173d AIRBORNE BRIGADE MEDIC'S DIARY

by Larry Speed

 

26 May 67

Left West Des Moines, Iowa this morning and arrived here in San Francisco this afternoon. While on lay over in Omaha , I called Mike Niemantís Mother and inquired about Mike....still in San Diego for boot camp. Out of Omaha , I caught a jet non-stop for S.F. I checked into a hotel and later that evening met Edmond Wright, who is from Birmingham, Ala.

 

27 May 67

Today, Ed and I toured San Francisco. We visited the zoo, the beach, rode cable cars, trolley cars, and took a cruise around the bay. This afternoon, I met Craig Lowery in San Francisco. He was with me at Ft. Bragg, and had just gotten back from Viet Nam. He was wounded over there, so he must return to Letterman Hospital for re-evaluation of his wounds. The three of us went out for dinner this evening and later went out for a few beers together.

We met a guy named Pops, who claimed to be a blues singer with the Louis Armstrong band. The man could really sing....no doubt about that. I guess Craig will stay with us tonight, so we had better get to sleep, since all of us have to get up early tomorrow morning.

 

28 May 67

Called home this morning and then caught a bus for Oakland Army Base. Began my processing and stayed here for four nights.

 

1 June 67

Left Oakland this morning and traveled by bus to Travis AFB. This evening at 1900 hours we boarded a Continental jet for our long trip to Viet Nam. Before our arrival at Bien Hoa, we stopped at Honolulu and Clark AFB in the Philippines.

 

3 June 67

Arrived at Bien Hoa AFB this morning at 0530. This completed our 22 hour flight. After filling out a few forms, we were transferred to the 90th Replacement Battalion located near Long Bien. Our bus was escorted by an armed jeep. It sure is hard to believe that I am over here, but there isnít any doubt from what I see around here.....a few rice paddies, a trashy little town, the civilians dressed in their native clothing, and explosions in the background. A few months ago I was watching this typical scene on television. Now, I am a part of it.

It looks funny to see the people squatting instead of sitting down. The only source of transportation I have seen are bicycles, motorcycles, lumbrettas, and military vehicles. Their exchange is called piasters. Today we had to exchange our green backs and coins for military payment certificates, commonly called MPCís.

The 90th replacement center is built up quite well. The barracks are made of wood with each individual slab of wood attached at a 45 degree angle. The upper section on each side of the barrack is screened. War Zone D is to our East. This afternoon, Wright and I noticed some WP and heard small arms fire.

 

4 June 67

This morning we were sent to the 173d reception center. More papers to fill out before going to our unit. A lot of artillery fire can be heard from the perimeter.......harassment rounds. I have been assigned to HHC 1/503. This afternoon I was issued my clothing and TA50 equipment.

 

5 - 10 June 67

Attended jungle school this week. Our night operation consisted of a hump to the edge of a rubber plantation, where we set up a perimeter.

13 June 67

For the last few days, I have been working around the aid station. Sgt Watson put me in for SP/5. This afternoon I flew up North to Pleiku aboard a C-130 which was also carrying two OH13 helicopters

. The view from the aircraft window was very picturesque. It looked as if most of the land below was of jungle region. The "mud hole" East of Pleiku is the 173d temporary base camp while up North. I met the Dr., Lt. Inuza, and also saw Joe and Robert again. They left Bragg last February.

 

14 June 67

Joe and I went across the road this morning to pick up Lt. Inuzaís laundry. The buildings were just shacks made out of beer cans, lumber, tin, and a little of everything else. Down the road was a Montagnard hamlet. I guess it is accepted for all the little kids to smoke, because they all were today.

A couple of older women were preparing dinner....rice in a dirty pot. With a purple smile, they offered me a bite----No Thanks!

 

15 June 67

This afternoon caught a slick out to Charlie Company. I will be the medic for weaponís platoon. I was welcomed as a "FNG".

 

17 June 67

The last few days around the "golf course" have been very pleasant....if one can say that about Viet Nam. I got to know my group a little better and now feel more easy going around them. I stayed in a hooch occupied by Steve, Ski, and Mac. Ambushes have been going out most every night, but return with a negative sit rep. There are two Montagnard hamlets on either side of us and a rice paddy at the bottom of the hill.

Jim Gage and I have been hitting it off together. Jim is from St Louis. He has one problem though......and that would be his girl friend back home. I guess because Iím the medic, he seeks advise from me. Not sure if I can really be of any help to him.

Until this morning, we have been at this same location. We are now going farther North to some place called Dak To. We trucked out by 2 1//2 ton trucks to the AFB in Pleiku. Here we rejoined the rest of the brigade. As soon as we left the "golf course", Montagnard children swarmed in like bees and began digging up sumps and other filled in bunkers and holes.

We flew to Dak To in C-130s, unloaded, and set up camp across the road. After setting up a hooch with Pauk, we began digging our bunker. A stream at the bottom of the hill would provide us our bathing water. The hills in the distance are of unfamiliar beauty. This beauty is the Central Highlands of Viet Nam.

 

18 June 67

Today, Lieutenant Cecil became our platoon leader. At the creek today, I got a Montagnard bracelet from a woman in trade for a couple bars of soap.

 

19 June 67

Today, I made my first heliborne assault by chinook to dead manís hill. An ARVN camp with Special Forces advisors was over ran by NVA forces. We are to assault, set up a perimeter and defend the line companies as they advance up the hill to police up the bodies for removal.

An hour before our departure, artillery pounded the area until the advance party arrived. Weapon platoon boarded the chinook which took us to the LZ. With LBE, weapons, and rucksacks, we unloaded the chinook and secured one side of the LZ near the wood line. Many of the trees along the wood line bored shattered scars where artillery had struck.

As the smoke from the woods revealed itself, an air strike was being conducted from above. Over and over again, the planes came diving in and dropped their deadly load. The motivation of myself and other troops was for real. The gun squad set up the mortar while the rest of us began digging in. All the time, more equipment was being brought in by hooks. This included everything from chain saws and jeeps to

4.2 mm mortars and ammo. Once we got our bunkers dug and over head cover, we began setting up our hooches.

With the line companies, who passed by, were CIDG......Civilian Irregular Defense Group. Over the PRC 25 came reports of the finding of Americans and ARVN soldiers. This evening the mortar squads fired supporting fire for the line company. In the darkness of the night we could see the Willie Peter explode.

 

20 June 67

The bodies were removed by choppers this morning. Today has been quiet and slow.

 

21 June 67

We were extracted this morning by chinook. and returned to Dak To. After our arrival, I took a bath and set up my hooch. In the afternoon, we were informed of a new operation. One member of a LRRP team had gotten lost in the jungle and the enemy was known to be close by. Our operation would be a night heli-borne assault on a deserted Montagnard village. We are to find this man and or make contact with the enemy. Once we packed our gear, we headed for the helipads.

It was quite dark when I boarded the slick. Four of us were aboard...Sgt. Weston, Ski, Logger, and myself. After takeoff, the ship headed East and we could see few lights below us of villages. Before we reached the LZ, our chopper encountered small arms fire from the jungle.

The door gunner in the huey behind us opened up with his M-60. A steady stream of tracers headed into the jungle below. Our door gunner made an unsuccessful attempt to fire. His gun jammed after a few rounds. Flares lit up the LZ below.

After touch down, we unloaded and the mortar men began digging a pit for the 81mm. Near the pit was a cave-like bunker with some pottery inside. The insects were bad that night, so I sprayed the grass on the side of bunker before Pauk and I set up a poncho.

 

22 June 67

This morning we were hit by 60mm mortar and small arms fire. Apparently, the enemy was trying to knock out our mortar. After the first round hit, they began to walk the rounds into us. Our machine gunner cut them short when he began pouring lead toward the hill where they were.

While the machine gunner concentrated on the enemy position, Schnepp began counter mortar fire and the rifle platoons to our front were engaged with the enemy in the jungle just below our logger sight. One of the first enemy mortar rounds hit near our platoon Sgt., which ignited a smoke grenade on his pistol belt and wounded him with shrapnel. He was hit in his back, both legs and arms, and both hands. After being wounded, he made it most of the way to a depression in the ground and Dates pulled him in. The M-16s and enemy small arms were loud and the fire fight continued and I became frightened. I remember seeing the company commander on his feet and yelling for more fire power from his men. As scared as I was, I crawled outside the cave like bunker and over to my aid kit, which was attached to my rucksack. I didnít feel like staying in one spot too long, so I just grabbed a couple of dressings and bandages out of the rucksack and ran toward the yellow smoke, which was still coming from the wounded manís pistol belt.

In the mean time, Dates removed the smoke grenade and belt from the wounded Sgt. and threw it out of the hole. Once I got in the hole, and saw what had happened, I realized that I didnít have nearly enough dressings that it would take to cover his wounds. I noticed that his left arm was badly wounded, so I began applying the battle dressings. After I finished using all of the supplies I had at hand, I ran back to my rucksack , grabbed it, and returned to the wounded Sgt.

The hole where he lay was small and it was hard to work on him, seeing all of his torn flesh and getting the dressings applied. I wondered if we should move him outside the depression, but about the time I mentioned this to Dates, more small arms started in again and this answered my question.

Gunships had arrived by now and began firing their rockets into the thick jungle where the enemy was thought to be. Overhead, the Bird dog circled , flying back and forth over the suspected enemy position. Eventually, he fired WP into the jungle and then left the area. Minutes later, his big brothers showed up. They savagely attacked the land below with napalm, rockets, 40mm, and other arsenal. This show of power enhanced our spirits and the guys would cheer and yell every time the jets struck the enemy position. Actually, the air strike was a thing of beauty............a well rehearsed show of American fire power. I canít imagine what something like that would cost the American tax payer.

Our wounded were evacuated. Sgt. Weston suffered a crush knee. Pyle, another medic, got hit in the cheek by shrapnel, and a few others received very minor wounds and were not dusted off. After the battle, OPs were sent down in the jungle that afternoon. They reported hearing voices and before long we could see movement, so the hand grenades flew, our rifle platoons cut loose, and our mortars dropped rounds. Another air strike was called in and the jets again struck the area that the bird dog marked for them as the target.

After the air strike, the First platoon went down into the jungle on a clearing patrol. Since the medic from the 1st platoon was wounded during the fire fight this morning, I went down into the jungle valley with them. The squads split up and began a search of the area, but Sit Rep was negative. Just then, a burst from a machine gun hit a soldier a few feet away from me. This was not the result of enemy activity. Our machine gunner accidentally shot the man next to him through the elbow. As Sgt Watson applied pressure to the brachial artery, I applied the dressing to the wound and wrapped with an ace bandage. A poncho was used to carry the casualty back to the perimeter by another squad. Later that day, the rest of us returned to our perimeter.

