Monday, February 13, 2012
Thursday, February 9, 2012
This is not connected with Robert's death. It is a news reel film regarding a different action.
Here is a music video I recently heard:
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
116 days, 7 Feb/68, Wed.
Slept like a log all night. Even the 155 behind us didn’t wake me – it was in use nearly all night, firing into the area of our adventure yesterday. We had this morning off, but the 1/49 and 2/49 ARVNs didn’t. The two ARVN battalions went out to the area after all the ordinance stopped falling and walked in un-challenged.
What they found was in a way, expected The VC had a complete base camp in the several hedgerows in the area. That’s why the air strikes went so deep into the woods and not where we thought the only VC were. They was what we didn’t. The whole area was covered with overhead bunkers and long tunnel complexes, most nearly all of which were destroyed as were all the homes and everything else in the surrounding area.
They reported that there was hardly a leaf left on the trees. I should hope not, after all the stuff that went in there. The 2/49 went in first and found over 100 AK-47s and AK-50s! All the parts except the tube for 5 82mm mortars – base plated, aiming devices, and several rounds (over 100). The choppers reported sighting 5 mortar positions the day before. They definitely had been hitting us from there.
They also found five M-16s, several RPG2 and 7 rounds plus 3 launchers (why didn’t they use them on the tracks?) Three American field radios, several thousand rounds of ammo – all types, six .30 caliber machine guns, assorted field gear – pistol belts, canteens, etc., and most important 85 dead VC. Chopper and jet pilots estimated 700 VC had been in direct contact with us, and the 3/49. And we had nerve enough to assault 200 VC with our meager force?! Of course, we had no idea of the VC strength. Our estimate was a platoon!
Intel reports from a nearby village reported 800 VC moving in the area that week and that night some village said that 200 came by carrying wounded and head and equipment. There weren’t enough VC left to carry it all however.
We took some souls that day, but we hurt the VC badly also. CRIP received joint credit with the 10th and the 49th for the 85 body count. Lt Col Cassidy almost became a 2nd Lt as a result of Recon being out there.
Remember how they used to send us out after small intel reports, then began using us more and more for large mission (like Christmas night)? Col (full bird) Emerson finally put his boot down to Cassidy – DRIP for small targets only; they are too small a unit to be used for a reaction force. They are intended for Recon work only.
When Emerson found out about, first us going to the outpost and La Cua, then second about us being in such heavy contact and even assaulting the place, he hit the ceiling. – with Cassidy. He radioed and told him if he didn’t get us out of there ASAP, he would be the lowest 2nd Lt. in the Army and that if ever, ever, he sent us out on such a mission again he would pull us out of Bao Trai, leaving the compound undefended and that if talking to him couldn’t give him any sense, the he (Emerson) would come to Bao Trai personally and beat it into him.
These are more of less direct quotes from the radio operators in the TOC (radio room). This must have been the reason Cassidy and Nahn came out to the area personally. So at least this sort of thing shouldn’t happen again.
Of course, Cassidy had no way of knowing what was out there, but when he learned we couldn’t handle it, he should have allowed us to call artillery and then pull out, instead of keeping us out there. Five US battalions couldn’t have gotten in there without severe losses! Tanks would have been the same. The assaults w pulled were Lt. Than’s and Lt. Enbody’s idea, which brings me to another point.
Enbody is an incompetent, incapable, punk kid who has no more idea of what’s going on around him, or why or what to do about it, than a five-year old. I find it hard to believe that the Army can provide such “leaders” as he.
He started off the day yesterday by falling into the open hatch on the top of the track. Next, as we approached La Cua, he ran off with a squad after one VC, leaving his platoon with no leader.
During the first few minutes of our heavy firefight, he lost his ammo magazines and map twice. When someone suggested to him that we call support, he began fumbling with his map and said, I quote, “Where the Hell are we?!?!” As it turned out, the RTO was the one who called most of ;our support, and all of our dust-offs. Either because Enbody didn’t know how, he was scared to much, or didn’t have enough foresight to think of such things.
It was nearly two hours before someone decided to call artillery from BaoTrai, 1000 meters away, and then it was the RTO who was tired of waiting for permission from the Lt. I think it was a little of all three, but mostly the latter case.
