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Prairie Fire

21 May

Thanks to the guys at ARFCOM for providing this powerful bit of history.


“Prairie Fire” x2

This is a recording of two Recon Teams (RT’s) who are in dire straits. Both RT’s are loosing a battle wherby death is immenient. Those RT’s are: RT Colorado with Pat Mitchel being the 10, Lyn St. Laurent as the 11, and David “Lurch” Mixter as the 13. RT Colorado is an eight man team including the five Indigenous troops. The other was RT Hawaii with Les Dover as the 10, Regis Gmitter the 11, and John Justice the 12 (I believe this to be the case with this recon team as far as who was what on the team through natural progression of skills learned in combat.) May not be accurate though, reader and listener take note. Also, it is unknown to me how many Indigenous Troops made up RT Hawaii at that time.

RT Colorado is the team that is running for its life. RT Hawaii is holding their own. Both RT’s have called out a “Prairie Fire” in Laos near the Ho Chi Minh Trail and are approximately 10 miles apart as the crow flies. Colorado has just been hit by a North Vietnamese platoon of 40 men who desire no more than to wipe this team completely off the face of the Earth.

During this Prairie Fire, David Mixter is killed when he saves Mitchel’s life by shoving him to one side and exchanging fire with an NVA armed with an RPG. Mixter and the NVA exchange fire immediately. The NVA fires his RPG as Mixter fires his weapon. The RPG hits Mixter in the knee area and kills him instantly as the NVA drops dead by Mixter’s return Fire.

What exactly does a “Prairie Fire mean? It means at least three things, they are: 1) You are in contact with a much superior force than yours. 2) Either completely surrounded or will be. 3) Death is imminent.

The other two “emergencies” were the following: 1) Tactical – meaning you are engaged with the enemy, but you are holding your own for now. A “Team emergecy” which means that someone on your team is injured or sick.
this could be upgraded at any time to a “Prairie Fire”. Especially if you are surrounded and have allot of wounded.

All pilots that flew gunships, helicopters, attack and fighter aircraft were given a “briefing” before flying in country. That briefing entailed what to do if a FAC has called out a “Prairie Fire” over the radio. By the rules in Vietnam everyone listening was to stop what they were doing and come to the aid of the FAC/Recon Team(s).

John “Plasticman” Plaster is the “Covey Rider or Backseater” on the afternoon shift with Captain Mike Cryer as the pilot of their OV-10 Bronco. They had just lifted off from Pleiku after eating lunch there and are heading out towards Laos. Ken “Shoebox” Carpenter is flying as the CR onboard the military version of the Cessna 210 Skymaster over Laos at this time. As Plaster and Cryer left for Laos they noticed how clear the sky was considering that most of January had been very wet. As they passed Ben Het below, Cryer switched their radio frequency over to “Shoebox” Carpenter’s frequency and what you hear for the next 35 minutes is two RT’s fighting to stay alive.

One other item of importance. The reason why you hear so many people talking at once is because allot of the helicopters and FACs had what is known as a “hot mic”. What this means is that the microphone is always on and talking on it is much like talking on a telephone. Everybody can talk and hear responses immediately. The only exception to this is the Recon Team(s). They relied upon the PRC-25 and much later in the war the PRC-77 for commo and this meant that the RT could constantly moniter a channel (receive) and transmit by pushing the button in on the handset.

Also, the first “Prairie Fire” you here is from RT Hawaii’s 1-0 Regis Gmitter and it is during their rescue mission. When you here Platster call on the radio: “I have your smoke, where do want the firepower brought in?” you will hear Pat Mitchel’s voice stating that “Their is only two of us left and Charlie is dead on our ass!”. Mixter was killed a few minutes before this and the Indigenous troops are nowhere to be seen. Also, it is during this time that Mitchel is carrying Lyn St Laurent as he is seriously wounded himself. They are fighting for for their lives. Pay special attention to the background noise when Plaster is talking. You can hear the twin engines screaming and an occasional burst of the four mounted M-60’s. The continuos M-60 firing at the end is from the rescue Hueys doorgunners. One is firing one long string of 7.62 ammunition through his M-60 without stopping. It is still a very hot area.

Here is the following code names/words that are used in this recording that may be of use to the listener. Hopefully this will make the following conversations easier to understand and follow. Here are some of these words:

1) Plasticman John Plaster’s personal call sign while on a RT
2) White Lead Huey in charge of flying the rescue mission
3) Delta Papa Three John Plaster’s call sign while flying as Covey Rider in Bronco
4) Tango Papa Pat Mitchels call sign as 1-0
5) Panthers AH-1G Cobras. Also known as “Cobra”
6) Kingbees H-34 Helicopters usually flown by Vietnamese pilots
7) Bravo Hotel Ben Het SF camp
8) Delta Tango FOB at Dak To
9) Foxtrot Mike FM radio frequency
10) Victor VHF radio frequency
11) Uniform UHF radio frequency
12) Straw Hat Type Code name for American personel on a RT
13) Kilo November Known North. Position is “Kilo November”
14) Lurch David Mixter’s personel call sign
15) Winchester Air assets that are out of ordnance

Note: If any codenames/words are left out, they are unintentional. I ask that you either PM me or send a response to this thread with any question you may have. I will try and find out the answer and if I cannot, hopefully one of the SOG members here can respond to it. Any error(s) that may have occurred above are mine and only mine. I applogize ahead of time for this.

Note: From my point of view, one should listen to this if possible, in a dark and quiet room with no distractions. This way you can hear and understand most of the recording.

This recording is dedicted to the greatest soldiers in the world, the men who wear the Green Beret.

And a response from someone there…

What a surprise to find this after 40 years!!! I am Lyn St. Laurent, the 11 on RT Colorado, and mentioned by name in Plaster’s book as well. Just a few corrections to your description of what took place Jan 29, 1971: First off, it was me who David Mixture shoved down, not Mitchell, and yes, he did save my life @ that time. I had a hold of him when the RPG hit, and the blast knocked me down….at that time a burst of AK fire hit me, and I ws wounded seriously. I recovered a bit to see only Mitchell’s face and called out to him that I had been hit. He did not hesitate to come for me, and we both escaped downhill. One should note that although I was wounded, I could walk on my own, and could carry on conversations with Plaster and other assets, as I was the radio operator. We had regained our numbers when the ‘yards’ found us, and were safely extracted, thanks to our great American comrades!!! Over the years I have been in touch with Mitchell and Plaster, and those of us @ SOG will always have a special bond. It is good to know that our efforts were not in vain, and we are thankful for the support of so many. Sincerely, Lyn W. St. Laurent

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