"SEA HORSES DEFEND NHA TRANG"

Nha Trang, Vietnam------------Garbled and disjointed warnings by Vietnamese refugees helped Army aviators find and partially destroy a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) stronghold.

The reports by the Vietnamese civilians at the Nha Trang refugee center led pilots of the 183rd Reconnaissance Airplane Company "Sea Horses" to investigate an area near the Song Thac Ngua river, north of the city.

Captain Douglas L. Thorp, (Honolulu, Hawaii) had barely left the airfield traffic pattern when he spotted an NVA flag waving atop a schoolhouse at the north edge of the city.  Taking his "Birddog" reconnaissance airplane in for a closer look, he discovered trenches being dug around the house and a machine gun placed in an old bunker left from the French regime.

Sudden ground fire aimed at the plane caused Cpt. Thorp to search the area from higher altitudes.  A ground reaction force was notified.  Within an hour the entire area was encircled by Vietnamese and allied troops.

Meanwhile, aircraft departing Nha Trang runway began receiving ground fire.  Traffic was directed away from the "hot spot" and more of the 183rd Birddogs arrived at the troubled area to direct fire from A-1E "Skyraiders."  One Birddog fired two marking rockets simultaneously, opening a gap in the roof of the NVA stronghold.  The Skyraiders, following right on his heels, quickly strafed the area with their machine guns.

The house and bunker were quickly secured while the fighting evolved into a house-to-house affair about 100 meters south.  The "Sea Horses" patrolled the area all day to direct "Dustoff" choppers evacuating wounded, and to watch the river for retreating troops. As the operation continued into darkness, the enemy retreated, leaving behind more than 20 dead, two AK-47 automatic rifles and many documents.

Captain Doug Thorp

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