The weapon platoon in the mean time had reinforced the bunker. This evening I had a man come to me with a grenade fragment in his back. Although I probed around for it, I could not locate the fragment, so I bandaged the wound and he will be evacuated tomorrow.

 

23 June 67

Needless to say, I didnít sleep very well, for fear that we would get hit again during the night. We will move out this afternoon. This morning, another guy was injured when he dislocated his knee. He knew exactly what needed to be done, since this has occurred in the past. He wanted me to give a firm jerk, which I did, and his knee was reset. He too will be extracted today.

After setting our bunker on fire, we moved out. The hills were very steep. I couldnít help but think about all of the protesters back home who spoke out so strongly to express their disapproval against the war. One wonders if it is worth the effort we are going through. It isnít much fun climbing these steep hills in the rain with a rucksack, ammo, weapon, hand grenades, steel pot, mortar rounds, and two aid kits. Yet, my load is somewhat light compared to those soldiers who also carry PRC 25s or mortar tubes and base plates. All of this equipment is clinging to your side or riding on your back.

Every time we sat down on the trail today, leeches would get on us and began sucking. Today, we climbed up the side of a water fall and later on the trail we encountered punji sticks. Every place along the trail the enemy had placed these slender, double pointed pieces of bamboo sticking upright out of the ground. They are hard to see because they look just like dried bamboo leafs. Before the day was over, two of our men had sat down on them. Fitch got one in his hip and another soldier suffered a leg wound. We learned to sweep the area with our feet before sitting down.

 

24 June 67

Heard B52 air strikes last night..................wicked.

 

25 June 67

Same old story.........hump all day putting up with the rain, mud, leeches, and every thing else that this bamboo jungle has to offer. Then we dig in for the night and set up our hooches. This afternoon though, we reached an LZ and were extracted by chinook. Out of that wood line we ran and up into the back end of the chinook. Near the LZ were thatch roof huts and banana trees. We were taken to a fire support base where we will spend the night.

Today, we found out that A Company, 2nd Battalion got hit hard on the 22nd of June. Somehow, word got around that we got wiped out. Tomorrow we will leave here and head for the hill again.

 

26 June 67

We left this morning and began our hump. Artillery pounded the area to our front. Old Charlie really had his chance today to hit us when we crossed that rice paddy. Brothers tried taking a short cut over the dike and went up to his waist in the mud. I donít know why, but plans were changed and we were extracted and flew back to Dak To in chinooks.

 

27 June 67

Left Dak To this morning by trucks and were let out about five miles down the road. From there we followed the road, which eventually led right into a Montagnard village. It was really a very pretty village. A bamboo fence surrounded the village and each bamboo was sharpened to a point. Interwoven in the fence were bamboo strips that stuck out like hundreds of punji sticks. We passed through the village and went down a hill where we met some women on the trail carrying water in cylinders made from bamboo. The water ran down from the hills inside sections of split bamboo, which formed a water channel.

We crossed over a stream today on a bamboo bridge...........very crude, but it worked. Set up in a deserted Montagnard hamlet. Leeches were thick. For dinner, we picked grapefruits off a tree and ate them.

 

28 June 67

Woke up this morning with small flea like insects just biting the hell out of me. They were miserable throughout the night. This afternoon we were extracted by hueys and flew to Dead Manís Hill, which is now a fire support base. Saw two guys I was with in basic training, AIT, and jump school....................Doring and Lichter. Departed the FSB this afternoon and followed a trail leading up the hill. Along the trail were a few CIDG skeletons and a skull. Farther up we found the body of a Special Forces advisor.

 

29 June 67

B-52 strikes could be heard last night in the distance along with the artillery . This morning we came upon a NVA base camp, which included several bunkers with over head cover, cooking huts, pots, a canteen, and bamboo baskets. The bunkers were very well constructed, probably strong enough to withstand bombs and artillery.

This afternoon, the trail that we were following led into another NVA base camp. Once again, the camp was deserted. This base camp as well as the other one we found appears to be only a few days old. The bunkers have two entrances, smooth walls, and square corners. Looking into one of the bunkers, I noticed a dark object which turned out to be a gook rucksack complete with a ground cloth, shirt, pants, writing paper, I.D. card, pictures, and an American envelope. Leading out of the base camp were steps that were cut into the side of the hill. Also, outside of the enemy base camp were some huts, apparently used as out posts. We reached our logger sight and dug in and cleared a LZ.

 

30 June 67

We will stay here today and leave tomorrow. Got paid today and received hot chow and ice cream.

 

4 July 67

Arrived back at the fire support base. Today is the 4th of July. wonder what kind of fire works we will have tonight? At least we had hot chow and cold beer this evening. Last night the fire support base got mortared.

 

6 July 67

Made a heliborne assault on an area that lies six miles from the Cambodia border. Another LZ was cleared by the other men while I sutured up Fosterís finger. Tonight I gave another soldier an injection of Benadryl for an allergic reaction. Foster is having a lot of pain with that finger, so I gave him some Darvon and Zactrin to take. The common saying here is, drive on with darvon.

 

7 July 67

The stream was opened up to us, so we went swimming this afternoon. Our swimming suits consisted of combat boots and pure nakedness. It feels great being clean again.

 

8 July 67

Moved our hooches up on the hill this morning and went swimming again this afternoon. Got a package from Georgia, but many items were missing. It appeared that someone else helped themselves or the box got ripped opened.

Foster received a penicillin shot for his finger to safe guard against infection in this climate and another guy apparently has gonorrhea. He also got a loading dose of penicillin.

 

9 July 67

Intelligence reports a NVA regiment nearby, so we were ordered to leave our camp and head for the hills to set up a blocking position. 2nd and 3rd Battalion will push. While crossing the same stream we had swam in earlier, Gage and Bracy fell off the log. We are now set up with bunkers completed and hooches up.

 

12 July 67

While attempting to re-supply us with food, a huey lost momentum and came down in the elephant grass, its rotor striking a bush. Security was quickly posted around the chopper and our 81 mike mike set up. A few minutes later, another chopper was in the air above our position providing security. Because of the down chopper situation, we ate chow and began to set up our hooches. All the time we spent digging bunkers, the rain poured down on us. Later this evening, a chinook towed the down huey away.

An LZ was cut for choppers to bring in more supplies and mail. Received letters from my wife and from Donald and Linda. Gave Banks 3 1/2 ccís of procaine penicillin and 2 ccís of streptomycin. Some of these guys will do anything for a good laugh. Mac chased a cricket around the B-52 bomb crater, and after catching it, he and a couple other guys made a meal out of the critter.

 

13 July 67

Moved out at 0800 hours this morning for two clicks North. Passed through another NVA base camp today. Intelligence still reporting a regiment of NVA some where in these hills. We received word that B Company made contact with the Gooks.

My tendon still gives me trouble and today it has been really painful. We have been receiving much rain for the last week..........this is the Monsoon season. Small crabs can be seen on the jungle floor around the creeks. While the rest of the men were busy cutting another LZ, I was kept busy treating bamboo cuts and "jungle rot". This wet weather is causing sores on many of the soldierís legs. And now the boils on Bankís arm and hip are getting worst. I removed a core from one and applied dressings to both of them. He will need more penicillin injections.

The chopper refuses to land on the LZ, so that means we wonít get any hot chow.

 

14 July 67

Dates needs more v-cillin and Sgt Dunford, I believe, has a case of gonorrhea. We were suppose to move out at 0800 hours, but five gooks were sighted by the lead platoon. A clearing patrol reported firing at one of the enemy, but no sign of him. We are now stationed along the trail and artillery is dropping around our present position.

We have pulled back to our bunkers. Calloway just had an epilepsy seizure. At first, we thought he was bitten by a snake. After he recovered from it, he began vomiting. The area is too dense to get a chopper in, so he is just going to have to make the best of it for the time being.

We are in the process of moving up this trail, which proves to be very steep. Calloway must stop every now and then for a breather. The rest of us are doing quite well as we push up the steep hill. We are fortunate not to have any rain today.

Through the clearing is a very picturesque view across the valley. This area is very dense with over growth, but from where we are, I can look over the clouds and see the ridge lines of the mountains in the distance.

Worn out is to say the least about todayís hump. The last few hundred meters brought smoke! A clearing has been cut so the chopper can drop food and water into us. Too dense to cut a full LZ. The guys really scatter when that chopper is hovering above. We canít tell if that door gunner is going to hit the DZ or one of us with a case of C rations or elephant rubbers, as we fondly refer to the water tubes. Many water bags break when they hit the ground or get hung up in the trees.

I have learned to carry the small essential medical items in my pockets, so that I wonít have to get in my demo bag while on the trail. I keep my main medical bag attached to the rucksack and my battle bag, an old demolition bag full of dressings, bandages, and IV fluids remains slung around my neck when the rucksack is dropped off during a fire fight.

 

15 July 67

Left our hill top position this morning around 0900 for our journey to the next logger site. Large birds can be heard flying overhead making a loud "swishing" noise. We never see the birds, only hear them. Only in an environment like Viet Nam can one see and hear so many strange things. It is amazing the variety of insect life found in the jungle. And then there is the "F--k You" lizards. That is exactly what their call sounds like during the night.

We have come upon another enemy base camp. Many cooking hooches are spotted along the trail. The enemy has a way of dispersing the smoke from a fire when cooking meals in these hooches. Out of vines and bamboo, the gooks have made clothes lines and chairs. I noticed something that looked like a litter along the trail, and it too is made from bamboo. We are now sitting on another hill top. Cís and water have been dropped into us. Tonight, on radio guard, Lema reported hearing movement to their front.

 

16 July 67

Another Sunday in Viet Nam. The days and weeks have really been flying by. One of our claymore mines was stolen last night.

On the trail again. Each man has six meals and water. A NVA hat and tennis shoe type combat boot have been sighted along the trail. Whenever there appears to be anything unusual along the trail, word is relayed back from the point warning us about the situation. We must be on constant guard for booby traps and claymores. A booby trap can be anything from an old C ration can placed along the trail to a 105 round concealed in the trees.

 

17 July 67

Last night one of our Claymores was set off, but the movement was attributed to that of monkeys. This morning we found a bottle of injectable serum and bandages on a trail near our log stat. Last night when the OP reported movement, Lema 6 radioed back and told him to blow the hell out of whatever was in front if he had to withdraw.

