August 1969 to April 1970 (WIA)

A Near Death Experience


I don't know what prompted Zippo to move out ahead of the company that morning of April 6th, 1970. He may have done this sort of thing before, but it was the first time I had seen a CO take the main CP out ahead of the Company, walking point to boot! I was a little nervous that morning. We had lately often been running into small groups of NVA and VC. I always felt a “comfort in numbers” traveling with a fully equipped rifle company. The trail we followed was quite wide.  We were deep in the mountains, walking along a ridgeline just a few clicks south of Firebase Granite.


Zippo was going by the book this particular morning. He was taking short, cautious steps, moniaci picand pausing to look and listen before proceeding on. We followed with a minimum five-yard separation. Suddenly a voice inside my head started telling me “we're going to get hit, put your 16 on auto.” It was an incredibly strong premonition, one which I'd truly never had before. I often thought there were dinks around, but this was an entirely different feeling. WE WERE GOING TO GET HIT AND I KNEW IT. The voice kept saying “put the 16 on auto, put the 16 on auto.” I went over the logic of it in my head but kept coming back to the book, which said, paraphrasing, “do not switch your weapon off safety unless engaging or preparing to engage the enemy.” I'm not sure how long I fought the urge to break this rule, but it couldn't have been more than a minute or so.


I was still fighting the urge to put my 16 on auto when my CO, 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-it 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. Fortunately, I was the only one actually 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.


We all dived to the left of the trail, looking for cover. The image I saw of the guys ahead of me flying through the air with bullet-strewn vegetation following after them is one I can still picture today.  My progress was impeded by a thicket of small spindly trees that kept me from getting further than four or five feet from where I had been hit. My M16 was torn from my grasp and left behind on the trail.

I was caught in the open directly in front of them, unable to reach cover. Expecting to be hit again at any second, I lost consciousness. Everything turned into bright white light and it became completely quiet and peaceful. Immediately my whole life flashed before me. In an instant I relived every second of every day of my life. It was an amazing thing to behold. A kind of complete down-load if you will.

Then suddenly I was transported back home. It seemed as though I flew there in an instant. I was having a text book out-of-body experience. I saw my parents standing in the doorway of my home, with a man in uniform on the front porch talking to them. He was telling them that I had been killed in Vietnam. My mother was crying. It was incredibly vivid. Then, faintly, I heard Zippo screaming repeatedly: "kill the mf'ers, kill the mf'ers-- fire, fire, fire, fire, fire”. He was in a rage and was firing back with a pistol in each hand. The AK's had stopped firing.

After regaining consciousness I relocated my rifle and began firing wildly all 18 clips I carried to ward away the demons, but they had made their escape. Zippo came crawling down the line looking for a working radio and made his way to me. He said “that was the closest I have ever come.” I know that did not hold true for him through the next two years he spent in Vietnam and the time he spent in a Cambodian POW camp after in his heroic stand at the battle of Loc Ninh, but it certainly was a close one.

Doug Moniaci



In late March, 1970 I was preparing to go back out to the field after a short stand down. I was to join Zippo's CP as one of his RTO's.

My friend, Mark Rebrovich, whose tour was ending shortly, came to me and said "I have this knife here that I want you to carry in the field with you, but you have to promise to bring it back to me when you get home. Since we lived within 10 miles of each other back in `the world', that would not be a problem.

The problem was that this thing was no ordinary knife. It made Rambo's look like something from Cub Scouts. It had a large leather sheath, a serrated edge, and was at least eighteen inches long weighing probably a couple of pounds. It had leather tie-downs at the top and bottom securing it to his calf.

