March, 1969:  Sometimes you're shorter than you think.

The latter part of February [23 through 7 March], 1969 saw the celebration of Têt Ky Dâu - the lunar New Year, with particularly intense offensives undertaken by the Viêt Cong and North Vietnamese Army. Following major skirmishes, CPL Raffin was field promoted for heroic achievement of service with conspicuous valor on 7 March 1969, after taking charge of a squad of men and fighting their way out of an ambush in Nhî Hà near Ðông Hà, then outflanking the enemy forces to relieve pressure on the Company inflicting more than 20 enemy casualties in the process. In joint operations with the 3rd. Squadron of the 5th. Cavalry, SGT Raffin's platoon suffered more than 10 wounded. The 3rd. of the 5th. Cav was awarded a Valorous Unit Citation by the Secretary of the Army. The First Battalion received heavy artillery support from the USS New Jersey, whose bombardment blocked the enemy 's escape routes - but of course, at the time, we had no idea where the heavy support was coming from. In the course of the same military campaign, the Government of the Republic of Viet Nam awarded him the Cross of Gallantry First Class for having saved an officer (with decent political connections) of the South Vietnamese Army during a fire fight near Tan Lich Northwest of Ðông Hà (Usually, this award was given as a unit citation being somewhat equivalent to the Silver Star, but bestowing this award on an enlisted man is somewhat unusual) in the early evening of 1 March 1969. The First Battalion was awarded the Republic of Viêt Nam Civil Actions Honor Medal for actions from 1 January 1969 to 21 January 1970 probably related to the transportation of evacuation of refugees and also for the establishment of medical facilities in friendly villages. In March 1969, he was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge for having been under hostile fire, essentially continuously for a period exceeding 27 days while providing direct medical aid.

...all this in action during joint operations of the 1/11th. Inf. with the 1/61st. Infantry and the 101st. Airborne Division against Viêt Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces in Xóm Cón Tòng between the Cù’?a Viêt River and the demilitarized zone [17th. parallel] North of Quang Tri. This action was only consistent with a long-standing family tradition (since World War I, various family members consistently distinguished themselves in battle for similar actions). On 16 March, the unit was transferred to the Khé Sanh plains to give mechanized infantry support to the 3rd. Marine Division. On 28 March, he was wounded in the hip by shrapnel from mortar fire during a firefight in Trung Luong (NorthWest of Caó Xá), near the Demilitarized Zone, for which he received the Purple Heart Medal (out of the 12 men in the squad to which Raffin was attached, 9 were wounded in action). They were evacuated from the field through helicopter dust-off operations with considerable air support.

Either 28 or 29 March 1969, he was transferred out of Viêt Nam and into Japan.

Fig. 1: 1968-1969: East of Quang Tri City.
Fig 2: 1968-1969: Wunder Beach 3rd Marine Division - where they came from.
Fig 3: 1968-1969: Wunder Beach 3rd Marine Division - How they got here.
Fig 4: 1968-1969: Wunder Beach 3rd Marine Division - How they dress and what they do (but who's jealous?).
Fig 5: 1968-1969: Wunder Beach - How the Army dresses for the occasion (maybe 75 SPT BN, though not Bravo Company).
Fig 6: 1968-1969: Wunder Beach - 1st of the 77th Armor tank guarding the beach.
Fig 7: 1968-1969: Wunder Beach - The look on the older sister's face was frequently seen in the children I saw - a Forever Memory.
Fig 7: 1968-1969: Wunder Beach - The look that will not go away.
"Saturday 1 March 1969: I am on temporary duty with Charley Company, 1/11th. Infantry operating near the DMZ pushing the enemy back on every encounter. Hell is catching up with the Red Diamond. 1/77th. lost SP5 Bill Ryan to a mine or booby trap. Fighting is getting very heavy. Guys are getting wounded almost every day. SSG John Gibson, Charley Company 1/11th. died from ("hand grenade" deleted due to account that follows) enemy fire.

Besides the personal detailed accounts found herein, particularly for the 4/12th Cav, additionnal information may be obtained from (as of 15 Sep 2016).

Eyewitness report received 30 July 2007:  " ...   Let me introduce myself. My name is Luis Rodriguez. I was a sgt. with C Co, 1Bn. 11th Inf. 5th Inf. Div. I trained with the brigade at Carson & arrived in Viet Nam in July 1968 ... The 1st time I was wounded was March 1 1969 when my friend SSGT John Gibson was killed. I would like to shed some light about his death, since I was next to him when it happened. On March 1, a unit of the 77th Armored encountered an enemy force in a valley N.W. of Cam Lôo near the DMZ. Our platoon was flown in to help find the enemy force. My squad was ordered to go into the valley & locate the enemy.  A tank was assigned to go along with us which we objected because a tank makes a lot of noise . Our objection was easily over-ruled by a field-grade officer of the 77th armored. S.SGT. Gibson & myself decided to place the tank in front of us , as we started walking behind the tank a call came on the radio from the same field-grade officer ordering us to mount the tank.  As we were approaching the bottom part of the valley we were ambushed . I saw the RPG being fired before I could say a word it had hit the tank on the ride side . It went thru Gibson penetrating the turret killing the tank commander, loader & gunner . A tear gas grenade that Gibson was carrying was detonated by the RPG complicating the situation. Between the driver of the tank & myself we were able to move the body of the tank commander so the driver could manned the 50 caliber . We were able to repel the enemmy until LT. Hayden was able to come down with the rest of the platoon. Most of the men that were riding on the right side of the tank were wounded by shrapnel including myself. As you can see John did not die from a hand granade, he died from an RPG along with three members of the tank crew. I wanted to share my experience with you ... I was wounded for the second time on March 27 1969 & was medic evac to the 3rd Marine hospital in Quan Tri. After being in several hospital along the way I ended up at 249 th General Hospital in Japan, from there I was sent to Camp Zama ..."  Thank you, Sarge  Rodriguez for your contributions.

E-Mail received from Lt. J. R. (Bob) Hayden, 25 September 2007:  "I just visited the 5 TH Infantry Division website and read the account written by Sgt Rodriguez regarding the death of Sgt. John Gibson on 1 March 1969. I would like to confirm his account of the event as I was also present. I would add the field grade officer he referred to was a LTC and he advised we were going after a reinforced squad of NVA. What we entered was a Regimental base camp  .... Sgt. Rodriguez was one of the best of the troops and definitely the best point man, in my platoon. I would like to take a moment and tell you something about him. He literally fought his way out of Cuba to arrive in our country. He distinguished himself, in Viet Nam, though his abilities, leadership and courage. ...  For the past nearly 40 years I have tried to forget the ugliness of war and in doing so I have also veiled in my memory those that I spent some enjoyable times."

E-Mail received from MSG (ret) Glenn Bowers, 4 July 2014, 12:15:08 Central Daylight Time, Bow2767. "Concerning the death of SSG Gibson. He was hit by a RPG while riding on the right side of a tank. I was the loader on that tank A28 4/12 Cav. The tank commander was wounded, but survived and was alive as of two years ago. I was blown off the tank and it continued. The driver turned the tank around and came back. When I remounted the tank the TC was gone and the gunner was on the floor. Nobody was on the tank except the driver. I will send the AAR and reports later. " -- Thank MSG Bowers for your contributions.

Based upon the description, and also the rough sketch provided by MSG Glenn Bowers in his narrative (below), and using the map here: (but could not find Cam Hung, nor Van Quat Xa, but I did find Thòn Quât Xá Immediately NorthWest of Cam Lô.) I would venture to guess that perhaps the encounter took place in what, on the map looks to be a dead-end valley with the cul-de-sac on the East slope of Hill 544, and the entrance to that valley being North-East of the mount (Due East of the Fuller label on the map).- MR (15 Sep 2016).

