DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
US ARMY CENTER OF MILITARY HISTORY
WASHINGTON, D. C.
UNITED STATES ARMY IN VIETNAM
Oral History Interview
1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division
MAJ Bruce G. Smalley, S-3 24
CPT William A. Coleman, S-2 16
PSG Woodrow Mitnaul, Platoon Sergeant, 2d Platoon 10
SP4 Richard J. Hayes, Assistant Squad Leader, 1
3d Squad, 2d Platoon
SP4 Larry E. Streight, 4th Squad, 2d Platoon 6
SGT Daniel W. Quinlan, Squad Leader, 2d Squad, 4
PFC David J. Dunn, 2d Squad, 3d Platoon 6
PFC Gary Britton, Company C, 65th Engineer Battalion 9
Interviews Conducted 21-23 June 1968 at Cu Chi Base Camp, Republic of Viet Nam
Interviewer: SGT Dennis A. Smith [deleted], 18th Military History Detachment, 25th Infantry Division
UNITED STATES ARMY IN VIETNAM
Oral History Interview VNIT 259
SGT SMITH: The following is a series of interviews conducted with men of the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, of an action that occurred on 19 June 1968. The interviews are conducted by SGT Dennis Smith of the 18th Military History Detachment, 25th Infantry Division. The interviews are being conducted on 21 June 1968. The time is 1430 hours.
The first interview is with SP4 Richard J. Hayes, serial number [deleted]. SP4 Hayes was an Assistant Squad Leader with the 3d Squad, 2d Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry. SP4 Hayes, would you describe in your own words your actions and what you did and saw and observed on the morning and day of 19 June 1968?
SP4 HAYES: Our night location was located at the Hoc Mon Bridge. I was pulling bunker guard on the night of the 18th. On the 19th we were told that we had an Eagle Flight,(1) so we then proceeded to the Eagle Flight position. We Eagle Flighted out about 9:30 and landed by a road. And at the road we stopped these civilians and we checked their I.D.'s. And about 10:30--about quarter of eleven--we Eagle Flighted. There were five ships.(2) We got on the ships, and as we were coming down (on the ships) we landed about ten, fifteen feet from an open--in an open field--from a berm. And as the last ship lifted off the ground, then everything ... Charlie(3) opened up with AK-s, RPGs(4) and [INAUDIBLE].
SGT SMITH: How far away was the enemy firing at you?
SP4 HAYES: About 10, 15 meters away. And all I could see was we heard people screaming for medic, but there was nothing the medic could do because the medic was behind me. He was dead. He got shot right away.
SGT SMITH: How many people were wounded or killed initially in the first contact?
SP4 HAYES: I'd say everybody that was wounded or killed were hit within the first ten minutes of the ambush when we got out, and all you could hear was people screaming medics, and there was nothing you could do. And then the gunships come in. Now I think if it wasn't for the gunships, you know, none of us would have got away.
SGT SMITH: SP4 Hayes, would you tell me what happened after the gunship started giving you support? What were your actions, and what happened?
SP4 HAYES: Well, when the gunships come in they come in and they fired a couple rockets on the enemy's position, and they opened up with M-60 machine gun fire. I think one of them opened up with an 'automatic 79'(5) on them. And then they kept this up, and then later--not long later--Smokey come around. Smokey ... Smokey's a chopper used to cover withdrawal with white thick smoke. And he came around and made four passes, and then the gunships come by again, and they dropped ... came in and dropped three waves of CS attacks (that's gas, tear gas) on the enemy's position.
SGT SMITH: Being as you were so close to the enemy, did you feel the effects of the CS?
SP4 HAYES: Yes. I was without my gas mask this day, but I used a towel [and] dipped it in water. But I ... but I got some CS in me, and I started choking, coughing.
SGT SMITH: Did you have any chance at all to set up any type of security when you landed, or were you hit immediately?
SP4 HAYES: No, we didn't have no chance to set up any security at all. When we ... as soon as we landed we were hit, and it was all chaos and confusion. Nobody knew where anybody was, and if anybody actually had tried to move to fire, Charlie had them pinned down.
SGT SMITH: Did you lose radio contact immediately?
