All the content in this article comes from ProfessionalSoldiers.com, a forum from Green Berets for Green Berets. I had read it and listened to the recording many years before I come aboard at SOFREP and I wanted to share it as a tribute to the brave men of MACV-SOG as this piece of history showcases vividly what those men endured.
This is a recording of two Recon Teams (RT’s) who are in dire straits. Both RT’s are losing a battle whereby death is imminent. Those RT’s are: RT Colorado with Pat Mitchel being the 1-0, Lyn St. Laurent as the 1-1, and David “Lurch” Mixter as the 1-3. RT Colorado is an eight man team including the five indigenous troops. The other was RT Hawaii with Les Dover as the 1-0, Regis Gmitter the 1-1, and John Justice the 1-2 (I believe this to be the case with this recon team as far as who was what on the team through natural progression of skills learned in combat,) it may not be accurate though, reader and listener take note. Also, it is unknown to me how many indigenous troops made up RT Hawaii at that time.
RT Colorado is the team that is running for its life. RT Hawaii is holding their own. Both RT’s have called out a “Prairie Fire” in Laos near the Ho Chi Minh Trail and are approximately 10 miles apart as the crow flies. Colorado has just been hit by a North Vietnamese platoon of 40 men who desire no more than to wipe this team completely off the face of the Earth.
During this Prairie Fire, David Mixter is killed when he saves Mitchel’s life by shoving him to one side and exchanging fire with an NVA armed with an RPG. Mixter and the NVA exchange fire immediately. The NVA fires his RPG as Mixter fires his weapon. The RPG hits Mixter in the knee area and kills him instantly as the NVA drops dead by Mixter’s return Fire.
What exactly does a Prairie Fire mean? At least three things: 1) You are in contact with a much superior force than yours. 2) Either completely surrounded or will be. 3) Death is imminent.
The other two emergencies were the following: 1) Tactical – meaning you are in engaged with the enemy, but you are holding your own for now. This could be upgraded at any time to a “Prairie Fire.” Especially if you are surrounded and have a lot of wounded. 2) Team – Somebody is sick or injured.
All pilots that flew gunships, helicopters, attack and fighter aircraft were given a briefing before flying in country. That briefing entailed what to do if a FAC has called out a “Prairie Fire” over the radio. By the rules in Vietnam everyone listening was to stop what they were doing and come to the aid of the FAC/Recon Team(s).
John “Plasticman” Plaster is the “Covey Rider” or “Backseater” on the afternoon shift with Captain Mike Cryer as the pilot of their OV-10 Bronco. They had just lifted off from Pleiku after eating lunch there and are heading out towards Laos. Ken “Shoebox” Carpenter is flying as the CR on board the military version of the Cessna 210 Skymaster over Laos at this time. As Plaster and Cryer left for Laos they noticed how clear the sky was considering that most of January had been very wet. As they passed Ben Het below, Cryer switched their radio frequency over to “Shoebox” Carpenter’s frequency and what you hear for the next 35 minutes is two RT’s fighting to stay alive.
One other item of importance. The reason why you hear so many people talking at once is because a lot of the helicopters and FACs had what is known as a “hot mic.” What this means is that the microphone is always on and talking on it is much like talking on a telephone. Everybody can talk and hear responses immediately. The only exception to this is the Recon Team(s). They relied upon the PRC-25 and much later in the war the PRC-77 for commo and this meant that the RT could constantly monitor a channel (receive) and transmit by pushing the button in on the handset.
Also, the first “Prairie Fire” you here is from RT Hawaii’s 1-0 Regis Gmitter and it is during their rescue mission. When you here Plaster call on the radio: “I have your smoke, where do want the firepower brought in?” you will hear Pat Mitchel’s voice stating that “There is only two of us left and Charlie is dead on our ass!” Mixter was killed a few minutes before this and the indigenous troops are nowhere to be seen. Also, it is during this time that Mitchel is carrying Lyn St Laurent as he is seriously wounded himself. They are fighting for for their lives. Pay special attention to the background noise when Plaster is talking. You can hear the twin engines screaming and an occasional burst of the four mounted M-60’s. The continuous M-60 firing at the end is from the rescue Hueys door-gunners. One is firing one long string of 7.62 ammunition through his M-60 without stopping. It is still a very hot area.
Here are the following code names/words that may be of use to the listener. Hopefully this will make the following conversations easier to understand and follow. Here are some of these words:
1) Plasticman John Plaster’s personal call sign while on a RT
2) White Lead Huey in charge of flying the rescue mission
3) Delta Papa Three John Plaster’s call sign while flying as Covey Rider in Bronco
4) Tango Papa Pat Mitchels call sign as 1-0
5) Panthers AH-1G Cobras. Also known as “Cobra”
6) Kingbees H-34 Helicopters usually flown by Vietnamese pilots
7) Bravo Hotel Ben Het SF camp
8) Delta Tango FOB at Dak To
9) Foxtrot Mike FM radio frequency
10) Victor VHF radio frequency
11) Uniform UHF radio frequency
12) Straw Hat/Type Code name for American personnel on a RT
13) Kilo November Known North. Position is “Kilo November”
14) Lurch David Mixter’s personnel call sign
15) Winchester Air assets that are out of ordnance