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U.S. and South Vietnamese Suffer Major Setback in Mekong Delta

Jan. 2, 1963 - Communist guerrillas armed with automatic weapons inflicted a major defeat today on U.S. helicopters carrying troops into an operation in South Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. Five helicopters were shot down. Fourteen of the fifteen helicopters taking part in the operation were hit by guerrilla gunners. Three Americans were killed. One was an infantry captain serving as an adviser to a ground unit, one a crew chief in an armed helicopter, and the third a gunner of a transport helicopter. It is believed that six or more Americans were wounded during the long, bloody fight. This was by far the worst day for American helicopters in Vietnam since the American buildup began there more than a year ago. At one point in the action, three American crews were stranded as other Americans and Vietnamese were unable to get to them. However, eight hours after they were shot down, B-26 fighter-bombers, using bombs and napalm, softened up Communist resistance to permit the evacuation of the crews. The deaths brought to 30 the number of Americans killed in action since the U.S. began aiding South Vietnam in its war against the rebels.

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