SP4 HAYES: No, I didn't have any contact with anybody at the time. Right away. I had ... knew where nobody was. Well, after the gas, the last gas attack was over, I began to withdraw, but the other man that was still alive with me was shot through the shoulder. We withdrew about 100, 200 meters to the rear, and there I was ... I had spotted my ... another man from my element, [SP4 Larry E.] Streight from my other element, and he told us to wait there for the gunships. We had a radio up there when I pulled back, and the gunships were directing us. And then they Eagle Flighted I think it was Bravo Company,(6) [and] reinforced us. And from there ... .
SGT SMITH: Now what time was this when Bravo Company reinforced you?
SP4 HAYES: About 1:00 in the afternoon.
SGT SMITH: When you were initially hit, where did all the men go? Did they take cover immediately, or exactly what happened?
SP4 HAYES: Well, actually there was no cover to be taken. It was just grass. We didn't have no berms or nothing to hide behind. And if you moved, if Charlie saw the grass moving, he just opened up on you again, and it didn't leave you much choice.
Anyway, when Bravo company came they ... we spotted them. It was about five of us. We didn't know where everybody else was because, like I say, everybody was in small groups when they pulled back. And Bravo Company came on the Eagle Flight, and they swept towards us, and we caught up ... hailed the medic.
SGT SMITH: Did Bravo Company land behind you or in front of you?
SP4 HAYES: To the rear of us about 200 meters, and then we hailed their medic, and the medic come over and he treated us. It was two of us there that were wounded out of five. And then they got ... Bravo Company started looking out, going out to secure and dustoffs(7) and going and policing up the rest of the men, the dead men and the people who got in contact with most of the platoon then, and then we got dusted off about 1:30, I guess.
SGT SMITH: Was there any trouble securing locations for dustoffs?
SP4 HAYES: Yes. There was a ... it was just an open field, and when the dustoffs did come in Charlie opened up on the dustoffs.
SGT SMITH: Okay, thank you, SP4 Hayes.
The next interview is with SGT Daniel W. Quinlan, last name is spelled phonetically Quebec, Uniform, India, November, Lima, Alpha, November. Service number [deleted]. SGT Quinlan was a Squad Leader with the 2d Squad, 3d Platoon, Company C, 1st to the 27th Infantry.
SGT Quinlan, would you describe your actions and what you saw during the action on 19 June?
SGT QUINLAN: I was at the Hoc Mon Bridge the night of the 18th, and on the morning of the 19th I was informed by my platoon sergeant that my squad would be attached to the 2d Platoon which was going on a sweep. We were Eagle Flighting.
We were picked up by the helicopters somewhere around 9:30, quarter to 10:00, and from there we landed by a road to check civilian I.D.'s. And then we spent about ten minutes there, and from there we were picked up. We were dropped into another LZ [landing zone] somewhere around the Saigon River. I don't know exactly where it was.
My squad and I were in the lead ship, and we were dropped into the LZ. As soon as we dismounted from the helicopters I heard some firing, but at the time I thought it was the helicopters working over the area. But as soon as they took off I knew it was VC in the area. So we got on line and hit it, and then I got word from some of the other men that most ... the men up front were getting wounded, so I tried to find out where the medic was but at the time I didn't know where he was. All my efforts and everybody else's to locate a medic or the radios, we couldn't find them. At the time it was mass confusion. My machine gunner opened up. They were throwing grenades, firing. The only thing we could think of to do right then was [to] pull back. And while we were crawling back the gunships started working, and then the smoke ship came in and gave us covering smoke. And they dropped some CS tear gas on us; we didn't have any gas masks at the time.
SGT SMITH: What ammunition load did you carry?
SGT QUINLAN: I had six men in my squad, and most of them were M-16 and they carried double basic load, which is fourteen magazines. And the machine gunner with the assistant had near 1,000 rounds. I also had two LAWs,(8) and we had an automatic M-79 attached to us.
SGT SMITH: Okay. What happened after everybody opened up with their weapons and there was mass confusion among everybody?
SGT QUINLAN: We opened up with our weapons, and it was almost impossible. There was too much firepower up there. We didn't have ... we didn't have enough. Within the first five minutes three men were wounded, and they couldn't fire their weapons. So we pulled back about 200 meters, crawled back to a haystack and there ran into Sergeant Tooley which was in the 2d Platoon. He was trying to contact some ... trying to get somebody with a radio so he could get the dustoff. We had six or seven wounded men there.
