As I write this account of Task Force Alpha and the life and death struggles on Hill 467, I am once again struck by the courage of the NVA soldiers who attacked us in the face of such overwhelming air superiority. I regret meeting such brave people only under such tragic circumstances. May we all live to see the day, when war is only a distant historical concept and strangers no longer have to kill each other out of fear.
Task Force Alpha on Hill 467
as part of
Operation Wayne Grey
Fourth Infantry Division, II Corp, Vietnam
1 MAR 69 - 14 APR 69
Col Hale H. Knight, Commanding
1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division
Allen M. Buckner,
1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment
Story told by Homer R. Steedly Jr. - Age 22, 1st Lieutenant, Bravo Company, Executive Officer, and later Acting Company Commander on Hill 467, serving with 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment.
Helicopter Support by 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion, 119th Assault Helicopter Company.Losses During Operation Wayne Grey ... Enemy - 575 KIA, 4 POW
I arrived in Viet Nam in mid August of 1968 during the Pleiku monsoon season. I have very few clear memories of my first six months in country as first platoon leader of Bravo Company, 1/8th, 4th Infantry Division, under Captain Brennan's capable leadership. Mostly I remember being wet most of the time and covered in that red Pleiku mud, then later, around December, when the monsoon quit and things began to dry out, being very hot, covered in fine red dust, thirsty, and exhausted most of the time from climbing up and down the mountains with my 90 pound rucksack, in temperatures hovering between 90 and 110 + degrees Fahrenheit, with highs above 115 degrees. We generally spent most of our time stomping around the jungle, then setting up camp and sending out small ambush or recon patrols into the surrounding free fire zones. We usually moved 6 to 10 Klicks a day. We would move to or cut an LZ out of the jungle, every 3 to 5 days to permit a chopper to land and take personnel out or deliver replacements, chow, mail, water, clean clothes, ammo, etc. Everyone carried about a weeks worth of chow, 4 to 6 quarts of water, and as much ammo as they could. We would replenish our water at every stream we crossed, putting bleach flavored purification tablets in it. Every 6 to 8 weeks, we would get to return to the relative safety of the battalion base camp for perimeter guard duty, and some hot meals. Sleeping in a sandbag bunker ain't much to brag about, but it beats sleeping in the rain and mud, wrapped up in ponchos, fighting leeches, mosquitoes so thick you choked on them, and ants. Mostly I remember growing up real fast. Thank goodness I had Captain Brennan to keep me from making too many deadly mistakes, before I learned what to expect. I guess the Hill 467 and Task Force Alpha experience began for me, when Captain Brennan left in late 1968, and Captain James DeRoos took over Bravo company. Bear with me while I go through some of that time, so you will understand my state of mind upon landing in the middle of the chaos and terror of TFA, wearing the starched fatigues and spit shined boots of a base camp warrior.13 NOV 1968
Since taking over as XO, I have been busy scrounging up $17,000 worth of equipment that the company has lost track of, trying to get it all accounted for and documented properly. I stay VERY, VERY busy as XO to the company commander. I get on the average 3 or 4 letters a day from people about unpaid bills, lost records, lost mail, finance actions, congressional inquiries, etc. I also have to try court martial cases for the company as prosecutor, handle supply problems, schedule choppers for Company moves, deliver payroll, supervise the company base trains staff, answer letters from mom's and wives about soldiers, who won't send any money home, tracking down records, investigating accidents, running errands for the CO, and answering inquiries from Captain Booth - Battalion XO, Major Prom - Battalion S2, Colonel Olds - Battalion Commander, Battalion staff, Brigade staff and a host of other people wanting to know the why, when, and wherefore, of this and that. Some of the letters I get are about people and events from as far back as early 1967, more than a year since I even got in country.17 NOV 68
Since January 1961 31,000 US servicemen died in Viet Nam with over 200,000 wounded. Nearly half those killed died in 1968.
Our mess hall burned down here at Pleiku base camp last night. It sure burned fast. One of the stoves blew up and started the fire. No one was hurt though. We're still working in and around Dak To, Kontum, and areas just North of Pleiku.
