Charlie 1-506th Infantry

 

Vietnam Chronicle 1967-1971

 

 

William Higgins


Copyright © 2012 Author Name

All rights reserved.

ISBN:

ISBN-13:

 


DEDICATION

 

 

This is dedicated to all of the men who served in Charlie 1-506th Infantry and to those that supported them during the war and afterwards.

 


CONTENTS

 

 

 

Acknowledgments

I

 

 

Forward

 

1

Arrival

1

2

Song Be

 

3

Phuoc Vinh area

P

4

Dak To

P

5

Cu Chi then Head North

 

6

Camps Eagle, Evans, and FB Jack

P

7

Road to the A Shau

P

8

A Shau Valley

P

9

DMZ Mission

P

1

Return to Camp Evans and FB Jack AO

P

1

Granite

P

1

Kathryn and Maureen

P

1

Ripcord and Kathryn

P

1

Birmingham, Veghel, Tomahawk

P

1

Gladiator to Rakassan

P

1

Back to Rakkasan and the lowlands

P

1

Vandegrift and the lowlands

P

1

Gladiator and Barbara

P

1

Final days in the lowlands

P

2

Back to the “World”

P

2

Acronyms and Jargon

P


Forward

 

This is a chronicle of Charlie Company, 1-506th Infantry’s service during the Viet Nam war from arrival in late 1967 until the unit’s departure in early December 1971.  I served in Charlie company from July 1969 until July 1970 and generally remembered what happened but had some difficulty placing some of my recollections at a specific place and time.

I hope this effort will serve as a framework of the company’s experience in Vietnam – a starting point where others can add their recollections of events.  The real stories are underneath or behind this chronicle.

Having attended a few reunions of Charlie Company members 40 plus years after our service, I realized there was a need for a memory aid to help recall the places and events that were etched into our lives many years ago.  At reunions I hear questions like:  “what was the name of that firebase?” “who got wounded in July?” and “what was ‘Doc’s’ real name?”  Since most of us served one year tours with the company, this effort can outline events during our time and inform what took place before or after.

With great insight, the author, Tim O’Brien said, “There are as many wars as there are soldiers who fought in them.”  The, 1,200 plus men who served in Charlie Company during the Viet Nam war had similar experiences overall yet other factors intervened to make each man’s service unique.  The men who happened to be in front of and behind them at a point in time, mattered a great deal.  The leadership and skill of squad leaders, platoon sergeants, platoon leaders, and company commanders as well as the experience level of the individual soldiers in the squad had considerable impact.  Which platoon was selected to go to which LZ may have been significant.

Luck, good or bad also played a role.  Being in a foxhole found by a mortar round or satchel charge; being selected by the enemy as a target when there were several targets from which to choose; being on leave when the unit had a major contact; missing a helicopter flight due to bad weather; and, being selected for a “rear job” – these and myriad other events and circumstances contributed to each man’s war having purely singular elements.

One caveat with this chronicle is that in most instances, it understates the intensity of activity – perhaps by a factor of ten.  It may record that the company moved from one place to another but it does not say that the men carried 80-100 pounds on their back, were sweating profusely climbing a wet mountainous trail, getting bitten by leaches, cut by elephant grass, and expecting enemy contact momentarily.  It does not do justice to the smell and sounds of firefights with rifle, RPG, and mortar fire blasting nearby with the terror and violence of close combat.

This effort is largely drawn from military records such as battalion and brigade journals, after action reports, and morning reports.  Documentation for 1968 is the most lacking compared to the last three years.  Not until the Fall of 1968, did the 101st come together as a division with uniform procedures for documenting its military operations.  The chronicle is augmented with first-hand accounts where available.  I’ve been able to get information from about 50 men who served in the company from a total of 1,200 plus.

Admittedly, there is an uneven quality to this chronicle.  Some scenarios are covered in much more detail than others.  Some personal observations are made as they apply to the story while others are not.  In a few places, I interject my own thoughts about the military strategy although that opinion has not really changed since 1969.  This lack of balance is not intentional but solely due to what information I have been able to gather as I looked at the unit over a four-year period.

This chronicle, with some story elements, should mesh well with charlie1-506.com, the web site for the company.  The web site contains many photos, maps, statistics, and personal recollections that add the pizzaz that the pure chronicle may lack.


Acknowledgements

 

 

When I started thinking about this effort in 2008, I sent letters to several men, asking for their recollections.  One of these was Jim Lee from Montrose, CO.  I believe Jim disregarded my first attempt but did answer a follow-up letter.  Had he not responded, most likely, I would have gone on to other things and not completed this chronicle.

I should thank Gene Overton from NY for pushing me to expand the coverage of Charlie company’s service in Vietnam to include the early phase.  Initially, I only intended to cover the year that I served there.  Gene was very helpful in providing insights to the deployment of the company in III Corps, far south of my experience and the wandering nature of the company until the 101st was united in the Hue/Phu Bai area in fall of 1968.

A special thanks to all of those from Charlie company who provided their own recollections of events, a number of which are found on charlie1-506.com.  In many cases, it may have been painful to resurrect old memories but at the same time, it may have been therapeutic for them as well as myself. 

Thanks to Richard Boylan and Martin Gedra of the National Archives at College Park, MD.  Richard showed me an awards log used by the 101st and Martin provided me with several helpful research suggestions.  With great persistence, Jackie Ostrowski, a researcher in the St Louis area, was able to get 1970-1971 morning reports from the National Personnel Records Center in St Louis, MO.


 

 

 

 

 

 

1 ARRIVAL

 

 

Since mid 1965, the 101st Airborne Division had one combat brigade in Vietnam and two at Ft Campbell, Kentucky.  The Ft Campbell brigades and the US based 82d Airborne Division brigades were key components of the US strategic reserve to meet contingencies around the globe.  Once the US went “all-in” with regard to Vietnam, the two stateside brigades of the 101st Airborne were deployed to Vietnam during November-December 1967 as US troop levels were ascending to their peak of 535,000 in 1968.

The New York Times of December 12, 1967 reported 10,300 men and equipment were flown to Vietnam on twenty C-133 globemaster (turbo prop) and forty, C-141 starlifter (jet) aircraft.  Of the soldiers, about 2,000 had a prior tour in Vietnam and 1,000 had volunteered to return.  14,000 tons of their equipment came by air and about 20,000 tons by sea.  Company commanders and platoon leaders arrived early and were assigned to work with other US combat units to get acclimated before their soldiers arrived.  BG Frank Clay led the advanced party of the 101st Airborne and later was an assistant division commander.

The arrival of second and third brigades was about six weeks before the Tet 1968 attacks by the NVA and VC throughout Vietnam.  No doubt, MACV used these additional combat units as “fire brigades,” deploying them to areas deemed most threatened during this time of increased enemy activity.  Not until Fall of 1968 did the 101st Airborne, coalesce as a division and assume responsibility for a large chunk of real estate in the northern region of South Vietnam.

The 101st 1st Brigade, landed at Cam Ranh Bay in July 1965, initially moving to Bien Hoa and then farther up the coast to Phan Rang (200 miles to the NE) and to Duc Pho (200 miles north of Phan Rang).  Second and third brigades arrived in December 1967.  The second brigade was inserted briefly at Cu Chi near Saigon before heading north to the Hue – Phu Bai area.

3d brigade had three infantry battalions of four rifle companies each.  The three battalions were the 1-506th Infantry, 2-506th Infantry, and 3-187th Infantry.  The brigade was initially based at Phuoc Vinh, about 50 km NNE of Saigon.  This chronicle is about Charlie company, 1-506th Infantry.

Charlie company’s route went from Campbell Army Airfield to Wake Island, Midway Island, Clark Field in the Phillippines, finally arriving in Vietnam.  It’s safe to assume that Charlie company deployed at full strength and was highly trained as it departed Ft Campbell.  Allen R. Becker is the company commander and George Hinsch is the first sergeant – each since September 1967.

As the 3d brigade battalions arrive, they move by convoy to Phuoc Vinh (PVN) – XT 962488, site of the brigade base camp.  Phuoc Vinh was 35 kilometers north of Bien Hoa airbase and 50 kilometers NNE of Saigon.  It was a large, developed base camp like Camp Evans and Camp Eagle were to become in the northern part of South Vietnam.  It had perimeter wire and towers for observation and security.  The base had been constructed and occupied by other US units including the 1st Infantry Division.  PVN had a C-130 capable airfield about 1.3 kilometers long allowing the battalion to be transported rapidly over long distances.  PVN was astride Route 1A and had rubber plantations in the vicinity.  It had about 250-300 local structures and was relatively flat with nearby hills no greater than 60 meters.  The division command group arrived December 13.

For the 1-506th, the first few weeks in-country were filled with training, weapons firing, and maintenance.  The battalion ran airmobile training Dec 18 and weapons firing on the range, the next day.  The 1st Infantry Division, familiar with the area, assisted with mine and booby trap training.  They were able to get the 1-506th up to speed on the local area and enemy tactics.  At the same time, all of the 506th men were not rookies to Vietnam as many had served prior combat tours.

January 1968.  Charlie was one of the battalion’s four rifle companies:  Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta.  Echo company housed the battalion reconnaissance platoon and mortars.

Midday on the second, Charlie located 20 bunkers and mess gear indicating a VC base camp at XT 865530.  Jan 7-9 saw the 1-506th fire its mortars and conduct an airmobile operation with B battery, 2-319th Artillery.  The battalion conducted an airmobile assault via CH-47 and occupied an NDP at YT 005613 (LZ Yankee – about 15 km north of PVN).  On Jan 10th the 1-506th performed road- clearing operations to the south – OPCON (under the operation control of) 3-187th Inf.  The next day they set up ambushes, did road-clearing, and extracted NDP materiel from a firebase.  Charlie company remained in the field to provide security to an engineer construction effort on the 11th.

The 1-506th occupies FSB Keene YT 043358 on the 13th.  Keene is about 25 km SE of PVN.  The companies conducted search and destroy operations, capturing small amounts of VC supplies and a bolt-action rifle.  Charlie company finds 400 pounds of rice, 400 pounds of salt, and coffee/tea at XT 961673.  On the 14th, one man from Bravo or Charlie was injured when an M-79 round accidently fired, hitting him in the head (probably the steel pot).  Fortunately the round did not travel far enough to arm.  Charlie pulled security on FSB Keene on the 14th.

Charlie CA’d (combat assaulted – moved by helicopter) nearby to YT 082420 on the 15th and ran search and destroy operations four km to the west.  Travelling must have been relatively easier in this flatter terrain than in the steep hills the company patrolled later in the war.  C company remains in this area for a few days; the recon platoon is with Charlie at YD 045324 on the 18th.  Next day, Charlie departed LZ Judy XT 985390 and did search and destroy operations east of the 98 NS grid line.  They found a Massey-Ferguson #35 tractor (this model manufactured 1963-64).  20 Jan, Charlie and Bravo companies found 35 tons of rice in a VC base camp vic YT 010390.

Bravo company has one KIA and one WIA.  This is the battalion’s first death from hostile action.  Six men died Dec 19, 1967 in a UH-1 crash shortly after take-off from Phuoc Vinh airfield but probably not as a result of hostile action.  Charlie sees three VC at 1012, two kilometers west and pursues.  The night of the 20th, Charlie has two men wounded.  Line #59 is evacuated for a shoulder wound and line #107 has a “crease” in his arm and is not evacuated.  For security reasons, men assigned to rifle companies were assigned numbers with lower numbers going to the more senior ranking men.  Using the “line number” list, radio communications could report that line #57 had been wounded without mentioning his name.  Unfortunately, we do not have the line number lists today to tell us the names of those mentioned by ‘line number.’  Michael Coffee probably had the shoulder wound as he had purple heard orders for Jan 21, 1968.

The primary source of the narrative from Dec 67 thru Dec 68 is the journal kept by the brigade S3.  Later the battalion S3 would maintain a detailed journal with more information than the higher level kept.  Award citations and purple hearts provide some additional information but in general, Charlie’s first year in Viet Nam is not as well documented as its last three years.

On the 22d, Charlie made contact with three VC and captured small arms, ammo, and documents.  They were checking out a VC base camp/storage area vic YT 010390.  The 24th sees Charlie pulling security at Phuoc Vinh.  The next day, the company moves by helicopter to the LZ at Song Be bridge XT 925445, about eight kilometers SW of PVN.  I presume that this bridge was important to moving supplies for the US and ARVN forces and it was regularly secured to keep the VC from blowing it up.  The 26th sees Charlie CA to the Song Be bridge and return by foot to PVN via route 1A.  Two days later, Charlie moves on foot from PVN to the Song Be bridge via 1A and returns to PVN.  The company remains there thru February 4 pulling base security.

Charlie and the 1-506th have had a relatively quiet month.  Bravo Company lost one man.  It should be noted that other companies in the brigade have experienced significant casualties already.  2-506th Infantry had 18 men killed in January 1968.

February 1968.  Charlie combat assaults (CA’s) from PVN on the third to YT 019345 and is extracted from YT 022375 back to PVN where they pull security the following day.  Feb 5, Charlie is lifted to pull security on the Song Be bridge.  The next day, John Edwards drowns in the river.  At first, his body could not be located but it is found later.  The circumstances of his drowning are not clear.  This is Charlie company’s first fatality of the war.


 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Song BE

 

 

Bravo and Delta companies depart for Song Be (about 60 kilometers north) on 9 Feb.  To clarify, the Song Be bridge near PVN and the town of Song Be for the current operation are two separate places.  Charlie stays at the bridge through 12 Feb and then returns to PVN. They become OPCON to the 1st Brigade 101st on the 14th and move (probably by C-130) to Song Be.  Song Be is 110 kilometers NNE of Saigon and 2 km SW of Phuoc Binh.

At the strategic level, the country-wide Tet 1968 attacks had begun two weeks earlier and in many instances, the NVA/VC were beaten back.  To the north, the battles in Khe Sanh and Hue were continuing while MACV was repositioning forces throughout South Viet Nam.  Evidently, there was a greater enemy threat at Song Be than at Phuoc Vinh.

On the 14th, Bravo and Delta companies defend the Song Be base camp with the 2-17th Cavalry.  Charlie company arrives at 1130.  The 1-506 elements are OPCON to the 2-17th Cav.  The 1-506th Inf has 856 men assigned.  By the end of the day, the Cav has one KIA and six WIA.  Enemy losses are four VC killed.  Operations continue for the next few days with some RIF (reconnaissance in force), patrolling, and night ambushes.

18 Feb sees an increase in the fighting.  A VC battalion is operating in the Song Be area.  Bravo 1-506 is in contact with a VC company at YU 165100 – four kilometers NE of the airfield.  0137, 1-506 Inf reported that bunker 69 received three rounds of M-79 and small arms fire and noted that an aircraft taking off from the airfield received small arms fire.  During the war, the NVA/VC captured a relatively small number of US weapons and ammunition from US and ARVN forces and added those weapons to their normal arsenal.  At 0316, Charlie company reported receiving 31 rounds of mortar fire.  The battalion CP area received 27 rounds of 82mm mortar fire at 0340.  At 0420, Charlie received seven mortar rounds in their vicinity at YU 144076 (a short distance north of the airfield) and employed counter-mortar fire.  They received 57, 82mm mortar rounds from YU 135102 – about two kilometers north in the low hills.  At 0600, a helicopter gunship was put out of action due to rotor blade damage from small arms fire.  LTC Puckett is the 1-506 battalion commander.  At 0930, the 1-506th sends out patrols two kilometers to the east of the airfield and drops off an ambush.  Most likely, this is Delta company.  At 1050, the battalion reports that the water point is not secure and Delta receives sniper fire from south of the airfield.  By 1100, Charlie company secures the water point.  Elsewhere the ARVN and 31st Rangers are doing well against the VC.

At 1150, there are reports that the VC are digging-in about five kilometers NE of the airfield in the town area.  Bravo Troop, 2-17th Cav receives heavy fire suffering one KIA and one WIA.  Delta company is OPCON to the 2-17th.  At 1310, Delta company enters Song Be city to link up with the ARVN and an air strike goes in at YU 153107.  At 1540, Bravo company and B Troop, 2-17th Cav move against the VC at YU 168105.  By 1715, Delta company has three KIA and five WIA; spooky (aircraft with gatling gun) is called.  By 1710, Delta company has four KIA and 17 WIA (evacuated).  At 2045, Charlie receives small arms fire; at 2101, Charlie receives 40 incoming 82mm mortar rounds and employs counter mortar fires.  By 2400, the 2-17th Cav has two KIA and eight WIA.  75 VC are killed.

0020 on the 19th, Delta company is receiving small arms fire and has one man with serious frag wounds.    At 0100, Delta kills one VC.  MG Barsanti, CG of the101st, says the 1st Brigade will move north the next day (to Phu Bai near Hue).  There are a lot of changes going on as the 1-506th had come north to assist the 1st brigade 101st.  3d brigade assumes responsibility for the Song Be area at 1000 on the 19th.  Delta company pulls back to the Song Be perimeter to reorganize and is replaced by Bravo company.  Charlie continues to construct the new perimeter defenses.

The 20th is relatively quiet with a few incoming mortar rounds.  On the 22d, 18, C-130 sorties take elements of the 1st brigade north to Phu Bai where they will remain for the remainder of the war.  Charlie Company was fortunate and had no KIA during the Song Be operation.  Delta company moves to PVN to pull security.  A C-130 received fire the morning of 28 Feb, landed and burned. The next day the battalion is at Song Be, less Bravo company pulling security at PVN.

March 1968.  1 Mar, 1968 Charlie Company is pulling camp defense at Song Be.  The next day, they move by CH-47 to PVN where they remain until returning to Song Be March 7.

Alpha Company has a major contact at Song Be on 5 March. At 1229, they report six WIA with one man in critical condition.  Two gunships and one dustoff are shot down.  The enemy are employing 12.77mm anti-aircraft guns very effectively.  Additional reports show up to 17 casualties in Alpha Company and some of those may have died.  Ultimately five men are killed in this fight.  The battalion journal implies that award recommendations were completed for Alpha company but they are not found with the 101st records.

On 10 Mar there is a hearing for a Charlie soldier – article 99 UCMJ, misbehaving before the enemy.  No details are available.  Charlie Company defends the Song Be airfield and patrols within a kilometer of the airfield thru March 12, 1968.  The next day, the company moves by C-130 back to PVN.


 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Phuoc Vinh area

 

 

Charlie becomes OPCON to the 2-11th Cav.  This cav squadron  was part of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment based near Bien Hoa or Xuan Loc (20 miles east of Saigon).  Charlie works with the 199th Infantry brigade from 15 to 17 or 18 March in AO Harrisburg.  Charlie switches OPCON to 3-187th Inf on the 19th and goes into an unsecured LZ at XT 970402 (about ten km NW of Firebase Keene).

0814 20 Mar XT 959499, a Charlie OP made contact with two VC, one carrying a US carbine.  One man is wounded (lung wound) and sent to the 93d Evac hospital at Long Binh.  At 1120, Charlie is in contact with an enemy platoon and has three men wounded.  James Patton of third platoon died, most likely during the second of these two reported contacts.  At 1225, Charlie finds a dead VC from the 1120 contact earlier.  At 0615 21 Mar, Charlie is probed in their NDP at XT 958388.  Possibly two VC are KIA.

On 21 March, Charlie is released from OPCON to the 3-187th Inf and is airlifted to PVN.  They move to FSB Paris YT 133092, about 10 km ESE of Bien Hoa and set up an NDP at YT 135075.  The battalion mission is to secure the rocket belts to the N, E, and S of Bien Hoa and to protect Bien Hoa and the Long Binh military complex.  On the 23d, one platoon is securing the Division Headquarters at Bien Hoa while the remainder RIF’s to YT 135070.  The next day, Charlie moves to FSB Paris to pull security.  24 Mar 68, the 1-506th has 57 new replacements from the US.

25 Mar, Charlie air assaults to LZ Jack, YT 209062 – a low hill just south of the Song Che river.  They RIF to the NW and NDP at YT 188068, about five kilometers east of FB Paris.  The 27th sees Charlie conducting a RIF at YT 165075.  The next day move by foot to FSB Paris and then by air to PVN.  Thru the end of March, 1-506th Inf gets 121 new replacements.  The composition of the units is changing quickly as it does throughout the war.  On 29 March, Carl Carson, a cook in HHC is killed in an accidental shooting at FB Paris.

April 1968.  Thru April 3, 1971, Charlie is providing security at PVN and has a security element at division headquarters, Bien Hoa.  They are OPCON to 3-187 Inf at this time.  4 Apr has Charlie moving to FSB Paris where they provide security; the next day they move by truck and RIF to YT 115154.  The battalion journal reports “40 troops infused to 1st brigade” on Apr 5.  Not sure what this means other than 1-506th losing the 40 men.

6 April’s mission is to provide security with a platoon at FSB Turtle, YT 079044, and then RIF with the rest of the company near an NDP at YT 079159.  Charlie is OPCON to 2-506 Inf at this time and RIF’s locally thru Apr 14.

Apr 15-22 has Charlie pulling security at PVN with two platoons at the Song Be bridge on the 19th.  Alpha company begins a five day RIF without helicopter resupply in order to surprise the enemy.  At 2030 on Apr 20, Alpha company springs an ambush at XT 866520, killing 24 enemy.  Friendly casualties are 1 KIA and 17 WIA.  Charlie company has one man wounded on the 19th or 20th but no details are available.

Back OPCON to 2-506 Inf on Apr 23, moving by air to FSB Paris and then RIF to an NDP at YT 081221.  They are in that area thru the 26th.  April 27, Charlie found and destroyed 3 butterfly bomblet BBT’s and one bouncing betty BBT at YT 097209.  The also found and destroyed four bunkers and food supplies.  The 28th sees the company move from an NDP YT 078206 to YT 085200.  GEN Westmoreland stops by Phuoc Vinh and is briefed by the 3d Brigade commander COL Mowery and the 1-506th commander, LTC Puckett.

April 29 brings Charlie back to the Song Be bridge via CH-47 for the security mission.  30 April, the company ambush at XT 928426 has contact with a VC platoon at 1855 hrs near the west bank of the Song Be river.  The VC platoon fires from positions on the east side of the river.  Gene Overton is cited for showing himself to the enemy, thereby drawing their fire which allowed his squad to move to a more protected position.  Overton’s squad later sees a group of VC moving on their position and engages, killing two.  Under the cover of darkness, he moves his squad to rejoin his platoon and relative safety.

The company engages until 2005 and suffers six wounded (all evacuated), killing one more VC.  One of the wounded is David Burke.  At 1210 May 1, Charlie engages five VC at XT 945427, killing all five.  The next day they return to security at the Song Be bridge with RIF’s in the local area.

May 1968.  Dennis W. Brewer assumes command of Charlie company about this time.  2 May continues the security mission; on the third, Charlie found four butterfly bomb BBT’s and destroyed them in place – XT 915435.  At 12:45 the next day, Charlie is hit by a command-detonated claymore mine at XT 909435 and suffers two wounded, one seriously.  May 4-6 continues with security and local RIF’s at the Song Be bridge.  Charlie gets six replacements on May 5.

1635 on 7 May, Charlie receives small arms and automatic weapons fire and returns fire.  One of the company RTO’s is hit in relatively open terrain between the enemy and US; Nicholas Miller, platoon medic, rushes forward and treats the wounded RTO and protects him from further injury until the enemy are repulsed.  The enemy break contact at 1640.  Charlie has three wounded and two are evacuated.  9 May, Delta Company engages a VC squad at YT 003423, killing six.  Delta has two KIA and four WIA.

May 10 at 1305, Charlie engages eight VC at XT 940405.  The VC ran to the NW and Charlie called artillery in the direction of the escape.  About a half hour later and 500 meters to the east, Charlie finds a VC base camp with tunnels, 25 bunkers, medical supplies, and documents.  Delta company had a sizeable contact the day before and had one MIA.  They returned to the area and located the body – their results from the contact were 3 KIA and 7 WIA.  Enemy losses were several killed.

11 May continues the enemy contact.  At 1130, XT 941405, Charlie finds a company-size base camp and is engaged by eight VC and returns fire.  Three VC are killed.  A large amount of ammunition and documents is captured.  At 1540, Charlie receives automatic weapons fire and 60mm mortars – two are wounded and evacuated.

At 1230 on May 12, Charlie is engaged by a VC squad at XT 943404.  The company employs artillery, gun ships, and tac air.  By 1320, the enemy force in contact has increased to a platoon.  The company again employs all supporting fires until contact is broken at 1617.  Allen McNeil is killed and four men are wounded and evacuated.  Charlie NDP’s at XT 940399 and moves into the contact area the next day.  They destroy 22 additional bunkers.  Late on 13 May, the company returns to the Song Be bridge to pull security.  The company receives two replacements.

Until their move to Dak To on 26 May, Charlie continues with security at the bridge.  The 3d brigade headquarters is at Bien Hoa YT 013143 and the 506th conducts bushmaster operations – rest during the day and ambush at night.


 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Dak To

 

 

Third brigade moves by C-130 to Dak To in the central highlands on 26 May, 1968.  The brigade headquarters is at ZB 030220 and the base camp is 80% complete.  1-506 Inf secures Firebase 5 (YB 898188) and Firebase 6 (YB 935188).  Two days later, 3d brigade is at Dak Pek YB 950680) and the 1-506th Inf becomes OPCON to the 1st Bde, 4th Infantry Division.

1-506th is OPCON to TF Matthews at Dak To on May 31.  A map inspection of the area shows hills in the 1,400 meter elevation range with valleys and numerous drainages.  The AO closely resembles the A Shau valley area in I Corps.

June 1968.  The flying weather is poor on June 3.  The 1-506th is back with the 3d brigade in AO Matthews.  Charlie occupies a strong point at YB 998130 with one platoon at YB 993140.  This is about 28 kilometers east of the Cambodia border and about 35 kilometers from Laos.  No doubt the NVA supply lines were not far from the border with Viet Nam.  Charlie’s locations are about 1,300 meters elevation and must have come as a shock to the men as it is quite different than the Phuoc Vinh terrain.  The company conducts RIF’s in the local area and remains in this area thru June 8 where they are patrolling within a few kilometers of their previous locations.  Current positions are YB 996130 and YB 993140.  Dak To receives eight incoming rocket rounds – 1-506th counterfires on YB 928162 and gets some secondary explosions.

June 9, 3d Brigade returns to Phuoc Vinh via C-130 (79 sorties total).  Charlie Company remains in Dak To, OPCON to the 1-8th Infantry and secures rocket ridge at YB 990120 thru 12 June.  13 June, a good part of 3d Brigade goes to Cu Chi (25 km NW of Saigon).  Charlie remains with 1st Brigade, 4th Inf Div at YB 858138 – an 800 meter elevation hilltop.

The 1-506th leaves Dak To on 18 June via C-130 and joins the 3d Brigade at Cu Chi.  They perform a maintenance standdown until the 20th when they move by convoy and set up an NDP at XT 453114.  This is flat rice-field terrain and quite a change from Dak To.


 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Cu Chi then Head North

 

 

June 21, 1968.  The day began with companies performing routine “sweep” operations.  1146, Alpha company located a bunker complex manned by an NVA/VC battalion and received automatic weapons and small arms fire at XT 430116.  By 1220, Alpha has two wounded and one KIA.  Charlie company is just 200 meters NW of Alpha and receives sniper fire at the same time – probably from elements of the same unit.  Charlie moves to flank the enemy battalion, to take some pressure off of Alpha company.

Artillery, CS drops, and air strikes are employed.  A number of men are wounded by automatic weapons fire from enemy bunkers and the first group is evacuated by 1510.  As of 1650, US casualties are 14 WIA (12 evacuated) and 4 KIA (not evacuated).  Charlie requests emergency resupply at 1720.  At 1800, the units are still in contact with an estimated reinforced VC company occupying an abandoned village and bunkers.

At 1840, A Company, 3-187th Infantry is inserted into an LZ at XT 417108, a kilometer or so to the SW.  During this insertion, five US were wounded and three VC killed.  Contact continues until 2130.  Charlie company has 29 WIA (21 evacuated) and 4 KIA.  Nicholas Miller, platoon medic, was again instrumental in tending to the wounded despite intense enemy fire during daylight and again during the evening when mortar barrages threw shrapnel on Charlie’s positions. 

The brigade command and control chopper in the vicinity received small arms fire and had two wounded.  Total US casualties were 45 wounded (26 in hospital and 9 returned to duty) and nine KIA (five in Alpha and four in Charlie company).  Enemy losses:  1 POW and 64 killed.

Enemy equipment captured included:  20 weapons, 106 75mm recoilless rifle rounds, 110 RPG rockets, 433 mortar rounds, 1,000 AK 47 rounds, 7,500 pounds of rice, 4,000 pounds of wheat, and half a ton of cement.

A purple heart order for Raymond Prieto indicates that he is among the wounded on this date.

The dead from Charlie Company were Johnnie Jackson, Bradley Johnson, Richard Tirico, and William Glaspie.

At 0822 the next day, Charlie killed a sniper at XT 428115.  The company then sets up ambushes at XT 421120.  The previous day’s action is updated with 73 VC KIA and 3 NVA KIA.  On the 23d, Charlie establishes a company ambush at XT 430126 and a platoon stay-behind ambush at XT 425124.  The 24th has 1-506th staging at FB Lela for movement the next day.

25 June has 1-506th Inf moving to Dau Tieng XT 490470.  The terrain is relatively flat with rubber plantations to the northeast and west.  Movement is from PVN via C-130, CH-54, CH-47, and truck.  Dau Tieng (about 50 km W of PVN) has an airstrip about a kilometer long.  The battalion’s mission is to establish a firebase vic XT 522524 and to clear and secure the Michelin plantation road  from Dau Tieng to Firebase Sis at XT 528522; also, to conduct two air assaults NE of Dau Tieng.  Charlie Company remains at Dau Tieng as the ready reaction force.

On the 26th, the 3d Brigade TOC is located at Cu Chi XT 650160.  Charlie Company and the recon platoon CA from Dau Tieng to an LZ at XT 522583 and establish an OP vic XT 522588.  On the 28th, Charlie is at Dau Tieng and OPCON to the 2-12th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division until 1400 and then returns to the 1-506th.

On 29 June, the 1-506th Inf (OPCON to 1st Bde 25th ID) is in a battalion NDP at XT496235, about 40 kilometers from the Cambodian border, near Chu Chi in Tay Ninh Province.  The terrain is flat with some abandoned structures, rice paddies, and patches of trees. It is about three kilometers north of the town of Trang Bang and highway QL-1.

1210, Charlie company is at XT 508239.  By 1900, all 1-506th Inf company elements are in an NDP at XT 496235.  At 0100, they are attacked by a sapper squad and an NVA company.  The enemy employed small arms, automatic weapons, RPG’s, and a good number of 60 mm mortars.  Heavy contact lasted about two hours.  The 1-506th employed 90mm grapeshot, 105 and 155 artillery, attack helicopters, and spooky aircraft (most likely AC-47).  Two emergency resupply and two emergency medevac missions were run.

NVA losses were 38 KIA, 12 AK-47’s, two light machine guns, and nine RPG’s captured.  US losses were three KIA and 20 WIA.  Ronald Griffin and Raymond Ordonez from Charlie Company  were killed.  Paul Zylko from Alpha Company was wounded and died of his wounds in 1999.

A Note from The Virtual Wall website reads:  On 29 June 1968 elements of the 1st Bn, 506th Infantry were conducting a reconnaissance in force near Chu Chi in Tay Ninh Province. At approximately 2130 the American night defensive position was subjected to a attack by mortar, RPG, and automatic weapons fire. Although much of the fire was directed against the "C" Company positions, a sapper squad attempted to infiltrate the "A" Company perimeter. The enemy failed to penetrate the perimeter but did wound a number of soldiers before being driven off. Three US soldiers are known to have died as a result of this action:

SGT Raymond Ordonez, Chicago, IL, "C" Company

CPL Ronald L. Griffin, Lancaster, OH, "C" Company

PFC Paul P. Zylko, Passaic, NJ, "A" Company (Bronze Star "V")

Sergeant Ordonez and Corporal Griffin were killed in the attack. PFC Zylko was badly wounded, losing his right arm, one eye, and his left thumb to an RPG. To make matters worse, Zylko contracted hepititis from a blood transfusion, and although he recovered from his wounds he continued to suffer from periodic bouts of hepititis. On 08 Sep 1999, thirty-one years after the night battle, he died of the disease. When the Army reviewed his situation they determined that PFC Zylko's death from viral hepititis was the direct result of his wounds and his name was added to the Wall in May 2002.

 30 June, Charlie captures a diary on a VC at XT 496232.  The CG of the 25th Infantry Division presented impact awards to members of Charlie Company.  The next day, Charlie moves from the NDP to XT 523233 and establishes a new NDP.

July 1968.  July 1, Charlie finds twelve, 100-pound bags of rice and 1,100 pounds of loose rice in a bin.  They allow the local civilians to keep the loose rice and set up ambushes in the vicinity.  LTC Robert Arter assumes command of the 1-506th Infantry.

Charlie had set up an NDP the evening of July 2-3 at XT 538264 in a rice paddy area near a village.  Some men noticed villagers in a hurry to leave the area.  Company field strength was about 60 men.  At 0140, the company was attacked by an estimated reinforced NVA company firing RPG, mortars, small arms, and automatic weapons.  Charlie employed artillery, AC-47 gunships (spooky 71), and flare ships.  Five US were killed and 11 WIA (evacuated).  13 NVA were killed.  The fighting was described as very close, almost hand to hand combat.  The enemy employed wave attacks and at one point, three enemy fell dead into a US fighting position.

Nicholas Miller was a specialist 5 medical aidman who was again cited for bravery during the battle.  While exposing himself to enemy fire, he moved from position to position, administering first aid to the wounded.  An indication of the fighting’s intensity was that half of his 20 man platoon suffered wounds, putting them out of action.  Miller was also hit by shrapnel  from a near RPG blast and suffered numerous wounds but this did not deter him from aiding the wounded as the battle raged.

Bravo company had one man wounded due to a US short round.

At 1028 the next day, one man was killed and seven wounded by a booby trap.  The brigade journal has conflicting reports on this boobytrap – it may have been a LAW tied to a rucksack awaiting extraction.  The six killed July 3-4 were:  Lawrence Coney, Jimmie Hankerson, Charles Maria, James Andrews, Harold Silvey, and Clarence Walker.  At this point it is not clear which death was due to the booby trap.  Purple heart orders show wounded include Charles McManus, Thomas Kirk, Gene Denning, Wayne Keilholtz, Milton Green, Joseph McCray, Celestino Gasbarro, and Gary Dollarhide.

The first sergeant, George Hinsch, was cited for skill and bravery during the battle.  He moved ammunition to sectors where it was needed and directed an emergency resupply using a strobe light.  He assisted in directing fires on the advancing enemy and constantly exposed himself to enemy fire while encouraging his men.

From Gene Overton:     1SG Hinsch was one of a kind; he would find the smallest reason to get out of base camp and into the field.  Several times our Battalion SGM (SGM Victor Cote, former Charlie Company 1SG prior to Hinsch) would have to order him back.  He was a blessing to have in the field; he did everything he could to take care of “his men” as he often called us.  In fact, he was invaluable on June 21st when Alpha and Charlie Company went head to head with a NVA / VC Battalion as well as on July 3rd, when the NVA tried to overrun us.  I believe he was awarded the Silver Star for his actions that night.  On Post at Fort Campbell you will find Camp Hinsch on Jordan Springs Road which was named after him; he died in training during a river crossing at the Recondo School where he was the NCOIC.

Later that day, Charlie Company was lifted to Cu Chi for a maintenance standdown and serving as the brigade ready reaction force.

Two observations at this time.  Charlie Company had lost close to a third of its field strength in the last few days.  No doubt replacements came in but to a large extent, it must have been a new company after the recent fighting.  About the enemy – they appear to be very aggressive in this AO.  At other times, the enemy would observe and recon the US force for several days before initiating an attack.  On June 29 and July 3, the enemy wasted no time in hitting the US positions.

The 506th Inf CP is at FSB Patton XT 693217 on 5 July.  The base received three incoming 82mm rounds, wounding three US and one ARVN and killing one ARVN.

On 6 July, Charlie made a combat assault to an LZ at XT 601306 and established an NDP at XT 599297.  The terrain is similar to the areas recently visited.  The next evening at 2115, Charlie engages two VC in an oxcart.  At 0500 on 8 July, Charlie found a company-size base camp with roads showing recent oxcart traffic.  Charlie secures a firebase at their current location (perhaps a new firebase).

21 replacements arrive for Charlie company on July 7th  and 17 the next day; 11 more on July 11.  Having trained at Ft Campbell and deployed as a unit, the company was about as cohesive as a company could be during the Vietnam war.  However, attrition from combat and other causes since December resulted in a largely new unit, requiring the leaders to train and blend the new arrivals into an effective fighting force.  This would continue to be a challenge from here on out.

On 10 July with the 1-506th, Charlie CA’s to XS 625836 and sets up area ambushes at XS 623807.  The 1-506 CP is at FSB Wallace, XS 574856.  The mission may have been an artillery raid as Alpha battery, 2-319th Arty accompanies the 1-506th.  The mission may also have been based on intelligence of enemy activity that did not pan out. This area is about 100 kilometers south of Cu Chi. The terrain is largely flat with rice paddies, near the Song Hau River and not far from the coast.  The next day, Charlie moves a short distance and conducts a RIF, followed by extraction to Cu Chi.  The 12th has Charlie securing FB Helga XT 439072 in a sugar cane area, about 30 kilometers SW of Cu Chi.

July 13 moves Charlie by air to Cu Chi and then on to Phuoc Vinh by C7A, small prop aircraft capable to take-off and landing on short airfields.  They become OPCON to 2-506 under the 1st Infantry Division on the 14th.  It is obvious that Charlie Company and the 1-506th have had to show great flexibility in the last few months working many different organizations in widely different terrain.  Having interchangeable parts gave the higher headquarters more options for organizing their forces but no doubt came at the expense of lack of familiarity that is gained by working in a consistent team over a period of time.

July 16-23, Charlie Company is pulling security at Phuoc Vinh and conducting local RIF’s.  On the 23d they are also securing highway 1A from PVN to XT 940460.  On the 23d, other brigade elements capture 13,500 pounds of rice in an enemy base camp consisting of 19 concrete bunkers, 4 tunnels, and 10 spider holes.

25 July, 1968 has Charlie Company moving to the Cu Chi (XT 650160) general area.  They are inserted at XT 506226.  The 1-506th Inf has Alpha company 2-506, Bravo 2-506, and Charlie 2-506th Inf OPCON.  At 1040, Charlie 2-506 has contact with 30 NVA at XT 511223.  It appears that the 1-506th is conducting a cordon and search operation.  By 1755, B company, 1-506th has four WIA.  Charlie 1-506th has a man with a broken foot – not combat related.  Charlie 1-506th  NDP’s at XT 503226.  This has been a rough day for the attached 2-506th Inf elements.  A company 2-506 has 6 KIA and 18 WIA; B company 3 KIA and one WIA; Charlie 2-506 had 2 KIA and 2 WIA. 

49 NVA are KIA.  The journals do not provide much detail about the battles on July 25th.  The organizations appear to be confusing in that the 1-506th Infantry seems to have more 2-506th Inf elements under its control and vice versa.  The next day, Charlie 1-506th CA’s to XT 500225.

By 27 July, Charlie has moved about 40 kilometers west and has an NDP at XT 504223.  A short distance from there they find four rucksacks and miscellaneous ammo.  The next day at XT 514224 they sight 7-10 VC and engage with artillery and air – the results are unknown.  At 1010 on the 29th, they find one VC body dead for a few days.  On July 30, Charlie engages 10 VC at XT 503233 with M-79 and artillery.  At 2300 they fire a claymore on two VC – results unknown.

August 1968.   4 Aug, 1968 Charlie finds 12,000 pounds of rice and miscellaneous gear.  On 6 Aug, the 1-506th goes to XT 490070, a flat rice paddy area where a VC battalion has been reported.  This is about 15 kilometers SW of Cu Chi.  There are some hot LZ’s.  At 2300, Charlie receives 15, 60mm rounds.  A FAC reported 14, .51 caliber positions.  The battalion suffered two KIA and 12 WIA.  14 VC were killed.  Charlie has no more KIA through the remainder of 1968.

9 August, Charlie has one man wounded by a BBT made from a US butterfly bomb at XT 509252.  This is very close to the areas where Charlie had contact with casualties in June and July.  At 0850, Charlie apprehended a male detainee.  0940, the unit found a 105mm round and then another at 1202.  The next day at XT 532272, the company found medical supplies and documents.  At 1915, they apprehended a 16 year old female who was sent to the 25th Infantry IPW cage.

12 Aug – 1000 Charlie received one RPG round with no casualties XT 557275.  At 1600, they captured one VC at XT 566265.

1615 on 17 August at XT 610244, Charlie found two plastic chicom mines uncovered by fire from gunships.  Also found were one US grenade and three booby-trapped 105mm rounds with pressure type fuzes.  At 1635, Charlie finds two tunnels, three bunkers, and nine spider holes, all about a day old.  The next day is similar.  Third brigade is still OPCON to the 25th Infantry Division.  At 1220, Charlie reports that three small arms shots were fired at a chopper 500 meters south of their location.  Artillery was called.  Over the next two hours the company located 3 US grenades with trip wires, one CBU, two booby-trapped chicom grenades, one 81mm round, two other type BBT’s, and four bunkers, one recently used.

19 Aug, 0745 Charlie finds a BBT in the entrance to a hut.  At 0940, they destroy an 82mm mortar round booby trap.  At 1015, they receive one burst of automatic weapons fire – no casualties.  1310 they find a tunnel with BBT.  At XT 564235 they found two 105mm rounds being prepared for BBT’s.  Nearby, two tunnels were discovered.  At 1828, the company observed VC attacking the position they had just left.  VC employed M-79 and mortars.  Artillery was called on the suspected location.  At 2307, Charlie engaged 4-5 VC at XT 552226 with M-79, artillery, and claymores.  There are no US casualties.

At 1950 on Aug 22, Charlie had 10, 82mm rounds impact nearby – XT 525250.  Negative casualties.  The next morning at 0930, a few hundred meters north, they received three 60mm mortar rounds and had one man wounded.  At 1305 they found and destroyed two booby-trapped butterfly bombs.

In late August 1968, the 3d Brigade, 101st Airborne begins to move north to the Hue-Phu Bai area.  The complete move took approximately 54 days from 1 Sep to 24 Oct 1968.

September 1968.  4 Sep 68.  1-506 Inf is closer to Phuoc Vinh, conducting RIF’s and securing PVN and the Song Be bridge.  1917, Charlie observed five mortar rounds impact near Phuc Hoa I and II – XT 932437, very close to the Song Be bridge.  Charlie is pulling security at PVN on the 10th.  The 1-506th Infantry may have moved to Camp Eagle by Sep 18, 1968 as some 3d brigade documents show them OPCON to Headquarters 101st Airborne at Camp Eagle.  The third brigade ceased operations with the 25th ID on 24 Sep 68 and prepared to move north to join the 101st.

Movement of men and equipment from Phuoc Vinh to Hue-Phu Bai probably took several weeks as aircraft availability was the most constraining factor.  Due to other priorities in country, MACV was not able to tell the 101st when aircraft would be available until shortly before they arrived so there must have been a good amount of waiting at the departure airfield.

Group award orders for the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, bronze star medal, and army commendation medal show 83 percent of the men were “RA” as opposed to “US” through Fall of 1968.  The “RA” indicated a volunteer while the “US” a draftee.  This might be a very rough indication of the popularity of the Vietnam war at the time.  From Fall of 1968 thru summer of 1969, the RA vs US numbers flipped with only 25% being RA.  Starting about July 1969, social security numbers began to be used for military service numbers so group orders do not provide the RA/US split.  Before the draft lottery began in December 1970, the selective service system was not particularly equitable, placing those with the least education and least financial means in the combat and combat support arms, thereby more likely to face close combat and injury or death.


 

 

 

 

 

 

6 CAMPS EAGLE, Evans, and FB Jack

 

 

October 1968.  The 1-506th must have organized itself at Camp Eagle after the move from Phuoc Vinh and begins operations in the hills south and west of Camp Eagle.  Initial construction of Camp Eagle was performed by the 1st Cavalry Division in January 1968.  The 101st Airborne Division headquarters moved to Eagle in March 1968 and began expanding the base camp.  The 82d Airborne, who had been in the area six months earlier to help clear the NVA from Hue, established Camp Rodriguez which probably merged into the expanded Camp Eagle.  The initial deployments of Charlie company were within supporting artillery fires from Camp Eagle.

3 Oct 68 finds Charlie Company at YD 775065 – about 20 kilometers due south of the city of Hue.  1545 they had two VC with AK’s Chieu Hoi (surrender).  Lest they think this was an easy AO, at 1830 they receive 15 RPG rounds at YD 772067 with negative casualties.  2020, the Charlie FO observed a rocket firing site with 4-5 VC.  Artillery was called in grids YD 7794 and YD 7784.

1120 4 Oct, Charlie finds a rocket launch site and four bunkers at YD 782064.  1325 at YD 773058 they find a fresh blood trail.  1502 they destroy two huts and 10, 82mm rounds.

