Fire Support Base Cudgel
Fire Support Base Cudgel – Where in November of 1967 elements of the 5th Bn (mech) 60th Inf and 2nd Bn 4th Artillery withstood a brutal attack by the Viet Cong.
FIRE SUPPORT BASE CUDGEL
November 18, 1967
From the Old Reliable News
29 November 1967
As we began to dig our foxholes a 9th Division helicopter touched down with the final resupply of ammunition for the night.
The smell of freshly turned earth filled the Mekong Delta clearing as the helicopter lifted off and hovered momentarily over this 3rd. Brigade fire support base.
Specialist Four John Moses, 31, Jackson, Miss., a clerk in the personnel section of the 5th Mechanized Battalion, 60th Infantry, and I were debating about the size of our foxhole as the helicopter disappeared into the darkening Vietnam sky.
Moses looked up and threw a shovel full of dirt from the hole. Sweat streaked down his face. "I don't like this place one bit," he said staring into the jungle surrounding the fire base.
West of Fire Base Cudgel flowed one of the many tidal rivers that wind through the western part of Dinh Tuong Province. On the south, a smaller canal borders the camp.
By midnight the rising Delta water table had filled the foxhole with six inches of water and forced us to find sleeping quarters above ground.
About two hours later, the sound of explosions and people dashing for cover awakened me. I pulled the blanket from my face just in time to see a tracer ricochet in front of me.
Something big was happening.
Machine gun fire was coming in low and heavy. I started to low-crawl to the foxhole, but didn't dare climb over the parapet we had built around the pit.
For twenty minutes I hugged the ground.
Biting a blade of elephant grass, I waited until the enemy fire shifted to another part of the camp. The second it did, I was in the foxhole.
The crack of enemy weapons fire seemed endless. The sound of mortar rounds exploding continued almost unceasingly.
Artillery pieces of Batteries C and D, 2nd Battalion, 4th Artillery quickly countered the attacking enemy. Mighty 105 howitzers were leveled to fire point-blank barrages.
The enemy was that close.
with dawn came the dust-off helicopters. They carried away five dead and 38 wounded American soldiers.
Details of what happened unfolded as the infantrymen and artillerymen talked about the fierce two hours of combat that had taken place early that morning.
The 156-man fire base had been attacked by two companies of Viet Cong. The two companies had tried unsuccessfully to overrun the American position.
Private First Class George Pardner, 19, a grenadier with the Recon Platoon, 5th/60th recalled the details of the clash:
"Our platoon had dug fox-holes on the west side of the river and everything was quiet until about 2a.m. That's when they hit us with everything. Man, they were close, "Pardner of Rochester, N.Y., continued. "They were no more than 25 meters from our positions and were trying to throw grenades on us."
"We kept tossing grenades back at them and firing. I set off a claymore mine and we could hear them screaming and running all over the place."
"You could hear them talking, that's how close they were," added Recon Platoon leader, First Lieutenant Lee B. Alley, 21, of Laramie, Wyoming. "They hit us with automatic weapons and carbine fire."
Company C, 5th/60th encountered enemy wave attacks from the river.
Weapons squad leader, Sergeant Robert Frazier, 20, of Hamlet, Indiana, said, "I don't know if they were in boats or if they were swimming, but they kept streaming from the water."
"They fired rockets at us from across the river," said Staff Sergeant William Chandler, 25, of Lovelady, Texas. "You name it – they had it."
"If they weren't hard core," Chandler added, "I don't want to mess with anything harder."
"What had happened during the morning hours of Saturday, Nov. 18th, was an attack, first from the south and then from the west," said Lieutenant Colonel William R. Steele, commander of the 5th/60th. An estimated three companies of the 261st Viet Cong Battalion took part.
The firepower of the leveled howitzers along with the infantrymen and supporting air strikes and armed helicopters had beaten back the enemy charge.
The following report of FSB Cudgel contains very accurate and graphic descriptions of the battle.
The report describes the battle and the KIAs.
Names have NOT been removed from the report.
If you are not up to reading about it, then don't.
This report has only been placed on this site for those who are wanting to know what happened.
You have been warned.
Click on the link below to read.
BATTLE OF FIRE SUPPORT BASE CUDGEL
18 November 1967
Fire Support Base Cudgel was one of the FSB's established in support of Infantry units participating in operation Ken Giang in Western Dinh Tuong Province, RVN.
Charlie and Delta batteries 2-4th Artillery had moved into FSB Cudgel by Chinook on 15 November at the beginning of Operation KEN GRANG. 2-4th Artillery is commanded by LTC Charles P. Gorden. Charlie battery is commanded by Cpt Dennis Schible and Delta Battery by Cpt James R. Heldman. There was no dry ground to set the howitzers up on. They were flown in by Chinooks and placed on special Delta float platforms in the rice paddies that were from knee to waist deep in water. Charlie battery was set up with 4 guns inside the northern part of the perimeter and Delta battery with 3 guns inside the southern portion of the perimeter. After setting up their guns, the artillery fired LZ (landing zone) preparation missions for Alpha Company, 3-39th Infantry and the 2-60th Infantry battalion. Following these missions, the batteries spent the rest of the morning and afternoon firing in support of the 5-60th battalion that had been hit while moving off their initial LZ. Later in Operation KEN GIANG, Charlie and Delta batteries and Charlie Company and recon platoon of the 5-60th would join forces and deal the VC a stunning defeat at Fire Support Base Cudgel. The battery commanders felt that the morale of their men was high, that they were in excellent physical condition and well trained. Charlie battery had fired 55,000 rounds since February. Delta battery had fired a similar number. The events of the early morning hours of 18 November were to confirm these opinions.
The artillerymen at Cudgel expected to be mortared. Intelligence indicated that they could count on being mortared. For this reason each artilleryman was ordered to have a sandbagged foxhole before going to sleep the first night. The howitzers were sandbagged. These precautions were proved necessary.
On 17 November 5-60th minus (Battalion Headquarters, Charlie Company and recon platoon) was given the mission of securing FSB Cudgel. Prior to receiving this security mission, the men of 5-60th had been engaged in heavy contact and virtually pinned down for nearly two days by an estimated two VC battalions. They had received enemy fire on the first day of the operation as they were moving off the initial LZ. This fire pinned them down and they remained pinned down for the major part of the next two days. The men were tired and waterlogged as they had been in water nearly waist deep for two days and one night. What the men wanted most was a chance to dry out and rest. Even under the circumstances, the men were in good physical condition, and as the events of the next day's early morning hours were to show, they had plenty of fight left in them.