I told him I wasn't interested in humping the thing up and down mountains with me and that I had enough to carry being an RTO and all, but he would not relent. He said I would need it. He said “I can't say how, or when, but YOU WILL NEED IT. He had killed a gook his first day in the field and I always respected what he had to say. He convinced me into taking it along with me. It seemed his offer had a certain significance to it, like the proverbial `passing of the sword.' At that point I was thinking that if I didn't take it, some kind of bad Karma might ensue. Being somewhat superstitious, I strapped it on and it actually felt OK. I didn't give it amoniaci rebrovichnother thought-that is until the day arrived that I needed it.

As referred to in my other story posted here, `A Near Death Experience,' on April 6th, 1970, the Charlie Company CP, (with Zippo at point) walked into a couple of NVA crossing the trail we were on. As they opened fire, we all dove away from the fire, as I hit the ground I tried to roll out of my pack but I became entangled in a bunch of small trees that edged the trail. I was bound tight by my partially disengaged pack and ammo bandoleers which were twisted into and around the small saplings. It was a mess.

Already wounded, unable to move and expecting more bullets to strike me as I lay in the open only 10 feet or so from the NVA blasting away at us, I momentarily lost consciousness. After coming to, the enemy had stopped firing. I tried to reach my rifle (which had been wrenched from my grasp by the small tress) to return fire but again realized that I literally could not move. Immediately, I thought of the knife. I reached down, pulled it out, cut away my bandoleers, got my ammo clips and crawled forward to get to my rifle. 1,2,3--it was instantaneous..  

After things settled down, the thought came to me: “Damn, I can't believe it. He was right. I did need that ridiculous knife.” Suffice to say a feeling of chagrin overtook me as I again heard his words again. Up to that point I hadn't touched the knife

As I made my way through the hospital system, I always kept the knife under my pillow or locked up if the ward had such facilities. Upon arriving home in late May, I called Mark. I told him I had been wounded and was home for a while on medical leave. He asked how bad I had been hit and such and then said: “Do you still have my knife?” I said “of course I do.” As I walked into his parents home the next day and handed him the knife, he asked me, ”did you get a chance to use it?” I said, “Let me tell you all about it……”

Doug "Moni" Moniaci



I saw his name on the Wall in Washington DC, “Steven Michael Kenoffel.” I immediately pictured his laughing and smiling face. He had one of those unusual laughs you never forget. An awkward cackle that creaked out at the least prodding and forced you to laugh along with him. He was my friend and we served together in the 1st of the 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division, in Vietnam, 1969-70. He was a tall, thin, freckle-faced 20-year old with a quick wit and an infectious personality. He was what most would define as the proverbial All-American boy. He was one of those people whom upon meeting, you immediately liked. Steve's death affected me as no other had.

He hailed from Glendale, California and like me, had volunteered for the draft in 1969 after an uninspired college stint. As the end of his one-year tour of duty approached, Steve was imbued with the elated feeling one experienced knowing their tour was almost at end, knowing you had survived in one piece. He had spent six months in the field as an infantryman, earning a Bronze Star Medal for valor in the process and had been given a non-combat job in the rear as a radio operator, out of harms way.

That's where I first met him, working in an underground bunker known as the Battalion TOC, (Tactical Operations Center) set up to run field operations for the 1st of the 506th Infantry Battalion, 101st Airborne Division at Camp Evans, a large rear-support camp just south of the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone: a thin strip of neutral land separating North Vietnam and South Vietnam). We worked the radios, linking the infantry in the field with support from the rear. We called in fire support, supplies, replacements, whatever was needed for the line troops. We were their lifeline in times of need. It was an exciting and important job and Steve was very good at it.

I had begun my tour a few months earlier at Division Headquarters for the 101st, working in a massive underground bunker in communications and intelligence. I was trained in communications, but I had grown restless. I disliked the spit and polish and yearned for a different adventure. So, after a few months there I put in for a transfer to an infantry unit to get closer to the action and ended up at the TOC.

After a couple of months there, I again grew restless and decided to volunteer go out to the field with an infantry platoon as a field Radio Operator. I had decided (against Steve's advise) to expand my horizons and see what combat was like. I joined B Company and was slightly wounded after only a week or so and after recovering in the rear, on the advice of a friend, I decided to join C Company and went out to the field with them.