 

18 July 67

No doubt that this trail has been used a lot by the enemy. Many of the hills have stairs cut into them with bamboo reinforcing the steps. Larger streams have bamboo bridges crossing them complete with side rails, which are long, thin bamboo that run parallel with the steps.

This afternoon, a grave was found along the trial. Erickson and Gilgen were elected to dig it up and promptly went to work. The body was wrapped up tightly in a poncho. A split bamboo fence marked the grave and at the head was a tree with Vietnamese writing carved into the bark. Most likely, the body was of an enemy officer. He was kicked back into the grave and a 173d patch was laid upon his body.

Arrived at FSB this afternoon around 1430. We set up, had hot chow, mail, and got clean fatigues, new boots and other supplies.

 

19 July 67

Received word that we would make a heliborne assault tomorrow. Erickson got his new jungle hammock, so he gave his other one to me.

 

20 July 67

Two men were killed this morning at 0300 by artillery rounds which fell short and hit inside our perimeter. The rounds were fired from another fire support base. B-52 Ďs will hit a suspected regimental position this morning, followed by an air strike and artillery fire. Our planned assault wonít be made until tomorrow morning.

 

21 July 67

Our heliborne assault today was by chinook. After we landed, we moved through the area and are now set up on this hill. A B-52 crater provides a clearing for a beautiful view across the valley. A six foot tunnel was discovered today along with a so called sniper position. Our location is four miles from Cambodia.

 

22 - 30 July 67

We have been conducting a search and destroy operation for the last nine days.

 

31 July 67

Extracted by chinook and flew back to Dak To, where we got cold beer, hot A rations, mail, clean fatigues, and paid. Received seventeen letters today.

 

1 August 67

General Harold K. Johnson made a visit today. We medics exchanged our 45ís for M-16 rifles. This afternoon, we moved down the road to a FSB and set up. Became acquainted with Yen and Oak, who are Montagnard soldiers.

2 August 67

Bought Georgia some Vietnamese silk pajamas and also got Janey a Montagnard bracelet.

 

4 August 67

Yesterday, we trucked back to Dak To. Today we made a heliborne assault by Chinook near Dak Pek. This Special Forces camp and surrounding villages have been getting shelled frequently. We got the Montagnards to help us dig bunkers and fill sand bags in exchange for cigarettes and candy.

 

8 August 67

Left FSB on foot and headed for those scary hills again. Passing through one of the hamlets, we noticed punji stakes all around the bamboo fence.

 

10 August 67

Located a large NVA bunker complex today. Air strikes hit the area, but failed to do much damage. We are located on Hill 1250. The bunkers located on top of this hill have bamboo floors and furniture. Farther up the trail, a grave was found. A Company began to dig it up. This grave, too, had a fence around it.

Charlie Company was lead element until we reached the top of this one hill. Then A Company passed by and no sooner got around us when one of their men hit a Chicom grenade booby trap.

 

16 August 67

One of the Sgt who was out on a patrol today got a leech in his right eye. Had no choice but to bandage it and send him in by helicopter.

 

19 August 67

Stanzak returned to Charlie Company today, so I packed up and caught a slick back to Dak Pek. The doctor had a hooch set up and I moved right in.

 

20 August 67

Received word that we might be going back to Dak To tomorrow. Not too much to be done around here except eat, sleep and write a few letters. I gave a few shots today and wrapped a few sores, but like I said, not very much has been taking place. This is much better duty then humping the hills.

 

21 August 67

We tore down our hooches and filled in the bunkers. The gooks are gathering around and canít wait to dig up our trash. Every now and then they get too close and have to be ran off. The chinooks are moving out the artillery , so we should be leaving before long.

Just arrived back to Dak To aid station by chinook. Met Wethers and his monkey, Clyde.

 

22 August 67

Helped out in the aid station this morning and gave shots to the company soldiers. That monkey got into my bag of raisins. "........" left today for Tokyo, Japan.

 

23 August 67

I, like the others, donít think very much of Sgt. Smith. Things are getting to be too much like stateside with him around. Speaking of the states, I just heard some stateside sounds...........they sound great! God! I canít wait to get back home to Georgia. Sometimes I donít mind this place, but at other times, it is the most rotten place to be on Earth.

 

24 August 67

Today, the line companies made heliborne assaults. The Dr, Lt Inuza, Mescan, Robert, and myself came out here to fire support base #3. The ride out here in 2 1/2 ton trucks was quite pleasant. We pasted through Dak To, which turned out to be a fair size village. I always thought that little village outside of the gate was Dak To. All along the road, we would past by little kids standing out in front of their homes and they all had their little hands out for food and candy. We set up our hooches and dug two bunkers.

 

25 August 67

All we accomplished today was the digging of a deep sump and putting three layers of sandbags around both tents for added protection.

 

30 August 67

This morning we pulled MEDCAP at the village church school. The school and church is ran by four Nuns and a Priest. The Nuns are refugees from Hanoi, and the priest is French. Todayís sick call consisted of the young and old. One little girl had a large carbuncle on her neck, in which we made an I&D. One young child was thought to have malaria and we treated it with dapsone and quinine. I gave penicillin shots to a few of the babies and one pregnant woman.

After medcap, the Priest and Sisters invited us in for some beer. Before we left, they asked us if we would like to have lunch tomorrow afternoon. I noticed one little boy had on a Batman shirt. Along with our medcap unit, we have an interpreter, Willie Coy, and 5 to 6 recon men who provide security.

In the afternoon, Doc, Joe Mescan, Willie, myself, and the recon men went to another village which is to our East. As we entered the village, many of the Montagnards were standing in a large group. Evidently, today was "care package" day. They were dividing up the several large bundles of clothes and rice. After the Dr and Willie talked to the Priest, we drove down a narrow trail which led to most of the houses and thatch roof huts.

The Dr and Willie took off in one direction to speak to the village chief and the recon team went another way. A few meters away, I noticed a Montagnard man working on his porch, so I walked down there to observe. An older lady came out and sat down, and then a younger girl brought me out a small stool so I could also be seated; however, I remained standing. After I gave them each a tropical candy bar, I left, rounded the corner, and started down the trail only to be met by an old lady who was crying and screaming. I didnít know what was wrong, but a few of the villagers began laughing at her, so I continued down the trail where I found the recon men standing around watching the people trying on their "new" clothes. I guest our presence there disturbed the old lady, but I found out later that she was like that all of the time.

Those people were really going to town with the bundle of clothes. It was actually funny watching them dress themselves in old American clothing. Some didnít even know how to wear certain articles of clothing, and others were dressing in this hot climate in Winter clothes. One Montagnard had on what appeared to be womenís Winter parka. When the women go around bare chested, you know that it isnít very cold. I noticed another Montagnard putting on a pair of drawers or shorts on over his long legged pants, and then putting another pair of pants over those. Another old man was wearing a bonnet and beside him was a guy with a belt around his neck. He must have thought that it was a fancy necklace.

After a long wait, Willie and the Dr returned from a party, of all things. But now we couldnít find the recon team. Willie and I looked for them without any luck, and them all of us began a search. They too were found at someoneís hut drinking rice wine.

A Nun met us at the front gate of her small hospital. She had a little boy there who suffered from some type of disease which she had been treating. She wanted the Dr to examine him. I was amazed how clean her aid station was and couldnít believe that she had so many meds, a microscope, and several other things that we donít even have. It is about like watching a jungle movie on TV. Here we were in a village of bamboo huts occupied by a mountain tribe that has a village chief. As in most movies of this type, there are missionaries. The missionaries here are a French Priest, a French Nun, and a Vietnamese Sister who spoke Vietnamese, Montagnard, Spanish and French.

The Dr made a needle puncture in the boyís stomach and withdrew 500 ccís of acetic fluid. The Nun told us a story about man and his children being captured by the VC. It was time to leave. We bid them good-bye and got on our way.

 

31 August 67

Last night before we fell asleep, the three of us were lying down and talking. Bob, feeling something under his air mattress, grabbed the object and gave a tug. After he realized what he was pulling on, he let out with a surprised yell. What he was pulling on was the pin of a hand grenade, which he actually straightened out.

Another medcap this morning. Not too many patients..............it was raining and many of the people didnít know that we would be back. During the sick call, a French Priest from Dak To came in and told us that the Priest in the other village was sick. The Dr said that he would go, but the Sisters and the other Priest insisted that we come in to eat dinner. About ten of us had dinner...........the Dr, Bob, Willie, two Priest, and the recon guards. We started on a bowl of Chinese soup, red pepper, lime slices, French bread, and cold beer ( BeirLarue). After the soup, the group, (Marie Ellen, Helen, and Joseph) brought French fries, a salad, some type of Vietnamese food similar to egg rolls, and more beer.

After we finished most of the meal, we were served water buffalo meat and more beer!!!!!!!!!! All the time that we were eating, the Sisters kept filling up our glasses and brought more plates of French and Vietnamese food.

Then it was time for dessert. We were served cold pudding and very tasty donuts. The Sister said that the donuts were of a North Vietnamese type. The Dr got a call over the radio and went out to answer it. The base commander wanted him back so that he could check on a few guys up in the hills. Can you imagine what the Priest thought of us after feeding us like that and not having time to attend the needs of the sick Priest? I guess the Priest decided to take his friend to Kontum by auto. This Priest was a nut! All he wore was a black robe (silk) and white drawers.

Got paid this afternoon. I am going to have Lt. Inuzu pick me up a Canon Demi EE 17 camera at Bien Hoa.

 

1 September 67

Today on medcap, an infant was found to have pneumonia, so the Dr called for a dustoff, but they refused us a ship at that time. After returning from medcap, the Dr was granted a dustoff, so we went back up there and brought the chopper down for a landing in the village yard. The Nun came out at the same time and told us that the child had died.

 

 

2 September 67

Left HHC and moved to Recon Platoon. Sure hated to leave HHC section, but maybe I can get adjusted over here. Most of Reconís work up here is "palace guard".

Just returned from taking a CIDG over to the officer in charge. Possible malaria......chills, temp of 102.4, congested chest. This officer was telling me about a little trial they were having for 2-3 of these CIDG personnel, who got caught smoking papa oscar trangle. Then they got to fighting and one shot the other one through the shirt and this guy in return threw a grenade at the other one. Fortunately, it was a dud.

I guess we will be moving out on the 4th for Dak Seang.

 

3 September 67

I have been in county for three months today. The 4th Battís mess hall closed down today and threw away a lot of food stuff, so the CIDG picked up the can food and other things and took it to their hooches. I was trying to tell them which was "number 1" and what was "number 10". He opened up a can of pressurized pancake batter and it sprayed all over. I donít know what they thought it was, but all the CIDGs scattered.

 

4 September 67

This morning we tore down our hooches and bunkers and packed for our trip to Dak Seang, which I made by chinook. Before we left, a Montagnard CIDG got into a fight with a couple of Vietnamese civilians. At one point, the Vietnamese was getting the best of the soldier, so a few other CIDGís locked and loaded their weapons and came pretty close to shooting the Vietnamese.

 

9 September 67

Today I went on a 10 man patrol to the South and East of our position. On one hill we found two large vases. Donít know how long they have been there, but there are no villages or hamlets around this position. We crossed one stream which was waste deep and again when we crossed it, one of the guys lost his weapon and steel pot. A search of the swift stream turned up the weapon, but no helmet. Before we crossed that stream, we were going down a steep hill with banana trees at the bottom. For lunch I had one partially ripe banana. Received my new camera today.

 

10 September 67

Enemy snipers fired upon a chopper yesterday, so today two squads went out on a search and destroy mission. Patrol returned this evening with a negative Sit Rep.

 

11 September 67

This morning I went on a small patrol which lasted four hours. Most of the patrolling was being conducted in elephant grass, very hard to see in front of yourself. We also encountered some swampy areas and timber.

 

12 September 67

Left fire support base at 1030 hours this morning for a heliborne assault in the hills. The gun ships hit the LZ with rockets and the first four ships opened up with their M-60ís. A good patrol today, but sit rep was negative. The gun ships again hit the area with suppressive fire and we were extracted from the same LZ around 1700 hours.

We were scheduled to make two more assaults in hueys, but they have been canceled. Now, we are to return to Dak To on the fifteenth. Lt Walter is really a swinging platoon leader.............just like one of the boys. Tonight I got my new camouflage poncho liner and also found out the other day that I was put in for SP/5. Sure could use the extra money.

Last night when I was on radio guard (2000 - 2230) a short round from a 81mm landed a few meters from my hooch. I just felt like something was going to happen when I got into my hooch. Maybe I was just a little tensed up thinking about the assault, but that short round didnít help much. I heard it whiz out of the tube and heard someone yell "short round". The guys on perimeter made it into the bunkers, but I just got as close to my sand bags as possible and prayed to God that it wouldnít explode.

 

15 September 67

Extracted from FSB near Dak Seang by hueys and flew back to Dak To. I didnít get any good pictures because it was rainy and cloudy. I understand that we will leave Dak To and fly to Tuy Hoa on the 18th.

 

16 September 67

Had a few warm beers this evening and talked about stateside events with Utley. Sgt Guzman got blowed away on beer tonight, so I gave him a few ASAís and compazine. Everyone else has been drinking or blowing Papa Oscar Tangle.

 

17 September 67

We found out for sure that we would be leaving Dak To tomorrow. Today my camera got messed up, so I sent it to the service department in Tokyo. The C130ís have been flying in and out all day long. I saw Bobby Hall down at the runway. He told me about Dirler, Shepard, and Doring getting killed. We had some more beer this evening and again Sgt Guzman paid me a 2400 hour visit. Everyone was getting blasted tonight, but old Utley and I talked about high school days and other things about the "World".

 

18 September 67

We were awaken at 0400 this morning, packed and moved out for the runway where we loaded aboard and flew here to this village. This operation is suppose to be a big secret. All 173d patches removed or taped over. Cowboy choppers taped over their symbols, vehicles covered their bumper numbers and unit, and radio silence tonight is mandatory.

We are located twenty-seven clicks West of Tuy Hoa and thirteen clicks North. One mile is equaled to 1750 meters. We are now positioned at the East end of the runway in battalion size units. Tomorrow we will make a heliborne assault on top of a hill and set up a FSB. 250 pound bombs will be dropped on the LZ before we assault.

 

19 September 67

This morning we packed up and got prepared for the heliborne assault, which turned out to be one of the largest operations I have been involved in so far. The 1st Bat., 4th Bat., Brigade HHC, 319 artillery, and E-17 Cav will all participate in this assault. As we waited on the airstrip, the slicks began to arrive. Recon would lead the assault and secure the LZ. Ten choppers landed on the airstrip and all of the Recon element loaded aboard. As we sat in the choppers, which remained on the strip, more slicks flew in and landed on the runway.

After lift off, the choppers made a half circle above the village and headed for the assault area. Another group of slicks followed and still another followed them. The mountains were very beautiful as seen from the air. As we moved along at a very fast rate of speed, we passed a group of hueys headed in the opposite direction to pick up more troops who waited back on the airstrip. Outside the door to our flank were three choppers. After several minutes of flying in a Southerly direction, the staggered group of hueys changed course and approached the East. As I sat in the door, I could see 25 to 30 hueys still following to our rear.

Again we made a half circle for our approach to the LZ. Looking out of the door towards the East, I could see the coast of the Red China Sea. We began to descend on the LZ, a large hill covered with grass. There were no trees or bushes. The three gun ships that flew under us began firing their load of rockets and opened up with machine gun fire. Smoke bellowed up from the hill where the rockets made contact and the machine guns sounded off with a powerful reverberating sound.

As our choppers made their final descent and hovered above the grassy LZ, men leaped from the doors and secured the area on their respective side. Seconds later the line companies began pouring out of the ships which followed one after another in succession. As Recon continued to provide security, the line companies moved out along the finger of the mountain. To the South, a bird dog circled another mountain and dropped a marking round. Soon, an air strike began and the jets and sky raiders vigorously unloaded their explosive devises on the mountain below.

The chinooks began bringing in the 4.2 mortars, artillery, and more troops. Now the sky was darkened with more slicks as they approached the secured LZ. Sixty hueys in groups of 10 and 20 made their final approach and then departed from the assaulted mountain top.

The soil is very rocky and made it hard for us to dig bunkers, but using picks and D handle shovels, we slowly dug in. For chow, we had hot Aís and ice tea. This has been one of the hottest days that we have experienced over here. In the distances, we could see the rain sweeping across the valley and heading our way. On the other side of the mountain, we can see the ocean.

Tonight, two ambushes from Alpha Company made contact with each other and each mistook the other for the enemy. One man was wounded by hand grenade fragments.

 

23 September 67

The third squad went on patrol today. Found only old hooches which they burned. Upon returning to the hill top perimeter, one man fell and injured his leg on the rocks. Myself and five other men went down to assist the patrol. I gave the injured soldier 1/4 gr of morphine while Woods applied a splint. We then carried him up to the perimeter.

 

24 September 67

We were extracted today by hueys and flew to another fire support base. Today, A Co made enemy contact in a base camp, killing one NVA. The others fled on a trail. Tonight, an ambush was set up in this base camp and again they made contact when the enemy tried to return.

 

29 September 67

Made an assault today by slicks and joined up with the 17th Cav. Recon and the Cav will set up a blocking force while the other battalions push a NVA regiment.

 

1 October 67

While we are set up, ambushes and patrols will be going out both day and night. Last minute change of plan.........this afternoon we moved out at 1300 hours and moved four thousand meters to link up with A Company. Since we were on a worn jungle trail in open terrain (rice paddies), we moved along swiftly. Crossing the river was refreshing, since it was quite warm today. We reached our destination and got paid and began to set up once again. While setting up, two rounds from friendly artillery hit around us. This sent everyone into the prone position. Hearing a round such as that can be the most terrifying moment in a soldierís life over here.

 

2 October 67

This morning, recon got up a 0500 hrs and moved out at 0600 for the rice paddy located at the bottom of the hill. The paddies were full of water from the all night rains. Before we reached the paddy, we had another river crossing to make. The water came up to most of our chests. At 0600 the gun ship and ten slicks approached the paddy LZ and landed for our boarding.

It was a cold, windy ride to our heliborne assault area. Upon approaching the flat land LZ, the gun ship struck and as the skids went in, the door gunners cut loose with ear splitting burst from their M60 machine guns. Every inch of ground was torn up as the bullets riddled downward. After Recon secured the LZ, TOC and artillery began to move in by chinooks.

It was quite chilly in the drizzling rain, so Johnson, Twink, and I each made a cup of coffee. We saw coconut and banana trees in the distance. Lt. Serrem wanted to check them out, so he, myself, and Twink went on our own three man patrol. The coconuts were still green, but I did manage to get some milk out of a few of them. As Lt. Serrem checked out the banana trees, Twink kept his eyes fixed on the ground hoping to find pot growing. Close to the perimeter was a hooch with several children and three adults inside. The man appeared quite frightened as I peered inside, but I didnít enter for safety reasons. The cry from a baby was that of an infant only one week old. Laying in a clearing near some bushes was a dead cow which was shot during the initial attack of the area.

I suggested to the Lt that we should check out the people for possible casualties. We formed up a patrol and entered the hooch. Fortunately, no one was injured. It was a wonder, since M60 rounds hit all around the area. The more we searched, the more we found. Most of the hooches had tunnels and caves. Pineapple, potatoes, and peppers grew outside near the different hooches. At one location, we found six parrots in cages and other items inside the shack. This afternoon, that family was taken in for questioning as VC suspects. The hooches and crops will be destroyed and burned. A few of the guys caught and killed a pig and are preparing it for dinner.

 

4 October 67

Today, one of our patrols found some more hooches, women and children. No males were around. Two of the Recon members brought the people back to our log stat. There were fifteen in all. One little boy had a fever of 103.6 and the chills. As I took his temperature, he just talked and talked to me. One of the women had received wounds which she claimed resulted from helicopter firing rounds. I removed all of the old dressings and put fresh ones back on after cleaning the wounds. Her little finger on the right hand was missing and bone fragments could be seen.

All of these people were extracted this afternoon and their hooches will be destroyed. Most likely, their husbands are VCís.

 

6 October 67

Left FSB this morning by hueys and flew back to the FSB where we were prior to our last operation. A Co is around the perimeter, so Recon wonít have to worry about palace guard this evening.

 

8 October 67

Alpha Company moved out this morning and Recon took over the perimeter.

 

10 October 67

A Company made contact yesterday and again last night. During their ambush, they killed four gooks and suffered 2 -3 wounded GIs. Today, Recon joined A Co at their logger site. After our arrival, two of our squads made a patrol around the area. Two squads abreast until we got into thick vegetation. Four bodies were laying on the well worn trail. They were victims of the ambush last night. Farther down the trail we came upon another body. Lt Serrem wanted to examine the body, so I slid my rope under the left ankle and stretched the rope out to its entire length. The rest of the squad moved down the trail before I dragged the body from the spot where it lay. I gave a strong pull on the rope and ran behind a tree to wait for any explosion that might occur from a booby trap.

After waiting a minute, I grabbed the rope and pulled at the body again. This time I moved it further upon the trail. Checking the trail, I found a first aid dressing, one AK47 round and some white powder. Beside the body was an AK47, web gear and four Chicom grenades. We then booby trapped the body with a hand grenade before we continued down the trail. An hour or so later, we passed by the body again and noticed red ants going to work.

 

11 October 67

Last night I went on an ambush with our CP and two other squads. Set Rep remained negative throughout the night. it was very uncomfortable trying to sit in one spot for twelve hours. Today we will be extracted and join the rest of the battalion back in Tuy Hoa.

Arrived here by hueys. The ground below ...............rice paddies and canals.........was a very beautiful sight from the air. The battalion will all set up on one area (orderly fashion no less). I set up with Ken Buys, who is from Los Angeles, California.

 

12 October 67

Spent most of the day swimming in the Red China Sea. We really enjoyed ourselves on the beach. This afternoon, I bought a watch at the PX. Recon will no longer exist. As of today, it will be Delta Company. We will be getting guys in from other companies to organize the new Delta Company.

 

13 October 67

Left Tuy Hoa this morning by Chinook and flew to some Special Forces camp and then loaded up in hueys and made a heliborne assault with recon by fire. Artillery and mortars will soon be in. Delta Company will be utilized as perimeter guard.

 

 20 October 67

Left FSB this morning by chinook and flew to yet another one which A Company secured yesterday morning. After A Company secured FSB Gander, a patrol went out and got one VC (KIA) and wounded another who escaped. Much rice, however, was recovered. Bananas, potatoes, rice and corn grow in this region, so Charlie has plenty of food around.

This morning, C Co captured one VC, who was brought here and was kept under guard until taken to Tuy Hoa by chopper. The suspect was really scared. Every time a 105 went off, he trembled. I felt kind of sorry for the poor guy. Other GIís were tormenting him relentlessly. I went through his bag and found these items: American canteen and pistol belt; bag of rice; bottle with some type of liquid inside; cooking pot with bananas inside; mosquito repellent (GI); ground cloth; tobacco and paper; and a few other items. When taken away, a sandbag was place over his head.

 

25 October 67

1st platoon went on patrol today and also planned a night ambush, but our daylight activities changed plans for the evening ambush. Our first find of the day was four old graves. Later, we got on a trail which lead us into an open field where we found a well. Lt Serrem blew up the well with two grenades. 100 meters North of the well we found a thatch roof hooch, cooking hut, animal pen, pigs and chickens, a bunker, ripe bananas, fish trap, and other things that gave away Charlieís position. Everything was burned to the ground before leaving the area.

This afternoon, we found a small base camp with another well. Everyone was just relaxing in the area and the Lt was getting ready to throw a grenade in the well when a NVA or a VC opened up on us with an AK47. Immediately, we returned M16, M60, and M79 fire. We then swept the area, but no Charlie could be found. We set out again on a trail with fresh tracks, This trail lead us to a cache of salt which was in a small hut concealed in the thickets. The trail leading up to the hut was booby trapped with a carbine hidden inside the hooch. The enemy also set punji stakes around the salt cache and dug a few punji pits.

 

26 October 67

Today, we filled 99 sandbags of salt and they were extracted by a huey. A Company got hit this afternoon...........four wounded. C Company caught one VC today. This evening, as "Mikes" ambush made their way to the ambush sight, they spotted two gooks. They fired on the gooks, but did not get either one.

 

28 October 67

Mike Koob, from Eagle Grove, Iowa and myself were throwing a bayonet around. He grabbed at the bayonet and it made a puncture wound between his fingers. I cleaned it with peroxide, injected with lidocaine, and put in two stitches.

 

Date unknown

Captured a Chu Hoa.....went through hooch....set up for night ....moved out next morning.....ambushes and so on....crossed river....Buddha temple.....water run to river canal....fire in temple.......173d on walls......hooches in temple

 

5 November 67

Left next morning and went through marsh in water waist deep and extracted by slick to Tuy Hoa airfield. Going back to that dreaded Dak To. Got sandwich and ice cream...caught C130 to Kontum and camped for night and bought gook goodies. Left this morning by chinook to Dak To.........got lost and skidded down hill.

 

6 November 67

Puff firing at night. 4th Bat made contact.............17 KIA and 36 WIA.

 

7 November 67

Moved out about four time today. Set up by FSB.

 

8 November 67

Left for other FSB near trail and got lost again. Extracted by slick from FSB and went to hill where 4th Bat was and where C Co is now. "?" got killed and about 50 gooks buried in bomb crater. This area really looks beaten. Tonight when supply chopper began coming in, we got mortared three to four times.....................5 men wounded..................Puff all night long................50 dead gooks in bomb crater.

 

9 November 67

Got mail with shrapnel in it. Got mortared tonight...............Puff at work and butterfly bombs.....B52ís strike early this morning.

 

10 November 67

D Company moved out with C Company and ????.......1st Platoon of D Co stayed back until Alpha called us, which was this afternoon. FSB was being cleared of bamboo by bangolor torpedoes. Doran got a piece of shrapnel in his leg. I removed the shrapnel. Donnally received a piece in his head. After linking up with A Company, we moved about one thousand meters and set up for the night. 1st squad had ambush on this night.

 

11 November 67

"Mike" element of A Company moved out this morning and went into a NVA base camp. Point man opened up and shot 3 to 4 gooks and then the element began to pull back to our logger sight. Mean while, security was set up and we began digging up old bunkers and putting overhead back on. 4.2 mortar and our 81mm began firing, followed by artillery.

After we finished with our bunkers, air strikes came in. We marked our perimeter with smoke grenades. Two men received fragment wounds from the artillery, but were not hurt seriously. The initial contact was made around 0830 and the last of the air strikes were over at noon. "Mike" element formed back up and headed back to the base camp to check it out. 4.2 mortar was still being called in and one round fell short and hit the machine gunner. He died moments later and his body was brought back to our log site. What had happened, the NVAís made their escape after the first contact and they were probably the same ones who ran into C and D Company because they made contact during our air strike. Checking out the base camp, we found bunkers about 6 -7 feet deep with tunnels leading back into the ground. It would be almost impossible for an air strike or artillery to drive them out, but they ran before it came in. We set up in base camp and dusted off the two wounded and one dead soldier. One air strike was very near.........jets coming in over our head. Last night Spooky was called in. Air strikes all around.

 

12 November 67

Our report on C and D Company.................E-17 and C Company of the 4th Batt went in to assist..........total killed: 36 and 150 WIA. This morning we are pushing up this ridge line toward them. The NVAís are suppose to be between us. Found base camp of 200 bunkers......about 3- 4 men position..............contact made today with NVAís in bunkers.

Over the radio, came a call for a medic, so I went up front and found Sgt Mescan working on a soldier who was shot through the leg.......Then Vasques received grenade shrapnel on the left side under the ribs. We got him back to the rear area and then we carried the other soldier back on a poncho. While we were reinforcing the bandages, another one of our guys got shot in the head. Left the other wounded man and went up to help this soldier.........We gave him 2 bottles of albumin and while doing this, the bullets were flying low and over our heads......... Then an air strike was called in........the 3 wounded were later dusted off after the air strike........... Firefight over with , and we are now moving out. Dead NVAís all along the trail. Getting into battle area of C and D Company.............. .....charred area..........steel pots, bloody bandages, ammo, battered weapons, men carrying fallen comrades off in body bags. The wounded are still being extracted from yesterdayís battle.

 

13 November 67

Six bodies missing. Searched area, but no finds. All kind of gook weapons and equipment laying around. Every where you look.........a grave or a unburied body.

 

14 November 67

Continued body search today. One body found of D Company member.

 

15 November 67

A and D Company moved out today to a hill which is only a few 100 meters away..........Contact made with enemy on next hill.............air strike called in.

 

16 November 67

Moved out to check out the hill. Our find...............many connecting trenches and bunkers. Dud Chicom grenades, sniper position in trees with ladder leading up to them. Utley found a 51 Cal machine gun. Reporters are flown in.

 

17 November 67

Moved out with "Lema" as point element. Set up in a deserted NVA base camp with connecting bunkers and trenches. I found belt buckle with star. Newspaper woman joined us. Hot chow and church services.............bombed tunnel that Channell checked out.

 

18 November 67

Moved out after destroying bunkers. Contact made on Hill 882.............heavy contact!

 

19 November 67

Bad, very Bad! 6 of our men were killed and several WIAís . 2 newspaper (CBS) men injured. Wounded extracted late last night. Snipers in trees while we were digging bunkers and air strike very close to our position. Sgt Torres killed when standing by tree. Dyer, a medic was killed. Gook bodies all over the place. Many weapons and ammo captured. Bodies in graves that we dig up. Point man killed today when grenade exploded. Medical aid kit (gook) found.

 

20 November 67

Set up.

 

21 November 67

Movement last night.........gook spotted through starlight and artillery brought in close. The 2nd and 4th trying to take Hill 875.

 

22 November 67

Moved out with "Lema" as lead platoon................2 KIAs and 1 POW. The lead platoon saw two gooks in the jungle and fired upon them. One took off and the other just sat on a log holding his head as he rocked back and forth. Ken Buys and I took off and chased after the escaped gook. We found him lying in a stream and Kenny pulled out a knife and tried to stab him in the neck. I stopped him from killing the gook. We opened up his eyelid and put the knife up close to his eye, but he never reacted. He had a head wound, but it did not appear to be that serious. I picked the gook up and threw him over my shoulder and we started back to the area where the others were. Just as I approached with the wounded gook, someone called out for me to drop him. Whoever it was said that the gook had his hand on one of my hand grenades. The other wounded gook remained on the log, but no one wanted to approach for fear that he had a hand grenade. Lt Serrem asked if I wanted to attend to the wounded NVA. I declined, so the Lt asked for two volunteers to finish him off, which they did. No grenade. We recovered a field telephone and a pistol. We are going up hill with artillery coming in on our flanks. Reached top and bunkers found. For some reason, we are returning to hill 882. Made contact and 1 of our men KIA. 2nd and 4th Batt in heavy contact on Hill 875.

 

23 November 67

Humped back to FSB #16 for Thanksgiving dinner.

 

24 November 67

Very good dinner, in spite of the fact that I had been helping unload dead soldiers in body bags from the choppers when they were brought in from Hill 875. Returned to Hill 882......one gook KIA when we caught him searching through our sump.

 

29 November 67

Followed trail out of jungle and hills which lead to old road. Set up for the night and got hot chow and mail.

 

30 November 67

Extracted today by hueys and went to FSB #13.

 

2 December 67

Went into aid station for ear trouble.

 

4 December 67

Returned to FSB

 

5 December 67

2nd squad of Lema went on road clearing and found 16 mines. Coming back to FSB, truck carrying all of the troops hit a mine.......2 men WIA.

 

6 December 67

Went on mine sweeping operation today with engineers. Montagnards told us that VC were around their village.

 

15 December 67

Extracted by Huey and flew to Hill 1040 where we cleared for FSB. Many thousand pounds of C4 used to clear the hill

 

25 December 67

Christmas Dinner

 

27 December 67

Left logger sight by huey and flew back to Dak To. From here, we convoyed back to Kontum.

 

28 December 67

Stayed all night and flew to FSB by chinook and companies moved out.

 

29 December 67

Set up

 

31 December 67

Set up for New Years Eve.

 

1 January 68

 

2 January 68

Humped ......D Company.........when FSB will be set up.

 

7 January

Flew to Kontum by Huey

 

9 January

Bridge guard at Kontum. Swam in river.

 

10 January

Lights out last night????

THE CACHE January 68

        Went out on ambush with Lt. Serremís platoon. Claymores and trip flares set up and LPs sent down the trail. We spent the night in silence and darkness, and, lack of activity prevailed. We didnít score, but heard the next morning that Bravo was successful and killed a few gooks in their ambush.

        The next day we patrolled and came upon an old slate roof building with a two wheeled hand cart setting next to the front door. Heavy vegetation had all but concealed the cart and part of the building. There was nothing here to indicate that the place was being used by the VC. Snooping around, I found a China tea cup and Utley found a Chinese "calculator".

        We moved out again and finally found something of more interest..................a cornfield. Not only did this look suspicious, but very much out of place. Nearby, a layer of dried vegetation on the ground gave up a cache of eating utensils, pots, punji stakes, clothes, water buckets, and rice. Bat commander found it so intriguing that he actually paid us a visit in his OH chopper. What wasnít taken as souvenirs, was destroyed by burning with plastic C-4 and the cornfield would be sprayed with a herbicide according the the Battalion commander

R&R IN HAWAII January 68

        I left my unit aboard a chinook and made my way back to Cam Ranh Bay. The next morning I bumped into a stateside friend who I always admired, Jessie Partida. We were medics in the 82nd at Ft Bragg and both received orders for duty in Viet Nam the same month; he going to the 101st Airborne and I to the 173rd. Jessie is a soft spoken Texan from Austin and married his high school sweetheart, Ruth, prior his departure. My story is about the same, however, my wife and I were married two years ago and lived off post in Fayetteville, North Carolina in a small three room converted garage. Funny, that thing called love. But, we were happy there and Jessie would visit us once a week and always call Ruth, who was back in Austin. My wife and I talked to Ruth on numerous occasions and finally had the opportunity to meet her. This was a complete surprise for my wife, Georgia, since she has no idea that Jessie and Ruth would be in Hawaii. After leaving Ft. Bragg, my wife moved back home to Iowa and now lives with her folks.

        I remember enroute to Hawaii, the plane stopped in Guam and we were afforded the opportunity to use the post exchange. Now, I donít drink any hard stuff, but Jessie talked me into buying a bottle of gin. He guaranteed me that this liquid aphrodisiac would keep you hard as a rock all night long. Hey, what do I know. We each bought a bottle and I guarded it with my life all the way to Honolulu.

        At Ft. Derussy we were ordered to place our duffle bags and all of our personal items on the floor and take seats up front in the reception center. For the next 45 minutes, we listened as the NCO lectured us about staying out of trouble and where to find sin in Honolulu.......................something like that. We were dismissed and by the time I got to my luggage, that little bottle of gin had been stolen. Well, we arrived at the hotel and met up with our wives, who, by chance, had already gotten acquainted. We had a wonderful time in Oahu and a very painful, emotional parting of company. By the way, I didnít need the gin after all. Never did ask Jessie if he finished his bottle.

MONTAGNARD BOYS January 68

        From Cam Ranh, I caught a caribou and flew back to an air strip near Plei Merong. The ride was rough and I got air sick for the first time. For some reason, I still had on my white tee shirt and when the plane landed, I gathered up twelve little kids near the runway and threw the shirt in their direction. After the dust cleared, one little guy took possession and proudly wore the shirt. It was an ideal moment to capture on film. My slick came in and two of us got aboard and headed back to join up with Delta Company. Jones, the other soldier, was just returning from his R&R.

THE LONE GUNMAN Jan 68

        My company is now operating in an area called Plei Merong. During my R&R in Hawaii, both Charlie and Delta Companies made enemy contact and both units lost men. We continue to hump every day and dig in every night. One day as we humped the flats, we notice very tall coconut trees in the distance. Our units fanned out and moved in with a great deal of caution and found two thatch roof huts deeply concealed in the underbrush. No mistake, this is not Montagnard quarters. We also found stocks of fresh bananas and a bamboo fish trap. The straw is set on fire and quickly burn to the ground. We exit the dense cover and move single file along the trail. Suddenly, an AK-47 opens up and we moved into a defensive position. I remember seeing an AK-47 round coming in over our heads. It was like everything was in slow motion at that instant. The round must have deflected off a hard surface and fluttered through the air over our position. As quickly as it started, the firefight ended. Apparently, only one soldier was on the receiving end of our massive firepower. Possibly this was the owner of the house we just burned and he got a tad upset with us.

THE HOG ROAST Jan 68

        As we entered the Montagnard village, it was obvious that they had taken some shelling . Large clumps of bamboo were ripped and splintered, and the first hooch we saw in the clearing was partially collapsed. From the onset, we had no reason to suspect that these people were harboring VC, but we had to search all of the long houses for weapons and detain any abled body young male adults who might be hiding out. The family houses have thatched roofs, rafters, and wooden floors. Many personal items hang from the trusses.

        I watched as Noel Lott precariously probed the rafters with his M-16 and checked darken corners inside the hooch. The moment was too overwhelming as sunlight broke through the window opening. I pulled the small camera from my fatigue pocket and captured the moment on film.

        The people are friendly in spite of our personal invasion and even offer us food and rice wine. Out in the center courtyard, several Montgnard men are roasting a complete hog over an open flame. The animal has not been skinned nor gutted. The last hut I passed was made from clay and as I peered through an open window, I was taken back somewhat. Laying on a round weaved basket was one barbequed dog, very burnt and rigid. Another moment to capture on film.

DONíT DRINK THE WATER Jan 68

        Nothing found in this village, so we start down a steep trail leading to a stream at the bottom of the hill. Here, the Montagnard women were gathering water and washing clothes. We fill our canteens and I remind everyone to use halazone tablets and not drink the water until the tablets take effect. Unfortunately, I didnít heed my own advise and got sick with vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain/distention and terrible, terrible pus and mucus stools. I didnít eat for several days and began loosing weight. A couple other guys shared the same misery, but we stayed in the field and eventually got over this intestinal rot.

COMPLACENCY ALONG THE TRAIL Jan 68

        January was nice and easy on our unit for the most part. A few scattered firefights of short duration, occasional early morning mortar attacks, and easy humping on flat terrain. The guys got relaxed and it showed, but no one called attention to the situation. One particular day we were in a double column and the formation stopped for a short break along the wide trail. Just about everyone nearby was kicked back and laying down. Then we heard voices..................Vietnamese voices. Then we heard other soldiers yelling and everyone grabbed their weapon and jumped to their feet. Two VC soldiers with weapons walked half way down the column and were trying to give up. With AKs held high over their heads, they kept yelling Chu-Hoa, Chu-Hoa, but no one would pay any attention. They had their little yellow pamplets and surrendered. We treated them like royalty. I canít imagine the damaged they could have inflicted on us had they changed their mind.

TET OFFENSIVE 1968

        The much smaller size Delta Company is now located at the battalion base camp. Bunkers are dug, several tents are set up, and the entire area is protected with several hundred feet of barbed wire. Battalion vehicles, including 3/4 ton trucks, mules, and 2 1/2 ton trucks are parked near our position. In the distance, we can see several helicopters stationed on the pads. This is Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, and we are dressed down for the occasion and enjoying the hot meals and somewhat better duty assignment.

        Sometime after midnight we were awaken to the sounds of explosions, unlike that of incoming mortar rounds. Then, a rapid succession of small arms fire, the distinct sound of AK47s right in front of our perimeter. Soldiers were out of the sack and taking up defensive positions side by side with those who were already on guard duty. Even at that time of the morning, we could tell that the helicopters across the field from us had been a prime target.  

         But something was wrong here. Even in the haste of defending our perimeter, we noticed too much damage already inflicted on our side of the wire and it didnít come from the sky.   The fire fight continued back and forth through the wire. The ever present sound of the M16s and M60s was overpowering and intense; so much, that no return fire could be heard, only seen.

        Then it got quiet. An APC equipped with a spotlight was sent out beyond the perimeter. The battle zone was illuminated for just a moment when suddenly, one rifle shot and the spot light was out. There was no more exchange of gun fire after that, so we waited and we stayed on the line until dawn.

        Before daylight, one civilian Vietnamese who worked in the mess tent was taken prisoner, beaten and tied up, and declared to be a VC. The GI cook was found dead from a gunshot wound, our only causality. At dawn, we found bodies of gooks, plus weapons, grenades, and ammo in a trench just on the other side of our perimeter. We were lucky, especially the Battalion Commander, who was away from this location. His tent had been blown apart from a satchel charge, as were most of the vehicles that were parked in this area. The explosions we heard ripped through the engine compartments of the jeeps and larger trucks. As expected, the hueys also took a beating from enemy rockets and mortars. Direct hits from the sky. Too many civilians on this base. Everyone is speculating.....................................

        This was Tet of 1968. It didnít take Battalion long to order foot patrols and our company left the compound in search of any enemy lingering in the area. All we found was an entrenchment site dug into the bright, red clay soil. Apparently, they launched rockets and mortars from here last night. There will be no truce..........................back to daily operations in the field.

PLEI MERONG January 68

        On the morning of the 31st, I was with Lt. Serremís platoon reconning the area around the rice paddies. The terrain was wide open and full of paddies that were separated by individual dikes. Off to the North was a small stream that was dominated by a brilliant red clay embankment. This higher ground was much denser and offered good concealment.

        We began crossing the rice paddy in single file along the dike and things didnít feel right. Comments were made back and forth about our exposure and no place to take cover if we got hit. Felt like easy picking. Finally, with a sense of relief, we made it to the narrow stream, crossed over, and the point man led us into the canopy upon higher ground. At least it felt safer here than on the dike.

