Nha Trang - 1st Platoon (General Support)

Kontum, 22 January 1969: It was a partly cloudy day in Kontum Province as 1st Lt. Thomas R. Simmons (Age: 26 from Wyandotte, Mich.) began vectoring the first helicopter, carrying a LRP team, into an LZ that he and his observer had just selected. It was his second month with "C" Company, 75th Infantry (Ranger). Flying general support out of the 1st Platoon he lived and flew for "C" Company, throughout II Corps.

During the infiltration of the LRP team, the helicopter was downed by a B-40 rocket on the LZ, seriously wounding three members of the team. Lt. Simmons immediately called for a medivac, replacement gunships, artillery fire mission, and an infantry reactionary force. After expending the gunships on the unknown size enemy force, he made two low level rocket runs on the enemy position drawing automatic fire away from the ground element. The men on the ground were in a precarious position backed up on the edge of a cliff in a heavy fire fight. Lt. Simmons made three more low passes over the enemy position armed only with personal weapons directed fire on the enemy.

When the medivac arrived with more gunships he began adjusting their fire as the medivac extracted the wounded men. He was running critically low of fuel, being airborne 4 hours 15 minutes, but he remained on station until all the personnel and downed helicopter were safely recovered. During this time he had direct control of 20 aircraft.

Lt. Simmons actions this memorial day earned him the distinguished flying cross.

Phan Rang - 3rd Platoon

Captain Ernest Jennings was flying a routine reconnaissance mission which he had done so many times in the past, possibly thinking about his upcoming DEROS, when he received an urgent call for help. Minutes later Captain Jennings was at the scene of the action only to find an ARVN marine unit hopelessly pinned down with several casualties received during a beach landing. An Air Force FAC was also at the scene preparing to adjust a tactical air strike on the unknown sized enemy force. As the first fighter prepared to unload his arsenal on target the FAC lost communications with the jets. Captain Jennings took control of the situation and accomplished the unfamiliar task of marking and adjusting the first set of fighters on target.

Captain Jennings was running critically low of fuel when he left the scene only to return 30 minutes later to resume support of the battered marines by adjusting artillery, Naval gun fire, and the lethal AC 119 gunship against the enemy, now confirmed upward of 150.

The battle raged for seven hours with eleven air strikes, two shadow aircraft, and five swift boats being expended. During this critical period captain Jennings was continuously exposed to intense enemy fire directed at him in an attempt to stop the aerial support. Without his fast reaction and professionalism while troops were exposed on the beach, Coastal group 26 could not have survived.

Phan Thiet Undergoes Changes: (1969 September)

The 2nd Flight Platoon, 183rd RAC, stationed at Phan Thiet has had changes of personnel in the preceding month.

SFC F. Doss was evacuated home due to an injury and was replaced by SSG F. Wright. Captain Berg, platoon leader, DEROS'ed with a thirty day drop and was replaced by Captain Vaughn who shortly later was sent to Nha Trang to fill the platoon leaders slot. Captain Billy J. Seay was then brought in as the platoon leader. Captain Seay is from Thomaston, Georgia and 13 years experience in the Armed Forces, both as an EM and officer.

 

DONG BA THIN COMPANY REPELS CHARLIE  (Eagle Talons, Vol II Number 19 December 20, 1969 pp. 3, 6)

DONG BA THIN -- At 2300 hours Specialist Four Benard Graef heard a bolt slide forward and turned on the interior-perimeter light mounted on his tower. Specialist six Leo J. Farrell was walking to the latrine. Captain Charles Miller looked outside his window and saw Viet Cong/North Vietnamese Army troops running toward his hooch. Captain Al Hodges had just turned over in bed, gliding into Phase II of sleep. Specialist five James Benoit hummed a tune in the shower.

Within four seconds the evening silence at the 183rd Aviation Company of the 223rd Aviation Battalion was shattered. The VC/NVA, illuminated by SP4 Graef's floodlight, rolled over and fired at the tower. Holes appeared in the structure's tin roof but Graef was moving safely to the M-60 machine gun nearby. 

 

Farrell was moving back toward his quarters to get his weapon as the first satchel charge went off. Graef returned fire at the enemy. His machine gun jammed.

SP5 Benoit decided his shower could wait, since Charlie had him surrounded. "I got as close to that concrete slab as humanly possible," Benoit said. Three VC/NVA had already moved near the bunker below the tower and tossed four satchel charges (homemade concussion grenades). One went on top of the bunker and three went inside. By then the two men in the bunker, Sp4 James Dorough and SP4 Frank Robertson, was struck on the back by a charge. "As I ran out, I remembered that in basic training I was told that running from a grenade was useless," "Dorough said, But they moved with inhuman speed. Two of the charges went off: the bunker badly damaged; the two men, ears ringing but still fighting.

The grenade tossed on top of the bunker went off two feet below Graef in the tower. "I knew I was dead as I sailed through the air," Graef gasped. He wasn't. So he tried his M-60 again. It jammed. He took his M-14 rifle......

The VC/NVA threw caution to the wind. Their plan had been foiled and stealth was no longer sensible. They had to rush to destroy as much as possible and get out if they could. 

Dorough yelled to Graef that three of them were moving around the bunker toward the quarters area. Graef looked around, fired at one who was kneeling 20 meters behind him. The VC spilled blood and five satchel charges. He called to his comrades, who thought that the fire had come from the latrine. They destroyed it with what appeared to be RPG's (Rocket Propelled Grenades).

Farrell was glad he hadn't made it there. He was back with his weapon and fired at seven of the enemy moving within the perimeter. The east end of the officers' quarters was bathed in bright orange light as another charge went off. Captain Hodgson was searching for his weapon, having been jolted from Phase II by the activity. But it was out of reach and he found his chest-of-drawers on top of him and that he slowly was being drenched in his own blood.

Captain Miller, hearing the first charges, had hugged the floor of his room, shielding himself with bedding. When this charge exploded the door of his room sailed off its hinges onto him. Hodgson, thinking that Miller could not have survived the shock, called out, "You okay, Chuck?"

"Yep," was the muffled reply as both started to crawl out of the debris. Another charge threatened to knock the commanding Officer's trailer from its foundation.

The CO, Major Edward Harris, was on his feet at the sound of the first shots. He called the XO, Captain Paul Walker, to awaken the heavy sleeper. Walker got up and started putting on his clothes when the first charge went off. But he abandoned that and protected himself with his mattress. 

When the close charge ruptured the trailer wall. Glass flew throughout the trailer and the two officers decided to "move it" with the XO cursing because he couldn't find his ammunition. As the CO, XO, Capt. Hodgson and Capt. Miller were emerging SP4 Michael Buttolph with an M-60 in tow dodged behind cover and risked exposure to fire while climbing the tower. But he succeeded and again there was a machine gun spitting lead. It enforced a temporary calm.

The CO called for reinforcements and Capt. Miller moved to his area of command and Hodgson formed a patrol to check the perimeter area, now lighted by flares. The VC had withdrawn as rapidly as they came, inflicting some damage and receiving some of their due. No VC were found until morning but trails of blood indicated he left in worse shape than he arrived.

He did not accomplish what he came for. He did wound two Americans superficially. He left many unused satchel charges in the area and about the perimeter. Charlie had been repelled. He had been repelled, but not by a combat infantry force. He had clerks and courage. It was courage displayed in the face of the enemy by soldiers not ordinarily thought of as hard fighters.

There was a hell of a lot of loving crammed into 30 minutes that evening, and it all happened the last night of November at Dong Ba Thin.

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