5 Oct 68.  Charlie finds eight 82mm rounds under foliage at YD 771060 and destroys.  The terrain is the beginning of the steeper hills south of Hue and up to 600 meters in elevation.  1330 At YD 770057, they found a base camp, miscellaneous munitions, and a 35 foot sampan which was destroyed.  The sampan is about two kilometers from the nearest river, a pretty good carry for the VC.  At 1400, two recently used rocket sites oriented toward Camp Eagle are found at YD 770059.  Early evening, Charlie spots several VC with flashlights at YD 783056 and calls artillery.  They establish an NDP at 783064 but then move to an LZ where they are picked up and sent to FSB Boyd, YD 740133 which they secure.  Boyd is in the lowlands near the river about 10 kilometers south of Hue.

This is the beginning of the wet season where airmobile operations are more difficult due to decreased visibility .  Typically, the US forces in this part of the country, pulled back to the coastal areas about this time and did not move too much closer toward the Laos border until February or March.

7 Oct 1968.  1420, Charlie found and destroyed an 82mm position with a trench near FSB Boyd at YD 778119.  The company continues to secure Boyd.  One platoon with a popular forces (PF) squad CA’s to YD 763122 and RIF’s a kilometer to the east before returning to Boyd.  One platoon moved by air to Camp Rodriguez, YD 815148, to assist in the construction of the perimeter defense.  At this time, Camp Rodriguez was about 500 meters SE of Camp Eagle, eight KM SE of Hue and a couple of kilometers from the QL-1 highway.

9 Oct.  Charlie secures Boyd.  During the day, one platoon moves to YD 727117 and another to YD 802060.  These areas are in the lowlands near the river branches that flow SE and SW.

11 Oct.  Charlie receives one round of small arms fire from an unknown direction.  The company continues security on FSB Boyd while sending out platoon-size RIF’s to YD 729129 and YD 729122.  One platoon goes to the Pohl bridge YD 755144 to prepare defensive positions.  This bridge crossed highway 547 which was later extended into the A Shau valley.

14 Oct finds Charlie Company at Camp Eagle, unable to make a combat assault due to weather.  Charlie gets out the next day and CA’s to LZ at YD 784069 and RIF’s to an NDP at YD 779054.  This is the beginning of higher elevations south of Hue.

17 Oct, Charlie finds a base camp at YD766031 consisting of 28 huts with bunkers, a tunnel 150 meters long, and 150 meters of concertina wire on the perimeter.  They found a two week old grave.  The second brigade 101st Airborne had arrived in this general area in late 1967, about the same time the third brigade arrived in the south so on occasion, they must have operated where Charlie is now.

19 Oct, Bravo company finds a battalion-size base camp at YD 718046 with crew-served weapons and ammunition.  The VC must have left in a hurry.  Charlie sets up an NDP at YD 761032 and RIF’s to YD 739024.  On the 23d, Charlie finds a 75mm recoilless rifle site at YD 707068 with bunkers and destroys.

24 Oct, Charlie moves to Cocoa Beach (later called Eagle Beach) at YD 845321.  It is a short visit as they depart Camp Eagle at 0805 and return at 1150.  Most likely they got new clothing and repaired or replaced equipment.  Not much time for a dip in the water.

25 Oct, Charlie departs Camp Eagle at 0940 via CH-47 and moves to FB Panther II, YD 798107, 12 kilometers south of Hue.  Panther II is also know as FSB Arrow.  Charlie also sends two platoons to the Pohl Bridge.  The next day, Charlie secures Panther II (five kilometers SW of Camp Eagle) and RIF’s to YD 809111.  On Oct 26, 3d brigade receives a warning order to move to Camp Evans to replace the 1st Cavalry Division.  Two platoons are securing the Pohl bridge and RIF to YD 753134.  This routine continues thru October 30.

November 1968.  3d Brigade, 101st Airborne Division moves north to assume control of Camp Evans on 2 November 1968.  The marines and 1st Cav had occupied Evans previously.  Not clear if anyone had been there before third brigade’s arrival.  1-506th Inf moves to Camp Eagle on Nov 2 and to Camp Evans on 4 Nov. 

After marshaling at Evans on Nov 4, Charlie moves to YD 516318 and sets up an NDP, about a kilometer NW of the western edge of Camp Evans.

6 Nov 1968.  Charlie sets up multiple ambushes vic YD 530290.  Two days later, Charlie RIF’s back to Camp Evans and pulls security.  In the coming months as more support units are based at Camp Evans, those units provided men to man the perimeter bunkers, freeing the  infantry battalions from securing the large base camp.  10 Nov sees Charlie securing Evans and running RIF’s about a kilometer to the N, E, and SW.  On the 12th, one platoon CA’s to YD 485333, RIF’s, and returns to Evans.  Three platoon ambushes are set up in the vicinity of YD 550310.

14 Nov 1968.  Charlie continues security at Camp Evans.  One platoon CA’s to LZ Evonne at YD 484322 and then returns to Evans.  The 1st Cav division used the term LZ to include some firebases and base camps so places already named, tended to keep the old name; e.g., LZ Sally.  In 101st parlance, an LZ was a place where trees had been blown down, allowing helicopters to land.  The company does local RIF’s around Evans and sets up three platoon ambushes vic YD 540290.  The 15th is similar with one platoon CA to YD 473313 and returning.

17 November, YD 548300, Charlie apprehends one female in a spider hole with a weapon.  She is 20 years old wearing black pants and a green shirt.  Location is about two kilometers SE of Camp Evans.  On the 19th, one man hit an M-26 hand grenade booby trap at YD 554298 and is evacuated.  Nov 22 has Charlie serving as the brigade ready reaction force at Camp Evans while a squad secures a minesweep along QL-1.

25 November, Charlie RIF’s from Camp Evans to YD 480340 and sets up three platoon ambushes.  First platoon remains at Evans.  The 27th, Charlie NDP’s at YD 474323 and then RIF’s south along both sides of the Song Lau River and sets up ambushes in the vicinity.  30 Nov finds Charlie company performing security at Evans with two local ambushes.  This continues thru 3 Dec with some security of minesweeping along QL-1.

December 1968.  LTC Charles Bauer assumes command of the 1-506th Inf from LTC Robert Arter on Dec 1.  6 Dec has Charlie moving by CH-47 to FB Jack, sending two platoons to RIF to YD 468292 and YD 485313 and then returning to Jack.  Firebase Jack was occupied earlier by the 1st Cav (perhaps by 5th and 7th Cav) and may have been attacked during Tet 1968.  These movements continue thru 8 Dec with local ambushes.

On 12 Dec, 1968, Charlie found a packet of documents at YD 440325.  They also worked with the national police field force and popular forces, RIF from YD 453339 to YD 437324.   On the 13th, Charlie found the fresh grave of a VC killed by artillery at YD 583454.  At YD 430314, they found 5 bunkers which they destroyed.

14 Dec 1968.  1245, Charlie engages two VC with small arms at YD 426311.  Both are killed and one AK-47 is captured.  The company is still working with the NPFF and PF.

19 Dec, Charlie NDP’s at YD 407169 and is in this area thru 22 Dec.  Charlie moves to Camp Evans on Dec 23 where they pull maintenance thru the 25th.  The next day, they move by CH-47 back to FB Jack and establish one platoon ambush.  Dec 29 has Charlie at FB Jack.  Third platoon moves by CH-47 with two 81mm squads to YD 428312.  Second platoon  RIF’s back to FB Jack and fourth platoon goes from Jack to YD 502302.  31 Dec, Charlie has PZ at 0858 and is at YD 341278 at 1123.  At 1410 they need to medevac a man with a sprained ankle.  The CP NDP’s at YD 350278 at 2035.

January 1969.  On the first day of the year, the battalion is in the low hills about eight kilometers west of Firebase Jack and ten kilometers north of the future Firebase Ripcord.  The terrain is tree covered with river valleys cutting through the hills.  The higher elevations are to the south and to the west.  At this time of year, the weather is cool and rainy with temperatures from 65 to 75 degrees.  At noon, the company found a trail used by the enemy in the past several days.  At 3 PM, second platoon found a bunker and hooch with medical supplies:  penicillin, novocaine, and morphine.  At 5 PM, second and third platoons found more hooches and a light machine gun.

Alpha company found one dead VC and shot another.  Bravo company killed one NVA and had a man wounded.  Delta company found two AK-47’s while recon platoon killed one VC and captured three weapons.

January 2, 1969.  About 1030, second platoon finds some NVA clothing at YD 370287.  The battalion commander’s call sign is “Bushmaster.”  He is on the ground with Bravo company and receives a slight wound.  SGT Winfield and Charles David from Bravo are also wounded - Winfield by a sniper and David from a mortar or RPG round.  The battalion puts in an airstrike at YD 367308.  About 5 PM, Charlie company evacuates a man with a back injury via jungle penetrator.  This indicates that the tree cover is thick where landing zones are not readily available.  The company’s NDP locations are in the vicinity of YD 367284 with platoons within a few hundred meters of each other.

January 3, 1969.  A quiet day for the company and the battalion.  Resupply was completed.  “Iron Raven” was call sign for the brigade commander who visited Bravo company in the field.  Charlie found an old bunker with an NVA helmet at 1645.  FB Rakkasan was open at this time - manned by 3-187th Infantry.

January 4, 1969.  In the morning, third platoon evacuated a man with severe dysentery via penetrator.  At 1335, the second and fourth platoons found hooches with food, medical supplies, and clothing.  One of the hooches had a booby trap.  One VC was seen but escaped.

January 5, 1969.  Line #88 is to go in the next day for R&R.  Bravo company found 5-10 tons of rice; division directed that it be soaked in diesel (which was provided by chopper).  Recon platoon evacuates a scout dog with leeches in its nose.  The battalion continues to find bunkers with supplies indicating use of the area by NVA and VC.  The company NDP is YD 391306.

January 6, 1969.  The weather has turned rainy and cold.  Delta company kills one NVA and has two men wounded.  Delta finds ten, 60mm rounds.  LTC Bauer, the battalion commander, is cited for exposing his unarmed helicopter in an effort to locate the enemy and to direct artillery on the enemy base camp.

January 7, 1969.  Delta company finds 12 hooches used recently.  Charlie company has a quiet day.  NDP YD 394307.

January 8, 1969.  The weather must be taking its toll.  Fourth platoon evacuates line #59 with pneumonia and another with severe dysentery.  The company finds a large hooch with a bunker, recently occupied by about three VC.  Delta company finds about a ton and a half of rice and other food, 13 hooches, one dead NVA, and a light machine gun.  The enemy must be a bit hungrier than they would have been had the battalion not been in the area.  Charlie company is about four kilometers NW of Firebase Sword – NDP is YD 401307.

January 9, 1969.  The battalion is about to get three days of supplies and dry socks.  At different times, Charlie company finds hooches, three pistols, five SKS rifles, VC papers, and engages one enemy.  Delta makes contact and sees a platoon size force; receives two wounded.  Since the beginning of the year, Charlie has moved deliberately about five kilometers to the north and east.

January 10, 1969.  Charlie explored the bunker/hooch complex found the previous evening.  It was probably VC and occupied by 10-15 people including a few women.  Munitions and clothing were discovered.  Delta company found one dead VC from the previous day’s contact.

January 11, 1969.  Charlie hears a dog barking about 400 meters distant and calls mortars and artillery.  The company found hooches recently used by VC with three Russian carbines, food, and medical supplies.  Rene Ramos is evacuated with a severe infection of his thigh.

January 12, 1969.  Relatively quiet day in the AO.  Bravo company is to get a newspaperman for about two days.  It must be cold as the battalion commander requests a field jacket.  No doubt it is colder when flying in the C&C chopper with doors open.  Delta company found graves with bodies of three VC who died in the last 60 days.

January 13, 1969.  At 1020 Charlie begins an airlift to Camp Evans, using five lifts of eight choppers each.  The move is completed by 11:01.  This is the end of Operation Todd Forrest.

January 14-16, 1969.  Charlie company is at Camp Evans for rest, resupply, and zeroing of rifles at the range.  Col Conmy is the brigade commander.

January 17, 1969.  Charlie Company becomes OPCON to 3-5th Cavalry (LTC Carpenter).  1-506th Infantry (LTC Bauer) picks up Bravo company, 3-187th Infantry.  Alpha company goes to FB Jack.  Bravo company initially goes to LZ Barbara (YD 422311) and Delta company goes to LZ Diamond (YD 425272).  Recon platoon is at LZ Dottie, YD 485322.

The two Bravo companies go on a mission 15 kilometers to the south along the Song Bo as there was a report of 250 VC near FB Strike (YD 577172).

Charlie company is about eight kilometers north of Camp Evans in an area with small villages.  Some local Vietnamese are moved for interrogation and Charlie finds and disarms a booby-trapped grenade.

January 18, 1969.  Charlie begins to work with the 3-5th Cav south and east of Camp Evans.  After a lift by CH-47, the company moves with Alpha Troop to the An Lo bridge.  Charlie locates and disables a mine consisting of one 81mm round and two 105mm rounds.  The Cav detained a few locals who appear hostile to the US and find anti-US flyers in the area.  So much for winning the “hearts and minds.”  Charlie NDP’s a few kilometers southeast of Camp Evans.  The fourth platoon may be detached elsewhere.

January 19, 1969.  1-506th is based on FB Jack and working in the vicinity of FB Sword, eight kilometers to the northwest.  The 3-5th Cav covers a wide area from the coast to the foothills southwest of Hue.  Booby traps and mines are ever-present in this area indicating that the local support of the South Vietnamese government is not high.  The Cav found a tunnel/bunker complex for 70 people near the coast and Charlie Company found a boat landing on the Song Bo with hooches and bunkers.

January 20, 1969.  Troop B of the Cav received some 60mm mortar incoming and had several wounded.  At 1830, Troop A with Charlie first platoon hit a 105mm or 155mm mine, flipping the track.  Four Cav men and six Charlie had bad back injuries while two Charlie men had frag wounds in the hands and arms.  One of these may have been George Lambertson.  This area is in the flatlands, west of the Song Bo and a few kilometers south of QL1 (coastal highway).

January 21, 1969.  Early morning third platoon sees six VC at YD 584287 and engages.  Booby traps and mines continue to be a problem.  Bravo 2-506th Inf (part of 3-5th Cav task force) has six wounded at YD528253.  Charlie finds one BBT hand grenade and disarms it but later, one man hits another BBT and suffers a leg wound.

January 22, 1969.  Charlie found a 175mm shell booby-trapped with a US grenade and a trip wire which was destroyed.  The scout dogs were medevac’d the next day.

January 24, 1969.  Charlie company is still in the low area six to eight kilometers south of Camp Evans.  CPT Stymiest is the company commander.  The company appears to be doing minor patrols and ambushes.

January 25, 1969.  1-506th Infantry continues to defend and work out of Camp Evans, FB Jack, and FB Jeanne.  Bravo company worked with the South Vietnamese popular forces performing a blocking operation.  During the day, a number of civilians were detained for interrogation.  At 1630 Charlie spots a bouncing betty AP mine and disarms.  Charlie Company is OPCON to the 3-5th Cav.  At 1715 on Jan 25, 1969, Bobby Jackson and Robert Stinger trip a booby trap at YD 552249 consisting of an 81mm or 105mm round and are medevac’d.  Both have stomach wounds.  Just before midnight, second platoon engaged two VC with hand grenades.

January 26, 1969.  1-506th has minor contacts with VC.  Charlie picks up a tracker team (scout dog and handler).  About 0740, a man from Charlie trips a booby trap and is medevac’d with multiple shrapnel wounds.  Later a Cav vehicle hits a 155mm BBT but has negligible damage.  Second platoon is co-located with B Troop.  Apparently, one platoon is assigned to work directly with a Cav troop from time to time.  The terrain continues to be flat, wet fields just to the north of the mountains.

January 27, 1969.  The 1-506th killed a few VC in their area of operations.  The Cav found five Vietnamese women with fishing poles but not from the province – thought to be supply carriers for the VC.  Mid afternoon, one Charlie man was sent to 18th Surgical with a broken foot.

January 28, 1969.  “Rome” plows (so named because they were manufactured in Rome, Georgia) were operated by the 14th Engineer Brigade in the vicinity of Charlie Company and the 3-5th Cav.  Their mission was to clear brush and vegetation to deny cover and concealment to the enemy.  One plow struck a 155mm booby trap at 0910 (YD 528259) and wounded the operator.  Later Charlie found a BBT 105mm round and disarmed.

January 29, 1969.  Charlie Company continues to operate in this heavily booby-trapped area.  Robert Stamps and Joseph Grenevicki were wounded when a 105mm booby-trap was detonated  (YD 600284).  Joseph Grenevicki lost both legs and hands.  John Dennett, a company medic, was cited for moving to Grenevicki despite the danger of additional mines and for administering life-saving measures until the medevac helicopter arrived.  45 minutes later, the company found another similar BBT at YD 595267 (105mm/60mm); a third was found at 0905 at YD 602283 (105mm in a punji pit).  Some mention of boats was made - perhaps daytime patrolling on the Song Bo?

January 30, 1969.  Charlie company becomes OPCON to the 3-187th infantry.  Their night position is YD 417155 which is in the higher hills about six kilometers south of FB Gladiator.  The LZ is in the vicinity of FB Katy (perhaps an old 1st Cav firebase).  Charles Clarke receives a purple heart for this date but it is not clear which actions it is associated with.  He also receives an air medal, individually, which is unusual so it is possible the awards are related to flying aboard aircraft.  Fourth platoon remains in the previous AO at YD 611282.

January 31, 1969.  Fourth platoon is in the vicinity of YD 611277 and probably with Troop C, 3-5th Cav.  Not clear what the rest of Charlie Company is doing - apparently RIF vic FB Barbara.

February 1969.  On the first, Camp Evans and the city of Hue receive a handful of 122mm rockets.  Fourth platoon remains in the 3-5th Cav AO.  Charlie is at YD 405161 - not clear what their mission is.

February 2, 1969.  Charlie company was to be extracted but the lift was cancelled due to bad weather.  The company, less fourth platoon, NDP’s at YD 417155.  This is about six kilometers SW of the future FB Granite.  Fourth platoon is near An Lo (on the coastal highway) with the 3-5th Cav - YD 601309.

February 3, 1969.  The 1-506th has Alpha company on Jack, Bravo at Phong Dien (village astride QL1 about 4 km north of Camp Evans), Delta at Camp Evans, and recon platoon / mortars on FB Jeanne.  At 1010, Charlie CP and platoons 1-3 arrive at FB Katy (YD 433150).  Fourth platoon is with 3-5th Cav at the An Lo bridge.

February 4, 1969.  At 1150, one man was medevac’d with a broken ankle (YD 526131).  Charlie was lifted to Camp Evans by 1530.  At 1800, first platoon was placed OPCON to Echo company.  The rest of Charlie became OPCON to 3-5Cav.

February 5, 1969.  Fourth platoon is OPCON to recon platoon at FB Jeanne.  The rest of Charlie remains with 3-5th Cav.  B Troop had an RPG hit a tank turret, producing 3 WIA, (two serious).

February 6, 1969.  Fourth platoon remains at FB Jeanne.  Charlie receives three scout dogs and moves by helicopter to YD 633330.  This area is about 10 kilometers east of Camp Evans and north of the Song Bo.  The terrain is flat and wet and not far from the coast.  Some old trenches and bomb shelters were found but none recently used.  A 250# bomb was found and destroyed by EOD.  A graveyard with numerous punji pits was also found.

February 7, 1969.  At 1048, fourth platoon found two dud 155mm rounds at YD 562411 and had them destroyed.  At 1019, Charlie found an old 175mm round at YD 621323 and destroyed.

February 8, 1969.  4th platoon participated in a village cordon operation at YD 525396 - two men were detained.  Charlie began to work with some South Vietnamese Popular Force troops.  The company found another 175mm round and destroyed.

February 9, 1969.  Delta 1-506 had one WIA and one KIA as they set up an LP east of Camp Evans - fire came from a nearby village.  The 3-5th Cav reported some unknown vehicles during the night.  Tracks indicated wheeled vehicles - possible ARVN.  Charlie gets two cases of LAW.  The Cav found some rocket launch sites at YD 564231 on “rocket ridge.”  The 3-5th Cav area must be wet due to the location and the monsoons as two tanks and a VTR (tank recovery vehicle) were reported stuck at YD 561243.

February 10, 1969.  Charlie continues to work in the low ground just west of the Song Bo and north of rocket ridge.  The company has two dog teams.  Some “whale” patrol boats are in the Song Bo checking sampans - not sure who is using the boats.  1710, Charlie evacuates one officer who had been sick for several days.

February 11, 1969.  One squad of fourth platoon is at YD 543386, about eight kilometers north of Camp Evans.  Perhaps they were reinforcing a cordon of one of the villages.  At YD 608285 (west of Song Bo and a few km south of QL1), a VC company and ARVN are in a fight with several KIA on each side.  At 1300, Charlie sweeps the area for fleeing VC, kills one and wounds another, capturing two AK-47’s.  Troop B has one man killed in an accident with a claymore.  Camp Evans gets a few rounds of incoming mortar or rockets.

Not much change the next day.  First and second platoons RIF at 1420 (the general scheme is to man killer teams at night and rest in the morning).

February 13, 1969.  By 0900, Charlie Company is at Camp Evans for a one day stand down and returns to 1-506th control after release from 3-5th Cavalry.  Fourth platoon may have remained at FB Jeanne.

February 14, 1969.  Charlie takes three CH-47’s to Firebase Jack, relieving Alpha Company.  Fourth platoon makes a quick stop at Camp Evans and then moves to FB Sword, about ten kilometers due West of Camp Evans.  The Sword terrain is no higher than 30 meters and is overlooked by rocket ridge.  Sword receives about eight mortar rounds in the evening.

Feb 15, 1969.  Outside FB Sword, fourth platoon found three recently used palm tree observation towers (ladders going up the trees, 40-50 feet high) and some blood spots.  During the day, Charlie patrols within one to two kilometers of FB Jack.

Feb 16, 1969.  It was a routine day for Charlie Company with limited patrolling around FB Jack and fourth platoon on Sword.  Delta company was busy about 10 kilometers west of FB Jack in terrain just north of the hills to the south.  Some of the terrain rose to about 200 meters.  About 0920, they discovered hooches and gear used within the hour and a grave with a dead NVA.  Two hours later, they evacuated one soldier with an injured knee.  In mid afternoon, they were engaged by NVA with AK’s and RPG.  Four US were WIA and one KIA.  Flame drops were brought in killing one NVA.  One enemy surrendered and was evacuated by helicopter.  Shortly after that chopper departed, the NVA command-detonated a #250 pound bomb, wounding six US and producing one MIA.  Presumably, these men were securing the pickup zone for the chopper.  An NVA detonator wire was found the next day.  The battalion commander and an aerial FO, Arthur Herbert, were cited for calling in fires to support Delta Company.  Bushmaster (LTC Bauer) landed and spent the night with Delta company.  He was cited again for helping Delta company stiffen its defense and call in supporting fires during the night. 

Alpha company also found recently used bunkers and hooches in the vicinity but had no contact.

As the units move farther west toward Laos, they experience more aggressive action from the NVA units.  Typically, the NVA observe and monitor the US units and then attack if an opportunity presents itself.  This contrasts with the passive behavior of the VC located closer to the coast where they use booby traps and try to avoid contact.

Feb 17, 1969.  This must have been a Tet cease fire day.  Some gun ships working near Delta company received some small arms fire.  Charlie continued on Jack and Sword.

Feb 18, 1969.  Charlie company continues the routine at FB Jack and Sword.  Bravo company finds booby traps, hooches, and one grave and has two men wounded from a claymore-like device.  Delta finds bunkers and munitions.

Feb 19, 1969.  Charlie platoons RIF a few kilometers out from FB Jack.  Bravo company kills one NVA trailwatcher and has one WIA.  Delta company goes to Camp Evans for a break.

Feb 20, 1969.  Charlie dispositions are the same except a part of second platoon is two kilometers southwest of Camp Evans for road-clearing.  Bravo company comes upon 25 enemy and uses napalm and arty.  At least one enemy is killed.  Delta company goes to Rakkasan.

Feb 21, 1969.  Quiet day all around.  Intelligence indicates some NVA attacks Feb 21-23.  It appears that when the 1-506th went in to this new AO, they stirred up the NVA/VC who previously, had been using the area unimpeded.

The next day is uneventful with most of Charlie on FB Jack.  First platoon is two kilometers southwest of Camp Evans assisting in the sweeping of the road to Jack (route # 601).  Intelligence continues to warn of the possibility of an attack.

Feb 23, 1969.  FB Sword (YD 425312) was opened Feb 14, 1969.  Echo company’s mortars and recon platoon with the fourth platoon from Charlie defended the firebase.  At 0415, enemy forces attacked with RPG, satchel charges, small arms, and about twenty, 60mm mortar rounds.  Eight US are wounded.  About four NVA are killed.  The mortar rounds did not require adjustment, showing high skill from the NVA mortar crew.  The mortar rounds came from the NE and NW.  The ground attack came from the SE.  Eight men from Charlie Company are wounded:  SSG Terry Peterson, SGT Bobby Jackson, SP4 Horace Graham, SP4 Ronald Smith, PFC John Palmer, PFC Robert Todd, PFC Jeffrey Leppaner, and PFC Rene Ramos.  Claude Rogers from Alpha 1-506 and Robert Capon from the 326th Engineers are also wounded.  SGT Jackson was cited for refusing the safety of a bunker and engaging the enemy with his claymore, hand grenades, and accurate rifle fire, helping to defeat the enemy attack in his sector.  The more seriously injured are sent to 18th Surgical hospital; one has chest and eye wounds.  US claymores killed several of the NVA and body parts were found in front of the US bunkers.  Charlie company’s CP is at FB Jack with first and third platoons while second platoon is at YD 508290.  About 1100, recon platoon went out a short distance from Sword and had contact with three NVA.  Bravo company reports that the NVA are back in the area that Delta had had contact in a week ago.  They found a 65 foot tower with direct observation of FB Sword.

Feb 24, 1969.  First platoon is clearing the road from Evans to Jack.  Bravo company found three dead NVA/VC in graves.  Alpha company had contact and engaged with artillery.  They found 3 dead NVA/VC in graves from earlier fights.  Alpha hit a booby trap and had five WIA.

Feb 25, 1969.  One man falls off a bunker at FB Jack and is evacuated to 18th Surgical Hospital for a possible broken arm - line #64.  The next day second platoon sweeps the road from Evans to Jack and rides back with some engineers going to Jack.  Line #141 (new guy) is evacuated due to illness and vomiting.  Alpha and Bravo companies find indications of NVA/VC activity in the area.

Feb 27, 1969. Platoons patrol around FB Jack.  The following day, a few NVA/VC graves/bodies are found in the AO along with bunkers and observation towers; otherwise quiet.

March 1969.  March 1, 1969.  Charlie medevac’d one man from FB Jack for a rat bite (line #48).  Bravo company found a few bunkers that had been used recently.

March 2, 1969.  Alpha company found some bunkers used within the last few days and two VC graves.  One has to admit that the NVA/VC were very good at removing their wounded and killed from the scenes of battle and taking them to bunker/hooch areas for burial.  No wonder so many US reports read, “swept the area the following morning with negative results.”

March 3, 1969.  Firebase Sword is closed - fourth platoon joins the rest of Charlie Company on FB Jack.  Alpha and Bravo return to Camp Evans.

March 5, 1969.  Charlie is still defending FB Jack.  Bravo company near FB Jeanne killed two NVA/VC and captured two.

March 6, 1969.  Charlie defends FB Jack.  Fourth platoon is given the mission of escorting two 40mm dusters and a Rome plow to Ft Hendrix (YD 536256), about four kilometers south of Camp Evans.  Along the way, they locate and destroy two BBT’s and find a dead NVA killed by mortars fired from FB Jack (YD521263).

March 7, 1969.  Another routine day at FB Jack.  One man from Charlie has a temp of 105 degrees (possible malaria) and is evac’d.  Rome plow operations continue in the general AO.

March 8, 1969.  Second and third platoons went to Camp Evans and back, perhaps escorting vehicles.  First platoon patrolled and found a wide trail coming from the mountains at YD 480260 - about two kilometers SW of FB Jack.  Delta company had a man hit a booby trap while working with the Rome plows.  He was the first platoon sergeant and lost both legs.

March 9, 1969.  Charlie sends first platoon to YD 582407 two kilometers NE of FB Jeanne to conduct RIF operations.  While at Jack, Charlie normally has a platoon in “AP” position – setting up an ambush.  The next day, third platoon is at the base of the mountain south of FB Jack.  They hear movement after dark and set up an ambush but make no contact.

March 11, 1969.  No changes with third platoon continuing at the base of the mountain.

The next day, Third platoon continues a five-day RIF and ends up about two kilometers west of FB Jack.  First platoon goes to Ft Hendrix and escorts a rome plow and duster back to Jack.  On the return, a plow hits a 105mm BBT and is damaged; there are no personnel casualties.  From reading these journals, it appears that the NVA/VC were very active at night and not especially hindered by the US operations.

March 13, 1969.  Third platoon was on a patrol following footprints vic YD 465275.  They received two AK rounds and called in artillery and mortars.  They found fresh blood on a tissue and saw where the VC had crossed a small river.  At YD 470280 they found a heavily used trail.

March 14, 1969.  Fourth platoon RIF’s out to the west of FB Jack.  Next day they continue operations about two kilometers west of FB Jack.

March 16, 1969.  Charlie continues the daily routine with one platoon road clearing (second platoon at YD 505296) and one platoon on RIF (fourth platoon YD 473286).  A tank company remains at FB Jeanne to the northeast.  Since the enemy rarely massed in open terrain, it appears the effectiveness of armor was limited although it provided some psychological benefit.  Delta company is about 20 kilometers south of FB Jack.  They are a few kilometers north of route 547 which is being improved into the A Shau Valley for a future operation.

March 17, 1969.  Charlie followed the routine at FB Jack.  MACV Directive 525-9 announces that captured medical supplies are not to be destroyed but to be left in place.  At YD 559095 (about six kilometers north of FB Veghel), Delta company finds bunker/hooch complexes with a large supply of munitions - perhaps six months old as well as a few NVA graves.

March 18, 1969.  First platoon had road-clearing duty and fourth platoon is conducting a RIF at YD 482263.  Echo company (perhaps the CP) was working with the 4th battalion, 3d ARVN regiment.  They killed three VC near YD 582119 and then found a company-size bunker complex with munitions, a few weapons, and medical supplies.  The complex had three water buffalo.  Location is about five kilometers NW of FB Bastogne.  The hills in this area peak at 300-400 meters.

March 19, 1969.  1-506th moves to FB Bastogne.  Bastogne is about 22 km S/SE of Camp Evans; it is one of the first large firebases (52 bunkers on the perimeter) protecting route 547 into the A Shau valley.  Charlie company is OPCON to 3-187th Infantry.  Bravo company OPCON to 2-506th Inf.

March 20, 1969.  Charlie continues at FB Jack.  Alpha and Delta companies are working around FB Bastogne, securing the engineer road construction effort.  Route 547 into the A Shau valley runs right along FB Bastogne.

1-502d Inf killed ten NVA about six kilometers NE of FB Rendezvous (farther down route 547).


 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Road to the A shau

 

March 21, 1969.  Charlie moves by CH-47 to FB Bastogne and assumes the mission of securing the engineer force from Delta company.  Locations are one to two kilometers west of FB Bastogne.

March 22, 1969.  Second platoon links up with rome plows.  Alpha company is defending Bastogne.  Intelligence indicates the NVA will go on the offensive beginning now.  C company, 27th Engineers reports the road is graded to YD 607079 (two kilometers past Bastogne) and that they have cleared 109 acres of land.  The 59th Engineer Company reports clearing 60 acres in the vicinity of YD 610075.  I believe the plan was to clear land on both sides of the road to prevent the enemy from ambushing  vehicles on the road.  The CP, first, third, and fourth platoon location each report enemy movement at 2015.  COL James C. Smith is appointed Assistant Division Commander for Operations.

March 23, 1969.  The Rome plows cleared another 104 acres from YD 610075 to YD 603075 (a length of 700 meters).  Charlie continued security of the engineers.  Some trivia – the 101st Airborne Division Post Exchange Detachment (Provisional) is attached to the 426th Supply and Services Battalion.  Small PX’s were at Camp Evans, Camp Eagle, and other larger base camps.

March 24, 1969.  A navy PBR (patrol boat, river) will be on the Song Bo to the north.  The river is about two hundred meters wide at its maximum.  At 0945, second platoon medevacs a man when a tree falls on him, knocking him unconscious.  He goes to 85th Evac in Phu Bai.  Either a rome plow knocked down a tree or they were blowing an LZ and the tree came down.  The plows cleared 88 acres from YD 603075 to YD 597072.

March 25, 1969.  Charlie had an LZ at YD 603072 and received resupply.  At 1030, first platoon found two new sets of Ho Chi Minh sandal tracks - artillery was called.  A 5 ton truck carrying a rome plow started up a hill but slipped back and flipped.  No personnel injuries.  At YD 596069, fourth platoon finds an old 250# bomb and destroys it.  The rome plows clear 40 acres to YD 595069.

March 26, 1969.  A routine day.  A tank platoon from C/2-34th Armor is to depart Camp Evans and arrive at Bastogne, taking highway 1 to route 547.  Third platoon has an ambush at YD 618082.

March 27, 1969.  Charlie departed FB Jack at a good time.  At 0320, three sapper platoons attacked Alpha company 3-187th Infantry under cover of small arms, mortars, and RPG’s.  The attack came from the SE and N.  The US employed artillery, ARA, and a spooky gunship (C-47 or C-130 with 7.62mm gatling guns and flares).  SFC Robert Stanbaugh, mess sergeant from Battery B, 2-11th Arty, was cited for rallying his cooks and defending a portion of the firebase where the NVA had penetrated.  Results were 17 US WIA and 15 sapper KIA.

At first light, third platoon goes to Bastogne to link up with the rome plows.  Later, Charlie establishes a forward base for the plows at YD 582067, five to six kilometers to the SW of Bastogne.  Heat casualties start to be reported as the temperatures rise.  There were virtually none during the cool and oftentimes cold monsoon season.

March 28, 1969.  Line #91 at Camp Evans is apprehended by the MP’s for indiscriminately firing his weapon in the company area.  The tanks have a downed vehicle so they will arrive at Bastogne a day later.  Delta company medevacs a man who likely shot himself in the hand.  The Rome plows clear another 30 acres from YD 582065 to YD 581064.

March 29, 1969.  Just south of the DMZ and west of the city of Dong Ha, A Troop, 1-11th Cav was attacked by NVA resulting in one US KIA and 46 WIA.  68 NVA were killed.  Also in the same general area, 3-5th Cav had 3 WIA and one killed.  On firebase Veghel, eight kilometers SW of Bastogne, Bravo company 1-502d received 15, 82mm mortar rounds and had eight US WIA.  Veghel was initially seized from the NVA by 1-327th Inf during a three-day battle in April 1968.

Bravo company found some old bunkers with a switchboard and an M-16 at YD 583078.  The next day, an ARVN unit is to move to Charlie Company’s CP to await transportation to another area.

March 30, 1969.  The tank company reports that route 547 is barely wide enough for tanks so they have to move slowly.  Charlie reports that the ARVN have arrived at their location and will take trucks to FB Bastogne.  C/27th Engr worked on culverts and constructed 2,200 meters of road, passable to YD 568055.  The 59th engineer company cleared 80 acres of land from YD 581065 to YD 575059.

March 31, 1969.  Second platoon saw a box in the road at YD 564046 and thought it was booby-trapped.  A tank nearby blew it away and it turned out to be empty.  The brigade operations officer visited LTC Bauer to discuss future operations – perhaps the assault in the Ashau Valley, about 40 days hence.  Two quad 40mm and two quad 50 cal are to arrive the next day to add to the firepower along the road.

April 1969.  April 1, 1969.  Third platoon found some old RPG and 75mm rounds at YD 571053 and destroyed.  Later they found a civilian vehicle at YD 554037 which had been blown up.  It is hard to believe that a civilian vehicle could traverse route 547 before the recent road maintenance by the US engineers.  Evidently the NVA engineers must have done some work before they attacked Hue during Tet 1968. 

A mine sweep team finds an 81mm mortar round booby-trapped on the road, about a kilometer west of Charlie - it was buried four inches deep and had a pressure fuse.  Recon platoon finds about 20 bunkers just north of Bastogne, all about three months old.  Two kilometers west of Charlie, Bravo company finds three older bunkers with 160 mortar rounds and a Russian packing slip.  Delta company finds two bodies at YD 548029 and one live NVA who surrenders.  He was from the 9th NVA regiment and his company has about 60 men, some of whom were about to attack FB Vehgel.

April 2, 1969.  First platoon found a 90mm round in the middle of the road and destroyed.  At YD 562052, Bravo company found some bunkers containing four machine guns in cosmoline and various munitions.  During the day, Charlie company platoons operate within a kilometer of the NDP and secure the engineer effort.

April 3, 1969.  Bravo company is at FB Vehgel, a few kilometers to the west.  Third platoon finds a 60mm mortar round in the road and destroys.  Second platoon Delta company has contact resulting in two US KIA and two WIA.  Recon platoon has one WIA by sniper.  Charlie’s main mission is securing the engineer effort.

April 4, 1969.  First platoon starts a mine sweep at 0700.  At 1530, a man in second platoon shoots himself in the foot and is medevac’d.  In the morning, recon platoon makes contact and suffers four KIA and eight WIA.  This is unusual as recon platoon’s tactic is to observe enemy forces and to call in artillery or air but not to become decisively engaged, if at all possible.  Flame drops and artillery are employed.  This is very close to FB Veghel – not far from FB Blaze.  Second platoon will secure a broken-down plow at YD 556028.  The tank company from 3-5th Cav is at Charlie company’s NDP location.

April 5, 1969.  Charlie requests weather reports - perhaps deciding when to get resupply.  Alpha Company, 27th Engineers had an NVA fire a few rounds and toss a grenade at one of their men, wounding him in the legs.  Alpha 1-506th Inf pursued.  Recon platoon had another bad day, walking into enemy claymores.  Results were four KIA and one WIA.

April 6, 1969.  At 1620, SGT Sheldon (line #39) is medevac’d with a high fever, possibly caused by an animal bite.  He goes to 326th Medical at Camp Evans.  The next day, Charlie continues security of the engineers and remains at the same NDP where they have been since March 28.  Delta company finds four NVA bodies from the contact on April 5 and disables seven Chinese claymores suspended in trees and connected with det cord.

April 8, 1969.  No change for Charlie company.  Delta company finds two NVA killed recently and several bunkers.

The following day, all is quiet with Charlie company.  Bravo company, about four kilometers SW has contact, wounding two NVA and suffering one WIA.  Charlie NDP is YD 580064.

April 10, 1969.  Fourth platoon makes a combat assault about two kilometers south and locates eight old bunkers at YD 585054.  Second platoon remains overnight with a broken down tank and two dusters at YD 539031.  The following day the platoons cover relatively short distances securing the engineers.  Delta company is at FB Blaze.

April 12, 1969.  Charlie company has moved to FB Blaze YD 531020 while continuing to secure the engineer effort.

April 13, 1969.  Fourth platoon has one man (Pedro Gonzales-Agricot -line #48) wounded by a single 82mm mortar round at YD 540016.  He has some shrapnel in his back and goes to 85th Evac.  Two generals are making a farewell visit to the units, Generals Stillwell and Elder.  They will fly to Bastogne and drive to Blaze.  Three armored MP escorts and one heavy gunship team are added for their security.  A battery of 105mm’s will be moved to FB Blaze.

April 14, 1969.  Second platoon CA’s to YD 558018.  Third platoon finds five old bunkers at YD 531033 and about 100 rounds of .51 caliber ammunition.  FB Bastogne receives a few rounds of mortar fire.

April 15, 1969.  Third platoon conducts a road sweep and later finds a 40 foot deep tunnel that is empty.  Bravo company finds a battalion size base camp used in the last week - about three kilometers to the SE.

April 16, 1969.  There is some confusion in the journal for this date.  It mentions FB Currahee and then FB Currahee Mountain (YD 538023).  FB Currahee in the valley is at YC 399949.  Apparently, 1-506th is between firebases Blaze and Currahee Mountain and secures the engineers and runs local RIF’s.

April 17, 1969.  Charlie remains at FB Currahee Mountain and platoons work the local area during the day.  The battalion is providing security to the engineers who are creating FB Blaze (two kilometers to the west).  It appears that the 27th Engineers are about to take off on a stand down and bring the road clearing to a halt.

April 18, 1969.  Charlie remains at Currahee Mountain.  First platoon makes a combat assault to YD 489032.  At YD 520014 they find a few bunkers and spider holes about 60 days old.  There is heavy afternoon rain and wind.  A tank is stuck in the mud.  Alpha company finds a US helmet with the upper portion of a skull but it is not unusual for NVA or VC to wear US gear.

April 19, 1969.  Some supply vehicles are moving along route 547 from Bastogne to Currahee Mountain.  An ARVN unit is OPCON to 1-506 and kills four NVA about 10 kilometers to the west.  At 1155, Charlie CA’s to YD 488032, a point along the future 547.  A gunship spotted bunkers in the area and Charlie moves to investigate.  At 1400, line #105 and #120 are medevac’d due to heat injury.  At the end of the day, Charlie sees flashlights in the distance and calls artillery.  Rain is causing major problems on Route 547, washing out sections from time to time.

April 20, 1969.  Charlie medevacs three heat casualties (lines 25, 75, and 97), one from YD 483039 and two from YD 486034.  Clearly the weather is heating up during the day and Charlie company may have been out of shape due to relatively static duty on FB Jack and doing engineer security.  Also, Charlie is in more open area where the sun beats down, rather than under the triple canopy.  During the day, Charlie finds some month old bunkers and miscellaneous gear (machetes, ammo, magazines).  It was a company-size base camp of NVA type.  Bunkers were destroyed.

Two quad 50 calibers are on Currahee Mountain which is defended by Delta Company.  Delta hears movement each night - either sappers making a reconnaissance or monkeys.  Since they fire up the noise, it is not likely monkeys would return.  Brigade says to prepare plans for airmobile operations into northern A Shau.  Plans due by May 1.

April 21, 1969.  Charlie finds an eight foot pole with a panel containing the letters “AX Z4.”  Perhaps some type of aiming stake used by the NVA.  Brigade wants fougasse at Currahee Mountain ASAP.  Charlie finds 20 old bunkers already destroyed.  Field strength is 69.  At 1246, three are medevac’d due to heat.  The company decides to stay put during the heat of the day.  FB Currahee Mountain is to be named FB Blaze and the name Currahee Mountain will be dropped. 22, 5-ton trucks are to come from Camp Evans to Blaze the next day.

April 22, 1969.  Brigade says all aerial recon of A Shau is to be done by fixed wing aircraft (so not to tip off future operation?)  The current Blaze area appears to be quiet compared to the area from Bastogne to Blaze.  Intelligence reports that abandoned equipment in the A Shau Valley is largely booby-trapped.  Charlie is moving in the hills from west to east south of the future route 547 and the Rao Nho river.

April 23, 1969.  Heavy artillery is to be fired at targets near the future firebase Currahee.  Perhaps 175mm’s from Bastogne?  An ARVN battalion working with 1-506 is about six kilometers to the west at FB Son (YD 472011).  At YD 514025, Charlie finds some bunkers not used recently.

April 24, 1969.  3-187th Inf is to open FB Berchtesgaden on the east side of the A Shau Valley.  The 2-17th Cav has contact in the A Shau area and has about 20 wounded.  GEN Stillwell visits Bastogne and Blaze.  Charlie is to go to Cocoa Beach for R&R the next day.  Cocoa was the name of the R&R center before it became known as Eagle Beach.

April 25, 1969.  About seven kilometers west, Bravo company finds an old NVA company-size base camp with an observation tower able to see firebases Berchtesgaden, Son, and Blaze.  Alpha company has one man wounded in the leg.  Charlie lifts off for R&R 1035 to 1130.

April 26, 1969.  Charlie had a short break and returns to FB Blaze.  The next day, Alpha company finds a US minefield at YD 497033 with AT and AP mines.  Later a dozer at YD 495035 strikes an AT mine and is destroyed but no personnel are injured.  Each night, movement is reported outside Blaze and is engaged with grenades and M-79.  During the day, Charlie does some local RIF’s and returns to Blaze to secure the lower portion of the firebase.

April 28, 1969.  Charlie continues local RIF’s from FB Blaze.  The battalion mortars and possibly an artillery battery move near YD 493028 (FB Carolina), possibly to support future operations to the west.  George Lambertson receives a purple heart - not sure what incident generated the PH.

April 29, 1969.  First and third platoons secure some engineers and others do local RIF.  Next day, Alpha company is on FB Arrow (YD 554039).  Charlie secures portions of FB Blaze and conducts a local RIF.

May 1969.  On May 1, 1969, Charlie Company’s mission is securing an engineer effort along Route 547 which probably included mine-sweeping, road grading, and clearing landslides.  Bravo and Charlie companies were situated on or near Firebase Blaze.  Companies take turns going to Cocoa Beach for a day.  Cocoa is renamed Eagle Beach May 1.  Providing engineer security was a relatively easy mission with little enemy contact.

May 2, 1969.  Line # 121 evacuated as a heat casualty. The company CP is at YD 493033.  On the 3rd, the company’s mission is to secure FSB Blaze and to conduct local RIF's.