I have most of the Companies inventory, morning report, payroll, and other documentation caught up and correct now. We just had our courtesy IG inspection. They really tore the battalion up back in Pleiku, but didn't inspect us out here at all in company trains at Forward Support Base One at Dak To, so I'll just have to keep working till February and hope they will find B Company ready by then. I had to take seven starlight scopes, worth over $3,000 each and classified Top Secret, out to the Company today, plus I was carrying $30,000 in payroll in my rucksack. I got stuck on a 4-day march, while paying the company because I couldn't get a chopper out because we were on the move between LZ's
I'm doing well as XO, so far. My biggest flaw right now is personal appearance. I need to get my fatigues laundered and tags and insignia sewn on, since the Colonel expects his base camp commando's to look sharp. I will also have a bill for my room cleaning and laundry services in the BOQ at Pleiku. I need to get a brief case to keep my paperwork from getting dirty. I hope to get a company when the senior lieutenants leave. There are only four 1st Lt's senior to me in the battalion right now and they are all commanding line companies, so I might get some command in even before I make Captain. You won't believe it, but I was assigned an engineer Lt., but the CO said he did not really need him in the field, so I asked him to build us a shower for the BOQ. He rigged us a system to make 500 gallons of hot running water a day from diesel fuel burning in a 4 inch pipe with some 55 gallon drums forming a water jacket to feed the heated water by convection up into an old aircraft wing drop tank mounted on the roof of the shower shed. Imagine that, a hot shower! Boy am I a hit around here. Every unit in base camp has sent someone around to check out our setup.6 Jan 69
SGT Francis Xavier DeVille with B/1/8 killed by small arms fire.18 Jan 69
I just got another Company Commander, Capt James De Roos. Capt Brennan gave me a second good a OER before he left. Several members of Bravo Company are in the trains area being treated for punji stake wounds.
The weather is dry right now that red mud is now fine red Pleiku dust. The ground is covered with a layer of about 2 or 3 inches of a red dust so fine that you can't squeeze a hand full of it, cause it leaks out from between your fingers, like water. It's everywhere, and it's finer than dry talcum powder. I've seen a chopper come into Dak To FSB and the rotor blades kicked up so much dust that it covered the entire Dak To perimeter. We are now working around VC Valley, near Fire Base Black Hawk.
I had to take a platoon of clerks and other desk types out to cordon and search a village. It came off fairly well, except that one guy had a heart attack from the heat and the physical exhaustion of the march. I got a sunburned face, eye lids and all. Wow does that smart. I am so pooped right now I can hardly think straight. After marching till we were ready to drop from the heat, the trucks that were supposed to bring us back were diverted for another mission and we had to walk about 10 klicks back to Pleiku. Just 5 more days to the IG. inspection and I think we are ready at last.
Awarded Air Medal for making 25 combat air assault landings under enemy fire during period of 20 AUG 68 - 19 FEB 69.23 February 1969
Viet Cong attack 110 targets throughout Viet Nam.
1st Battalion, 8th Infantry convoyed to Polei Kleng. B Company assigned to 2cd Brigade on FSB-34, near Ben Het Special Forces Camp.1 March 1969
B/1/8 CA's into FSB-20 providing security for Bn Tactical Operations Center (TOC) and security patrols into the surrounding area, with another platoon on 15 minute standby as the Bn ready reaction force.2 March 1969
At 0850 hours, the air strip at Polei Kleng received 14 rounds of 122mm rocket fire, which destroyed the artillery resupply Class V waiting on the helicopter pad to be airlifted to the firebases.5 MAR 69
Lt. George Callan was killed while attempting to get a machine gun back into action. A true tragedy! I was drinking with
him in the BOQ at base camp just a few nights ago. His brother had come to visit with him. George was worried
about leaving his troops alone in the field. He is one of those officers who worries more about his men than his own
welfare. He is outgoing and has a great sense of humor. Everyone feels at ease when he is around. I linked up with him
twice in the field when my platoon was assigned to reinforce his Charlie company.
He was constantly on the move, checking
on his men and double checking everything. He stayed up most of the night checking the perimeter to make sure someone was
always awake and alert. His men spoke highly of him. He was the kind of officer that led by example, not command. He
always did what needed to be done, damn the consequences. I will always respect his memory. I am very glad to have had
those few moments to get to know Lt. Callan. The 8th Infantry motto is Steadfast and Loyal. George was both. It is the
tragic legacy of war that such truly great spirits are lost to a generation. George was a brave young man, who will always
live in the memory of those of us who had the privilege of serving with him.
Click here to go to guest book entry from his son.
It has rained twice this month already, so I guess the monsoon must be on it's way at last. I don't know whether I'll be glad to see the dust stop, or mad at the return of the mud. At least it should cool off some with the rain. "Bravo" Company is around TOC as perimeter guards again. I might get home by June.
