Monday, April 17, 1972
Pilot: Reds Came To Quang Tri To Stay
The pilot, Lt. John Rhodes, 26, of Jamestown, New York, who has been flying the Quang Tri area for several months calling in air strikes by U.S. Air Force and Navy jets, said the Communists have opened a fourth road across the western Demilitarized Zone, installed massive antiaircraft defenses, and appear to be building heavy new fortifications in a string of former government fire bases.
Rhodes said he also has seen major movement of Communist troops, tanks, and truckloads of supplies pouring into the embattled area from Laos through the Khe Sanh Valley.
Rhodes said it appeared the North Vietnamese were digging new bunkers and fortifications around the occupied fire bases at Cam Lo and Camp Carroll to the southeast, as well as in other areas.
He said although some destroyed Communist tanks can still be seen, many hulks have disappeared and it was possible they were being cannibalized to put damaged equipment back into operation.
"The majority of their tanks have gone into stationary positions. They are guarding their perimeter with them just like we guard ours," he said. The tanks are well camouflaged and very difficult to see from the air.
Rhodes said the new road into the area is called "Bilk's Boulevard" after the pilot who discovered it. He said it follows a razorback ridge across the DMZ just west of abandoned Fire Bas Fuller. "It went from a trail to a two-lane highway in a matter of the last two months," he said.
He said antiaircraft defenses in the occupied area are much stronger than any he ever encountered in Laos during several months when he flew FAC missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. "In the last two days, I've seen a lot of guns, and they are farther south and east than ever before.
"They've got a gun on every hill and knoll, and around their important points, they've really got heavy stuff. There is one place near Carroll where they've got five 23s (23mm antiaircraft artillery).
"I don't know what they are protecting, but they've got to have something good around there, maybe a lot of POL (fuel) or an ammo dump."
Rhodes said he saw about 1,500 people moving openly on the ground in Mai Loc, a village about a mile southeast of Carroll, and he suspected they were Communist troops. But he was unable to call in strikes because there could be civilians in the area, he said.
Rhodes also said bad weather had shielded the North Vietnamese from U.S. air power until they were already in position and well dug in.
"I'm convinced that for this war the NVA have got a big weather machine up there and they just order up the clouds," he said. "If we'd had the weather with us when it started and before they got all that flak into the area, we could have stopped it. But now it's going to be really tough."
"Pilot: Reds Came to Quang Tri to Stay", by Kim Willenson, (UPI), published in the Pacific Stars & Stripes Monday, April 17, 1972 and reprinted from European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication copyright, 2002 European and Pacific Stars and Stripes.
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