May 4, 1969.  The battalion is at FB's Cannon, Bastogne, and Arrow in addition to Blaze.  This disposition corresponds to Route 547 and extends about 25 km in length.  Some discoveries of materiel imply that the NVA used route 547 in their 1968 Tet offensive where they employed heavy equipment including trucks and towed artillery pieces.

May 5, 1969.  The battalion CP is at FB Cannon.  Charlie Company had four men wounded when a warrant officer accidentally discharged an M-79 grenade launcher in the Engineer mess hall.  Lines


 

 

 

 

 

 

8 A  shau Valley

 

 

May 10, 1969.  Operation Apache Snow begins.  0730, the combat assault begins; Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie companies are inserted into the area of operations.  Delta company is securing FSB Currahee and recon platoon is supporting 3d brigade headquarters at FB Berchtesgaden.  Companies landed on LZ Red in the order of Bravo, Charlie, and Alpha.  Charlie had operational control of the battalion 81mm mortars and provided security for the battalion CP.  Charlie moves into its night defensive position by 2030 at YC 312949, less than a kilometer from the Laos border.

B Company kills one NVA officer at YC 312937 and captures an ammunition bunker at YC 321929, finding several weapons and ammunition rounds.  This is about 5 km south of Dong Ap Bia (Hamburger Hill).

May 11, 1969.  Charlie’s morning location is YC 317950.  Bravo company finds 1,200 pounds of rice and 40 pounds of TNT.  Alpha company finds a cable across the river, probably used to sling supplies over the water.  The river defines the Laos-Viet Nam border in this region.

Telephone lines are found.  They indicate that a large NVA force has set up defenses in the area and can be expected to defend their positions to the fullest extent of their ability.  1300 hrs, C Co is at YC 310951.  1425, from the journal, Charlie Company medevacs line #67 - an old tree falls on him producing head contusions.  About this time, CPT Stymiest and Jimmy Thorp are injured when a large tree branch falls on them.  Stymiest had a large scalp wound and was medevac'd and out for a day or two.  Not sure what circumstances caused the tree to fall.  On Hill 996, Bravo company finds a ladder going up a tree.  This must have been a tactic used by the NVA snipers in this area as the 3-187th Infantry encountered numerous snipers high in trees near Hill 937 (Dong Ap Bia or “Hamburger Hill”).

At 1600, C Co is at YC 312929.  1630, the battalion S3 (MAJ Dale Burroughs) and his pilot are wounded while flying in a LOH.  At 1715, C Co receives mortar fire from the west in Laos, vicinity YC 280930.  The NVA mortars are about two km inside Laos and about six km from Charlie Company.  The mortar attack lasted about one hour and 15 minutes.  Among the wounded are Robert Love, David Canter, Richard Mooney, and Levering Rector.  Levering Rector and Allan Klatt are cited for administering first aid and dragging the wounded to safety, despite the danger to themselves.  22 men are medevac'd to FB Currahee and some are evacuated further - most casualties are from the mortar platoon.  Wounded from C Company:  lines 10, 78, 111, 87, PIO, and interpreter.  PIO probably is “public information officer” or someone from higher headquarters who would serve as a journalist.  Wounded from E Company:  line#’s 8, 13, 30, 35, 41, 43, 61, 84, 85, 91, 94, 96, 104, 106, 108, and 114.  Purple heart orders for E Company list David Icenbarger, Gary Gibson, Peter Murray, and John Twomey.

A description of the mortar attack from Dave Canter:  “The events of the early part of the day (May 11, 1969) are cloudy and unclear but the events of that evening are crystal clear.  I believe I was the acting platoon leader of the 1st Platoon.  My job kept changing because I was a staff sergeant E6 and I was either the platoon leader or platoon sergeant, during most of my stay in country.   I remember helping my RTO and another man dig our foxhole as we began to settle in for the evening.   I had not been briefed on the operations orders for the next day, but can remember the mortars being set up in the middle of our perimeter and a lot of work being done to provide an LZ for helicopters to come in the next day.

As I was watching my men dig in and cut fields of fire, I heard the company commander call in artillery to a hilltop in front of me. The first rounds hit off to the right and he was making adjustments to the top of the hill when I heard explosions off to my left.  It sounded as if they were about 200 or 300 yards out.  I was familiar with the sound of mortars and knew that the enemy was firing at us.  I told everybody to get down and yelled "in-coming" but was totally ignored because of all the activity and noise around the hill at that moment. The first few rounds landed right out in front of my position, about 100 yards in front of our perimeter, but still nobody took notice.   I heard the mortars once again, but this time there were many rounds fired in succession so I stood up to get my men to take notice and get into their foxholes.  One of the first rounds to hit the hill landed about five or six feet behind me and I was blown forward and was unconscious for a few moments and can’t tell what happened during that time period.  My field gear which was beside me was badly damaged and a hammock I had set up between two trees near us had big holes blown in it.

I never took an actual count, but it seemed like over 100 rounds of mortar fire came in over the next 30 to 40 minutes. My RTO quickly called the medic and he came to me in the midst of all that fire and administered what first-aid he could.  The medic went from position to position with total disregard for his own safety and helped many of us who were wounded. I don’t know what his name was but the first platoon medic should have earned an award for valor that day.

During one short break in the attack I was told to get up to the top of the hill to await extraction by chopper for medical care.   I had about 25 or 30 pieces of shrapnel in my right arm and my back and needed to get out of the field.  I went to the top of the hill and began to look for a place to wait when the attack started again but  there was no hole to hide in.   I lay on the hill as close as I could to a fallen tree about 8" in diameter, trying anything I could to stay alive. I was only 30 feet from our mortar position and witnessed them returning fire to knock out the enemy mortars.  The men with the mortars were not familiar to me, but I watched as they stood their ground in the midst of an almost constant barrage and returned fire, one mortar after another in the direction of the sound of the enemy.  They fired so many rounds that the base plates of the mortars sunk into the dirt almost half the height of the tubes.  While I watched, one of the mortar men was loading a round into the tube when an enemy mortar round landed between him and me - about fifteen feet from each of us, and he took a small piece of shrapnel directly between his eyes.  He was knocked backwards but got back up immediately and continued to return fire in the direction of the enemy.

Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the attack began to slow down and medical evacuation choppers began to land on the small LZ we had cut at the top of the hill.  I wasn’t one of the more seriously wounded men so I opted to wait for a later flight. I was probably on the third or fourth chopper out and we had at least one body bag with us (possibly someone from the 3-187th Inf which was already in major contact and had five KIA on May 11) and some other badly wounded men with us as well.  From there, we were all transported to what appeared to be a MASH unit several miles away (probably FSB Currahee). 

So many of us that came in at the same time, they assigned a corporal to work on me. He gave me a few shots of Novocain in various parts of my body and began to try to remove as much of the shrapnel and other foreign materiel as he could.  I was sent to several hospitals over the next two months, but was allowed to return to my unit in an attempt to pick up my personal belongings before final evacuation to a hospital in Japan, and then home.”

Some of the wounded are listed on purple heard orders.  Joseph Thompson of Charlie Company went to 85th Evacuation Hospital.  The 101st purple heart orders include David Canter and Richard Mooney of Charlie Company; Dale Burroughs (battalion operations officer) of headquarters company; and, James Retzer, James Witte, Richard Callahan, Donald Dennehy, Charles Solomon, and Stanley Celmer of E Company (most likely mortar men).

May 12, 1969.  At 1145 the company is at YC 315935.  1315, the company medevacs three men for hepatitis, hernia, and high fever.  Line #'s not clear:  128, 120 and 17? And 2?  Their 1700 location is YC 317942.

Normally mortars would support from a firebase.  In this instance, however, they would not have been able to reach their targets from FB Currahee and were an asset in the hills with their high trajectory of fire.  On the other hand, they required security and many helicopter sorties to bring in ammunition.  The other group with Charlie company was the battalion CP, a good size group that made a lot of noise and also required protection.  It appears that having the mortars and the battalion CP on the ground limited Charlie company’s ability to take the offensive.  The 81mm mortar platoon may have been extracted on this date.

May 13, 1969.  1120, the company finds two old French rifles and some crosscut saws.  At 1234, 3-1 ARVN find a major cache - Russian trucks, crew served weapons and individual weapons about 10 km NW of Hamburger Hill.  At 1250, brigade headquarters instructs 1-506 Inf to reinforce 3-187 Inf.  This is about the time that 3-187th Infantry meets major resistance and begins to suffer numerous casualties.  They had ten men killed by this date.

May 14, 1969.  Charlie Company still has the mission of securing the battalion CP.  Apparently, Charlie is the trail company in the battalion formation.  There were few times during the war when the 1-506th Inf was deployed together but the Dong Ap Bia operation was one of the larger undertaken against the NVA.  1530 - Alpha company has a point man killed.  Charlie times and locations are not indicating much movement:  1100 – YC 321952, 1400 – YC 321956, and 1700 – YC 320952.

May 15, 1969.  1100 – YC 320959.  1425 - B Co receives sniper fire from a tree (similar to 3-187th Inf experience).  Kenneth Beckman from HHC and Craig Shavlik from Alpha Company receive purple hearts on this date.  At 1630 a medevac is called for a man with a possible broken back.  The medevac is completed at 1722.

May 16, 1969.  0735 - Alpha company has one KIA and seven WIA.  1045 - Bravo company has one KIA and eight WIA from vicinity of Hill 916 (about two kilometers SW of Dong Ap Bia).  Three B Co WIA are from friendly fire - US artillery.  1600 - Alpha Co has two injured by lightning.  This must be the same violent weather experienced by the 3-187th Inf and mentioned in the Hamburger Hill book.

May 17, 1969.  1010 - A Co is in contact at YC 328968 and suffers one KIA and one WIA.  1630 - B Co is in a fight with one KIA and seven WIA.  1905 - C Company at YC 317961 reports enemy .51 cal fire.  Charlie company is clearing bunkers south of Hill 800 - about 1.5 kilometers south of Dong Ap Bia.  2000 - C Company is at YC 326964 (vicinity Hill 800) with the battalion command post.  C Co is still securing the battalion CP. 

May 18, 1969.  Alpha and Bravo Co receive RPG and small arms attacks in the morning.  This may have been an attempt by the NVA to clear an escape route to Laos for some of their forces.  Charlie is at YC 328968 and moving east of Alpha Company to assist with the assault of the hill.  This is the first time that Charlie Company gets into the fight.  Charlie had been following Alpha but swings to the right toward Hill 900 from the southeast.  CPT Stymiest is back in command.  LT Ian Shumaker (third platoon) attacks on the left and LT Timothy LeClair (second platoon) on the right.  First platoon and the CP follow.  1232 - B Co has 12 WIA as the fighting gets much more intense for the 1-506th Infantry.

The above journal entries do not do justice to the intensity of combat experienced by the rifle companies of the 1-506th Infantry.  Although the Hamburger Hill book focuses on the 3-187th Infantry, it does cover the Charlie Company fight and gives a more visceral portrayal of the battle.

Around Hamburger Hill, all of the NVA bunkers were supporting each other and had an entrance offset from the main area so that it was difficult to toss a grenade straight into the main compartment.  Charlie company was provided with coffee-sized cans of TNT with  fuses.  The men learned to throw a smoke grenade into a bunker first to blind the NVA and then follow with the TNT, which would explode before the NVA could find it.

1400 - A Co at YC 327968; B Co at YC 321974; C Co at YC 331969.  As the grid coordinates indicate, the companies are getting closer to each other.  1410 - C Co has one WIA.  This may be Morris Rossano who received a purple heart for action on this date.  Charlie kills two NVA.  A few hours later, Charlie kills two more NVA.  Other records show two men from Charlie Company are wounded this day:  Joseph Thompson and Richard Mooney.

May 19, 1969.  C Company found two .51 cal machine guns and a 122mm rocket tripod and documents.  1220 - D Co sends a platoon from FB Currahee to reinforce A Co.  Alpha Company had taken numerous casualties and its field strength may be as low as 40-50 men.  1340 - C Co moves to take the lead from A Co.  1430 - C Co links with Alpha Co at YC 327974.  Alpha Company reported 20 enemy bunkers with two men in each.  At 1715, Alpha Co reaches the peak of Hill 937.  1739 - A and C companies report 60mm mortars impacting nearby.  A Co is at YC 327974 and B Co at YC 324976.  At the end of the day, Charlie Company reports having killed ten NVA.  Phillip Stanley recalled about this time the US fought for a time wearing gas masks but the humidity made it difficult to see.  CS gas was deployed from helicopters or artillery and perhaps by CS hand grenade.

There may be slight inconsistencies in the military journal records.  Normally, the battalion has an operations center on a firebase where reports are received from the line companies.  This may have existed on FB Currahee but it must have been short-staffed since the battalion commander had some of the operations people with him.  Also, maintaining a journal record was not a high priority during this intense combat.

Seven men from Charlie are cited for actions on May 16, 1969, yet the main fight appears to have occurred on the 19th.  The battalion journal indicates that Charlie has a fairly quiet day on the 16th with more activity on the 19th although the journal seems to miss most of the action.  I’ll summarize the award citations as taking place on the 19th as that seems to be the correct date.  Randall Mee was killed by an RPG while assisting other wounded men nearby.  Paul Skaggs silenced a bunker with a grenade at great risk to himself.  Joseph King killed an NVA who was about to flank and grenade the men nearby.  Phillip Tierney led his fire team against the enemy bunkers despite intense fire.  Danny Williams also destroyed an NVA bunker with a grenade.  Michael O’Brien led his squad against enemy bunkers and knocked out one bunker with grenades.  John Young was LT Timothy Le Clair’s RTO who, despite heavy fire on his position, kept up communications with the company CP after his platoon leader suffered a fatal head wound.   Howard Peterson was killed by small arms while dragging wounded men of his squad to safety.

Although the 1-506th Infantry fighting had not been as heavy as the 3-187th Infantry’s, it had increased considerably in intensity.  Alpha Co killed 18 NVA; Charlie Co killed 10 NVA.  Alpha Co suffered two KIA and 19 WIA.  Charlie Co KIA's were Timothy Le Clair, Randall Mee, and Howard Peterson. 

May 20, 1969.  The NVA appear to be withdrawing to the southwest toward Laos.  1-506th Infantry moves to the southwest to block the enemy escape route.  1-506th also plans to clean up Hills 900 and 916.  At some point, LTC Bowers, the battalion commander, sees that the attack is stalling.  He has his chopper land and assists in leading the attack forward.  It’s not clear which company he is with at this time.  At 1625 the company locations are - A Co YC 328976; B Co YC 324970; C Co YC 327968. 

1730 - C Co has two WIA – these might be Richard Helmbold and Bobby Jackson who received purple hearts for this date.  1945 - C Co links up with elements of the ARVN force.  At 2015, C Co has two WIA - Lines 96 and 116.  1LT Philip Robinson also receives a purple heart for this date.  B Co kills 5 NVA; has one KIA and seven WIA.  Alpha Co NDP is at YC 327977 and Bravo Co at YC 326971.  Charlie company men mentioned in award citations:  Roy Holmes is cited for exposing himself to enemy fire to cover the extraction of wounded men.  As a fire team leader, John Jackson moved forward under heavy enemy fire to pull one of his wounded men to safety.  Robert Moore was also cited for moving under enemy fire to save a wounded comrade.  About this time, Phillip Stanley remembers seeing reporters and photographers on the hill.

May 21, 1969.  1300 - A Co and C Co find 27 enemy bodies in bunkers.  1410 - A Co YC 327977; B Co YC 329967; C Co YC 327968.  1610 - C Co is at YC 324973.  1620 - C Co receives RPG and small arms fire.  As with 3-187th Inf, some of the NVA were motivated to die in defense of Dong Ap Bia and made counterattacks against a superior US force.  1820 - C Co has 5 WIA: lines 4, 47, 69, 125, and ? who are sent to 22nd Surgical Hospital.  These are:  William Kearby, Phillip Tierney, Thurman Wiglesworth, Robert Stinger, and Jeffrey Kanouse.  LT Ian Shumaker may have been line #4.  He was cited for leading his platoon against well defended enemy positions, calling in artillery and directing small arms fire.  As he redeployed his platoon, he was hit by an enemy claymore mine.  C Co has three KIA:  William Smith, James Ralph, and Robert Goodner.  Larry Rogers, Fred Rinehart, and Henry Ybarra receive purple hearts for action on this date.  Clearly, the battle for the “Hill” continues.

May 22, 1969.  Approx 30-40 NVA bodies are found.  The fighting goes on - Albert Binder receives a purple heart for wounds this date.  1500 - C Co at YC 327971.  At 1520 the 2-501st finds the body of James Ralph of C Co killed on May 21.  1620 - C Co recovers remains of three MIA from May 20 and 21 - probably Timothy Le Clair, Randall Mee, and Howard Peterson.  The fighting must have been very intense as under most circumstances, every effort would be made to retrieve US bodies as soon as possible.  The 3-187th Infantry also left bodies temporarily due to extremely heavy  fighting.  What to do would be a judgment call at the time.  For the US soldier, it was very important to know that your body and those of your buddies would be recovered should you die in combat.  At the same time, it might not make sense to hurriedly risk other lives to recover lost soldiers who were known to be dead.

May 23, 1969.  0640 - air strikes go in on Hill 916.  1030 – Charlie company location is YC 325972.  At 1415, Charlie finds 5 dead NVA from the previous days fighting.  1450 – Charlie engages a bunker and kills one NVA.  C Co has four additional WIA.  1555 - At YC 318971, C Co is hit by ARA and has five WIA (B Co has 3 WIA from ARA).  C Co wounded:  Lines 76, 123, 102, and LT James Williams (2nd plat leader).  LT Williams is cited for leading his men to repulse an NVA attack – exposing himself to fire as he moved from position to position, directing fire on the enemy and calling in ARA and artillery.  Despite wounds to his head, right arm, and shoulder from an explosion, Williams kept up the counterattack until the enemy retreated.  The four line numbers may include  Thurman Wiglesworth, Jeffrey Kanouse, Larry Rogers, Robert Greene, and Robert Stinger.  The ARA coordination and execution must have been very challenging at this time as the 3-187th Infantry was also hit by US helicopter gunships on several occasions.  The dilemma was getting effective close fire support against the collateral damage to friendlies.

A green ledger book (an unofficial working log book) used by the division awards section indicates the following men were wounded about this time:  Gary Dollarhide, Richard Helmbold, and David Hicks.

May 24, 1969.  0820 - B Co finds a weapons cache.  1015 - C Co finds a smaller cache at YC 324973 and destroys weapons and ammunition.

May 25, 1969.  Charlie company gets a well-deserved break - staying in the same location all day.  Most likely the company was resupplying and reorganizing after heavy fighting and suffering significant losses.

May 26, 1969.  1245 - C Co location is YC 329964.  The company is beginning its march of about seven km from the Hamburger Hill area to FB Currahee to the southeast.  The battalion CP must still be moving with C Co.  The battalion commander was awarded the Silver Star at FB Currahee for action on May 20th (the battalion history says LTG Zais, the corps commander, presented the award for commanding the battalion in the assault of Dong Ap Bia).   1514 – Charlie company finds bicycle tracks on a trail - probably used to move supplies and also finds high tension wires with insulators.  1727 - At YC 337963 the company finds a bunker complex with minor amounts of enemy ammunition. 

May 27, 1969.  1545 - C Co finds a 25x25 corn field.  The company NDP was at YC 348961.  The next day their 1445 loc is YC 348961 and NDP is YC 355964.

May 29, 1969.  0930 – Charlie finds old bunkers at YC 356966.  1222 - loc at YC 361973.  On the 28th, Alpha Co had switched with D Co on providing security for FB Currahee.  Most likely, Alpha Company suffered the most in the recent fighting and could better reorganize at FB Currahee.  A conservative estimate would be that 30-50% of the 1-506th Infantry rifle companies were comprised of new replacements within two weeks of the Hamburger Hill battles.

May 30, 1969.  Most operations are halted due to Buddha's birthday.  Charlie NDP is YC 369966.  Commentary:  such observations may have made more sense to the brigade of the 101st Airborne that was primarily involved with pacification efforts along the coastal region.  Charlie Company members probably cared little for Buddha but no doubt, were happy to take a day off from the fighting.

May 31, 1969.  Nothing significant is reported in Charlie Company.  Delta had some contacts with five men wounded.  NDP is YC 379962.

June 1969.  June 1-2, 1969.  Charlie is in the A Shau valley floor, southeast of the recent fighting in the hills.  0945 – YC 384962; 1245 – YC 391957.  A newly arrived soldier remembers how thin and ragged the company looked after the Hamburger fighting had taken its toll.  The company arrives at Currahee at 0830 on June 2 and stands down with showers, clean clothes, equipment repair teams, and ice cream.

June 3, 1969.  In the AM, first platoon had been at YC 369963 and second platoon at YC 399965.  The unit’s main mission was securing Currahee.

June 4, 1969.  The company remains at Fire Base Currahee.  Some local patrols are sent out - third platoon at YC 396952.  The next day, the company moves to Eagle Beach beginning at 0915 and all arrive by 1020.  This must have been a very welcome respite from the recent weeks’ fighting.

June 6, 1969.  The company returns from Eagle Beach midday.  PFC Terry Moyer has accidentally shot himself in the foot and is medevac'd.

June 7-8, 1969.  The company is at Currahee – some local RIF’s are conducted.  At midnight on June 8, Apache Snow terminates.

June 9, 1969.  The company medevacs one man for severe chest pain.  1010 - Currahee received four, 122mm rockets.  At 1115, Charlie combat assaults to an LZ at YD 414033.  This is on the eastern side of the A Shau Valley near FB Eagle’s Nest where the hills quickly rise to over 800 meters elevation.  Charlie Company will spend the next nine days in this area.  Phillip Stanley remembers going in to an elephant grass LZ about this time where the grass caught fire and some ammo that had been kicked out of a helicopter, caught fire and exploded.  C Co evacuates line #91 for heat exhaustion.

June 10, 1969.  0900 – YD 402040; 1300 – YD 396043.

June 11, 1969.  0845 - at YC 392043 with third platoon at YD 389046.  1045 - company completes a one ship LZ.  1415 - CP and first platoon at YD 386048.  Movement in these steep hills is difficult and slow.

June 12, 1969.  0955 – A Chicom grenade booby trap is tripped – fortunately, there are no casualties.  1125 – the unit found bunkers and hooches six months old.  1300 – a gunship working for Charlie spots 10 NVA at YD 400063 and kills one.  1430 - a medic with third platoon, last name starts with "F" is accidentally shot in the thigh – this might be Thomas Fries; line #155 is evacuated due to heat.  The company is constructing some LZ's.

June 13, 1969.  The new airstrip in the valley is completed by the 326th Engineers.  Caribou aircraft start landing.  Route 547 cuts into the A Shau this day.  0750 - second platoon, fourth platoon, and CP are at YD 394057.  1640 - two men are medevac'd - one for heat exhaustion (line #125) and one for fractured knee cap (E Co mortar FO).  1735 - At YD 402064 gunships covering a medevac see three NVA and engage.

June 14, 1969.  B Co on Berchtesgaden defends against a sapper attack, killing 60.  No friendly KIA's.  This was one instance where a “mad minute” caught the NVA sappers by surprise.  A “mad minute” is a designated time early in the morning when security goes to 100% and all personnel fire their weapons on likely enemy attack routes.  0620 - first platoon remains at YD 399057 to ambush and the company moves out.  0655 - At YD 401060 Charlie finds a recent camp fire and trail with an animal trap located by a scout dog.  1145 – the company receives small arms fire from across a gulley.  Line #76, Jerry Austin, is shot in the leg and medevac’d to 85th Evacuation Hospital.

June 15, 1969.  0930 - YD 410072 Charlie finds a black shirt hanging out to dry.  1300 - second platoon is at YD 405067.  1400 – the company medevacs line #16 for high fever and # 143 for heat exhaustion.  A combination of high temperatures and steep terrain made movement by foot very difficult as seen by the evacuations for heat exhaustion.  1600 - At LZ, YD 407066, the unit found a garden plot with corn, tomatoes, squash, watermelon and some bunkers.

June 16, 1969.  0900 - At YD 411069 the company finds a trail with steps cut, logs, and a bamboo hand rail.  No recent use.  1230 - YD 412070 medevacs line # 79 for heat exhaustion.  2224 - OP hears movement and tosses two grenades; receives one RPG round in return.  Negative casualties.

June 17, 1969.  0850 – the company is at YD 412070 and looking for an LZ.  1125 - first platoon is setting up a radio relay at YD 413069.  They found a tame pig with VC communications wire used as a harness.  They tried to catch the pig but could not; they shot the pig so the VC could not use it for food.  1345 - Finds hooches and bunkers at YD 415071 and one old rifle.  1700 - FB Currahee gets rockets and mortars from YC 398933.  1755 - there is one heat medevac from YD 410069. 

June 18, 1969.  0910 - At YD 406067, the company receives small arms fire; Peter Blazonis, line #82 is shot in the chest.  He was cleaning up by a stream when he was shot; he was medevac'd to 22d Surgical Hospital at 1015 but must have died in the hospital.  This location was still in the vicinity of FB Eagles Nest.  1445 – the company completes an air move to FB Currahee.  1530 - Currahee receives a few rockets and mortar rounds; Derek Montey is injured in groin, falling on a piece of sharpened bamboo and is medevac'd.  1640 - Currahee receives a few more mortar rounds.  The company would spend the next four days patrolling within a few kilometers of FB Currahee.

June 19, 1969.  1545 - At YC 398945 – the company conducts a RIF in the vicinity of Firebase Currahee.  1825 - Reports a butterfly mine at YC 397939 - one exploded and wounded line # 156, Loren Klene, with shrapnel in lower back.  Butterfly mines were small, anti-personnel mines that would be dropped in mass by air to blanket an area where enemy were known to traverse.  It is not clear how long these mines had been in the area but with hindsight, it did not make sense to deploy them in an area frequented by US forces.

June 20, 1969.  3-5th Cav and elements from 9th ID and 1st Cav enter the A Shau (Ta Bat air strip) from route 547 having started at Blaze and Cannon.  0715 – the company is at YC 399945.  At 0820, the company commander requests that a medical officer check five men who need to go to the rear for treatment.  About this time, CPT Reg Moore assumes command of Charlie Company.

At 1000, the company combat assaults to a cold LZ at YC 391930 (suspected mortar position a few days earlier).  This is about two kilometers SW of FB Currahee and south of the river.  1145 - At YC 395930.  1545 - first platoon at YC 393929; third platoon at YC 395929; second platoon and CP at YC 393930.  1745 - At YC 393930, finds old 75mm rounds and has a four ship LZ.  It appears that the east side of the A Shau Valley did not have the recent enemy activity as did the west side which was closer to the Laos sanctuaries.  The west side may have housed NVA forces while the east may have been more VC.

June 21, 1969.  0800 - first platoon at YC 392928; third platoon at YC 399930.  0905 - found two recent mortar positions at YC 398930.  1145 - CP and first platoon at YC 388929; second platoon at YC 388929; third platoon at YC 390930.  1523 - third platoon at YC 403927.  1805 - first platoon at 395930 finds two bunkers and 60mm mortar fuses two weeks old.  1830 - finds mortar FO bunker at YC 396932.

June 22, 1969.  3/3 ARVN is at the new Ta Bat airfield.  1245 - At YC 402931.  1535 - second platoon at YC 401927 to construct an LZ.

June 23, 1969.  From 0752 to 0837, the company moves by air to an LZ at YC 322917 on the south side of the Rao Lao River, 2 km from Laos and seven km WSW of FB Currahee.  The hills rise steeply from the river and reach elevations of 700-800 meters almost immediately.  Charlie Company will work this area for the next five days.  1110 - the company finds many fresh trails at YC 322917.  1317 - first platoon at YC 320920 finds one very new trail three feet wide.  1540 - medevacs line #91 for heat at YC 329919.  Employing helicopters for medical or resupply purposes had the disadvantage of telling the local enemy forces that US forces were nearby, losing the benefit of surprise and allowing the enemy to take the initiative if they so chose.  1745 - first platoon and CP were at YC 325916; second platoon at YC 321918; third platoon at YC 324917. 

1800 - first platoon engages the enemy at YC 325916.  In the fight, LT Joseph Kenney, first platoon leader was toward the front of his platoon, directing fire against the enemy.  LT Kenney was hit by small arms fire; his RTO, James Bishop, aggressively returned fire on the enemy in order to allow the platoon to aid LT Kenney.  Bishop then received a head wound and went down.  SGT Steven Clegg, squad leader, moved his men forward against the enemy and killed one NVA soldier.  Both LT Kenney and James Bishop died of their wounds.  Bishop was with the Kansas national guard.

Phillip Stanley remembers when LT Kenney was killed.  Kenney was first platoon leader and had been there only a few weeks.  SGT Clegg had just alternated point with Stanley.  Clegg and Kenny were conferring about the platoon’s route when the enemy opened fire.

June 24, 1969.  1100 - first platoon, second platoon and CP are at YC 325917; third platoon is at YC 324918.  1700 - At YC 326916.  1735 – Charlie finds a hooch and bunker two weeks old.

June 25, 1969.  ARVN were operating about 2 km due East of Charlie.  326th Engineers had an element with Charlie working to construct an LZ.

June 26, 1969.  2-17th Cav spotted a large force of NVA vicinity YC 334873.  This is right on the border with Laos and six kilometers south of the Rao Lao river.  Air Strikes were called.  0955 - A platoon leader or platoon sergeant (line #6?) was wounded in the knee cap and medevac'd.  Charles Clark may also have been wounded in this incident.  1510 - A CA was conducted - only covered a few hundred meters to YC 332911.  Perhaps the short flight was to test a new PZ or to deceive the enemy.

June 27, 1969.  0950 - first platoon is at YC 328908.  Air strikes go in on bridges professionally made over smaller streams and perhaps under some canopy at YC 339875 and YC 342874 near the Laos border.  The result is partial destruction of the bridges.  1410 - the company finds recent bunkers and hooches at YC 335909.

June 28-30, 1969.  It appears that Charlie Company is providing security for FB Berchtesgaden and will remain in this area for the next 12 days.

July 1969.  July 1, 1969.  1456 – the company medevacs line #93 with a high temperature.

July 2-3, 1969.  Copperhead is the call sign for Cdr, 1-506th Inf.  This corresponds with the arrival of the new battalion commander, LTC Arnold C. Hayward.  The company secures FB Bechtesgaden thru the 9th of July.

July 10, 1969.   The company CA’s to Currahee from Berchtesgaden at 1606.  1820 - medevacs SFC Trutt for a heart problem.  Charlie Company will be securing FB Currahee for the next 14 days.  The only exceptions are three and two days respectively OPCON missions by first and second platoons to 3-5th Cavalry.

July 11, 1969.  One man is medevac’d  due to an accidental claymore injury (perhaps Pierre Frye).  A flare ship, possibly a Chinook, is standing by on Currahee - intelligence suggests an attack was likely.  LTC Arnold Hayward, the battalion commander was killed at YC 313939 - his CP was attacked by NVA with RPG's.  He had a squad from D Co securing him in the vicinity of Hill 996 (about 5 kilometers S-SW of Dong Ap Bia).  Bravo and Delta take numerous KIA and WIA. 

It was unusual for battalion commanders to die in combat and shortly after this time, they spent most of their time in helicopters or on firebases.

July 12, 1969.  The fight continues around Hill 996 which is about five kilometers south of Hamburger Hill.  The tactical maps show a good trail 600 meters south of Hill 996 running NW to SE from Laos into the A Shau valley.  This was probably one of many connections from the main NVA supply route thru Laos into this part of Thua Thien province.    Several air strikes go in.  The intensity seems similar to the Dong Ap Bia fight in May.  Delta Company has 8 KIA.  Mike Aird recalls, “I joined my platoon on FSB Currahee.  I only remember pulling guard at night and details during the day.  On the second or third day I was sent to the chopper pad for a work detail.  Upon arriving, I was told to help unload several body bags of KIA’s from Delta Co.  I felt very uncomfortable.  I believe Delta Co. had eight KIA on July 11th or 12th and I think these were those men.”

July 13, 1969.  Brigade instructs 1-506 Inf to hold Hill 996 for five days to construct a three ship LZ.  2320 - C Co observes an NVA squad at YC 386932 moving toward Currahee.

July 14, 1969.  Alpha Company had been OPCON outside the battalion and Bravo and Delta had been in major contact.

July 15, 1969.  Alpha Company – is at Eagle's Nest YD 406036.  Bravo Company - at YC 308938; Delta Company - at YC 315942.

From July 10 to July 23, 1969, Charlie Company’s main mission continues to be securing FB Currahee.  Because the company had a relatively new company commander and a number of new replacements, CPT Moore used some of this time to train his company by patrolling to the west of the firebase.  Mike Aird recalls, “On FSB Currahee I remember a river nearby and going down to it for a bath.  After several days on Currahee, the CO, R. Moore, decided since there were many replacements in the company, he would take the company out for a several day training patrol.  We walked out of Currahee heading toward Laos.  After walking from morning into the afternoon we were well into the mountainous terrain west of Currahee.  We began encountering numerous well-travelled trails.  We began to follow one trail and as the slope up the mountain trail increased, we found that the NVA had planked steps into the trail and built handrails for an easier climb.  I was completely stunned by this vision and remember thinking, ‘holy f**k, Mike, you’ll never leave here alive.’

Mike Aird continues – I cannot adequately describe what it was like on this first patrol.  I thought I was in fairly good physical condition after basic training and infantry training, but I was so very wrong.  The weight of the combat gear and field gear was punishing.  Add to this the terrain (3000-4000 foot mountains), the heat in the 90+ degree range, and humidity that could be cut with a knife, and a man hovered near the point of passing out.  To lift the amount of weight we carried was a daunting challenge.  I can remember times when it was impossible to pick up my rucksack and swing into it.  I had to lie on the ground, flip over onto my stomach next to a tree, and raise my body by pushing myself up on the tree truck.  To walk carrying this weight, a man had to lean forward at an angle that allowed that weight to help push the body forward.  A step allowed you to maintain balance without falling forward.  This became much more difficult when climbing or descending a mountain, ridge, or hill.  Keep in mind that you had to maintain absolute awareness of the surroundings at all times.”

July 16-23, 1969.  Most of the company is securing FB Currahee.  From Jul 15-Jul 20, first and second platoons take turns working with the 3-5th Cav – most likely providing security to the tanks and armored personnel carriers.  The 3-5th Cavalry had a fluid history about this time.  Originally, the unit was the reconnaissance squadron of the 9th Infantry Division.  As the 9th ID prepared to leave Viet Nam in summer of 1969, the 3-5th Cavalry was attached to the 1st brigade, 5th Infantry (mechanized) division at Quang Tri and then to the 101st Airborne where it worked Route 547 and the A Shau Valley from summer 1969 to January 1970.  After the 101st pulled out of the A Shau, the 3-5th Cavalry was reassigned to the 5th Infantry (mechanized) division’s brigade.

In the May to August 1969 time frame, Phillip Stanley remembers an attack helicopter being kept on Currahee to go after mortars and rocket launchers.  He also remembers a valiant effort to retrieve an M-16 lost in the Rao Lao River near Currahee.  An officer brought out snorkel gear to help locate the weapon but it was unsuccessful.  There are more than a handful of weapons in the bottom of rivers where the 101st Airborne fought.

Charlie Company continued pulling security at Currahee.  Things were generally quiet there although movement was heard after dark on several occasions.  The FSB also received mortar and rocket fire on a regular basis, probably from the high ground to the south toward the Laos border.  Most mortar and rocket attacks caused limited damage.  LTC Leon McCall assumed command of the 1-506th.

A rifle company always served as the security force around a fire base.  The “population” of a FSB could be from 150 up to 400 people.  Typically, there was a headquarters with radios, artillery, engineers, and pathfinders to control the helicopters, especially those bringing in large loads of ammunition, fuel, or water. 

It appears that first platoon and second platoon alternated on OPCON missions, most likely with the 3-5th Cavalry. There was no shortage of humor as the brigade S2 selected "vomit" as the code word for Jul 23, 1969.  On July 25, the company moved about 2 km to the west on RIF (reconnaissance in force) operations.  A RIF was simply moving in the jungle to engage the enemy, preferably on your terms.  The RIF found two NVA graves 60 days old at YC 374922 and 11, 3x5 bunkers 90 days old – both dating to the Hamburger Hill battle time.

Perhaps in preparation for the Hamburger Hill battles, the US had dropped “butterfly” bombs around Currahee.  These were anti-personnel mines that may have fired a .22 caliber round when disturbed.  They were light and could catch in grass or shrubs.  Richard Hahn discovered a butterfly bomb and brought one back to show CPT Moore.

From July 26 until August 4, Charlie Company was OPCON to the 3-5th Cavalry Squadron.  3-5th Cav was not really suited to this part of Viet Nam.  They had tanks and I believe armored personnel carriers (APC’s) that are more suitable to flat, wide open areas.  The tanks had a secondary use in this area escorting convoys but were not too flexible.  They must have come in on route 547 which was just opened and was probably passable at this time of year before the monsoons hit and landslides frequently closed the road.  Route 547 originated near Camp Eagle, headquarters of the 101st.  The route then went to FSB Bastogne and on to the A Shau Valley (where Charlie Company linked up with the 3-5 Cav).  I recall one use of tanks – they were frequently idling to charge their batteries and their rear exhaust was like a warm, diesel smelling blower.  If your poncho liner got wet from the daily thunderstorm, a few minutes in the tank “dryer” would have it ready for use.

C Company arrives back on "Hamburger Hill," Hill 937 - YC 328981 mid day July 26.  A rough estimate would be that no more than a third of the company who had fought the original battle of Hill 937 in May, remained in the field just two months later.  Even at company level, the constant turnover diminished the combat experience and lessons learned the hard way.

The company’s mission was to secure the 3-5th Cavalry mechanized elements, tanks and armored personnel carriers, (primarily at night) and to conduct local patrols for security.  Three LP’s (Listening Post) are placed out a short distance at the 3-5th Cav NDP. 

Alpha company is hit by sappers - has 8 KIA and 22 WIA YC 313941- about 5 km south of Hamburger.  The battalion normally operated with companies separated by a kilometer or more.  In relatively rare cases, elements of one company would reinforce another that had been hit hard.  One reason for the separation was to cover more of the AO with the forces available and knowing that aerial support was readily available.  A reader of the journals cannot help but notice that there are many cases of one company getting clobbered while the others are perfectly quiet.

Through July 28, the company does patrolling within a few hundred meters of Hill 937 (also known as Dong Ap Bia).  During the May battles, the enemy had countless bunkers and supplies throughout the area and most of the large trees around the hill had been turned into toothpicks from B-52 bombing, air strikes, and artillery.

0955 July 29, the company found 10 graves at YC 310988 (approx 2 km west of Hamburger toward Laos).  The bodies had been killed by small arms and were about 60 days old.  The company also found an RPG launcher and a Chicom claymore.  The company was back at the NDP by 1648.  The company field strength is 71. 

About this time period, Jim Orms recalls the fourth platoon working for a few days with the 3-5th Cavalry's armored personnel carriers and a bulldozer, to cut a new road to the valley floor.  Apparently, the 3-5th Cavalry split its cavalry troops to conduct separate missions in different areas.  Afterwards, the fourth platoon was lifted to Firebase Berchtesgaden on or about August 4th.

August 1969.  The next few days were spent in local patrolling east and west of Hill 937 and pulling security at night.  I was first platoon leader and the field strength was 31.  On August 1, I went to religious services on the hill – sometimes combat makes one more religious.  At 1120, the company found 27, 60mm rounds, 2 RPG rounds, and 18, B40 rockets.  Most likely these were left from the battle in May 1969.  The next day at 1155 - YC 334982 - the company found 18, 82mm mortar rounds 90 days old in a 4x4 bunker; at 1830 - YC 327973 they found miscellaneous ammo and medicine.  Since the NVA were always short on supplies, it is surprising that they had not sent small units back to the Hamburger Hill area to retrieve some of the ammunition still there.  Or perhaps the nearby supply line thru Laos was so good that it was not necessary to try to retrieve a small amount of old ammunition.  On Aug 3, 1750 at YC 336981, one of the platoons finds 3 dead NVA and an AK 50 (folding stock AK 47) - all about 90 days old.  August 4 is the last day of OPCON to 3-5th Cav. 

About this time, there was a VIP show from Hamburger with artillery firing WP rounds to mark the Laos border for those seeing the display.  Perhaps the point was to show the sanctuaries in Laos where the NVA moved their men and equipment.  Most company members thought that these efforts would have been better spent firing at known enemy locations.

At 1612 Charlie Company moves by air a few kilometers south of Hill 937 toward the Laos border and north of the Rao Lao river.  The pickup zone (PZ) was at YC 345997 and the landing zone (LZ) at YC 320943, not far from where Alpha company was hit a few days earlier.  This is about as deep as you can be in NVA territory and still be in South Viet Nam.  At 1900, 4th platoon CA’s from YD 379004 to FSB Berchtesgaden (YD 423013).  Perhaps fourth platoon had a security mission on Berchtesgaden.  The new company location is half way between Hills 916 and 996 and a few km southwest from Dong Ap Bia.  Recent experience had shown these areas to be well populated with NVA forces.

August 5, 1969.  The company would spend the next three days in this NVA infested area.  The terrain consists of very steep mountains about 1,000 meters high with triple canopy vegetation.  Most movement was done on ridgelines which had its advantages.  The movement was more level and for the most part, you were on the high ground unless the ridge was moving up to a higher peak.  If you moved in a draw or small valley, you could be engaged from several sides; also, the going was more difficult and noisier, possibly tipping off any local enemy.  Disadvantages of ridge movement is that it was predictable and that a small enemy unit could sneak up a draw and engage you from the flank or wait for you to come down the trail and ambush the lead element.  

As a reminder, multi-battalion Operation Apache Snow had just been fought within a few kilometers of Charlie company’s location.  Alpha company had suffered a major loss here two weeks earlier.  In early July, Bravo and Delta companies had suffered sizeable losses, including the death of the battalion commander.  Obviously this area had not been subdued by US forces.

0725 - YC 319947 the company point man spotted two NVA coming up a draw and killed both, capturing two AK's.  This spot is about a kilometer NE of Hill 996 and is connected to Hill 996 by ridges connecting hilltops.  1030 - 1 US was shot at YC 320950.  1215 – the company command post spots one NVA before he has a chance to react, killing him at YC 321952.  1247 - the company center of mass is at YC 320949.  1432 – the platoons are at YC 319944, YC 319945, and YC 318947.  1618 - 2 US are wounded at YC 319945, five enemy are killed, and six weapons captured.  1830 – at YC 319944, Charlie received AK and RPG fire.  The company killed two NVA and had six US WIA.  Charlie Company employs air cavalry and USAF close air support.  2020, the company is located at YC 320949.  2100 - Charlie receives 4, 60mm mortars and rockets.  0100 - CP at YC 320945.  This was a hectic day to say the least after several quiet ones with the tanks on Hamburger Hill.

As indicated above, the action on August 5, 1969 was a series of fights lasting most of the day.  The award citations provide some more detailed information about the fighting during the day but at this point, it is not possible to put the individual actions in chronological order.  Robert Jones was a third platoon RTO.  In the morning, his platoon was attacked from the rear.  Jones aided the wounded and popped smoke to mark friendly positions for attack helicopters.  Later he took over an M-60 machine gun from a wounded gunner and engaged the NVA. 

SSG Juan Duenas was a platoon sergeant who responded to an enemy attack by deploying his platoon where they were able to suppress the enemy and recover men wounded earlier.  Duenas moved about the fighting without regard for his own safety.  He transferred to E company’s scout platoon about a week or two later.  Ted Blackwell came to the aid of his point man and killed an NVA.  He then placed heavy fire in the direction of the enemy attack and received wounds during this exchange.  Gary Hartwig was in the lead platoon that came under enemy fire.  He charged an enemy machine gun and was seriously wounded.  He then tossed a grenade at the machine gun position, putting it out of action.  Kutis Miner was in the rear of the lead platoon when firing broke out.  He fought his way forward and assisted in pulling several wounded men to safety.  While placing heavy fire on the enemy, Alan Wall noticed an NVA trying to outflank his unit.  Alan quickly fired, killing the NVA soldier.  Caudle Mann fought aggressively, moving from position to position, drawing enemy fire so that his platoon could knock out the enemy positions. 

Michael O’Brien or “OB” was the second platoon sergeant.  He skillfully deployed his platoon, placing heavy suppressive fire on the NVA.  When a forward man was wounded, OB crawled forward and carried the man back to safety on his shoulders.  This action inspired his platoon to fight more aggressively.  Michael Jones was a platoon medic.  About 1630 hrs, Jones retrieved several wounded men and assisted getting them to a safe position where he administered life-saving first aid.  Earlier, on April 22, 1969, Jones had saved a man drowning in a rain-swollen stream after a tree had fallen on him and pinned him under the water.  Jones pulled the man to the bank and administered artificial respiration until the man started breathing.  

When a lead element encountered an enemy squad, two US were wounded.  William Kearby placed suppressive fire on the enemy and marked the friendly positions with smoke so ARA could engage the NVA.  Kearby carried wounded men to a bomb crater where a medevac chopper was able to extract the wounded.  He continued to suppress the enemy during this evacuation.  Charles Layne was a machine gunner.  Despite heavy enemy fire, he suppressed the NVA until the company commander was able to better deploy his platoons and to evacuate the wounded.  Marvin Thompson was second platoon leader.  He maneuvered his platoon to support another platoon and killed an NVA soldier at close range, causing others to withdraw.  Mark Rebrovitch was with the company’s rear security element.  He noticed an NVA trying to ambush the rear element and killed him – saving several lives by his actions.  During one of the many isolated fights, SGT Steven Clegg charged up a ridgeline and knocked out a fighting position consisting of an NVA RPG gunner and rifleman.  The company had been in the jungle for an extended period without much resupply.  Many of the jungle fatigues were getting threadbare.  The seat of Clegg’s pants were 90 percent gone.  I watched him charging the enemy position with his bare butt showing – unable to really enjoy the humor due to the dire circumstances. These descriptions of the fighting in no way do justice to the intensity of the action.

August 5, 1969 Casualty summary:  KIA:  SP4 Robert Jones.  Tour began 11/16/1968.  At 1030 hrs, Jones was shot at YC320950.  Line #17.  WIA - Two serious (litter); lines #11, #75 (Ted Blackwell and Gary Hartwig are wounded).  Both taken by medevac / penetrator to 22d Surgical Hospital.  One had fragmentation wounds to the back and arm; the other had an AK gunshot in the leg.  Four others slightly wounded to be medevac’d on Aug 6.

August 6, 1969.  I believe the company commander recognized that there were sizeable NVA forces in the vicinity and chose to bring his platoons close where they could better support each other.  We made a night move which was not routinely done.  In the darkness, things can get chaotic in a hurry where it is difficult to distinguish between friend and foe.  This may have been the time when my RTO was carrying a canister round in his M-79 and followed me in the column.  For safety reasons, the M-79 barrel was kept open.  A vine must have snagged his closed and I heard a loud noise.  We were both half asleep while walking and my RTO explained that the canister round had gone off accidentally.  Fortunately, no one was injured. 

0135 - second platoon closed with the CP.  0225 – the company starts moving to the south.  0400 - Company center of mass is YC 320945.  0715 - the company is at YC 318944 which is an LZ.  0912 – The fourth platoon arrives from FB Berchtesgaden.  1112 – the company moves out from the LZ.  1230 - Charlie engaged 3 NVA vicinity YC 319945, killing one; the company employs artillery to the front and ARA to the flanks.  1250 – some NVA attack from the rear with small arms and satchel charges, one US KIA (line #63) and 2 WIA (line #125 and a medic).  1621 - YC 319945 – two or three NVA initiate contact wounding the point man who later dies.  1753 – the company is at YC 319948.  1805 – Charlie is in contact at YC 319948.  The enemy engages C Co with small arms fire; two US are killed in a draw area and three are wounded.  ARA is employed.  Charlie Company receives 10-15, 60mm mortar rounds.  First platoon maneuvers to assist extracting casualties.   0345 - medevac complete with lines 27, 68, and 70 going to the 22d Surgical Hospital.

As on the prior day, the award citations can offer some additional insight into the fights that took place this day.  Third platoon was engaged by the enemy.  David Smith spotted an NVA attempting to flank the platoon and killed him with a grenade.  He then retrieved one wounded man and returned to retrieve another.  Smith was then killed by small arms while extracting the second wounded man.  David Finger was point man for second platoon.  He spotted two NVA and killed both of them.  Proceeding up the trail he spotted an NVA bunker.  He attacked the enemy position with grenades and killed another enemy soldier but was killed by small arms shortly thereafter.   Robert Jones was RTO for third platoon.  The company was attacked from the rear and several men were wounded.  Jones immediately reported the tactical situation to the company commander and marked his location with smoke for supporting fires.  He pulled wounded men to safety and later manned an M-60 machine gun.  While manning the M-60, he was killed by small arms fire. 

At noon, the fourth platoon was moving down a hill to secure an open area.  As the platoon entered the open area, the NVA engaged the platoon.  Fred Rinehart got behind a log to return fire.  A man next to Rinehart was wounded.  Rinehart began to evacuate the wounded man but was killed in the attempt.  Akke Timmer was walking point.  He noticed the reflection of an enemy bayonet and signaled his platoon to take cover.  He placed fire on the enemy to allow his platoon to move to good fighting positions.  He noticed an NVA moving toward the US platoon and killed him.  Then he noticed a wounded US soldier nearby and was killed trying to move the man back to a safer position. 

Steven Hollar maneuvered through heavy fire to reach two wounded men who were brought to the medics.  Carroll Turpin assisted his machine gunner (Wayne Wasilk) in placing heavy fire on the enemy, allowing his platoon to deploy without further losses.   Gregory White was on security guard for a resupply when he heard movement.  He alerted those nearby, allowing the platoon to kill the NVA attempting to ambush the platoon.  As a platoon leader, Charles Squires, Kansas National Guard,  skillfully maneuvered his platoon to engage the enemy and killed an NVA in the process. 

Michael Edmondson volunteered to walk point where two US were wounded earlier in the day.  Upon reaching that spot, the enemy engaged Edmondson’s platoon.  Edmondson returned fire, killing one NVA and allowing the platoon to retrieve the wounded men.  Tony Carnett distinguished himself in numerous firefights during the day.  As an M-60 gunner, Wayne Wasilk charged from the rear of his platoon to lay down suppressive fire, killing an NVA and allowing his platoon to flank the enemy position.  Throughout the day, the NVA were aggressively trying to detect weak points in Charlie company’s formations and the result was a series of platoon level fights lasting much of the day.  The company employed artillery, a pink team, and air strikes throughout.

August 6, 1969 casualty summary:  KIA Names:  SGT Fred Rinehart (tour began 11/11/1968), PFC David Smith (tour began 5/19/1969), SP4 Akke Timmer (tour began 5/21/1969), CPL David Finger (tour began 5/22/1969).   Among the wounded are Toby Deal, Ronald Ringeisen, Timothy McGuire, Douglas Wherle, Michael Jones, and Richard Hahn.  Ted Blackwell was at 18th Surgical Hospital on August 7th (PH orders) – he may have been wounded on August 6th.  An unofficial record shows that Loren Kleene, Levering Rector, and Jeffery Burk may have also been wounded at this time.

August 7, 1969.  1122 – the company receives 40-50 rounds of 60mm from YC 315956.  A pink team and air strike (20mm and napalm) are employed.  This results in a secondary explosion and a bunker destroyed.  At 1430, the company finds ten, 4x4x4 bunkers at YC 315949 containing miscellaneous ammunition and a dead NVA.  1621 - the company center of mass is at YC 315949.  This is only about 500 meters due west from the insertion point on Aug 5.  1722 - the company completes construction of an LZ at YC 315948.  2010 - Charlie is at YC 310950.  The company is in its NDP at 0200.  Most of this day was spent in local patrols and construction of an LZ for extraction the following day.

August 8, 1969.  0830 – first, second, and third platoons are at YC 313951.  0940 at YC 312942, the company spotted one enemy on a high ridge nearby and employed air cav.

1710 - PZ (pick-up zone) YC 312950 and LZ (landing zone) at Caribou Air Strip, YC 404976 by 1800.  Caribou Air Strip is a few kilometers north of FSB Currahee.  Caribou were fixed wing aircraft that could land and take off on very short runways.  Probably Caribou Air Strip was mainly a large LZ and marshalling area.  Regardless, the company is out of the “hot” area and spends the next day recovering from the recent contact.  I noted that my platoon strength was down to 15.  August 9, I wrote that it was cold at night but may have been referring to the night before in the hills rather than at Caribou.

August 10, 1969.  The journals are a little thin in explaining what is going on.  FSB Currahee took 44 mortar rounds but no major hits.  Charlie Company did not catch much of a break and moves back to the area crawling with NVA where it will spend the next five days.  The initial CA may have been confused with at least one chopper going to the wrong LZ.

August 11, 1969.  Platoon locations are reported:  0820 first platoon YC 317953, second platoon YC 318955, third platoon YC 316958, and fourth platoon - CP at YC 310958.  These positions are halfway between hills 996 to the south and 916 to the north and only 500 meters NW of the spot Charlie company had recently departed.  1535 - two NVA came upon third platoon’s position and one was killed at YC 307952.  Maximum platoon separation is about one kilometer.

I did not use artillery support as much as I should have.  I believe the general restriction was that it could be brought in no closer than 600 meters from friendly forces and had to be adjusted closer.  It would then take some time to adjust it by dropping 100 meters at a time.  Most of our contacts were such that the enemy was within 50 meters of the lead element.  I'm sure if we had encountered a large enemy force, the fires could have been brought in closer and more rapidly.  I remember registering artillery for a night position in steep terrain - high ridge lines with deep draws to the side.  I expected the adjusting round to land several hundred meters to my front.  It landed about 100-200 meters to my rear!  I cut off the registration as I did not have confidence in the accuracy of the artillery.  It is possible that I did not have a good read on my own location but there is no way of resolving that now.  No one was injured.  One advantage of artillery was that it could be employed in bad weather when the helicopters could not fly.  Generally, I preferred ARA where you could bring it in close (25 meters where you took responsibility by providing your initials to the pilots).  The ARA was much more responsive than tube artillery but not as lethal. There are instances in the journal where Charlie Company soldiers pick up some shrapnel from ARA.

August 12, 1969.  0950, first platoon is at YC 306950.  This is right on the Vietnam – Laos border.  The first platoon was coming off a ridgeline to cross a small stream to head up a ridge on the other side.  Allan Wall and Steven Hollar were on point.  The lead squad crossed the water without incident when a small group of NVA opened fire, targeting the next squad.  At 1102 YC 307953 the enemy engaged first platoon from 30 meters on the far side of a small draw resulting in one US KIA and one WIA.  This was the first time that my platoon took any losses. The NVA were in position and opened fire with small arms and possibly a light machine gun.

In this fight, Mike Edmondson remembers about 8-10 men ahead of him in the file.  The enemy opened up with a machine gun and Mike dove to one side of an earthen river bank to get cover from the fire and pulled Richard Kukucka with him, probably saving Richard’s life.

Steven Clegg recalled, “We had just left second platoon at the top of a hill and the first platoon was proceeding down a trail and was crossing a stream.  At the bottom of the hill along the stream bank were some large rocks.  The first two thirds of the platoon had turned a corner at the bottom and had proceeded either along the stream or started to cross.  Colletto was directly in front of me.  Shiltz, I believe, was immediately behind me and was my RTO.  Behind him was a new guy, James Halsey, who had joined the platoon the day before or so (probably at the airstrip).   Colletto was almost at the bottom of the stream when Halsey, the new man, yells “gook.”  Before anyone can ask where or react, all hell breaks loose.  I can identify three NVA 15 meters directly up the hill from us, behind trees and cover, firing.  Shiltz and I open up on the NVA immediately in front of us; I remember my weapon jammed and I had to hit the forward assist to fire it.  Halsey cries out that he is hit.  Just as Shiltz or I take out the NVA in front of us, the NVA to my left does a series of three or four somersaults and comes up in sitting position right in front of Colletto who is standing and firing canister rounds from his M-79.  The NVA stops five feet from Colletto in a perfect sitting firing position and shoots Colletto.  I fire and so do the soldiers at the bottom of the stream, killing the NVA.   I turn my attention back to the third NVA and see him take cover farther up the hill behind a large tree; another M-79 gunner lobs a few rounds up behind the tree and LT Higgins calls in a Cobra to fire on him and I know he was killed.  Halsey was wounded when a round struck his helmet, exited through the rear, and along the way, grazed his forehead.  He was extracted on a jungle penetrator, a harness attached to a cable in the helicopter that can be winched up when there is no place to land.  We could not get Colletto out as the tree cover was too thick for a basket. We carried Colletto in a make shift stretcher until we could get him extracted.” 

Al Colletto was a seasoned soldier and very popular in the platoon and company.  Everyone took his loss deeply.  I remember corresponding with his parents a few times – they wanted to know everything associated with his death.  Colletto was two or three men ahead of me in the column – just a matter of luck on whom the NVA chose to engage first.  KIA’s are normally not medevac’d and are removed with a log bird during resupply.  We prepared a litter for Colletto and carried him until he could be extracted.  

When carrying a man’s body, it is necessary to redistribute his gear among the other members of the platoon – the rucksack and weapon have to given to someone else and people have to trade off carrying the litter.  In this case, we had to go up a very steep slope and very strong young men were straining to make this happen.  Had we taken a few more KIA’s, it would have been extremely difficult to continue moving and to protect the bodies.  The US almost never left anyone behind in Viet Nam and went to great lengths to recover bodies.  This was important to everyone.

Prior to the contact, the nervous factor was pretty high.  We had some “old timers” who only had a month or two until DEROS (time to go back to the “world”) and they were very focused, nervous, and not happy that their last weeks were spent in heavy fighting.

Casualty summary August 12, 1969:  KIA - Name:  Albert V. Colletto Jr. (tour began 1/27/1969),   WIA – James Halsey and Robert Buscetto.

August 13.  Charlie company is still in the “hot” area.  One of my letters indicated that we got a good look at Laos.  1309, one man, line #77, is evacuated to 22d Surgical Hospital in Phu Bai for a heart attack.  Back at FB Currahee, John Torves was evacuated with acute anxiety at 1115 hrs.  The company may have left sick or injured people back at the FSB to pull security. 

1106 – the company location is YC 317960.  1810 at YC 318964, Charlie received small arms fire from one NVA and returned fire with negative results.  The journal is replete with reports of “negative results” after a fire fight.  This means that no body, weapon, or blood trail was found.  The enemy may well have taken losses but it may not have made tactical sense to scour the area for signs.  In some cases, the US point man and the NVA soldier were surprised to see each, both firing off the mark, with the NVA running back to his comrades.  At one point the higher headquarters people could not help but notice these reports of encounters.  One day we received paper plates in a resupply and conducted target practice aiming at the plates.  I did better than I thought, putting several rounds in the center of my target.  Another reason for the negative results was that the NVA went to great lengths to recover the bodies and equipment of their soldiers.  They wanted to deny the US the feeling of having accomplished something by killing the enemy.  They also wanted to deny the US the intelligence value from the body and to redistribute supplies and equipment in short supply.  Months later, the journal has one instance of finding an NVA rucksack with body parts, implying that they were being removed from the battle area for burial elsewhere.

August 14, 1969.   The company is back at Caribou Strip by the end of the day.

August 15-18, 1969.  The company CA’s (combat assault by helicopter) to an area a few kilometers north of FSB Currahee.  Second platoon is about 10 km east of the rest of the company.  During this time, there are quite a few CA’s just moving relatively short distances.  Not sure if this was a deception operation or just practice.  We had received a new battalion commander, LTC Pinney,  and he may have been getting accustomed to running operations.  Aug 16, recon team #5 at YC 332910 0720 finds 3 hooches and 8 bunkers and destroys them.  The battalion had a strategy of placing small reconnaissance teams out to observe for enemy activity and then to call in artillery on the enemy without direct engagement.  On August 17, fourth platoon is sent to FSB Rendezvous.  Their purpose could have been for firebase security or a work party.  There are quite a few instances where a platoon is pulled from Charlie Company for work elsewhere.  At this time we were using PSID’s (electronic intrusion detection devices).  When they activated at night, tensions rose.  After a short while, we realized that monkeys caused the devices to indicate movement and the credibility of the devices lowered.

 Between August 15 and August 20, Charlie Company had inserted a six man recon team back in the Hill 996 area which continued to be well populated with NVA.  In retrospect, I would have to question the wisdom of this move.  Inserting a “ranger or special operations” type team might have made sense but placing regular infantry in an area where a company-size force recently had difficulty and where a battalion commander had been killed the previous month, was highly risky.  Apparently the battalion recon platoon was short one team as they normally performed this type of mission.

Steven Clegg, Mike Aird, Tom Williams, Carroll Shiltz, Steven Hollar, and Toby Deal were the team members from Charlie Company.  There are some differing recollections on what happened but the key elements seem to be in agreement.  The team was inserted in the dark on August 15.  Charlie Company had just left the Hill 996 area and was on Caribou Landing strip near Currahee.  Most likely, the recon team was picked up from Caribou (the rest of the company went on a mission to the lower elevation hills north of Currahee).  The recon team did not take steel helmets or cigarettes.  Mike Aird said at first, he was mostly troubled by the smoking ban although in retrospect, this was not his main problem.

The chopper slowed at a point on a ridgeline and the six men jumped out.  They assembled and moved a few hundred meters on the ridge to rest for the night.  The next morning the team moved a few hundred meters and stopped when they heard Vietnamese speech coming from the hill.  Steven Clegg called in a fire mission on the enemy location that evening.  Clegg made radio contact the next morning and decided to remain in place.  Apparently the patrol was under the control of Charlie Company.  The recon team remained in place until August 20 when their extraction was planned.  At about 1400 on the 20th, the team hears activity and the sound of metal clanking.  Next they heard some people advancing on their position.  Two NVA appeared, carrying canteens on bamboo poles.  There were 25 canteens on each end for a total of about 100 – evidently a good size force drinking water up the hill.  Toby Deal killed the first NVA with his M-16 and Mike Aird wounded the other with his M-79 canister.  The wounded NVA started to call for help.  About this time as Mike Aird remembered that things got interesting.  The patrol began to take heavy AK and machine gun fire.  Mike was firing HE rounds into the trees which quieted the NVA for a moment.  About this time, Steven Clegg had gotten approval to leave the rucksacks and make a dash to the chopper.  Mike Aird kept firing to cover the withdrawal and had backed himself into a large rock.   About this time, an AK round or RPG fragment ricocheted off the rock into his butt.  Fortunately, Mike was able to walk and the group headed toward the pick-up zone.  ARA came to the rescue and fired on the ridge in addition to artillery.  Clegg had pre-plotted artillery targets but unfortunately they were no longer valid since the artillery battery had moved in the past few days.  He had to create a new fire mission.  Steven Clegg coordinated a pickup on the side of a hill by a large bomb crater.  The chopper had arrived about 5-10 minutes before the recon team arrived at the PZ.  When the UH-1 hovered, one side was about seven feet from the ground.  Tom Williams, a tall, strong guy, must have gotten inside first and was pulling the others into the chopper.  Clegg may have been the last to board and Williams and the door gunner pulled him aboard.  Steven Clegg remembers thanking the chopper crew profusely when they were safely delivered to Currahee.

Mike Aird went to 85th Evacuation Hospital in Phu Bai but their electricity was out due to a rocket attack.  He then went to the hospital ship USS Repose for 24 days.  Mike Aird:  “We arrived at 85th Evac and medics came out with a stretcher and took me inside.  I was put on an IV and then the hospital lost power as it was hit by NVA rockets.  The hospital staff could not even X-ray my ass so they called in a dust-off and took me out to the Hospital Ship Repose.  I was taken to a surgical ward and operated on.  The surgeon was annoyed to be sent this relatively minor case.  I didn’t think it was so minor.  I must have interrupted his evening dinner.  He began cutting on me before that anesthesia took effect and I rose about six inches off the table and screamed.  He then waited for a longer period of time.”  Toby Deal may also have been wounded in the back.

August 19-26.  Charlie Company comes back to FSB Currahee to assist in closing the FSB.  I don’t recall exactly what was involved in closing a fire base.  In general, the idea was to not leave anything that could be useful to the enemy, including old C-rations.  I think we even removed the concertina wire and metal engineer stakes.  Ammunition supplies were either expended or backhauled.  In many cases, the US was closing the FSB for the season when the monsoons made it difficult to resupply.  Many firebases were closed and later reopened.  The infantry units supplied most of the labor for a closing mission. 

On August 23, 1969, the elements remaining at FB Currahee received a mortar attack.  I remember this clearly because I was in a foxhole at the time, trying to get as close to the wall of the foxhole as was humanly possible.  I was thinking that it was totally up to fate – if the round landed in your hole, you were dead.  Unfortunately, a mortar round did land in one of the foxholes occupied by SSG Juan Duenas, killing him instantly.  Philip Vevera from HHC was also killed. 

August 24 - B Company has contact with 3 KIA and 10 WIA.  At various times, Currahee is hit with 60mm and 122mm rockets.  All hit outside the perimeter with no effect.  On August 25th, Charlie Company had three recon teams:  wheat - YC377920, barley - YC356934, corn - YC355945.  These are in the hills a few km SW of Currahee.  A letter mentions eerie cries at night and we find tiger tracks.  On the 20th, some of us went swimming in the Rao Lao river and washed up for the first time in a while.  Richard Hahn remembers getting cleaned up by swimming in the river near Currahee.  Some guys would throw hand grenades into the river (perhaps fishing?) and Rich could feel the pressure waves.

Our medics were responsible for giving each person his malaria pill.  On Monday, we got an orange malaria pill and then a white pill every day - perhaps for two types of malaria.  Malaria was not uncommon among soldiers and the symptoms were a body temperature of 103-105 degrees.  These pills were not popular as they sometimes caused gastro-intestinal distress.  Battalion journals are full of men being medevac'd with high fevers. My guess is that these were malaria cases.  The fix was three weeks in a hospital which was seen by many as more desirable than humping a rucksack and getting shot at.  Fred “Doc” Jones, my platoon medic, was very good at getting people to take their pills but we discovered that he did not take them himself and he contracted malaria, winning the three week vacation. 

About 1600 each day it rains hard for 30 minutes.  That’s one way to stay clean.  Fog rolls in at night.  Flares or illumination rounds are used for security.  It is a very eerie setting.  We are on guard all night and then sleep from 0600 till 1200 the next day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Leaving the valley

 

 

August 26.  Currahee is closed and by 1810, most of the company moves to FSB Rendezvous.  Rendezvous is just a few kilometers NE of Currahee and astride Route 547.  The company leaves behind two ambushes just north of Currahee.  This may have been a common practice.  The NVA were short of just about everything.  They would scavenge our old locations looking for C rations and anything else useful.  The purpose of the ambushes was to observe Currahee and call in artillery if they saw any enemy forces.

August 27.  Most of the company was at FSB Rendezvous, about four km NE of Currahee along Route 547.  First platoon had two ambushes in the vicinity of Currahee.  I was with one of the ambushes.  Again, our mission was to observe for enemy activity and then call in artillery.  We were in position and I think I had my boots off to air out my feet.  I heard a rifle shot close by and jumped for my rifle.  Richard Hahn recalls jumping into a sticker bush - some of the stickers stayed in his hand for years.  In a minute or two, I learned that a PFC in our ambush had shot himself in the foot so we would have to medevac him.  The other soldiers were not too happy with this guy as he had jeopardized our position.  They took the good stuff out of his rucksack (like canned pears) and then made him walk about 50 meters on his wounded foot when the medevac helicopter came in.  I believe the PFC spent a short while in LBJ (Long Binh Jail) before being returned to the unit.  Our company and other companies had further such incidents – Charlie had at least three or four.

August 28.  The entire company is at Currahee.  It may have been a “police call” thing.  Someone from the brigade or battalion staff would fly by the closed fire base and spot some items that should have been removed or destroyed.  The infantry would then be called back to clean up.  This happened with some regularity after closing a firebase.

August 29.  We were back working on FSB Rendezvous.  My platoon was down to 13 and the company only totaled 68.  There were a lot of medical issues sending people to the rear, especially bad teeth.  During the day, the company moved from Rendezvous to Berchtesgaden.  Perhaps another police call agenda although chopper pilots spotted a few NVA running about Berchtesgaden.  A letter noted that I got a shower and change of clothes.  Guys from the rear brought a few warm beers.  This must have been at Rendezvous.  I think Rendezvous was one of the larger firebases in the 300-400 population range.  A smaller, more temporary firebase might total 150 people.

August 30 - Sep 1.  Charlie Company had a two-day mission quite a distance away – about 20 km SE of Rendezvous.  This location was about eight kilometers east of the southernmost part of the A Shau valley and east of the village of A Shau.  There must have been a need for intelligence about that area.  On the 31st, the company found some signs of activity but nothing significant:  1425 - found a water collection device and fresh human excrement YC 604811; 1715 - found an animal trap YC 601813 - about 7 days old; 1910 - found Montagnard religious symbol at YC 600813.

September 1969.  Sep 1 - 0615 - company has LZ at YC 593817.  0850 - finds a trail at YC 592818 with recent use.  0937 - YC 592818 finds a garden with sweet potatoes and corn.  Apparently a staple crop for the enemy was the sweet potato.  Of course, they also ate rice but sweet potatoes were vital to their sustenance.  0957 - YC 591817 - receives AK fire; returns fire and kills one NVA.  1605 - the company is at YC 593817.  1630 - YC 591817 finds seven hooches 10x20 with bunkers.  1735 - PZ YC 593817 and back to Rendezvous.

September 2-6.  The company is at FSB Rendezvous and makes “day trips” to FSB Berchtesgaden.  It’s not clear what the purpose of these trips is. Perhaps Berghtesgaden was closed at this time as the forward brigade CP was not needed there after Apache Snow terminated. 

On September 4, the company moves from Rendezvous to Berchtesgaden, arriving 0912.  0927 - a platoon spotted NVA by the helicopter pad and engaged with negative results.   Bravo Company killed an NVA on Berchtesgaden and located an NVA wounded by ARA.  Unfortunately, the wounded NVA died before B Company reached him.  1857 - Charlie arrived back at Rendezvous.

C Company arrives at Eagle Beach the evening of September 5 and stands down the following day.  Eagle Beach was a wonderful camp NNE of Hue on the Gulf of Tonkin where units normally spent one or two days getting cleaned up, issued new clothes, and getting their weapons serviced.  The food was very good and there were clubs with beer and shows.  The female band singers (from the Philippines perhaps) were entertaining but  could not pronounce some English words.  I still remember “Proud Mary” by the Creedence Clearwater Revival – the part about ‘Rolling on the River’ came out as ‘Lolling on the Reever’ but then after a few beers, who cared.  Eagle Beach did a lot to enhance the morale of the soldiers and to give them a few hours of escape from combat.

FSB Blaze was about 15 km NE of Currahee and near the confluence of the Song Bo and Rao Nho rivers.  It was along the path of Route 547 and the general marshalling area for the May Hamburger Hill battle.   What a difference a few kilometers makes.  20 km back to the SW was in the heart of NVA country.  Around FSB Blaze, life was quiet.  There were 3-4 NDP’s near Blaze.  All were close to each other about seven km west of Blaze.  I believe the NDP’s were used by the vehicles that moved up and down Route 547 and by the engineer equipment used to keep the road open.  Charlie Company had the mission of providing security in this area.

September 7.  Arrives at Blaze and choppers to NDP#2.  The company is OPCON to 3-187th Infantry battalion.

September 8.  The company is at YD 458998.  Recon teams corn, wheat, and barley are still out, probably some distance away and under battalion control.  The company establishes LP's out around NDP#2.  Tanks are moving up and down the road.  Their mission was providing security for convoys along route 547.  First platoon pulls a mine sweep patrol in the morning. 

September 9.  My platoon strength was 19.  The US called a cease fire for the day out of respect for the late Ho Chi Minh.  Combat assaults became "admin moves."

September 10-12.   More of the same.  The company patrols in the vicinity of the NDP’s. First platoon moves by air from NDP #1 to YD 478013 at 0818 and back to NDP #1 at 1740.  The mission was to secure pathfinders blowing an LZ.  The first platoon medic, Fred ‘Doc’ Jones, returns after recovering from malaria.  Jones was a conscientious objector.  He served with us in the field for a while and carried a D-handle shovel.

A letter I wrote comments that we hear a lot of monkeys but they keep out of sight.  Charlie Company came back under 1-506th control on the 12th.  Starting September 13, it appears that the main mission for the company was securing route 547 as the plan was for convoys to use the road during the rainy season.

39th Transportation Battalion plans a convoy daily from Birmingham (YD 704101) to Rendezvous starting Sep 15.  1-506th Inf has responsibility from Blaze forward.  Convoy departs Birmingham 0800, arrives Blaze 1000 and Rendezvous 1200.  Sounds like a bus schedule.  Frequently in Viet Nam, events arose to supersede plans.

Two of the platoons spend the day on LZ construction – perhaps securing pathfinders or engineers blowing LZ’s.

September 14-19.  Landslides are reported on the 15th and 16th requiring bulldozers to clear.  I recall at one point along the road, seeing an M-60 tank that had gone off the road and rolled down the slope a few hundred meters.  Most likely it is still there.  The battalion commander visits on the 18th to discuss future missions.  There are more mine sweeps and LZ construction.  Letter comments:  we were getting a lot of replacements as our veterans (those who had survived eight or more months) were scheduled to DEROS in November; I met an engineer officer friend, Tony Dodson, riding up the road in a jeep no less - small world; reported fish in a nearby stream over a foot long; it rained the night of the 16th and the road turned into a mess.  It is getting close to the rainy season when the NVA get more latitude to the west as the US cannot easily sustain its forces by air or road.

As a postscript to route 547 into the Ashau valley, from google maps, it appears that the road has been maintained somewhat and today is now labeled QL 49.  Route 548 that ran NW to SE in the Ashau valley is now Ho Chi Minh highway.  A web posting from 2012 describes a motorbike ride from Hue down QL 49 to Ho Chi Minh highway and then east to Danang, taking 10 hours.  “QL49 was a great road but very bumpy, and consisted of huge climbs and descents, great scenery but very hot and dusty. The road was not finished of course, some parts were very tricky with our style of bike. The 70k to the junction to go north seemed to take forever, and when we reached it we dived into the first place with shade to recover with water and coffee. The cafe clearly had not had any western visitors in a while and looked at us and our bike fairly quizzically, that would not be the last similar look of the day” - Posted on February 28, 2012 by paulcoote 

That bike ride might have been more difficult during the rainy season.


 

 

 

 

 

 

9 DMZ Mission

 

 

From September 20 to September 29, Charlie Company was at Camp Evans for battalion training.  The training was extended a day or two due to bad flying weather up north, the location of our next mission.  This week (+) was occupied with range firing and other training classes.  At Evans, we lived in “sea huts” that might be found at summer camp - screened walls and cots to sleep on.  When in the rear, we did not have procedures for securing our weapons and ammunition.  For the most part, we kept our weapons, ammunition, and rucksacks next to our cots.  I can remember opening the door to my hut and the door causing a hand grenade to roll across the floor.  Fortunately, the grenades had a safety pin as well as a main safety.  We were lucky that there were not ammunition related incidents while at Camp Evans.

The area just south of the DMZ in Vietnam was controlled by the 3d Marine Division and the 1st Brigade, 5th Mechanized Infantry Division.  The marines were stationed in Khe Sanh, Cam Lo, and Dong Ha while the 5th Mech (one tank battalion and two mech infantry battalions) was based at Quang Tri.  The US withdrawal schedule had the marines pulling out by November, 1969 and moving to Okinawa.  In order to provide security for the marine withdrawal, elements of the 101st moved north in October.  There may also have been some ARVN units in the vicinity.

The upcoming mission, 60-80 km north of Camp Evans and near the DMZ, was to deny the NVA access to Combat Bases at Vandegrift (YD003488) and Elliott (XD982542), both about 10-12 km west of Mai Loc (small village and special forces camp) as well as to protect Highway 9 in Quang Tri province.  Charlie Company moves by C-123 aircraft - departs Evans 1047 and arrives at Mai Loc 1140.  The distance from Camp Evans is approximately 50 km.  If my memory serves me correctly, the division band was at the departure airfield, playing military music.  The bandsmen seemed a bit out of place but the music was good.

Sep 30 – Oct 2 1969.  The company remained at the Mai Loc special forces camp waiting for the weather to improve so that we could air assault into our area of operations.  Apparently there were Montagnards in the Mai Loc vicinity – generally they were friendly to the US as the Vietnamese had persecuted them.

October 1969.  Oct 3, 1969.  Charlie Company air assaults about 28 km from Mai Loc to LZ Shrapnel.  The company is welcomed at Shrapnel by 23 incoming 82mm mortar rounds but they do no damage.  An ambush patrol is established a few hundred meters outside Shrapnel.  The area around Shrapnel is hilly and forested with numerous ridge lines, valleys, and streams in the low land.  It is not quite as dramatic as the A Shau Valley where some peaks were well over 1,000 meters elevation; here the peaks were in the 700 meter range.

One soldier shoots himself in the foot and is evacuated to Camp Evans.  Perhaps he was intimidated by the upcoming operation, not far from the DMZ between North and South Viet Nam.  No doubt rumors existed that we were going into an area with major NVA forces and that a minor wound to the foot might be a good insurance policy.  At this time, I had been in country for about 60 days.  Some of the combat in the A Shau Valley area was pretty intense while the time around FB Blaze was uneventful.   It was difficult for me to extrapolate that experience over the upcoming year and to determine if most days would be intense or slow.  I can see where a soldier would have good reason to be concerned.  As it turned out, there were many “quiet” periods to counterbalance the high intensity moments.

Oct 4, 1969.  0035 – The day began as Charlie Company was providing security for the elements at LZ Shrapnel.  LP #2 at Shrapnel saw 12 enemy and threw a grenade – the listening post received AK fire but no one was hurt.

The “blues” element of the 2-17th Cav made contact in the afternoon four kilometers NW  of Shrapnel.  The Cavalry was a reconnaissance unit designed to see what was out there and to make contact while not getting decisively engaged.  The blues element was engaged with the NVA and decided that it was too much for them to handle so they passed the information up to higher headquarters and Charlie Company was given the mission of investigating the area of contact and engaging any enemy forces present.  One disadvantage from Charlie’s perspective was that you had lost the element of surprise and the enemy was expecting your arrival. 

At 1732, C Company linked up with 2-17th aero rifle platoon at XD 823633.  Charlie Company had moved a short distance when they started receiving small arms and 15 RPG rounds at XD 828628 about 500 meters from the landing zone.  The lead element was hit by RPG’s near a rocky area.  The lead platoon returned fire.  Robert Alley had a serious injury (RPG shrapnel in legs, face, chest, and back) and six had relatively minor shrapnel wounds.  Alley had been leading his squad and positioning his men when he was hit.  Edwin Murray was cited for leading his men under the intense fire.  Louis Dicampli was an RTO who moved forward to drag some of the wounded back to a safer position – he was wounded by a sniper. 

I was close to a wounded soldier at one point after dark and recall Thomas Dill, one of the company medics working, hard to stabilize him.  The man was losing a lot of blood and Dill was giving him IV fluid in the dark.  The medic’s stress level at this time was about 110 on a 100 scale.  The US serious injury was evacuated to the ship USS Sanctuary that was in the waters off the coast.  The medevac was completed at 2305 hrs.  A flare ship came on station to provide illumination.

The area of contact had numerous rock outcroppings.  They provided some cover but also allowed RPG rounds to impact, spraying shrapnel in all directions.  Most likely the RPG’s caused most of the wounds in this contact.  The rocks were also very sharp and they easily cut up the jungle fatigues and even did a job on some boots.  Others wounded in this action include:  Pelifano Tijerina, Otha Brewer, John Kobe, Roy Holmes, and Neil Brinkerhoff (eye wound).

Jim Lee recalls hearing the NVA talking to each other that night as they were evacuating.

We probably did not sleep much the night of the 4th because we did not know the size of the enemy force that had engaged us.  The next morning we began to sweep through the area of contact to see what was there.  At 0805, our Kit Carson scout, killed one NVA lying on the ground (I recall his name but will use ‘Tran’ in the event the Vietnamese government still holds grudges).  He had a US partner who went through some training with him.  The scout’s English was very poor but he seemed like a nice fellow, maybe 30-35 years of age.   I was about to say that we should try to capture the NVA.  Right at that moment, he pumped about 10-15 shots into the enemy soldier.  That was what most of our soldiers would have done but I always felt suspicious of the scout’s motives after that.  I thought he might be silencing the NVA so that he could not provide intelligence to us.  

At 1200 the company found one NVA supply cache.  Upon reporting to Brigade, the company was directed to salvage the enemy rucksacks, papers, and marijuana.

At 1730 – From XD 833626 first and third platoons spot six enemy a few hundred meters out.  Artillery is called and one NVA is killed by artillery.  In searching the area, we found more caves and saw at least one 82mm round - to be further checked the next day.

I recall either the first or second night in the “caves” area, seeing lights at a distance of several hundred meters.  We probably engaged with rifles and possibly artillery.  Most likely, the NVA were evacuating their most valuable equipment.

October 6, 1969.  At 0750 - First and second platoons begin to check out the caves.  At 0840, the company found 122mm rockets in one cave.  1250 - fourth platoon arrives from FB Shrapnel.  During the day, we found numerous items in the caves.  I recall that one of our soldiers went down a ladder into a cave without his rifle, saw an enemy and reversed his direction very quickly.  We tried to get the NVA to come out but no luck.  We may have tossed a concussion grenade into the cave which knocked him out and then captured him at 1522.  On one later cave exploration, a CS (like tear gas) grenade was thrown in without a heads-up to those nearby.  The CS quickly spread among the platoon causing some minor distress! 

October 7, 1969.  There were about ten caves that we discovered in the immediate area.  Major items found included:

12 motors for 122mm rockets

7, 122mm rocket warheads

111, 82mm mortar rounds

30, 60mm mortar rounds

17, Chicom claymores

20, Chicom grenades

4, one pound satchel charges

medicine

rucksacks

uniforms

All items not destroyed were evacuated on Oct 7, 1969.  The captured items made a photo opportunity for the Stars and Stripes.  There seemed to be an inordinate amount of PR associated with the Mai Loc mission.  In general, the mission involved little fighting but was publicized as the US withdrawing some of its forces and turning over some fighting to the ARVN.  There were a good number of photographers snapping pictures around Mai Loc and FB Victory.  The fighting in early August in the A Shau was very intense and difficult by contrast and during the fighting, saw very limited news coverage.

October 8, 1969.  Things are quiet in the caves area.  I commented in a letter that it had rained continuously for four straight days.  Most of us had rain jackets but practically everything was wet.  It was almost impossible to find a dry match to light a cigarette.  I remember that my fingers had pruned up similar to when you soak in a bathtub for too long.  We slept sitting up in a crouched position to minimize the rain soaking our bodies.  The temperature was a bit cool so it was not pleasant at this location.

October 9 – October 18, 1969.  On the 9th we moved by helicopter to an area about 20 km to the southeast.  On the 10th we must have done an air move about 10 km northeast of the previous day’s location.  Mike Aird describes his chopper ride about this time, “On October 9th, we apparently made a CA to somewhere.  I believe this is the point where, during the CA while I was sitting as one of the two men in the center of the slick, three rounds came up through the floor of the chopper and struck some engine components.  We had flown over an adjacent ridge at low level and taken the rounds from small weapons aimed at the bird.  The engine cut out and we crashed (more like a very, very hard landing) near the edge of the LZ.  If we had crashed 20-30 meters further out the incident could have been much worse as the chopper was at a precarious angle where it landed.  When the rounds came up through the slick’s floor, my mouth dropped open.  The door gunner was looking back and forth from the holes in the floor to my face.  His chin had dropped several inches also.  I instinctively grabbed between my legs to make sure everything was still in order.  As we hit the ground, the door gunner began screaming ‘get out, get out’!  After running to the LZ and taking up a position, I looked back and watched as the pilot restarted the engine and flew away.  I was awarded an air medal on this date for meritorious action in aerial flight.”

NDP’s:  2d platoon is located with the CP; 1st platoon is at XD 912523; 3d platoon at XD 915519; 4th platoon XD 915524.

Charlie company frequently conducted air assaults or helicopter moves via UH-1.  Some LZ's were not well prepared and had stumps and other obstacles.  In these instances, the UH-1's or “hueys” would hover 8 to 10 feet above the ground.  The door gunner would yell at the infantry to get out of the chopper quickly as it was most vulnerable at this point.  The best way to get out was to drop the rucksack, lower yourself on the skids and jump.  There could be injuries at the LZ even before the battle began.  I believe this area had several of those type LZ’s.

The 13th is “animal” day.  At 0930 there is a report of a dog barking at XD 914520 and at 1010, roosters at XD 896487.  These locations are about 10 kilometers west of the north-south highway, QL-9.  On the 14th, the platoons move into ambush positions.  The company is on some higher ground overlooking the Khe Giang river.  The 15th sees two platoons do short air movements of no more than two km.  On the 16th, one platoon goes to Mai Loc – perhaps for security or a work detail.  A comment from a letter that I wrote on the 17th is that this area is infested with bugs and that we crossed a 20 foot stream during the day.  Through the 18th, the company has platoons out in ambush locations with no enemy sightings.

The company’s frequent moves of 10 to 20 kilometers every few days must have been intended to survey the area to ensure that the NVA did not surprise us as we were covering the withdrawal of the 3d Marine Division.  Forces remaining in the DMZ area were the 1st Brigade of the 5th Mech and some regiments of the 3d Infantry Division (ARVN).  If needed, the 101st airborne was available to move north to the DMZ area but it was stretched very thin trying to cover the A Shau valley area as well as the coastal regions of I Corps tactical zone.

On October 19, the company moves to the Mai Loc staging area and goes to Eagle Beach.  This may have been a reward for capturing enemy equipment in the caves area as we had just been to the beach in early September.  The brigade and division levels really enjoyed laying out the captured equipment and taking photographs to show tangible signs of success.

October 21 – November 3, 1969.  Around midday on the 21st we left Eagle Beach and landed at Mai Loc and then flew to FSB Victory.  Our mission at Victory was firebase security.  Victory was a small fire base with a battery of 155mm howitzers from the 2-11th  Artillery.  The views from Victory were excellent.  You could see the ocean about 20 miles away and it would have been a nice place to visit had a war not been going on.  During the day, we periodically sent out a platoon to patrol the immediate area.  One ambush patrol was sent out about 20 km to the east on the 24th – about 8 kilometers east of Camp Carrol.  There were minor enemy sightings but nothing significant. 

One day at FB Victory, the artillery must have been bored and lowered a tube and did direct fire on a hill a few kilometers distant.  On November 3, President Nixon addressed the nation about continued US involvement in Vietnam. Someone must have had a radio and we picked up the armed forces radio station, probably from Quang Tri – many were disappointed that Nixon’s speech did not shorten our tours.  Toward the end of October, the weather started to cool off and the nights were almost cold.  Victory was “socked in” weather-wise for four straight days during one interval.  Small field mice ran across us as we slept in our bunkers.  I think our Kit Carson scout caught one and fed it C-ration candy to fatten it up.

There was a reported Chu Hoi attempt but it failed as someone shot at the man attempting to surrender,.  “Chu Hoi” was the term for NVA or VC surrendering to the US or ARVN forces.  Life was difficult for the VC and NVA and in some instances, they defected to the US side.  In this case, the guy could not win.

In general, this is a period without much enemy contact.  The monsoon season has begun and helicopter operations toward the NVA strongholds are not feasible.  No doubt the NVA took advantage of this time and moved weapons and ammunition and prepared bunkers for the next fighting season to begin in February.


 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Return to Camp Evans and FB Jack AO

 

 

November 1969.  November 4 was a quick stop at Camp Evans.  November 5 to November 14, 1969.  The main mission was securing the 14th Engineers who were building a road and clearing vegetation about 10 km SSW of Camp Evans.  This was probably the Rakkasan road from FB Jack through rocket ride to FB Rakkasan.  This was low terrain, not too much above sea level and full of mosquitoes.  The first platoon made a few trips back to FSB Victory.  As in the past, this may have been to secure people who were extracting equipment and supplies that should have been removed earlier.  The platoons also conducted some RIF operations in the general area of the engineers.  We had another shot in the foot incident on the 10th.  About this time I become the company executive officer with duties at Camp Evans.

Weather report – rainy and cool on the 12th.  I see a note that Camp Evans received 73 inches of rain in October, perhaps a record.  This sounds a bit high.  Another report – a unit nearby shot a 400 pound tiger.

About this time, the company organization changes from four rifle platoons to three platoons.  I would have to speculate on the reasons:  shortages of officer and NCO leaders or fewer soldiers in the pipeline so that it was not possible to fill up four platoons.

On Nov 12, CPT Moore had to go in for emergency dental surgery.  I filled in for him for a day or two.  One of the days involved a combat assault in the area just north of the hills south of Camp Evans.  The battalion commander, LTC Pinney, had me ride with him in his command and control (C&C) helicopter.  We inserted one platoon and all seemed quiet.  Then, someone in the platoon on the ground disturbed a hornet’s nest which was in a dead tree about five feet above the ground.  The bees attacked furiously.  Several were stung to the extent that they may have died without timely medical aid.  One man’s face swelled to the point that it appeared to have doubled in size.  Chaos reigned.  Some of the men dropped their weapons and ran to a nearby stream to get away from the swarm.  We could see some of this activity from the chopper.  Several men had to be medevac’d due to extreme allergic reactions.  Jim Lee was with the platoon on the ground and recalls that some men were bitten about 100 times and were nearly unconscious.  Fortunately, there was no enemy in the area to take advantage.

Thomas Stubbs received a purple heart for an action on November 13, 1969.  Not sure where this took place.  The journal mentions some movement at a platoon NDP where M-79 and mortar rounds were employed - perhaps Thomas caught a fragment.

November 16.  I am assigned to the Camp Evans base defense staff so my reporting will be solely from the journals until early January 1970 when I return to Charlie Company.  I think I realized it in a general sense at the time - leaving the field robbed me of continuity with the guys in the platoon.  To some extent, it was like being pulled from your family and being put in a foster home.