The battalion minus was airlifted into FSB Cudgel by Chinooks, the last load closing at 1643 hours 17 November. At that time LTC Steele, the CO of the 5-60th, gave Cpt Russell, Company Commander of Charlie company, 5-60th the responsibility of establishing a defensive perimeter around Charlie and Delta battery 2-4th artillery. LTC Steele attached recon platoon, under the command of 1st Lt Alley, to Charlie company.
The FSB was bordered on the west by a canal running north and south 10 meters wide and 10 feet deep. On the north was a canal running east and west similar to the first canal in width and depth. To the south was scrub woods and thick undergrowth and to the east was open rice paddies. Captain Russell decided to deploy recon platoon on the western portion of the perimeter across the north-south canal. He put recon platoon across the canal as he felt the perimeter should extend to the far side of the canal and the canal was a good terrain feature on which to fix the two flanks of his company. The right flank of recon platoon on the west side of the canal and was linked with the left flank of 2d platoon, Charlie company which was on the east side of the canal. 2d Platoon then stretched to the east and linked up with 4th platoon which stretched south. The right flank of 4th platoon linked up with 3d platoon which spread south and west linking up with 1st platoon on the south. The right flank of 1st platoon on the east side of the north-south canal tied in with the left flank of recon platoon which was on the west side of the canal.
In order to get to their assigned sector, recon platoon had to cross the north-south canal. They crossed by means of a makeshift, log foot-bridge. They had to cross one at a time, and it took them about a half hour to cross. The next morning, that bridge was to prove itself a saviour.
About 1821 hours resupply by helicopter was completed. Plenty of sandbags and two by fours of lumber were flown in on resupply to construct bunkers, however recon platoon received only 3 entrenching tools to dig in with, and Charlie company received only two. Darkness was falling swiftly. The men worked after dark preparing positions. In each sector of the perimeter, the area was laced with numerous small canals about 3 feet deep and two feet wide. These canals had about one foot of water in them. The canals were used as initial holes for bunkers and were dug out and sandbagged on the sides and front about 2 sandbags high. These positions proved effective against the heavy mortar barrage and ground attack to come, however, overhead cover would have helped had they had time and material to construct it.
Recon platoon's sector was bordered on the north and south by small canals running east and west. During the short time that it was still daylight Lt Alley placed an observation post out 100 meters to the front of his left flank. Pfc Pardner was on this OP with another man. Pardner was walking around the area of the OP observing the terrain when across the small north-south canal next to some palm trees he observed what he thought was a helmet and a pair of human hands. Parker described the incident as follows:
"Charley was out there during the day, that morning, ever since we had gotten there. Me and the squad leader were out there wandering around. I was walking around looking at the area when over next to some palm trees was what looked like was a helmet and there were somebodies hands up under there as well as I could make out. I came back, what it was, I didn't have a weapon, I was scared to anyway. I walked back and I kept watching to see if anyone was moving in that area. Nobody moved, so when I told my friend Holloway about it, he said it was probably nothing. But I am quite sure that Charlie was watching us when we moved into that area. We don't break it down into 4 squads, we had 5 sections. We had a point element, the Command Group, Base, Killer Search and rear. We had seven in each one, 35 men. I didn't tell anyone because I didn't want to sound foolish but I told my friend Holloway. Later on I was talking to the lieutenant, I wanted to tell him but again I didn't want to sound foolish that's why when I came over I started asking about an M60, claymores, radios and all that stuff. I wanted to tell him I just didn't want to be on that side of the canal when we set up. Thats what I wanted to ask him, could we pull back on that side. I went down and got the claymores and came back and he said Sgt Miller, move on back to this side of the canal. I was glad to here that. We came back across to this side and that is when we got hit.
After darkness fell, recon platoon placed out 2 LP's (listening posts). One to the front of his left flank about 100 meters and one to the front of his right flank about 100 meters in front of the 1st platoon sector. Captain Russell decided not to put an LP to the north as it would have to be across the large canal, and if the base was hit in the night an LP there would probably be unable to return to the perimeter. The eastern sector of the perimeter was open rice paddy so there was no need for an LP there. Relating to the battle that ensued, one of these LP's was able to accomplish its mission of early warning, the other two were cut off during the initial VC attack and had to fight there way back to the perimeter.
Recon was armed with two M60 machine guns with about 1500 rounds per gun, two M79's with the normal 36 rounds per M79 plus a box of 72 rounds they had received on resupply, 12 claymores of which 8 were set out, and 6 LAWS. The rest of the men had M16's with 10-15 magazines of ammo per man, Bayonets were not carried as the men had found them of little use in the Delta. Each man had about 2 grenades a piece, two canteens of water, a flak jacket (flown in on resupply). They also had about 100 feet of rope. Each man had a poncho. The platoons of Charlie company were armed and equipped similarly.
The platoon was set up with 5 positions and two LP's. Pfc White and Pfc Lopez were on LP2 to the front of the right flank of recon platoon. (See Sketch) Lopez was on watch at about 2130 hours when he heard something like a man wading through water towards them in the canal that ran east and west a few meters to their right flank. Lopez alerted White, telling him what he heard. White, put his M60 on automatic and waited. A man walked to within 2 or 3 ft of White and Lopez before he saw them. Whate hollered, "Chieu Hoi" (Give Up), the man ducked, and White shot him in the head with a burst of about 16 rounds. The man was wearing no helmet and White saw no weapon. He was probably a scout. White and Lopez immediately ran back and informed Lt Alley.
Lt Alley decided to send two more men out to check for the VC body and to act as an LP. He sent Guttilla and Hickman. They were gone about 5 minutes. They went out near the area of the 1st LP, but slightly south and west of it a few meters. They found no body but heard footsteps in the water, pausing, then walking, then pausing. Then they heard someone breathing heavily as if he had asthma. They quickly returned and reported this to Lt Alley. Lt Alley then accompanied them back out to the LP. He stayed a few minutes but heard nothing. Lt Alley then showed the LP where to set up and returned to his bunker. At this time it was about 2200 hours.
Around 0150 hours Lt Alley was on guard at the CP (comand post) bunker and was monitoring the radio when Charlie company on his left flank came under a heavy volume of fire. Over the radio he heard a transmission to the effect that Charlie company's 1st platoon was being hit hard and in danger of being overrun. Then he heard the "Thump" of a mortar round leaving the tube. He yelled, "Incoming Mortars", and got in his foxhole. The mortars were on target and landed amongst his positions.
The mortars landing around recon's positions seemed to be the signal for the VC on the southeast of the perimeter to attack recon. The "Hoi Chanh" scout (former VC who returned to the government) with recon estimated that at least 100 VC hit the recon platoon. LTC Steele later estimated that about one company hit recon on the south and west and two companies hit Charlie company on the south.
As soon as the mortars started falling the men of recon could hear a great deal of talking and yelling from the VC who were organizing for their attempt to overrun recon platoon, penetrate the perimeter and destroy the base.
In the battle that was to rage for the next hour and a half, the VC made a desperate attempt to penetrate the southeast portion of the perimeter by overrunning recon's left flank, and Charlie companies right flank. In recounting the battalion, LTC Steele said that he thought the VC intended to make their main penetration on the southeast with two companies while one company on the west provided fire support with mortars and recoilless rifles. The VC came perilously close to achieving success. The battle indicated the thoroughness of their planning and preparation, and their violent execution.
Recon platoon, and Ist platoon and 3rd platoon of Charlie Company were the most heavily engaged units during the battle. The fighting in their sectors was so fierce and at such short range that nearly each position in each platoon fought a battle all their own.
In recon's sector Pfc Pardner, Sgt Miller, Sp 4 Alexander, Pfc Scott and one other man were in the far left flank position on the south. (Position 1) Under the cover and confusion caused by the mortars, the VC moved to within about 15 meters of recon's positions and opened with small arms, AK47s and M79s. The men in position 1 could see the bamboo and brush just to the south of the small canal, bending in front of the oncoming VC. Pardner thought the VC attack in squad groups in kind of a mob line formation. He heard about 5 authoritative voices yelling orders. Position 1 threw all seven grenades that they had. Each time they threw a grenade they heard several yells and someone yelling orders and then running towards their position. They waited until they heard a great deal of talking to the front of their claymore and then blew it. They heard a great deal of yelling and the VC seemed to press forward with increased urgency in an effort to overrun recon's positions before the Americans could render them more crushing blows.
Prior to the decision to withdraw no one in bunker 1 could remember firing their rifles. They didn't want to give away their position so they just threw grenades and blew their claymore. As they withdrew to the river, they stopped several times and fired at the oncoming VC. When they could see VC within a few meters of them crawling through the grass and scrub towards their position from the front, right front and left front, they sprayed these areas and withdrew. Several times as they low crawled back to the stream, they turned and fired at the oncoming VC who were no more than 10 meters behind them.
Each time Pardner stopped to fire during his retreat, a bullet shattered the stock-of his weapon, his stock was hit by 3 bullets. Sgt Miller and Scott laid down the initial base of fire while the others withdrew. Then Sgt'Miller started to withdraw while Scott laid down a base of fire. The VC spotted the flash of his weapon and killed him with a burst of automatic weapons. Sgt Miller saw Scott get hit and crawled back to get him. He had dragged Scott back about 15 meters when he looked up and saw VC at Scotts feet staring at him. He dropped to his knees, grabbed his weapon, looked up, and the VC was gone. Sgt Miller then reached for Scott's heart to see if he was alive. He determined that Scott was dead and started crawling for the river. He had crawled a few meters when he decided that he couldn't leave Scott. He crawled back for him but saw two VC standing beside him. He then decided he couldn't get to Scott, sprayed the two VC with a burst from his M16 and started crawling for the canal when a grenade landed a few meters from him. The concussion knocked him backwards but he was unscathed. He then crawled back to the canal and joined his comrades.
LP1 to the front of recon's left flank fought an exceptionally lonely battle. Throughout the worst of the fight they were separated from their platoon. Holloway, McGarvey and Smith and one other man were on that LP. The first they knew of the attack was a mortar round going off behind them and heavy firing. They decided to withdraw, but just as that decision was made they heard a group of VC behind them. They were cut off. They started to pull back anyway when McGarvey was hit by fragments from an M79 round. Holloway and Smith tried to fix him up. Smith decided to go for help. He had gone about 15 meters when he saw VC setting up a mortar about 15 meters from him. He returned to LP. They threw grenades at the mortar position, but decided they were cut off and to wait where they were for a while. They tried to help McGarvey but he died after a few minutes. As the battle progressed friendly artillery HE rounds landed close in front of them and they received some shot from the beehive rounds that the artillery was firing at the VC that had almost penetrated the perimeter. They decided they had to return to the perimeter or be annihilated by their own artillery. They started back and an HE artillery round landed behind them wounding Holloway in the back and Smith in the leg. They continued to low crawl back. They crawled near the canal near the canal bank and yelled across to the artillery to cease firing at them. Two artillery men, Pfc Davis and Pfc Murrey came over in a raft and loaded Smith and Holloway and one of the artillery men, Pfc Davis, got in the canal and using the bank for cover, fired on the VC that were swarming the western bank while Smith and Holloway were safely ferried across the canal. Then two more artillery men brought a raft over and brought his artillery comrade across the canal. As they retreated across the canal it sounded to them like 15 or 20 VC descended on the position that they had just been firing from.
During the entire attack on recon the mortar rounds continued to fall. Lt Alley didn't think the VC would try to overrun his positions while the mortars continued. To his amazement they did. Lt Alley thought they must have taken a good deal of casualties from their own mortars.
When the fighting began Sgt Wallace, Sgt Wedgewood, and SP 4 Parker were in position number 2. As soon as the first mortar round fell they all got in their bunker. They began receiving automatic fire. They returned the fire. Then potato masher grenades came flying at them. Two grenades went off inside the bunker wounding all seriously save Sgt Wallace who was untouched. All three threw 2 grenades apiece. One VC stepped right up to the bunker and shot Sgt Wedgewood in the shoulder. Sgt Wedgewood and Parker were wounded badly in the face, neck, and head. Parker's left arm was broken, and Sgt Wedgewood was shot in the shoulder, but they continued to fire at the VC who were nearly on top of them. Sgt Wallace's rifle blew up after he had fired about 5 magazines. After they had thought they had thrown all their grenades, they found one left in the bunker. Sgt Wallace gave the grenade to Parker and said, all right, on 3 we'll fire and you throw the grenade and then we'll all jump in the canal. They did just that and as they left their bunker two grenades exploded in it.
