Donald Downum

Donald Downum
I was assigned to CCN  from August 1970 to August 1971.  I was assigned to the 4th platoon of Company A as squad leader with SFC Paul Bellofatto, SSG Sam Snyder and SSg Michael Jordan and SSG Martin Atbiet.  We were sent to secure radio relay sight Hickory and spent the month of September 1970 there.  Upon returning to Da Nang I was sent to one zero school and was there for 4  to 6 weeks. Our platoon did a couple of rotations to Quang Tri MLT 1.  I was involved in two  or three cross border operations. One in February in which SSG Arbiet was  KIA and  one in support of the Vietnamese invasion of Laos and a walk off patrol from a A Camp, into the A Sau valley. I then became the photographer for CCN.  Myself and two other SF’ers (SGT Scott and another name unknown) were ambushed across the highway  from the main CCN gate in early August 1971 they were both wounded and I led a recon team from the main camp to retrieve them. 
I am attaching a narrative of the fire fight in which SSG Arbiet was killed.  I have numerous photos also.
Donald . Downum

The following is a narrative of SSGT Martin I. Arbeit’s final mission taken from the Special Forces History website: SSGT Arbeit was Killed in Action while on an operation in Laos. Arbeit was a “straphanger” (not a regular member of the unit) from his platoon to the Bru (indigenous fighters) platoon of Company A on a raid mission code named Tall Timber. The 1-0 (one zero) was Bellofatto, 1-1 (one-one) was M. Arbeit, 1-2 (one-two) was M. Jordan, 1-3 (one-three) was S. Snyder, 1-4 (one-four) was Downum, and 1-5 (one-five) was Witner, an attached medic from the dispensary. There were 18 Bru as well. That mission was to be raid and like a number of other targets it turned out to be based on bad intelligence: there was no target. A common joke at CCN was about “truck parks that were actually “tree parks.” Once we confirmed that there was no target the system went into its usual secondary mission, “as long as you’re in there, start looking around.” I believe that we were in Laos for about 3-4 days when covey gave us an update which included a message prefaced with “Saigon says.” Based on the content, this type of message was obviously derived from radio intercepts and rattled the powers that be in Saigon. The content was that the NVA knew that we were there but were ordered not to make contact with us but to see what we were up to. Twenty four people, as any recon man will attest are simply too big to conceal and as any SFer knows is too small to put up much of a fight (without air support). At this time I remember jokingly saying that if Saigon would tell us what frequency the NVA were on we could tell them that we weren’t anxious to make contact either in that portion of the Tchepone map sheet. It was a day or two later in the midmorning that shots came from the front of our patrol. What happened was as the point man turned a corner there were two NVA leaning against a tree and resting. The point man immediately opened fire killing one and probably wounding the other who, nonetheless managed to run around the nearby next bend. On hearing the shots Arbeit, who was near the front, without calling for a cover, rushed past the point man, past the dead NVA, and around the bend where he ran into either the wounded NVA or others. At this point Arbeit was hit by two rounds, one to the torso and as he fell back another that hit next to the scrotum. As doc Whitner rushed to assist, and Bellofatto tried to raise covey on the radio and declare a Prairie Fire, Snyder and I started to get the men into a defensive position. We placed prepared explosives on some trees and made a clearing big enough for ladders to be used. We had a bit of a fire fight until the extraction package arrived (covey, chase ship, 2 Cobras, and 4 extraction slicks with ladders). After working the Cobras around our position the first slick came in. As it pulled out with a number of Bru on the ladder, it was hit and crashed a short distance away. While Bellofatto, Snyder, and Downum took some Bru and went to recover men from the downed slick, I worked the Cobras. This was probably the battalion which we had been warned about as I could at times actually hear (presumably) officers and NCOs hollering orders in an evident effort to direct the troops into sweeping maneuvers and/or attack formations. At the crash site the two dead from the crash, the pilot and one Bru, were hooked up to Stabo (extraction harness) lines and they were pulled out. The package then had to return to the nearest rearm/refuel point, but by now I had 2 A-1Es overhead. I was working a second pair of A-1Es when the three teammates returned from the crash site with the copilot, crew chief, and door gunner and said that they cleared the KY (voice encryption) device and removed the door guns/ammo. The Cobras were the first ones back with covey and now they had also grabbed two more Cobras (enroute who were somewhat confused by the code words that directed them to “follow us into Laos”), so we were working 4 of them as the rest of the package arrived. The NVA were stubborn and had actually been firing at the Cobras and A-1s after they passed over which did not amuse the pilots. At any rate with the A-1s and Cobras on hand for the rest of the extraction went as well as could be expected while under fire and there were no further casualties. As we were enroute back to the MLT (Mobile Launch Team) the Air Force dropped napalm on the downed chopper. This is the best that I can recollect from that day. (By M. Jordan) [Taken from] MORE Flag this remembrance as inappropriate. Are you sure you would like to flag this – See more at: