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Crash of Jolly Green 23
June 9, 1968
By Ken Freeze
Page 4

 Jolly Green Hit

More suppression strikes were ordered in, however, now Jolly Green 22 was low on fuel. Trail 36 asked Rittichier, at the controls of Jolly Green 23 if he would be able to make the rescue attempt. Rittichier replied that he would and that he would use the Scarface gunships as his high cover. Jolly Green 22 remained in the area until it was critically low on fuel and was forced to depart. As Jolly Green 22 headed back to refuel, he heard the radio calls of Rittichier reporting heavy gunfire and relaying the directions of the incoming fire to the Spads and gunships.

Rittichier continued his approach under fire until initiating a hover over the survivor at which time he decided the attempt was futile.

Jolly Green 23 came around for a second try. What happened next was witnessed by Lt. Col Robert C. Dubois, USAF (Ret.) who was Trail 33 (FAC): (As published on Tom Pilsch's Wed site "The Search for Jolly Green 23".)

I remember it [Hellborne 215 parachute] being on the north side of the east west section of road that ran into Laos and it was hung up in a tree. I never actually saw the A-4 pilot but understood he was in the bushes next to the chute and was injured and could not move.

After the fighters had put down suppression ordinance Jolly Green 23 said he was going in for an attempted pick up. Jolly Green 23 went into a hover over the A-4 pilot and turned to face the west. The PJ was on the wire being lowered when Jolly Green 23 reported that he was taking fire. I saw fire coming out of the left side near the engine and told Jolly Green 23 that he had a fire on the left side.

He started pulling out and I advised him that there was a clearing 1,000 meters North if he had to set down. He said he was going for the clearing.

The fire appeared to extinguish and I advised Jolly Green 23 of that. He said he was going to set it down as he reached the clearing. He was in a descent but still above the height of the trees along the edge of the clearing when the main rotor stopped turning. The Jolly Green 23 hit the ground and burst into flames that consumed anything that looked like an aircraft.

After refueling and a quick check for battle damage, Jolly Green 22 returned to the area. Enroute, Anderson asked the status of the mission and was informed that Jolly Green 23 had crashed and that there were no survivors.

Although four people were now dead, Schmidt was still alive and needed to be rescued. Jolly Green 28, commanded by Capt. Jerry M. Griggs, arrived on scene at 1:20 p.m. and orbited for an hour before being cleared to attempt another rescue. Jolly Greens 22 and 24 flew high cover while the two Huey gunships, Sandy 9 and Sandy 10, as well as Seaworthy 4-1 and Seaworthy 4-2 were flying close cover.

Jolly Green 28 came in for a rescue attempt and pulled into a hover, as it did so, it was hit with server ground fire from all directions. Griggs made a diving exit as the crew of the Jolly Green 28 returned the fire.

As Jolly Green 28 was pulling out of the area, the fire warning light for the number two engines and it experienced a drop in power. Other aircraft in the area reported smoke coming from the number two engine. Jolly Green 28 was now in trouble. With only one engine, it didn’t have the power to clear the mountains in the area. Jolly Green 24, commanded by Major Harvie L. Stringer, came down to escort Jolly Green 28 out of the area by following the road. Trail 36 lead the way while Sandy 9 and Sandy 10 flew cover.

But as the group followed the road, they were coming under heavy ground fire. Griggs needed to get Jolly Green 28 higher so it could clear the 3,700 feet ridgeline for a quick exit out of the valley. He ordered the crew of Jolly Green 28 to begin throwing everything possible out of the helicopter in order to lighten it. But Jolly Green 28 kept loosing altitude as Griggs maneuver the helicopter to avoid enemy ground fire. Somehow, Jolly Green 28 was able to regain the necessary altitude and crossed the ridge out of the valley. A short time later, Griggs landed Jolly Green 28 at Kha Sanh.

Meanwhile, Stringer landed Jolly Green 24 for refueling and then returned to the rescue mission.

Continued on Page 5
The Rescue Attempt Continues

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