The base defense job was to coordinate the defense of Camp Evans, mainly perimeter security.  Each unit had responsibility for a sector and put out guards at night on the bunker line.  The discipline of the soldiers at Evans was not the highest (the field units sent their underperformers to the rear) and among support units, there were some cases of drug overdoses while pulling guard duty.  Camp Evans had a 40mm “Duster” anti-aircraft weapon that had quad 40’s and could put out a spray of ammo.  It also had searchlights that could be bounced off of clouds to give some illumination.  I believe Evans also fired a lot of artillery in the H&I mode each evening – about 800 unobserved rounds that was highly inefficient.  No doubt most of this shooting was to no effect.  New Year’s Eve was interesting at Evans.  Many soldiers grabbed their weapons and filled the sky with tracers, regular ammunition, and flares.  The sky looked like the Fourth of July on the Washington DC mall.  My recollection is that at least one helicopter was destroyed by fire due to the flares.  The rear area was somewhat out of control.  The brigade commander called all unit representatives into his TOC and chewed some butt.

November 15 – November 19, 1969.  The company appears to be split up at this point.  The company CP is on FSB Rakkasan.  The second platoon continues road security for the engineers.  The first and third platoons divide into about eight, six-man recon teams (and locate about 10 km west of Rakkasan.  This is getting closer to the heart of “Indian Country” and is just a few km from the future FSB Ripcord.  From the journals, we can see that the enemy was very deliberate in making attacks on US forces since they were greatly outgunned in firepower.  They would probably trail a US unit for several days before making an attack, mostly at night.  Perhaps that is why inserting the first and third platoons so far out but keeping them there for a short while was not an unreasonable risk.  

A rifle company was like an elephant, thrashing through the jungle.  The elephant could stretch over several hundred meters and by its nature was noisy, often losing the element of surprise.  Many soldiers commented that they were “tired of getting ambushed” and volunteered for six man recon teams or to join the battalion recon platoon that frequently operated in smaller teams.  They felt that their chances of survival were better using this tactic, even though they were vulnerable to larger size NVA forces.  Since the NVA rarely massed in larger groups, this concern was not a high one.

On the 17th, an element was inserted at YD 493104 (about 10 km south of Rakkasan) and located a bunker at YD 486226.

November 20, 1969.  Second platoon remains with the engineers and first platoon, third platoon, and CP come to Evans.

November 21, 1969.  First platoon, third platoon, and the CP combat assault to the flatlands just a few kilometers SW of Evans at the end of the day.  Second platoon comes in from the field to Evans.  Even though the lowlands were marshy in spots with countless mosquitoes, there were attractive features.  Jim Lee recalls patrolling near a destroyed church, perhaps attacked during Tet 1968, where flocks of brightly colored parakeets and wild orchids were prevalent.

November 22, 1969.  First platoon makes a day trip up to FSB Victory to assist with closing.  Second platoon CA’s to a location a few km from FSB Rakkasan.  Third platoon forms five ambush teams near the Song Bo River and where the terrain starts to rise, about 10 km south of Evans.

November 23, 1969.  Third platoon remains in the team area near the Song Bo River.  48 women are detained and turned over to the ARVN for being in an off limits area.  The teams find one bunker used recently.  First platoon is at Evans prepared to secure LZ construction teams and second platoon is standing down at Evans.

November 24-25, 1969.  First platoon remains at Evans.  Second platoon is inserted along the Song Bo River near third platoon’s teams.  They find a few bunkers about 60 days old.  The 25th is cold and wet.

November 26, 1969.  First platoon remains at Evans and third platoon’s teams are extracted and return to Evans.  Second platoon does an air move to a location four km to the west.

November 27.  Happy Thanksgiving.  All elements are at Camp Evans for the Thanksgiving meal.

November 28.  First platoon and second platoon move to locations about one kilometer apart to the ridgeline south of Camp Evans.  First platoon finds a few hooches and sees two enemy running away; they engage with no results.

November 29, 1969.  Third platoon joins the other platoons in the same general area and finds a hooch and some minor enemy items.

November 30, 1969.  The company moves from its field locations to Camp Evans and then flys to Mai Loc.

December 1969.  December 1 – December 2, 1969.  The company moves to FSB Shepard and provides security for an artillery raid.  Shepard is eight km east of Khe Sanh and 10 KM SW of FB Vandergrift.  The purpose of an artillery raid is to quickly bring in artillery tubes and put out a lot of fire on suspected enemy locations before the enemy has time to react.  Shepard is about six km south of FSB Victory.

Wildlife plays a role.  On Dec 1, 1969, 2-17th Cav spotted 10 elephants and fired rockets at them.  Two were killed and four wounded.  They were reported to have had large tusks.  I suppose they were used by NVA as pack animals to move munitions.  There are reports of water buffalo also used as pack animals (Apr 5, 1970 battalion journal).  Alpha company killed a 150 pound black bear in a mechanical ambush on June 20, 1970.  Jul 1, 1970 - Bravo company had a mechanical ambush triggered by a snake.

December 3-4.  Charlie Company arrives at Eagle Beach the end of the day on Dec 3.

December 5 – December 9, 1969.  The first and third platoons move to Camp Carrol to construct the alternate tactical operations center (TOC) for 3d brigade headquarters.  Carrol is in Quang Tri province about 10 km east of the rockpile and near highway QL-9.

Second platoon has four ambush teams on rocket ridge near Evans.  The general idea was that the enemy could set up rocket launchers on the high ground near our base camp and observe their impact and make adjustments.  Generally,  rocket ridge was the high ground south of Camp Evans from the Song Bo on the east to grid coordinates YD 380280.  On Dec 7th, second platoon hears about five enemy and engages but had negative results.  On the 9th, second platoon made a slight change in their location via Evans and air move back out.

December 10, 1969.  First platoon and third platoon return to Evans and then back out to the field in the general vicinity of second platoon.  The company is on rocket ridge near the Song Bo south of Evans.  One platoon found a map showing Camp Evans, Camp Sally, and Camp Eagle although it may have been blown out of a helicopter.

December 11, 1969.  The second platoon apprehended five females near the Song Bo, some with proper ID and some without.

December 12, 1969 to January 1, 1970.  This period was a continuation of splitting the company into eight man teams in the vicinity of rocket ridge.  On some days, the platoons would consolidate and conduct PAS (patrol and surveillance) operations.  The old term RIF (reconnaissance in force) was out as that sounded too aggressive now that “Vietnamization” was a top priority.  Apparently there was a decent amount of VC activity such as moving supplies from the population centers to the NVA in the mountains, sniping at US forces, and laying booby traps.  On the 15th, second platoon received a few sniper rounds and third platoon found a recently used trail.  On the 16th, Colonel Bradley takes over 3d Brigade.  The temperature each day is between 62 and 68 degrees with light rain.  Not the most comfortable for the infantryman.  Several times, the platoons would air move back to Evans and then be reinserted in the same general area.  The third platoon spots four enemy on December 23 and engages but has negative results.

Merry Christmas.  It appears that most or all of the company pulled back to Camp Evans early on the 25th for Christmas dinner (Operation Holly) and then returned to rocket ridge later in the day.

On the 28th, third platoon finds a large bunker, booby trapped with US hand grenades.  The 29th and 30th had first platoon pulling bunker line security at Camp Evans.  Second platoon had this mission a few days later.

January 1970.  January 2 to January 11, 1970.  The company moves about 15-20 km to the northwest to a low area west of Camp Evans and two km north of FB Sword, between the Song Thac Ma and Song O Lau rivers (it appears from the tactical maps that rivers have different names at different locations!)

On the 5th, third platoon finds a 500 pound bomb that appeared to have been placed on a trail, rather than dropped from an aircraft.  The next day, the second platoon finds an old bunker and a rusty AK-47.  Trails with recent activity are found in this area.  Third platoon received some small arms fire on the 8th while at an LZ.  On the 13th, third platoon found an NVA rucksack with binoculars and miscellaneous items.

Battalion training.  The company conducts training at Camp Evans from January 12 – January 20.  It appears that the battalion tries to schedule training a couple of times each year when other priorities allow.  By January 9th, I was able to get back to Charlie Company as executive officer and platoon leader, having been at the base defense job just short of two months.  I had missed the camaraderie of the infantry guys.

I did not fully appreciate the importance of “the rear” when I was in the field in Viet Nam.  I expected that we would get whatever we needed and that supplies and ammunition would magically appear.  The rear consisted of the support elements that provided logistical and administrative support to the men fighting the war.  There may have been an officer who served as the company executive officer.  I served as company exec for a short while and just remember a few instances:  MAJ Ford, the battalion executive officer at the time, storming down to the company like a raging bull over some detail that the company failed to provide; going to the hospital in Phu Bai to see if the wounded were in country or had personal effects to pick up; taking the company mascot by jeep to Phu Bai to have him immunized against rabies.  The first sergeant was normally an experienced master sergeant.  Working for the first sergeant was a supply sergeant, communications sergeant, armorer, administrative clerks, and others. 

Some of the rear personnel were highly motivated because they were just one chopper ride from the rest of the company in the jungle.  John Georgiton remembers several months later “how if the guy in the rear area who was suppose to put the meal (THE HOT MEAL) together for us for resupply, screwed it up, he would end up in the field with us because the company commander (Mark Smith) wouldn't let anyone in the rear screw us over. I think at one time we had three of those individuals in first platoon.  I always remember how much Zippo stuck up for the men in the field. I have used the principle often in life for the people that work for me. He taught us all some great lessons in life.”

The base camp at Evans had a number of “sea hut” barracks, supply rooms, and an orderly room.  The company may have had a jeep for admin runs.  The first sergeant ran all of the “details” necessary for the daily functioning of the base camp:  KP in the battalion mess hall, occasional Camp Evans bunker duty, drawing ammunition and supplies from various ASP’s and supply points, getting water for the showers, and the disposal of human waste by burning in 55 gallon drums (ignited with diesel fuel).

The infantry soldiers were in the rear area infrequently.  The rear was a transit point going on R&R or coming back.  A few times a year, the battalion would come to Evans for training.  After an extended period in the field, the company might also come to Evans to get supplies and rest before heading out again.  During the monsoon season when the company operated closer to Evans, sniper teams and recon teams were employed in the hills for a week at a time.  These teams would rotate back though Evans for a night or two before being redeployed.  Most men had good memories of the rear where you could get a shower, clean clothes, a hot meal other than C-rations, a cold beer or two, and possibly a trip to the Post Exchange.

The rear was also a temporary respite for men recovering from battle injuries, jungle infections, or other medical issues.  Some men had medical “profiles” or restrictions that would keep them at Evans for weeks or longer.  The first sergeant would keep these men productively employed and most were more than happy to be working at Evans rather than returning to the field.  The first sergeant therefore had a good deal of power and responsibility.  He was tasked by the company commander to meet the company’s requirements such as six man recon teams.  The first sergeant decided who stayed at Evans and who went to the field. To my knowledge, these assignments were made fairly and equitably.  In some cases, these decisions intersected with the randomness of combat in determining who was wounded or killed.

The rear may have been a respite for veterans who had seen too much combat or who were getting short (less than a month on their tour).  This was a judgment by the company commander and first sergeant and may have varied over time.  There was extreme pressure from battalion to keep as many men in the field, fighting the enemy, as possible.  This is understandable.  Sometimes the battalion would have a company send every man from the rear who was not absolutely essential to the battalion firebase to pull security duty.

January 21, 1970.  The company moves to an area about 10 km SE of Camp Evans bounded by rocket ridge to the south and the Song Bo river to the east.  The temperature gets down to 50 degrees at night with wind and rain, feeling cold.  There are small villages in the area and a local route 554 passes through some hamlets.  The terrain is low and marshy with numerous streams.  Each platoon is inserted in the general area; at YD 583246, third platoon hits a booby trap not far from their LZ.  The hand grenade booby trap wounds four men – two seriously.  Line #64 (Rodney Lusk) has shrapnel in his leg; Johnny Rippy receives a purple heart for this date.  Line # 113 is more serious and has his leg blown off.  Most likely, this is Gary Hensley.  Lusk and Hensley are taken to the hospital ship, the USS Repose.  The lightly wounded are sent to the medical company at Camp Evans. 

I remember this event, hearing of the booby traps over the radio.  I must have been back to my old job as first platoon leader and about two km from the incident.  This is probably a good example of the isolation of units within the same company and why it is necessary to get numerous inputs to this chronicle.  Even though just a mile away, you had no way of knowing that someone had a traumatic injury, other than hearing the report on the radio.  Since I did not see the injury, it did not affect me as much as it did those who were close by. 

The area near Camp Evans and closer to the coast did not have NVA units but did have the local VC who would emplace the booby traps.  Generally, the company found itself in areas prone to booby traps during late Fall and Winter since the weather forced the battalion to work areas closer to Camp Evans because the helicopters were frequently limited in their flying.

February 1970.  January 22, 1970 to February 15, 1970.  The company continued in the lowlands near Evans for about three weeks.  On the 26th, the second platoon point man triggered a booby trap in high elephant grass.  Point and slack had minor cuts to arms and legs and were evacuated in a log bird to C Co, 326 Med.

During this period, the journal shows that the company was tasked to provide one sniper team and two recon teams to be placed under battalion control.  These teams were three or four men each.  Snipers were to engage at a distance and the recon teams were to observe and call artillery.  The sniper team was in the rocket ridge area and the recon teams were as far as 10 km south of the company’s platoons.  The company had very few findings at this time.  A hooch or two were found and destroyed.  One humorous entry was found in the journal for January 28 from D Company:  Sick dog was medevac'd.  Field medical diagnosis must have been good – the dog was said to have hepatitis.  On the evacuation form there is a block for "nationality."  The entry was "dog."  It was quiet on February 6, the Tet holiday that involved major fights two years earlier.

February 16, 1970.  The company pulls in to Camp Evans and prepares to move into a new area of operations about 15-20 km SW of Camp Evans.  The terrain is wooded and the higher peaks are in the 500 meter range.  This is about 20 km east of the Laos border and known enemy concentrations.  This area is not far from Firebases Rakkasan and Kathryn.  The company is still employing a sniper team and two recon teams separate from the company.  

On February 23d at YD 474156, third platoon finds old NVA bunkers and equipment such as a rusted M1 carbine, Russian machine gun, and miscellaneous ammo.  Having a time horizon of one year and back to the “world,” it is easy to forget that this terrain had been fought over many times, perhaps even back to the days of the French.  Many artifacts of previous combat are found throughout our AO’s - finding countless NVA bunkers, old rusty NVA weapons and munitions, and old graves.

On the 23d, Sniper team 5 engages two NVA mid morning at YD 517248 and kills one.  They capture a rucksack with medical supplies.  This might be the only success our sniper teams had.  For the most part, there were not many good locations where a sniper had unobstructed vision for any distance.  I seem to recall hearing about this success – I believe the sniper had his scope off and was cleaning his weapon when another team member pointed out the enemy soldiers.  The sniper made the shot without the scope, using it like a normal rifle!  Another member of the sniper team had disassembled his rifle to clean it and chewed out the sniper for taking the shot when the others were not prepared.  Had the enemy been part of a larger unit, the team members would have had a problem. 

On the 26th, second platoon found a trail used in the last 24 hours.  The next day, third platoon finds NVA tracks at YD 462165.  They engage and kill one NVA at YD 465165.  They estimate there had been a party of three or four NVA.  Third platoon puts out an ambush at YD 467164.  This area is about four km SE of the future FB Granite.  Between the 19th and the 27th I commented in letters that we were climbing some pretty good hills and that I had not seen any enemy since the previous October (other platoons had).  We didn’t realize that things were about to change.


 

11 Granite

 

 

March 1970.  March 2, 1970.  LTC Holt assumed command of the 1-506th Infantry.    Generally, battalion commanders rotated every six months while today the Army keeps people in such key positions much longer.  The outgoing commander had run the battalion during a relatively quiet period, much of it induced by the monsoons and bad flying weather where the units operated closer to Camp Evans.  In hindsight, we see the new commander assuming responsibility during a period of heavy combat.  Ideally, the new commander would have had several months to get familiar with the units and the terrain but fate did not provide him that advantage.

The weather must be turning hot as one man is evacuated for heat stroke.  I think I remember this fellow; although I could be confusing the dates.  If he’s the one, he was a first class con artist.  He would purposely not drink water so that he would have heat symptoms and get evacuated.  Later, on a religious service in Da Nang, he sneaked into a Navy admiral’s quarters, put on his bathrobe, and began eating his food.  He rivaled Klinger in the MASH TV series. 

March 5, 1970.  0900, second platoon spotted a campfire and called artillery on the location.  Shortly thereafter, they received 3 RPG rounds – the NVA must have been angry to have had their breakfast disturbed.  Negative results all around.

March 6, 1970.  Other than booby traps in January, Charlie Company has not had significant contact since hitting the caves area in Quang Tri province in October 1969.  The last heavy fighting was early August, 1969. 

In the book, Hell on a Hilltop, General Harrison’s research points out that the senior North Vietnamese political leadership had made a decision to direct the North Vietnamese Army to conduct decisive military operations in the summer of 1970.  The purpose was to destroy US bases and the troops supporting those bases in the 101st area of operations.  General Harrison was not able to get much specific information from the North Vietnamese during his visits in 2001 and 2004 but we can safely assume that the NVA had already infiltrated a greater number of troops, munitions, supplies, and medical support into the 101st area of operations, especially during the monsoon season when the third brigade was forced to position most of its forces closer to Camp Evans.  Most likely, the outlying areas near the A Shau Valley and firebases Ripcord, Granite, Kathryn, and Rakkasan had received significant reinforcements of NVA forces who were given missions to be more aggressive than in the past.

The second platoon saw most of the contact on March 6.  They are about six km north of the future FB Kathryn.  At 1010 they report finding a trail at YD 469166, no more than two to four days old.  Two hours later, they have covered about 400 meters.  At 1245 YD 465170 they receive AK fire and 28 RPG rounds from about 30 meters out.  Oren Crook is in the lead and puts out a heavy volume of fire, buying time for the lead squad to deploy to return the enemy fire.  He is killed in this initial exchange.  RPG’s can be somewhat terrifying as they whistle through the air and then detonate with a deafening explosion.  Within the next few months, the US started carrying the LAW which was a similar weapon but designed to be more of an armor penetrator.  The LAW was not a new weapon and had been used sporadically by the 1-506th.

ARA is requested and is on station - three US are WIA.  1234, a white team arrives at YD 465170.  Second platoon estimates the enemy force to be about two platoons.  Third platoon is 500 meters distant and first platoon is making an air move to reinforce.  By 1255 second platoon is only receiving small arms fire and total casualties are 1 US KIA and 3 WIA.  Medevac is in process.   About 1300, there is a lull in the fight.  Fifteen minutes later, the enemy initiates AK fire again.  One gunship supporting the battle is hit with small arms fire and returns to Camp Evans.  Four men have been medevac'd by 1325.  One WIA is still on ground. 

At 1330 they are still receiving light small arms fire.  A second medevac is in process.  Two pink teams, two sections of ARA, and one white team are on station.  A LOH is hit by small arms and returns to Evans.  By 1400, all contact has ceased.  Rockets and mini-guns from the attack helicopters are key to driving the enemy away.  The NVA realize that if they concentrate, even at platoon strength, they are at major disadvantage.  Second platoon moves to higher ground to redistribute ammunition.  During the fight, Leonard Arsenault, the platoon medic, pulled wounded men back to the relative safety of a bomb crater, despite intense enemy fire.  Willie Cohen, a squad leader, skillfully maneuvered his element to blunt the enemy’s attack.  When his platoon leader was wounded, Donald Neeb, RTO, filled in with radio reports and called for medevac and ARA.  Paul Mason continued to lead his platoon despite his wounds and also assisted in evacuating the wounded.  Frost Bowling led his squad in an assault of enemy positions to stifle the enemy attack.  Paul Richards an RTO made repeated trips to move wounded men to safety.

Concurrently, the third platoon has enemy contact.  At 1150 they are engaged by an NVA squad at a distance of 100 meters.  They receive AK fire but there are no casualties.  At 1340, they receive light small arms fire from the South.  One gunship receives AK fire from north of 3d platoon.

The first platoon had split itself into two elements.  They are extracted from YD 445208 at 1310 and inserted at YD 463163 to reinforce second platoon.  The enemy action is consistent with a greater aggressiveness than seen recently by the company.  The NVA continue to fire at the US attack helicopters despite the danger to themselves by exposing their location to the rockets and miniguns of the choppers.  This new aggressiveness will be seen in the upcoming weeks and months.

Casualty summary:

SP4 Oren Lee Crook KIA (tour began 11/29/1969), Line #50.

WIA:

PFC Roderick N. McLean – to 326 Med

PFC Lee B. Patterson – to 326 Med

PFC Robert Middleton – to 326 Med

PFC Guy D. Statzer – went to 85th Evac

LT Paul Mason

 

March 7, 1970.  I’d like to comment on the previous day’s contact.  The second platoon had encountered a good size enemy force (larger than a few trail watchers) and had taken a good number of casualties.  I must have followed some of the action on the company radio net but because of our separation, I did not have a strong recollection of that action.  I guess this reinforces the point of “being in one’s own little platoon-sized world.”

At 0955 hrs, first platoon and an NVA trail watcher exchange fire in the vicinity of YD 468162.  Robert Fleeks, the point man was wounded in the hand, causing him to drop his rifle.  Lorne Trainor spotted the source of the enemy fire and dropped numerous M-79 rounds on the enemy position.  This enabled Fleeks to grab his rifle and start returning fire.  First platoon begins to maneuver against the enemy.  The terrain is the flat portion of a ridge line and the maneuver is slightly uphill.  I remember looking to my left and seeing Derek Montey firing and aggressively moving forward.  He may have been carrying an M-60.  We were somewhat on line and firing as we moved toward the enemy.  Montgomery’s action took a lot of the heat off the rest of the platoon.   Glenn Lovett was about 8-10 feet to my right rear and carrying an M-79.  I looked back at some point and saw him lying on the ground – he had been hit in the head with AK fire from about 20 meters ahead.  I tried to put out some fire with my M-16 and it had jammed.  Glenn’s M-79 would not have been too useful at this time.  I grabbed one or two frag grenades and cooked them for a second or two and lofted toward the enemy.  The fire stopped and we found blood where the fire had come from.  Apparently the NVA ran off at this point.  ARA had come on station but I recall they were not able to spot the enemy. After consolidating things, one soldier reported seeing the enemy running away at some distance.  We asked him whether he fired and he said no.  This particular soldier just got low to the ground and did nothing.  In general, he had a bad attitude and had fallen in with a bad crowd.  He was the only man that I remember behaving this way.  There may have been three to four NVA in two positions that we faced that day.

Casualty Summary:

KIA:

Glenn A. Lovett (tour began 8/3/1969)

WIA:

Robert Fleeks

 

March 8, 1970.  At 1100 a resupply helicopter receives some small arms rounds but no hits.  Third platoon 1500 - finds a box with 10, 60mm mortar rounds and 6, 82mm mortar rounds (appears 3-6 months old).

About this time, CPT Reg Moore may have gone on military leave and LT Don Workman may have commanded Charlie Company for a short while.  Apparently the battalion commander had plans to give Don Workman a rifle company and used this opportunity to give him some experience.  Don Workman later commanded Delta Company.

March 9, 1970.  At 1150, second platoon sees one NVA at YD 461160 and engages.  They find a north-south trail recently used.  At 1300 they find a trail marker at YD 461160.  1315 at YD 471157 they see an NVA, and engage him with small arms.  Purple heart orders indicate that Percy White was wounded this day – perhaps his wound was discovered after the battle reports were submitted.  The platoon sees enemy tracks but no other results.

A LOH working for Alpha Company is hit by AK fire from YD 471154 and lands at YD 462162.  1st platoon secures the helicopter until the LOH is extracted.  At the end of the day, first and third platoons are extracted to the future FSB Granite location.

March 10, 1970.  Second platoon 1030 - has movement at YD 462162.  Paul Richards was a radio operator who noticed the enemy presence.   He initiated fire with his M16. The enemy opened up with a high volume of small arms and grenades, wounding Paul Richards.  Several other men were wounded and Joseph Banks, the platoon medic, moved to pull Richards to safety.  Banks was wounded in this effort but did not hesitate to administer life-saving measures.  Byron Richard was also hit in this fight.  The morning report indicated that he had been struck by fire from a LOH mini-gun supporting the fight.  1450 - second platoon finds a blood trail vicinity YD 462162.  1715 - they are extracted from YD 434194 to YD 453178 (not far from Granite).

Casualty Summary:

KIA:

SP4 Byron Matthew Richard (VN Memorial web site shows HOSTILE, HELICOPTER – NONCREW AIR LOSS, CRASH ON LAND.  The morning report says he was killed from an errant mini-gun round from a LOH, part of a white team  (Tour began 11/27/1969).

SP4 Paul Allen Richards (Tour began 9/12/1969)

WIA:

Possibly Richard Wellington and Joseph Banks.  These names may have been confused with men from another company.

 

Things are heating up in the general area. At 0614, Alpha Company, just 3 km distant, is hit by small arms and RPG's, suffering 5 KIA and 15 WIA.  These casualties may have caused an issue at Camp Evans - the 1-506 had a logistics "log" pad where choppers would take off and land with people and supplies.  Normally after a contact when we had KIA's, the KIA would be taken to Evans by a logistics chopper. Frequently a log bird would bring in a resupply of water and ammo and take out the body or bodies.  Sometimes body bags would be provided but in some cases they were not.  As bad luck would have it, I'm told about ten new soldiers for 1-506 were waiting with all of their gear on the log pad to go out to their units.  As they were on the pad, a log bird with dead US bodies was unloaded, some with major wounds.  Apparently body bags were not available at the time.  You can imagine what sort of first impression this must have made.

March 11, 1970.  1630 – The CP and 2d platoon CA from YD 445169 to YD 440199 to secure the future firebase Granite.  First and third platoons are in the hills within a kilometer.  I had R&R orders for Hawaii from March 17 to March 23.  I had to be at the R&R processing center on March 16th.  My best guess is that I left the field about March 11 to get to the rear as I do not remember initial work setting up Firebase Granite.

Just a side comment about the skill of the chopper pilots.  I’m fairly certain that this recollection was my extraction from the field to go on R&R where a LOH pilot took me to Camp Evans.  There really was no LZ, just a small hole about fifty feet up between some very tall trees.  Fortunately, there was no enemy contact at the time.  The pilot hovered and then went straight down to get me and then straight back up, missing tree limbs by a few feet.  I was impressed.

March 12 – March 19, 1970.  On the 12th, firebase construction begins and Charlie Company puts 3 LP's out from the firebase.  There is a medevac for a man injured in a construction accident.  On the 15th Alpha company had a significant contact with two KIA and several WIA at YD 464156, three km southeast of FB Granite  – there are indications of enemy forces increasing strength in the AO.

On March 14, the company has a patrol out that discovers a tunnel complex.  One man is lowered into the tunnel and loses consciousness due to lack of oxygen.  A second man enters the tunnel and also passes out.  Arthur Meara volunteers to attempt a rescue and reaches the second man and extricates him.  He then proceeds to free the first man while almost passing out from lack of oxygen.  He received the soldier’s medal for these heroic actions.

The 17th has one ambush patrol at YD 441187 (about a kilometer away from Granite). 

Delta Company had contacts in the AO - further indications that the NVA were present in increasing numbers.  Initial plans were for FB Granite to be open for 10 days to support an operation but brigade headquarters now says it may stay open longer.

March 19th is National Anti-American Day.  Warnings from brigade are to expect attacks in some areas – cannot say that this is particularly useful intelligence.  Just before dark on March 19, CPT Moore passed out sergeant stripes to several men who just got promoted – including Tinsley Wells.

Here is a general description of Firebase Granite:  the hilltop was something of an oval from northeast to southwest.  The NE to SW dimension was about 150 meters and the width about 75 meters.  The approaches to the hilltop were somewhat gradual on the NE and South ends with steeper drop offs on the sides.  The 105mm artillery battery was in the center and the 81mm mortars were north of them.  On the south side was an LZ and ammo storage.  The company CP was close to the center and a large ten foot high boulder sat on the hilltop.  The third platoon defended the west side with the second platoon on the north and the first on the south and southeast.  Most of the fighting bunkers seen on a “mature” firebase had not been completed.  Initially, brigade planned to occupy Granite for no more than a week and may not have planned to bring in timber, sandbags, and fougasse used on a typical firebase.  One or two bulldozers were on the hill and one was left down by the defensive wire as darkness fell on the 19th.

March 20, 1970.  There was a new moon on March 18th so by the 20th, there was practically no natural illumination, even if the weather had been clear.  About 2 AM, CPT Moore was walking the perimeter and spotted an NVA inside the wire and killed him; this alerted the defensive forces and prevented the NVA from infiltrating further into the firebase undetected.   It also caused the NVA to initiate their attack.

0204 - Granite receives small arms fire and there are signs of a ground attack.  0210 – From the south, sappers hit the mortar section.  0215 – A mortar and sapper attack continues on Granite.  The battalion TOC has a minor hit with one WIA.  There is RPG fire with most coming from the South.  Ground movement is also detected on the north side.  By 0230, the main sapper attack has come from the S, SE, and SW.  Enemy mortars are fired from the N - NW.  0300 – the enemy attack is losing momentum.  There is still intermittent small arms and RPG fire.  Illumination aircraft are on station may have been a CH-47 “basketball” aircraft tossing out flares.  0330 - Still receiving some small arms and RPG fire.  0350 – the mortar section receives an RPG or mortar attack.

By 0410 - incoming fires have stopped and the weather appears to be clearing.  0445 - the first estimate of US casualties is 20 WIA.  0645 - casualty estimate is 5 KIA and 13 WIA.  0815 – the first medevac is on station.  0820 – casualty report:  10 KIA (two engineers; eight, 1-506th); 31 WIA (one pathfinder, two artillery, seven Engineers, 21 infantry).  The first medevac is complete at 0815 with five evacuees.  The C&C chopper then takes three wounded.  A CH-47 arrives and takes the 21 remaining WIA.  0850 - Gen Hennessey, Assistant Division Commander for Operations, arrives.

The battalion Commander and S3 had been on the ground with Delta Company and return to the firebase at 0920.  0946 - Gen Wright, division commander, arrives.  It was not uncommon to get the CG and ADC on a firebase when things were active.  Enemy casualties:  One NVA killed on NW side; 12 found dead on the south side of the perimeter.

Since Charlie company’s  fighting strength had been reduced, Bravo Company's 3d Platoon (-) was sent to Granite and arrived at 1350.  They find four NVA killed by small arms, five RPG launchers, five AK's, and 50-75 satchel charges.  At 1115 a pink team found three mortar positions at YD 435175 and a trail at YD 425177; they also found nine mortar positions in the vicinity of YD 412180.  If a reader only had the TOC journal for information about the Granite attack, he would know the casualty totals but not much else.

Many men were in the heat of battle and distinguished themselves during the defense of Firebase Granite.  Award citations are a source of selfless and heroic actions but are not the full story.  In some areas of the fight where casualties were high, no one was able to describe the actions of some men because those who observed the fight in that area were either killed or badly wounded and evacuated as soon as possible.  It is probably safe to say that the award citations are a part of the story but not the full story.

There were five combat medics on Firebase Granite.  One of the five, Ronald Leonard was killed in the fighting.  Joseph Banks, who was involved in heavy combat ten days earlier, provided aid to the wounded and assisted with the medevacs.  Leonard Arsenault moved around the perimeter under fire and pulled the wounded to safety where they could be treated.  Lawrence Fieser and Thomas Fries also exposed themselves to enemy fire and aided many of the wounded.

Led by Dwain James, platoon leader, and David Morton, platoon sergeant, the 81mm mortar platoon maintained fire missions as long as possible and fought as infantry when the NVA came close to their positions.  James Kurth and Willie Walker were killed while aiding the wounded.  Alredo Belez kept his tube firing to suppress the enemy mortar positions.  When his mortar was destroyed, Donald McVay fought as an infantryman.  Charles Mobley kept firing illumination rounds despite being wounded. 

Alvie Martin, an artillery FO, called in defensive fires around the firebase and engaged the enemy who had penetrated the wire near his position.  Joseph Sprovkin was a resupply specialist who distributed ammunition to the infantry fighting positions while they were under enemy fire.  Thomas Taylor, a TOC RTO, moved about the firebase during the attack to assess the battle and to give accurate reports to higher headquarters.

The infantry platoons defended the firebase and defeated the enemy attack, despite taking heavy casualties.  William Anonie, a machine gunner, kept firing despite being wounded early on.  James Block, platoon leader, organized his defense and directed fires at main enemy thrust.  Frost Bowling directed his squad’s fires and counterattacked an enemy penetration.  Tony Carnett led his squad in the fighting and later helped bring back the man that had been on an LP outside the wire.  Frank Foronda, the field first sergeant, moved about the perimeter, directing fires and aiding the wounded.  Calvin Hardage kept up steady fire on the enemy and made runs to the ammo point during the fighting.  Paul Mason, platoon leader, defended his sector and moved to the areas experiencing the heaviest contact.  Clyde Meade aided the wounded and helped resupply the positions with ammunition.  Paul Oplane, a grenadier, placed effective fire on the enemy, suppressing their fires at critical times.  Bobby Powers went to the assistance of the men outside the wire.  Darrell Pugh tossed hand grenades at the enemy after his rifle was shot out of his hands and destroyed.  On an LP, Danny Richard successfully engaged the enemy and assisted with the evacuation of his team members.  Steven Smith, platoon sergeant, led the defense of his sector and organized an effort to retrieve men that had been outside the wire.  Terry Thompson maintained the company radio and engaged any enemy that came near the company command post.  Carroll Turpin, machine gunner, put out heavy fire and later when he had been isolated, engaged the enemy with grenades.

First platoon’s four man LP/OP had been placed outside the wire of their platoon sector the night of March 19th.  Carroll Shiltz, Gary Tarpein, Lloyd Bryant, and Gus Mack went out a short distance from Granite and carried a radio.  Gary Tarpein remembered, “I was off security and asleep when the first shots on the perimeter awakened me.  As soon as the firing from the perimeter increased, we moved down slope about 25 meters from our LP position to avoid all of the small arms fire coming at us because we started out on top of the ridge that was basically at the same elevation as the perimeter, maybe 75-100 meters out and rounds were buzzing all around us coming from the direction of the perimeter (friendly fire). No one called in the artillery from our LP because we had no idea what was happening back at the perimeter and we didn’t see a single NVA troop out where we. We hauled ass back towards the perimeter just a few minutes later as soon as artillery started “walking” towards us. I took the radio, which we initially left behind. As soon as we got back just outside the perimeter we found a huge tree to put between us and the perimeter for cover from small arms.  It was about 25 meters outside of the wire and below a bulldozer.  I don’t remember seeing the bulldozer until it got light and we were carried back in. I took the radio and requested permission to re-enter the perimeter but we were refused permission and told to hold position and dig in. We didn’t have entrenching tools but this huge tree we were behind had a very tall and thick root system in which everybody found a niche to fit into, except me. I was laying about 10 feet out from the tree trying to view the area when the artillery rounds landed. Several rounds landed very close to us within a one minute period. One of the rounds landed about eight feet to my right side.  I recall a searing pain in my right thigh and then I was flying through the air in slow motion.  I guess I flew about six feet and landed close to Carroll Shiltz. Things get very fuzzy for me for the next few minutes probably due to the concussion.  I recall checking to see if anyone else was hit and I realized that Shiltz and Mack were hit pretty bad but Bryant was unharmed. I grabbed the radio which was laying with Shiltz and began screaming at the CP to call off the arty because it was blowing us to pieces and three out of the four of us were wounded. It must have worked because no more arty landed close to us.

I helped Shiltz, who was in a great deal of pain, tie a bandage around his foot.  I tied a big handkerchief around my right thigh (shrapnel wound) because it was the only bandage I had left.  From that point on we just lay there where we were and listened to the battle going on which seemed to start slacking off around 4-5 AM. I recall doing some world class praying at one point.  I remember talking on the radio the next morning to the CP and they sent a patrol out to fetch us because I told them that we needed help with the wounded. I remember when the patrol arrived to get us, the first recognizable face I recall seeing was that of Bobby Powers. Man, was he a sight for sore eyes. The men on that patrol looked like ghosts. The look in their eyes was horrible.  I can’t begin to describe it.  I believe that Bobby Powers carried Carroll Shiltz in on his back and someone gave me a shoulder to lean on.  Some others carried Mack.  We encountered a dead NVA troop not more than 10 meters from where we had been laying although I did not see even one during the battle.  I never fired my weapon.  

I remember reentering the wire and couldn’t believe the scene before me.  We noticed four to five dead NVA near the dozer at the perimeter wire.  The area was devastated.  Unexploded satchel charges were laying everywhere.   I remember the squad navigating through the satchel charges like following a maze... there were so many and we were trying not to step on any.  When we got up to where the foxholes began, there was evidence of explosions everywhere.  We were taken up to the helipad for extraction and that’s where the real devastation was.  Dozens of bodies were there... our dead and wounded.  It was horrible!  I just went numb.  I remember lifting up a few ponchos to identify the dead and came across Gary Stacey who was a buddy of mine. I couldn’t look anymore so I just sat up against some sandbags and waited for the medevac choppers to come in.  It seemed that we waited quite a while.” 

Gary Tarpein also remembered seeing Jim Lee lying on the ground near the men who had been killed.  He saw that Jim was bandaged but not covered.  He shook Jim and after Jim mumbled some words, Gary knew that Jim was still alive.  Later, he saw him in the hospital in Japan so he knew that Jim would make it back home.  Carroll Shiltz had a wound on his right ankle and took shrapnel in his knee.  Gary Tarpein was wounded in the backside.  Lloyd Bryant was OK and Gus Mack had shrapnel in his hip and thigh.

Carroll went to Phu Bai (22d Surgical Hosp) for ten days before being stabilized enough to go to Tokyo.  He said the Tokyo hospital was hellish and crowded.  People were awake and screaming – some had to be restrained.  There may have been someone already there from Charlie Company who had lost a leg.  He then went to Great Lakes Naval Hospital near home to wrap up his convalescence thru October 1970.

Lloyd Bryant remembers that they did not hear any NVA moving toward the firebase.  He guessed that the enemy may have spotted the OP and just bypassed or ignored it.  He called to the firebase, telling them that the artillery was hitting the OP.  They were told to keep down as the fires could not be cut off.  The four men in the OP tried to scrunch down under the roots of a large tree.  Gus Mack was wounded in the butt and Lloyd remembers bandaging Tarp and Shilz as well as Gus.  He remembers the sky being lit up from 2 AM till 7 AM.  Apparently the firebase thought the OP had been lost as they exclaimed, “they are alive” when a patrol found the OP members, the next morning. 

Carroll “Turp” Turpin recalls that Granite had been socked-in on and off for four days and they were running out of food.  Turp was a big, hard-working guy who could eat with the best of men.  He remembers tossing eight grenades and killing five NVA.  Turp’s position was in the first platoon sector where most were either killed or wounded.  At one point, he stopped firing his M-60 machine gun as the NVA were inside the wire and would have taken him out with satchel charges.  He said the NVA were very close to his position.  He had to “play dead” for a while the NVA were nearby.  He recalls that everyone was killed near his fighting position.  Turp’s assistant gunner was David Dickoff from Oregon, also wounded in the battle.

Turp recalls going back to Camp Evans and getting a job at the Ammo Supply Point.  He implied that some Granite survivors were given the opportunity to not have to return to the field.

David Causey recalls that he was outside the perimeter as a forward observer with one other man when the initial attack began on the opposite side of the firebase.  “All hell broke loose.  We had to dodge razor wire, claymore mines and fire from the US defenders to get back inside the perimeter.  The guy with me lost an eye and luckily, I was not hurt.  The thing I remember most about Granite is the bodies - both our men and the sappers.  Bodies were everywhere.”

Buzz Buzzell recalls parts of that night – he was sick and had been sent to a medic tent.  He put his rifle on a cot in the tent to “save” the cot.  He remembers Reg Moore shooting the first NVA inside the wire – he ran to the tent to get his rifle and returned to a foxhole near Jim Lee.  Buzz remembers an artillery gunner getting in the foxhole next to him.  During the explosions, a piece of an NVA scalp landed on Buzz’s steel pot.  It was not noticed until first light when he removed it in disgust.  He recalls a large boulder on the top of the hill.  During the attack, he saw two to three NVA on the boulder firing at the US.  He remembers a “basketball” or flare ship keeping the base illuminated most of the night.  In the AM, Buzz saw that Jim Lee was bandaged up and heard a Chinook coming up the side of the mountain from below.  He could not see it due to the fog.  CPT Moore directed men to load the wounded first.  Buzz walked Jim Lee to the chopper.  After bringing the wounded to the chopper, those killed were brought up.  Buzz said the pilots were heroes.

Jim Lee provided his recollection of the fight, “About 2 AM a trip flare went off and I saw an NVA sapper running inside the wire from left to right.  I engaged him and then the NVA infantry outside the wire started heavy rifle and RPG fire into our position.  Our first platoon was on the S/SE side of the firebase.  Gary Stacey, Jack Wells, and perhaps James Davis, and I were on the left side of our platoon on a gentle sloping hill that was the more difficult area to defend.  Most of the other sectors of the firebase were much steeper and therefore more difficult to attack.  Fog was also rolling in and out; the only light was from flares so visibility was not the best.  We were engaged in heavy fighting.  Jack Wells, James Davis and I ended up in one larger foxhole.  Gary Stacey went to a smaller foxhole to the left and down the hill a short distance.  After a while, I saw a sapper to the right front hiding behind a bulldozer that the engineers had left down on the wire at dark.  This was a mistake as it provided good cover for the sappers.  The others were firing at the NVA outside the wire.  I was throwing grenades at the ones behind the cat.  My right hand and rifle were badly damaged by rifle or RPG fire and I had to throw left-handed and pull the safety pins with my teeth.  At this point, I saw a satchel charge come into our foxhole, blowing me out of the foxhole and killing Jack Wells and Jim Davis as they did not have time to react.  I heard Gary Stacey still fighting to the left and also Carroll Turpin.  We continued to defend our positions but at a heavy cost.  After the fire dropped off, I went to see Gary Stacey but he had been killed and I am not sure how he died.  At one point, I was looking for weapons to fight with and ran into two sappers carrying satchel charges and wearing US helmets.  I thought they would jump me but they ran to the north.  I lost the sight in my left eye, was shot in the thigh, had my right hand damaged, suffered ear damage, powder burns, and shrapnel from head to foot.  I spent two months in hospitals in Japan and four months at Fitzsimmons in Denver.”

From Stephen Smith, “I do vividly remember the fight on Granite.  I was 3rd platoon sergeant during the assault.  Third platoon lost one dead and three wounded.  The KIA was with our listening post along with the three wounded men.  Danny Richard was one of the wounded.  He and [later] SGM Foronda most probably could tell a pretty good story.   The next night we were getting socked in again.  I was getting a brief from Farmer (the company commander) when "The last bird" to Evans was leaving.  Guys were scrambling, trying to get loaded.  All the rear guys that came out (chaplain, cooks with chow, others, etc.) were "big eyed" and moving fast.  When I returned to my platoon's fighting positions I found that my platoon leader had also loaded on the "last bird".  I was third platoon leader when we walked off a few days later and my platoon took point.  We humped all night until about 3 or 4 AM  We hooked up with another company.  Their company commander carried a 12 gauge shotgun.  Next day we choppered back into Granite.  Pretty strange series of events.  When we arrived back at Evans, I, along with the team that was with me during the recovery of the sniper team members, were summoned to battalion.  Upon arrival, we were greeted by a warrant officer from CID.  All of us provided written statements regarding what we found (type of terrain, condition of the KIAs/WIA, etc.

Some men recall that Mike McGuire was on a sniper team outside Granite on the morning of March 20.  They believe that he was killed by US artillery when the artillery lowered their tubes and fired in order to prevent the firebase from being overrun.  That a sniper team was likely employed on March 20 as well as March 22 caused confusion about when Mike McGuire was killed.

Dale Blake, James Davis, Harold Harris, Michael McGuire, Gary Stacey, and Tinsley Wells of Charlie Company died while defending their positions.  Davis was socked in on Granite when he was due to go on R&R.  His wife was waiting for him in Hawaii with their newborn.

The enemy tactic for hitting firebases seems to include mortars fired from a distance of one to several kilometers (when available), RPG fire from no more than a few hundred meters, small arms fire from as close as possible, and a sapper attack with satchel charges.  The enemy would attack in the early hours when visibility was limited, allowing them to cut off the attack and disperse before the US could employ observation and attack helicopters.

Casualty Summary:

KIA

SP4 Harold Ray Harris (Tour began 7/4/1969)

SGT James Leonard Davis (Tour began 7/1/1969)

SP4 James Peter Kurth, E Company Mortars (Tour began 11/4/1969)

SP4 Ronald Fred Leonard (medic) (Tour began 11/22/1969)

PFC Michael Joseph McGuire (Tour began 11/15/1969)

PFC Dale Adams Blake (Tour began 1/10/1970)

SP4 Gary Ross Stacey (Tour began 7/21/1969)

SP4 Tinsley Jack Wells (Tour began 9/18/1969)

SP4 Willie Walker, E Company Mortars (Tour began 7/21/1969)

 

Dennis Morrill and Robert Thompson of 326 Engineer battalion were killed.

 

WIA - 31 total. 