He is too naive and weak in using authority to disagree with Trung Wi Than. Trung Wi is slightly mad anyway, and now he runs the platoon because of Enbody’s weakness. A wave of Trung Wi’s hand and Enbody and Recon follow. The assault by CRIP alone (and all the others I think) was Trung Wi’s idea, and Enbody was stupid enough to go along.
The advisor (Captain) of the 10th cav told him he was crazy. Assaults like that are senseless, suicides, something you’d see in a John Wayne movie – even against 2 snipers as we had thought there were. Especially after air strikes failed to hurt them.
If he had ordered one more assault, I’m sure there would have been a mutiny lead by the platoon sergeant who told him that he had 12 years in the Army, which he’d gladly forfeit before he would lose his life on such a senseless assault again.
I personally am sure I would have refused to go again – six months in fail and all. I’m not about to die in a suicide attack for some incompetent lieutenant. Everyone else felt the same way, and still does. As long as I live, I don’t think I’ll ever really believe this ever happened. Assaulting enemy positions across 500 meters of open field, positions so strong that even US air strike couldn’t destroy them! And doing it 4 times straight?! It’s a wonder we weren’t all killed; what could those idiots be thinking of, or were they thinking at all?
Call us cowards if you will, but no one was going for a fifth try. This was just not that important, in my opinion, to die needlessly for the stupidity of the leaders of your platoon. I hope you understand what I’m saying. Maybe I can make it cleared when I get back (if Enbody doesn’t get me shot or thrown in jail first).
115 days, 8 Feb/68, Thurs.
We had to pull guard all night last night. Big intel report that 5 battalions reduced to a total of 1000 men (normally would be 3000) were on the way from the Saigon area back to Cambodia, and would be passing by our location. We were on the alert in case they decided to bother us. They didn’t. maybe the VC raiders are returning north now that their new offensive has failed (26,600 VC dead last count, since 29 Jan.
Today we were out all day, walking in circles (Enbody’s bungling again). Trung We had his way all day, and we walked twice as much as planned, or needed, because “VC must die; VC number 10: I must kill VC”. That damned gook Lt. is crazy! One’s crazy, the other’s stupid – Lord, help us. I’m not getting paid to follow a Vietnamese leader and I don’t like it and neither does anybody else. The 1049s are being filled out by the dozens, and I cry every time I think of mine being disapproved.
On the way back in this evening, we were shot at with an RPG2, which hit the berm of the read right beside a jeep. No other fire came at us, but we drove 90 miles an hour that last 500 meters to the Bao Trai gates, burning up the country side on both sides of the road, with our stream of fire.
Everyone in the compound heard the noise, and when we drove in, we found them all in their positions on the berm –they thought the far end of town was being attacked.
117 days, 6 Feb/68, Tues.
If the VC don’t bother us, our own people do. The 6th of February will, I hope, go down as the longest, hardest, most dangerous, frightening, and maddening days I’ve spent in Vietnam.
At 20 to 3:00 this morning, the light came on and we were shaken out of bed to go on a mission. An ARVN outpost had just been overrun near Hiep Hoa. They weren’t sure if it was overrun, but they had radio contact and the post was reported to be on fire.
We went out with 10 armored personnel carriers (APCs) form the ARVN 10th armored cavalry – 113s, similar to my 114 in AIT only carrying about 12 people. CRIPs and the ARVNs all piles on top of the tracks and headed cross-country over the dry paddies and berms. Far better than walking.
All the way out, we had choppers alongside (naturally the Lt. Colonel was with us) dropping flares and watching for any possible ambush. About 500 meters from the outpost, we dismounted and went in on foot with the cav’s track following.
One VC was sighted running and one or our squads ran after him and gunned him down. Other than that, there were no VC around, only a large NVA flag (same as the one we had after Jan 8th) hanging from the post’s flag staff.
The post was thoroughly destroyed and everyone inside (37 ARVNs and 2 American) was dead. All had been shot while still in bed. It looked like a movie scene of a massacred wagon train. The defenses of the post, barbed wire and several Claymores, were undisturbed.
There was a built up area nearby – houses, etc. – where several stray mortar rounds fell, killing two children and injuring several other civilians. Two of the dead in the outpost were small children, murdered with the rest. There are 12 ARVNs and one American still missing.
Here’s what one of the wounded ARVNs, found in the village, reported. A 7-man ARVN patrol went out on a routine patrol. They came back, only as VC. The VC had either captured or killed the patrol, and dressed as ARVNs and took their weapons. As they were let back in the post, they killed the guards and let a larger group of VC in.
Then they went about and methodically murdered everyone on their beds before anyone knew what was going on. Not even time to radio and tell of the attack. The American’s building had been burned and all that was left of the American were the skeletons.
At 10:00 our business at the post was over, and we started on our way back, over nearly the same route, only this time with a couple of objectives to search. The first two went without a hitch; the ARVNs had some chicken and rice, then took a nap. I was really enjoying my first cavalry operation since AIT.
Our next objective held our attention for 4 long hours. We had dismounted the APCs, which were surrounding the hedgerows, while we searched inside. A couple ARVNs began to wander into a neighboring wood line, in search of some chickens to take home for supper, and were met by heavy automatic weapons fire. Some chickens!
The track turned and reacted with .50 and .30 calibers. The tracks on the other side of the hedgerow even fired – through the hedgerow where we were. We were pinned down, again, by our own people, only this time worse than the 49th Recon – the 10 cave has .50 caliber machine guns!
We couldn’t move to help, as the fire grew more intense. We had AK-47s on one side, and .50 calibers on the other. The intense firefight lasted, seemingly, forever. In fact, the rest of the day seemed like 5 years long, so I won’t even attempt to list events on the clock I will say the contact was made at about 12:00 noon, and we finally withdrew at 7:15 that evening.
The firing subsided slightly, and the tracks grouped up to form an assault line on the left of our hedgerow, which was to the left front of the VCs.
They began to assault the hedgerow before all of us got out of our cover. Our squad was out and hiding behind the headstones of a small cemetery. The APCs moved forward putting out a terrifying base of fire from .50s (8 of them). Two tracks had twin .30 machine guns in a turret, and all the .50 tracks had a .30 on each side also. One track had a 57 mm recoilless rifle in place of the .50.
They began their assault and were firing through our men in the hedgerow, trying to hit VC in the next wood line. Hicks was hit 5 times in the legs and hips with .50s. Polk was creased on the knee with a .30 and the mechanic, who isn’t supposed to go out on missions – the one from Mifflin – got a crease on the shoulder blade with a .50 – all ARVN guns! They didn’t give us a chance to get out. Where can you go to hide from a .5 caliber?
While we were under fire at first, those big slugs were tearing through the trees, tearing off limbs and shattering through the houses. You can see those big black slugs even though they aren’t tracers. They sound like a big bee going over your head, instead of a mosquito or fly, as .30 calls and AK-47s sound. It’s terrifying to see such a big thing moving so fast – coming at you, digging dirt behind you, chopping off branches above you.
The APCs pulled back and we went in to get the wounded. We were only receiving an occasional shot or two from the enemy positions. After the wounded were pulled back out, the APCs assaulted again and we went back into the hedgerow complex, and fired from there. The assault was turned back as the enemy fire increased steadily, the closer the tracks came.
One track was knocked out here with on RPG2, which killed two of the ARVNs inside. We pulled back to the line [indicates a map line like battlements] which was a very high berm. A track came over to pick up our wounded and carried them even farther back to the dust-offs could come in without getting shot at.
I’ll go into detail about the bungling of Lt. Enbody (our new one) later on, as it’s a story by itself. But I’ll say now that all this action took about 1 ½ or 2 hours, and it was at this time the finally pulled himself together enough to call for gunship support. We waited for nearly a half hour before they answered.
Let me add also that except for when we made a move on the enemy’s position we weren’t receiving any fire from the VC. The original estimate of enemy force was one platoon dug-in. after the heavy firing ended, there were only one or two snipers doing the shooting, so we had to stay down.
The choppers came with a spotter plane and fired everything available into the enemy positions. They were receiving ground fire all the time. After the choppers were out of ammo, the spotter was still receiving ground fire, so the pilot began calling the 144 howitzers in Bao Trai. The area was pounded for quite a while with the heavy artillery.