When we got back to the place that we pulled back, I made a check of the weapons and found out that we had left one M-60 machine gun, one automatic M-79 and most of all the ammo and web gear(9) and everything else because we couldn't take it out with us. As it was, one of the men had to drag another one out with us. He had like three bullets in him, and he still drug him out. As soon as we were all assembled there, all the wounded, we had to wait about an hour--an hour to two hours--before the reinforcements came in to get a radio so we could get the dustoff in to help us. And all this time the gunships were working over in there, and there were air strikes.
The dustoffs, they showed up somewhere around 1:30 to a quarter to two, and when they landed Bravo Company, the 3d Platoon, they secured the dustoff site for us. And when the dustoffs landed the VC opened up on them but I don't think they got any of them. The choppers made it out all right.
SGT SMITH: Exactly what time were you evacuated?
SGT QUINLAN: I believe the dustoffs arrived somewhere around 2:00. I'm not positive on that time because I didn't have a watch. It was broke.
SGT SMITH: Okay, thank you very much.
The interviews with SP4 Hayes and SGT Quinlan were conducted at 12th Evacuation Hospital [at Cu Chi Base Camp] in Ward C-3. Correction, that's Ward C-4. [INTERRUPTION] The next interview is with SP4 Larry E. Streight, last name spelled phonetically Sierra, Tango, Romeo, Echo, India, Gulf, Hotel, Tango; service number [deleted]. SP4 Streight is a member of the 4th Squad, 2d Platoon, C Company, 1st of the 27th.
SP4 Streight, would you tell me in your own words what happened from the time you left your night location until the time you were evacuated out of the area on 19 June?
SP4 STREIGHT: We purpled(10) ... we Eagle Flighted out to one location, and they decided to move us where there was a hot LZ. So we got on the choppers and flew in. As the choppers landed, everybody got out to run to a dike for cover.
SGT SMITH: Could you tell me exactly how far it was from where you landed until where the dike was you were running for cover at?
SP4 STREIGHT: About 25 meters.
SGT SMITH: Do you know why you were landed into a hot LZ?
SP4 STREIGHT: No, I don't. I got about five meters from the berm, and I was hit in the arm (in my hand), and I yelled for a medic and I got hit two more times in the hip. And so I just laid down. And after a while I crawled back to find some cover, and I laid out ... I ... it was about 11:00 when I got hit, and about 6:30 that evening two men from Bravo Company pulled me out and put me on a chopper.
SGT SMITH: The next interview is with PFC David J. Dunn, service number [deleted]. PFC Dunn was in the 2d Squad, 3d Platoon, C Company, 1st of the 27th.
PFC Dunn, would you tell me in your own words what happened from the time you left your night location until the time you were MEDEVAC'd out of the area of the contact of 19 June.
PFC DUNN: After leaving night position, we were ... we stopped at a road, and shortly after we were ordered to go
in as a, as I understand it, a reactionary force or support force for Delta Company(11) which had been hit.
SGT SMITH: What did you do on the road when you were stopped there?
PFC DUNN: We were checking I.D.'s and well, just sitting, or just checking weapons.
SGT SMITH: You say you were to reinforce D Company or support D Company when you got lifted into the next LZ?
PFC DUNN: Yes, that's right. We were the first ... in the first chopper to land. I emptied out of the chopper, on the side of the chopper that was the opposite side to the hedgerow. The men that were getting out on the opposite side of the chopper towards the hedgerow had just started to reach the hedgerow and I was behind them about fifteen meters.
The VC opened up, and men were falling. I realized what was ... that we had been in the middle of an ambush and hit the ground, and as I hit I was shot through the shoulder. The bullet entered the top of my shoulder out through my back. I proceeded to move forward to another ... a fellow soldier to get help or see what I could do to ... to other men that I knew were hit. SGT Quinlan came over to help me, and then PFC Moats was ... said something to him and he started to go over, and then Quinlan was hit. I set up a defense on the hedge ... or towards the hedgerow because they were catching fire from the hedgerow. I rested my rifle on my knee. A VC started to run down the hedgerow. Then I emptied approximately half a magazine on him.
We realized then that nearly all of our squad had been hit. We started to pull back. The cover was nil, literally. There was a foot, a foot of reed grass we had to crawl through. The berm was approximately three feet in height. The VC were looking directly down on top of us. A lot of ... we were dropped within twenty meters of the hedgerow, and when the men had almost reached the hedgerow the VC opened up. We were within five feet at times from the VC.