B and D Company continue to work out of FSB-20, so far no significant activity.15 March 1969
A & C/1/8th moved onto Hill 467 (YB803034) and became Task Force Alpha. The terrain was triple canopy jungle, top layer consisting of 150' trees, with deep slopes and steep hills. Weather was mostly clear except for ground haze.17 MAR 69
B and D Companies are on FSB-20 providing RIF and local security. I was B Company XO at this time and spent most of my time running base camp trains and doing paperwork for the CO. I also delivered payroll to the troops both in the base camp trains area and to the troops in the field. Most soldiers had an allotment sent home, but received some pay themselves. Very few had everything sent home. I delivered the pay stubs and the appropriate amount of MPC to each soldier. I also handled allotments, saving bonds, and promotion pay change documents. I would pay the base camp personnel first, then catch the next available aircraft to the field and pay the troops there. I went to the field this time on a resupply chopper to Firebase 20, the Bn CP, where B Company was providing security and running ambush patrols into the surrounding area. I fully expected to get everyone paid and return on the last bird out that day, therefore I carried only my briefcase full of payroll documents and MPC and my .45 cal sidearm. I had no field gear. When I arrived I found that the CO had sent out two squad sized ambush patrols, who would not be back until the next morning, so I had to spend the night at Firebase 20.One of the ambushes detected a large size unit moving along the trail they had setup on for their night ambush, but did not spring their ambush for fear of being out gunned. The other ambush squad returned to the firebase and I paid them, but the Bn CO told CPT DeRoos to send the rest of second platoon out to join up with it's ambush squad and set up a platoon sized ambush to try to intercept the large unit that night. Since I still needed to pay the squad out on the ambush site and plans called for the second platoon to move to an LZ the following day for extraction to another area for some road reconnaissance, I decided to go along with them, make the payroll, assist in the ambush, and return to base camp with one of the choppers taking the platoon to the road recon mission. We made contact with the ambush squad, who had moved back from the proposed night ambush location, so as not to give their intentions away. I paid the remaining soldiers as we stopped for lunch and waited for late afternoon. Our intention was to move into the night ambush location just before dark, so the chance of being discovered getting into position would be reduced. The ambush location was about 6 Klicks from Firebase 20. We set out for our night ambush location about two hours before dusk, taking over hour to reach it. We were getting into position and beginning to dig in, when the three guys assigned to the listening post, who would alert us to the arrival of the enemy, started moving along the trail to their position. They had gotten only about 50 meters away from the ambush location, when they ran into an NVA unit moving along the trail. Shots were fired, resulting in two wounded. The platoon leader moved the platoon up and recovered the wounded without further contact with the enemy. A scouting patrol followed the enemy for about 200 meters, reporting some blood trails, but no sign of the enemy. I remember one guy had a sucking chest wound and had lost a lot of blood. I do not remember what the other soldier's injury was, but both had to be transported by improvised stretcher. It was solid ground fog up to tree top level, so helicopter evacuation was out of the question. It was too far to return to Firebase 20, which was also socked in by cloud cover, so we had to setup for the night. We stayed on alert all night, fully expecting an attack, which never came.18 March 1969
At daylight the decision was made to continue to the pick up point for the day's extraction to the road recon mission, since it was closer than Firebase 20. I left on the chopper with the wounded and got off at FSB-Mary Lou, when they stopped to refuel. I found out that they were headed to An Khe and I needed to catch a chopper out heading back to Pleiku to turn in payroll and join up with the detached platoon headed to road recon in the Mang Yang Pass. On the way to the resupply helipad, I almost got shot by a kid who went crazy and started shooting at everyone. I was walking down the road when he fired several rounds in my direction. He had already killed his pay officer and wounded the First Sergeant, but I didn't know that yet. He was babbling on about his pay being screwed up. As we talked, both of us with loaded rifles leveled at each other, I thought that one or both of would be dead before the conversation ended. Finally I convinced him that things were not beyond hope and that if he just put his rifle down and let the MP's take him into custody, that everything would work out. I told him to look around at all the people pointing weapons at him and calm down. I started walking toward him and when I got about ten feet from him, he finally put the rifle down and raised his hands. The MP's jumped him roughly and handcuffed him. I told them to take it easy on him, because he had probably seen far too much combat, and they relaxed and quietly led him to a jeep and took him away. I continued to the helipad to try to catch a bird back to Pleiku. At our trains area, I finished payroll and joined the platoon waiting to go to the Mang Yang Pass for the road recon. Since this platoon did not have any officer, I decided to go out on the patrol with them.