Extensive communications received from MSG Glenn Bowers, 8 July 2014: Subject: Battle of Cam Hung 28 Feb - 2 Mar 1969. "I tried to put this in some type of order. Why we showed up The official AAR (short version)

Observation from another platoon


The Platoon Leader

Company Commander


"During the early morning hours of 28 February 1968 Van Quat Xa Hamlet was mortared. Crater analysis indicated that the mortar fire may have come from Cam Hung (YD079629). Based on the crater analysis and on other intelligence provided by the 1st Brigade’s S2 indicating enemy presence at Cam Hung, the 3-5 Cav dispatched the 3d platoon of B Troop into the area. The enemy appeared to be fresh, well trained, and well equipped with new uniforms and weapons. The enemy employed small arms, machine guns and RPGs and he fought hard and well to defend his positions. An assessment of the enemy actions indicated that the cavalry had probably run into a forward defensive position for a larger enemy force (possibly a Battalion or Regiment). Based on the above estimate of the enemy situation A/4-12 Cav was ordered to move from the vicinity of Quang Tri Combat Base to an assembly area at YD102596 to block the south and west avenues of withdrawal. The troop moved at 0010 on 1 Mar and upon arriving in the assembly area at 0330 was placed under the operational control of 3-5 Cav. At dawn on the morning of 1 March A/4-12 Cav crossed the Cam Lo River and moved north to regain contact with the enemy while B and C Troop 3-5 Cav and a platoon of infantry from M/3-3 Marines moved back into the area of the previous day’s contact. At 1050 C/3-5 Cav regained contact vicinity YD078639. C Troop maneuvered to dislodge the enemy from his positions while A/4-12 Cav, B/3-5 Cav and elements of M/3-3 Marines moved to seal off the battle area and to prevent the enemy’s escape. During this move, 3/A/4-12 Cav was ambushed by an enemy force of unknown size. The lead tank (A 28), carrying infantry support, was struck on the right side of the turret by an RPG. Contact was broken when the platoon was reinforced by 2/A/4-12. Throughout the day air strikes and artillery were employed in support of the assaults by the ground troops on the enemy bunker positions. The enemy was well dug in, his fortifications were extensive and he fought hard to hold the ground. By nightfall the enemy still occupied fortified positions and friendly withdrew to defensive positions on high ground around the enemy’s locations. In an attempt to hold the enemy in position, artillery was again fired throughout the night and ambushes were placed between the friendly locations. This is the short version of the AAR:"

""At 1540 hrs on 28 Feb 3/B/3-5 Cav was engaged by an estimated NVA company at YD098630. The remainder of B & C Troop 3-5 Cav reinforced by a platoon of M/3-3 marines moved to reinforce the platoon. The cavalry employing air & artillery closed with the enemy and swept the battle area finding 60 enemy KIA. At 1815 hrs contact was broken. Results of the day’s action were one (1) US KIA, nine (9) WIA and 60 NVA KIA. The enemy appeared to be fresh, well trained, and well equipped with new uniforms and weapons. An assessment was that a forward element for a larger force (possibly a Battalion or Regiment). Based on the above estimate A/4-12 Cav was ordered to move to an assembly area at YD102596 to block. The troop moved at 0010 hrs on 1 Mar and arrived 0330 hrs and was put opcon to 3-5. At dawn A/4-12 crossed the Cam Lo River and moved north to regain contact. Contact was regained at 1050 hrs at YD078639. Shortly after contact B/1-61 m oved from AO Black to C2 (YD136646) to act as reserve. At 1250 hrs C/1-11 was air assaulted in the battle area. The results of the day’s activities were two (2) US KIA, twenty-five (25) WIA and 17 NVA KIA. In addition five (5) PCs and four (4) tanks were damaged and placed out of action. Enemy: During the battle of Cam Hung the enemy lost 118 NVA KIA and 13 individual and 8 crew served weapons captured. A bunch of ammo. Friendly: Personnel loses were three (3) US KIA, thirty-five (35) WIA. Seven (7) personnel carriers and six (6) tanks. Documents captured during the battle indicate that two (2) Battalions of the 27th NVA Regiment were operating in the Cam Hung area during the battle. A Trp 4/12 Cav 1Bde 5th Inf (Mech)""


========================================== In my mind it all started in the evening. We were one or two clicks west of Ocean View. That's what I remember the name of the base just north of C4, it had two 40mm Dusters on it. Anyway after we had set up the captian told us that there was a build up north of as that might run as high as 5,000 an that we were bait. Boy that sure made me feel good. During the night there was a lot of action around us. I remember to the south west it looked like a ambush had been popped. There were red and green tracers flying everywhere then the Dusters over at Ocean View opened up. Then, at about the same time, an artillery cluster round went off to my right. I had never seen one before. While I was looking right I saw this flash out in the gulf. A little later heard this BOOM and than the round going over head and than seen a large flash and a little later BOOM. The captain came on and said "Oh, I forgot to tell you the USS New Jersey is backing us up. He sure could have told us that a lot sooner. At the same time the mouth of the Cua Viet got rockets. (We were in a NDP and in the middle of the night a 122mm rocket platoon(?) set up north of us. I don't think they even knew we were there. The New Jersey fired 2 rounds one was an HE and the other was a Corfram(?). It was full of little bomblets and boy did it look like the 4th of July when it went off. A28 got stuck in some kind of sink hole the next morning. We were finally drug out and everyone had a chance to laugh at us. We headed toward the DMZ from there. G. Bowers.) When the sun came up we were told to go to C4 and pick up a platoon of Marines and see if we could catch the rocket teams going north. ( For some reason I keep thinking that we ran across 4 or 5 soldiers dressed like a band of gypsies. They came out of nowhere and didn't want to be bothered. G. Bowers) We got the Marines and started north up the beach. I can remember that we passed some members of the 1/77 on the way up there. Later we were told that they had been hit by mortars. On the way north Rat said that he saw something. We stopped and he and some of the infantry squad went into the bush and came back out with a NVA with a chest wound. ( The NVA was a Lt . and it was someone from our unit that drug him out of a bunker. I think he received a Bronze Star for this G. Bowers ). We kept moving north and heard that the Marines had caught some bad guys trying to cross the Ben Hai River . By the time we got there they had already wasted the bad guys. (This is how I know my mind doesn't remember everything right). Over the years my mind told me that I had fired some rounds into North Vietnam . After reading Glenn Bowers memories I knew that it had been him that had fired those rounds. If I remember right you fired two rounds. A HE round at a radio tower and a Beehive round. I remember the beehive round because it was the first one I had ever seen fired and had to ask Sarge Cook what it was. .( I saw 9 or 10 gooks running down the bank of the river on the North side. I called Shadow and asked him if I could engage, he told me that I could. I fired a canister round at them and only one got away. I fired 3 or 4 rounds at the tower. I ranged out to 4000m and added Kentucky windage and still missed. G. Bowers) We moved out again and heard that a bunker complex was found. When we got there I saw a group standing over by one of the bunkers. As I watch one of the guys leaned down to look in and said that something moved. So he went in to get him. (This was SSG Dick Makela, he received the Silver Star for this G. Bowers.) When he came out he said that the guy had pulled one of his dead buddies over top of him. Higher up had been yelling at us all morning to get out of there and than about that time they told us to blow up the bunkers and get out of there. ( About this time one of the Kit Carson scouts found a cache of medical supplies that was covered with PSP and bamboo. We destroyed it. The marines were in overall control of the AO and Gen. Davis was screaming that we had no business in there because the Paris peace talks going on. G. Bowers) Right, we backed up and I fired one HE round right though the door of one of the bunkers. Hell, you couldn't even tell I had even hit it. We started moving back south and on the way (if my memory is right) we got word that 1/61 and the 3/5 had gotten into some shit and were going to Cam Lo. We went down to the Cua Viet and loaded up on landing craft (I think that is what they were called). We got loaded just before dark and started moving up river. W got up to where we were to unload and got moving at just about sun up. Just a click or two before we got to Cam Hung valley we ran into a mine field. A tank in front of me hit a mine and a track behind me hit one. We stopped and waited for the mine sweeps to get there and while we were waiting a M88 showed up. Instead of waiting for the mine sweep he decided to go around us. Dumb move. He was right beside our tank when he hit a mine. Another M88 showed up about the time the sweep team did and we start moving again. I can't remember where everyone was parked at, but A17 was parked where we could look down into the valley. I could see one of our sister units moving around over on the other side and it looked like they got hit as they moved the hell out of there and the jets came in shortly after that. I sure did like watching those jets do their job. Shortly after that we got word that us and I think it was A15 was supposed to load up with some infantry dudes and move out with orders not to fire as there might be friendlies down there. We got loaded up and were just starting to move out when we got word that the orders had changed (This is why when I think of RPG's I think of Ryan). A28 was going down instead. A28 came up and the infantry dudes got on they we moved back up to were we had been. I can still remember standing up out of the loaders hatch watching them move down the valley when all of a sudden all hell broke loose. I ask Cook if there was supposed to be fire and he said “no, MOVE OUT.” We got down there and got into action and it was hot and heavy. Glenn and Bill, I can tell you that was more than just an ambush. Sarge Cook told me after that with all the bad guys we saw that you had ran right into their HQ. I don't remember how long it went on, but there were buku bad guys. One thing I don't understand is how they could come up with a body count. Beehive and canister rounds at that range don't leave nothing to count. We put a dead infantry guy on our back deck and went back up the hill. This is a part I might, should leave out but it has haunted me all these years. Ryan's death really ate at me. We got up to the top of the hill again and were told to take rounds from A28 since we were running so low. As we were unloading the main gun rounds I keep seeing blood and bits and pieces of body and a slow madness started building up in me. I remember all of a sudden turning around and walking off. I heard Cook yell at me, but I kept walking until I got up to were the captain and the officers were and walk up to the captain and in a very calm voice, ok in the voice of a mad man I asked "who changed the orders", he said "it came from higher up", I said "it won't fucking happen again" turned around walked back to my tank got a can of water, washed the blood off the back deck and laid down and went to sleep. Question is, was I crazy? ======================================== I turned 19 five days later. Hell of a birthday present wouldn't you say."


