BigWindow BackArrow
War Stories

Cutting Red Tape

Rolland "Fletch" Fletcher

Artillery Forward Observer 1968

This is my story, true as I remember, maybe waiting until age 70 to try to relate it will make for a lot of errors of facts; but the message is rather clear.

In Viet Nam I served as an artillery officer with the ¾ Cav of the 25th Inf Div. The first month in Country I served in the II Field Force then I was moved to the 25th Inf in the 6/77th Arti with further assignment to the ¾ CAV. I served in Headquarters and checked artillery for cover on the LRRPS; then I was moved to B Troop in December ’67 to replace the forward observer in the unit. In April I asked to return to the guns (battery) and leave the field. Artillery Officers generally served six month in the field then returned to serve with the guns.

I was asked by the artillery captain if I would remain in the ¾ Cav and move to D Troop as their air observer. I was told I would be sleeping on a cot each night and fly missions during the day….I may have been misled a bit…but accepted the new role as the Air Observer (AO) in D Troop.

One of the duties was to act as S-2 intelligence officer for the troop. I know that is an oxymoron, but it meant I received reports of enemy movements and positions and set the search patterns for the following day of the scout patrols. I flew with the scouts, where the AO before me flew with the gun ships. I would fly most dawn patrols and again the dusk patrols all around the 25th Inf Div area of control. I would also answer calls for artillery observing throughout the day from various units.

On one afternoon flying the division boundary I got a call from an artillery battery sitting on the northern boundary of the 9th Div which was on the other side of southern boundary. They said every Thursday evening they got mortared from an area under the control of the 25th and asked me to fly over the area and see what I could find? This was May or June ’68 and the name of the unit I do not remember. Here I wish I had keep a diary with dates and names, but I didn’t. (People have asked to write about what I did.)

I flew over the area and it was just some open marshy fields with no farms or building just a stream or two and lots of water standing all around. So I reported back there seemed to be no sign of life, encampment not even one building for miles.

Then they told me the rest of story (as Paul Harvey would say), When they were mortared; they would call 9th Div Headquarters and ask for permission to fire anti mortar fire. They would be told to wait as 9th Div called MACV in Saigon for permission, who then called the 25th, who would say ‘NO’. The duty officer said he did not know the location of the LRRPS… they would hunker down and wait for the fire to subside.

This had happened for the last two Thursday nights. So this time I told them where I inserted the LRRP’s and that I would not put any in the area in question next week. I added that they had 25th clearance (by me) to fire into the 25th area for a week’s period of time. We set assigned and designated area of fire; they never questioned me if I had such power; but as long as they could put my name into their log book as the source of permission they didn’t care. What’s your call sign again? Vindicator 32.Red Tape

A few days later I was flying in the same area and I called to tell them I was back and what had happened. They had arranged the guns set on the area and got out 300 rounds of ammunition all ready to fire at the first sign of any mortars. Well, they got one incoming round and fired counter mortar fire for fifteen minutes. Now, did they kill anyone? Who knows; but they definitely scared the hell out of the locals going out and getting drunk then firing mortars at the Americans.

They insisted that I fly down to their firebase since they wanted to throw me a party. They brought out the booze, dirty movies and got me so drunk I don’t remember the night. The next day my chopper returned to pick me up.

Right then these guys would have given me the Congressional Medal of Honor if they could. And that was for Cutting RED TAPE..not winning the war or even a battle. I just let them fire back. I’m sure they scared the ‘hell out of the pestky little devils; and they never received mortars form that area again.

So I missed my medal and there are 110 guys who can tell this story; and I know none of them….and I am sure that they don’t know me. Now, I told this story 35 years later to my old ¾ Cav commander and he said I could have gotten into a lot of trouble; but that he saw lots of men in the Army who would not cross over that line to help another unit. They were more worried about getting into trouble than helping another unit out. He did not say I had done right…he just …. smiled.

So be a RED TAPE cutter, but have luck doing it.

Rolland Fletcher