Bunker 3 was the CP bunker. There were four men in the bunker, Lt Alley, the mortar FO, SP 4 Staff, and Lt Alley's two RTOs, SP 4 Westphal and SP 4 Dean. When their bunker started to return fire, they fired at the VC voices. Two or three mortar rounds landed close enough to them that the concussions knocked them all together. Several grenades landed near their positions. One of the mortar fragments wounded Westphal in the neck and back. After this happened, Lt Alley decided they would have to withdraw. He told Dean to get to the river. Dean had just gotten out of the fox hole when he was shot in the posterior. They pulled Dean back into the foxhole. Lt Alley then dragged Dean to the canal while Staff was bandaging Westphal's neck. When Lt Alley got Dean to the river Sp 4 Brackett went to the CP bunker to help Staff get Westphal to the river. They got Westphal to the river and Lt Alley decided to return to the CP bunker. Lt Alley said he wasn't sure why he returned but it is the opinion of his men that he returned to protect and cover his men's withdrawal to the canal and the evacuating his wounded men across the canal. Lt Alley low crawled back to the CP bunker. There were three rifles in the bunker. Lt Alley's rifle was covered with mud splattered by hand grenades and mortar rounds. It jammed. He picked up another weapon. The VC were about to overrun all his positions and were beginning to pursue his men to the river. He could see VC in all directions to his front 10 to 20 meters away. He fired about a magazine from the 2d rifle and returned to the river for more ammo. He got another weapon (Ml6), returned to the foxhole fired it, and it blew up. He saw a VC about 5 meters in front of him. He threw a grenade at that VC, then to his left about 6 or 7 meters he saw a VC crawling and firing an RPG 2 rocket at the artillery positions. Then the VC started throwing grenades at the men of recon in the canal. Lt Alley threw a grenade at him and that VC didn't throw any more grenades. Then not having a weapon or any more hand grenades, Lt Alley returned to his men at the river.
At Bunker 4 was SP 4 Laid, Pfc Hackett, SP 4 EastlY, and Sgt Rouse. The men in that bunker couldn' remember firing their weapons at all. They had five grenades. They threw them all and believed they hit more than one VC with each toss. They couldn't actually see the VC but they could see the grass bending down as the VC crawled towards them. Sgt Rouse said, "It seemed like they were trying to do some of everything to get at you." At one time they saw a flame about 30 meters from their position. It lasted about 5 seconds. This was probably an incendiary round being fired at the artillery. About the time they had thrown their last grenade they heard the lieutenant yell to withdraw. They low crawled to the main canal via a small canal that led from their position to the canal.
At bunker 5 was Pfc White, Pfc Gilligan, Pfc Guttilla, Pfc Bock, Pfc Walker, Pfc Teague, Pfc Willy, and Pfc Hickman. The people in LP2 had withdrawn to bunker 5 when the attack began. Teague had an M79 and he fired all his ammo at voice targets and moving grass. White's M60 jammed. When they had fired all their M79 ammo they began to fear being overrun. Guttilla and Teague threw all their grenades. They heard the Lieutenant yell to pull back. When they started to pull back an M79 round landed in the midst of them seriously wounding Hickman, Teague, and Willy. Teague made it to the canal and across by himself. White and Guttilla helped Hickman and Willy across.
The withdrawal had by no means been an organized move. Lt Alley had no communications with his positions but he judged by the intensity of the fighting at his position and the closeness and numbers of the enemy that his other positions would also be untenable. The only order that he remembered giving to withdraw was a yell to Sgt Wedgewood telling him to have his men withdraw. Each position somehow got the word to withdraw, save LP1. Some of the position, though, had already started their withdrawal. Lt Alley felt that the withdrawal went as well as it did due to the instict and leadership of the group leaders in each position.
The last communication that Lt Alley had with LTC Steele until he was across the canal was just before he decided to withdraw. He told LTC Steele that they were fighting them in the bunkers. After those words LTC Steele couldn't raise Lt Alley. This caused LTC Steele a great deal of anxiety. Right after that last transmission LTC Steele could hear nothing but Vietnamese voices over Lt Alley's radio.
While Lt Alley was covering his platoon's withdrawal, his men had organized a human chain, hanging on the log bridge by their hands, and were passing the wounded men across the canal. The artillery men also aided a good deal with air mattresses as rafts as described earlier. The move across the river was made under a large volume of enemy fire. In the trip across the river, many of the men had to throw away their weapons and equipment, but they threw them in the middle of the canal where the VC couldn't get them. Some of the men decided to swim across as there wasn't time for everyone to walk with their hands across the bridge under heavy fire.
Pardner was going to swim across with a man that couldn't swim, Pardner decided to take off his boots. He told the other man to wait a second. When he had taken off his boots, he looked up, and the man who couldn't swim had swam half way across the canal. The others of the platoon that had crossed already were observing the man who they knew to be a non- swimmer and amidst the enemy fire, they stood on the far bank and cheered the non swimmer on.
Staff, the platoon FO was one of the first to across the bridge and he carried wounded Westfall with him. Westphal is a big man, about 200lbs. Staff is a small man, about 130 lbs and not unusually strong. Staff dragged Westphal the entire way to the canal and somehow (none of his comrades knew how he got the strength) with one hand on the log bridge, and one hand on the collar of Westphal's flak jacket he pulled Westphal across the canal to safety.
In no way did the men of recon panic. At each position an estimate of the situation was made and each group came to the intelligent conclusion that they had better withdraw of face certain annihilation. They withdrew, fighting as they went and taking and caring for all their wounded friends.
Once Lt Alley was across the canal he called LTC Steele. LTC Steele wanted him to order the artillery to shoot the beehives. Lt Alley had counted his men and eight were missing by his count. Actually, all had crossed except the LP and 3 men that had been killed. He knew the VC had overrun his positions and reasoned that they were massing to cross the canal and overrun the perimeter. Most of his men had no weapons to fight with. He reasoned that if he didn't fire the beehive his men on the far side would be killed by the VC if they hadn't been already. All these thoughts ran swiftly through his mind. He said later, "I could shoot the beehive and hope it didn't hit my men or not shoot the beehive and take a chance of the VC overrunning the FSB." He decided to fire the beehives. The artillery fired 21 rounds of beehive ammo and that was the end of the attack on recons' sector.
After crossing the river and ordering the beehives fired, Lt Alley took over handling the gunships, Spooky (C-47 airplane) and artillery in his area. He had adjusted no supporting fires while he was across the river. The fighting at his position was too intense for him to do so. When the fighting first began he had requested gunships but they did not arrive in the area until about 25 minutes after the attack began.
Defensive artillery concentration's had been plotted before the attack to the front of recon's sector. LTC Steele had called for these fires but they were not fired until the VC were too close to recon's position to do any good against the initial assault. However, after Lt Alley crossed the river he was able to adjust artillery on the area the VC were in. He adjusted the artillery from an initial marking round.
Spooky arrived on station about 40 minutes after he was requested. LTC Steele had requested Spooky at the outset of the fight. Adjusting Spooky's fires, was a problem as Lt Alley had nothing to mark his position with. All his flares had been left on the other side of the canal. Also the pilot could not see the canal. Lt Alley had Spooky drop a flare and then would direct his fires from the falling flare. However, this method was not successful and LTC Steele and Lt Alley agreed that Spooky's fires were too far to the west throughout the battle to be effective.