We caught choppers to a valley on the Pleiku side of the pass and were let off with orders to recon along the left side of the road, clearing the entire ridge line through the pass. As we approached the end of the ridge line, it was obvious that the slope was too steep to climb in the heat, so we moved up the road through the pass looking for a better way up to the top of the ridge. We came around a sharp turn with concrete slabs to prevent erosion and landslides, with steps up the middle. Everyone was exhausted and overheated from the march, so I had them move off the sides of the road and take a break, while I ran up the steps and checked to see how the climbing would be from there. It was still too steep, so we headed further up the pass. About two klicks further, we decided it wasn't going to get much better, so we headed up the side of the ridge. I had spotted a tree on the top that stood out nearly fifty feet taller than any other tree in the canopy. We headed for that tree, intending to turn left and check out the first part of the ridge, then retrace our steps and continue towards the An Khe side of the pass. There was a well worn trail on the top of the ridgeline, so we knew it was being used regularly. When we got to where we could see the valley floor again, we turned around and made haste to return over the trail we had just cleared back to the point where we had begun at the tall tree. Just short of the tree, we stopped and took a water and rest break. We just moved a few meters off the trail on either side and dropped our packs and lay down. I had rear security out, but no point security, except for the point man, who was facing forward. As I walked up to the front of the column checking on the condition of the troops, I spoke to the point man, who turned to face me. It was at that moment that Dam rounded the trail and walked straight into us. He was very, very, young. He had on a clean pith helmet and freshly starched khaki NVA Regular uniform, which was hard to comprehend given the deep red clay mud we were all covered with. The SKS rifle he was carrying still had storage grease around the bayonet hinge. He had just rounded a turn in the trail with his rifle slung over his shoulder, when he saw me he and attempted to fire at me. I shouted Chieu Hoi, the only phrase I knew to get him to surrender, but he continued to draw down on me. I fired just before he got his rifle leveled on me. If I had not been so scared, I might have had the presence of mind to just wound him, but in my adrenalin rush panic, I killed him with a quick three round burst, one shot through his heart. We did not want to haul Dam's body down to the road, and did not know how far down the ridgeline we might have to go before we could get to an LZ, so we just took his personal documents and weapon with us to send back to the Bn S-2 section for evaluation, when we reached the next LZ.20 March 1969
After another days march, we were extracted from a small LZ on the ridge late in the afternoon and second platoon joined up with the rest of B Company for the road interdiction and recon mission. I rode one of the choppers back to the trains area and sent the weapon and documents to S-2. The road interdiction mission later led to our first MIA's and we eventually ended up on Hill 467, where I assumed command from the wounded CPT DeRoos as part of Task Force Alpha. Back in the trains area, I contacted the Bn S2 officer and requested the documents and rifle as mementos of the war. The rifle was kept at Bn, but the documents were eventually returned to me and I sent them home to my Mom to hold until I returned home.21 MAR 1969
B Company joins Task Force Alpha on Hill 467. A/1/8 returns to FSB-20. One platoon marches overland from ambush location to Hill 467, with B Company minus joining them on Hill 467 by helicopter later in the day. Company B minus moved to place where A Company had contact previous day, but made no contact and instead ended up blowing up 11 bunkers at coordinate YB 812048.22 MAR 1969
Company B minus blew abatis at coordinates 815042.23 MAR 1969
Company B minus conducted reconnaissance sweep to vicinity 821037, 825024.Companies 24 element made enemy
contact 350 meters west of
Task Force Alpha's location. Mortars from TFA and Spooky gunship employed.
Result: 1 US KIA, 8 US WIA, 4 NVA KIA
Hill 467 receiving artillery, mortar, sniper, and B-40 rocket along east and west perimeter. Sweeps result in 1 NVA KIA. Company B minus sent two platoons and CP on mission to construct abatis vicinity YB 788023. Mission not accomplished. Company B minus set up night location YB 797023.The 23 Platoon had light contact with NVA at approximately the same area as the previous night's contact. gun ships were employed, resulting in 1 NVA KIA and one US WIA from gunship fire, who was later extracted from TFA's location.