After the shelling, we were certain that the VC had to have been either killed or driven away, so in a Hollywood type assault (Anybody’s idea) CRIP began to approach the hedgerow – sniper fire still. Enbody ordered us to charge – we did – more sniper fire pinned us down. It was unbelievable. A platoon running across open field at dug-in enemy positions, which even the gunships had failed to penetrate. It’s a wonder no one was hit.
I had a round glance off my steel pot, which everyone was wearing today in case we had received mortars at the overrun outpost! It’s the first time I ever wore one as it was for everyone else. I believe it save my life!
The APCs pulled up to cover our retreat, but pulled up behind us instead of beside us, and therefore once again had us pinned. We crawled 300 meters to our high berm; just like in “Combat”.
Next, air strikes were called. At this point we all became worried and angered. Why were we wasting so much time on 1 or 2 snipers, while the rest of the suspected platoon was probably flanking us and planning an ambush between where we were and Bao Trai? Why couldn’t we just pull back and say forget it? Was it worth our wounded and the two ARVN dead?
We also had one hope left after the air strike. The 3/49 ARVN bat. Had moved up on the flank of the VC – a move our small force couldn’t even consider. The ARVN planes dive-bombed the area for an hour and then disappeared, leaving the area in flames and smoke. They dropped their loads not only where the snipers were, but extremely deep into the woods, also. Each time they bombed and pulled up, they received ground fire!
Now was the time for the big assault. The APCs would go first with the 3/49th moving in on the flanks and CRIP directly behind the tracks. We approached to within 100 meters, with .50s and .30s blazing, with not much return fire. The last 100 meters to the edge of the hedgerow was the most Hell I’ve ever been through.
We soon discovered that the whole platoon, or rather shall I say 100 or 200, VC were still there, after ravaging machine gun and gunship fire. And nearly an hour of devastating ARNV air strikes! None of that had phased them, and here we were trying to break in with a ground assault. Suicide!!
We realized it, but were already in the trap with VC to our front and right flank (another big surprise). The incoming fire was intense; ARVNs were dropping like flies, either wounded or killed. The sound of the muzzles and the slugs whizzing by was terrifying. Some of us tried to climb inside the tracks, but the ARVNs locked the doors.
We could see the bunkers inside the hedgerow only 20 meters from us, but even the .50s and grenades couldn’t penetrate, while the VC inside put out a steady volume of fire at the tracks. When the rounds hit the APCs it sounded like someone dropping marbles into an empty trash can. The noise was deafening.
After an eternity, the VC began dropping mortars on our lines and the track were quickly thrown into reverse and we retreated the same as we had assaulted – scrambling behind the tracks and crawling behind berms. We made it to our previous defense line and dug in. the VC stopped shooting as if they had never been there at all.
What next? Nearly everyone was low on ammo, it was getting dark, the task of getting at the VC was apparently impossible, and we still weren’t on our way back to Bao Trai. One more assault and our ammo would be gone and we figured we might need some on the way back in.
Someone said they weren’t going back in on another assault and someone else agreed. Then it spread like the flu until the new platoon Serge (Brooks) told the Lt, “I don’t know what you have in mind, Sir, but I’m not going back in there and neither are any of my men”. I loved the way he referred to us as his men, not the Lt.’s.
By this time, Lt. Col. Cassidy, our boss in Bao Trai, and Lt. Col. (Trung Ta) Nahn, the s-2’s boss, were both out there giving orders. They made the plan for USAF air support and 4 gunships. The air strikes came and dumped more explosives on that area than was dropped on Berlin, it seemed. Thane the gunships again unloaded everything they had.
We hadn’t received any fire since our last assault, but the choppers and even the jets reported receiving ground fire as they made their runs!!
Next, the APCs (without CRIP because of our ammo situation) and the 3/49th made one last move in. they were pushed back by only a slightly decreased amount of enemy fire. Unbelievable that they could still be there after all that. We were now forced to return to Bao Trai – now the APCs only ad 200 rounds a piece, for the .50s.
At 7:15 we broke contact and the last dust-off hurried off for Cu Chi. We had 4 dust-off casualties: hicks, Polk, Hook, and a new section sergeant named Crump who had been hit in the hand twice on the last assault, he reached out to pull an ARVN behind the track as the fire increased, two rounds went through his hand and through the ARVNs neck killing the ARVN instantly.