All while the men of recon platoon were undergoing their fierce fight with the VC, the men of 1pt and 3d platoons of Charlie Company were engaged in a similar battle and reacting with the same courage and intelligence.
The first platoon was attacked from the south, southeast, and east. The VC attacked them in the same manner that they attacked recon. There would be a group of VC, probably a squad, with AK47's that would make the main assault. They would maneuver towards the US positions under the cover and confusion of their mortar attack. They'd get within about 15 meters of the perimeter and spray the area with AK47's. Then when a US position would fire and give itself away VC with grenades would run up and throw at the bunkers. The VC attacked 1st and 3d platoons twice. The initial assault was repulsed. The VC re-organized and attacked again in the same manner. During their second assault 3d platoon save 2d squad withdrew to the guns leaving 2d platoon's flank exposed. The 1st platoon leader, Lt Becraft did not know that 3d platoon had withdrawn. On their 2d assault the VC got within 10 ft of the Americans. Sergeant Chandler of 1st platoon said, "We'd knock off the men carrying AK47's and there would be men behind to pick up the rifles and continue on. When the VC were about to surround the positions of 1st platoon. Lieutenant Becraft requested and received permission to withdraw the guns.
Pfc Thomson, Grayson Mallone, and Dallern were on the LP from lst platoon to the south of 1st platoon along the canal. The first they knew of the attack was when mortar begin landing near their position. They could hear a great number of voices to the west of the canal. The VC seemed to know the position of the LP as they opened fire on it. The LP returned the fire and decided to withdraw, but a group of VC had gotten behind them. They fired at the oncoming VC to their front that were about 10-20 meters away and started crawling down a small canal that led to the perimeter. They made it back to the perimeter with one man being wounded by shrapnel.
When the fighting began Cpt Russell's first actions were to attempt to get communications with his platoons and call for gunships, air strikes, and artillery. Throughout the entire battle, communications was a big problem due to the confusion of the mortar rounds and the intense fighting and because some of the radios had been knocked out by shrapnel. Initially Cpt Russel was able to communicate with his 2d and 4th platoons. After about 10 to 15 minutes he got communication with his 1st and 3d platoons. When he reached 3d platoon, he had to talk to the RTO of 3d platoon who was a little shook and nearly incoherent. The 3d platoon leader was out on the line directing his M60 and M79 fires. So initially, CPt Russell wasn't sure what was happening in the 3d platoon area. Captain Russell was able to get a good understanding of what was hapening in his 1st platoon sector through Lt Becraft. Lieutenant Becraft stayed in his CP and knew what was happening on his front lines from radio communications with Sgt Bridges, his platoon sergeant. Lieutenant Becraft had learned from Sgt Bridges that the VC were trying to overrun his positions. Lieutenant Becraft informed Cpt Russell of this. From these transmissions with his units Cpt Russell deduced that one main attack was in 1st platoons area and 3d platoons area.
At about 0245 Cpt Russell received a call from the Artillery Battery Commander telling him that the 3d platoon had fallen back on the guns and was leaderless as Lt Dor had been seriously wounded and Sgt Brookes, the platoon sergeant, killed.
The artillery Liaison Officer had moved to the Charlie Company CP after 1st mortar rounds and called in artillery. There was a 10 to 15 minute lapse, however, before artillery began to fall. The reason for this lapse was that the VC had mortared FSB Mace just before hitting Cudgel. Fire Support Base Mace and another FSB was in support of Cudgel. The same artillery that was in support of Cudgel was also in support of Mace, so that artillery was involved in supporting Mace when fires were requested in support of Cudgel. This is also the reason gunships were slow in supporting Cudgel. The immediately available gunships were initially called to support FSB Mace. The jets did not arrive until over an hour after they were requested. In effect, by the time the fire support came, the VC were nearly on top of the US positions.
When the gunships arrived, Cpt Russell told them to work the area south of the perimeter from east to west, south of the woodline about 100 meters. The gunships pilots had difficulty locating the perimeter due to the smoke caused by the mortar rounds. Cpt Russell told the 36 element to mark its southern most position by firing M60 tracers. The pilots spotted these tracers. Captain Russell told the gunships to fire 100 meters to the south of the tracers from east to west. The gunships then made two passes. The first pass was perfect and probably hurt the VC attack, however the pilot was receiving fire from a VC .50 caliber machine gun. After his 1st pass he diverted and took the .50 under fire, silencing it, then returning for a 2d pass. On this 2d pass he was off course and strafed right over 3d and 1st platoon's positions, wounding one man in 1st platoon.
After the gunships accidentally strafed Charlie Company, Cpt Russell remembered that he had a strobe light. From then on he used the light to direct the gunships giving azimuths and distances from the flashing strobe light which was easily identifiable.
The initial fire support had been artillery. It was not in time to hurt the initial VC attack but LTC Steele and Cpt Russell felt that it helped a great deal to break up the 2d assault and injured the VC sufficiently to preclude any further assaults after their 2d one had failed. Initally Cpt Russell had fired the defensive concentrations previously plotted along the canal. Then his 3d platoon leader called him and asked for artillery further to the east. Lieutenant Dor then adjusted the artillery effectively to the southeast. All this happened between 0200 and 0300.
At about 0245 when Cpt Russell found out that his 3d platoon had fallen back to the guns, and had no platoon leader or platoon sergeant, he decided to make Sgt England the platoon leader of 3d platoon. Sergeant England was at the time the platoon sergeant of 2d platoon. Captain Russell did this because 2d platoon was not in heavy contact and he had communication with Sgt England. He had no communication with 3d platoon. At that time an operation Sgt came up to Cpt Russell and asked him if he could help. Captain Russell said yes, to get what men he could and fill the gap in the 3d platoon area. That Sgt organized a squad from the Battalion TOC and headed out to the 3d platoon sector.
At that time Sgt England reported to Cpt Russell. Captain Russell told him to organize the 3d platoon, determine the flanks of Ist and 2d platoon's and fill the gap.
Captain Russell then called Lt Becraft, st platoon leader, and told him that all of,3d platoon had fallen back except its 2d squad. The 2d squad of 3d platoon was on his left flank but except for that his left was exposed. He told him to try to get contact with 3d platoon and get 3d platoon to tie in on his left flank and fill the gap.
At this time Lt Becraft suggested an alternate solution. He requested permission to withdraw. Captain Russell refused permission. Shortly after this conversation, Lt Becraft called Cpt Russell and infommed him that he was being overrun and that Sgt Bridges, his platoon sergeant, had been wounded, and Sgt Chandler had taken over on the 1st platoon line. Sgt Chandler informed Lt Becraft that the VC were between their positions and about to get behind the positions. He said that they couldn't fire at some VC for fear of hitting their own positions. Lieutenant Becraft again requested permission to withdraw. Captian Russell granted permission.