********** "Glenn:

This very cathartic for me; if you have any questions, I will answer any and all the best that I can. I will tell you that the inside of the tank was a mess. The RPG exploded a can of Rise menthol shaving cream. It took many years before I could stand the smell. I would almost throw up. Here goes: A28 led Lt. McShane's platoon into the valley. The crew was; TC - SSG Hagland, Gnr - Sp5 Ryan, Driver - Sp4 Gossman, and Ldr - Sp4 Bowers. There were several infantry riding on the outside of the tank. As we were going down into the valley we hit a dip and one of the grunts fell off the tank. It is strange, we could hear the sounds of fighting, but we were laughing at the grunt that fell off. We stopped and he got back on. We entered the bottom of the valley into an open area. I remember looking right and then left. I saw a black cloud out of the corner of my eye, but I don't remember hearing an explosion. The RPG hit the right side of the turret just above the infantry rail. If it would have went lower it would have hit the track blocks that hanging from the rail. I kept hitting Bill on the head yelling we had been hit, but he was probably gone. The blast wounded several of the grunts, tore up Haglands legs (heard he lost one), and hit Bill on the right side. The next RPG hit the infantry squad leader in the chest. He was riding on the right front fender; this one also wounded Gossman, the driver. The concussion or the jerking of the tank threw me off the left side. The tank continued down the valley. I did some fighting and killed one NVA (another story for another time). When the tank returned, I climbed on and looked into the turret. I went over to a PC, but they could not understand me. When I returned to the tank I found Bill lying under the breech and Hagland was gone. I found out at the 2d reunion that Mike Revill had removed Hagland from the tank. I could see muzzle flashes in the brush. I saw a couple of RPGs come in and hit the ground and I think some grenades went off too. I fought in the tank the best I could and then we moved out of the area to the top of the hill. It was the longest journey of my life...

[Okie] If you were on Cook's tank, you must have some insight to the fight in Cam Lo valley. I remember Cook's tank flanking me to the right, breaking through some brush. That tank was putting out some outstanding suppressive fire as it moved forward. I lost contact with it as we moved out. Glenn A28 1969-From the DMZ to Cam Hung=3 days I am trying to see how bad my memory is and to talk about something I have kept inside me for more than 30 years. I might be getting different actions mixed up, but this is how I remember it. This might not be the place for some of this, but I have held it in long enough and I think some of you might understand. ."

"From Lt. Bill McShane

First let me say that I was on the patrol with Freyler, when he got the constrictor/ python or what ever. I was given a mission to go out west of Nancy I think, to the foothills, cordon up the platoon and take a squad of infantry out and patrol on foot to see what wee could find. After humping in a few steps, there were nine or so of us and a Chu Hoi, Freyler, on point, opened up. I crawled to his position to find him saying I got it, etc, and then see him get up and run into the bush and grab the snake by the tail. The damn thing had gone under him and the head came out of a hole behind him and bit him in the foot if I remember right. Was it 17 feet long, or shot 17 times or both. Made the Stars and Stripes. Photo of the snake On to March. In thinking about how to write this I realized there are one hell of a lot of words I have no idea of how to spell so allow me the liberty. Any way, your description and the AAR you sent put some things in perspective that I really wasn't really sure of, but I will assume them accurate and go with what I remember after 30 years. We, the troop were ordered into a blocking action along the ridgeline northwest of Cam Lo. I believe the whole troop was involved and we spread out on the ridgeline. TAC air was called in and I remember F4's nailing a few locations. Sitting up there is was like watching a circus, but it seemed to take forever to get the air there. By the time the air arrived the little guys had an hour to run. I knew the 1/61 was involved but didn't know the 3/5 was, really only that other friendlies were engaged to the north and were in the AO. I was asked/ordered/told, whatever you prefer, and result is the same, to take a bunch of infantry down into the valley to link up with their unit. I think they were to link up. I don't know of another reason. Carlson was the CO at the time and Hap Trainer the XO. Anyway, Platt my Platoon Sergeant was strung out somewhere and it was easier for your tank to lead so you were attached to the c olumn and were the lead. I only had one other tank in the platoon at the time because 38 I think, was that the third tank #, had sunk in the Cua Viet. Do you remember when we were ferried by the navy down toward the Hai Vong pass and attached to the 101st. Any way my third tank was loading when the boat backed up and the TC was off the vehicle and it slowly rolled right into the Cua Viet, a million bucks down the river.

OK. We formed a column, loaded with infantry and down we went. Couldn't recon by fire as friendlies were in the AO, couldn't fire mortars because of friendlies and lets face it at that time, my mortar guys didn't have the experience the VC did. Matter of fact I don't ever remember using that big baby the entire time I was there. Do remember talking about using it though. Anyway you know what happened. It ended up not being the walk into nothing that we had taken so many times before, but a ride into an ambush. When you were hit the whole column pulled a right flank and opened up. I had to clear the infantry out of my track, think I had their Lt on the track, and they hit the ground behind my vehicle. In the process my como wire became undone and I had to go below, make contact with 6 and then gain control of things, and it took me a bit to get the como back up and working. In the frenzy I didn't know if it was the radio again or what, and then I found the wire unplugged. When I popped up Freyler was firing off to the right and Zamora on the 50 forward I told Freyler to shoot low, and he got pissed and yelled "I got one in my sights" or words to that effect. I cased the terrain to the rear and fired some bursts, when Freyler got hit in the wrist and went down. The firefight continued until things died down. I remember looking at Sgt Skinner (second tour ex 11ACR, damn good Sgt.) the TC to my right and him motioning me to move the line forward. I nixed that and motioned so. This is when I get fuzzy. Don't know what I did a bout other wounded, assumed I checked but knew support was headed down. I had to get Freyler out. I am embarrassed to say I don't know how bad you personally were, but knew one guy, your TC, was lost. Think I told others to stay put until support came and took off up the hill alone to get Freyler out. May have been in some shit on the way out as rear of the track was riddled with bullet marks. Got Freyler medevaced, after passing the relief on the way down. Then returned. Always wondered how the rear of my track got shot up with small arms fire. We were on a little knoll. Where they on both sides of us, or did it happen on the trip out to evacuate Freyler? I'll never know.

The rest is just some observations after 30 or so years. Didn't know you were hit with 2 RPG's. Assume your TC was riding in position. Ryan on the hatch. You on the outside left. They must have knocked you out and hoped to take me out because there was one of those big pizza type claymores they had just in front of my track location. Think I recall a chunk was blown off but lucky they didn't get to fire it or it misfired. Wonder if Zamora got it with the 50."

I have been embarrassed about this whole event for years. Wish all could have been different. Lost some sleep many times, but managed to get on with life. Have always wanted to talk with the guy others said fought the tank single-handedly. The word was you did a hell of a job. What about Hagland? Any word?

They gave me a Bronze Star with V. I'm embarrassed about that. I did what I had to do. Nothing more and I hope nothing less. I have no idea why I consented to ferry a bunch of infantry down into the area, hornets nest, and didn't proceed slowly, with infantry out front as would be classic formation. We were giving these guys a ride! Of course we did a whole lot of things unconventionally over there.

As for you, I would be more than willing to write and find out why you didn't receive anything. You deserve something. Believed in what we were doing and still do. Volunteered to go the Nam with the 4/12. Was in C Troop in Carson and transferred to A when the word got out they were going. Much rather go with guys I trained and trained with.