        Abruptly, the infamous AK-47s open up on us and all hell breaks loose. We returned fire and I hear the sweet sound of our M-60. It was short lived however, because the next sound we heard was that of the rockets crashing in on our position. Support fire is called in. Serrem and Madrid are both hit. Lt. Serrem is dead and I make my way up to help Madrid. He too has suffered fatal wounds and canít be helped. Bray and Handley have now been hit, but Iím trapped in position. I donít hear the AKs any more, only the notorious sounds of the rockets and what I think might be friendly fire. The men push forward and I pull back. Huntsman gets hit.

        Then it stops..............................all is quiet and the gooks pull out leaving behind back packs full of gear and Russian made rockets and tripods. Both Vieira and Tucci have received frag wounds from artillery fire. We find three enemy bodies and traces of blood, and more ammo and gear. The wounded are extracted and the rest of the company arrives. Womer and I find a couple of discarded American D size batteries which apparently were used to ignite the rockets. Always quick with my camera, the image is saved on film. Looking around, I notice our OD colored fatigues have taken on a dirty clay red appearance. For some odd reason, this strikes me in a humorous manner after such a tragic event. Again, the imaged is duplicated on film.

        Iím hurting inside..........................Ernie Madrid was due to DEROS in two weeks and he entertained us with visions of what it would be like back in the states. He told us how excited his family was knowing that he would be coming home soon. He arrived home sooner.............................................

        Lt. Serrem recently got married to his girlfriend in Hawaii.....................................................

Ban Me Thuot February 68

        APCís were called in to establish a perimeter while we waited for chinooks to extract us from the Plei Merong LZ. We were destined for a place called Ban Me Thuot. Peering out the window of the chinook, I noticed what appeared to be a very large Montagnard settlement and smoke created a haze that seem to cover the entire village. We landed at a large airstrip, departed the hooks and regrouped. Southwest of our position, Skyraiders were dropping bombs and two large columns of black, dense smoke could be seen in the distance.

        We left the American compound, which was surrounded with a 10í fence with barbed wire spanning across the top. As we began crossing the road, sniper fire rang out and we took cover in the trees on the South side; no injuries reported. Just then, a friendly tank appears and is heading toward our position. Possibly, this may have been the subject of the sniper fire we thought was directed at us.

        Fire teams were assembled and we began a house to house search for the enemy. I was caught completely off guard by the presence of the Montagnards we found near their make shift bunkers. The young girls appeared to have no fear in the presence of small arm fire and explosions that could be heard in the distance. Yet, the elderly, with expressions of terror on their faces, huddled close to their dug out bunkers. No young adult males were found, only very young boys, old men, and women and girls.

        Iím amazed at what we see next. There is an old man sitting on the porch of his shack and the South Viet Nam flag is proudly displayed. He seemed so indignant as he sat there and did not acknowledge our presence. We continued searching houses, huts, and shacks, but nothing to report after we regrouped.

        Once again we are extracted by slicks and flown to the highlands outside of Ban Me Thuot. From the air, I notice that the blanket of smoky haze still lingers and gives the village an eerie appearance. As we headed for the the landing zone, I got some excellent pictures of the pilots and other hueys flying on our flank. I also had time to collect my thoughts and question our presence in South Viet Nam. What is this crap all about? Iím as gung ho as the next guy, but nothing appears defined here. Am I un-American for having these thoughts...................................no, just tired of seeing my friends killed and mangled, not to mention the destruction to the families and loved ones back home. And these guy I hump with show no fear. Donít they ever get scared? I know I do.

        The LZ is cold and we move out in company strength along a well used trail through the elephant grass. Almost immediately, we come upon a live elephant log chained to a tree. Apparently, the NVA are using this animal to transport heavy equipment. Capt. Needham calls for one of the machine gunners to kill the elephant. Jessie Salacedo unloads and the beast drops dead on the trail.

        We reached our logger site on the high ground, set up a perimeter, dig bunkers and fill sand bags while others cut protective cover. Late that evening, the enemy was probing our site and Ellis received a frag wound from an incoming grenade. Artillery was called in and continued throughout the night. While on radio watch, I noticed the artillery was getting uncomfortably close. So close that I reached for my helmet. The next explosion confirmed my feeling when a piece of shrapnel hit me in the head. That is why God made steel pots and fortunately I had my helmet in place. I didnít even have to wake Capt Needham up, because he was out of the sack when that shell went off. Battalion was called and the shelling stopped upon his request.

        The next morning was crisp, if not downright cold. A couple of fire teams patrolled outside the perimeter and returned with a negative sit rep. We built a fire and opened up our breakfast in a can. Dong, our CIDG interpreter, killed a bird with his sling shot and promptly stuck the whole thing on a stick and roasted it over the fire. The rest of us began laughing so hard that the poor little guy got embarrassed and refused to eat his "breakfast". Dong was a prime example of a military snafu. He spoke not one word of English and none of us spoke Montagnard. Yet, he was assigned to us as our interpreter. Not much help in that department, but he was dependable as a soldier and always carried his own weight.

THE VILLAGE February 68

        After destroying the bunkers, we left our log site and continued following the trail, except now we humped our way through the elephant grass, staying off to one side of the well established path. Eventually, we work our way to open country on the flats without much cover or concealment. We came upon a Montagnard settlement and moved down the road in a double column, each side watching their respective flanking position. Most of the huts were very weathered, but a few of the long houses appeared to have been recently constructed. Around the perimeter of the settlement was a protective fence made from bamboo and sharpen spikes that resembled punji stakes protruded upward and outward.

        We entered the perimeter and found an old Montagnard lady crouching in the doorway of her hut. Capt Needham was trying to get Dong to ask the old woman about VC activity in the area. He kept saying, "VC, VC, ask about VC". Instead, Dong lifted his carbine and aimed it point blank at the old womanís head. She shuddered with fright before we were able to push his rife aside. Like I said, Dong does not understand English.

        We left the settlement and followed the road until it once again turned into a trail. That evening we secured our perimeter and dug in. Shortly, we got orders from Battalion that we would be leaving our log site and going on a night patrol, backtracking along the same path and road which led into the Montagnard village. None of us was very happy about this new adventure.

        After darkness arrived, we geared up and set out in a reverse direction, moving very determined and cautiously in the pitch black night. Sit Rep negative and we returned to our log site early in the morning. This was new to us, and for the first time I heard several of the guys admit how spooky and insecure they felt.........................it was like waiting on an ambush to happen with us on the receiving end. By God, these soldiers are human.

        Platoon size patrols sent out and we returned with the same Sit Rep....................negative. That night, LPs were sent outside the perimeter along the trail and reported seeing three gooks heading for another village near our position . Our 81 mm began dumping rounds in that direction and almost instantly, even in the darken sky, we could see a column of smoke rising from the village. Battalion notified and we moved out early the next morning to investigate. Well, we burned down a Montagnard village last night.

        Upon our arrival, we found all the Montagnards scattered around the village and their worldly possessions, mostly pottery and baskets, heaped into large piles. Noticed a few dead cows and other livestock roaming loose, but could not find any Montagnard causalities. Some of the long houses were damaged and others burned completely to the ground. Smoke lingered in the area like a thick fog. Needless to say, the villagers were not very friendly.

        Shortly, Charlie Company joined up with us and helped search the village. As I continued my search for wounded villagers, I was not aware that my company had moved out. After realizing I had been left behind, Capt Needham got on the radio and called Charlie Companyís CO and requested that they rendezvous and drop off one embarrassed medic.

DOWN CHOPPER February 68

        Charlie and Delta are working the same AO. After leaving the burned out village, we make our way to a clearing that afternoon with several tree stumps sticking up. Semicircle around this clearing is a clearly defined tree line. We make it almost all the way across and begin receiving small arms fire from the trees. At first, it didnít amount to much as we returned the fire and got the 81 mm kicking out shells. Then it really got intense and Charlie Company said they were heading our way as backup.

        Big brothers made several passes and dropped nalpalm just on the other side of the clearing in front of us. Red smoke marks our position. No one hit yet. Out of nowhere comes a huey from behind us making a low level pass in our direction. The chopper takes a single round through the windsheild and another round hits the door gunner. Before getting the huey under control, the pilot hits one of the tree stumps and crashes. After the firefight, we evacuate the wounded and dig in along the tree line. The chopper team arrives and prepares the huey for a ride underneath a chinook. Image caught on film. We continue patrolling the area, but canít find any activity. Yet, we know the enemy is not far away.

FEBRUARY FIREFIGHTS Feb 68

        The only thing that changed for us in the month of February was our body count. They were still wounding us, but we began killing them. We got the hell out of the mortar field and made a heliborne assault into another AO which remarkably resembled the LZ we just left. The past few days have been quiet, but that would change on the 5th and the 10th.

MORTAR ATTACK Feb 68

        The morning of the 5th began at 0445 with a relentless mortar barrage which wounded 12 of our men. Not sure how many Charlie Company lost. FSB kicked in artillery and all we could do is return mortar fire in the direction of the dull sound of thud, thud, thud. The only small arms and automatic weapon fire was from our side. All of us medics were busy taking care of the wounded and triaging the patients for the first chopper in.

        The mortar attack had stopped by now and we got the high priority patients out on the first bird, waiting for the second to arrive. Suddenly, there was an explosion near a group of men and three more were injured and one of the wounded soldiers from the mortar attack got hit again. A damn grenade found its way into the fire pit and blew up.

Burns, Gallo, Glenn, Gorman, Green, Herrick,  Johnson, Lang, Marciano, McClellan, Pell, Quinn, Schweigart, Souphart, Thompson, Womer        These soldiers were all wounded from the mortar attack and subsequent grenade explosion

AMBUSH Feb 68

        On the 10th, we packed up and destroyed the perimeter. Making our way through a timbered area, we came under an initial mortar attack and then engaged with small arms fire. The two lead platoon fanned the flanks, fire teams left and right. The enemy is smart, well disciplined, and good fighters. They held their position and allowed half the company to get into the ambush site before engaging. With two platoon ahead of the CO and heavily engaged, we began receiving AK47 fire from our left side. Cpt Needham, the RTO, and I, found cover in a depression next to a large tree. Then, the captain wanted to pull back about 10 yards for better cover near our left flank, which we did. I remember looking back at the depression we vacated just as it took a direct hit from a mortar round.