After a few months with them, I decided to go on R&R. The day I got back I ran into Steve and he told me he had just been ordered to report to the helicopter pad to be flown out to a small mountaintop-firebase called Granite. Apparently they needed radio operators to replace some friends of ours from the TOC they had previously been called out to the firebase and had been wounded when it had overrun the night before. Being a `short timer,' Steve was worried about having to go back into the field. I understood his concern as my platoon had just suffered 100% casualties in the attack on the firebase. The only reason I was not a casualty in the attack was that I was on R&R when it happened. I did my best to try to assuage his fears, but he was very apprehensive.  

I walked with Steve to the helicopter pad to see him off, all the while trying to calm his fears. After bidding him farewell and good luck, he boarded the large double-bladed Chinook helicopter along with twelve or so others. The crew chief then proceeded to direct the loading of huge amounts of ammunition and supplies into the ship. Finally, after deciding it was near maximum load, the pilot revved the engine and the ship slowly lifted off. As it struggled to lift off, another soldier standing nearby expressed his concern that the helicopter was overloaded, and I had feared the same.

As we watched it gain altitude and advance, we saw fire coming from the engine cowling. Having flown only a few hundred yards downfield, we started running towards it, knowing it would be coming down.  

The pilot, after realizing there was a problem, began to bring it down. After descending, the chopper hit the tarmac nose-first, splitting across it's middle, spilling its full fuel load from the two fuel tanks that run along the bottom sides of the craft. Fire soon started roiling up around it. While we ran to close the distance to the crash site, we could see people jumping and running from front and open rear tailgate. Within seconds, fire completely engulfed the crash site, spreading perhaps fifty feet outward in a solid towering, huge wall of flame, perhaps 50 feet high.

When we reached the scene, we came across someone lying on his back on the tarmac, just outside the ring of fire. He was severely burned and semi-conscious. I did not recognize him. The hair on his head and face had been burned away and his glasses were missing. He had suffered terrible third degree burns on this legs and torso. We wrapped him in a blmoniaci smanket and shielded his body as best we could from the debris coming from the nearby wreckage as ammunition began exploding.  Soon, an ambulance arrived and we carried him to it. He neither spoke nor acknowledged our presence. Smoke was still coming from what was left of his clothing as we put him in the ambulance.   

The thought never crossed my mind that this was my friend Steve, but my heart sank when I arrived back at the company area and was told he was the one who had been so badly burned. Thankfully, all others had managed to escape without major injury. Someone nearby who witnessed the crash told me that he had seen Steve peering out a window through the flames. I can't imagine the tortured thoughts that must have gone through his mind. He knew if he stayed with the ship he could not possibly survive, so he ran through the wall of flames in a desperate attempt for survival.

I immediately ran to the nearby battalion aid station where he was taken but was told he had already been airlifted to a critical-care ship known as the `Hope,' anchored in the South China Sea. The medic who tended to him told me that Steven was conscious when he was brought in and had answered all of the questions asked of him regarding his name, unit, and next of kin, and that that was a good sign. It gave me some hope for his survival.

Shortly thereafter, my unit was called out to the field again. Before I left I got word that Steve was still alive and being flown to a hospital in Japan, a much shorter flight than the US, which his condition would not allow. Ten days later, I myself was wounded and sent to the very same hospital in Japan. Shortly after arriving, I asked a visiting Red Cross nurse if she could inquire of Steve's condition for me.  

A few days later she informed me she was sorry to have to tell me that Steven in fact died a few days before I had arrived. I was overcome with grief and set out to write his parents (Steve and I had exchanged addresses as I had planned to visit him in California after leaving the service) a long letter explaining as best I could the circumstances of Steve's injury, what good friends we had become, and about how they must have been great patents to have raised such a terrific person and son. It was a tear-stained letter.

Weeks later after arriving home, I found a letter awaiting me from Steve's Parents. The envelope held two letters, one from each of Steve's parents. His father wrote:

"First of all I want to thank you so very much for taking the time to write us.  We appreciate knowing of the circumstances surrounding Steven's injury. Steve lived for about two weeks after he was burned.  We were in constant contact with the doctors after he was evacuated to Japan.  We were told that he had burns over 78% of his entire body surface and the chances of his recovery were very slim indeed.  However on April 1, we flew to Japan and arrived there about 5:30 PM on April 2, Japan time. We were met at the airport by the Army and taken by car to the 106th General Hospital where Steven was being cared for. The traffic was terrible and it took us two hours to get there. After being prepared for what we were about to see by the doctor, we saw our dear son.  He was semi-comatose, but after a few minutes he saw us and we believe, as does the doctor, that he recognized us. Although he could not speak due to his condition we did get to see him alive.

Within the hour he died and subsequently we returned and his body was sent home.  On Sunday, April 12th, we buried our dear son with the Army providing full military honors, which included reading of the citations he received for saving a man's life in combat, a feat that earned him the Bronze Star with V for Valor.  

We are honored to know that you and your friends had such a high opinion of our son. This is something we have always had naturally, but it is nice to know that his wonderful qualities were recognized by others as well.

If you are ever in California please look us up.  We have read and re-read your letter many times and it does mean so very much to us. God bless you Douglas and all the other fine young men that were there with Steve and got to be so close. If you care to write again we would appreciate hearing from you.  Any reflections or memories of Steve are very precious to us and we shall cherish your kind letter always."

His mother's note:

Dear Doug,

Just a few lines to add to my husband's letter.  First of all, I hope your leg injury is not too severe.  This war as all wars are, is pretty miserable.  Too many of our brave young men have been killed or crippled by it.

We will be forever grateful to you for writing to us.  Needless to say, we are heart-broken over losing Steven. It's hard to believe that we'll never see his smile again or hear him laugh. Yes, he was a pretty fine guy, and we are     so proud of him, I just wish he would be coming home alive.  I hope you have some pictures of Steve to send us, please send us one of yourself. Our home is always open to you.  Do you have a family? Take care of yourself, and I pray that this miserable situation will end soon. We will keep your letter always. I'm afraid we're not half as good as Steve was, but we sure loved him.  God bless you Douglas."

After reading these letters it struck me that after being told by his doctors that his parents were coming to Japan to see him, Steve obviously held on long enough to see them one last time. I never wrote Steve's parents again, although I now wish I had. At the time I did not know what more could be said.

Many years later I remembered something Steve had said to me when we were at the Headquarters Company office a few days before he was wounded. He said it reminded him of the day he had signed into the company many months prior. He said “of the twelve people who reported to the company with him that day, he was the only one who would be going home alive. I wish it were true. His words haunt me.
Hardly a day goes by I don't think of Steve. When I first met him in Vietnam I asked my self, “what is this guy doing here, and in the infantry yet?” He should be on some college campus somewhere carrying books, not a rifle. That is the way it was with a lot of guys I met in Vietnam. They did not go to Canada or hide behind endless student deferments or faked disabilities. They took a chance and ended up on the wrong side of fate.

I have read and reread the letters Steve's parents sent me, as they have mine. Every time I read them I cry,  as I imagine they did.

The world is a much lesser place without him.

Doug Moniaci


Here's a song written by Doug "Moni" Moniaci





























Honoring His Fallen Brother and His Flag

From Larry McDevitt.. 5/27/2002
EAGLE BASE, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Army News Service, May 22, 2002)

It was spring 1999 at Ft. Campbell, KY and raining "cats and dogs". I was late for physical training, and traffic was backed up and moving way too slowly. I was probably going to be late and I was growing more and more impatient. The pace slowed almost to a standstill as I passed Memorial Grove, the site built to honor the soldiers who died in the Gander airplane crash, the worst redeployment accident in the history of the 101st Airborne Division. Because it was close to Memorial Day, a small American flag had
been placed in the ground next to each soldier's memorial plaque.

My concern at the time, however, was getting past the bottleneck, getting out of the rain and getting to PT on time. All of a sudden, infuriatingly, just as the traffic was getting started again, the car in front of me stopped. A soldier, a private of course, jumped out in the pouring rain and ran over toward the grove. I couldn't believe it! This knucklehead was holding up everyone for who knows what kind of prank. Horns were honking. I waited to see the butt-chewing that I wanted him to get for making me late.

He was getting soaked to the skin and his uniform was plastered to his frame. I watched-as he ran up to one of the memorial plaques, picked up the small American flag that had fallen to the ground in the wind and the rain, and set it upright again. Slowly, he came to attention, saluted, then ran back to his car, and drove off.

I'll never forget that incident. That young soldier, whose name I will never know, taught me more about duty, honor, and respect than a hundred books or a thousand lectures. That simple salute -- that single act of honoring his fallen brother and his flag -- encapsulated all the Army values in one gesture for me. It said, "I will never forget, I will keep the faith, I will finish the mission. I am an American soldier."  I thank God for examples like that. On this Memorial Day, I will remember all those who paid the ultimate price for my freedom, and one private, soaked to the skin, who honored them.

I hope you will too.

(The officer that wrote this is Capt. John Rasmussen, now a chaplain with
Multinational Division North in Bosnia.)

Doug "Moni" Moniaci


... an email from Doug to Bill Higgins in 2008 ...

Hello Bill,

I very much remember you. I was in your platoon from sometime in early Jan '70, though early March '70, I think. It was 1st platoon, right? If not 1st, then 2nd. I was in both 1st and 2nd. One of the two was hammered on Granite and that is the platoon I went to after being in yours. I had just gotten back from R&R on 19th and could not rejoin them due to the fog. I waited on the chopper pad for a long time before they finally gave up. It was very fortunate for me. I would not be writing this email if the fog had let up because they rolled right over the platoon cp and killed them all in their foxholes. That was the night of Mar 20. They were good guys, all of them. Really a shame.

It's a little foggy now. I do remember though that when I was with you we walked through the woods for two months not seeing or hearing a thing as I recall. I was a communications guy (101st HQ, Camp Eagle) who volunteered for the infantry I was an RTO for one of your squad sgt's, a black guy who ended up getting killed in an ambush along with my replacement. I think, at the end of my stay I was actually your RTO for a while.

In early Apr I joined Zippo's CP as an one of his RTO's and was wounded in a small skirmish, and that was it for me. I went to a reunion for C company in DC in early 2000. Too bad you were not aware of it since you live so close. While there, Zippo asked me if I knew you and I said I did, and that you were a really good guy. He thought the same of you, and related to us how much he liked you.

I actually have a picture of you in the field. I'll send it if you like. You must have gotten my email address from the C company web-site? I have some photo's posted there. They are 0f the company cp and include pics of me and Zippo and some of the other guys whose names I can't remember.

Really great to hear from you. I don't know if you knew Jeffery Wilcox. He was also West Point. He was talked about quite a lot in the book 'Ripcord'. My wife and I are going to be seeing him next month. He lives with his wife in Saugatuck, MI, which is a resort town on Lk Mich. My wife and I live in MI, about 50 miles north of Detroit.

It's is truly great to hear from you. I alway though highly of you.

My scanner does not seem to want to do a good enough job of the picture I have of you. It is of you bending over at the edge of a very steep hill getting ready to pull someone up and over the top. It is a side view, so not that good really. The picture of you standing outside the hooch is really a good one.

FYI: I have been a stockbroker since 1974 and still love it. After I got back I finished college and lucked into a great job. I have three great and successful children and a great wife. I feel like I was struck lucky at birth. I came close so many times in Vietnam as I am sure you did.

