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War Stories

Checkmate Mission

a type of mission performed by the Centaurs


The word Checkmate was used for several different things during the Vietnam War, but the Centaurs used it to describe one of their types of missions. This is where troops, usually with an interpreter and overhead gunship cover, are landed to check out suspicious people, structures or activities. This was mainly the job of the Aerorifle Platoon and could be as few as a four man team or the whole platoon. Sometimes it might be done with a C&C aircraft, our maintenance bird "Stable Boy" or even an unarmed scout OH-23 (not authorized). All were referred to as a "Checkmate" mission.

Mike Vaughn: When I first stated flying as a doorgunner, Jan, 67, we called those missions Roundups. Just a good Cav. name, don’t know or remember why the name was changed. The name, Corral for the helicopter bunkers. When it was time to load up, sometimes the command would be, Saddle Up. We had a Slick named, Stable Boy. I’m sure some of the old guys, like me, remember other examples.

Bob Graham: From Return to the Devil's Playground - Jan1967:
"Checking the personal identification documentation of the local Vietnamese had become a Centaur routine. It was a mission that helped in maintaining stability in the 25th Infantry Division area of operations (AO). The highly motivated Viet Cong (VC) constantly pressured the Vietnamese population to cooperate and capitulate. We could not tell them apart and neither could the Vietnamese authorities without checking their identification. These frequent checkmate operations were routine, but risky."

Tom Fleming (Centaur 6): Checkmate was a common mission in the troop in 1967. Usually involved a rifle platoon squad responding to a sighting of a military age man sighted in a suspicious place. The spot report went to Flight Operations and a slick with a squad of 4 was sent to retrieve the individual. The troop would often have 3 t0 4 teams of Light & Heavy Scouts out at the same time searching. At times the Service Plat would send out Stable boy with a 4 man team of volunteers to search for and capture suspects. The search of the individual involved looking for concealed weapon and proper SVN identification. On the mision that SSG Altenhofen received the Silver Star was a Checkmate that Flt Ops called on Stable Boy to take a squad out and check out a suspect. In route Stable Boy over flew A Troop out by Trung Lap when I observed an exploding M113 below me. I contacted Cpt Drake the Trp Co and went in for casualties and dumped out Sgt Altenhoffen and squad to await my return. His story tells the rest of the story of his Silver Star. Bottom line Checkmate Missions were usually conducted as a troop mission with multiple Aircraft and teams. Often National Police (White Mice) were involved.

Bruce Powell: From letter home Jun 1967: mentions flying Checkmate missions with the Aerorifles

Moose Marcinkowski: What is interesting is that type of mission was not called as Checkmate during my year (7/68-7/69). We did that kind of mission but with no type of mission name assigned.


Michael Peake Historian Report on Checkmate:

DAILY STAFF JOURNAL OR DUTY OFFICER'S LOG 19 January 1967 shows: Item No. 28, 1113 hours, Blaster 30 reports down gun ship at XT655144 sending two APC's to area to secure down gun ship. Item No. 30, 1135 hours, (late entry) D Trp C-35 picked up 5 detainee's and brought them to corrall where SB-2 picked this up (190915) XT713114 taken for IWA. Item No. 31, 1215 hours, D Trp checkmate started 1210 hrs XT708101. Item No. 33, 1320 hours, D Troop checkmate completed 100 people know detanee [sic].

DAILY STAFF JOURNAL OR DUTY OFFICER'S LOG 22 January 1967 shows: Item No. 16, 1518 hours, D Troop began CHKMTE. Item No. 18, 1540 hours, D Troop to scramble A/R to scr dwnd A/C HORNET XT 515985. Item No. 19, 1554 hours, A/R on grnd ref above. Item No. 20, 1654 hours, Dwnd A/C extracted ref msg 18. Item No. LATE, C20 rec 100 rds AW XT4940031 hit rtn fire unk.

DAILY STAFF JOURNAL OR DUTY OFFICER'S LOG 24 January 1967 shows: Item No. 11, 0925 hours, CHECKMATE Abn. Item No. 12, 1015 hours, CHECKMATE on grnd XT718101 det 2 out of 44. Item No. 13, 1050 hours D Trp CHKMTE rec Fire, gunner hit fell out of Acft. Item No. 14, rx frce B Trp alerted. Item No. 15, 1205 hours, B Trp cvy clo TN. Item No. 16, [between 1205 & 1240 hours], D Trp A/R caught man W/rfle ref msg 13. Item No. 17, 1240 hours, D Trp 12 more detainees rtng IPW. Item No. 18, 1240 hours, D Trp 2 WIA U S XT7307 booby trap found SMG cont search. Item No. 19, 1310 hours, B Trp 10 2 U. S. WIA 1 VC WIA XT735082. Item No. 20, 1335 hours D Troop A/C evac to BC [single shooter with AK-47 fired and fatally injured Corporal James "Jimmy" Price Spencer, who fell from the aircraft]. Item No. 26, 1910 hours, C 21 1225 1 VC KIA (BC), rec fire XT 345366 1 hit in rocket motor; 2 VC KIA (BC) XT296332.

