Sgt. Bill Hand’s one man LRRP mission
This occurred in early 1968 after we had been re-designated as Co E 52nd Inf. LRP and had moved our operations from LZ English to Quang Tri.
McGuire rigs were used for emergency extraction of troops from areas where helicopters could not land. It was basically a loop made of a web strap similar to seat belt material, secured to the end of either a 60’ or 100’ rappelling rope. The loop would be dropped to us from the chopper and you would sit in the loop, clipping yourself to it with a gated “D” ring hooked to a length of rope you had hurriedly secured around your chest. The chopper would then lift you up over the trees and take you to safe area where the chopper could set down and allow you to disconnect and get into the ship.
That was the theory anyway, in practice the pilots could not always bring you straight up and you would crash about through the trees on your way up, and then would some times misjudge a bit on approaching the ground and would touch you down while the ship was still moving forward, bouncing and dragging you along the ground. After a couple of accidents like that we all started wearing our survival knives tapped to the suspender straps of our web gear with the idea that if you were being dragged you might be able to cut yourself free of the rig.
One day a helicopter pilot had been flying over triple canopy jungle in the mountains west of the base, when the map he had been using was blown out of the ship. He could see the map caught in the top of a tall tree.
The powers that be were concerned over this since the pilot had reportedly marked and made notes on the map, and it was feared that it might be of use to the enemy. So they approached the LRRPs and requested a volunteer to fly out in a McGuire rig and attempt to retrieve it.
Bill who was already known for loving to ride in McGuire rigs (unlike me who would use the things only as an absolute last resort) volunteered immediately. One of our NCOs I believe SSGT. Tom Campbell rigged the Huey with the rope and then laid down on the floor with his head out of the ship so that he could keep an eye on Bill and direct the pilot on how to move the ship to place him where he needed to be and warn the pilot if Bill was getting in trouble.
The ship took off lifting Bill dangling on the end the rope beneath it, and headed back to the jungle. They tried repeatedly to lower Bill to the map so he could grab it, but each time they did the ship’s prop wash kept blowing the map away and into another tree top.
They kept trying for at least a couple of hours and Bill was becoming quite concerned that either a LRRP on a rope, or a Huey hovering about the area just a 100’ or so above the trees might prove to be too tempting a target for someone.
Gun ships were circling the area to discourage anyone in the area but really if someone had fired from the ground it would have been all but impossible to pin point the shooter’s location
At any rate no one fired and in the end they were never able to get Bill in position to grab the map. Neither Bill nor I could remember what if anything they did to recover or destroy the map, but they flew Bill all the way back to our LZ.
Bill told me later that even as much as he loved riding in the rigs he was getting just a bit ill spinning around on the end of that rope for so long.