During a RIF mission thirteen miles NW of Dak To, on a road going into Laos, B/1/8 made contact and had several minor wounded, who stayed with the company. PFC Hicks was one of the wounded, Coordinates 144018N 1073621E (YB805235).25 March 1969
Company B minus left night position for a mission to destroy the road vicinity YB 794020, after completing mission, they were hit by platoon of NVA at YB795020 at around 12:15 hours. Contact broken at 12:30 and re-engaged around 1413, resulting in 5 NVA KIA, 2 US KIA, 11 US WIA, AND 6 US MIA. B/1/8 again makes enemy contact while moving to some high ground. Five men lost, PFC's Miles B. Hedglin and Phillip E. Lynch, were killed in action. PFC's Prentice W. Hicks, Richard D. Roberts, and Frederick D. Herrera, missing in action.PFC Herrera was our combat engineer.PFC Roberts was one of the wounded from the engagement the day before. It is thought, that the three became missing when Roberts and Herrera stayed behind with the wounded Hicks as the unit moved off the hill. Enemy took control of the hilltop and no search could be made of the area again until April 5th, after the Task Force Alpha battle. The recon team who searched the hill found personal effects belonging to Hicks and Herrera, but no bodies were ever recovered. All three were declared missing in action. Task Force Alpha on Hill 467 getting attacked by small arms and B-40 rockets. Attack results in 5 NVA KIA, 1 US KIA, and 13 US WIA. Company B's 21 and 22 elements located at TFA received B-40 rockets and small arms fire at 07:00. gun ships, air strikes, and mortar fire were used against enemy in the open. Results of action:13 US WIA, 1 US KIA, 2 NVA KIA, with 3 more NVA KIA believed, 1 AK-47 recovered. At approximately 07:00 hours the LP on West side of perimeter of TFA observed 3 individuals to west. The LP returned to perimeter and mortars were employed. A recon squad was sent out to check the area. Three to five NVA took the recon patrol under fire approximately 25 meters outside TFA perimeter. The point man was wounded, but the patrol could not get to him, so they employed fire and maneuver to return to the perimeter. A reaction force was hastily organized and sent to recover the wounded man, but came immediately under mortar and small arms fire, and were forced to return to the perimeter with their own wounded. The area was raked by machine gun, M-79 and M-16 fire. A small maneuver element was sent along the North side of the saddle, where they received B-40 and AK-47 fire from three different locations along the saddle while recovering the wounded man. When all elements had returned to the perimeter, gun ships were employed. They received ground fire from four different locations, NW, W, SW, and S of the TFA perimeter. Additional air sorties were called in, including A1E fighters and 8 sorties of jets. Results: 2 NVA KIA and two of the enemy positions silenced. Medevac to Company B minus to extract wounded received ground fire, taking several hits. Resupply chopper also took a hit. Probing of TFA perimeter continued all night. Spooky gunship stayed on position all night in support of B Company. Hill 467 continued to receive intermittent 60mm and 82mm mortar fire.
B/1/8 evacuated 7 WIA vicinity 805026, then linked up with D/1/8 and returned to Hill 467. C Company secured the southern part of the TFA perimeter while D Company assisted B Company minus return to TFA. On the move back to Hill 467, 3 of the 6 MIA rejoined Company B minus. Shortly after B and D Companies returned to Task Force Alpha, Hill 467 began receiving intense small arms, B-40, mortar, and 105 artillery fires, which lasted sporadically all afternoon. Alligator 110 attempting a landing at TFA location was hit with small arms fire as he sat down on the pad. B-40 rockets were fired from the West into the vicinity of the pad. Dust-off 52 also received ground fire and the gunship escorting them received rounds as well. All during this time the enemy fired 5 B-40 rounds, 6-82mm mortar rounds, and sporadic small arms into the perimeter. Shortly after this attack, TFA began receiving incoming 105mm artillery rounds from enemy positions near the border. By 18:45 hours, over 44 rounds landed. Results: 1 US KIA, 5 US WIA. D companies 23 element made contact 200 meters SE of TFA, while moving out on SRP. They encountered an enemy squad at 810034.Results: 1 US WIA, 1 NVA KIA. Mortars from TFA were used and 23 broke contact, moving to a different night location.TFA perimeter probed all night.27 March 1969
Task Force Alpha still getting small arms and B-40 rocket rounds, peak during the extraction of D/1/8 to FSB-27. Early afternoon of 27 March 1969, my CO, Capt. James W. DeRoos, came in from hill 467 with a leg wound. I took the same " bird" out to the hill, but almost couldn't land because of ground fire. I found Lt James Keane, in charge of the 62 men left from Bravo Company on Hill 467, saddling up for a recon with his platoon and second platoon. I found that I would be left with seventeen able bodied men and myself, to man half of the hill. Charlie company was holding the other half, but refused to take over any more ground. Lt. Keane, with the company CP and the 22 and 23 platoons were on a recon mission East of TFA. The CP was located with the 23 platoon at night location 822023, while the 22 platoon chose 828037 for its night location. The recon patrol employed three SRP's vicinity 821031, 829038, and 804036.I also sent out a SRP near TFA perimeter. Company C left on recon in force to location 800033, location of Company B minus contact day before, came under sniper fire from their front and left flanks, with B-40 rockets and snipers along their right front. Company C pulled back to employ artillery, when they started receiving 105 mm artillery from the enemy. A total of 15 rounds chased them back into TFA perimeter. Results: 4 NVA KIA with