Sent to 85th Evacuation Hospital were:

 

Daniel Burkhart and Taylor Thomas of the 326th Engineer Battalion

Ralph Matkin and Phillip Michaud of Alpha Battery, 2/319th Artillery

David Dickoff, Gerald Dressel, Donald McKee, Donald McVay, Paul Opland, Robert Orona, Jose Rodriguez, Carrol Shiltz, Macarthur Littles, and Gary Tarpein of Charlie Company.  Note:  Donald Wayne McKee was further evacuated to 106th General Hospital in Yokahama, Japan.  He had lost both legs and died Mar 24, 1970 according to the morning report.

Also wounded and treated elsewhere were William Anonie, Paul Atterbery, Frost Bowling, Frank Foronda, Donald Neeb, Darrell Pugh, Reginald Moore, Percy White, James Lee, Gus Mack, Guy L. Rogers, Ronald Barnard (to USS Sanctuary) and Danny Richard of Charlie Company.  It is possible that John Hampton and James Ziemer were wounded on the 20th but this is not clear.

March 21 – March 22, 1970.  There are no reports of enemy activity on the 21st.  Derek Montey and Doug Moniaci are at Camp Evans when a CH-47 helicopter carrying ammunition crashes on take-off.  They saw the crash and rushed to the burning helicopter, pulling two men to safety.  Each was awarded the soldier’s medal for risking their lives to save those injured in the crash.  MAJ Wesley Ford (battalion XO) and CPT Mark Smith also assisted in evacuating men from the burning chopper.

On the 22d, at 1930 – the company sees two NVA to the East and three to the NW.  A sniper team is selected to go outside the wire.  Richard Hahn remembered the team being an interesting grouping of three white country and western aficionados and a skinny black kid, Anderson, from New York. There was a toss up between Lloyd Bryant and PFC Anderson, who had just arrived on Granite after the attack.  Bryant did not want to go after his experience on the 20th and won the coin toss.  Later that evening, the NVA set off a trip flare on the firebase perimeter.  At 1945, the OP's coming in receive satchel charges.   Sniper team 5 is still out in position.  At 2000, all artillery that can reach Granite is employed.  After the attack on March 20, there is no holding back on supporting fires.  Sadly, a short round lands on Sniper Team 5, killing two and wounding one.

From the battalion journal:  On the afternoon of 21 Mar 70, a four man sniper team was sent on a mission 300 meters to the north at YD 441191.  They carried a PRC-25 radio, 2 M-16’s, 1 M-79, and 1 modified M-14 sniper rifle with scope.  Most likely their mission was to kill any NVA attempting to make a daylight recon of the firebase.  At 1938 hours, 22 March, C Company detected movement outside the perimeter wire.  All LP’s were called back to the perimeter.  The sniper team was contacted and instructed to hide because of enemy activity.  The sniper team responded with a “Roger.”  From this point on, there was no radio contact with the team. 

Upon inspection of the position the next morning by artillery personnel and according to the interview with PFC Anderson (the survivor not seriously wounded), approximately 30 minutes after the team was last contacted by C Co on FSB Granite, a 105mm HE round struck a tree causing an air burst, killing two of the team and wounding one other.  It is thought that this HE round was an erratic round.  PFC Anderson was struck in the shoulder by a falling tree.  Shrapnel from the HE round damaged the PRC-25 radio rendering it inoperable.  Approximately one hour after the HE round exploded, PFC Anderson heard two to five enemy pass his position moving toward FSB Granite.  He remained in his position.  Approximately one hour before daylight, the enemy withdrew by the same route.  One has to wonder, what the NVA were trying to accomplish.  It is not clear how large a force they were.  Perhaps they were probing for weakness that they could exploit with a larger force. 

At first light, PFC Anderson started towards the perimeter of FSB Granite.  At this time he was in shock.  At 0945 hours he walked into the perimeter.  All equipment was recovered by Charlie Company.  Two white star clusters were carried by the sniper team for use in case of emergency but were not used because PFC Anderson was injured by the falling tree limb.  Communications checks were made every half hour prior to 1938 hours and reply was made by breaking squelch (just holding down the push to talk button on the radio handset).  This makes a slight noise letting the receiver know that transmission was made without having to speak and possibly alert the enemy.

Casualty list:

KIA -PFC John Wilbur Sams  (Tour began 10/24/1969)

KIA - PFC Donald Wayne McKee (Tour began 1/9/1970)

WIA - Was with sniper team #5 – PFC Phillip W. Gorter, 382-48-6392 (man lost leg).  PFC Anderson makes his way back to Granite (in shock).

March 23, 1970.  Bravo company 3d platoon, moved to FSB Granite to reinforce Charlie Company, reports killing one NVA about 50 meters out at 0620.  0756 - C Company sweeps area but does not find a body.  Percy White goes to 85th Evac – perhaps from wounds suffered on the 20th.  Angelo Biondo has a purple heart for this date.  Not clear if he was wounded on the 20th.

March 24, 1970 to March 30, 1970.  On the 24th, a search party is sent to FB Mooney, two km northeast of Granite, to locate missing secret radio codes for the KY-38 (a radio that encrypted the voice transmissions to prevent enemy interception).  Lorne Trainor is in this group and finds some of the pages in a bomb crater.  On the 25th, there are intelligence reports that the enemy is likely to attack Granite.  On the 26th, 3d platoon of Alpha Company replaces the B Co platoon on Granite.  C Company is given a mission to cut a trail to FSB Mooney for resupply (FSB’s above 1,000 feet elevation need an alternate LZ below 1,000 feet).

I believe that after returning from R&R I went to FB Granite for a day or two. On the 26th, I may have left the field to be company executive officer. Ronald A. Smith goes to 85th Evac Hospital.  The journal has no contact for this date.  Perhaps he was injured during the Granite fight and did not recognize the severity of his injury.  He goes to HHC 1-506th Inf in October and then to Ft Carson in December 1970.

March 28, 1970.  C Company works to disassemble Granite.  Brigade headquarters directs Charlie company to link up with Delta Co, 2-506th Infantry at YD 445190.  There may have been intelligence reports of major enemy forces in the area and the idea was to reinforce each other in the event of attack.  Charlie moves off Granite at 2145 and links up 0100 next day.  Alpha Company is opening FSB Rakkassan.  About this time, CPT Mark Smith assumes command of Charlie company.

March 29, 1970 – March 30, 1970.  On the 29th a squad size element returns to Granite to secure a landing zone and the rest of the company moves to Granite from Mooney.  It is not clear whether the company walked or choppered back to Granite.  FB Granite was officially closed at 1535.  Later in the afternoon, Charlie Company returned to Camp Evans for one day’s training and recuperation.  The other companies under battalion control seem to notice a lot of minor enemy activity but no contacts.

March 31, 1970.  The company combat assaults from Camp Evans at 1055 to YD 485158, about five km SE of Fire Base Granite.  At YD 484161, third platoon heard two mortars from YD 482168.  The 1-506th Infantry is closing Rakkasan YD 490198 and gains responsibility for Gladiator YD 416211, three km northwest of Granite.


 

12 Kathryn and Maureen

 

 

April 1970.  On April 1, 1970, the company has limited enemy contact.  At 1135, the third platoon spots a few NVA and employs artillery.  At 1306, the second platoon at YD 478151 engages one NVA and employs artillery.  Again at 1400 YD 478150, second platoon spots three NVA.  A supporting pink team takes small arms fire.  These engagements indicate that many enemy forces are in the area although dispersed in small units.

April 2, 1970.  Second platoon left an ambush behind at the previous night’s NDP YD 478150.  At 1118, they kill one NVA.  Another NVA engages and wounds 4 US (Randall Hughes, Calvin Hardage, Roger Dalsamo, and Bruce Earp.  Earp and Dalsamo are taken to 85th Evac Hospital; Hardage (line #146) and Hughes go to the USS Sanctuary.  Earp returns to the company May 25th.  Hughes’ (line #56) injury may not have been too serious as he completes his tour and goes to Ft Meade end of August, 1970.  Hardage and Dalsamo may not have returned to the unit.  A second NVA is then killed.  An RPG launcher and AK assault rifles are found.  The medevac taking out the wounded men receives small arms fire.  At 1410, the company spots movement at YD 478150 and engages with small arms but with negative results.

Morning reports are generally available for the 1970-1971 period.  In some cases it is possible to see where a man returns to the company after a period in the hospital, indicating that a wound might not have been too serious.  Indications are that the 1969 morning reports are mostly illegible due to the poor way the microfiche process done.  The 1968 morning reports are an unknown.  We might need the CIA or NSA to help out with these records.

April 3, 1970 – April 5, 1970.  The 3d of April finds the platoons in the same vicinity, having moved a few hundred meters.  On the 4th, third platoon hears movement at 2107 and engages with artillery.  Second platoon finds a winding 20 foot tunnel  at YD 486160 and destroys the tunnel.

April 6, 1970.  1045 - chopper Ghost Rider 26 takes AK fire from YD 455178 and lands at 3d platoon’s location.  1155 - Ghost Rider is extracted with his crew and helicopter.  At 1500, third platoon finds a trail with signs of recent activity.  The company CP is travelling with the first platoon.  1530 - after resupply, first platoon confronts two NVA.  Doug Moniaci and Johnny Smith, both company CP RTO’s, return fire, expending most of their ammunition.  Johnny Smith counted 30 rounds having hit his rucksack.  Doug Moniaci is wounded.   CPT Smith had the rifle shot out of his hands and continued to fight with his pistols.  Medevac is complete at 1637.  One NVA is killed.

In this fight, Robert Andrejcisk, a forward observer, was cited for engaging the enemy under fire and making a run for more ammunition where the fighting was heaviest.  Johnny Smith engaged the enemy with his M16 until he expended his ammunition; he then used his .45 pistol.  Mark Smith employed a machine gun and tossed grenades toward the enemy to allow his men to move to better fighting positions.  Curt Taylor, artillery FO, engaged the enemy and then moved to a position where he could adjust artillery on the enemy position.

Some additional details by Douglas Moniaci: “Zippo, who had done too good a job walking point, silently walked past a couple of NVA trail watchers just off the trail to our right. I was the fourth man back and directly in front of them when they realized we were upon them. They must have been sleeping or playing cards when we happened by because we had surprised them completely. I heard a clicking sound and all Hell broke loose.  I felt a warm feeling in my right leg and knew I had been hit, but felt no pain – the bullet had gone right through.

They had aimed low at me and swept forward, spraying the guys in front as their rounds rose higher. Fortunately their aim was not calculated as their rounds hit only radios and back packs on the guys in front of me.  No one other than me was wounded.  Zippo's AR-15 took three rounds through the middle as it shattered apart and was ripped from his hands. He told me recently that he also found three bullet holes through his shirt.”

April 7, 1970.  Activity is heating up in the 1-506th Infantry area of operations.  0050 - Delta Company is in heavy contact - takes 5 seriously wounded.  Bravo Company moves to FSB Granite.  0830, first platoon has movement at YD 478151 and employs artillery and a pink team.  1330, first platoon has movement at YD 453159 - artillery is employed again.  1105 - YD 468150 third platoon finds a trail with recent activity of three to four NVA.  2000, third platoon has movement and artillery is employed.

April 8, 1970.  At 1015, third platoon finds a trail recently used at YD 474158.

April 9, 1970 – April 14, 1970.  On the 10th, intelligence sources report enemy forces in the vicinity of Granite and Gladiator are planning to destroy all FSB's.  Delta Company is in contact again - takes several WIA's.  First platoon is constructing an LZ at YD 480153.  On the 11th, the CP, second platoon, and third platoon find three bunkers about a week old. The 12th sees B-52's being employed in the area.  The CP, second platoon, and third platoon are together.  They find 9 bunkers at YD 464162 containing miscellaneous items.  They heard movement within 25 meters at 2040.  There is an exchange of grenades.  FSB Nancy (about five kilometers southeast of Quang Tri) is hit hard by sappers after dark.  On the 14th, B-52's are being employed in the area.  1110 and 1630, Alpha Company finds bunker complexes recently used vicinity YD 455164.  It seems like the NVA are all over the area but not massing larger than platoon or company size.

April 15, 1970.  Delta Company is on Rakkasan.  0815 – Charlie Company spotted 35 NVA at YD 477145 at a distance of 250 meters and employed artillery.  0919 - the company saw an NVA platoon at YD 472148 carrying heavy rucksacks and banana leaves over their heads for camouflage.  1047 – a pink team is on station and kills one NVA.  1128 – the company receives RPG fire at YD 468151 but takes no casualties.  1210 - ARA receives two magazines of AK fire by an estimated NVA company.  1750 - CP, second platoon, and third platoon are moving to assist Alpha Co, 2-506th Infantry which is in heavy contact.

April 16-18, 1970.  Air strikes are made in support of Alpha company, 2-506th Infantry.  Part of second platoon is at YD 466154 with a mission to secure a backhaul site.  1125, they receive AK fire at YD 466154 but sustain no casualties.  At 1330, third platoon finds evidence of several wounded NVA and miscellaneous ammunition at YD 470150.  1645 - YD 476145, third platoon kills two NVA and finds three other dead NVA (two killed by artillery and one by LOH).  There is evidence of many other wounded at the site.  This day is probably a good example of the significant undercount of NVA casualties killed by US firepower (B-52’s, air strikes, artillery, attack helicopters, and mini-gun helicopters).  Most often, the 101st seems to be conservative in its count of enemy killed. 

At 1430 on the 17th, third platoon finds miscellaneous gear and rucksacks with NVA body parts.  1607 - YD 474146, the company finds a trail with markings, possibly indicating to the NVA where to take their wounded.  2115 - Charlie finds documents near an NVA body which includes a company roster and recent NVA company history.  On the 18th, first platoon spots one NVA in the vicinity of YD 478168 but does not engage because the enemy is too close to recon team 7.

Here is a fuller recollection of events that occurred on April 16th or 17th from Mark Smith:  “We were sitting just off a deserted firebase and observing the opposite ridgeline from concealed positions.  ‘FIDO’ Martin’s platoon was sent toward the river and we watched for enemy movement getting out of his way.  Then, in broad daylight, the lead elements of an estimated enemy sapper battalion made a fatal error.  An NVA soldier made a dash across a small LZ, soon followed by a stream of others, as we sat observing.  While SSG Stephen ‘Raider’ Smith maneuvered, we brought in artillery, gunships, and eventually Tacair and hammered one sapper battalion so ferociously that they dropped weapons, rucksacks full of satchel charges, an 82mm mortar base plate  and one RPD machine gun and tried to flee, dragging their wounded with them.  Their ability to respond was just two RPG rounds and a couple of bursts of automatic weapons fire before they were hammered into oblivion.

A battery six, three by three was fired (basically six rounds from each gun in the battery of six guns fired along all four sides of a three hundred meter square for a total of one hundred and forty four rounds of HE and VT fuses mixed).  The size of the enemy unit was calculated by nearly forty rucksacks recovered with satchel charges.  The one RPD MG and the 82mm mortar base plate indicated that the heavy weapons company of the battalion was present along with female laborers.  Make-up compacts with rouge in two rucksacks and one gaffer hook (for females to drag away bodies) was also found.  Thus two sapper companies and one support company/heavy weapons company were present – one NVA sapper battalion.”

April 19, 1970.  Lines #102 and #107 are injured with explosives – one broken arm; one broken hand.  They were in the process of destroying enemy bunkers.

April 20, 1970.  1432 - first platoon YD 478152 engages two NVA building a bunker.  One NVA is carrying an M-16.  First platoon pursues.  The company reports a LOH receiving AK fire at YD 475120 (not clear if the LOH was working for C Company or just in the area).  1650 – First platoon finds a grave at YD 478152 containing one dead NVA. 

First platoon makes contact with three trailwatchers who then flee away from the platoon.  A trail network with three bunkers is located and the decision is made to pursue the trailwatchers.  In so doing, at 1709, first platoon walks into a horseshoe ambush and is hit by claymore and AK fire, resulting in two US KIA and five WIA.

Kent Longmire was cited for leading his squad to flank the enemy position before he was killed.  Two wounded were extracted by LOH white team (perhaps the more serious wounds) and three by Dustoff 95.

KIA:

SGT Kent Longmire (Tour began 9/2/1969)

SSG James Lockett (Tour began 11/5/1969)

WIA:

Lines:  45, 94, 108, 110, 112 (Lorne Trainor, wounded in both legs and PH, went to 85th Evac Hospital.  John Harper, Larry Hunt (two scalp wounds and PH), and David Hammons – awarded BSM with “V,” also went to 85th Evac.  Identity of fifth wounded is not clear.

April 21, 1970.  At 0830, first platoon finds a fresh bunker at YD 482145.  At 1000, third platoon is at YD 475153; 1241 they sighted an NVA 50 meters behind the platoon.  They also found a trail with recent NVA activity.  1445 - third platoon (ambush) moving toward the rest of the platoon at YD 476134 saw movement and received AK fire.  They returned fire with LAW, small arms, and grenades.  There were no friendly casualties.  They found one dead NVA the next day, killed by M-16 fire.  Contact had been at YD 477134 and the NVA was found at YD 475135.  1525 – third platoon is located at YD 473137.  ARA engaging enemy bunkers at YD 477133 accidentally wounds line #83.  Second platoon 1628 - found a command detonated explosive at LZ YD 480147.  Wire ran to a bunker.

April 22, 1970.  1235 – Third platoon had movement at YD 475135 - fired 3 LAW and found a blood trail.  1900 - Found a fresh grave of an NVA probably killed by the LAW earlier.  The next day, they found another grave of an NVA probably killed by small arms during the same engagement.  More discoveries:  another grave at YD 477134 on Apr 25 - probably another from the recent engagement – the NVA was killed by small arms and fragments (perhaps LAW); later on the 25th, they found one more grave.  This man may have been a Chinese advisor since he was six feet tall and weighed about 190 pounds.  A few months later, there are reports of a blond Caucasian in the 506th Inf journal carrying an M-60 machine gun – perhaps a Russian advisor?

April 23, 1970.  Third platoon 0920 - finds a blood trail and an RPD machine gun.  At 1033 they find an NVA rucksack on a trail to the river at YD 476133.  The Rao Trang is due south of Charlie Company and it runs eastward, flowing into the Song Bo.

April 24, 1970.  The location of supporting artillery if needed is: 105mm artillery at FSB Ripcord; 155 and 105 at Granite.  These are within supporting range of Charlie company. Alpha and Bravo companies make an air move to FSB Maureen. 

SGT English of first platoon is killed by a grenade at 0040.  It appears that he heard movement and tossed a grenade but it bounced back off some vegetation and detonated, killing him.  David Causey remembered, “I was with SGT English when he was killed. We were on a six man team set up in a small circle. It was the middle of night in the jungle, pitch black with zero visibility. I was on guard duty and woke up SGT English to stand guard. I had just lain down when SGT English apparently heard some movement in front of us and popped a grenade and dropped it in his own lap. I found his body by feeling around because it was so dark you could not see a thing. I felt his legs and feet. He was head first in a foxhole. I later discovered I had shrapnel wounds in my back that I was not even aware of at the time. Those wounds were not serious.” Third platoon 1845 - hears 60mm mortar vicinity YD 473124 - calls artillery and hears secondary explosions.

April 25, 1970 – May 4, 1970.  Activity continues in Charlie Company’s area although there are no major contacts.  On the 25th, Bravo Company had a significant engagement YD 438124.  Four US KIA and several wounded.  Several NVA killed.

26th - Delta Company is on Rakkasan.  Mark Smith thinks the NVA are crossing the river at YD 463138 and YD 457143 (several kilometers north of FB Kathryn) and moving toward YD 467155.   There are several hilltop and ridgeline features nearby that would make good defensive positions for the NVA.  First platoon 0109 - has movement and blows a claymore with negative results the next morning.  It would be easy to see how the platoons’ nerves would be on edge because of enemy sightings and signs seen for several consecutive days. 

On the 27th, first platoon has a wounded soldier taken to Charlie, 326 Med but there is no description of the circumstances or severity.  Chuck Kerr recalled that about that time there was a man whose hand was badly cut as a result of an accident with a machete. He was cutting thick bamboo to harvest water from inside the chambers of the plants stalk. He would have been evacuated as a tactical emergency due to the severity of his injury. 

At 0437 on 28 April, first platoon - line #153 wakes up and thinks he hears movement.  Apparently, he had been asleep on guard (he’s sent to the rear to face charges).  He shoots line # 49 in the side and arm, thinking there is enemy movement.  The wounded man was David Causey who was taken to 85th Evac on April 28th.  David said that he spent several months recuperating in hospitals in Vietnam, Japan, and Ft Gordon, Georgia.

0845 - line #154 falls down and cannot breathe and is medevac’d to 18th Surgical Hospital.  This may be Douglas Ketterling who returns to the company 3 May, 1970. Since April 20th, first platoon has had a rough go and probably needs some stand-down time.  They have had frequent enemy contact and lost three non-commissioned officers, one WIA, one accidental shooting, and one injury requiring medevac.

On the 29th, third platoon 1552 - found fresh bunkers at YD 468151 – a prior site of Charlie Company NDP.  The next day at 1840, they - heard mortar firing from YD 475165.  Other companies are also finding enemy forces.  May 1st, Alpha Company had contact – resulting in three KIA and WIA.  The next day at 1105, the company employed artillery on a bunker complex at YD 465161.  Charlie Company flies to Camp Evans and stands down on May 4.

March and April 1970 were months of heavy fighting and frequent contacts with the enemy and resulted in high losses of US soldiers.  The steady loss of men may have had a cumulative effect on some as they reasonably expected the future months to be a continuation of the last months.  This may not have been the case but it did cause several men to consider their options of doing whatever it took to survive.  Ironically, reenlistment was an option where men could sign up for a longer term of service but in a safer job farther from combat.  Buzz Buzzell and three others decided to reenlist to get out of the field.  The company had a total of 6 to 10 reenlistments about this time

May 1970.  May 5, 1970 – May 9, 1970.  Charlie company moves to FSB Rakkasan and has the mission of providing fire base security.  Richard Adams (Aug 69 to Aug 70) goes to 85th Evac and returns to the company on 19 June.  Not clear what the medical reason was.  On May 6, Otha Brewer goes to 85th Evac.  Delta Company moves to FSB Maureen (YD 429122).  On the 7th, Delta’s company’s second platoon is attacked about 0440 and suffers heavy casualties.  There are six KIA and 9 WIA.  Delta’s location is near FB Maureen.  At 0938, third platoon moves to reinforce Delta Company near FB Maureen.  Since Charlie lost a platoon to defend FB Rakkassan, the 1-506th calls for a provisional platoon to be sent from Camp Evans.  This platoon would comprise five or six men per company, not necessarily infantrymen and perhaps some recuperating from wounds.  1730 – third platoon finds miscellaneous ammunition including 60mm mortar rounds at YD 434124.  Third platoon is attached to Delta Company temporarily.  On the 8th they receive some small arms fire with negative results.

Some more detailed information provided by Jerry McGee about the time his platoon was attached to Delta Company – May 8 or May 9: “3rd platoon of Charlie Company had been attached to Delta Company after Delta was hit yet again.  We had been walking point for Delta Company when we were suddenly ordered to secure a hill for an LZ.  Engineers were on the way to blow the LZ on a hilltop that sat just under a taller hill that might have been a better choice.  The engineers were coming in on a Chinook and the supplies were on a Huey just behind them.  We had to rush to beat the choppers to the location.  We arrived at the LZ and were checking the area and positioning ourselves around the hilltop when the choppers came in.  The lead chopper immediately took fire from the saddle of the hill to our front.  The fire came from the right side of a saddle on the ridgeline.  I could see muzzle flashes from two weapons coming from the foliage.  We returned fire and I extended a LAW and fired at the spot were I saw the muzzle flashes.  I was right on target with the direction but a little high in the trajectory with the rocket going right through the trees.  The firing stopped immediately.  I don’t know if it was the rocket or the Chinook shuddering and falling to the right of our location that ended the fire.  The Huey was still in sight and offered another target, which leads me to believe it was the rocket that ended the contact.  Had the Chinook come straight down several of our men would have been injured or worse.

May 9, 1970.  Back at Rakkasan.  At 0813 - during firebase defense rehearsal, SGT Noli had wounds from a claymore and is taken to 85th Evacuation Hospital.  Third platoon 1053 - reports CH-47 at YD 442120 receives RPD fire from 300m (this must be the same incident mentioned by Jerry McGee above).  The CH-47 goes down at YD 480148.  Second platoon moves from Rakkasan to help secure the CH-47 and returns a few hours later.  At 1330, third platoon finds two bunkers at YD 445120 with signs of recent use.  1507 – they receive some AK fire with no injuries.

Charlie Company moves to Eagle Beach the morning of May 10th and remains there through the 11th.  D Company loses a platoon leader on the 10th.

Back to work on May 12.  Charlie moves from Eagle Beach to Rakkasan to Maureen (YD 429122).  Perhaps Maureen was inactive other than the LZ?  

Chuck Kerr remembered the descent from FB Maureen:  “We were warned that this was a hot LZ and to get off the top and down the side of the abandoned fire base ASAP.  After exiting the helicopters we walked down what seemed to be a very large rock pile, perhaps a hundred yards long, maybe longer. It looked as though the rocky top of the fire base had been blown and the resulting debris had been pushed over the side.  As we reached the bottom of the rock slide/pile three 60mm mortars impacted at the top of the rocks where we had started our descent. We were spread out to the extent that two back azimuths could be shot to the sound of the rounds leaving the tube.  ARA was called in on the coordinates and they reported secondary explosions.

2034 – The company reported a mortar tube 600 meters from YD 427118 but it turned out to be artillery from FSB Kathryn (YD 468111).  Zippo had a conversation with NVA on his push (radio frequency).  Obscenities are traded!  Alpha Company is on Rakkasan.  For the next two weeks, Charlie Company will be working the area in the vicinity of FSB Maureen.  This area is very hilly with some peaks near 1,000 meters and is south of the Rao Trang River and about nine km south of FSB Granite.

May 13, 1970.  At 1115, third platoon finds a recently used trail with markings.  1218 – they are in contact with two NVA at YD 424119.  They find a blood trail and an AK rifle.  At 1256, they spotted four to five NVA.  They engaged with small arms, artillery, ARA, and LAW and found a blood trail.  1345 - YD 424119 – third platoon found one dead NVA.  Adam Garcia was wounded in the hand by an M79.  He was extracted by a pink team and taken to FB Rakkasan and then on to 85th Evac Hospital.  At 1534 the company reports a mortar tube 600 meters west of YD 427118.  Artillery is employed.

May 14, 1970.  The general company mission is to turn west along the ridge line between FSB Maureen (YD 429122) and FSB Kelley (YD 404119).  At 0950, the company put in an air strike with 6 cans "A" bombs, twelve 500 pound bombs and 2,400 rounds of 20mm.  Third platoon 1523 - found a trail recently used by 25-30 enemy at YD 423120.

May 15, 1970.  At 0500 the second platoon LP hears movement, fires its weapons and pulls back.  The other LP thinks they are enemy and engages.  Two men are injured by friendly fire (claymores).  Both are sent to C Med and then 85th Evacuation Hospital.  Time of incident – 0545 at YD 427118. 

Here are the details, as Mark Hendrickson recalls them: “I had been with Charlie Company for about three weeks when this incident took place.  I had originally been given a squad about a week to ten days after arriving in the field with Charlie Co.  At some point, a new staff sergeant arrived in Charlie company and took over my squad since he was senior and I was the most junior squad leader.  As far as I remember he had been involved in a Vietnamization program most of his time in country and then was assigned to a line company.  I remember his being a very nice and likable person and he seemed like he knew what he was doing.

At this time, first and second platoons were working together.  The weather was very rainy, cold and we were pretty much socked in before, during and after this event.  I remember that we were having trouble with our radios because of the wet weather.  Our handsets were put into plastic bags to protect them as much as possible from the humidity but this was only partly successful.

We were in our combined NDP when we received word that our squad was to go out on ambush.  Besides myself, there was the staff sergeant, Bruce Aaron, Rick Marshall, a guy named Biggs and I think “Little Joe” Cartwright.  I do not remember any of the others.  I remember there was a trail that went through the NDP.  We left on ambush through one of the NDP positions down a small muddy incline. The people at the position did not make any effort to tell us that first platoon had already sent a squad out on ambush in this direction.  Why nothing was said we will never know.  We went down the trail for about 400 to 500 meters and set up our ambush just off the trail.  It was already pretty dark by the time we had set out our claymores got into position for the night.

The radios were only working intermittently due to the humidity.  We would send in our situation reports – two squelches – and have to repeat them a couple of times before the CP would acknowledge them, so if anything had been said about the other squad blowing their ambush and heading back to the NDP, I am not sure that whoever was on watch at the time got that message.  Even if a message had been received we did not know that the first platoon ambush had gone out on the same trail as we had used.

At some point I remember being awakened by the person next to me, who was on watch, and hearing him say that there was movement to our right front.  The others were awakened and were all on alert as we heard the movement approaching our position.  A first claymore was detonated, and then a number of others followed rapidly.  I was in the process of getting ready to throw my grenades.  Fortunately no one had fired their M16’s.  Then, someone yelled out, “GI, GI…”

I think that the other ambush patrol thought they had reached the platoon NDP.  We still had no idea where these guys had come from or exactly what was going on.  It soon became apparent that we had blown our ambush on our own people.  We finally got a medic out and as day broke.  I remember seeing SGT Mauney against a tree with his legs blown off and a few others with lesser wounds from shrapnel and steel balls of the claymores lying around the general area.  The weather finally broke enough to allow a medevac to come in. I do not remember how many were taken out.  A couple of days later we received word that SGT Mauney had died of his wounds.

From Chuck Kerr: “We were so socked in that it took several attempts by various Dust Off crews to get to our position. The first two or three attempts to extract our wounded were unsuccessful. Visibility was zero. The successful attempt was made by one very fine pilot and crew. These guys followed valleys, flying nap of the earth, to our general location. When they got close enough for us to hear them, LT Martin gave them back azimuths from his compass and talked them in closer using the radio. We cut long bamboo poles and tied two together, tied a trip flare to the end, ignited the flare and held it above our position. The medevac found our marker and extracted two wounded with a basket.  They returned the way they had come in, nap of the earth flying down valleys to the low lands.  Any amount of praise for the dust off pilots and crew would be insufficient to recognize what they accomplished under extreme conditions.

SP4 Alfred Haun, 410-86-6553 – frag wounds, right arm and left leg

SGT Gerald L. Mauney, 587-30-7903 (lost both legs) and died on May 16, 1969.

Four other men with minor wounds.  Harry Baker was one of the slightly wounded and was medevac’d on May 16.  Guy Rodgers was medevac’d May 18 (probably from this incident) and returned to the company in early June.  Anthony Nazzaro and Roy Nepowda are medevac’d on May 21st.  Nazzaro returns to the company on 20 June.

Alpha company is on Rakkasan.  FSB Veghel (YD 487065), 15 km to the SE is hit with 4 US KIA and 30 WIA.  Several NVA are killed, perhaps more.

A mortar FO, last name Thorne reports he is seventeen years old.  He must have had second thoughts about his line of work.  Investigation confirms his age and he is pulled from the field.  Soldiers had to be 18 years or older to be in combat.

May 16, 1970.  1400, third platoon YD 423121 sees one NVA and engages with small arms and artillery and captures one AK-47.  This was the AK that Zippo carried for the remainder of his tour.  When asked by LTC Porter why he wanted to carry the enemy weapon he explained that having either initial, or return fire, from the distinctive sounding AK would have a demoralizing effect on any NVA and could cause them to hesitate and question who was shooting at them.  Previously Zippo had carried a CAR 15 which he passed down to Johnny “Spud” Smith, his RTO.  Charlie company reports an urgent need of resupply.

May 17, 1970.  1023, third platoon  - has contact at YD 423121.  The observation post west of third platoon saw five to six NVA and engaged them with small arms.  Third platoon reinforces their OP with machinegun and small arms.  The enemy returns fire with AK’s.  Third platoon employs LAW.  Stephen Smith received a gunshot wound to the shoulder and another man (probably Chuck Kerr) is injured in a fall, rushing to reinforce.  Jerry McGee recalls that there had been several days of rain and that Cico Rodriguez was in the OP and spotted several NVA advancing toward his position.  Rodriguez fired and moved back to the platoon NDP.  Stephen Smith, Jerry McGee, Cico Rodriguez, and Booker Merritt returned to engage the NVA where they had been seen earlier when Stephen Smith was shot in the shoulder.  Jerry McGee covered the withdrawal of the other three men until he was almost out of ammunition.  Fortunately, SFC Foronda and others arrived to secure the area.  A couple of hours later, the first platoon point man was wounded while moving in the area of contact.

Stephen Smith and the other man are placed in a basket for medevac.  During the extraction, the chopper takes fire and snags the cable in a tree, causing Smith and the other man to fall about 35 feet, aggravating their injuries.  Smith and Kerr are taken to the USS Sanctuary.

Second platoon had some men at the platoon NDP and others were moving down a trail nearby.  At 1319 - YD 423121, the point man comes upon an enemy point man.  Small arms fire is exchanged and one US has leg and arm wounds.  Willem Clous receives five wounds - two in the right leg, two in the left leg, and one in the shoulder.  His platoon uses a poncho as a litter and drags him away from the contact through a thicket of vegetation.  The weather is socked in.  The company reports Dustoff  999 (a medevac helicopter) completes the rescue under very difficult conditions.  The chopper took some small arms rounds from the NVA and took a while to reel in Willem who was placed in a basket and who was the only wounded at this time.  Bill Clous had been in country a little over two months and is taken to the USS Sanctuary.

Just a short story that relates to the above from Mark Hendrickson: “When I arrived out in the field with first platoon, I was put in a position in the NDP and met PFC Clous for the first time.  He kind of showed my how things were done during my first few days in the field.  That training consisted of everything from how to dig in, stand watch, be silent, make coffee and/or hot chocolate, heat up the c-rations (both with chunks of C-4 explosives) and a quick course on the use of a P-38.  He was also the one who showed me how to get leeches off your body.

As I remember, he had only been out in the field for a couple of weeks or so, but he seemed like an old veteran to me.  After all these years I could remember this guy and the first impression he gave me of life in the jungle.  I could remember sitting with him, keeping him down as low as possible during the artillery strike and trying to console him with his wounds as he waited for the dust-off, but I could not remember his name until I read your story [an early version of this chronicle].  I so am glad that I am finally able to put a name to the person in my memories and hope that he recovered from his wounds and is leading a healthy, prosperous life.”

Wounded:

SSG Stephen R. Smith, line #12, right shoulder wound

Chuck Kerr, line #96, back injury due to fall (while being extracted by jungle penetrator, the penetrator caught in a tree and snapped; he fell 35 feet aggravating his injury)

PFC William T. Clous, line #83.

 

May 18, 1970.  Third platoon 1440 - receives two mortar rounds at YD 427123.  The company employs FAC, ARA, and a pink team and gets a secondary explosion.  16 replacements are in the rear ready to come to field.  These included Mark Taylor who would become the senior aid man for the company and Gary Keedwell who would be third platoon’s medic until he fulfilled his field commitment.  Field strength is 67.  The company requests a medic to replace Joseph Banks.  1535 - 0n the 19th, third platoon receives four 82mm rounds as a log bird arrives at YD 428118.  Stanley Richtarik received a purple heart for action about this time.  On the same day, there is a sapper attack on Bravo Co on Rakkasan.  At 1730, Charlie Company reports a white team receives small arms from six to seven enemy as well as .51 cal fire.   At 1815, the company reports an enemy mortar at YD 417117 and .51 cal at YD 415118.  The .51 caliber are indications of larger size enemy forces and may be part of the buildup that hit the Ripcord area later in July.  Field strength is about 61.  This is a low number as losses have not been made up by new replacements yet.  Again, there was a temporary "cease fire" 18-19 May in honor of Buddha's birthday.

May 20, 1970 – May 22, 1970.  The 20th is quiet.  Derek Montey goes to the 58th Scout Dog platoon this date.  He must have reenlisted about April 20th and just returned from a 30 day reenlistment leave.  I had worked with Derek – a good man to have nearby in a firefight.

At 0920 n the 21st, the company reports significant override on its radio frequency.  On the 22d, 1000 - first platoon and second platoon are conducting patrol and surveillance operations.  1045 – A pink team is on station.  1306 - PZ from Kathryn via CH-47.  Nearby battalion dispositions:

1/327 Inf at Bastogne

1/501 Inf at Kathryn

2/502 Inf at Veghel

2/506 Inf at Ripcord

It appears that the 101st decided not to push out as far as the west side of the A Shau valley during the 1970 fighting season, compared to the prior year.  They were allowing the NVA to move about 20 kilometers east before they were being engaged by the US.

May 23, 1970.  0905, third platoon is at YD 421133.  1240 – they receive mortar fire from YD 415117.  Robert Hickman received a purple heart  - perhaps from this mortar fire.  During the evening of May 23-24, Firebase Kathryn, about six km to the SE, is attacked.  Five men are killed and 22 are wounded.  Alpha company is defending the firebase.  Ron Williams recalled that he was with Alan Gross on Kathryn when Alan died.  They were in the same foxhole and a mortar round landed very close, wounding Alan.  Alan later died of his wounds.  Ron and Alan arrived in the 101st May 2 and May 3 respectively.  Most likely, they were sent to FB Kathryn to pull security before they were sent out to Charlie Company.  Glen Krebs, another very recent arrival to Charlie Company, was also wounded - he may have left country after being wounded as no other records show for him.

CPL Alan Harry Gross, killed by incoming rockets and mortars on FSB Kathryn.  Tour began 5/2/1970)  Wall – 10W, 085. 10 men from C, 1-506 on Kathryn.  Glen Krebs, is wounded on FSB Kathryn. 

May 24, 1970 – May 27, 1970.  1145 on the 24th, third platoon receives 82mm mortar rounds at YD 421132 from YD 405140.  Artillery is called.  Alpha company is on FSB Kathryn.  The 25th and 26th appear to be quiet days although a medevac was hit by an RPG on the 26th and went down with the loss of four men from C company, 326 Medical Battalion.  Unit locations are a few hundred meters from the previous day. 

On the 27th, second platoon 1025 found bunkers at YD 406132.  At 1039 – they are in contact with the enemy.  Ronald Ulmer, Guy Statzer, and SFC Ted Swyers were taken to 85th Evac – possibly for wounds from an RPG.  Ulmer returns to the company on June 26.  1105 - FAC (Bilk 31) is on station with fighters – an airstrike goes in at grid YD 417117.  At 1200, the company is sweeping the area and employing artillery on bunkers at YD 409131.  At 1330, they found a bunker with six fighting positions and miscellaneous ammunition and explosives.  There were no signs of recent activity.  MG Wright departs as commanding general and is replaced by MG Hennessey.

May 28, 1970.  About midday, Charlie air assaults to a location a few hundred meters from FSB Kathryn – it appears that they had to move between 500 meters and 1,500 meters to reach the PZ.  The air move covered about six kilometers.  1145 - first platoon and second platoon arrive on an LZ at YD 405132.  They had to check out bunkers around the LZ.  1814 - partial journal entry says C Co found … at YD 471109.  SGT Lawrence Brown goes to 85th Evac – reason not clear.  On 9 June he is transferred to 516th Personnel Services Company in Da Nang.  Perhaps he had a medical condition that precluded further infantry duty.

May 29, 1970.  At 2019, the third platoon ambush at YD 482092 sights enemy soldiers and calls mortar fire on YD 488092 and artillery on YD 487096.  At 2110, they report movement and employ artillery.  Charlie company is now a few kilometers SE of FB Kathryn.

May 30, 1970 – June 1, 1970.  On the 30th, the company is constructing an LZ in the vicinity of YD 465094.  There is an air strike at 0930 at YD 450115.  Joel Rossell is taken to 85th Evac and returns 4 June – the reason is unclear.  George Kiehl also goes to 85th Evac – reason unclear.  At 2005, Charlie Company reports they believe the majority of enemy are south of the Rao Lau River and can move to FSB Kathryn in one evening.  Alpha Company is still on Kathryn.  At 1715 the next day, first and second platoons find a large, recently used bunker with two 82mm rounds.  On June 1, the company field strength is 63.

June 1970.  June 2-4, 1970.  Company strength is now 80; they must have picked up new soldiers at Camp Evans.  Charlie leaves the field on the second and does range training at Evans on the third.  The fourth is spent at Eagle Beach.  At 0500 on the fourth, Camp Evans receives five, 122mm rockets.  At 1053, the brigade commander states that 1-506th is to relieve 2-506th on Ripcord 8 June and to relieve 1-501st on Kathryn on June 14. 

June 5-7, 1970 is spent training at Camp Evans.  I believe Evans and other base camps were serviced to some extent by Pacific Architects and Engineers (PA&E).  They did contract work for the US to a much smaller degree than did the Army’s contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.  PA&E probably constructed the sea huts and serviced the generators that provided some power at the base camps.

William Anonie goes to 85th Evac on June 7 and returns to the company June 20th.


 

13 Ripcord and Kathryn

 

 

June 8, 1970.  1045 - Charlie Company assumes control of Ripcord.  The company has 12 starlights (night vision devices).  Battalion asks for 20 soldiers from the rear to be on Ripcord permanently.  A Company, D Company, and Recon platoon LZ on Ripcord (probably RIF off).  B Company lands on FSB Granite.  C Company strength on Ripcord is 84.  Ripcord total is 231.  This includes 105mm, 155mm artillery, and other detachments.

Earl Overlee, Raymond Ray, and Jerry McGee go to 85th Evac.  Perhaps they went from Camp Evans and not from FB Ripcord.  Reason is not clear.  McGee returns to the company June 20.

June 9, 1970.  0453 – A firebase rehearsal is conducted.  Alpha company has contact with two enemy (in the vicinity of Ripcord).  1725 – there is an intelligence report of a possible attack on Ripcord with supporting fires from YD 352152.  I believe I was filling in for Mark Smith at this time and recall the warnings each day of a major enemy attack coming each evening.  The constant alerts and lack of sleep tended to wear people out.

June 10, 1970.  0130 - Ripcord goes to 100% alert.  At 0300, two men are injured from H&I fires.  1415 - Alpha Company in the vicinity finds 38 bunkers but not recently used.  1445 - Intel reports likely enemy attack on Hill 902 vicinity YD 336172.  Injured in upper arms during H&I fire on FSB Ripcord 0300.  SP4 Major Blacksner and SP4 William Bright – both are sent to Camp Evans.

The box connecting firebases Ripcord, Granite, Kathryn, and Maureen has been full of NVA forces operating in a more aggressive mode.  The fighting season is in high gear.  Most likely, the 101st Airborne could have effectively employed its nine infantry battalions in this one area of operations.  The mountainous and highly vegetated nature of this terrain between the coast and the Laos border could have hidden half of the available US and NVA ground forces without great difficulty.  An analogy would be seeing a flock of 500 to 1,000 blackbirds undulating through the sky and then watching them disappear into one tree’s lush canopy, such that the next observer would notice not even one bird.

Placing the majority of the 101st forces in this area would have left the coastal areas, the A Shau valley area, and the DMZ region free to NVA and VC forces.  Perhaps the only strategy that may have worked, would have been attacking the NVA lines of communication in Laos and Cambodia with ground forces throughout the war.

June 11, 1970.  0702 – A CH-47 loses power and drops its load on Ripcord, returning safely to Camp Evans.  2130 - Position #23 on NW side has movement about 50 meters out and engages with grenades and M-79.  One US is injured by a shell fragment.  Ripcord total strength is 284.  C Company total is 101 (probably includes a provisional platoon).

SP4 Roy L. Halpain, wounded in chest by frag from grenade – suspected enemy activity around FB Ripcord perimeter.  Sent to Camp Evans later that day.


June 12, 1970.  1545 - MAJ Klein, battalion operations officer, reports a delay in getting artillery clearance on known enemy locations in the vicinity of Ripcord.  1655  there is a message from brigade regarding an enemy attack:  photo and visual reconnaissance revealed enemy firing positions and bunkers recently constructed in the vicinity of Hill 805 (YD 361188), Hill 902 (YD 337171), Hill 975 (YD 335146), and YD 361164.  An agent report says a multi-battalion attack is to be made prior to June 15.  1730 - Alpha Company at YD 353166 is alerted they may be the object of enemy attack.  They are digging in.  1745 - C company employs mechanical ambushes around Ripcord.  1755 - Alpha Company receives six to eight mortar rounds.  1846 - Bunker #11 has movement and engages with M-79 and mortars.  1930 - 105mm battery hears enemy outside the wire and engages with firecracker.  Perhaps the NVA are starting to recon the attack on Ripcord about a month in advance.  Third platoon of D Company moved to Ripcord for a one day stand-down.

June 13, 1970.  0825 - Alpha Company engages two enemy at YD 357167, about 4 kilometers south of Ripcord.  1710 – Alpha Company second platoon finds a Chicom claymore on a trail and a bunker nearby with two enemy bodies, six months old.  1800 - C Company sends out a patrol from Ripcord.  Alpha Company finds a US sensor on the ground (perhaps air dropped).

