The Siege of LZ Kate, Arthur G. Sharp

The Siege of LZ Kate, Arthur G. Sharp

The Battle for an American Firebase in Vietnam

LZ Kate was a short-lived US firebase, built to protect a Special Forces base close to the Cambodian border. It was a small base, with a garrison of only 150 men (a mix of US troops and their Vietnamese allies), and contained three artillery guns. It was one of several bases that were meant to be able to protect each other, but that ended up coming under siege when the North Vietnamese attacked the area in great strength. After four days under siege the garrison escaped through enemy lines, joined up with a relief force that had been landed nearby, and reached safety at the Special Forces base.

It must be said the North Vietnamese don't seem to have been very effective during this battle. Thousands of soldiers with artillery support didn't only fail to capture this tiny isolated base, they also didn't cause that many deaths – seven confirmed on the ground, four in the air and nineteen missing, some of whom may have scattered into the jungle (with most of the missing coming during the escape), and they were then unable to prevent this small force from breaking out of the siege and joining up with nearby reinforcements.

One of the most interesting elements of this story is the close cooperation between the troops on the ground and their air support. This included helicopters used for medical evacuation and resupply missions, high speed jets making short but potent attacks and perhaps most effectively the famous 'spooky' gunships, which could linger over the battlefield for some time. Some of the conversations between air and ground have been reproduced, giving some idea of the way this was organised and the pressures that both men were under.

One element of the helicopter pilot's memoirs that I had to go away and check were the references to rolling take-offs – I hadn't realised that many piston engined helicopters couldn't actually take off vertically, but instead needed a more traditional rolling take off, especially at high weights and high altitude, something that made helicopter operations rather more dangerous on some of the smaller airfields.

1 - Let's Build Some Firebases
2 - Benhet
3 - Of All the Places in Vietnam

Day 1: October 27, 1969
4 - Sergeant Pierelli Arrives

Day 2: October 28, 1969
5 - Captain Albracht Takes Command

Day 3: October 29, 1969
6 - Crack! Boom!
7 - The Captain Takes a Hit
8 - In a Fog

Day 4: October 30, 1969
9 - A 'Black' Day for 48th AHC
10 - Tracers Can Be Traced

Day 5: October 31, 1969
11 - Trick or Treat
12 - The Cavalry Arrives
13 - Puff, the Magic Dragon
14 - A Dustoff and a Surprise
15 - Night Flight

Day 6: November 1, 1969
16 - D-Day
17 - Did I Miss Anything?
18 - E&E
19 - Confusion Reigns in the Skies
20 - Linkup
21 - Leaving Susan and Annie
22 - Mayhem and Medals
23 - Once upon a Time?
24 - All for Naught?

Epilogue: Where Are They Now?

Author: Arthur G. Sharp
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 288
Publisher: Stackpole
Year: 2014

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