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He was well read, spoke several languages, and was working on his first masters degree. He was a husband and father and, best of all--at least to the decision makers--he was a professional soldier. Paccerelli had fifteen years of military experience, ten of which had been as an enlisted man. He was Airborne, Ranger, Special Forces, and Jungle School qualified, and had already served two difficult combat tours of duty. He had earned a uniform full of awards, tabs, and medals in battles in Laos, Cambodia, and the Central Highlands of South Vietnam long before he arrived in country for his third tour of duty.
So when G-2, the division-level intelligence arm of the Cav, requested the names of officers qualified to command Company E, 52d Infantry (LRP), at Camp Evans, Lt. Col. Addison D. Davis, the battalion commander of the 2d of the 7th Cav, submitted Paccerelli's name. After all the interviews had been conducted and the selection made, Davis was the first to let Paccerelli know of the outcome.
"Congratulations!" Davis announced with a broad grin. "You're the lucky bastard!"
Until that moment, George Paccerelli had been the battalion's acting S-2, intelligence officer, and he was well suited to run the shop. No one appreciated the intelligence officer's slot more than someone who had had to rely on tactical information in combat. The thirty-two-year-old mustang (former enlisted man) officer had been temporarily filling the slot until a company-command position opened up in one of the battalion's infantry line units, which is where he really wanted to be. Paccerelli was next in line for a combat command and looking forward to it. However, division headquarters had other ideas. Echo Company (LRP) would get priority, not that it really mattered to Paccerelli. In fact, he was genuinely pleased with the idea and saw it as a plum. The concept of small five- to six-man Lurp teams working behind the lines was one of the best ways he knew to beat the Viet Cong and their North Vietnamese commanders at their own game of guerrilla warfare, and with the immense helicopter gunship support the Cav had to offer, he was looking forward to taking command of the air mobile long-range patrol company. There wasn't a veteran Special Forces soldier who didn't subscribe to the logic of Sun-tzu, the ancient Chinese warrior/philosopher, "If you cause opponents to be unaware of the place and time of battle, you will achieve victory."
In the war that preceded the U.S. effort in Indochina, the French had belatedly discovered that commando units working behind the lines could effectively deal with the Viet Minh. The Groupement des Commandos Mixtes Aeroportes, better known by their initials, GMAC, were remarkably successful, but deployed too late in the war to turn the tide of their ultimate defeat. Yet, after Dien Bien Phu had fallen and French control over the region slipped into the hands of Communist general Vo Nguyen Giap in 1954, the GMAC commandos managed to fight on effectively for several more years. The "little wars" of the guerrilla fighter were very often effective.
As the S-2, George Paccerelli had often dealt with the division's Lurp teams and was impressed with what he saw and heard during their patrol debriefings. The division Lurps, in his mind, had their act together. Everyone at division knew what they had accomplished six months earlier on Signal Hill, and even if they didn't know the specifics, they sure as hell knew the basic story. It was Custer's Last Stand with a happy ending.
Six months earlier, in Operation Delaware, the Cav had raided the enemy-held A Shau Valley. While seven of the division's nine infantry battalions had roared into the valley and up the surrounding slopes, the Lurps were rappelling onto the five-thousand-foot peak of A Loui, a dark, brooding mountain that overlooked the valley floor. The Lurps, along with volunteers from the 8th Engineers and the 13th Signal Battalion, had been tasked to establish a radio-relay station to coordinate the Cav's operations in the valley below. The radio-relay station was essential to the success of Operation Delaware, and the assault force of Lurps, engineers, and signalmen had to take and hold the mountaintop.
On the morning of 19 April 1968, the assault force departed Camp Evans for the A Shau. The flight was an anxious one for the cavalrymen. Since there was no open space big enough for the helicopters to land, the Lurps had to rappel onto the mountaintop. As the lead UH-1 flared for its short final approach, gusty crosswinds rising over the valley hit the aircraft, forcing it to veer away. The pilot struggled desperately to hold the aircraft steady, but it was a losing battle.