ARVN casualties were: 10th car 3 killed, 8 wounded; 3/49 6 killed, 9 wounded, including the American advisor who was hit in the chest, but will be OK.
We had no contact on the way back and tonight the air strikes and the artillery continue in that area, while back here we have received a hero’s welcome. If we hadn’t come back the town and compound security would be gone. I don’t think I’ve been so tired and dirty and emotionally shaken as I am tonight. God, don’t let Charlie mortar us tonight! Through Hell and back, Bob
122 days, 1 Feb/68
Still here, I guess things weren’t as bad as they seemed, but bad none the less. From 6:00 last night when they ran us out of the mess hall with a couple of mortar rounds on the edge of town. To the present time we have had probably a mortar attack every 4 or 5 hours. The thing that makes it not so bad is that each attack consisted of only 4 to 15 rounds, and some small sniper fire. We were up nearly all night last night and have manned the bunkers about 4 times today.
All we’ve had so for is some very unsettling harassment attacks – no one hurt, no rounds in our compound. We have about 8 ARVN companies as town security, including one armored unit, with US-made tracks. So we are not unprotected after all. We also have chopper and artillery support, which isn’t too good in the mornings when the fog is like soup.
The roads are still closed. Some idiot said he wanted us to secure a convoy from Bao Trai to Cu Chi, but somebody higher up and not so stupid, said nix. Pretty wise decision, considering the fact that there was heavy fighting in downtown Cu Chi and a company of enemy along the road somewhere between here and there; not to mention any mines that have grown under the road. So, still no pay, no mail, and our refrigerator is out of Coke. War is hell!
Things are getting better though. The well is slowly regaining its level, so now we can flush with the handle instead of a bucket. Our showers are still with water bags form the small well.
Another good turn of events – there have been over 5000 VC killed in the past 4 days, in southern South Vietnam. Keep in mind that the 4-day period was supposed to have been a truce.
Finally and most important to us – some ARVNs (about a company) went our this evening right after the last 4 or 5-round “attack” and, with the support of two gunships and friendly mortars from town, killed 9 VC, captured several light weapons, ammo, 2 RPG rounds, and one lovely mortar tube.
Everyone was pretty sure there was only one tube doing the harassment, and I guess the ARVNs finally spotted the position from the water tower. The report – 2 mortar tubes and 60 rounds of ammo captured. Maybe, just maybe, we can sleep tonight.
121 days, 2 Feb/68, Fri.
No such luck. We were hit at 3:00, 4:30, and 6:00 this morning. The 4:30 attack lasted for nearly an hour and 15 minutes. There was a 15 minute pause and then 7 more rounds at 6:00. Still none landing in the compound. Still, no sleep for a second night.
We went out about 500 meters from town and walked around looking for sighs of VC, etc. Found a few, blew a few bunkers and holes, and then came back in. we slept till 3:00 this afternoon.
So far, nothing has come n tonight, but it’s early yet. I go on the tower at 6:00. The past 2 nights the guys have said that rounds were coming pretty close to the water tower. Hope the stay away tonight.
120 days, 3 Feb/68, Sat.
At about 2:30 last night 3 rounds hit the town’s outer edge, then there was silence. I had to time to spot any muzzle flashes. So, no artillery. The night before last, during the first barrage, the tower spotted the flashes and the artillery did silence the tube temporarily. It was in a different spot the second time.
Again, at 4:30, after a dense fog had moved in, and we couldn’t even see the base of the tower, 5 rounds hit the berm on the compound. One MACV guard had light shrapnel wounds and the rest were just scared.
In the fog there was no way to see where the rounds came from or what was out in front of the berm. They suspected RPG2s and fired the 106 at positions known to have been used in the large attack – no more RPGs came in.
I believe the 106 is the loudest weapon the Army has. I thought they hit the compound with an H-bomb. They had set the sights on the known positions while it was still light, so they are sure they hit it. They used the bee-hive round – air burst at any pre-set range, with thousands of tiny darts spraying out for about 100 meters, to the front and sides.
We came down at 7:00 and learned that the road was open to Cu Chi to any one with guts enough to try it. You never saw anyone with more guts than an American GI who is 3 days late in getting paid and getting mail. We went to Cu Chi with nearly every gun and bullet the platoon had.
