Quan Loi, CCS and Me - Near the End - An Loc/Quan Loi 1971-1972

I was an Army O-1 pilot with the 74th Reconnaissance Company, which was headquartered in Phu Loi.  I arrived in country in June of 1970. While based at Phu Loi and then Cu Chi I flew a variety of missions throughout III Corps and some cross border operations into Cambodia.  I flew into Quan Loi on numerous occasions and most likely picked up an observer there to register some of the 6/27th Artillery firing missions or perhaps call in Arty Missions on suspected enemy positions in that area . . . always loved those 8 inchers.  There is nothing more lethal and more accurate than those babies and they make a great noise when they hit!! 

Anyway, when I flew into Quan Loi I vaguely knew about a small section of aircraft that the 74th kept there for some kind of secret missions.  Well, heck!!!!  I had to do whatever they were doing.  I was 21 years old and brave, (I thought) and anything secret had to be pretty neat stuff.  So, I extended my tour of duty for 6 months so I could get assigned to that outfit in Quan Loi.

When I moved to Quan Loi in the fall of 1971 it was a pretty desolate place as all of the American units had gone home.  I was attached to CCS, Command and Control South, a division of MACSOG, (Special Operations Group) that specialized in cross border operations.

Basically we worked with recon teams in cross border operations throughout Cambodia. Our teams were inserted with the H-34 helicopters known as Kingbees until we lost them all to ground fire or weather. Then we used Huey's.  We worked with Pretzle FACs, which are the Air Force O-2's, based out of either Saigon or Ban Me Thuot.

The Air Force pilots did not live at Quan Loi - they commuted in daily.  Their 3 crew chiefs, our 3 pilots, our Birddog crew chief and about 8 ex-Special Forces types who now worked for SOG  lived at Quan Loi.  We lived in a compound on the north side of the airstrip (located on the airstrip photo - halfway up the airstrip NW of the letter K in the photo) guarded by Montagnards

All of this intrigued me very much - I had visions of doing something really important for our war effort and looked forward to actually participating in missions directly against the enemy.  Our mission was to insert six man recon teams into Cambodia to monitor enemy activity.  We also had a mission where we would fly at tree top level with a SOG "backseater" taking pictures, and an 0-2 flying cover for us and trying to keep us out of trouble.  Needless to say, we came back with numerous bullet holes on many occasions.  Still, this was exhilarating  business and the secret operations made it that much more exciting.

The rest of Quan Loi was quite desolate in this timeframe. The Helicopter Assault company had left (summer of 1971, I think); I believe there were a few advisors with the ARVN units on the south side of the runway. Other than that, we felt very alone. We were mortared and rocketed occasionally, and were attacked by sappers.

As we got into the first months of 1972 we found our teams getting into more and more contacts.  We found increased activity of bad guys, and our compound was being attacked by sappers at night.  The 74th was about to stand down and my extra 6 months was about to come to and end.  I can honestly say that I was "over" being involved with the exciting part - these guys were trying to kill me!!.  I left Quan Loi at the end of February, 1972 just in time to escape the Easter Offensive at An Loc when the area was overrun by the NVA.  Quan Loi, itself, was overrun on April 7, 1972.

I got home in March and I will always remember getting my local newspaper one day in April of 1972 and on the cover was a photo of An Loc with the caption: "The Battle of An Loc".  I think I got home right in the Nick of time.

Rick Harris  Then  and  Now 


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SOG, the elite combat unit in the Vietnam War so secret that its existence was denied by the U.S. government. Code-named 'Studies and Observation Group,'  this all-volunteer unit took on the most dangerous combat assignments: penetrating North Vietnamese military facilities in Laos, Cambodia and along the heavily defended Ho Chi Minh Trail, identifying targets behind enemy lines for B-52 bombings and recovering downed U.S. pilots deep in hostile territory. With teams of highly trained soldiers that seldom exceeded a dozen men, SOG managed to tie down thousands of enemy troops while performing their daring missions."   As described in "SOG The Secret Wars of America's Commandos in Vietnam", John Plaster (368 pages) [Taken from book advertisement at amazon.com]  Note- Mention of this site is not a advertisement to buy anything from this site rather it is simply a credit of a source for information used..





















Rick Harris remembers:  "One of those that was there (at an FAC reunion October 2003)  was an Army Colonel who was one of 4 Americans that was in An Loc throughout the siege. I had asked him what had become of the CCS people at Quan Loi. He did not have fond memories of dealing with the SOG guys at all. He told me that in March of 1972 before the battle began, he had gone to Quan Loi knowing that CCS was doing secret missions into Cambodia. He wanted to try and get info on what might be brewing with the NVA. We all knew that things were happening just across the border in Cambodia. We were losing entire recon teams and finding tank tracks on various highways. All of the upper echelon military dismissed our intel. Unfortunately when the Colonel asked the SOG Major what was happening and what might he expect, he was told that he didn't have a need to know and that he was not cleared for the intel. Of course that pissed off the Colonel to no end. The next thing the Colonel heard from QL in April, was a desperate call for help. The Colonel sent 2 platoons of VN infantry to try and help out at Qua Loi. Soon after they arrived at QL, the SOG guys were able to get a couple of helicopters in and left the ARVN infantry standing there to try and fight their way back. Needless to say, the Colonel was not to pleased with the SOG guys.