no US casualties. Artillery employed on enemy gun vicinity 725071 with one gun destroyed, confirmed by Hummingbird 5.At 14:30 C Company again attempted to move to location of Company B minus previous contact. About 300 meters outside the perimeter they received 3-82 mm mortar rounds adjusted onto their position. They returned to TFA and gun ships were sent to the area of the suspected enemy FO position, one of the gun ships was hit by ground fire. Artillery and mortars were targeted on the area of C Companies contact, with unknown results, since there was insufficient time remaining before dark to permit another patrol. While C Company was in contact, an artillery round was fired on TFA position, which contained leaflets exhorting US soldiers to come over to the NVA side. Company C 22 platoon experienced heavy movement SE of TFA around20:20 hours. They fired their claymores and pulled back into the perimeter. Mortars were employed on the suspected location of 3 NVA with unknown results. C Company 22 element moved back to a new location near their old one and resumed surveillance. C Company deployed a total of 4 SRP's to SE, S, SW, and E of TFA position. This photo is the front and back of the leaflets they shot over our positions.28 March 1969
After another sleepless night, everyone was suffering from exhaustion. I had to move from position to position constantly throughout the night to keep enough people awake to maintain any semblance of guard. The next morning a B-40 rocket round exploded into the ground by a small fire I had built for destroying some used PRC-25 batteries. I was knocked down, almost gently, by the concussion, but not hurt, all the shrapnel going behind me. It happened so fast that no one saw where it came from, so we simply made an 81mm mortar road runner mission around the perimeter about 50 meters out. This is dangerous, since we had to fire with zero charge, which is inherently risky because the power output from using only the igniter only is variable and the high angle of fire required to bring the shells in so close, results in rounds landing inside the perimeter sometimes. From 10:00 on the 28th to dark, is all kind of fuzzy. During that time, we received 127 rounds of 105mm howitzer, in addition to numerous 60 mm and 82 mm mortar rounds inside our 50-meter circle of positions. My fighting position took a direct hit, shattering Ryan's forearm, completely deafening, SSG Bruchen, my only NCO above E-5 and completely deafening my left ear and creating a very loud ringing in both. (The ruptured eardrum is what later let to the award of the purple heart.) I had been kicked in the back, and drenched in Ryan's blood, so I ran in panic to the Task Force CP bunker, to get someone to see if I had been hit the back and to let them know what had happened, then I left to find Ryan. He was running around screaming and holding his shattered elbow on the other side of our sector, going into shock rapidly. I ran to the get our Medic, Doc Gehringer, and got him to attend to Ryan. In spite of the continuing shelling, Doc stayed above ground working on Ryan until he had him stabalized, as I began my perimeter check and forced those with no overhead cover, to get out between rounds and build some overhead sand bag protection. I returned to my position to see if a Medevac was going to make it in to pick up Ryan, but they said they couldn't risk one at that time. Later in the day, a Medevac was able to pick up Ryan, without incident. A resupply chopper also made it in and out with out incident. The supplies consisted of grenades, which we had crates of already and didn't need and some LRP's, freeze dried food, which we don't have water to prepare in the first place. I had told my people we needed water and machine gun ammo. I later found out that the Bn CO had directed the loading of the first chopper, thinking the LRP's would be a treat for us. My people expected to send what I had requested out on the return trip, but ground fog prevented it. Water critical by now. Five people in Charlie Company and one of mine now completely out of their heads from thirst. Every one of the 4 inch bamboo left standing by the incoming has a hole drilled in every segment, hoping to find a few drops of water. An enemy 105 round killed someone from Charlie Company. The death really hurt morale, because we all knew we could be next and there wasn't anything we could do to stop it. Three days without water or sleep for most of us, and it was beginning to tell in the heat. That night was no better, two serious WIA's from grenades. Mortars got the NVA, but then we had to listen to them moaning all night until they died, one by one. We had a serious attack all around the perimeter around midnight. Some even made it into the perimeter. We wound up calling in Puff the Magic Dragon , an AC-130 ship to hose down the perimeter around midnight. With 200,000 candle power flares and mini-guns able to spit out 6,000 rounds per minute (every 4th one a red tracer) the enemy attack came to a sudden halt. We kept getting AK-47 fire and grenades sporadically all night. I moved around our sector, redistributing ammo and grenades, trying to keep someone awake at each position, and letting everyone know the current situation. I tried to get some sleep around 2:30 am, but the mortar and grenades kept me from sleeping. I spent several hours digging into the hard packed red clay and rocks with my bayonet, trying to get my fox hole big enough to stretch out some and deep enough provide some protection against shrapnel from the tree nearby tree bursts. I remember sitting in my fox hole for a few minutes rest around 3:00am and looking up to see a single bright star through the jungle canopy, and realizing for the first time, that I would probably not make it off this hill alive. It was then that I prayed. It's true: There are no atheists in fox holes. I still do not know exactly which of the many deities I prayed to answered my prayers, but am certain that one of them did. It's the only explanation for the fact that I got off 467 alive. Today's Results: 1 US KIA, 4 US WIA.29 MAR 1969