Remember Sgt. Cook. Think I liked him. Don't remember De Somer. Sgt. Platt told me one new Lt. that came in after me to one of the platoons shot himself in the foot. Charlie Brown was Kirchner, first Platoon, Mad Dog, Howell, second platoon, and Blue Max, me the third. Don't know how or why on the call sign, think Howell uttered it and it stuck. .

end opf narrative by Bill McShane

"By: Captain Kenneth Carlson, C.O. A Troop 4/12 Cavalry

So, as to Cam Hung, my perspective is only one view of what happened. I do have a couple of advantages, however. One, I was the Troop Commander, so I had a unique sense of what was going on both above and below me. Second, in a fight with the VA and the Department of the Army over compensation, I had to do some research in the National Archives here in Washington. Thus, I have the operational records of reports on Cam Hung which many of you looked over carefully at the Reunion

So here is the story of the Battle of Cam Hung from my perspective:

First, Blue Max was absolutely right that he was missing a tank, which "sank" in the Cua Viet River a few weeks earlier. Actually, it didn't sink - the Navy screwed the pooch by not keeping the screws of the LVT turning while 38 was driving aboard. 38 simply pushed the LVT out into the river and proceeded to disappear under the water. When we finally got Navy divers down in the river to hook up a tow cable, the tank had vanished. Later, we found that the power of the Cua Viet after a monsoon had pushed the 48 tons out to sea! 38 was found about 200 yards offshore in the Gulf of Tonkin. Nonetheless, 3rd Platoon only had two tanks. That plays a major role in the Cam Hung action.

28 Feb 1969: A Troop was back from our Cua Viet adventure (another story for another piece) and had been assigned night screen and ambush duty - sound familiar? But this time, we were set up just west of Camp Red Devil and the Quang Tri Combat Base. Getting there had cost us a track which hit a mine about 1900 hrs. enroute to dropping off an ambush patrol. We had a casualty from a mine which we estimated as 30-40 lbs. of explosive which broke track and blew off two road wheels and an idler arm assembly. (Duty Officer's Log, Item #55, 1st Bde, 28 Feb 69 )(DOL 28) Earlier, at 1632 hrs. 3-5 Cav Squadron (just attached to 1st Bde) reported contact west of C-2. Later, at 2225 hours, reports say that both B, 3-5 Cav and Mike Co, 3/3 Marines have been in heavy contact with unknown sized enemy force at YD 098630. 1 US KIA, 7 WIA.

2300 hrs., 28 Feb: I received a call on the radio telling me to report to the Brigade TOC at Camp Red Devil ASAP. We were about 4 miles away, at least. Since it was awfully dark and we had already hit a mine in the area, I asked if the Bde could send a chopper to pick me up. No was the answer, this is to be silent and covert. No tracked vehicle - I was to come in my jeep. When someone woke up my driver, all he could say, and I echoed, was "are you shi--ing me?" I called Blue Max and told him he was in charge while I was gone, which may be forever. We drove with lights off to the Red Devil gate, where the Brigade was nice enough to have alerted the perimeter that we were coming, blackout.

COL Jim Gibson, the Brigade Commander, met me soon after I entered the TOC. Our mission, he told me, was to move A Troop north, cross country, to the vicinity of Cam Lo, where we would be attached to 3-5 Cavalry for combat operations against an unknown sized enemy force. Why had he selected us, since we were already in place for the night? His answer was, “There is no other unit in this Brigade that can do what I am asking yours to do, under these conditions."

When would he like us to do this? "Now - immediately - and under blackout conditions. Under no circumstances were we to take roads because the enemy would know we were coming."

A cross country, night road march, into known combat, blacked out, and in an area where we knew enemy mines were planted... Let me assure you that, as your commander, my a--hole slammed shut, several times. I called Blue Max on my way out the gate and told him to bring in all the ambushes - NOW - and place the Troop in march order for my return. His 3d Platoon would lead. "Oh, and by the way, I cannot tell you what we are about to do but I will be coming back in a dark jeep - so unless you want command of what was about to become a "goat rope," please tell the troops not to shoot me." Upon my return, at 0010 hours, LT McShane had done as I ordered. We started what was likely one of the most unusual and harrowing armored movements of the entire Vietnam War. (DOL, 1 Mar 69, Item 32) There was no time to tell everyone what was happening. Blue Max had the lead track, or perhaps the second. I know that my track, A1A, was third, in the middle of his platoon. We guided by azimuths which we shot about every 1000-2000 meters (by getting off the ACAVs), since the road didn't go to where we were headed. It was truly cross country. Although I hoped that the troops were trying to catch some sleep, I knew that, given the circumstances, all of you must have thought that I had lost my mind. Mostly, I was sleepy, concerned and determined.

Having crossed the Cam Lo River in darkness, we arrived in our designated assembly area, Quat Xa, YD102596, at 0330 hrs. During the night, suspected enemy positions in the valley around Cam Hung were fired upon by 6 batteries of Marine artillery, two batteries of Army artillery and the battleship, USS New Jersey. Not knowing what we were about to face - or how soon - I directed all platoons to put max numbers of troopers to sleep, while LTs and I planned what would happen next. Since we had heard nothing from 3-5 Cav, to whom we were now attached and whose radio freqs we didn't have, our plans were not very detailed. I don't think anyone got much sleep since we could hear the sounds of the artillery, and especially the New Jersey, all night long.

What I did know about 3-5 Cav was that their S-3 (Operations Officer) was MAJ Nick Krawciw, a Regimental Commander at West Point, a second tour Vietnam vet (and later a 3 star general.) Oh, and the Squadron Commander was LTC Bill Anderson (later a 2 star general ), once Army Football's "Lonesome End," who in a prior Vietnam tour, had won the Medal of Honor for calling napalm in on his own position to prevent being overrun. I figured these guys knew what they were about. [Note error in the original script: William "Bill" Stanley Carpenter, Jr., LTG, U.S. Army (Retired) (born November 30, 1937) is an American former Army officer and college football player. While playing college football, he gained national prominence as the "Lonesome End" of the Army football team. During his military service in Vietnam, he again achieved fame when he saved his company by directing airstrikes on his own position. For the action, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.]

Just after dawn on 1 March, A Troop left its assembly area at Quat Xa and was ordered by 3-5 Cav to head through the hills to the North, and occupy blocking positions on Hill 124, YD075623, to seal off any enemy avenue of escape to the West or South from the vicinity of Cam Hung. At 0820 hrs. one of our ACAVs hit a mine estimated to be 40lbs of explosive which blew off the right track, 2 roadwheels, the final drive and put a hole in the hull. (DOL 1 Mar, Item 39.) We had one WIA.

When we arrived on Hill 124, we were aligned facing generally North with 1st Platoon, then under 1LT John DeSomer (Shadow) on the left, 2d Platoon under 1LT John Howell (Mad Dog) in the center, and 3rd Platoon under Blue Max on the right. 1st Platoon made a button hook around the hill to the north where we linked up with 3-5 Cav, so the whole troop was not in a straight line on the hilltops. I was located with 3rd Platoon on the right.

We sat on Hill 124 for several hours, watching as 3-5 Cav across the valley engaged targets below that we couldn't see. Then the air show began at 1517 hrs. (DOL Summary, 2 Mar, Item 8). Mad Dog's photos show what we all remember - a lot of airpower, with both "snake and nape" being dropped on positions in the valley below us. Our orders were to continue to seal the area to the West and South, thinking that the enemy would try to escape the area. 1-61 Infantry (Mech) was sent in to seal off the Eastern escape route. They brought some Marine tanks with them.

It was starting to turn dusk (early March) at 1700 hrs. when we got the call to head down into the valley, taking with us a platoon of Infantry dismounts from C Company, 1-11 Infantry. Their job was going to be to search the valley for any survivors after the air strikes and the artillery and Naval gunfire barrages of the night before. We were directed by 3-5 Cav to get down the hill quickly, before darkness set in.

The fastest way down into the valley was a trail right in front of A1A and 3rd Platoon. Even though we had seen some impressive firepower rained down on the valley, I was still uncomfortable with the mission. Because one of 3-5 Cav's troops was going down opposite us, we were precluded from "recon by fire" as we went down. I decided that we needed to lead with tanks.

I directed Blue Max to take one of the 2d Platoon tanks plus his remaining one and lead the way. PSG Platt's tank was not located anywhere near the route down the hill, so it didn't go down with the first two tanks. My track, A1A, followed about 3-4 vehicles behind Blue Max, but still inside his platoon.

The route down (below) shows that there was a steep descent, followed by a flatter area, then another rise.

