Note: This is part of a series. Read parts one, two, three, and four here.

For three and a half days, the Green Berets and their Montagnard counterparts of the MACV-SOG (SOG) B Company hatchet force had successfully accomplished their mission: Take pressure off of the CIA’s Operation Gauntlet in southern Laos on the Bolovens Plateau west of their operation while grabbing hundreds of NVA (North Vietnamese Army) reports, maps, code books, currency and other critical pieces of intelligence from an enemy base camp. However, halfway through day four of this top-secret foray, Operation Tailwind switched gears from a tactical mission into one of survival.

By midday on September 14, 1970, B Company had received weather reports of a major storm front moving in. Also, observations by forward air controllers (code-named Covey) and Marine Corps Cobra pilots from HML-367—call sign Scarface—reported hordes of NVA and communist Pathet Lao troops moving east to confront and eliminate the men of B Company. Those factors changed the operational orders from disrupting the enemy to survival and getting all of the valuable seized NVA intelligence reports back to base and SOG headquarters in Saigon for review by intelligence specialists.

An Air Force OV-10 Bronco similar to this aircraft served as a forward air controller during the top secret SOG Operation Tailwind in September 1970.
An Air Force OV-10 Bronco similar to this aircraft served as a forward air controller during Operation Tailwind.

Following Scarface Cobra gunships into the LZ, the first and second Marine Corps CH-53D Sea Stallions extracted the first and second platoons of B Company, which included all of the wounded Montagnards and several of the wounded Green Berets. However, when the third heavy-lift Sikorsky from HMH-463 descended toward the LZ, the volume of enemy small-arms fire increased, despite A-1 Skyraider pilots Art Bishop and his wingman, Don Feld, hammering enemy positions with CBU-30 cluster bombs that contained potent CS gas.