June 14, 1970.  1000 - C Company 2-506 and D Company 2-506 Inf are OPCON to 1-506 Inf.  1015 - D 2-506th sights one NVA 400 meters from Ripcord and employs mortar fire.  1018 - C Co, 2-506th Inf had contact at YD 359164 (they switched with A Co, 1-506 Inf).  1334 - C Co, 2-506th Inf sees five enemy in the vicinity of YD 355166 and employs artillery.  1345 - first platoon of D Co, 2-506th Inf will RIF off Ripcord to West.  Recon 1-506 Inf will RIF off Ripcord to East in direction of Hill 805.  C Co, 1-506 Inf stays on Ripcord and second platoon of D Co, 2-506 Inf reinforces on Ripcord.  1721 – an intelligence agent (perhaps this information came from intercepted NVA radio communications) reports an imminent attack on Ripcord and Hill 902 - noting that A Co, 1-506th Inf had been followed by the enemy for 5 days.

PFC Johnny A. Rubio, 905-60-0518 had frag wound in upper arm – not serious.  Perhaps on Ripcord from H&I.

June 15, 1970.  Charlie Company was probably very happy to be leaving Ripcord although FSB Kathryn was not in a totally quiet zone itself.  The company air moves from Ripcord to Kathryn starting at 0630.  1147 - C Company moves off Kathryn to the SSE.

Mark Hendrickson:  “FSB Kathryn was our AO most of the time I was there.  We pulled security a couple of times on this FSB.  One of the toughest things was when we walked off FSB Kathryn for the first time on June 15. It seemed like it was straight down. Trying to maneuver down the side of this mountain with a full rucksack plus all of our other gear was very difficult.  On top of being extremely steep we would have to spend the night on this slope.  Needless to say, there was no digging in.  We would spread out and try and find a tree, stump, rock or anything else to curl up around to keep from sliding down the slope during the night.  To make things worse, it seems that when you did slip, which was often, anything you grabbed onto had thorns or stickers.  I can remember that when we finally got off that mountain, everybody rushed the Doc to have their sores taken care of before they could get infected.”

D Co, 1-506th Infantry defends Kathryn.  D Co, 2-506th Infantry defends Ripcord.  Kathryn has 261 personnel.

PFC Michael E. Clark, 280-46-3572, line #75 fell on a stick and punctured a lung.  Went to 85th Evacuation Hospital.

June 16, 1970 – June 19, 1970.  The new area of operations is about 15 km SE of Ripcord.  The 16th is a quiet day.  On the 17th, first platoon 1020 - found a bunker with a Chicom machine gun and misc supplies, 3-6 months old.  1315 - YD 475096 they found a hooch for 60 people with bunker, 3-6 months old and some miscellaneous equipment.  1125 – an air strike goes in at YD 468099 (24, 500# bombs).  The FAC saw two secondary explosions.  At 1900, third platoon found seven bunkers at YD 469097 about 30 days old.  There are 284 men on Kathryn and 66 in the field with C Company.  1230 on the 19th, first platoon found a trail at YD 467090.  The battalion operations officer tells C Company to move south and cross the Rao Lao River.

June 20, 1970.  At 1830, first platoon reports movement at YD 463086.  They engage six to eight NVA.  The enemy return fire with five RPG rounds and small arms.  ARA is on station.  Enemy engages ARA.  Charlie company has one man with a minor frag wound in the arm.  This may be Johnny Rippy.  1950 – Intelligence report of NVA 803d regiment massing to attack - perhaps Kathryn.  C Company will not sweep the contact area as they think a larger enemy force may engage them from the flank.  2104 - C Company gets emergency resupply.  Michael Clark returns from 85th Evac.

June 21, 1970.  At 1025, YD 463087, the company finds a trail heavily used the day before.  Third platoon 0830 - finds a trail YD 462086 recently used.  At 0852, the company found small hooches used in last 24 hours and one blood-stained stretcher.  1008 - YD 461087 - finds three hooches with polished rice, medical supplies, and bills of sale from Hue, coastal city 40 kilometers to the northeast.  First platoon 1025 - YD 463087 finds a trail heavily used, yesterday.  1412 - YD 457085 they find a trail used in the last 24 hours.  1500 – the third platoon is in contact at YD 457085.  ARA is on station at 1530.  Artillery is employed and third platoon believes one enemy is hit in the engagement.  Six men were cited in this engagement.  John McCurdy was the squad leader, Harlan Wright the machine gunner, and Nathan Ruff the RTO.  Terry Thompson, William McCarver, and Donald Feeney were riflemen.  Ruff called ARA on the enemy and all successfully used fire and maneuver to rout the enemy.

June 22, 1970.  A medevac is called at 1453 for the Kit Carson Scout who had a bad case of cellulitis.  Even the native born population pick up these nasty skin infections.  Field strength is 67.  First platoon 0920 YD 462086 found one dead NVA killed by small arms - probably from the contact on June 20.  1134 – there is a medevac for SP4 Buress (likely malaria with105 degree temp).  1605 – third platoon YD 452088 receives M-16 fire from 50 meters and engages.  1 NVA KIA - captures AK, rucksack with 50 # rice and ammunition.

June 23, 1970.  1610 - YD 461078 the CP and first platoon find stairs cut into a steep slope up a hill.  This is not the only time Charlie company would find this degree of “home improvement” in steep terrain.  We can all speculate what size force using an area would warrant this type construction effort.

One of the platoons is conducting a recon patrol when Douglas Ketterling notices an enemy ambush about to engage the patrol.  Ketterling immediately places out a large volume of fire and is assisted by Brian Holdner and James Foy, the squad leader.  The NVA are forced to run.  Dennis Carver and Joseph Jackson are sent to 85th Evac.  It’s not clear whether they were wounded in the earlier fight.  This episode is recorded in award citations for Foy, Holdner, and Ketterling and is not mentioned in the battalion journal.  Most likely, the battalion TOC was preoccupied with Alpha company’s significant contact and the mortar attack on Kathryn itself.  2253 - FSB Kathryn is under attack - one US KIA and some wounded.  Alpha Company has contact with 2 US KIA and several wounded vicinity YD 437124, just north of FB Maureen.

June 24, 1970.  Alpha Company has significant contact with 1 KIA and 10 WIA.  1245 – A Charlie company man is medevac’d with 105 degree temp.  The company found a north-south trail at YD 448094  which crosses the river at YD 449100.  Another trail is located at YD 445104.  The company commander thinks this is a major artery from the Maureen ridge line (FSB Maureen YD 429122).  There is intelligence of a major sapper attack tonight.  Charlie company is carrying 44 LAW.  Third platoon 1540 - finds a trail with recent tracks of 20 enemy.  The intelligence appears to be generally correct however the timing is slightly off.

June 25, 1970.  0945 – The company commander wants to get rid of his Kit Carson Scout.  Third platoon 1247 - YD 444117 - found a trail used by 2-3 people recently.

0645 - Alpha Company continues to be hit hard.  2 KIA and 3 WIA from mortar fire (may have been friendly fire).  1030 - photo recon of Hill 959 (YD 441120 – one kilometer east of FB Maureen, three km NW of Charlie and on the other side of the river) has a bunker complex with four NVA companies.  1229 - Alpha Company is in further contact at YD 438121.  They estimate an NVA company in bunkers.  2 US KIA.

It would be interesting to know whether the Ripcord area or the Kathryn area was crawling with more NVA at this time - or perhaps they were about the same?

June 26, 1970.  Charlie’s platoons are relatively quiet.  In the battalion, 0236 - Bravo Company second platoon in contact - 4 US KIA and 9 WIA; 6 NVA KIA.  1045 – an air strike goes in at YD 437121 for Alpha Company.  1654 - Part of Alpha Company reinforces Bravo Company.  1-506th Inf casualties in last 5 days reported to Brigade:

A Company:  8 KIA and 19 WIA

B Company:  4 KIA and 8 WIA

June 27, 1970.  PFC Feeney is medevac'd due to cellulitis of the foot to the extent that he  could not walk.  Air strikes go in at 0845.  YD 430136 - 1,800 20mm, 12, 500# bombs, and eight napalm.  YD 434129 - 16 500# bombs, 800 20mm.  If the NVA were able to run to their bunkers with overhead cover, they would probably escape the effect of most of these air attacks.  Alpha and Bravo companies are still in significant contact.  It appears the NVA are pursuing and attacking but not in force.

June 28, 1970.  LTC Holt visits Charlie company 1545.  First platoon has movement at 2136 and engages.  2033 - they have movement YD 439088.  Third platoon 2110 has movement again and engages with claymores and artillery.  2136 - Has 10 enemy at YD 440090 and engages at close range.  2145 - engages enemy with M-79 as artillery not available.  2240 - ARA reports lights outside of the perimeter.  ARA cleared to engage.  Artillery is called.  Roy Halpain is awarded the purple heart this date.

June 29, 1970.  Third platoon 0815 - engages one enemy with small arms and artillery at YD 440090.  2140 – they have movement in the vicinity of YD 436086.

June 30, 1970.  First platoon 0955 - finds four bunkers with hooches not recently used. 

1240 at YD 442087 they find hooches and bunkers:  25, 82mm rounds; 7 RPG rounds; 50 RPG charges.  No large force present there in last 30 days.  1307 – an ambush engages 10-15 enemy at YD 436085.  Employs ARA and artillery.  Lines #79 and #24 receive fragments from ARA.  James Foy receives a purple heart.  Third platoon 1110 at YD 435086 finds recent tracks of 3 NVA.

July 1970.  July 1, 1970.  Intelligence reports a likely 803d NVA regiment attack on Kathryn, Rakkasan, Hill 959 (YD 441120), Hill 980 (YD 429123) or Hill 900 (YD 415111).  They may also have predicted a major attack on Ripcord, 15 kilometers to the NW.  1310 - LTC Holt again visits C Company in the field.  1130 there is a bomb damage assessment (BDA) of airstrikes at YD 418111:  they appear to have destroyed 6 NVA ammo bunkers.  Air strikes dropped 36, 500# bombs.  C Company field strength is low at 62.  At 1355, first platoon and third platoon find two hooches a day or two old.  They fired a LAW into one hooch and an NVA ran to a second hooch.  They pulled back and employed artillery.  The NVA may have escaped as there is no further mention of the enemy.  PFC Michael E. Clark, line #74, had a possible broken back and is sent to 85th Evacuation Hospital.  He may have been hurt blowing up NVA bunkers.  1728 - first platoon and third platoon construct an LZ at YD 434079.

July 2, 1970.  1240 - third platoon or first platoon kills an NVA in last night's NDP and captures an AK 47.  1440 first platoon reports a trail with recent use at YD 430078.  Second platoon 1910 - finds a trail at YD 435093 but not recently used.  At 1430, the company runs into a bunker area - requests CS.  1-506th Infantry is aware that Ripcord area is heating up.

July 3, 1970.  Third platoon 1000 - find 5 hooches 10x10x20 with bunkers and miscellaneous clothes and small amount of rice.  Second platoon 1115 - has movement and engages.  They receive some AK fire.  Company strength is 63.

July 4, 1970.  COL Harrison (brigade commander) desires to meet with all battalion commanders at 0930 July 5 on Ripcord.  That’s one way to keep a meeting short as Ripcord began to receive regular mortar fire from the NVA!  FSB Kathryn - 281 men.  C Company - 63 field strength.  Third platoon 1235 - YD 429081 finds 3 hooches 10x20 with bunkers used 30-60 days ago.  I depart Charlie Company to head back to the US.

July 5, 1970.  Third platoon 0925 - YD 424083 has contact with an NVA squad.  Two US are WIA and two NVA are KIA.  They employ ARA, artillery, pink team and use a forward air controller (FAC).  After the contact, Mark Smith selects an LZ for evacuation of the two wounded men.  When the medevac helicopter is engaged by the enemy, Smith organizes another attack on the enemy to suppress their fires and to allow the medevac to be completed.  Harlan Wright and Gary Pryor were the machine gunners who suppressed enemy fires.  Charles Kerr was the medic and with Gary Keedwell, moved the wounded to safety and administered first aid.  John Desselle was the platoon leader who directed the fight and Steven Riggs was the forward observer who fought as an infantryman.  Bruce Kotschwar and Matthew Budziszewski also risked their lives to suppress the enemy and to pull wounded to safety. 

At 1355, first platoon finds 10 bunkers and hooches, two .51 cal positions, and  20, 75mm recoilless rifle canisters.  Most had been destroyed by 8 inch artillery.  Charlie Company is instructed to be 100% alert from 0100 till first light.

PFC Clyde Meade, line #90, neck wound

PFC Brian Holdner, four gunshots in arms and legs

 

July 6, 1970.  At 0735, the first platoon ambush engages an enemy squad at YD 425082 with small arms and claymores.  Negative findings.  There is a minor wound in contact with the enemy (Larry Turner) but no medevac is required.  Bravo company has contact and has 19 wounded.  Their field strength is 46.  Alpha Company moves to link up with Bravo company.

July 7, 1970.  Third platoon 0905 - YD 419080 found hooches and one 107mm rocket.  1257 - YD 416080 – they found a trail with no recent activity.  At 1340, a first platoon ambush at YD 423080 engages two NVA and employs artillery, with no results.  At 0830, the company reports the smell of CS.  0905 - Question from Brigade:  On morning of 9 July, one company from 1-506th Inf will be OPCON to 2-506th Inf.  Which company will this be?  Answer - Charlie company.  Fortunately for Charlie Company this did not come to pass as Delta Company which was made OPCON, was hit hard by larger NVA forces.  Intelligence continues to predict NVA attacks on Ripcord or Kathryn.  The plan for July 9 from battalion:  Alpha and Bravo company move to Firebase Bastogne.  Delta Company stays on Kathryn.  Charlie Company becomes OPCON to 2-501 Inf in second brigade.  (this supercedes C Company opcon to 2-506).  PZ's for July 9:  second platoon - YD 431087; first platoon, third platoon, CP YD 423080.  LZ Ripcord?  (Perhaps that was an intermediate LZ).


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 15       Bastogne and Kathryn

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 8, 1970.  Apparently there are several upcoming mission changes in the brigade.  It appears that 1-506th Inf will change AO responsibility with 2-501 Inf (the 2-501 takes part in the battles around Ripcord and meets heavy resistance – see Keith Nolan’s book).  2355 - 9 July air moves are on hold but it must have taken place as Charlie is in the vicinity of FSB Bastogne the next day.  Bastogne is about 20 km due east of the present location and normally a much quieter AO.

July 10, 1970 – July 21, 1970.  After having been in a highly active area for several weeks, you would expect the soldiers’ nerves to be on edge and to report suspected enemy movement if there was any doubt.  On the 10th, second platoon 1940 - had movement at YD 628070, two km south of FB Bastogne, and engaged with negative results.  Bastogne is a large Fire Support Base with a population of 399.  July 11th.  Life in the new AO seems safer and perhaps pleasantly boring.  The journal has numerous comments about woodcutters and convoys on Route #547 between firebases Bastogne and Veghel – the route to the A Shau valley.  Apparently Vietnamese woodcutters are allowed to work around FSB Bastogne and are controlled to some degree.

Prior to July 10, anything moving was enemy; now, it is necessary to show greater care.  Company field strength is 59.  July 12th:  There is notice of future plans where 1-506th will swap with 1-502nd on 17 July involving firebases Bastogne, Arsenal, and the Rocket Belt.  July 13th  second platoon reports duster (40mm) rounds from Bastogne going over their heads at 2330.  0947 - LTC Holt visits the company in the field - perhaps his farewell.  At 1545, the company commander raises hell that PFC Meade who was shot in the neck on July 5 and sent to the hospital ship but is returned to the field without the bullet removed.  Meade gets sick and is evacuated to Camp Evans.

July 14th.  At 1900, third platoon sees two enemy but does not engage.  Charlie company moves by air to Bastogne and then back to the vicinity of NDP locations (a few kilometers distance).  July 15th 1027 air move to YD 650044.  Perhaps the new battalion commander is taking an opportunity to practice some combat operations while in a relatively quiet area?  July 16th there is mention of a possible 1-506th Inf move to Kathryn, Maureen, or Kelly.  July 17th 2000 – the company finds a trail used in the last 24 hours and sets up an ambush.  1-506th Inf is informed that Ripcord is getting hit hard by indirect fire.  Field strength is up to 75.  July 18th, LTC Porter, the new battalion commander,  visits Charlie Company at 1147.  July 19th the company makes an air move between 0830 and 0930.  First platoon receives AK fire on the LZ.  ARA is employed with negative results.   LTC Porter visits between 1400 and 1530.  July 20th - At 0912, third platoon  saw an enemy and engaged at YD 612031.  Negative results.  Steven Riggs and Harlan Wright receive purple hearts –must have been due to the enemy fire or ARA impacting.  21st 0815 - battalion plans to move to Kathryn on Jul 22 and Gladiator (a few km NW of Granite) on Jul 23.  0845 – Battalion journal notes D, 1-506 heavy casualties vicinity Ripcord YD 376192.  3 KIA, 27 WIA, 2 MIA. An air move is made 1911 to NDP locations.

July 22, 1970.  Convoy from field location begins 1035 and ends 1212 at Camp Evans. Movement by ground vehicle is relatively uncommon and only done closer to the base camps in areas without significant enemy presence.  0920 – 1-506th assumes control of Kathryn.  2054 - D Company is back with 1-506 and will have training Jul 26.  Training and recovery is normally done after a unit receives significant casualties.

July 23, 1970.  The company moved from Evans by CH-47 and arrives at Kathryn by 1112.  The journal notes that Ripcord is evacuated and LTC Lucas (commander of 2-506th Inf) was killed.

Watch where you pee.  A sergeant gets up to pee at 0500.  While doing so, the position to his left threw a fragmentation grenade as part of H&I fires.  The grenade landed 20 meters to the front of the soldier who was urinating.  He was injured and the medic discovered a 1/8 inch cut in his penis where the fragment embedded.  He was evacuated to 326th Med.

Something is out of balance in the 101st.  The 2-506th had been in the middle of a major engagement and the 1-506th moves to Bastogne where the issues are woodcutters and VIP visits, "July 12, 1970 journal:  CPT Rankin, Division Protocol Officer calls on the land line at 2330 that a VIP "Knee Britches" will fly over the AO tomorrow between 1600 and 1800 and may visit Bastogne."  During the past year, the 101st has spent a great deal of time and effort to locate and destroy the enemy.  Now, the enemy has been located and there is no major effort to take the offensive.  Most likely, the lack of forces to cover the I Corps AO, the withdrawal effort, the push toward Vietnamization, and the desire to hold down casualties must have been considerations at the strategic level.  In addition, the Cambodia invasion was taking place about this time and no doubt that was given priority over I Corps.

July 24, 1970 to July 31, 1970.  Charlie is back in the “Kathryn AO,” about 4 km NE from their recent positions and north of the Rao La river.  At 2310, second platoon reports movement and engages.  The terrain in places is very steep - two men are injured in falls.  Lines #117 (ankle) and #115 (back – cannot move legs). 

July 25th  third platoon received small arms fire 1120 at YD 445112.  There is some confusion about the location of an adjacent company so fire is not returned.  This is about half way between firebases Maureen and Kathryn.  Robert Steel is sent to 85th Evac Hospital.  1315 – third platoon sees three to four enemy on an LZ at YD 445110 and employs artillery.  1930 - YD 445110 they find three bunkers 12x12x6 that can cover the LZ and adjacent terrain with fires.  They also find a trail to a spring (water source).  July 26th 1530 – Charlie air moves all elements to YD 464112.  It was noted that PFC Rodgers was AWOL; he landed on Kathryn but did not move off with the rest of the company.  Mendez Acevedo goes to 85th Evac on 26 Jul 70.  He may have been one of the men injured in falls on July 24.  July 27th third platoon 1747 - finds a bunker 4x6 with 38 rifle grenades and 3 RPG rounds but it was not recently occupied.   SP4 Juan N. Acueveda is medevac’d – he fell on his head the previous day and blacks out.  July 28th  first platoon 1101 - YD 481118 - found 300 rounds of .51 cal and 800 rounds of 7.62mm about 45 days old.  Second platoon makes an air move on the 29th.  July 30th  0945 - LTC Porter and MAJ Lamb, battalion operations officer, visit.  At 1350, second platoon sees movement at YD 470110 and engages.  Afterwards, they find a blood trail.  1445 – they find an old bunker complex (20-25 bunkers) at YD 482109 with recent tunnels dug inside.

July 31, 1970 – Charlie company is back at Camp Evans.  On August 3d, three 122mm rockets land inside Evans but not near Charlie company.  The unit remains at Evans for training through the fifth with one day at Eagle Beach on August 4th.  Leon Hargrove goes to 95th Evac on Aug 5.


 

14 Birmingham, Veghel, Tomahawk

 

 

August 1970.  Charlie Company spends the next six days in the FB Birmingham and FB Arsenal area of operations (generally about 12 kilometers south of the city of Hue).  On the sixth, Alpha and Bravo companies move to Birmingham and Charlie and Delta go to Arsenal.  1-506th assumes the 1-502nd Inf (second brigade) area of operations.  Charlie air moves to Arsenal from Camp Evans, lands at 1532 and reports two incoming mortar rounds landing a few hundred meters away.  The next day, Charlie does three flame drops between 1330 and 1430.  Radars have been activated on Birmingham.  At 1945, the company finds a week old bunker complex with an AK-50, miscellaneous ammunition, and bloody bandages.

An observation is that the closer the company moves to Camp Eagle where the terrain is flatter, more technical equipment such as radars is employed to detect personnel movement.

At 0909 August 8th, the third platoon ambush engages two NVA and receives fire from about ten more.  ARA and pink teams work the area.  The pink team spots a bunker at YD 865020 – about 10 km SE of FB Arsenal.  An air strike goes in at 1127.  Third platoon finds a blood trail and believes two NVA were killed.  At 1330, they find a tunnel with fresh blood.  Company field strength is 79.  The following day, at 1030, third platoon finds a hooch and bunker complex at YD 875005 used the previous night.  At 1300 they find a bunker at YD 878007, also used recently.  At 1650, third platoon finds used medical equipment (IV, morphine) with blood on it.  The 10th is a quiet day and on the 11th, the last day in this area.  Third platoon sees some enemy at 1240 and kills one VC.  At 1315 they find documents in a hooch nearby; at YD 868997, third platoon finds 28 RPG rounds, 25 pounds of rice, two bunkers and numerous spider holes.  It appears the VC are active in this area.

Apparently, higher headquarters did not believe that Charlie Company had killed a high-ranking VC on August 11.  Mark Smith asked higher headquarters where he should deposit the body and they were of no help.  He had a soldier wrap the body in a poncho and tie it to one of the trucks that took the company through Hue to FB Jack where the VC was buried.  Apparently there was discussion of giving Mark Smith a written reprimand for this action but I believe it was not issued.

Charlie next spends about a week in the FB Jack area about eight km SW of Camp Evans.  The company makes an air move to FB Arsenal at 0740 on the 12th and then convoys to FB Jack (about 30-40 km by road), arriving at 1330.  Pedro Guevera goes to 85th Evac – reason not known.  At 1750, Charlie airlifts from Jack to NDP locations to the east.  At 2340, Charlie has movement 50 meters to their east and employs artillery.  A new brigade commander has arrived; the company field strength is in the upper 70’s.  At 1140 on the 14th at YD 548267, the company found a bunker, trails, and fresh clams having been eaten (this area is only about 15 km from the coast).  The company requested a white team for reconnaissance but none was available.  At 2140, the third platoon ambush engages 6-8 enemy and moves back to its platoon NDP.  They are certain that two enemy were killed.  A rucksack found from the previous night's ambush contained rice, a working transistor radio, and cigars. 

It appears that the 101st school for new arrivals (SERTS) is training men in the general vicinity.  The school is based at Camp Evans and moved from the Bien Hoa area (near Saigon) about this time.  There is nothing like a little realism in training with live enemy nearby to get the new soldiers to focus.  At 1442, second platoon finds a hand grenade booby trap and four bunkers about a week old.  As has been seen before, the closer the company is to populated areas, the more VC are present in contrast to NVA and hence, more booby traps.  At 1530 on the 16th, second platoon finds an enemy camp at YD 598261 where six NVA had just departed.  A few minutes later, they saw 3-5 NVA in the Song Bo river at YD 604264 and employed artillery.

At 1940 on the 17th, first platoon makes contact with a reinforced NVA squad. The platoon, led by Donald Muller was moving into an ambush position when Vincent Gazzara, point man, was engaged by the enemy force.  Michael Dooley, a squad leader, maneuvered his men and killed an enemy soldier.  On the radio, Larry Turner employed ARA and artillery.  Ronald Ulmer’s machine gun helped to suppress the enemy fire.  Charles Kerr brought additional ammunition to the engaged elements and repaired a machine gun that had jammed.  Steve Francis, James Hall, Ted Neal, Frederick Koch, and Leo Legarie were cited for aggressively engaging the enemy force and allowing the platoon to successfully disengage from the ambush site.  About 100 rounds of artillery are employed around first platoon.  Two NVA are killed.  The following day, all move in to Camp Evans between 0900 and 0930.

The 101st airborne has been in the Camp Evans FB Jack area for two years while the 1st Cav and marines had been there two years earlier.  There does not appear to be any significant reduction of VC forces in the area.  Without destruction of the Laos supply lines and bases, it appears that US forces are destined to play cat and mouse with the VC until they depart the country.

The next six days are spent in a different AO near FB Veghel.  Veghel sits along Route 547 which runs into the A Shau Valley.  Veghel is about 26 km due south of Camp Evans.  On the 19th at 1102, third platoon found two tunnels near old firebase Brick at YD 564023 but no recent activity.  Second platoon constructed an LZ at YD 566028.  Veghel has 381 personnel on the firebase.  The following day, air moves are made by the company.  Mid-day, third platoon constructs an LZ at YD 564027 and second platoon does likewise at YD 529014, toward the end of the day. 

On the 21st, LTC Porter visits Charlie Company about 1030.  Shortly thereafter the company CA’s to YD 508031 (less first platoon).  At 1315, first platoon arrives at YD 478025 (near FB Canon) where air cavalry reported firing up a truck and killing two enemy the day before.  First platoon checks out the area and reports that the truck was a junker, without an engine, and there was no sign of bodies.  Makes you wonder about some air cav - many of their reports found in journal entries are very precise such as “a trail used by three NVA within the last 24 hours.” The platoon found a bunker nearby with bags of crystal CS.  1525, second platoon reports seeing a large smoke plume at YD 453057.  At 1820, first platoon medevacs a man for a broken arm who is sent to Alpha company, 326th Medical.  Next day at noon, second platoon finds a trail with recent activity at YD 496034.  On the 23d, second platoon finds two old bunkers at YD 486034.  Third platoon hears chopping noise at YD 500032 and checks it out but finds nothing.  Second platoon finds two cases of Bangalore torpedoes just off the road that probably fell off a truck a month earlier - they destroy the munitions.

The following six days will be spent in an entirely different area of operations - about 50 km due east near the coast along Highway QL1 and southeast of Camp Eagle.  At first light on the 24th, the company was picked up and air moved to FB Veghel and from there to FB Tomahawk.   Charlie assumed control of Tomahawk at 0940.  Just a short distance to the northwest of Tomahawk is a large inland bay connecting to the ocean.  At 2200 the next day, the company spots a sampan in the water at YD 111024 - a patrol boat is notified to check it out.  Second and third platoons are defending the firebase and first platoon is in the field.  August 26, first platoon reports hearing small arms one km to their west and is told it is probably friendly South Vietnamese Popular Forces troops.  This area is close to the populated area as LTC Porter is travelling by jeep today.  Next day, there is a report that local VC detonated a mine on the railway and destroyed a boxcar and some track.  The track was repaired within a few hours.  I remember hearing a rumor many months earlier that the reason we did not have soft drinks in the rear was because the VC blew up the “coke” train.  That story may well have been true.  At 0945 on the 28th, first platoon reported movement about 150m to the north but nothing was located.  FB Tomahawk strength is 148 with a 155 artillery battery.  1-506th will be replaced soon  by 2-327 Inf (a first brigade battalion mostly engaged in pacification efforts).  On August 29, a journal entry regarding Bravo Company reports that a man had a swollen penis and requested that the medical doctor tell them what to do.  No doubt there were gratuitous comments on this from the men in the TOC.  Another train hit a mine and derailed.  At 2215, Charlie reports movement just outside Tomahawk but nothing is found.  The next day the company says good-bye to Phu Loc, the nearby town.

The company will spend a little over a month in the upcoming area of operations.  Firebases Ripcord, Granite, and Rakkasan make the base of a triangle running west to east about 15 km long.  Making the top of the triangle at a point six km above Granite would give a rough center for the new area assigned to Charlie Company.  The top of the triangle is also just short of the ridge line that overlooks the lowlands toward Firebase Jack and on to Camp Evans.  About this time, Derek Montey, formerly with Charlie and now with the 58th Scout Dog platoon is wounded – no other information is available.

At 0800 on August 30, 1970, Charlie Company passes responsibility for FB Tomahawk to 2-327th Infantry.  Larry Whetstone and Paul Rosenberg go to 85th Evac.  Sometimes men are kept on firebases where medical issues are not too restrictive and then sent to get treatment when the company moves to the field.

September 1970.  About this time there was a change of command from CPT Mark Smith to CPT Robert Abraham.  With five years of Vietnam experience, Smith was highly respected and even loved by many of the men.  Audie Murphy might have had a hard time coming in after Smith.

As a postscript to Mark Smith’s service, he served as an advisor to the 9th ARVN regiment in Fall of 1971.  During the Spring offensive of April 1972, Mark served as ground commander of ARVN forces at Loc Ninh when the ARVN commander became ineffective.  This was a major conventional battle during which the NVA employed tanks and personnel carriers.  Mark was captured with the loss of Loch Ninh and spent six months as a POW before being repatriated.  He was awarded the distinguished service cross and considered for a medal of honor.


 

15 Gladiator to Rakassan

 

 

The company completes an air move and is in new locations by 1045.  The primary company mission is to use ambushes to restrict and penalize movement of the NVA.  1130 September 2, third platoon found a US NDP site where someone had left several grenades and seven M16 magazines within the last few weeks.  2040, at YD 398238, the third platoon ambush hears three people talking and blows its claymores.  This is about three kilometers NW of FB Gladiator and six kilometers NE of FB Ripcord.  Two days later, at 1930 while moving to an ambush location, second platoon heard someone kicking cans on a nearby LZ.  They called in artillery.  The next day, first platoon finds a trail used by ten enemy in the past week at YD 395239.  September 7, second platoon finds old bunkers at YD 390239.  2147, the first platoon ambush hears activity about 125 meters distant on their previous NDP site. 

Speculation would be that the NVA had moved through this area for months if not years and were very familiar with the terrain.  The 101st did not have adequate forces to hold terrain so it was a learning experience for Charlie Company as it moved into a new area.  The next day, third platoon finds an old footbridge at YD 394246.  On the 10th, third platoon moves from YD 390186 to YD 398182 and then clears an LZ at YD 400247.  LTC Porter stays in the field with Charlie.

0100 the next day, the third platoon ambush hears movement and employs artillery.  Later that morning at 1000, Ron Williams walked into the main rotor blade of a log bird.  Ron was a tall guy.  The LZ was uneven as it was on a thin finger with a downward slope.  The position of the LZ required that approaching birds would make a side approach and touch down on the left skid while the helicopter was held at a hover for loading and unloading.  Ron walked down the slope and into the main blade.  He was knocked unconscious.  Upon hearing the loud crack of the blade striking Ron’s helmet, the pilot of the bird took off thinking that he was taking hostile fire.   Mark Taylor and Chuck Kerr, two medics, were about seventy-five yards up the finger.  When they got to Ron, he was in the process of a seizure similar to that caused by epilepsy.  They restrained him and stuffed his mouth with a rag so that he would not bite his own tongue.  Once he was stable, they loaded him on the log bird that had returned and sent him for evaluation to C company, 326th Med at Camp Evans.

I met Ron in Fall of 2008.  He was evacuated to the US and recovered well from his head injury but went AWOL when it was time to return to Viet Nam.  He had a run in with the Army judicial system at Ft Meade, MD but was fortunate that LT George Wooldridge was also at Ft Meade and served as a character reference.  Ron retired from the Washington Metro Area Transportation Authority and teaches billiards.  He may be the best pool shooter to come out of Charlie Company.  Charlie company has 72 men in the field.

August and September see a number of men move to HHC 1-506th or to other units in the 101st due to reenlistments.  Examples would be to aviation units or the supply and services battalion.

September 12, third platoon finds an old, rusty SKS rifle at YD 399251.  At 1135, first platoon spots two enemy and engages.  Danny Minor and Vincent Gazzara immediately assaulted the enemy, allowing the rest of the platoon to get in good positions to defend themselves.  The contact is brief and the platoon finds one NVA KIA with an AK assault rifle and rucksack with B40 rocket charges.  Chuck Kerr remembered Minor, “after Granite we got Corporal Danny Minor.  Danny had attended Army OCS but did not complete the training.   Danny claimed to be the brother of Mike Minor who played the crop duster pilot on the TV show “Petticoat Junction.”   I don’t know if he was pulling our legs as he never produced any pictures.  Danny earned his nickname, “One Shot” on an afternoon while leading a “water RIF.”  A water RIF involves four to six men collecting the empty canteens from everyone at the patrol base and filling them at a nearby water feature.  The water RIF had been gone a short time when we, at the patrol base, heard a single rifle shot.  We all assumed it was a new guy who had accidentally discharged his weapon previously.   Then the radio crackled, the RTO with the RIF called in that he thought they were in contact.  The point man, Danny, had sighted a lone NVA soldier, on our back trail, took a knee and put a single round between the enemy soldier’s eyes.   Thereafter he was no longer Corporal Danny Minor, but Danny “ONE SHOT” Minor.

At 1920, the company found a trail junction at YD 407224 not recently used.  At 2040, the third platoon heard movement and blew its claymore mines.  The next day, first platoon finds an old trail and bunkers.  At 1130 on the 14th, first platoon heard 6-8 enemy soldiers and employed artillery.  At 1500, a pink team found signs of enemy activity within a few hundred meters.  It seems that the local NVA are playing a cat and mouse game with Charlie Company.  At 1145 on the 15th, first platoon received a resupply of LAW kicked out of a chopper.  Two detonated on impact, slightly wounding Dennis Possley and George Wooldridge.  Unfortunately, all of the LAW were damaged and had to be destroyed.

First platoon seems to be getting most of the action for a few days.  At 1155 on the 16th, first platoon approached a bunker complex and Ted Neal recon'd by fire with an M-79.  The round detonated in a tree about 35 meters away and wounded Kenneth Arthur in the thigh.  At 1500 on the last day before heading back to Camp Evans, Charles Eesley is medevac'd with a 104.6 degree temp, probably malaria.

The battalion will have six days of training at Camp Evans and Charlie completes its air move to Evans by 1020 on September 18th.  The records show companies going to Eagle Beach for a day although there is no mention of Charlie Company going to the beach.  Richard Rosenthal, Richard Marshall, Bruce Kotschwar, and Richard Belcher go to 85th Evac on Sep 25th.  The reason is not clear – perhaps to clear up some jungle rot or immersion foot.

The next 11 days will be a return to the previous area of operations with the battalion command post at FB Rakkasan.  Things appear to be quiet until September 28th.  About 1340, Roy Breternitz of second platoon hit a booby trap at YD 403247, four kilometers NW of FB Gladiator, and lost a foot.  He commented to his buddies, “Guess what?  I’ll be home for Christmas!”  He was sent to 85th Evacuation Hospital in Phu Bai and then on to Valley Forge Hospital in Pennsylvania and Allen Park in Southfield, Michigan.  Leo Legarie is also sent to 85th Evac – possibly also injured by the booby trap.  Later, first platoon engaged two enemy at a distance of 150 meters at YD 401248.  They also found a week old grave at YD 403247. 

The next day seems like a repeat of the prior day.  At 0940, Dale Schatzberg in third platoon stepped on a booby trap, resulting in the loss of his lower right leg.  He was evacuated to 18th Surgical Hospital in Quang Tri.  Charles Eesley and William Cartwright go to 85th Evac – probably injured by the same booby trap.  Matt Budziszweski visited Dale in the hospital where a major storm had flooded the area; there were eight inches of standing water in the infirmary.  Matt observed that Dale had burn marks on most of his body.  Dale Schatzberg elaborated on that day:  He was the slack man for the platoon as they moved down a trail.  A fallen tree crossed the path, requiring men to go under the trunk.  He heard the sound of an explosion but it did not sound that loud to him.  He immediately called for a medic and felt that he was the calmest man in the platoon.  He did not feel pain right away and noticed his dog tag on the ground that had been tied to his right boot.  The explosion blew his boot off and his pants to above the knee.  Dale saw a cut in the side of his foot and the pain felt like it was coming from a lower area.  The pain increased as time passed.  He asked the medic to put his dog tag on his uniform.  He pointed out to the platoon that there was an opening for a jungle penetrator about 50 meters back up the trail.  The medic placed a tourniquet on Dale’s leg and loaded him in a medevac basket.  He still felt unusually calm as he rode the huey to Quang Tri.  At the 18th Surgical Hospital, the medics asked him for all of his personal information.  They put a mask on his face and instructed him to breathe deeply.  He did so as he had never done before and felt the back of his head falling away.  The next time he awoke, he was in the recovery room.  He looked around and told the nurse, “You took off my foot.”  He then lost his breakfast of LRRP scalloped potatoes due to the anesthesia.  He remained at 18th Surg for four days and then moved to the 95th Evac Hospital in Da Nang where he remained for a week to ten days.

 

At 1030, third platoon reports hearing activity about 250 meters away.  The company had returned to the same area it had been working prior to going to Camp Evans.  The enemy would have had no way of knowing that Charlie would return to the same place and think to booby trap the trails.  Maybe the enemy thought some US forces would use that area or perhaps the booby traps had been in place long before.


 

16 Back to Rakkasan and the lowlands

 

 

October 1970.  The next few days appear to be uneventful with platoons setting up ambushes each night.  The weather is starting to get cooler with more rain and is taking a toll on the men in the field.  On the first of October, Gerollimo Lorenzo is medevac'd for cellulitis of the foot, to the extent that he is unable to walk.

Commencing October 5th, Charlie Company is placed under the operational control of 3-187th Infantry, one of the three infantry battalions organic to the third brigade.  3-187th Infantry has its command post on Firebase Jack, about seven kilometers NE of Charlie’s previous position and in the lower hills of the coastal plain.  At 1300, October 6th, third platoon finds and disarms a grenade booby trap device.  Later at 1825, first platoon found some VC correspondence at YD 545295, two km south of Camp Evans.  At 1915, Charlie reports seeing five people carrying supplies but does not engage due to the proximity of friendly forces.  At 2030, first platoon has movement and tosses a few fragmentation grenades.  At 0900 the next day, first platoon finds 15 pounds of rice at YD 573285 - about six km east of FB Jack and five km SE of Camp Evans.  Rafael Giralt goes to 85th Evac Oct 7th – reason not clear.

On the 8th, first platoon squads make some short CA's to check out radar sightings.  At 1340, third platoon finds and destroys a small bunker complex.  Again at 1550 the following day, third platoon finds and destroys four bunkers at YD 571249, used six months ago.

October 10th, the company checked-out radar sightings with no results.  Apparently the radar instruments are more effective in flatter terrain where the company is currently operating.  At 1530, third platoon finds an enemy NDP site at YD 559250 used in the last four days.  The next day, third platoon finds a 24 inch diameter fuze at YD 565249 that is Air Force and blows it in place.  Second platoon found fresh tracks at YD 600242 down a trail leading to the river where the enemy most likely boarded a sampan.  At 1710, first platoon found a trail marker leading to a small amount of ammunition. 

On the 12th, the company finds the shell of an old, downed LOH helicopter with its instruments still intact.  Later, the instrumentation is destroyed to prevent enemy use.   Next day at 1900, first platoon engaged an enemy squad and killed one at YD 547264.  They found some woodcutter and local Vietnamese clothing.  The US allowed some Vietnamese woodcutters to continue their work under US escort - perhaps some VC were trying to infiltrate the woodcutters to gain intelligence about the US forces.  The company checked out some radar sighting and enemy sightings after artillery was employed on the 15th October but results were negative.  Similar results the next day when first platoon engaged six enemy at short range with no results.  On the 18th, the company made some short moves by air but nothing noteworthy was reported.

After its OPCON to 3-187th Inf, Charlie returns to the general Rakkasan area but farther west, about six km NE of FB Ripcord.  Third platoon is on Rakkasan for two days and nothing significant is reported between Oct 20 and 23.  The remainder of the month is spent about ten km farther south and about four km north of FB Maureen, on the north side of the Rao Trang River.  Robert Taylor goes to 85th Evac on the 23rd.  As of the 24th, hurricane produced rains are on the way.  At 1320, second platoon found a trail and spider hole at YD 430154.  The next day at 1015, Alpha company was securing engineers on Rakkasan road.  An engineer 2 1/2 ton truck hit a mine.  An engineer soldier from the 101st 326 Engineer Battalion was killed and one wounded.  Five from alpha were wounded.  Rakkasan road ran about 14 km from near FB Jack and South through “rocket ridge” to FB Rakkasan.   An old 1st Cavalry firebase ‘Stella’ was located about half way between Jack and Rakkasan and slightly to west.  Often during monsoon season, helicopters were unable to fly and resupply of FB Rakkasan depended more heavily on truck transport.

October 26th, first platoon spotted two enemy on a ridgeline at some distance but did not employ artillery due to the proximity of friendly forces.  At 1650 on the 29th, first platoon checked out a sensor activation with negative results.  It appears that at this stage of the war, the US is relying more on sensors and high tech gadgetry but the journals do not indicate that the technology is locating and killing many NVA.  There are 326 men on Rakkasan.  By the 30th, poor flying weather has put the companies in emergency need of supplies.  Part of Rakkasan road has washed out.  The cold, wet weather is taking its toll on the battalion with non combat medevacs way up.  Hey Joe, toss me a trip flare (a heavy cylinder about six inches long and an inch and a half in diameter).  At 1420, Frederick Koch is medevac'd for a possible concussion - he was hit in the head with a trip flare.  This wraps up the month of October.  November is spent in the lowlands a few km SE of Camp Evans and December on Rocket Ridge, about nine km South of Camp Evans.

November 1970.  November 1, 1970.  Rakkasan has about 336 men and Charlie’s field strength is 64.  The Charlie company platoons are about seven kilometers west of Rakkasan and within one to two kilometers of each other.

November 2, 1970.  The battalion journals are not very chatty.  Apparently first platoon CA’d up to Rakkasan.  Since this is the poor visibility season with limited flying, there appears to be an effort to increase the use of sensors and aircraft radar missions. 

Nov 3, 1970.  Maj Hurst is the battalion XO. 

Nov 4, 1970.  MG Berry’s (Division Commander) code name is “Pacesetter.”  Second platoon is picked up and moves to Rakkasan.

November 5, 1970.  The company CP and third platoon get their turn on Rakkasan.

November 6, 1970.  All of Charlie is back in the hills.  The wet weather seems to contribute to infections and other ailments requiring medevac.  The battalion seems to try to keep active so that it exercises it airmobile and fighting ability to be ready when the opportunity is available.

November 7-10, 1970.  The journal has very little information of interest other than the various high tech beacons and other devices being employed.  An occasional report is seen of one or two VC.  Third platoon finds an AK magazine with 30 rounds which is about three months old.  Robert Taylor and Larry Sonnier go to 85th Evac on the 10th.

November 11-18, 1970.  Bravo company finds a year old arms and munitions cache:  .30 caliber machine guns, grease-guns, M-1’s, a few hundred 82mm mortar rounds.  They are most likely VC type due to the antiquated weapons.  Charlie’s first platoon finds an AK banana clip, sandals, and a VC helmet about 60 days old.  On the 13th a convoy enroute to Rakkassan is fired upon and a few claymores fired ineffectively.  It appears some poorly-trained VC tried to ambush the convoy and then ran for the hills.  The battalion is at Camp Evans from the 14th to the 18th for stand-down and weapons training.

November 19, 1970.  Charlie is at FB Jack with the other companies spread from east to west.  One in the lowlands, one near Rakassan and one about ten kilometers west of Rakkasan.

November 20-23, 1970.  Charlie company defends FB Jack until the 23d, then Bravo company takes over - firebase population is 269.  Heavy rain and wind is coming in - up to eight inches in the mountains and gusts to 45 knots.  A kit carson scout drowns with one of the battalion recon teams doing a river crossing.  On the 23d, Charlie returns to the lowlands SE of Camp Evans to run patrols.  SFC Brown goes to 85th Evac on Nov 21.

November 24-26, 1970.  Alpha company had constructed an LZ.  Bravo company is on Jack and all companies are in the lower areas north and east of the mountains.  MG Hennesey visits FB Jack on the 25th.  Third platoon medevacs PFC Valentine to Charlie Med with 105 degree temp and chest pains.

The battalion appears to be using recon teams, perhaps one per company.  Camp Evans receives four incoming 122mm rockets on the 26th.  In general, the VC are foraging where they can for food.  This time of the year, the war seems to go technical with little to no contact and use of sensor strings covered by artillery, radar, and other gadgets.

November 27 - Dec 1, 1970.  The 27th was turkey day with units getting a hot meal at Camp Evans.  The next day, Charlie finds a tunnel and tracks near YD 580250.  On the 30th, second platoon had a grenade thrown and some inaccurate small arms fire - mainly an annoyance.  December 1 has considerable flooding in the area making field living very unpleasant.