Blue Max directed Tank 28, the one he had borrowed from 2d Platoon, to lead. It was closest to the trail. SSG Harold Haglund, quite new to the troop, was the TC. SP5 Bill Ryan was the gunner, SP4 Bill Gossman was the driver and SP4 Glenn Bowers was the loader.

As 28 went over the first hump going down the hill is when one of the Infantrymen got bounced off. When the tanks got to the Valley Floor, they went up a slight rise. That's where the shooting began.

I did not consider this to be an ambush. Rather, we were directed to take some Infantry down the hill to do BDA, bomb damage assessment. We would remain outside the tree line and support by fire, but only if needed. We had no mission to link up with the 3-5 Cav Troop coming down the other side of the valley, but we were to be aware that there were friendlies to our front. The combat logs say that we "conducted a "mounted assault against enemy bunker complexes at YD 082627." (DOL 2 Mar Item 8) That's news to me. If I had been given the order to "conduct a mounted assault" I would have called the Squadron Commander personally and told him that I can't assault without using my unit weaponry. We would have reconned by fire. Only after the fact could it be called "a mounted assault."

Once the shooting began, my troop command net became jammed with traffic on the needs for medics. Some track commanders keyed the net, thinking they were on their own intercoms. I could see what had happened ahead of A1A, but I couldn't talk to Blue Max or anyone else. I dismounted and ran forward to the slight rise where 28 had been hit. Tracks were shooting in all directions, and we had not yet concentrated our fire on the enemy bunker emplacement. My platoon leaders and I had agreed as part of our SOP that I would load all tracer rounds into my M-16. If we ever lost commo and they could see me, they were to direct their fire where my stream of tracers were flying. I fired in the direction from where the RPG's were coming and the main guns and 50's began to concentrate on the area I was designating. The whole shooting match lasted perhaps 90 seconds to 2 minutes, but by that time we had tracks from all three platoons in the fight.

Bill Ryan was killed instantly by the first RPG. SSG Haglund was hit in the leg. The second RPG wounded the driver, Bill Gossman and killed outright SSG John Gibbons, the Infantry squad leader from C 1-11 Inf who was riding on the right front fender and was hit in the chest. Only Glenn Bowers escaped, by being thrown off the tank by the explosive force. He remounted soon after to continue to try fighting the tank.

SP4 Greg Freyler, a mechanic who couldn't stay out of the action, was hit on Blue Max's track. SGT Frank Long from 1st Platoon was hit; SP4 Jesse Zamora and SP4 Vernon Adams, both of 3rd Platoon were hit. And I was hit in the right arm by an AK 47 round which had ricocheted off my M-16 and embedded in my forearm. Luckily mine was just a flesh wound. When the shooting stopped, some of the wounded, such as Freyler, had already been taken part way up the hill where the Infantryman had been bounced off 28. Down at the site of the shooting, I directed several soldiers to police up the remaining body parts of SSG Gibbons and put them in a poncho. They either refused or ignored me. So, I started picking up parts of SSG Gibbons, an African American, and putting them in the poncho. When one of the Platoon Sergeants saw me doing this, he got the other troopers involved immediately.

On the evening of 1 March, we remained atop Hill 124 and sorted out ammo shortages, preparing for expected orders next day to return down into the valley. That evening, my Kit Carson Scout used my bullhorn to call down into the valley with instructions on how to “Chieu Hoi” to the powerful American Cavalry. Much to my surprise, we had two NVA come in the next morning, weapons slung over their backs, muzzles down.

On 2 March, as expected, we were directed to go back down the hill, this time with just our own Infantry and Scouts, to search the battle area. 1 st Bde PAO flew in with two yahoos from CBS News. They were wearing Hawaiian shirts! One had a huge Bolex camera on his shoulder. They wanted to accompany one of our dismounted patrols.

We found lots of weapons, ammo, rice and other stuff and lots of blood trails leading out of a bunker complex we discovered. The CBS Crew was filming the reporters “closing remarks” to the story. He said that we were “deep inside the DMZ” and the men were “dirty, hungry and didn't know why they were here” When I looked around, all I saw was a bunch of happy soldiers who had been victorious and were now blowing up the enemy's fortifications and equipment.

The battle calculus for Cam Hung was 118 NVA killed and 13 individual and 8 crew served weapons captured. We also captured 194 mortar rounds and eighteen 122 mm rockets. There were 3 US KIA and 35 wounded. Seven APC's and six tanks were damaged. Two battalions of the NVA 27th Regiment were involved in the battle against 3-5 Cav, 1-61 Inf, one company of 1-11 Inf and A Troop, 4-12 Cav. ":

In mid-afternoon of 2 March, we were directed to leave one platoon in position on Hill 124 to work with Engineers on bunker destruction the next day. The Troop (-) was to head for C-2 where we would receive new orders. There was some concern about this move because of all the mines we had hit in recent days and around this NVA headquarters. So, again, I directed that we lead with tanks. I rode in the second tank, with PSG Platt. The first tank missed it, but PSG Platt's tank hit a mine, later determined to be rigged from unexploded USAF ordnance. I was blown out of the loader's hatch, told later that I went about 15 feet in the air, landing on my back. Blood coming out of all orifices, I was out cold with a concussion. PSG Platt was also wounded. When I woke up, I was in Bravo Med, 3 rd Marine Division in Ðong Hà. I was on an x ray table. The doctor said something to me, but I could hear nothing in my left ear and only loud ringing in my right. He wrote a note: “Your back is not broken, but you'll pay for this in future years.” The Marines transported me back to LZ Nancy, where I was to be on quarters for two weeks while my back muscles healed and my hearing slowly returned. However, when the Troop came back to LZ Nancy on 4 March, I went to the front gate and saluted as each vehicle rolled in.

Bill McShane departed the Troop for the 11 th Cav on 14 March, so we never got a chance to discuss together what each of us perceived of the events from 28 Feb to 2 Mar 1969 .

MAJ Nick Krawciw, the 3-5 Cav S3, had observed all that happened from his OH-6 LOH over the battlefield on 1 March. He put Blue Max in for the Bronze Star for Valor, and I was proud to write the witness statement in support. When I left command at the beginning of April, I went to Brigade Staff as the Deputy S-1. One of my jobs was to investigate and answer Congressional correspondence for the Brigade Commander's signature. Sometime in June, we received a letter from the Congressman representing the family of SSG Gibbons of C/1-11. Why, if as the Army reported, SSG Gibbons was killed by small arms fire, was the casket sealed for his funeral? I related the story of his death as an eyewitness, not as an investigator. When COL Gibson read the proposed response for his signature, it was the only time I ever saw him cry.

By: Captain Kenneth Carlson, C.O. A Troop 4/12 Cavalry

End of Narrative by CPT Carlson, and detailed communication from MSG Glenn Bowers, with much gratitute.

Some dink officer from the 1st. Division must have gotten lost in the bushes, so I patched him up and brought him back to camp with the rest of the squad. Lots of jokes for doing that by the rest of the guys. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do even when it is so ironic it no longer makes sense.

Monday 3 March 1969: 6 enemy kills, and not one wounded for us. I wonder why nobody is celebrating.  They'll have beer at base camp.

Wednesday 5 March 1969: we're getting into lots of heavy fracas with the enemy. Strange that casualties only amount to light wounds, so easily cured so we can be free to kill some more.

Friday 7 March 1969: We're doing better, less fighting and no fatalities but two minor wounds. The Brigade continues to suffer casualties: Rifleman from Delta Company, 1/11, SP4 William Mc Namara died. We should send his body to Washington for Mc Namara's little numbers game. CO authorizes us to increase our body count to include those presumed killed - presumed??? Hell, every time I have somebody in my sights you can presume his wife a widow. The enemy knows we are here. The enemy knows we can kill. Therefore, the enemy has a death wish. Today, we take the fight to the enemy - Don't we always ? [never according to the civilian press - Ever since the orphanage disaster I've stopped reading the "Stars and Stripes" - because it is starting to sound like we are going to have to be sent home to teach draft-dodging kids a lesson in life and mostly death - never hear of marches in behalf of our dead]; and they are hailing and waving the enemy flag during times of war - hmm ... sounds a lot like treason to me. Unfortunately, our platoon took the lead. My former squad leader 1LT Nelson L. Smith [Delta Company, Second Platoon, 1/11] was killed early on. They had no leader but SP4 William Goodwin kept charging forward ahead of us with his machine gun - very hard to keep up with him - until he was shot and killed. We were too isolated, so I grabbed Goodwin's M-60 and a couple of belts of ammo, and then took charge of the squad and circled around to help the rest of the platoon. Enemy snipers were everywhere, but mostly took us by surprise from the top of trees.  SP4 Joe Russo [Delta Company] was killed. Ran out of ammo, so I got my kit and dealt with the wounded. Too many wounded, just had to keep going back for them all the time.

