SF and indigenous troops of B Company.

“We had two Yards killed when Capt. McCarley and I got hit with shrapnel from the B-40. After confirming that they were dead, I wrapped them up and we carried them with us, as best we could,” Rose said. However, after trying to carry them, while tending to the two most seriously injured men, “I had to make a decision to leave the two dead men behind, because I could see that carrying them as we moved, we were causing too much fatigue for the living. So, we made a decision that has bothered me for nearly half a century. By day two, it seemed as though every day, every hour, I kept getting more and more wounded.”

At one point, during an attack on B Company by an NVA force of more than 40 enemy soldiers, the two most seriously wounded men that Rose was treating had both of their IV fluid bags shattered and destroyed during a hail of enemy gunfire. “I learned a lesson right there and then,” said Rose, “We kept the IVs flowing from low positions, allowing gravity to work, but not high enough for enemy gunfire to destroy.”

Third platoon Sgt. Dave Young standing in a LZ during the early phase of Operation Tailwind. His weapon is the Colt CAR-15. Note the gas mask on his left side, which was used during this operation when enemy attacks were relentless. (Photo courtesy of Gene McCarley)

By that time, Rose and Koch, the Montagnard that Rose was training as a medic, developed a combat rhythm between them. “Today, and even 45 years ago, my mind is and was blurry on the actual combat that occurred during Operation Tailwind. I can tell you there was a lot of it, but when the gunfire escalated, when the NVA attacked us on foot or with B-40s and mortars, or when we moved, Koch gave me danger alerts, he watched my back. He helped me by keeping an eye out for enemy troops while I treated the wounded. As an SF medic, my attention span extended to the end of my arms, to whom I was treating, unless Koch gave me a danger alert that dealt with the NVA when they were an immediate threat. And then he would help me with the wounded. He would go out and get wounded guys and bring them back to me. He stayed with me throughout the whole mission.”

As the hatchet force moved north, it was obvious to McCarley that Rose had his hands full, as he had to continually monitor the two most seriously wounded men, men who were being carried by him and other team members in stretchers made of bamboo sticks and ponchos. Because there were so many wounded, McCarley directed B Company to find or make an LZ for a medivac to land and take out the wounded. They found a large bomb crater and began preparing the LZ when the enemy initiated two successive contacts with them, firing small arms, B-40 rockets, and Chicom grenades. As they worked on establishing a clearing, B Company dealt with the two separate attacks from the NVA, using squad tactics and TAC AIR. Both attacks were neutralized only to have Covey report that the weather had turned bad, prohibiting any rescue attempts for the day.