Lieutenant Becraft then ordered his men to withdraw. They withdrew in an organized fashion, fighting as they fell back. As they fell back, the VC broke contact and made no more assaults.
As was the case with recon, nearly every position of 1 st and 3d platoon fought a battle all their own. In position One of 1st platoon was Pfc Steel, Shaparski, Sanders and Galigos. When the first mortars landed, they jumped in their bunkers. Small arms, automatic fire, and rockets began ripping the air around them. They heard the voices of a large group of VC about 20 meters from them and they blew their claymores that was set up in that area. They heard several screams. After that it seemed to them that the VC were coming at them from everywhere, their right front, left front and direct front. They had two grenades apiece and they threw them all, probably hitting several VC with each toss. They blew a claymore that was facing north paralleling the north-south canal. They heard several screams. As they moved from their hole several grenades fell in it. At that point they received the order to withdraw. Before they withdrew Pfc Shaparski threw a gas grenade and a frag grenade. He saw three VC fall. The other two men in his position were lightly wounded so he ordered them to withdraw. He then stopped out on the trail and fired the rest of his ammunition. Then he jumped back into the position and while firing the M60 he saw a comrade, wounded, crawling along the trail. He dropped the M60 and dragged the man to the medic. Shaparski then started to return to his position but was met by Sgt England who told him to help reorganize the withdrawal.
Sergeant Frazier, 4th squad leader of the 1st platoon was in position Two. They leaped into their hole when the mortars begun falling. During their most intense fighting the VC had closed with 20 feet of them. They requested permission to withdraw when the VC initially got that close, however it was denied then. Each man fired about 10-15 magazines and their M60 fired about 300 rounds.
Private First Class Galigos was at position Two when the fighting began in 1st platoons area. Sergeant Reed who was a few meters from the bunker when the firing began was wounded at the outset. He said, "I'm hit, I think I blew my leg off." Galigos said, "I'm going to get him, take the 60." While returning with Sgt Reed, a couple grenades and a rocket round landed a few meters from him, but he kept pulling Sgt Reed to the bunker. Then he got back on the 60. At that time they could see many VC running down the trail towards them. Galigos said "I don't want to give away our position, but I've gotta shoot at em." Then, linking the ammo as he fired, he fired 300 rounds at the closing VC, before he was wounded and knocked unconscious. Another man took over firing the 60. After a few minutes, Galigos regained consciousness, got back on the 60 and fired it. While the others in the position pulled back, Galigos, wounded seriously continued to hold off the VC with his devastating M6O fire. Lieutenant Becraft said that if it hadn't been for Galigos, the VC would have penetrated his lines.
Specialist Four Valetti was the squad leader of the 3d squad, 3d platoon and was in the position on the far right flank of 3d platoon. During the thick of the fighting he observed his platoon leader, Lt Dor moving along the platoon line directing M79 and M60 fire. Lieutenant Dor continued to direct his platoon's fires for about 30 minutes, before he was seriously wounded by shrapnel. Valetti heard him yell, "Oh my God. I've been hit." He was then moved back to the artillery positions for aid and evacuation.
In Sp4 Valetti's position was Pfc Dobbin and Sp4 Nall. Nall had an M79 and Dobbin had an M60. As the fighting began they received automatic fire, recoilless rifle fire, and mortar rounds from their right front. Then they could hear the VC talking about 20-30 meters to their right front. They fired at these voices. After about one half hour of fighting, the VC started coming up over the bank of the canal towards Valetti's position. He threw a grenade at them and thought he hit 3 VC. Diskin went to the rear to try to get more grenades. After moving back a few meters, they decided to withdraw. SP4 Nall decided to stay awhile. He returned to the position and set up a claymore, and Lt Dor fired it. Valetti said he figured that the claymore slowed the VC down some. Then Deskin, Dobbin, and Nall all were wounded.
When Hyster, Sides, and Matson were pulling back, they were pulljng back into a potentially dangerous situation. These were nearly all new men in Barton's squad and nearly everyone was ready to open up at the drop of a hat. SP4 Barton knew that the above men were pulling back. He yelled, "Hold your fire." Then Barton crawled out himself and gave the above men covering fire while they withdrew. When the men were safely behind him, Barton pulled back.
Over an hour after they called, air support arrived. Captain Russell adjusted the air strikes, south of the area where his company was in contact as he felt that was where the VC reserves were and where the VC were staging their attack. It was about 3:45 when the air strikes ceased. Captain Russell said, "From that time on the problem wasn't so much that of contact, but not necessarily because of the air strikes.
We were receiving fire but not the enemy assault. Lieutenant Becraft called up and said that he had his casualties consolidate and that he was sending people out to the front to look for two missing people.
When Lt Becraft reorganized his men after the withdrawal, he found that he was missing two men. Sergeant Chandler, the acting platoon sergeant, Sp4 Miles, and one other man went out to one of the missing men's positions. The man was wounded. They brought him back. They then went out after the other man. They found him dead by the canal and brought him back to the lines. Neither time did they see VC.
At this time Sgt Chandler was told that a man named Lewis was also missing. Sgt Chandler, Pfc Limsky, and Myers and one more man, hunted for the man to a distance almost to where the LP had been for 1st platoon, but couldn't find him At that time they saw about three VC approximately 20 meters away heading towards them down the trail that paralleled the north-south canal. They had a brief firefight with these VC and worked their way back to the perimeter. They then found that Lewis hadn't been missing in the first place.
Sergeant Adams, 2d squad, 3d platoon did not get the word to withdraw. The fight began for them the way it did for the other positions in their area. Mortars landed around them and the area around their positions received small arms and automatic weapons fire. After about 5 minutes of receiving AW fire they could hear the enemy talking about 15 meters from their position. About 16 meters to their front there was a small hill. The VC fired an automatic weapon at their position from behind this hill. A grenade landed about 2 meters in front of their position. Pfc Harrington started lobbing grenades at the VC voices. A VC wearing shorts and web gear came within few feet of Pfc Johnson. Johnson shot him down. Johnson fired 13 magazines before his weapon jammed. They didn't know the rest of 3d platoon had pulled back until about 0400. About 0330 they saw a line of VC porter about 200 meters away carrying stretchers move out to the battlefield to carry the dead and wounded VC. They saw several women that were probably nurses in this line. About 30 meters to their right front they saw a group of 8 VC bunched up at what appeared to be an aid station. One VC was waving his arms and giving orders. They opened fire on the group and the porters. The VC did not return fire as they couldn't locate 2d squad's position. They had one grenade left in their position. Johnson jumped up to throw it while the others gave him covering fire. The grenades was a dud.