        "See em, see em", the men are yelling. "Look, Gooks................Gooks" The thick undercover is penetrated by large volume of M16 fire. "Gooks in front", someone yells and the brush is moving. Sherman is hit in the head and laying on the trail. It didnít look good, but he was still alive, blood coming from his ears and one entrance wound into his skull. I dressed and bandaged his head wound, but did not make any attempt to stop the flow of bleeding from his ears. I initiate an IV of albumen and stabilize the needle, but I believe he is now dead. I take this very personal....................................

        12 others are wounded and need help. Fortunately, most of the injuries are the result of very small frag wounds and most of the soldiers wonít or donít need to leave the field. A few others sustained gunshot wounds. Those who needed extracted were picked up by a chopper after an LZ was cut. While this was happening, the squads were busy guarding the perimeter and making a body count. The following soldiers were wounded:  

Dean, Palmer, Bowles, Joines, Bartholome, Hoke, Bender, Montoya, Renner, Lt. Fera, Westerburth, Brown (possible fx arm due to fall)

LACK OF CONTACT Feb 68

        For the next several days, we continued with the same routine.....................set up, dig in, send out patrols, guard the perimeter, destroy the perimeter, pack up, move out, and patrol all day. Except now, we have had no contact. The enemy has abandoned us. We are definitely playing on his terms and he decides when there is contact to be made.

KONTUM BRIDGE Feb 68

        We had numerous fire fights in the month of February. They wounded us and we killed them. Toward the end of February, we hooked it into Kontum and provided guard for the brigade fire support base and headquarters. This was very good duty. We had just gone for almost a month without any hot chow, and now we are eating hot meals and bathing in the river. Better than that, we didnít have to hump and dig in every day.

        A lot of action going on around Kontum. The big guns were ready for fire missions, helicopters coming and going, and the bridge over the river was heavily fortified. I remember every morning there was a caravan of oxen drawn carts leaving the city and heading out of town. Then, in the evening, they would return with what appeared to be firewood loaded to the brim of the carts. The bridge guards would stop and check every cart before allowing them to cross over the bridge.

        M60 machine guns were set up at other strategic areas around the bridge. Those who guarded the brigade in more remote places had the pleasures of women during the night. Many of us never knew about this until we left the palace guard. Kontum was on limits and we made several visits to the city. I remember being approached by three females one day as my friend and I walked the streets getting familiarized with city. They recognized the rubber tourniquet I wore through the button hole of my fatigue jacket (all medics wore this as a symbol status for whatever it was worth. We also realized our ass was protected by those around us with the fire power). Anyway, through broken English and hand jesters, I finally figured out that one of the girls was pregnant and wanted me to perform an abortion on her. Those were the 60ís. Hey, I knew my limitations................no abortions from this 21 year old kid.

        Then there was my friend with a toothache. Nice guy, but a real stonehead. I always remember that when we were operating in the AO of Ban Me Thuot, he was always looking down trying to find weed. Anyway, since the brigade had a resident dentist, I directed David L. to his tent. After a gruesome ordeal in the dental chair, I asked him how he felt. His reply, "still hurts, he pulled the wrong tooth".

        There were a few Montgnards in the area and they would mill around the river as we swam and bathed in nothing but our birthday suit and a pair of jungle boots. The women wanted to trade the brass bracelets for something of value a GI had to offer. I collected a few of these souvenirs by exchanging bars of soap for the brass. One day I hear this Montgnard women screaming as she is thrusting through the underbrush trying to get away from a naked GI who is chasing her.

        After being silent for several hours, the big gun finally went into action...................shear American firepower. The eight inches and "long toms" had a fire mission and we watched in awe. What admiration we felt as these guns supported other troops who were out in the highlands fighting the enemy. Soon after the mission, hueys began bring wounded soldiers back to brigade headquarters for medical treatment. Just another day in the Nam for the grunt.

MARCH 3, 1968

       The worst day of my life................................surely, we would all die today. I donít exactly remember how it all began, or how it all ended. There was J.A.M., the FO lieutenant whose initials spelled "jelly". Then, the 1st platoon putting on their TOC gear. But most of all, it was the constant artillery and air strikes pounding the hills beyond Kontum. This was where we were heading. No more palace guard for us. Three rifle companies were going out as part of a battalion size operation. The battalion would dig in together on a hill Northeast of Kontum and then set out in three different directions to recon the adjacent hills.

        We took off in slicks with huey gunships leading the way. I noticed how beautiful the city of Kontum was from the air. A very large military complex is now setting along the river and the town stretches outward toward the hills. Directly below our ship is the old market place. This was once a lovely structure, but it is now a burnt out shell since the NVA brought total destruction to this community during the Tet Offensive.

        As we gained altitude, the gentle highlands turn into rugged looking mountains in the distance, obscured only by a blue hue that daunts the jungle canopy. As the pilot turns the ship, we can see our destination, a region of hills that are still smoking from the constant barrage of artillery and air strikes. In the slick with us is our new FO. I catch a glimpse of his face as he stares out the door. He has a very peculiar look about him. I would learn later that he...................................

THE WORST DAY OF MY LIFE March 3rd, 1968

        I only remember bits and parts about March 3rd. For me, it ranks right up there with Dak To when I compare the vicious fighting and human suffering and its aftermath. I am also not so deceived to believe that others have not experienced worst days and personal suffering in the Nam. I know they have. But this day is a flicker of seconds and minutes that I am able to remember, only to be replaced by hours that I cannot recall.

        As I remember...................................The LZ was devastated and charred, smoke had settled in the area below the ridge line and the haze would swirl from the rotors as one huey after another continued to bring in the three rifle companies. Once assembled, Delta Company moved out and proceeded up a narrow ridge. The first platoon with Kenny Buys on point was the lead element. Buys was a soldierís soldier and he was my best friend. Every company had one of these guys. He was respected, courageous, and he was on his second tour of duty with the infantry. Up front with the first platoon was Edmonds, the dog handler.

"Our platoon had point for D Co. We found blood on the trail going up the hill and our scout dog alerted several times...."*

 Almost immediately the scout dog alerted and did so several times. Each time, the company commander would radio battalion and give them a situation report. And, each time, battalion would radio back to keep pushing up the ridge.  "We made contact when we were about two thirds of the way up the hill. We were on a very narrow saddle with steep drop offs on both sides........"*

All at once, enemy fire opened up on Lt. Joneís lead platoon. It became so intense that it engulfed those of us who were behind the point element. Our company commander, Cpt. Needham, fell in front of me with a gunshot wound to the lower leg.

During the initial gook fire, our company commander Tom Needham, was shot in the leg..........."*

         His RTO was down and appeared unable to move. I crawled past the RTO and over to Needham and began working on his leg as the mayhem continued. His wound required only a pressure dressing and bandage. I looked back at the RTO. He was OK. His PR25 lay between us in a clump of bamboo shoots. The RTO did not say anything, but kept exchanging glances with me. He had a pitiful look about him. I wondered why he didnít pick up the radio and get over to the company commanderís side. I started to reach for the radio and then noticed what had caught his attention. The bamboo thicket appeared to be moving by itself and disintegrating right in front of my eyes. Fortunately, the radio was below this height of destruction as the rounds continued to pour in between me and the RTO. There was no cover. I placed my medic bag in front of my face waiting for the enemy rounds to hit me. I didnít want to be shot in the head. Maybe the bag would save me.....................................  "This area was extremely hot. The gook machine guns up front were directing their fire up and down so that bullets were hitting dirt in your face, alongside you, and it seemed like just everywhere............................."*

        Kenny Buyís body was retrieved from the ridge line and brought back past the position of the first platoon. Doc Lattman, who attempted to rescue Buys was dead, and Sgt. Ducker, who retrieved both of their bodies was now dead. "Ducker was killed after he pulled back the bodies of Lattman and Buys................................"*

        I left Needham and made my way to Buys. He had been shot in the stomach resulting in a complete evisceration. There was nothing I could do for my friend. His death tore me apart inside and then I did something stupid, but Lt. Fera and another soldier knocked me to the ground and told me to get over it and act right. "The initial volley of fire hit four of the five men on point in front of me. Three died but not all of them immediately........................"*

        In support of what was left of the first platoon, friendly artillery was pouring down on the steep ridge where the NVA were concealed, but an errant round came in on the Americans and caused more casualties. Then it was over. The dead and wounded were brought off the ridge line. I found Lt. Jones and was shocked by what I saw. He had been hit by artillery and it ripped into his shoulder so badly that I could have stuck my hand inside the wound. I packed and packed the wound with sterile dressings and wrapped that shoulder as tight as I could with bandages. He was bleeding profusely, which should have been my first concern, but at the time I was just trying to hold his shoulder onto his torso. He would surely die.

        Then there were the guys patiently sitting side by side as the medics treated their wounds. It was almost like they had been protecting their face and head when the enemy mortars dropped in on them. Many sustained injuries to their hands and fingers. They sat there and said nothing.

"We also got mortared while in our forward position and the man on my left was killed........."

        As I went from wounded to wounded, I began mentally triaging these guys. All head, chest and abdominal wounds would go out first, major extremities next, and then the walking wounded. Anyone who would likely die from their wounds would wait, and our dead would go last. I didnít know how many dust off choppers we would get or how many wounded soldiers I could stuff inside.  "C Co. reinforced us near the end of the fire fight and had three KIAs......................."*

        Captain Needham was still hobbling around on his gunshot leg and the expression on his face was that of a soldier in dire pain. He was mentally alert..................he was still in command. I asked if he wanted an injection of morphine, but he declined. Shortly, however, he found me and asked for the morphine. After cutting a slit in his fatigues, I injected him. A dustoff was approaching, but Needham would stay.

        Almost immediately, I broke my own rule. Lt. Jones will probably die. He lay there in and out of consciousness. The first dustoff arrives and first priority patients are helped aboard. There is room for more, and second priorities are placed inside. The Lt. is taken to the chopper and I was told, "no more." I yelled that we need to get Jones on board and someone needs to get off. Without hesitation, a big guy crawled off the chopper. For a moment, I stood in awe and admiration as they crammed Jones inside. Here was a wounded soldier who gave up his ticket for a friend. These guys are so brave..................... The rest is history.................................................

The following were KIA:            Buys, Ducker, Homes, Brown, Nahodil, Lattman "I had six KIAs in my platoon March 3rd...."* The following were WIA:  J. Montgomery, McKasty, Mentoya, Rodriquez, Cutts, Neville, Weaver,   Needham, Salcedo, Edmonds, Utley, Hart, Rumple, Pope, Thurling, Porter, McIntire, Osborne, Kjeseth, Jones,     Vuagniaux, R. Montgomery "I think there were approximately thirteen of us wounded.............."*

(*) Excerpts from a letter written by Lt. Terry Jones

 

 

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