On the 29th I got two close calls that by all rights should have finished me off, both while checking the perimeter. One time an 82mm mortar round landed about ten feet behind me and knocked me down. Not a scratch! Later a 60mm mortar round landed about three feet in front of me, again, no wounds. The 60mm left a hole about two hands wide, with its tail fin sitting right in the center of it still smoking. This is our fourth day without food or water. Morgan went berserk and had to be tied up to keep him from trying to drink from a canister of diesel fuel. On most encampments, where we stayed for several nights, the supply choppers would bring us fresh water in empty ammo tubes, and Morgan truly believed, in his delirium, that the liquid in the diesel fuel ammo tube was water. There was much talk of trying to leave the hill to get water, even though it would probably be suicidal. We had heavy movement around the perimeter all morning. Early in the afternoon, Keane came back with his two platoons and a little extra water from a stream. Everyone got a small drink. Morale is better now, with talk of final extraction attempt around noon tomorrow. Choppers brought in supplies and took out three wounded and the seven bodies stacked up on the pad like cord wood.
Warning, skip beyond section in italics if you don't want to read gruesome details of combat. The story will still be complete without it.
The bodies smelled real bad, with flies and maggots all over them. Lying around in the 95 to 100 degree heat had them ll bloated from decomposition. It made you sick when the odor first drifted your way. I was leaning back against the stack of bodies, attempting to eat some C-rations, as I waited for the supply chopper to take out the wounded and the bodies, prior to our final extraction. I was so exhausted from a pounding dehydration headache, that I didn't have the strength to go somewhere else and then come running back when the choppers arrived. So exhausted, in fact, that I did not even think about the significance of where I had chosen to sit down. One of my guys had to be dragged off a bird to let the wounded get on, when the first chopper landed. He was hysterical with fear, as were most of us by now. I was helping the door gunner load the bodies onto the next chopper, when the poncho blew back, revealing the guy's head, with maggots squirming in the goo, that had once been his eyes. The door gunner fell to his knees and began projectile vomiting. One of my guys helped me get the body on the chopper and then we both dragged the door gunner back to his ride.
We received an additional 19 B-40 rockets, 12-60 mm mortar rounds, and one ChiCom grenade within our perimeter during the afternoon, from the NE, E, S, SW and W of our perimeter. With Keane back, I try to get some sleep for the first time in three days, but I am soon awakened by more grenades and kept up all night. In the early morning hours, we could hear bodies being dragged through the jungle. We could also hear sounds of digging very near our positions. We used mortars throughout the night on suspected enemy positions. When we heard the digging, we called in a Spooky 22 minigun ship to hose down the jungle within 30 meters of the entire perimeter. We used flashlights in our foxholes to mark our perimeter. Even knowing they were on our side, the volume of fire from Spooky, at that close a range is terrifying. Results: 5 NVA KIA, 3 US WIA.30 March 1969
I am so exhausted now, that getting to my feet takes all my concerted will power and physical strength, then I wobble around, stumbling to maintain my balance, until I get my head clear again. The least little thing will cause me to lose my balance and fall down, and then I have to rest up and start all over again. I have a pounding dehydration headache, like most everyone else. You should remember that I am at least three days fresher than most of my men. We got word the Air Force had gotten the 105mm guns, that had been pounding us and the CA to Polei Kleng would begin at 0900. Also got word of two reinforced NVA companies headed our way about ten Klicks out. Charlie Company left first, and I had to shift my men to cover their positions, as best I could. I got shot at several times, while moving around directing the withdrawal. The next to last bird left at 1200 hours, leaving four of us alone on the hill, my RTO Sgt Larry Hanson, Platoon Leader Lt. James Keane, and PFC Edwin Gehringer, our medic and myself. The gunships said there were NVA coming in all around the perimeter. The four of us opened up with all we could find to throw and shoot, praying nothing would hit the mortar pit full of ammo and explosives, where we had set charges to destroy all the ammo left behind on the hill. I directed a cobra gun ship to get an especially pesky B-40 rocket position about fifty meters out and got him, but got badly burned on the neck by hot shrapnel from the gun ship's rockets. The Battalion CO said the LZ was too hot and we should try to make a break for it off the north side of the hill and E&E out of the area. Just as we started off the hill, Four Double Deuce (the aircraft number was 422) called to say he was on his way in to get us. I'm alive today, thanks to the incredible bravery of the Jack Hawkings, the pilot of 66-16422. There were NVA all around the perimeter and they really gave us a send off, as we flew out. It looked like an angry anthill as we pulled out. I felt pretty good until I looked at my rifle and found bullet scars in the hand guard and magazine guide, one more through my rucksack, right through the radio, and the large crease in my steel pot.