DAILY STAFF JOURNAL OR DUTY OFFICER'S LOG 18 February 1967 shows: Item No. 16, 0735 hours, D Trp checkmate and support airborne [no other mention made remainder of month].

No further mention of CHECKMATE for the rest of the month after 24 January. Major operation began 30 January.

DAILY STAFF JOURNAL OR DUTY OFFICER'S LOG 24 March 1967 shows: Item No. 46, 0855 hours, Centaur 21 received SA fire at XT604186. 0850 1 rt fire, results unknown. Centaur 6 moving his 35 elements to that location now. Item No. 47, 0920 hours, Centaur 65 has 2 detainees in route to Centaur location. Send S-2 rep. Centaur 35 policed up detainee at vic XT600203. Checkmate received SA fire. Item No. 54, 1056 hours, Centaur 6 (A) 9 (Centaur 35) 2 men slightly wounded by booby-trap at XT601181. Time: 1055. Minor grenade frag wounds. They were dusted off. Item No. 55, 1058 hours, A. Centaur 35. B. Booby Trap and mine. C. 589181. Time: 0530. Destroyed in Place. D. Also, found tunnel, will check it out. E. Continuing mission. Item No. 56, 1100 hours, Centaur 6. A. Centaur 35. B. Found bunker. C. Coord 606182. Time: 1045. D. Fresh, food knives, forks, etc. Found two booby traps. E. Continuing mission. Item No. 57, 1120 hours, Centaur 6. A. 3-4 personnel. B. XT588186. Time: 1105. C. In woods. D. Fired into area with secondary explosion. Sending squad to check it out. Item No. 59, 1122 hours, Centaur 35 lifted out at 587180 on way back to Delta Trp. Item No. 62, 1150 hours, Centaur 6 reports Centaur 21 received AWF at XT602182. Request fire artillery. Also, Centaur 41 and 21 returned fire and to heavy booby trapped area to send Centaur 35 in/Blaster refused to grant arty for 2d time today in location of fire. Centaur 6 has approximately 5 minutes fuel left. Item No. 69, 1525 hours, B Trp. B-10, D-40 pkgs cambodia cigarettes, 30 lbs Cambodia pepper, 2 small Chinese pots, 3 bars polish soap, 14 qts. quinine from France, 3 U S pkgs of gauze bandages, 6 Chinese dinner plates, 75 sandbags, 11 pkgs, 100#rice, 30 bottles str itomycine, U S, 200 ISON Lazide, U S, 30 U S vials glucose, serum 5%, 2 U S brass 155mm expended rds, when US entrenching tool, one canteen US, 1 Chinese thermos, 1 ARVN duffel bag, 10 Chinese saucers, 1430 hrs, at XT595145 at Checkmate. Item No. 70, 1539 hours, B-10 checkmate will stay out till 1800.

DAILY STAFF JOURNAL OR DUTY OFFICER'S LOG 25 March 1967 shows: Item No. 29, 0844 hours, SA element called D Trp for dustoff in AO. Capt. Stevenson reported A Trp has 1 dead and 2 wounded. D Trp sending dustoff and RR chopper to scene. If convoy needs assistance, aero rifle will be committed. Capt. Stevenson reports an element was in a firefight at bridge in Sui Da when 1 was killed and 3 WIA. They are still in a firefight. Item No. 31, 0851 hours, Major Stafford going on operation with slicks. Item No. 32, 0902 hours, Aero rifles airborne to checkmate. Item No. 35, 0910 hours, Aero rifle on the ground. Item No. 38, 0925 hours, Centaur 6 for Centaur 35 moving position to 627118 and conduct search. Item No. 39, 0934 hours Centaur 30 evacuated 3 walking wounded and two litter, 1 KIA. Aircraft from TN picked up some-no. unknown. Item No. 42, 0955 hours, Centaur 30 says total of 6 wounded, w litter cases and 4 walking at coord 389627. Condition unk coord 400632. Time: 0930. Item No. 43, 1003 hours, Centaur 38 Searcher-1 detainee at coord 617110. Time: 0930. Detainee was turning out of area. 38 evacuated to corral. Item No. 49, 1043 hours, Centaur 6 picked up 15 detainees, held on to 5 because of no ID cards at XT620125. Time: 1020. Continuing mission. Item No. 15, 1048 hours, Detainees being taken to IPW, total of 5. Item No. 51, 1049 hours, Centaur 6 located 1 tunnel at XT612106.  2' X 2'ent. went down 5'-seems to be active tunnel-intend to check out-after checking tunnel found to be 20 meters long. 4 entrances, found nothing and destroyed at 1045 hrs. Item No. 53, Late 1120 hours, Centaur 6 (D Trp) explosion east edge of bridge coord 680145. Time: Unknown. Explosion in the abutment-hole 4' wide, 5' deep, ext of damage unknown-traffic normal. Item No. 56, 1144 hours, Centaur 35. The Aero Rifles have been extracted.