The Great Grenade Bombing Run
This is more a funny story that a serious one, but it was serious at the time. In March of 1963 General Vang Pao's troops were under attack on the western edge of the PDJ....or maybe they were on the attack, but in any case his troops were in need of some air support. It happened to be raining that day and fixed wing aircraft were not flying at all. However, some of the helicopters were flying in and out and moving supplies to various Hmong troops around the PDJ. I was hanging around the Air America building when one of the helicopter crews came around and asked if anyone wanted to go up to Ban Na and see what we could do to help the Hmongs there. I thought it might be interesting so I volunteered to go along with a couple of Air America guys. I told Akkrat to find some cases of grenades or mortar rounds and we might be able to distract the enemy troops for awhile.
As we got on the helicopter for the trip north I noticed that Akkrat had found several crates of hand grenades plus my FN-FAL with maybe thirty or forty 20 round clips of ammunition for it. Well, this was going to be interesting for sure. We took off and headed north. After about an hour flight time, we arrived over Ba Na and could see smoke coming up from the side of a mountain overlooking the edge of the PDJ. Once the pilot made contact with the troops on the ground, he determined that there was no landing site close enough to the fighting to get the materials down to them. That is when he came up with bright idea which follows.
Akkrat said, "We throw grenade at PL. Tell pilot to fly low but fast." I passed the information to the pilot He yelled back at us and said to remove the lids on the grenades and that he would fly very fast over the edge of the enemy positions and that we could throw grenades down at the enemy as we flew over them. The crew chief opened up the crates of grenades and we all got ten or twelve each.
The pilot banked the helicopter and lined up on the enemy positions. The he yelled for us to throw the grenades. We pulled the pins and threw them out both side doors as fast as we could. The Pathet Lao never saw this coming. About thirty or more grenades were thrown down at the enemy on the first pass. The pilot did a u-turn and back we went in the opposite direction. He yelled to throw some more grenades and we did. We made three passes this way and by the time the last pass was made, we were out of grenades. The enemy started finding the range with small arms fire so as we made another pass, Akkrat took my FAL and put it on automatic fire and poured lead into the general area of the PL troops. He used up all the ammo and then we headed back to Long Tieng.
The enemy broke off their attack and retreated back into the across PDJ. Later, it was said that the radio traffic from the Pathet Lao radio operators indicated that they thought they were being bombed by fixed wing aircraft. We all got a good laugh out of that. Our great bombing run was the talk of Long Trieng for several days. I might mention here that there were over a dozen bullet holes in the helicopter but no one got hit. So that was the "Great Grenade Bombing Run."