I am very proud of Bravo Company. We were all very lucky to get off hill 467 alive. Three choppers and one gunship were disabled by ground fire during the extraction. It's now five months later and my ears still ring extremely loudly. Doc says I'll get a purple heart for the tinnitus. Company B and C moved overland from Polei Kleng to FSB-McNerny.We arrived at 18:30 hours and assumed stand down status.
I have since met with Jack and he remembers the freckled faced young kid he picked up from Hill 467 that day. I can't possibly convey the courage it took for him to fly into that incredibly small LZ again and again to bring us off that hill, but am eternally grateful for his bravery. The last four of us on Hill 467 would surely not have survived, had he not had the skill and determination to risk it all for us. Thank you Jack.Newspaper article about my getting the Purple Heart.
Most of my portion of this account was taken from hand written notes, dated Sunday 19 JUN 69, Pleiku, RVN. Sections centered and in bold are from a myriad of other sources I have collected over the last quarter century, most of the sources, long since forgotten. I do believe they are accurate, but if you remember it differently, please sign in to the guest book and correct me. In the same vein, if I have stolen your words...just tell me and I will remove them, or give you proper credit.
Pay Scale for American Participants in Action on Hill 467. You may have to View at 150% to read it easily.
Junior Officers earned about a dollar an hour and most Enlisted Men around fifty cents an hour.
This was for 16-20 hour work day, seven days a week, risking life and limb, sleeping in the dirt, dying of thirst, and eating cold C-rations, carrying around 70 - 90 lbs of essential gear, in rain or heat often above 100 degrees. It has put any job I have had since then in proper perspective.2 April 1969
It is now over forty years since these events took place, and I still find my muscles tensing and my heart racing as I proof read this document. I still have the tinnitus in my ears from the artillery shell which hit my fighting position on Hill 467.It is a loud constant ringing, like you get when a fire cracker goes off too close to your ear. It is in the upper range of speech in frequency, and about as loud as someone blowing a police whistle, as loud as they can, within a few inches of your face. Sometimes is causes me insomnia, but most of the time it just makes life a little more difficult than it should be, because I have to concentrate so hard to understand people, especially over the phone, or in noisy places like department stores or restaurants. I am also completely deaf in the frequencies of Cicada's, tree frogs, and many of the other sounds of nature I loved so dearly. Most of all I miss the sheer ecstasy of simple silence, which I have not known since 1969. In recent months, I have finally had to begin using a hearing aid, since my high frequency loss has made it almost impossible to understand strangers over the phone and difficult to understand anyone in a noisy environment. Click Here for more details of my hearing loss.
I have tried to recall this time as accurately as my own memories permit. If anyone can add to the account, please use the guest book to contact me. With your permission I will expand this story through your additions. I would especially like to hear from the enlisted men, who each and every one, certainly saw this action from very different perspectives. I am still in awe of the fact that such brave young men saw fit to let me lead them and trusted me with their very lives. The burden of such an awesome responsibility took a lot out of me. That is why it has taken me over a quarter century to gather up the courage to recall these memories and share them with others. The deaths and injuries incurred under my leadership still haunt my memories. I expect that they will be among the memories that flash before me when I lie on my death bed. Somehow I feel guilty for having come back alive.
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