10 March 1969: I am still alive - I don't know why. Call me Sarge! I have requested a one-week R&R to Thailand for May. I will spend my birthday away from all this.  Hey!, I'm getting SHORT - just 135 days left in-country, almost 2/3 done with my time.

DIAMOND DUST Vol 2, No 25 March 12,1969 (newsletter of the 5th Inf Div in Vietnam)

Article provided by Dan “Mack” McAuliff, 3 rd Plt 68-69 4/12 Interrupts Enemy Baths by SP4 Robert P. Smith

An enemy bath party was interrupted recently by a reconnaissance patrol from A Troop, 4 th Squadron, 12 th Cavalry south of Quang Tri. As the 10-man 1 st Brigade, 5 th Infantry Division (Mech) patrol cautiously made its way along a streambed, SP4 Mike D. Rich, Indianapolis, the point man, came to a sudden stop and motioned for the rest of the patrol to take cover. We heard voices to our left; we were going to back off and come in from their blind side,” stated 1LT John DeSomer, Syracuse, Ind. “We were going to assault them because we thought we could take them by surprise but then we heard voices all around us. About 25 yards in front three enemy were taking a bath in the stream. The had their weapons lying on the riverbank,” SP4 Rich commented. “One of them turned around and we were staring directly at each other and then they all started for their weapons. One burst from my M-16 and all three of them tumbled into the water. Then all hell broke loose,” SGT George Padrick, Salem , Ore. , added. “We were in a pretty heavy fire fight and we had to withdraw because we were outnumbered. The patrol returned to the site the next day: “They must have cleared out of the area as fast as we did because they left behind weapons and other equipment,” said 1LT DeSomer.

That sounds exactly like the mission we went on my first full day with the Troop. They put me on an PC and off we went. I didn'tt pay any attention to what direction we went in just out to these hills and dismounted all but one per vehicle and off we went up in the hills. It seemed like we went up for hours. We were told to get down because we ran up on these guys taking baths and such and then all Hell broke lose. Point came back up the trail running full out and we started to return fire, the trigger pin vibrated out of my M-16 (the one i was assigned that morning) and then the trigger fell out, just when i knew i was going to die we hauled ass, it didn't take us as long to get out of those hills as it did to get up them. The track i was on hit a mine going back across the river and blew us off the back and when we hit the ground we looked back across the river at the rest of the column and they where screaming at us to get back across the river and we didn't argue and that was late March/early April 69 if i can remember right.

That was a Hell of a way to start my first day with the Troop but in hindsight it was probably the best way to start one's tour. I had a little talk with the guys in the arms room when we got back to Nancy .


Coop-- I do remember that incident somewhat. As I remember, it happened pretty much like the article says. But,I think we tried to go back in the next day from the back side,but could'nt find it. So the next day we went in the original way and hoped for the best. Hope it helped.

Skip Padrick

16 March 1969 - It's Sunday, time is a drag and everything is happening too fast. Rumors are that we're going to kick ass in Laos. So Westward Ho The Wagons, down Route 9. Later, we would be told that we were part of Task Force Remagen -- Sounds like a leftover from World War II Germany.  The Brigade was now using its Infantry and Mechanized support for the 3rd. Marines in action in the neighborhood of Khe Sanh.  These operations would be extended by encompassing the entire area all the way to Laos, and would last well into April.

Tuesday 18 March 1969: I think I will die soon, too many new faces in the squad. Some of them just break down and cry instead of shooting at the enemy, but at least no one has been killed in a while. We had only one medic left from the original crew from Fort Carson assigned to the 1/61st., and I hear say he was killed today, in Delta Company, 1/61st. He was my friend and he taught me how to save lives and his name was SP4 Robert Patterson from Oklahoma!! He was 22, and had a cute girl friend with a gorgeous smile. He was helping, working with Delta Company of 1/61st but was attached to a diffetent company, rescuing his wounded when he was killed by a booby trap 6 km East of Khe Sanh. The deeper we go, the more intense things are getting. We're clearly facing a large, and smart force, and I don't know where we are - I don't know where Patterson died.  We're all getting shorter, but for some of us freedom will come inside a poncho bag.

19 March 1969: Heavy encounter by our sister companies near Ap Xá - Received word that a SP4 Swords 22 years of age from Delta Company 1/11 - a very good name for earlier wars died aboard a hospital ship from wounds he received from a frag grenade on 16 March. Left behind his young wife, Yvonne.

20 March 1969: Found the village of Làng Ta Tuc [north of Khé Sanh] deserted, and we are chasing the retreating NVA north into the high mountains! Then some of us get back to camp.

26 March 1969: Red Devil Brigade is lucky, killing the enemy and not getting killed, except for a SP4 Antonio Morales of Bravo Company, 1/11th INF, in his fourth month of Viêt Nam Tour. At the relatively ripe old age of 23 years, he joined us back in November and was from Arizona. I remember him showing us a picture of his wife, Violet. Alpha and Bravo Company 1/11th INF had first been attacked by the NVA two days earlier in the dark hours of the morning.  Tomorrow we go back out in the field.

Thursday 27 March 1969: The shit has hit the proverbial fan, as we are involved in Operation Montana Mauler. As soon as we were landed and everywhere at once we were besieged from every goddamn hill, behind every hedgerow and around every scrub brush. We must have stumbled upon a major base of operations for the NVA, but they had us nailed perfectly and they are well entrenched. I think our entire battalion is now involved along with some of the others in the Brigade. Radio chatter is endless. Very hard to do my job, lost count and track of time as well. Some of the wounded are unconscious but not fatally hurt, have to drag them through the mud as I can't lift them for their dead weight.  A couple of others were able to lean on me, but enemy fire made us get back down and crawl back to safer areas.  Getting really pissed off because the guys are getting shot up faster than I can get to them. Always the sound of explosions and rifle fire, no jets overhead, but huge artillery explosions off our positions. My ears are buzzing constantly. After a while, the noise makes everything some peaceful-like and the only thing I seem to hear is the call for medic.  As far as I know, all the wounded I took care of made it to the choppers. Lots of poncho bags, the mud turned red. Won't be easy to get all the names. This day, Charley Company is being decimated. Only 8 guys left in my squad, where are the other four? Our platoon and company level performance is no better. I hope the rest of the guys can help us. I think we are all about to die, this will make Custer's last stand look like a cake walk. Many years later, I found out we were fighting in the Song Ngan River Valley at Hill 208 (~10 km West Northwest of Cam Lo) against the NVA 27th Regiment. This is precisely where, in July, 1966, the 3rd Marine Division fought fiercely in their Operation Hastings against the NVA 812th Regiment. For the 3rd. Marines, participation in Operation Montana Mauler was a deja vue rerun. [Red Devil Brigade casualties for 27 March added later and may not be comprehensive: SP4 Bobby Walters, 21 y.o. rifleman lost to a grenade; SP4 Leslie Worl 21 year-old rifleman, a draftee from Texas who had just completed his first year of duty was shot to death. Both from Bravo Company 1/11th INF; also from Bravo Company: PFC Oscar Johnson, 20 year old, married draftee rifleman from Pennsylvania was shot; SGT Louis Dixon, 26 year old (clearly one of our elders) from Alabama, machine gunner was shot in cross fire, Bronze Star with Valor. CPT Marvin Roberts, 25 years old from Baton Rouge,Louisiana, was married and had a son. He was mortally wounded today (died 28 March 1969). Body count: some 120 dead NVA, but we lost 13 good guys and Bravo Company lost all its officers.