Attached is a pic of me and my family taken a few years ago at Thanksgiving. Are you married, children? I am surprised to hear you stayed in. You struck me as the academic type.

I read about Chuck Hawkins in Ripcord. Seemingly very gung-ho and incredibly capable.

I ran into the medic (in a hospital in Japan) who was on Granite the night of the attack and he told me a story I will always remember vividly. Incredible acts of bravery, and horrific things of course.

Some material from email in 2008-2009:

I finished your 'journal' Saturday. I think it is terrific. I really like the way you have treated and written it. It jogged my memory in many places. I remember the 'pool' we came across after following a river in a very woodsy area for most of the morning and afternoon, and stopping to wash up. I thought we may have been in Laos. That amazing waterfall. And there was a large rock island in the center of the pool and high steep cliff sides, perhaps 50 feet high. It was the most memorable spot I saw in all of my 'travels' there. If there is anyplace I would like to revisit on a trip back that would be it.

I remember the morning Glen Lovett was KIA. I was left behind up high on the ridge line with a sergeant when you set out because a Huey was coming in to take me on R&R. Afterward, I also remember that he was the only one I talked to as the platoon filed by that morning. I told him to be careful. It has stuck with me all these years. I also remember that he was taken out via sling or net because the Huey could not get close enough for hand loading. I heard that when the pilot came in at Evans he came to a gliding stop instead of setting down directly. Glen's head was hanging down and out of the net for some reason and was almost torn off during the landing. So sad to hear. He was a gentle sort and I do remember he said he had a wife. I think he was from Ohio? The people who had witnessed it were very pissed.

Were you on Granite the night we marched off, with Zippo leading the way? You had a question as to how the company got back to Granite that next day to clean up. It was via Chinook. Also, were you on the Chinook when we left? It almost crashed on the way down in a downdraft? It was a very scary ride. My best friend had just been killed in a Chinook crash at Evans and I thought I was at my end.

I think I should send you a brief description of my story (you have taken from the web site) and have you replace it with it. I don't think the format is right. It's a little to 'showy' and overdone. I wrote it in a form that duplicates a Hemingway novel, 'Islands in the Stream', one of my favorites books. He is my favorite American novelist, and I have ready all he has written except for some of the Nick Adams stories. I'll send you something to replace my story with, ok?

The trooper who was taken out of the field with the fever, his name was Rosenberg. I am still not sure if he was psycho, but I lean toward that. He had been on sick call and came out to the field with an empty M-16, no ammo, grenades, flares, C-rats, water, nothing. I think he had a web belt on but it was empty. I ran into him in Valley Forge hospital at the end of my hospitalizations and he was still loopy. Either he was a terrific actor of certifiable.

In a hospital in Japan, I met the medic who was on Granite the night of the battle and he told me some amazing stories. I could give you all of that, but it is 2nd hand. And by the way, the sappers had breached the wire. They were definitely inside. I went out the a few days after and saw the two foxholes where the platoon CP was killed. I stayed in them. There were black marks on the walls from the satchel charges thrown in on them. That is how I was told they died and that confirmed it. B Company came in at first light. Mike Bookster, the clerk for the 101st assoc told me that they found an LP with all four guys dead--their throats had been slit. He also said there was a sapper draped over an artillery tube. So there were definitely inside. There was another 4-man LP out that night. I also met a guy in the hospital in Japan who when said he was on LP, in the middle of the night, all had fallen asleep when an NVA soldier slit his poncho open lengthwise. He was startled and bolted upright t. The NVA lurched back, also startled, and the looked at each for awhile and the guy slowly turned away and proceed to walk up the hill to towards the wire. He said he could see a lot of other NVA with AK's doing the same.

I will have more comments as time permits. You have done an amazing amount of work. Have you been able to scan and use OCR for any of this, from the records?