SGT SMITH: You mentioned earlier SGT Quinlan. Was he your squad leader?
PFC DUNN: Yes, he was my squad leader.
With the realization that all of our squad was wounded, we proceeded to pull the wounded back. Quinlan was ahead of me, and I was shot through the shoulder. I was behind him. We were crawling to the reeds. Moats, Wilson, Johnson and Hall were approximately five yards to my right, and we were receiving fire to--from our direct right. They got a VC that was directly in front of them, but there was a VC further down, and we were directing in a crossfire.
SGT SMITH: The other fellows you just mentioned, were they all in your squad?
PFC DUNN: We were the 2d Squad of the 3d Platoon. We were attached to the 2d Platoon. There were six of us: Wilson; Johnson; Hall; Moats; Squad Leader Quinlan; and myself.
SGT SMITH: And you did manage to stay together in some type of formation or security yourselves?
PFC DUNN: We all were on the same chopper, and we all stayed pretty much together when we dismounted the chopper.
The VC then started to spray the ground. One burst got Wilson in the back, and part of the burst ricocheted off my helmet and my rifle. Two rounds went through my fork prong(12) of my rifle. We then ... Wilson screamed out that he was hit in the back and he couldn't move either leg. I then proceeded to break the trail for Quinlan who was shot through the leg. We then crawled as far as we could. We had no cover at all. The choppers came in and sprayed the hedgerow with cammo ... or with white smoke which gave us most of our cover; which actually saved us as we got out further.
One point that I failed to bring out, everyone was yelling medic, and the VC had spotted this ... their locations by this and had pinpointed with their fire on these personnel, that it was actually suicidal to yell medic.
Once the choppers got the white smoke onto the hedgerow and gave us some cover, we could get up and move faster--move the wounded back. Once we got to the hedgerow (or I got to the hedgerow) the CS was dropped. Moats got there with a man that was wounded, and several others were there, too, with men that were wounded. Moats had said that he had tried to get PFC Hall out, but Hall seemed to have given up and couldn't make it. So he brought another man out. I don't know exactly what his name was.
SGT SMITH: Do you know what supporting fires you had throughout the action?
PFC DUNN: Yes. We had a lot of support fire from gunships directly overhead--which could have been sooner. I don't know. We had ... we had jets that were bringing fire support into our left, our far left, about 150 meters to 200 meters I would guess.
SGT SMITH: Were the gunships the same ones that had lifted you into the landing zone?
PFC DUNN: These gunships were possibly the same ones that had security around the area while we were being dropped in, yes.
SGT SMITH: Okay, was there any artillery brought in?
PFC DUNN: I wasn't aware of any at the time, no.
SGT SMITH: What load of equipment and ammunition did you carry?
PFC DUNN: I had approximately twenty magazines, four grenades, an M-16 and about 400 rounds of machine gun ammo. I crawled out with my magazines and my rifle.
SGT SMITH: The next interview is with PFC Gary Britton, last name spelled phonetically Bravo, Romeo, India, Tango, Tango, Oscar, November; service number [deleted]. PFC Britton was attached to the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry ("Wolfhounds") from Company C, 65th Engineers.(13)
PFC Britton, would you tell me what happened from the time you left your night location until the time you actually were dusted off and brought back to Cu Chi?
PFC BRITTON: That ... after ... that morning we left the bridge, we landed at a small road, and we got out of the choppers, and the lieutenant said that we had to search for I.D.'s and weapons from these other VCs or people, and we searched the people. And the lieutenant said we had to go
on another mission, and so we waited approximately about a half hour, and we loaded on the choppers.
SGT SMITH: Could you give me the lieutenant's name that told you what your missions were?
PFC BRITTON: Yes. Lieutenant Link.
SGT SMITH: Okay, what happened after you were airlifted out of this area?
PFC BRITTON: After we left this area, well we landed in another area, and we hit the zone, and I got on the opposite side of the chopper and started to run, and I looked around and seen everybody falling and people getting hit. So me and SGT Tooley, we hit the berm together, and ... .
SGT SMITH: Could you identify SGT Tooley?
PFC BRITTON: SGT Tooley was a squad leader in the 2d Platoon.