We did encounter a roadblock along the way, made of stone and mud, but went around it with no incident. The ARVNs had it cleared by the time we came along on the way back.
The town of Cu Chi is a mess; nearly leveled. For a whole it was held by the VC, but was retaken yesterday. Cu Chi base camp isn’t as bad as I expected. The 2/27 area had about 4 hits, one of which killed an American, after he had been wakened and had said “So what? No rounds will hit here”, then gone back to sleep.
You can tell everyone is pretty well disturbed after six nights straight of hard VC shelling. There are “5 minute” bunkers that have been built overnight, mushrooming everywhere. The people wear steel helmets and flight jackets just to go to the PX. Several even carry their weapons, but it’s an article 15 to have a magazine in your weapon, so even though they carry them, they’re unloaded. Makes about as much sense as carrying a security blanket.
The mail call was disappointed as was pay call. I didn’t get paid for E-4; get it next month; and the whole platoon only got about 10 letters. I didn’t get any. After 4 days of no mail run, I was shocked.
It must be because of all the flights in and out of Tan Son Nhut airbase (Saigon) being cancelled that no mail is getting through (and come to think of it, no mail must be leaving for the states either). All flights are back to normal as of today, so things should pick up soon.
I was afraid I’d miss my R&R because of the cancelled flights, but they assured me today that by the 18th all will be on normal schedule (hope the mail gets straight so my $400 gets here on time).
I also heard today that my 1049 was disapproved, so it looks like I’ll be fighting up to June instead of drawing pictures. I think I’ll cry.
Little bit of war news: the VC body count is now up to 12,000 killed since Han. 29th, plus about 3,000 captured, and some 2,000 or more weapons taken. I haven’t heard any up-to-date friendly casualty report. Last I heard was late night with about 700 killed, including, I thing, about 300 U.S. Charlie’s losing badly in his biggest offensive ever.
Today after futile ground efforts to retake two towns, the two towns were literally leveled by artillery, air strikes, and gunships the towns were filled with VC – even had VC flags on all the flagpoles so . . . Houses, stores, VC and civilians – if any loyal ones were left – were wiped from the map with permission from the SVN government.
Tonight has been peaceful so far. I have no guard tonight, so I hope I can get a long-awaited rest, although I rather doubt it. Besieged in Bao Trai, Bob
119 days, 4 Feb/68, Sun.
What a surprise – a good night’s sleep. The tower guards said every town in sight was hit, but they left Bao Trai alone tonight. Cu Chi was mortared three different times last night, for about the 8th night in a row. It’s amazing how such an important base can be hit so much. They must kill several VC each night, but enough get away to hide and then come back the next night.
Still no mail runs; I guess the roads are still unsafe, although they think the VC are beginning to thin out – I hope so. All day today the guys on the berm watched some people through the binoculars building a haystack about 500 meters out. Now, this evening, they are worried because suddenly there seems to be a hole in the side of it, with a long cylindrical object projecting out of it. They’re firing mortars at it right now – so far, it hasn’t fired back. I hope it doesn’t and maybe we’ll get another night of rest.
118 days, 5 Feb/68, Mon.
Charlie woke us up this morning for breakfast with about ½ hours of steady mortars, starting at 6:30. Two of the rounds hit in the yard by the club entrance. Another was probably headed for the guard tower on the front wall, but hit the power line about it, and burst in the air, saving the guard in the tower. He said the round must have had his name on it, but it was spelled wrong, so it only came close.
Our mail finally got out to us by shopper today, including my $400 R&R money. The four letters from my parents that I received today contained two shocks: one bad and one good – almost. First, I was shocked to hear about Paul and Linda I don’t know what the chances are, but I hope they get back together.
Second, I was shocked to hear about Jere being sent back. I’m so glad he didn’t have to go, but at the same time, I’m concerned about his hearing. How come everybody is so lucky to get out of the Army? I wish I weren’t so damn healthy!
I hope you all can find my tape – I’d love to hear it.
Let’s hope we have no mortars tonight – even for breakfast. The country is slowly getting back to normal, although here are new roadblocks on the roads and there are still VC in the towns (500 still in Saigon). There are not known VC in Bao Trai, but the town is off limits to us and deserted by the people.