National Geographic : 1962 Nov
fantry and a handful of suspects captured. Today the village was believed again infested with Communist guerrillas. Briefing orders to the helicopters were that each was to pick up a squad-thirteen men, more or less-of Vietnamese troops from an airstrip along the route, and we had done this a few minutes before. Several of these squads were accompanied by U. S. Army infantry advisers. The helicopters were to set down the riflemen and their advisers as quickly as possi ble almost on top of Ap My Thanh. The Marine intelligence officer had said, "Earlier missions in this area have reported moderate ground fire." Final words of the senior officer were, "You will not-I say again not-fire until you are being fired on." Riding in the helicopter alongside the thirteen Vietnamese troops, I watched Sgt. Nelson West, the crew chief responsible for the helicopter's complex maintenance. In his zippered flightsuit, combat boots, and orange striped crash helmet, West sat beside the open hatch unmoving as a statue (page 729). But on the ground we all knew him as the man of decision; it was he who decided when and how many troops might come aboard and when they would leap out. Beside West's immobile figure sat the Viet namese squad leader, his knees and elbows HS EKTACHROME(LOWER RIGHT) AND KODACHROMES N.G.S. Arms trussed, the lone prisoner taken by government soldiers after the Vinh Quoi raid turned out to be a woman. She is be lieved to have served the Reds as a medic. Grieving Families at Twilight Await Evacuation of the Wounded Despair etches the faces of the people at Vinh Quoi as they watch loved ones being loaded on a Marine helicopter for the jour ney to a nearby provincial hospital. Cradling the legs of her husband, a wife rides a helicopter to the hospital. He suffered a fractured skull in Long Xuyen, where ex ploding grenades killed 4 and wounded 19, one an American sergeant. The couple's son clings to his mother.