Well, after we hit the hedgerow, well, I got hit in both middle fingers, left and right hand, by machine gun fire. I fell back, and SGT Tooley asked me if I was hit, and I said yes, so he drug me around approximately about 50 meters to the haystack. Drug me all the way back. And we laid back there for a while, and we noticed there was other wounded men crawling up to the haystack, and we got gas. Of course, I never had on a gas mask, and SGT Tooley went in my camouflage helmet liner so I can keep the gas from running in my eyes and nose.
We laid there behind the haystack approximately two to three hours before the dustoff came, and we all picked up the wounded and went to approximately 25 meters to another hedgerow, laid there, and we all got the wounded up all together and dustoff (two choppers) landed, and we all hopped in the chopper and left and hit Chi Cu.
SGT SMITH: The three previous interviews were conducted in Wards 5 and 6 of the 12th Evacuation Hospital at Cu Chi.
The next interview is with PSG Woodrow Mitnaul, last name spelled phonetically Mike, India, Tango, November, Alpha, Uniform, Lima; service number [deleted]. PSG
Mitnaul was a platoon sergeant in the 2d Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry.
PSG Mitnaul, would you tell me what happened on the day of 19 June, from the time you left your night location from the previous night until the action ceased?
PSG MITNAUL: We were Eagle Flighted from our night location at Hoc Mon Bridge at approximately 1000 hours on the 19th. We were set down about 10 minutes out. We were set up on the roadway there to check out some civilians--check the identification of civilians. After we checked the civilians, we were told to get in ship formation. We were picked up, and we were taken to a location just west of the Saigon River where we were supposed to sweep the area down to the river.
As the choppers came in I noticed underneath a chopper one of these smoke ships were putting out smoke, so we were signaled by the pilot of the chopper that we were on that there were gas in the area so everyone put their mask on. As the choppers came in, they came in about--I guess--about ten meters of this hedgerow woodline. When the choppers set down, I was the second man off. I was riding on the third chopper, incidentally, and the first man on my ship stepped off and I stepped off. As I hit the ground, I heard an AK-47 start to go off.
At first I was kind of dumbfounded. I didn't know if it was the gunner on the chopper that was on firing for cover for us or what. Then I noticed the dirt flying up all around me, so I told everybody to get down. And then just as I said get down the chopper took off, and the chopper hit me and knocked me down. And I guess that's what saved me, because when I fell I fell right beside a bomb crater, and I crawled into this crater, and in the process my helmet flew off so I took my mask off immediately because I couldn't see anything with that mask on. And I noticed one of my machine gunners, he was outside of the hole, and my radio operator. So I got my radio operator in, and then we grabbed the machine gunner by the legs and we pulled him into the hole.
SGT SMITH: Was your machine gunner wounded at this time?
PSG MITNAUL: No. The machine gunner nor the radio operator was wounded. Nobody was wounded at this time.
Then I ... then the other two men that were on my ship, Private Munsell and SP4 Clawson ... I heard Munsell holler to Clawson and ask him if he was all right, and he said yes. Then I hollered to the two of them and told them to stay down and keep their heads down because it was a bunker right in front of us about ten meters to our front. I told them, I said, stay low and wait until they bring smoke in, and then we can pull back to where we can do something.
So about ... I guess about three minutes elapsed, and I heard Munsell holler that he had been hit. So every time I'd move my head in this hole, machine gun fire would--they'd open up with fire above my head. You could feel, almost feel the powder. That's how close they were on us.
So I noticed that the second bunker to my left from where I was lying facing the wood line, they were throwing out hand grenades out of the bunker. So I told my radio operator, I said, "I pray to God they don't throw any out this way because if they do we're gone." Because that's how close we were on them. There wasn't a doggone thing we could do. And every time a man would move they'd zap him. That's how it was. It was utterly impossible to do anything. So we'd just lie there. And then the gunships came in and started spraying the area. At first they made a pass over. I guess they were spotting exactly where we were, and they made one pass and then they came back and they started firing machine guns.
SGT SMITH: PSG Mitnaul, did you have communications in all this time since you had your RTO [radioman] with you?