Second squad held their position for about 3 hours. At About 0400 hours Sgt Adams had heard a transmission over his radio that the rest of 3d platoon and 1st platoon had pulled back, but he didn't tell his men as he didn't want to alarm them. At about 0500 hrs, friendly artillery was landing close to their position and they decided to pull back. They tried to call Cpt Russell to tell them they were coming back, but couldn't get him.
When Cpt James R. Heldman, commander of D battery, heard incoming mortars he hit the ground of his tent. Within a few minutes when the first rounds died down he and his first sergeant tried to make it to the platforms where the 105mm guns were. But before they were 25 meters outside the tent a mortar exploded in front of the two and the sergeant was seriously injured. Cpt Heldman continued toward the guns when he arrived Staff Sergeant John 0. Nichols, fire section chief, had the units organized and in operation. Sergeant Nichols was one of the first to observe where the mortar and small arms fire, (800 meters to a woodline)(by this time the mortars had nearly stopped but there was intense small arms fire) were coming from and instructed the men to turn the weapons and begin direct fire. During the entire battle he went from position to position giving help to each of the crews.
At this time, (the start of the mortar barrage) in C Battery most of the men cried, "incoming" and dived for their holes. They remained here for the first portion of the attack, when the order for fire was given the men began dragging the trails of the howitzers, which were firmly entrenched in the ground, around to a position that they could bring fire on the enemy. The majority of the fire, was coming in from the area 50 to 75 meters to their rear across the large canal. Within a few minutes the artillerymen had the pieces turned around and began firing directly at the enemy. The first rounds were HE, but when the infantry withdrew to the fire support base they begnn to fire beehive rounds into the hostile forces. As the men were trying to get the guns into an operable position some of the artillerymen were using the small arms they had to subdue some of the enemy fire. When the guns were first being used the eneny countered with recoilless rounds, some seven of eight were fired at the artillery position. The No 2 gun was the closest to the large canal and the enemy begin to hit it with heavy recoilless and small arms fire. The VC shot about three rounds at it, the first round hit it beneath the breech block and started the tires and the sight on fire. Pfc Sammy Davis, a cannoneer on the piece, stayed with the gun even as it was in danger of exploding and fired five rounds at the enemy until the gun rolled into a waterhole and was inoperable. At this time he also sustained wounds from a hand grenade or rifle grenade that had exploded in the immediate area. After he had fired as many rounds as he could he and Pfc Murrey responded to the cries of three infantrymen who were trapped on the other side of a 10 meter canal. Although Pfc Davis was wounded and could not swim he took an air mattress and went to the aid of the wounded. Upon reaching the opposite bank he picked up an M-16 and provided cover fire for Pfc Murrey to evacuate the wounded. After this he returned to the other side and continued to help defend the position until daybreak and only then did he seek aid for his wounds.
The men of C Battery took many of the wounded infantrymen to their own foxholes or fortified positions, over twenty wounded men lying about their area.
The medics of the Recon 5/60th, Company C 5/'60th and the artillery rush to the aid of wounded even as the battle was in its peak. Many of their supplies were low or exhausted but they continued to aid as many of the wounded as they could.
"The effectiveness of the beehive round can be told by the fact that it was primarily responsible for the repelling of the enemy from the shore of the canal," said Sergeant James Hogan, section cannoneer.
Because of the necessity of stacking the cut bags of powder near the cannon a serious fire was started on No 4 gun when a round of recoilless rifle fire hit near the gun, knocked all the crew to the ground and ignited the powder.
"Due to the narrow dikes and the lack of emplacements of the right distances for the proper use of the guns the battery was at a disadvantage to start with. The time element in setting up the position was also a factor in the effectiveness of the batteries. The position was defended as well as can be expected in view of the above facts." Cpt Schaible.
WIth some 1300 rounds fired during the conflict, including the rounds fired from two of D Battery's guns in support of MAGE, the action can be considered the largest one engaged with this unit" … LTC Charles F. Gorden Commander of the 2/4th Artillery Battalion.
After the main VC assault broke, dustoff (medevac) helicopters were able to come in. Captain Russell did his best to organize the wounded so that the worst casualties were evacuated first. Recon had 23 WlAs and 3 KIAs. Company C had Artillery had
The medic from recon tend his wounded comrades in the CP bunker during the fight and once the wounded had been evacuated across the stream was a whirlwind of medical skill and efficiency organizing the wounded, and applying aid to them. The men felt that he saved several lives.
The next morning a sweep through the area revealed tubes from RPG-2's, BAR magazines, AK47 magazines, a ChiCom automatic weapon, and 5 dead VC. The VC had over an hour and a half to police the battlefield. Even though artillery was continued throughout the night around the perimeter, the VC did a good job of policing the battlefield. The VC that were found were dressed in khaki uniforms with khaki shorts.
During the late afternoon, an artilleryman happened to notice a Vietnamese man was fairly young and was wearing khaki shorts. The artilleryman thought nothing of it at the time as there were farmers in the area. Later, however, after the battle he realized that the man was wearing shorts of the same type as the dead VC they found after the battle. The man that was walking along the perimeter that afternoon before the battle was probably pacing distances to be used in computation for the mortar attack on the base.
While sweeping through the area the next morning, a small VC base camp was found to the south of CUDGEL that LTC Steele felt the VC has used as a staging area for the fight, and evacuation camp, or both. He felt that his men would have found it the day before had they been lifted in early enough to have time to sweep the surrounding terrain.
The next morning also, LTC Steele had Cpt Russel sit all the men down and each squad leader talked to his men to determine how many VC they felt they killed either by seeing the VC get shot or hit, or hearing screams after claymores and grenades or seeing dead VC. LTC Steele received a count of 83 and he felt this was a conservative count considering the damage the artillery, gunships, and air strikes combined must have done, as well as the long line of porters and nurses observed by Sgt Adams squad, 2d squad, 3d platoon.
It is extremely hard to estimate the damage that was inflected on the VC. Many times the men fired their weapons on automatic into groups of attacking VC only 10 to 20 meters away but due to the darkness had no way of telling what damage they did. It is probable that each of these bursts killed or wounded one or two VC at a minimum.
The artillery fired 21 beehive rounds. The VC were massed on the opposite side of the canal from the artillery pieces and only about 20 to 30 meters away. They had overrun the positions that recon had withdrawn from. It is most probable that each beehive round killed or wounded five or ten men. There was no way of assessing the damage done by the indirect artillery or by the gunships and airstrikes, but this support probably killed or wounded large numbers of VC. A conservative estimate might be 50.