The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to Marvin James Roberts (0-2320412), Captain (Infantry), U.S. Army (Reserve), for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving as company commander of Company B, 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized), on 27 March 1969. Wounded while leading his men against the entrenched enemy positions, Captain Roberts still managed to call for and adjust artillery and tactical air strikes on the NVA positions. He then moved through the ranks shouting encouragement and giving directions to continue the attack. As his unit neared the crest of the hill, an enemy grenade bounded into the company command group. Immediately and without regard to his own safety, he hurled the grenade back into the aggressor's position, killing the occupant. At that point, hostile machine guns opened fire from a concealed position inflicting casualties upon the exposed forces. Realizing that the machine guns threatened the lives of most of his company, Captain Roberts drew his pistol and charged up a hill through a curtain of fire and hurled a grenade into the position, silencing the enemy weapons. At this point the captain was the only officer remaining in the command group. His assault carried him to the enemy position where he fired his pistol at point blank range and killed the remainder of the machine gun crew. Captain Roberts was again seriously wounded in the assault on the machine gun position. Inspired by his leadership, the men of his unit rushed the crest of the hill and overcame the remaining enemy resistance. Mortally wounded and unable to move, he continued to point out enemy positions to his company and refused to be evacuated until the objective was secured and all other casualties had been treated and evacuated. Captain Roberts extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Department of the Army, General Orders No. 40 (July 22, 1970)

Home Town: Baton Rouge, Louisiana"

From our company, Charley Company 1/11th INF; PFC Leonard Ivy Jr., 19-year old married rifleman replacement, from Sullivan, Indiana, second month in country died from a grenade, survived by his young wife, Thelma; SP4 Allison Locklair, 20-year old from South Carolina, machine gunner may have stepped on a booby trap; SP4 David Flannery, 24 year old, had a son, forward artillery observer died from a grenade; SP4 Robert Lee Anglin, 20 years old, a youngster rifleman was blown up and along with him from 1st PLT, PFC Everett Culp, 20 years old, replacement rifleman from Kentucky, 3rd. month in country, left his wife Wanda, a young widow ...

{According to information from Phillip Smith, nephew of PFC Culp, received 11 August 2000 citing the Company Commander for details: " ...Charley Company had been on a mission south of LZ Sharon to find an NVA hospital when on 26 March, it was told to come back to Sharon. What they didn't know then was that India Company, 3rd. Marine Division, had come upon a well-placed NVA Regiment northeast of Cam Lo ... Back at Sharon on the night of the 26th. they were told that they were to be airlifted to Hill 208 the next morning to block the enemy's escape north to the DMZ.  After being airlifted to the position, they were only able to get three choppers down with about 13-15 men on them before they started taking small arms fire and incoming mortars.  [My Uncle was on one of these three choppers].  So there they had about 45 men on the ground with only the cover of bomb craters from previous bombings, getting pounded by the NVA with no way of fighting back! [All this went on in the space of about 45 minutes!!!] They got organized and located the mortars so the air strikes could begin, and started to get the wounded evacuated.  Since learning that the 27th. NVA Regiment was the enemy here, it is interesting to note that in the last week of February, 1969 through the first week of March, 1969, C/1/11 was opcon to the 3/5 Cav on a mission to the DMZ.  After digging into that a little more, I found that it was almost the same as Hill 208! C Company airlifted to a hill just to the east of Hill 208 to do battle with the same 27th. NVA Regiment as on March 27th.}" 

... SP4 Dimitrios Arniotis, 20 years old, draftee from NY, machine gunner - died from shrapnel wounds from a grenade, did his AIT at Ft Jackson; Alpha Company lost SP4 Joseph Dobynes 23years old to a grenade; they also lost 22 year-old SGT Stan Bradley to mortar fire; Bravo Company In the early hours, Bravo Company 1/11th INF, 2d. Platoon, got a fire lit under them by Captain Roberts. He was wounded near the crest of the hill, but refused to be treated and urged his men on as he himself charged enemy fortified positions. Even though he was wounded again, he succeeded in vacating some enemy bunkers thus easing the pressure on the rest of us.. Single-handedly, he took quite of few of the enemy with him.  



The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross (Posthumously) to William DeBrece Cody (0-5352323), First Lieutenant (Infantry), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Company B, 1st Battalion, 11th Infantry, 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized). First Lieutenant Cody distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 27 March 1969 as a platoon leader during an attempt by his company to capture a hill just south of the Demilitarized Zone which was the key terrain feature overlooking the infiltration route of a North Vietnamese regiment. Encountering an intense barrage from enemy bunkers while leading his men up the right side of the hill, Lieutenant Cody called for artillery and air strikes. Under cover of this supporting fire, he again advanced and continued to spearhead the attack even after receiving wounds from hostile mortar fragments. When an enemy machine gun emplacement opened fire, inflicting several casualties, he single-handedly assaulted through a hail of bullets and killed all three communists at the position with accurate bursts from his rifle. Inspired by his leadership, his troops overran the entrenched forces on the forward edge of the objective. As Lieutenant Cody and his men made their way through increasing hostile fire, he was fatally wounded by enemy mortar fragments. First Lieutenant Cody's extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty, at the cost of his life, were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

Headquarters, US Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 1934 (June 2, 1969)

Home Town: Robinson, Illinois "

PFC medical NCO Rene Aldo Buller, 20 years old, from Beaumont, Texas, 17th. day in country sent in to replace CPL Parker and working with Headquarters Company 1/11th INF shot and killed at or near hill 208.

For going back to retrieve wounded comrades in the line of fire several times, SGT Raffin was awarded the Silver Star for ... "... conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Corpsman with Company C, First Battalion, 11th. Infantry [of the 5th. Infantry Division (mechanized)], against elements of a North Vietnam Aggressor (NVA) battalion in Quang Tri Province, Republic of Viet Nam on 27 March 1969. Sergeant Raffin accompanied the point platoon as it aggressively dispatched the forward elements of an NVA battalion. The patrol came under intense small arms fire from several directions upon entering a clearing in the jungle path from approximately 100 North Vietnamese regulars. Oblivious to the danger, Sergeant Raffin crawled across the bullet spattered terrain to reach a wounded comrade. First treating the man's serious injuries, Sergeant Raffin, then dragged the wounded soldier to safety. When the call for "CORPSMAN" again reached across the clearing, Sergeant Raffin once more crawled to the wounded soldier, treated and brought him behind American lines to safety. From 1600 Hours to just before sunset [about 20:00 Hours], Sergeant Raffin deliberately exposed his position to direct enemy fire in order to direct his squad to an effective counter-attack relieving enemy pressure on sister units in the battle. Through his indomitable fighting spirit, daring initiative and unfaltering dedication to duty, Sergeant Raffin reflected great credit upon himself, and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Army" {direct citation from the General Order for the Silver Star issued to him in 1974} ."

Friday 28 March 1969: The hell continues. It's really tired out, and there are fewer of us than there were a few days ago.   SP4 Billy Duke, 20, Alpha Co., 1/11th INF, was badly hurt and was downed by mortar shrapnel. I remember tending to some wounded GI on my knees just a few yards from the bunker but the bushes were tall enough to cover us as long as we stayed down. There was some yelling and almost at the same time I heard the peculiar warbling sound of incoming round and felt like some football quarterback ran into me. A round had landed some short distance behind us. I found myself staring at the sky and rolled on my right to see my man coughing up blood. Everything was quiet but for a roaring in my ears and I felt I was watching myself in a slow movie. He was struggling against me but his airway was still clear but I think he bit his tongue real good, his eyes were glazing and his skin was clammy, I thought he was going into shock. I patched up another wound on his upper arm and shot him with morphine.  He had a fresh scalp wound, but it seemed to be superficial and as I began to apply a dressing to it I wondered how I hadn't noticed it before. I became aware of increased chatter of rifle fire which sounded like supersonic mosquitoes to my ears and decided to move us toward the bunker. I felt lethargic and out of breath.  When I tried to drag him I lost my footing. Then someone was grabbing me telling me I'd been hit. I thought to myself someone had gone nuts but of course it wasn't me. At some point I remember looking down because my left leg was not moving normally and I saw the side of my pant leg was getting dark with blood and I was convinced it had come from my patient. It was like I was looking at someone else, as if it wasn't me. There was a group of us then pulling ourselves toward the captured bunker. I felt overwhelming anger and rage - This can't be me, I'm not ready to die [overblown assessment of damage, since I only had minor shrapnel and even that was probably more pewter than lead in the hip, but I guess I was starting to lose it] maybe we shouldn't have been sent here. Then I got very light-headed and took a nap. Thirty years later I saw CPT Marvin James Roberts' name on the Wall, and he had died of multiple fragmentation wounds, according to other sources. On that day, I could still see his face. SP4 Billy Duke died before the Dust-Off choppers arrived, leaving his young wife, Bobbie, a widow.  My wounded man did not die that day but I never found out his name."