As the first two men hooked up to the ninety-foot rappelling rope and climbed out on the skids, the helicopter's engine faltered, then began to fail. The two Lurps on the ropes, Sergeants Bill Hand and Larry Curtis, had already begun their descent. Too far below the crippled aircraft to be hauled back aboard, Hand and Curtis tried to beat the chopper to the ground, falling the last forty feet into the trees only seconds before the dying aircraft tumbled down behind them.
Injured and dazed from the hard landing, Hand had just enough time to bring his hands over his head, tuck into a tight ball, and roll away before the Huey crashed down through the trees, its main rotor blade digging a trench into the jungle floor just inches from his head. The helicopter itself fell directly on Curtis but, miraculously, did nothing more than trap the injured Lurp beneath its skids.
The second miracle was that there was no fire from the ruptured fuel tank as the helicopter's fourteen hundred SHP Savco Lycoming engine died screaming in place. Those aboard the downed aircraft had also survived, but not without taking a heavy beating against the airframe as it tumbled through the trees. The survivors struggled to climb out of the twisted wreckage, trying to establish some sort of perimeter and assist those too injured to help themselves. Just below the crest of A Loui, the NVA had previously mounted antiaircraft positions to deal with the threat of American helicopters so enemy soldiers were already beginning to turn their attention, and their guns, to the mountaintop above them.
Posted December 26, 2008
this is an excellent book for any fanatic of wars, battles, etc. it comes across as a story of a man is in the height of the Vietnam War from 1968-1969. within the first 20 pages or so, George Paccharelli is shot in the arm and is pinned to the ground due to a bayonet going through his foot. it jumps right into the action and leaves you with action at the end as well. i recommend it to anyone interested in seeing the Vietnamese War through a soldier's perspective- a perspective in which your job is to go deep behind enemy lines and do recon work before the team is sent out on a mission. these people were literally A FEW FEET away from the enemy and still held their composure. there is one part in the book where a new guy to the platoon is sent out with his team of 5 men (any larger would be impossible since 10-15 men can't ride in a Huey comfortably with their gear) and they are literally 5 feet from the enemy, and yet the enemy doesn't even know they are there. the enemy actually kicks one of the team member's stomachs and keeps walking. they open fire on the 30 something enemy VC and NVA soldiers and wipe them all out. the new guy said he was getting a transfer right away. later on, he was talking to a veteran LRRP that was in his team that night. his simple response to the new guy was,"yeah that was a good firefight, and sometimes it even gets scary."
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Posted May 25, 2001
Kregg Jorgenson has written a outstanding tribute and account of the men and Commanding officer of 'Hotel Company' Rangers in LRRP COMPANY COMMAND. Then Captain George Paccerelli was a seasoned Special Forces / SOG combat veteran when he assumed command of the LRP Company in 1968. Intelligent, devoted to continuous training and truly caring about the well being of the men that were being sent out into the enemy's rear area. You will find this book well written and informative about the ever-changing warfare the LRP's were employing as they adapted new techniques. While reading this book I found very detailed descriptions of being in 'the backyard' while the small LRP teams set up their ambushes, prisoner snatches, intelligence gathering missions. You will come to appreciate these highly trained and heroic soldiers as they dealt death to the enemy on his level. In closing Col. (ret) George Paccerelli was inducted into the 'Ranger Hall of Fame' in 1993. During his speech at the induction he made the statement ' Getting into the Ranger Hall of Fame was easy with the kind of caliber of people I had in that company, I was very fortunate and the honor is very much theirs as it is mine.' This alone says something about what an outstanding person this man is. Where will you find this retired Colonel today? Having earned a Ph.D. he teaches History at a Community College¿ how fitting.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 28, 2010
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Posted December 25, 2010
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Posted July 24, 2011
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