So the estimate of 83 killed arrived at by adding the numbers of VC that the men actually saw go down is a conservative estimate.
The fact that only 5 entrenching tools were flown in on resupply hurt them. Also the men had no machetes to clear fields of fire. No one had thought to bring machetes along.
Sufficient M79 ammo was flown in on resupply, but it wasn't distributed evenly. Recon's M79 men had not used up their previous resupply of ammo, whereas most of Charlie Company's M79 men had. Recon platoon was resupplied with one case of ammo, so they had 36 rounds per M79 man plus an extra case of 72 rounds. There was one M79 man in 3d platoon of Company C who had 5 rounds for the whole fight. The strobe light worked extremely well in directing gunships and air strikes. More claymores and grenades would have helped.
Lieutenant Alley said that he thought his men were a little lax about preparing defensive positions against a large VC attack. He said that they weren't expecting an attack and the things they wanted most were to dry out and get some sleep.
Sergeant Seegler, platoon sergeant, 3d platoon said that M79 canister rounds would have been a tremendous asset, but said that although he had requested them frequently through their company supply channels he had not been able to get any.
The artillery was too late to hurt the initial VC assault. The gunships and air strikes were also too slow. LTC Steele felt that he would have been better off to continue with artillery the whole time rather than cutting off artillery while the airstrikes were coming in. He said that the FAC would require the artillery to be shut off before an air strike, but then there would be a 10 minute lapse, and air strikes.
Lieutenant Colonel Steele also felt that they relieved A/3-47 too late in the day. He felt that it would have been better had they relieved A/3-47 about noon and had time to sweep the surrounding terrain, get a feel for it, and set up their defenses.
The men of Company C also felt that 90's with HE and beehive rounds and .50 cal machine guns would have been a great asset. They felt they didn't have enough firepower. They also felt that in the future, the starlight men should have incendiary grenades to destroy their starlight scopes if there is a chance the VC might capture the scope.
A large number of M-16's jammed and several blew up. The men felt that they had cleaned their weapons well enough, but the dirt, mud, water, and smoke caused by the VC mortars caused their weapons to jam. Their magazines had been muddy and wet for two days and they had not had time to clean them. That probably caused some of the jamming. Lieutenant Alley felt that several weapons blew up due to water in the bore. Even under the conditions of the battle, the majority of the men fired 10-15 magazines before their weapons jammed. One M79 man in recon had his weapon blew up.
Lieutenant Alley felt that he was given too much terrain to defend for the size of his platoon.
Recon platoon had a Hoi Chanh scout, named Hoay Hoa a former VC who had given up to the government and is now acting as a scout for recon. He was there during the whole battle and had the following to say about the fight:
The lieutenant led the way on the previous two days operations. After those two days we came to the artillery fire support base. One hundred VC attacked our positions that night. All the Americans that fought that night have a wonderful spirit and are very brave. The Americans fought back violently against the VC who used B40 rockets, mortars and AK47's with the purpose of destroying the support base. The lieutenant commanded his soldiers against the VC who came very close in an L shape attacking both the front and the left flank of recon, but as soon as they closed to recons positions they were violently pushed back. They could not penetrate the American's line. Had it not been for their bravery and courage, the men of recon would have been lost under the VC firepower. Also, were it not for the lieutenant's leadership and fighting many of his men would have been killed by the VC. The lieutennnt and his men were skillful and fast in evacuating all the casualties. The platoon used the poles of the bridge to cross the canal and then the lieutenant called air support and artillery and effectively destroyed the enemy. In the end, thanks to the lieutenants leadership, recon lost no weapons to the enemy
There is a pride that certain men can feel in knowing that they met a competent, determined enemy face to face in a vicious battle and defeated him. The men of Recon Platoon, Charlie Company of the 5-60th Infantry and Charlie and Delta Batteries 2-4 Artillery can feel this pride.
The Old Reliable
24 July, 1968
LT Alley held off VC, rescued 2 men
DSC awarded for heroics at FSB Cudgel
TAN AN – The nation's second highest decoration for heroism, the Distinguished Service Cross, was presented to First Lieutenant Lee V. Alley, a 9th Division platoon leader, by General Creighton Abrams, MACV commander, during ceremonies here July 2.
"I think all of us stand somewhat in awe of the performance of Lieutenant Alley in that fight," General Abrams said.
"Despite the great weapons and sophistication, in the end the thing that makes the difference in war is the man himself."
Alley was decorated for his actions Nov. 19, 1967, as a platoon leader with the 5th Mechanized Battalion, 60th Infantry at Fire Base Cudgel, north of Cai Lay in the Mekong Delta.
"I was to take my recon platoon and link with Company C to provide security on the west side of the base," Alley said. "We spent the day of Nov. 18 drying out and digging bunkers. About 2 a.m. the next morning, Company C was hit with mortar and small arms fire. About the same time my position came under heavy mortar attack."
Alley said he originally discounted the chance of a ground attack. He felt it would be suicide for the enemy to attack through their mortars.
"But then I heard voices in front of me," said Alley, of Laramie, Wyo. "It sounded like they were everywhere, talking, screaming orders. I remember them yelling 'G.I. you die' and 'G.I. we get you tonight' as they came closer."
His platoon was taking casualties form the mortar attack so Alley ordered them to drop back to the river, which could be used as a natural barrier.
"By then we had VC in a few of our bunkers and my men were taking care of them with hand-to-hand combat," Alley recalled. "Then we formed a human chain to get across the river and pass the wounded along.
"I went back to a bunker and fired what ammunition I had at the VC, who were right in front of me," he continued. "I returned to the river, got more ammunition and went back to fire some more. I ran out again and they kept coming at me. I began to throw grenades. I would throw one and get down. Then I would look up and more would be coming. I kept throwing until I used them all up."
Alley said he figured that his men had made it across the river so he pulled back himself. He found that all but four of his men were accounted for so he dove into the river and pulled out two wounded men who had been struggling with the current. The two other missing men were discovered dead.
"After we regrouped, I called in gun ships and artillery on my old position because the VC were right there," Alley said. "My Hoi Chanh estimated that more then 100 VC attacked our position and it was well-coordinated because they moved right in behind the mortar attack. But I know they lost some to their own rounds, it was that close."
Alley praised his men for their coolness under fire and their coordinated efforts to cross the river.
"When the order was given, the men just picked up automatically and began to move back, a bunker at a time. I didn't have much control over them, so it was something they did naturally. Really outstanding."
"Caution: War may be hazardous to your health"
by J. A. Coutant
Copyright ? 2001 J. A. Coutant
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