On 28 or 29 March 1969, SGT Raffin was transferred out of Viêt Nam and into Japan. {My brother, CPT Claude Raffin (soon to be Major) visited me at the Red Devil Base outside Quang Tri earlier in the month. Although he was technically stationed in Sai Gon, he was pretty much all over the place as he was affiliated with the civilian relocation program. So I then knew, that I was suddenly "shooooort"!!! His presence in the war zone made me a "sole survivor", so I would be transferred out of the warzone "shortly"}. Upon being released from the hospital, SGT Raffin successfully changed his military occupational specialty from Medic to Clerk [the college degree was instrumental, as well as a vacancy in the finance office at that time] and his rank was changed from Sergeant [a rank for Combat roles] to Specialist-5 [same rank as a Sergeant, though indicating a non-combat occupational specialty - you can't have a fighting man in an air-conditioned office filled with Asian civilians]. He was re-assigned to USARJ (U.S. Army Headquarters, Camp Zama, Japan). For serving with "... exemplary behavior efficiency and fidelity ...",he was awarded the Good Conduct Medal in August, 1969. He finished his tour of duty on 1 September 1969 - an early out was O.K. for veterans of the War Zone. His honorable discharge is dated 1 September 1973.

30 March 1969: In six years to the day, Ðà Nang will surrender to North Vietnamese forces.

"1 April 1969: This is the last of my reports since I'm no longer with 1/11th., I'm no longer with 5th. Mech., I'm no longer in the war zone either. I can't say Fuck the War because I still dream about it - how very strange! I'm processing out of the hospital, and damn near terrified the whole office staff sitting cozily in their air-conditioned offices. See, no one issues me clean fatigues, so I process out just fine and had one of the personnel clerks assign me to Finance Office. I couldn't go back to the Nam even if I wanted to because my brother is stationed in Sài Gòn ... So I get to stay in Japan. Anyway, so there I walk into this civilian outfit and one of the gooks greets me first with a smile and then she actually notices me and her expression changes to one of consternation or maybe revulsion. Anyway, she starts a racket with rapid fire nonsense but at least it's not VC talk, and takes off for the back office. You'd think they could speak English in an Army installation. Just typical! Anyway by that time I have the undivided attention of most of the clerks, a mixture of Army PFCs and Spec4s. And I become conscious of the fact that my fatigues have no stripes, that for all the perfume the women in the office are wearing, I can still smell the Nam on me, that my boots are caked with mud and stuff, as are my fatigues, and that I still have two fully loaded magazines of ammunition in my pockets - but no weapon! Have you ever felt naked in front of a group of people? Well, let me tell you, I sure did at that time. Then a Sergeant comes up to me and imperiously asks what the hell I'm doing here [I think he meant what the Hell am I doing here dressed like this; but he was an E-6 and I was just an E-5 so I was not about to get technical - SSG Purington was later my immediate superior in the Office], so I showed him my orders for a transfer, then told him casually that I came straight from Viet Nam to the hospital and thence to here - was there something wrong? So he became nice, and ordered a SGT to take me immediately to quarters and supplies for complete re-issue [they wear starched Khaki uniforms and spit-shined shoes] --- Haven't seem them things since AIT school at Ft. Carson. Months later the Japanese civilian staff was still laughing at the impression I made upon arrival.  Japan was a nifty transition. It gave me the time needed to successfully pretend to be civilized and not to experience violent hatred at the mere sight of an Asian face. Little did I know that I would soon be introduced to women!!! What a fitting ending to the War! " 

Received from Red Devil Brigade Survivor (April, 2003): From their sanctuaries across the Laotian border, the North Vietnamese launched a number of attacks against the night positions of the task force. A typical night attack occurred on 25 April, beginning with an extensive mortar barrage at 0330 hours. An estimated battalion from the 304th North Vietnamese Army Division was attempting to overrun and destroy the night defensive position of the 2d Troop, 7th ARVN Cavalry. Team ARVN, as the unit was designated, was under the operational control of the 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry (Mechanized). The heavy mortar barrage was followed by a determined ground attack using rocket propelled grenades, small arms, automatic weapons, flamethrowers, and satchel charges. Unable to penetrate the position, the enemy quit the field at 0600 leaving behind 33 dead North Vietnamese soldiers, several weapons, and 300 prepared satchel charges.

Three days later the enemy tried again. The commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry (Mechanized), had prepared his defenses well. The company was alerted by the men at a listening post, who sprang an ambush on the enemy soldiers as they were moving into position. Again, the enemy attack was supported by fire from rocket propelled grenades, mortars, small arms, and automatic weapons. Throwing satchel charges and using flame devices, the enemy troops charged from the southwest but were unable to penetrate the perimeter. Before dawn they again withdrew and disappeared into the night. This time 34 of their soldiers were killed, small arms and automatic weapons littered the battlefield, and 500 satchel charges lay undetonated.

For one group who came after us, the deadliest day in the Viet Nam War in 3 years: at C-2 firebase on 21 May 1971, a tribute to 30 Red Devils. ... (as of 15 Sep 2016)


RIP: SP5 William D. Ryan, A TRP, 4TH SQDN, 12TH CAVALRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 1 March 1969, 21 years old, RPG, near Thòn Ba Thung(~7 km South-SouthWest of Cô’n Tiên), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SSG John Brown Gibson, Jr., C CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 1 March 1969, 28 years old, RPG, near Thòn Quât Xá (~4 km NorthWest of Cam Lô, Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SP4 William James Mc Namara, D CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 7 March 1969, 19 years old, Firefight, North of Dông Óng Dó (near Quâ’t Xá); (~7 km East-NorthEast of Ba Lo’ng), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: 1LT Nelson Lee Smith, D CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 7 March 1969, 24 years old, Firefight, North of Dông Óng Dó (near Quâ’t Xá); (~7 km East-NorthEast of Ba Lo’ng), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SP4 William F. Goodwin, D CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 7 March 1969, 20 years old, Firefight, North of Dông Óng Dó (near Quâ’t Xá); (~7 km East-NorthEast of Ba Lo’ng), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SP4 Joseph C. Russo, D CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 7 March 1969, 21 years old, Firefight, North of Dông Óng Dó (near Quâ’t Xá); (~7 km East-NorthEast of Ba Lo’ng), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SGT Robert W. Patterson, HHC, 1ST BN, 61ST INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 18 March 1969, 22 years old, Booby trap, 6 km East of Khe Sanh (not far from LZ Sheppard), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SP4 John A Swords, D CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA wounded 16 March, Med. Evac'd, 21 years old, Booby trap, died on Hospital ship 19 March 1969, after successful dust-off in the field, Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SP4 Antonio Ruiz Morales, B CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 26 March 1969, 23 years old, Sniper, Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SP4 Bobby Joe Walters, B CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 27 March 1969, 21 years old, grenade, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 10 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SP4 Leslie Wayne Worl, B CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 27 March 1969, 21 years old, grenade, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 10 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: PFC Oscar Gibson Johnson, Jr., B CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 27 March 1969, 20 years old, grenade, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 10 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SGT Louis K. Dixon, B CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 27 March 1969, 26 years old, Firefight, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 10 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: CPT Marvin James Roberts, B CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA (wounded 27 March 1969, died 28 March 1969), 25 years old, Firefight, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 10 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: PFC Leonard Clarence Ivy, Jr.,C CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 27 March 1969, 19 years old, grenade, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 10 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SP4 Allison Wayne Locklair, C CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 27 March 1969, 20 years old, Booby Trap, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 10 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SP4 David Elwood Flannery, C CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 27 March 1969, 24 years old, grenade, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 10 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SP4 Robert Lee Anglin, C CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 27 March 1969, 20 years old, grenade, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 10 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: PFC Everett Tipton Culp, 1ST PLT, C CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 27 March 1969, 20 years old, grenade, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 10 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SP4 Dimitrios George Arniotis, C CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 27 March 1969, 20 years old, grenade, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 9 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SP4 Joseph James Dobynes, C CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 27 March 1969, 20 years old, grenade, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 9 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SGT Stanley Thomas Bradley, A CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 28 March 1969, 22 years old, mortar fire, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 10 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: 1LT Wiliam De Brece Cody, B CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 27 March 1969, 23 years old, sniper, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 10 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: PFC Rene Aldo Buller, HHC, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 27 March 1969, 20 years old, shot, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 10 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

RIP: SP4 Billy Wayne Duke, A CO, 1ST BN, 11TH INFANTRY, 1ST BDE, 5TH INF DIV (Mech), USARV, KIA 28 March 1969, 20 years old, mortar fire, Hill 208 (near Cam Tuyê‘n and about 10 km West-NorthWest of Cam Lô), Qua?ng Tri. Province, RVN

Go to Previous Month

Go to MJMR's home page

Go to the Viêt Nam War Museum Home Page      

E-mail us