December 1970.  December 2-3, 1970.  Quiet in the AO.  A chopper crashed at YD 415282 injuring eight men from Alpha and Delta companies.  PFC Waliak from Alpha lost both legs; other injuries less serious.  Daniel O’Conner and Bruce Nitche from Delta company receive the soldier’s medal for rushing to the burning helicopter and retrieving the injured.

December 4-9, 1970.  One of the dog teams is out of dog food and requests to go in.  Apparently C-rations will not suffice.  “Commando Vault” operations (daisy cutter) are planned in the AO.  Second platoon is attacked by a satchel charge - one man slightly burned.  Delta company’s recon team had two men wounded by a booby trap.  All night rain is expected on Dec 8.  On the 9th, Charlie moves by air back to FB Jack and picks up firebase security with two listening posts a short distance to the west.

December 10-14, 1970.  Apparently the 2-17th Cavalry has been flying in the A Shau Valley to determine enemy dispositions for future operations.  On the 14th, Charlie leaves FB Jack and returns to the hills a few kilometers NE of FB Rakkasan.

December 15-18, 1970.  There is very little activity in the area.  Brigade sniper teams on the 17th and 18th got one VC (WIA) with AK and rice and killed one on the 18th.  Both locations were several kilometers north of QL1.  Perhaps the enemy was avoiding the area around FB Jack where the 1-506th was located.

December 19-29, 1970.  On the 19th, Charlie’s recon team heard a number of enemy vic YD 503246 (up in the hills) but no contact.  Brigade warns of possible anti-US riots in Hue.  The battalion recon platoon is OPCON to Charlie.  The next day, Charlie finds a tunnel recently used by 20 men at YD 504242.  Bravo sets up mini-base Long Shot, about eight kilometers NW of FB Jack.  On the 21st, first platoon hears movement and digging near YD 507250 but sees nothing.  The upcoming Bob Hope show is mentioned - not clear who may have been able to attend.  CPT Bauer is the Alpha company commander. 

At 1800 on the 24th, a Christmas cease-fire goes into effect for 24 hours.  COL Grange is the brigade commander.  Charlie eats Christmas dinner at Camp Evans on the 26th.  On the 28th, Charlie’s recon team hits a booby-trap with two men wounded.  Alpha company has four wounded by a BBT on the 29th.  Charlie works the lowlands near the mountains until the 29th when the company returns to FB Jack.  Billy Plaster goes to 18th Surg on 19 Dec and receives a purple heart – not sure what action this is tied to.

Dec 30 - Jan 3, 1971.  The weather has been running from 64 to 76 degrees.  221 men are on FB Jack.  New Year’s eve has another 24 hour cease-fire.  Alpha company does a cordon and search of the village of Dong Lam.  311 people are checked and eight are detained.  CPT Martin is the battalion S2.  On the first, Camp Evans gets four incoming 122mm  rockets, doing  negligible damage.  Recon team C at YD 511248 medevacs a man who activated a booby trap.  There are minor VC activity finds in the area.  On January 3, Charlie leaves FB Jack.  The first platoon and the CP go to mini-base Long Shot.  At YD 510244, recon team C has recent activity on trails and bunkers.

January 1971.  Jan 4-6, 1971.  Alpha company caught a short US firecracker round, wounding three men.  CPT Costanza is the 506th S3 Air.  The division commander, MG Hennessey is to depart on Jan 12th.  On the 6th, Camp Evans receives one 122mm rocket round.  The launcher was observed at YD 435317, near mini-base Longshot.  Brigade orders Longshot to be closed.  At YD 434316, 3d platoon Charlie spots one enemy and later receives six M-79 rounds.  No one is injured.

Jan 7-21, 1971.  On the 7th, recon team C spots two VC at YD 527265, engages, and kills one.  Around this time there is much use of radar with reports and artillery employed.  On the 9th, the brigade recon and security platoon hit a BBT at YD 474322 with two US wounded.  The next day, the 1-506th continues to find signs of small VC groups throughout the AO.  On the 11th, third platoon hits a booby trap with one man wounded.  Battalion refresher training is conducted Jan12-19th at Camp Evans with a return on the 20th to locations near the A Shau valley.

Jan 22-31, 1971.  LTC Barlow is the battalion commander.  On the 23d, first platoon found an old 250 # bomb and an 8 inch artillery round.  The next day, the 326th Engineers sent ten men to minesweep the old Firebase Granite.  The battalion chaplain is with Charlie company.

Bravo and Charlie companies are west, getting closer to the A Shau valley area.  On the 26th, Bravo company is in contact and has seven men WIA.  The brigade executive officer is LTC Dunaway.  On the 29th a man in Bravo company loses a leg to a booby trap at YD 369218.  CPT Minnich is the battalion S4.  The journal starts to give hints that supplies should be stockpiled due to the upcoming  Lam Son 719 operation where the 101st will support the ARVN with most of its helicopter assets.  Few helicopters will be available for the US infantry battalions.

MG Tarpley is the division commander and BG Berry is the assistant division commander.

February 1971.  February 1-5, 1971.  CPT Stotts is the battalion communications officer.  The FB Rakkasan strength is 320.  CPT Kjos is Bravo company commander.

Apparently Charlie company had an airdrop bundle about this time that the company was unable to locate.  Visibility was poor - not clear if the airdrop was a kickout from a chopper or some other means.  Probably from fixed wing aircraft.

CPT Howard is the Delta company commander.  Due to the upcoming ARVN / US operation, all third brigade helicopters other than the C&C and white team are pulled from the brigade.

The poor weather is taking a toll on the men.  Bravo company has medevac’d four men in the last few days.  Many are wearing torn clothing and all are in need of dry socks.

Charlie company medevacs six men for non-combat injuries and illnesses:  SGT Robert Hunt (burned hand), PFC William Burke (chipped leg bone), William Cartwright (viral illness), Sergio DeCarvallo (pinched nerve in leg), Mark Wiedoff (viral illness), and SGT David Kincaid (cellulitis).

Feb 6-12, 1971.  Trucks are getting stuck on the road to FB Rakkasan and are pulled out of the mud by bulldozers.  The main phase of operation Lam Son 719 begins with ARVN battalions entering Laos to destroy the NVA sanctuaries.  The 101st controls all aviation assets for this mission.  On the 9th, Charlie leaves the field at YD 389222 (halfway between FB Ripcord and FB Gladiator) and arrives on FB Rakkasan.  On the 10th, the 2-17th Cav sees an NVA 2 ½ ton truck in the northern A Shau valley.  The battalion is running OP Phantom at YD 525145 (about 8 kilometers SE of FB Rakkasan).  The OP has an infantry platoon, two mortars, and a radio relay site.

Feb 13-14, 1971.  The journal notes that CPT Jenquin, a chaplain just completed 21 days in the field with Charlie Company.  Odds are that he was the battalion chaplain.  An internet search gives high probability that he is Kirby G. Jenquin who was 40 years of age at the time (probably older than the battalion commander).  If this is the correct Jenquin, he served two tours in Viet Nam and died in 2000 at the age of 69.  Operation Jefferson Glen continues and Charlie Company secures FB Rakkasan.

On the 13th, a chopper observed some enemy in the open; a squad from Charlie Company checked it out with negative results.  The next day, communications was lost with first squad, third platoon at YD 478198, a kilometer west of Rakkasan.  A chopper was sent to try to make radio contact but without success.  It turns out a hill was masking the FM radio signals.  CPT Rogers is the battalion operations officer (S3).

Activity is limited in the 1-506th AO.  The poor weather and lack of helicopter mobility limit the units to work the Rakkasan area and to deal with small parties of NVA/VC.  On the 14th, third platoon finds a trail at YD469203 with recent activity.  The next day brings rain and temps from 62 to 66 degrees.  Recon Team A finds an old jet cockpit cover about two years old with the name of MAJ K.H. Stover.  We hope he ejected and was rescued.  A and D companies are patrolling with B company on OP Phantom.

Alpha company kills an NVA by mechanical ambush on the 16th and D company has a serious medevac due to a VC boobytrap.  Feb 17th is a quiet day.  On the 18th, Alpha company finds a VC bunker with minor items.  The following day, Alpha has two men wounded by a boobytrap.  SSG Parker and PFC Anaya are medevac’d by jungle penetrator.  CPT Bryan is the battalion intelligence officer (S2).

The 20th finds Alpha company two kilometers NE of Rakkasan; Bravo, there kilometers SE of Rakkasan; and, Delta five kilometers NW of the firebase.  The next day, recon team C finds three hooches being constructed at YD 411183.  Bravo takes over the defense of Rakkasan from Charlie company.

On the 22d, a medevac is requested for Daniel Rivera (unit not specified) for severe heroin withdrawal.  A straitjacket is employed.  Gary Gardner of Charlie company is medevac’d by jungle penetrator with a dislocated knee.  The following day, recon team C finds a tunnel at YD 411185 which has been used within a week.  SP4 Carlos Torres of A company trips a BBT and loses a foot.  On the 24th, Alpha company finds nine BBT’s near an LZ.  First platoon Charlie engages two enemy at YD 481236 toward the end of the day with no results.  James Pyatt goes to 85th Evac  and receives a purple heart.  Trails are seen in the area.

Feb 25th has temperatures from 71 to 84 degrees.  Alpha company has contact with two enemy and has three men wounded.  The next day, first platoon finds a trail at YD 455242 that has been used in the last two weeks.  Donald Feeney goes to 85th Evac on Feb 26.  Some battalion air moves for Feb 27 are cancelled - perhaps due to the major ARVN operation underway.  The last day of February, second platoon finds two bunkers near their NDP that had been recently used.

March 1971.  March 1, 1971.  Charlie company’s field strength is 67.  The 1-506th must be OPCON to the first brigade (COL Gorman).  Third platoon constructs an LZ at YD 453241 while second platoon finds and destroys some recently used bunkers at YD 412235.  Things are heating up in the north - FB Vandergrift is attacked by sappers and fuel blivets containing 40,000 gallons are destroyed.  Camp Evans receives a few mortar rounds.

March 2-5, 1971.  Second platoon finds a bunker about a week old at YD 415236.  On the 3d, second platoon finds two bunkers with 40 AK rounds, a grenade, and some TNT.  B company has a possible self-inflicted gunshot wound; a man fires an M-16 round at his foot.  The temperature range is 70 to 87 degrees.  Things are relatively quiet on the fourth and fifth. 

March 6, 1971.  Harold Wilson gets his M-16 caught in a vine, it discharges, wounding him in the ankle.  At 1930, Larry Sonnier of third platoon triggers a booby trap and loses part of his left leg.  He is evacuated to 85th Evac Hospital.  Larry’s injuries afflicted him for many years.  He passed away Nov 8, 2012.

March 7-8, 1971.  The seventh has a beacon drop of 22 mark 82 (500# bomb) at YD 461118 which is 14 kilometers SW of FB Rakkassan and south of the Rao Trang river.  The 8th is uneventful.  Harold Wilson goes to 85th Evac.

March 9, 1971.  SGT Dayle Hooks is medevac’d by penetrator with a cut on his eyeball.

March 10, 1971.  The second platoon engages one enemy 30 meters south of their location at YD 425235.  The NVA is killed and his AK 47 is captured.  He is from the 806th battalion of the 6th NVA regiment.  At 1930, third platoon sees a flashlight at YD 457246 and employs artillery.

March 11, 1971.  First platoon makes contact with a trail watcher at YD 448233 but the man escapes.  At noon, first platoon medevacs SFC Caroll Davis to 85th Evac.  Davis triggered a booby trap (a Bakelite plastic mine with a pressure device).  At 2230, Camp Evans receives two, 122mm rocket rounds.

March 12, 1971.  Visibility was 5 to 7 miles and temperatures from 67 to 81 degrees.  At 1330, a 105mm round from an advancing prep detonated 20 meters from third platoon – YD 442232, about four km NE of FB Gladiator.  Nazir Mohammed and Michael Hill were killed.  Jack Hutchins, Gerald Welsch, and Donald Borunda were wounded.  An investigation was requested.  Welsch later died of his wounds.

March 13-15 are uneventful days.  On the 16th, Gary Fuqua from Alpha company was looking for a crossing point across the Song Bo river.  When climbing the bank to get to dry land, he slipped and fell into the river.  A helicopter was requested to help search for Fuqua.

March 18, 1971.  Charlie company is eight kilometers NW of FB Rakkassan.  Recon team C from the battalion searches the Song Bo using a boat.  ARVN forces nearby fire on the boat, thinking they are VC.  No casualties.

March 18, 1971.  Alpha company moves to FB Vandergrift.  Charlie 2-327th Inf defends Rakkassan.  Reading the journal gives a sense that helicopters are still in short supply due to Lam Son 719.  Lam Son 719, 8 Feb to 31 March, demonstrated that the ARVN forces were not particularly well led, motivated, or successful against the NVA.  The 101st Airborne lost 84 helicopters and had 430 damaged supporting the ARVN.

March 19-22, 1971.  Not much activity.  The friendly fires investigating officer is with the company on the 20th.  Alpha company is on FB Vandergrift with Bravo company preparing to join them.  Charlie and Delta 1-506th will be employed in the lowlands near Camp Evans.  1-506th Infantry returns to the 3d brigade.

March 23, 1971.  The 1-506th headquarters moves to FB Vandergrift.  Vandergrift receives nine 122mm rocket rounds and has three wounded.  Charlie 1-506th is OPCON to TF Hamilton, 3d brigade rear.  Charlie is in the low hills 12 kilometers SW of Camp Evans – YD 430250.  Thru April 7, Charlie platoons slowly move to the NE about seven kilometers, patrolling and setting up night ambushes to prevent enemy infiltration.


17 Vandegrift and the lowlands

 

 

March 24, 1971.  I’ll mention significant battalion activities until Charlie shows up with the 1-506th Infantry.  The cavalry troop with the 1-506th at Vandergrift gets hit by mortar and RPG rounds and has an M-551 Sheridan (light tank) destroyed and several men wounded.  Insult is added to injury as an illumination canister fired over Vandergrift ignites several fuel blivets - 30,000 gallons JP4 and 18,000 gallons diesel are lost.

March 25, 1971.  A busy day on and around Vandergrift which has a population of 1,518 personnel.  A Troop, 4-12th Cav gets mortared on FB Pete.  4-12th Cav is the ground cavalry troop assigned to the 1st Bde, 5th Mech.  Later, the cav troop gets 21, 122mm rockets and a fight with NVA.  They lose one M-551 and two APC’s are damaged.  There is some close fighting with the NVA as an RPG hits a Sheridan.  An ARVN convoy on QL-9 is fired upon and has one KIA and nine WIA.  A platoon of Alpha, 1-506 is attached to the mech company (1-61st Inf – also from 1st Bde, 5th Mech).  Casuaties for the day are:  Cav troop (3 KIA and 6 WIA), mech inf company (2 KIA and 2 WIA), Alpha 1-506 (one KIA and four WIA).

March 26-31, 1971.  Charlie Company is in the lowlands near Camp Evans.  Unless I find journal type entries with the brigade reports, there will be no detail until about April 8th when the 1-506th Inf headquarters returns from FB Vandergrift.

Big picture-wise, Vandergrift is a major logistics base which must be supporting the ARVN operation Lam Son 719 and its large contingent of helicopters from the 101st.  The NVA appear to be making a good effort to disrupt operations from Vandergrift while not launching any large unit attacks.  On the 26th, a cavalry troop vehicle hits a mine while being evacuated to maintenance and has a wheel blown off.  The troop receives 82mm mortar incoming rounds and has one man wounded.  The mechanized infantry company secures a downed UH-1 helicopter.  At 1800, Vandergrift receives 12, 122mm rockets resulting in four US WIA.  The base population the next day is 1,623 personnel.  Incoming mortars and 122mm rockets impact on the 27th.  March 28th is a rough day.  12-15 rounds of enemy indirect fire destroy three fuel blivets and an ammunition ASP containing 155mm and 8 inch artillery rounds.  Several men are wounded.  Later, a UH-1 and cobra helicopter collide at the Vandergrift POL point resulting in the destruction of both helicopters.

On the 29th, Bravo 1-506 defending FB Pete, two km north of the Rockpile, has limited contact with the enemy.  Also, two sappers are killed in the FB Vandergrift wire.  The 30th sees a LOH shot down with three passengers wounded.  Third brigade forward CP is at Camp Carroll supporting Lam Son 719 and forward operating base Vandergrift.    The 1-506th operations officer is CPT Rogers and the brigade S3 is MAJ Jurst.

April 1971.  On 1 Apr, 1-506th recon platoon working with TF Hamilton, has two WIA due to a BBT at YD 495267.  The next day, third platoon Charlie company found a bunker used within the last 24 hours containing misc clothes and equipment.

April 1-6, 1971.  The tempo seems to be letting up as Lam Son 719 winds down.  The 1-506th gets an OPLAN to occupy FB Sarge on or about April 6th.  Sarge is a few kilometers east of FB Vandergrift.  The 506th mission continues with security of Vandergrift and QL-9.  On April 6, the 2-506th Inf in the vicinity has contact with two KIA and three WIA.  Back at Camp Evans, a 122mm rocket hits near the 1-506th messhall and S1 office with minor damage.  Lloyd Bennet (purple heart) and John Kinder go to 85th Evac on April 5.  Most likely this was due to a BBT at YD 479312 that detonated at 0915.  Also at 1045 on 5 April, second platoon Charlie observed three enemy at YD 478312 but did not engage since they were over the political clearance line.  A check of the area revealed an NDP with minor equipment items.  At 2205, first platoon had a mechanical ambush detonate at YD 461312, 3.5 kilometers east of FB Sword.


18 Gladiator and Barbara

 

 

April 7-11, 1971.  Operation Dewey Canyon.  Alpha company and the battalion CP move to FB Sarge while Charlie and Delta companies remain with TF Hamilton around Camp Evans.  The 5th Inf Regiment (ARVN) is at FB Nancy, about 11 kilometers SE from Quang Tri.  The 2d Inf Regiment (ARVN) is at Camp Carroll.  The 1-506th is about to move to FB Gladiator (half way between FB Rakkassan and Ripcord and a few kilometers farther north).  Charlie Company is released from TF Hamilton and remains near YD 410210.   On the 9th, Operation Dewey Canyon is closed out and Jefferson Glen resumes.  Alpha, Bravo, and the battalion CP move from FB Sarge and Camp Carroll to Gladiator.  Charlie had secured FB Gladiator.

On the 10th of April, Charlie does patrolling and surveillance NE of Gladiator.  Woodrow Gent goes to 85th Evac.  The next day, Mark Wiedoff is medevac’d to 326th Med Bn. Not sure why but most likely not enemy contact.

April 12, 1971.  Over the years of the war, Charlie Company has come across numerous shells of old helicopters in the jungle, including one with 1st Cavalry division markings.  This day at YD 407224, second platoon finds a blood-stained pilot’s uniform with holes in it and a piece of bone in the left pants leg.  The name “Cole” is on the uniform.  No mention is made of an old helicopter.  The journal mentions that a three-man graves registration team was to come out in a few days to investigate.  The “Wall” web site shows a Warrant Officer, Robert Kenneth Cole killed in the vicinity (Thua Thien Province), May 18, 1970.  Cole was from Charlie Company, 158th Helicopter Battalion and born July 7, 1950.  See the actual Wall, panel 10W, line 60.

April 13-21, 1971.  On the 13th, first platoon finds three fresh bunkers at YD 397217.  The FB Gladiator population is 218 on the 15th and temperatures range from 69 to 90 degrees.  The 2-327th Infantry takes over Gladiator and the 1-506th returns to Camp Evans for standown training.

April 17 has Charlie Company as the ready reaction company and arrives at Eagle Beach on the 18th for a short, one day visit.

April 22, 1971.  It’s back to the Gladiator AO.  Field strength is 80.  LT McCarville is the battalion S3 Air and CPT Reed the communications officer.  Gladiator is only 316 meters high and must be buggy as the battalion requests that it be sprayed twice a day to kill insects.  The Apr 25th journal says Look magazine and UPI are coming to Gladiator and are “looking for one soldier that symbolizes the grunt world.”  I hope those idiots had some success.

The same day, Delta Company finds 14 elaborate animal traps along a trail.  This tells a lot about the local NVA who have to subsist on their own, supplemented with some rice procured in the lowlands and carried west to the jungle.   One cannot help but observe that despite thousands of tons of ordnance, countless firefights, and the employment of electronic sensors of every variety, the NVA is able to occupy the same areas they have been in for the past several years.  The strategy that failed to take the battle to the enemy strongholds in Laos and North Vietnam and that failed to create an atmosphere where the South Vietnamese were motivated to defend themselves was clearly ineffective and undermined the efforts of so many fine soldiers from Charlie Company and other combat units during the war.

April 26, 1971.  Delta company has contact with a small number of NVA and suffers four WIA and one KIA (PFC Robert Nicklyn).  At 1125, Travis B. Beebe of Charlie Company’s third platoon hits a booby trap and is medevac’d to 85th Evac Hospital.   James Welch is awarded a purple heart this date.  Charlie company is then CA’d to YD 367213, two km NE of FB Ripcord, to reinforce Delta Company.

April 27-30, 1971.  Charlie remains in the field near Gladiator.  On the 30th, Delta Company’s Kit Carson Scout picks up an NVA radio transmission on frequency 52.80.  Apparently a few NVA squads were lost and were trying to get re-oriented.

In early May 1971 about 25 men come to Charlie Company from the 3-506th Infantry which had been assigned to the 1st brigade in the Hue/Phu Bai area.  3-506th departed Vietnam on 15 May 1971.  Over the next month or two, about half migrate to other units of the 1-506th or to higher headquarters units.  About this time, a number of men are granted two week ordinary leaves to CONUS.  This must be a relatively new policy where earlier, only compassionate and emergency leaves were approved.  About 10-20% of those on leave to CONUS overstayed their leave and were picked up AWOL.

May, June, and July 1971 find Charlie Company continuing to operate farther west much closer to Laos and in what had been areas with a significant NVA presence.  In these places, 1971 is much more quiet than 1970 had been.  Perhaps the Lam Son 719 operation west of Khe Sanh caused the NVA to pull back closer to their bases in Laos.  Additionally, they may have seen that the US was withdrawing from the northern areas and decided to husband their resources until their odds were better.  They may have decided that their 1970 operations in the north were too expensive in men and materiel to repeat in 1971.  We see that the NVA initiate major offensive operations in April 1972, driving many ARVN forces from their bases in the northern half of South Vietnam.

May 1971.  Charlie starts May 1971 on Gladiator and then on May 4, moves about eight kilometers WNW of Gladiator.  Charlie remains here until May 15th.  This is very rugged terrain with peaks in the 800 meter range and very steep hills.

May 18-19, 1971.  Third platoon CA’s from Gladiator to YD 464245.  The company is defending Firebase Gladiator.  Four men are evacuated for medical reasons and return within a few days so their conditions must not have been serious and not due to combat wounds.  Donald Hunter goes to 85th Evac on the 18th.  Joseph Goolsby and Edwin Rybinski go to 326th Med on the 19th; Russell Blomgren goes to 95th Evac (Da Nang) on the 19th.  Perhaps they had issues that needed to be treated but that could wait until the company got to a firebase.  May 22, Earl Sheridan is medevac’d with a 102 degree temp.  The 27th sees first platoon CA from Gladiator to YD 445244 where they found several old fighting positions.

From here to the end of 1971, I will just cover a snapshot of activities to give a sense of what Charlie Company was doing at the time.  The war was winding down.  Major fights were infrequent yet men continued to hit booby traps, be injured in the normal course of their duties, and suffer from disease and the weather.

From the mid May to the end of the month, Charlie is defending Firebase Gladiator and conducting Eagle Flights to prepare LZ’s in the local area.  May 31, 1971.  The battalion CP is on FB Gladiator and Charlie Company is in the field east of the firebase.

June 1971.  Most of June 1971 finds Charlie Company in the vicinity of FB Gladiator with the exception of June 12-16 where the company moves about 10 kilometers farther west closer to FB Barbara.  June 2 finds Charlie out west toward the A Shau Valley – about ten kilometers WSW of Firebase Ripcord – YD 270160.  Second platoon is farther east at YD 422205.  Charlie continues out west through June 12 as operation Lam Son 720 continues.  Just a few kilometers southwest of Ripcord, Charlie finds signs of enemy activity:  a long string of wire possibly used as an antenna (by first platoon YD 317180) and later a metal box with 100 AK rounds (third platoon at YD 320185).  Other miscellaneous gear is found in the area.  On the 14th, recon team C has a kit carson scout wounded by an M-79 round at YD 340230.  Charlie company is running PAS vic YD 420210.  At YD 134608, Bravo company finds the remains of a navy aircraft.  John Kirk goes in for a hernia 21 June.  On June 25, second platoon finds a BBT at YD 411249, six km NW of FB Granite.  They also find a set of ID tags – John M. Cruse at YD 464244.

June 30, 1971.  The battalion CP is at FB Barbara.  Barbara is about 30 kilometers due west from Camp Evans and northeast of the A Shau Valley.  The high level operation is called Lam Son 720, a number higher than the unsuccessful Lam Son 719 initiative with the ARVN failing to overcome the NVA in Laos.

July 1971.  July 1971 has Charlie alternating between the FB Barbara and FB Gladiator areas of operations.  The battalion is coordinating the move of a 175mm gun from FB Nancy to FB Barbara.  It will be escorted by two V-100’s (wheeled lightly armored vehicles with small gun or machine guns).  Jul 1-4 the units are west of Barbara with Jul 5-10 just west of Gladiator.  On the first, Bravo company at YD 275338 finds several enemy bodies near an old ARVN NDP.  While investigating the bodies, two BBT’s are hit, killing one (Anthony Lamere) and wounding two (James Brown and Ronald Higgons).

James Harp from second platoon engages one NVA (apparently drying his shirt on an LZ) on July 2 at 1120 – YD 201342 (vic FB Barnet).  Luther Durden also placed accurate fire on the enemy soldiers, causing the NVA to flee.  ARA and artillery was called.  Two more NVA are spotted and also engaged.  First platoon found and traced a blood trail until it ran out.  On Jul 3, third platoon finds a dry stream bed used in the last two days at YD 204432.  5 July, third platoon finds 12 fighting positions along a N-S trail at YD 370348 and 20 other bunkers with a kitchen hooch nearby.  Second platoon found a Russian gas mask at YD 374355.  The Kit Carson scout thought those were signs of an NVA battalion in the area.  Charlie secures Barbara Jul 11-17.  Recon team two receives four mortar rounds on Jul 9 and is pulled back to FB Barbara.  Second platoon Charlie is inserted where the recon team had been.  On the 15th at 1440, second platoon is sent to YD 207364 to secure a downed helicopter and remains overnight. Charlie goes to Camp Evans and Eagle Beach before returning to FB Barbara.  July 21-27 the company is just east of Barbara.  On the 24th, Alpha company is on FB Anne – YD 290402, Bravo company on FB Barbara - YD 252290, and Delta company is at Camp Evans.  Apparently, Kenneth Hamil is the company sniper.  He is required to go to Camp Evans to maintain and zero his sniper rifle at this time (due every 30 days).  On the 28th Charlie moves closer to the FB Rakkasan area.

July 31, 1971.  The battalion is on FB Rakkasan with Alpha Company preparing defenses on FB Firestone, Bravo company on Rakkasan, Charlie blocking enemy routes a few kilometers in the hills at YD 450220, and Delta company south of Camp Evans.


4 Final days in the lowlands

 

 

August 1971.  Charlie is in the Rakkasan AO for the first twelve days of August.  This is followed by six days of maintenance at Camp Evans.  The battalion returns to FB Jack August 16th and Charlie works the lowlands SE of Camp Evans and near the Song Bo thru the end of the month.

August 21, 1971.  The company is in the lowlands SE of Firebase Jack and near the Song Bo River.  Two men go to 85th Evac.  William Wallace is sent in for severe drug withdrawal and it is not clear why Roger Peet is evacuated.  No contact is reported this date.  On the 23d, Charlie is screening from YD 520250 to YD 600240.  At 2145, second platoon has movement and engages with its organic weapons.

1325 on the 29th at YD 520252, second platoon hits two booby traps a few seconds apart.  They are pressure type and create holes 3 to 6 inches deep.  Three WIA go to Charlie Med:  Frank Roman for a left leg injury, Charles Carpenter left ankle injury, and Larry Peck, platoon leader, for injuries to his left foot, face, and leg.  Carpenter, the platoon medic was cited for assisting the wounded, despite being wounded himself.  1LT Peck was cited for organizing his platoon in a defensive posture and extracting the wounded in an expeditious manner. 

A dog tag for a Denneth E Brown, 408-86-5899 was found at YD 547238.  The journal notes that “donut dollies” should be at FB Jack the next day.

August 30, 1971.  At YD 581236, third platoon has a mechanical ambush detonated – first light check reveals a monkey KIA.  At 1830, third platoon found a document at YD 514259.  Next day is back to Firebase Jack.  The battalion is on Operation 13-70.

September 1971.  In early September, operations are close in to FB Jack and Camp Evans.  Sep 4-9, Charlie is OPCON to the 3-5th Cav near Evans; 10-13 Sep, the company is with the 3-5th Cav near Quang Tri. 

On the 10th, Charlie is about 15 kilometers SW of Quang Tri along the Song Thach Han river, YD 218426.  The next day, they are vic YD 232433.  At 2257 they have heavy movement and engage with small arms.  They request nighthawk (UH-1 with night vision and mini-gun) and a flare ship.  0010 on 12 Sep, Charlie receives small arms from 4-5 enemy.  At 0815, the company has three RIF’s out and at 1713, NDP’s at YD 232433.

The 14th is an Eagle Beach day and 15-20 Sep is maintenance at Camp Evans.  Around 19 Sep, Jerry Price, platoon sergeant, is cited for engaging enemy soldiers outside the FB Jack defenses.  When a mine detonated, indicating the enemy’s presence, SSG Price aggressively moved his men and engaged the enemy position, killing an enemy soldier.  Also cited were Bobby Simmons, Rex Wescott, and Robert McKenzie. 

The 24th thru the end of the month have Charlie working with the Cav in the lowlands south and east of Camp Evans.

September 28, 1971.  Charlie company is still on Firebase Jack with Operation Lam Son 810.  Charlie Company is working with a platoon from C Troop, 3-5th Cavalry.  This is a unit that Charlie had worked with two years earlier in the Ashau valley.

October’s missions continue working with the Cav south of Camp Evans to the Song Bo and up to rocket ridge.

October 1971. About 40-50 new replacements (mostly PFC) arrive in Oct 71 and then about 15-20 are sent to other companies within the battalion or to higher headquarters.  The personnel system must have had a challenge trying to work the drawdown while keeping operational units up to par.  On the third, the battalion is at FB Jack and Charlie Company is near the Song Bo river.  SGT James Wendell finds a pair of NVA binoculars.  At 2013, Charlie reports 12 rockets fired from YD 582210.  On Oct 8, Charlie is with B Troop 3-5th Cav a few km north of Camp Evans near Phong Dien.  Charlie and B troop are engaged by 5-10 VC; CPT Bauman, company commander, is cited for personally  directing fires from the platoons, without regard for his own safety. David Campbell, company RTO, and Thomas Cuni, artillery FO are also cited.  Charlie Company is OPCON to 3-5th Cav in Quang Tri Oct 9-12.

Oct 14, 1LT Mark Vogel is seriously wounded near a pick-up zone.  He is cited for controlling the extraction of his platoon despite being in intense pain from his wounds.

Oct 16, 1971.  John C. Hayes arrives from B Co, 1-506th Inf on 8 Oct 71.  He is killed by friendly fire 16 Oct 71 - multiple frag wounds to head.  YD 492248.  Born May 14, 1951 from Hartington, NE.  3d platoon.

Oct 27 had bad weather due to Typhoon Hester.  The company is in the FB Sword / Rocket Belt area.  The most significant impact from Typhoon Hester was felt in southern South Vietnam, where winds in excess of 155 km/h (100 mph) caused extensive damage to several Army bases. The hardest hit base was in Chu Lai where three Americans were killed. At least 75 percent of the structures in the base sustained damage and 123 aircraft were damaged or destroyed. Newspaper reports indicated that 100 Vietnamese lost their lives due to the storm, including 33 following a plane crash near Quy Nhơn.  The next day at 1100, third platoon spotted four enemy at a distance and employed artillery and ARA.

Oct 31, 1971.  Charlie Company had been in the Firebase Sword / Rocket belt area and returns to Camp Evans for standown.  The battalion CP location in the journal is shown as APO SF 96383.  This is just temporary as Charlie company is soon back in the field.

November 1971.  Nov 3 thru 7 has Charlie working the Rakkasan Pass area.  Other days are spent in the FB Sword, FB Rakkasan, and FB Jack areas with patrolling the lowlands south of Camp Evans.  On 9 Nov, recon teams one and two hit a BBT at YD 472288.  The BBT used an 81mm mortar round, wounding two men, one seriously.  Charlie company is vic YD 540230.

Charlie is southwest of FB Jack on 17 Nov.  At 1410, first platoon engaged two NVA at YD 466278 – the NVA fled.  The 23d sees Charlie on FB Jack and one platoon is providing convoy security.  Alpha company received four incoming rounds and had four men wounded.  The next day, at 2030, third platoon had movement and engaged.


20 Back to the “World”

 

 

SGT Duane Davis is the last man to arrive in Charlie Co - 21 Nov.

 

As I searched the 101st Airborne Division general orders in the National Archives for Charlie Company records, I happened to notice a large number of purple hearts for the 1-327th Infantry on 28 Nov, 1971.  It seemed odd to me that there would be a big battle going on at this late date in the 101st Airborne Division’s war.  Elements of HHC and Alpha, 1-327th Inf were making an admin move from Da Nang to Camp Eagle via CH-47C.  Apparently, the aircraft took a round and that or bad weather caused a crash at ZD 009003, along the side of a mountain.  It took several days, again in terrible weather, to locate the crash site and a rescue force did not arrive until December 5, 1971.  Five men from the 159th Aviation Battalion died and 29 men from Alpha and HHC, 1-327th Inf.

Nov 30, 1971.  The battalion is at FB Jack.  Rakkasan has been turned over to the ARVN.

Charlie is scheduled to fly in to Camp Evans on the second of December but is held up due to bad weather.  The next day, third platoon hits a booby-trap which created a crater 12 inches deep and 18 inches across.  Four are wounded, one seriously:  Larry Van Langevelde, William Redd, Leonard Hall, and Charles O. Lowry

 

December 1971.  Dec 3, 1971.  Here’s the final journal entry of the war (for the 1-506th Infantry Battalion):

OPERATIONS:  With the mid-morning extraction of C company from the field, 1-506 has completed its withdrawal from combat operations and begins stand-down processing.  Movement of C company was accomplished by air and truck, again due to very poor weather conditions for flying.  Phased out-processing has already begun for the battalion and is expected to be complete by 7 Dec. with all personnel being reassigned as per individual orders.  Battalion awards and casing of colors ceremony is scheduled for 05 Dec 71 and will constitute the last official function of this battalion in the Republic of Vietnam.  The colors will be returned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky under appropriate guard, for further disposition as directed by DA.

 

SIGNIFICANT EVENTS:  At 1000 hrs 3/C hit and detonated an unknown type BBT with a suspected PTFD, vicinity YD 538265, resulting in four (4) US wounded, one seriously.

 

The four men were evacuated to 326th Med and then on to 85th and 95th Evacuation hospitals:  Larry Van Langevelde, William Redd, Leonard Hall, and Charles Lowry.

 

 

CURRAHEE  !

 

 

Not everyone goes home at this time.  About 20-30 men are reassigned to other 101st units on or about 10 Dec.  These are probably relatively recent arrivals in country. The majority of 1-506th men are assigned to stateside units as Charlie Company strength goes to zero.  The second brigade, 101st airborne kept a few infantry battalions in-country thru February 1972, during the final pullout.

Last morning report for USARPAC is 12 Dec 71 and first morning report for Third US Army (CONUS) is 13 Dec 71.  Morning report 24 Dec 71 from Ft Campbell, Kentucky says "temporary depleted of personnel, no personnel assigned or attached."

 

Charlie company had men from every state of the union with the exception of Hawaii, as well as from Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

During the four year period of the Vietnam war, the 1-506th Infantry lost 267 men.

 

Alpha Company – 79

Bravo Company - 44

Charlie Company – 57

Delta Company – 61

Echo Company – 10

Headquarters Company – 16

 

Wounded totals are unknown.  Wounds ranged from loss of limbs to relatively minor shrapnel cuts.  A conservative estimate of wounded would be at a ratio of 5:1 compared to fatalities, totaling over 1,300 men wounded.

Charlie company’s Vietnam experience is bittersweet.  The loss and injury of so many men is staggering.  Yet, the survivors matured, often emerging with greater strength and self-knowledge than they had as young recruits.  After returning, some struggled for a while before landing on their feet.  Many married and had children who now have their own children.  Charlie veterans have brought wives, sons, and daughters to reunions and it is heartwarming to see the affection the parents have for the children and vice versa.   In many cases, the unsung heros are the wives who have learned to understand their men, supported them, and kicked them in the pants when it was needed.

The Charlie men worked to support themselves or their families and continue to strengthen the nation from the grassroots.  Many do volunteer work in their communities and help the less fortunate.  The men who became fathers take great pride in the accomplishments of their children.  Many children have learned about the sacrifices made by their fathers years ago and understand and respect them for it.  As we see, the human spirit is very resilient.


 

Acronym or term of military jargon

 

Description

0704 or 1830

7:04 AM or 6:30 PM using 24 hour clock from 0001 to 2400

Air cav

2-17th Cav (with 101st).  Three of the four troops had a mix of LOH and Attack helicopters.  Divarty also had attack helicopters.  When reference is made to a pink team or white team, it is Cav.   

Air strikes (AS)

Air Force aircraft such as the F4 dropping an array of bombs and firing cannons.  Most AS are preplanned and some may be diverted if the need arises.

AK-47

The common rifle used by the NVA.  An excellent weapon and very reliable.  Carried a 30 round banana clip.

AO

Area of operations.  A unit would be given an area on a map with boundaries for adjacent units.

ARA

Aerial rocket artillery – the attack helicopters from DIVARTY.

Arc light

B-52 strikes

Artillery

Indirect fire from 105mm, 155mm and rarely 8 inch and 175mm.

ARVN

South Vietnamese Army soldiers

Backhaul

Materiel to be taken by cargo helicopter to rear areas.

Body bag

A heavy duty, waterproof bag used to contain the remains of soldiers KIA.

Booby trap

An explosive device designed to kill or injure – normally detonated by a trip wire or pressure device.

Bunker

A protected position with a window for firing weapons.  Some were dug underground with logs and sandbags for overhead cover.  Some were above ground with sandbags and ammo boxes filled with sand as protection.

C-130

Cargo aircraft used to transport men and equipment.  Relatively short takeoff and landing.  Turboprop.

C-141

Cargo aircraft used to transport men and equipment.  Jet aircraft.  Needs longer runway.

C&C

Command and control helicopter.  A UH-1 with numerous radios.  Normally has commander, S-3 Air, and perhaps S3.  Used to control combat assaults and to coordinate fires.

CA

Combat assault.  Movement normally by UH-1 helicopter.  Usually accompanied by at least two AH-1 attack helicopters and a C&C (command and control) helicopter.

Chicom

Something made by the Chinese communists.

Chinhook

A larger utility helicopter used to carry supplies and in safe areas, personnel.  From the CH-47 series.

Chu Hoi

Term when an NVA or VC surrenders to US or ARVN forces and starts working for them.

DEROS

The date you go back to the World.

Dog team

A dog (normally a German shepard) and a soldier working as a team.  The dog is trained to smell enemy and to signal the handler when he senses them.

Dustoff

A medevac helicopter.

Engineers

Military people involved in building things:  roads, firebases, installations.

Extraction

Leaving an area by helicopter.

FB/FSB

Firebase or fire support base.  A tactical position, frequently on a hilltop, with artillery guns, supplies, and infantry defending.

Finger

A ridge line or a small ridge running off a major ridge line.

Hooch

A hut made of natural materials such as bamboo and leaves for the roof.  Mainly designed to keep a person dry.

Illumination

Mortar or artillery rounds deliver a parachute flare that lights up an area for 30-60 seconds.

IV

A clear liquid solution used to hydrate a person after considerable blood loss.  In containers about the size of a plastic water bottle.

Jungle penetrator

A cable with a harness.  The evacuee sits in the harness and it is tied to his body.  The cable is then winched up into the helicopter to extract the wounded person.  This technique was used when the chopper could not land.  The cable might be 30-40 feet.

KIA/KHA

Killed in Action.  Sometimes KHA (killed hostile action)

Kilometer (click)

1,000 meters - .621 miles.  Tactical military maps showed distances in meters / kilometers.

LBE

Load bearing equipment.  A shoulder harness and pistol belt to which an array of items could be attached such as a canteen, smoke grenade.

LP/OP

Listening Post / Observation Post.  A small size unit whose purpose was to detect enemy movement to prevent the enemy from surprising the main force.  If an enemy attack was detected, the LP / OP would be called in as their purpose was met.

LZ

Helicoper landing zone.  Could be as small as a one ship LZ or many helicopter LZ.  Some had to be approached from a certain direction.  Stumps and other obstacles were problems as the chopper skid could catch and flip over.

M-60

Light machine gun (gunners would argue with the light part) that could put out a good volume of fire as long as the ammo held out.

M-79

A grenade launcher that propelled a grenade up to a couple of hundred meters.  In the jungle, a gunner might air for a tree to cause the round to detonate on those below.  It probably had a minimum arming distance of 25-50 meters.  Also had a canister round like a shotgun (but larger pellets).  May also have had an illumination round.

Medevac

A UH-1 helicopter with a red cross painted on it (Geneva Convention) that was not supposed to be engaged by the enemy.  Quite a few ended up with holes in them and some were shot down.

Minesweep

Using mine detectors to detect mines placed in a road bed for the purpose of blowing up vehicles.

Mini-gun

A gatling gun that had a very high rate of firepower.  Used to suppress and kill enemy forces.  OH and AH choppers could be armed with mini guns.

Mortars

The infantry’s artillery.  Tubes that fired mortar rounds – 81mm went about four km.  The NVA had 60mm, 82mm, and 120mm.  I believe the 101st only had 81mm’s.  The 120mm’s caused major damage and killed / wounded many on FSB Ripcord.

MP

Military police – the Army’s cops.  Used to enforce order and secure convoys, etc.

NDP

Night Defensive Position.  Where a unit would stop for the night and set up several fighting positions in a perimeter fashion.  The unit might dig in or not.  If enemy were known to be in the area, digging in might be recommended.  Digging in made a lot of noise and might tip the enemy as to the platoon’s location.  Normally at least one third to one half of the personnel would be awake during the night.

OPCON

Operational control.  Sometimes a platoon would work for another company and sometimes the entire company would be “part of” another battalion.

Pathfinders

Experts on helicopter operations with emphasis on landing, construction of landing zones, and the off-loading of large supply items.

PDS

Personnel daily summary.  A report that specifies how many personnel by unit are at a location.

Pink team

One attack helicopter and one observation helicopter.  The LOH might mark the enemy target for the gunship.

Point and slack

The point man was the lead in a column and most likely the first to contact the enemy.  The slack was a second set of eyes and someone to cover the point man should he receive fire.

Police call

Cleaning up.  Removing all traces of human activity so that the area was returned to its natural state.

PX

Post exchange.  A military store where you could buy essentials.

PZ

Pickup Zone.  The place where you were picked up to go on an air assault by helicopter.

R&R

One week’s vacation.  Most marrieds went to Hawaii.  Other places:  Australia, Hong Kong, Taipei, Bangkok.

Rockets

Long range munitions packing a good size warhead but generally less accurate than artillery or mortars.

RPD

Light Russian machine gun

RPG

Rocket propelled grenade.  A potent weapon carrying a large explosive charge and fragmentation.

RTO

Radio Telephone Operator.  Key people who communicated from squad to platoon to company and up.  They also carried the radio which was not light.

Rucksacks

Backpacks with frames for carrying military gear.

S1

Personnel officer.

S2

Intelligence officer

S3

Operations officer

S3 Air

Air movements officer

S4

Supply officer

Secondary explosion

When an explosive warhead detonates other explosives, causing them to go off.

Shrapnel

Pieces of metal that blast outward from a high explosive charge.

Skyspot

Ground directed bombing using various type radar

Sniffer

Air sampling from helicopter to locate enemy forces

Socked in

Rain and fog where visibility is very limited, restricting helicopter operations.

TOC

Tactical Operations Center.  Headquarters with radios used to direct combat operations.  The TOC was in contact with subordinate units as well as higher units.

Trail Dust

Spraying herbicides from aircraft to clear vegetation – e.g., agent orange

Trail watcher

An NVA who was a guide for other NVA people not familiar with the area and one to engage US forces who came by.

UH1

The main helicopter for carrying infantry soldiers into combat.

White team

A pair of LOH – mainly observing but also armed with machine guns.

WIA/WHA

Wounded in Action.  Sometimes WHA (wounded hostile action).

XO

Executive officer.  A second in command who primarily dealt with administrative matters.

YC 999999

Grid coordinates of a point on the map.  There was a place where the coordinates shifted from The coordinates are read “right and then up” meaning YC 650327 is left to right grid line 65 and up 7/10 of the way from the 32 and 33 vertical gridlines. YC is the 100,000 meter designator.  Charlie company ‘s AO’s included:  YC, YD, XT,YT, XU, YU, and YB


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