PSG MITNAUL: No, I did not have communications. I tried to operate my radio. However, the radio plus the handset had been submerged in the crater that we were lying in, and we couldn't get any ... any radio communication at all. We did not have radio communications until approximately three hours later after the handset had dried out. Then the radio, my FO(14) started working with the radio, and he told me it was working at that time. I guess it's because the handset had dried out at that time, because it was completely submerged in this crater that we were lying in.
Now after the gunship started firing, they dropped tear gas canisters. Of course, we didn't have any masks, but the ... it didn't bother us that much, I mean compared to those rounds that were flying over our head. Because every time anybody would move you'd get fire over your head.
SGT SMITH: PSG Mitnaul, why didn't you have your masks to protect yourselves with?
PSG MITNAUL: Well, the reason I didn't have my mask (and I feel that everybody else was the same), you see, when we got off the choppers everyone were masked, and once they opened fire on us everybody pulled their mask off. Because now when I got into the crater ... I had mine on until I got into the crater. After I got into that crater I had to get down into this crater low enough, and my mask was in the water. So it was no good to me anyway because it was wet, and I pulled it off and laid it down beside me.
[END OF SIDE 1, TAPE 1]
PSG MITNAUL: As I said before, just as we were about to land the pilots informed us that there were gas in the area. That's why everyone was masked at the time. So in that we had to get low ... and this elephant grass which was about, I guess, about two and a half foot high, and there was water even in that. It was ... oh, you'd go down about, oh, I guess about a half a foot in the water, and people are trying to get low like that, I'm sure that all of them had their masks wet.
I told the two men that were in the hole with me, I told them just lie low, keep their heads low until they brought smoke in, at which time we'd get out. So finally I guess about twenty minutes had elapsed, and they came through and they made a pass with smoke. At that time I told the radio--FO--and my machine gunner to crawl straight back to the rear, and I went down to the right flank. I crawled down there, and I ran into SP4 Clawson, and I asked him where Munsell was, and he told me that he was out to my front. I asked him if he was alive; and he told me no, he had checked him, that he was dead. So I told them to go on back, crawl back. I was going on down the flank to see if there was any more people on to my right flank.
I crawled on, I guess, about 50 meters. I didn't run into anyone, so I started going back to the rear at that time. I went over a little berm; I drew fire there, and that's when I rolled over and I lost my direction some way or another, but I know the next thing I knew I was crawling back towards the wood line, and, of course, I was signaled by one of the gunships that I was crawling in the wrong direction. That's when I changed my direction, and I crawled sort of back and out to the flank. I know it was a long ways. I don't know how far it was, but I know I crawled a long ways.
Finally I seen an Eagle Flight coming in, and the gunships--the smoke ship--came in and dropped smoke. That's when I got up and double-timed back over, and it was Bravo Company that had landed.
SGT SMITH: PSG Mitnaul, could you tell me what your original mission was?
PSG MITNAUL: I was informed by my platoon leader, Lieutenant Link, that we were going to be Eagle Flighted over to a position just west of the Saigon River and that we were going to sweep down to the river looking for sachets [i.e., caches]. However, we were dropped down in an area prior to this where we checked, made a check of the personnel on this roadway. I understand later on that the unit up to our front was Delta Company; they were going in and was going to sweep on down to the river. And then we were to join them after we were Eagle Flighted from this location that we were checking the civilians, and sweep on down to the river. So once we have checked all the civilians out on this roadway, then we were picked up again and were Eagle Flighted into the location which we were ... ran into this ambush here.
SGT SMITH: Did Delta Company come back from their sweep and try to make a sweep of the area to reinforce you?
PSG MITNAUL: Yes. We were joined by Delta Company and Bravo Company after we were hit. From what I understand, Delta Company were only 500 meters from us when we were hit. However, Bravo Company reached us first. They was the first unit there; they were Eagle Flighted in. And after Bravo Company arrived, then shortly thereafter Delta Company came in. I guess this was about, oh, must have been a half an hour after we were hit that Delta Company came in. Bravo Company was there in approximately 25 minutes, I guess; 20 or 25 minutes Bravo Company was there.
SGT SMITH: PSG Mitnaul, I've been informed that Lieutenant Link, the platoon leader, was killed. What time during the action did you get this information, and did you take over the platoon at this time?
PSG MITNAUL: I did not know Lieutenant Link had been hit until late that evening. However, with the men that were coming out, I asked if they had seen the platoon leader. And no one had seen the platoon leader. Now after I had gotten back where Bravo Company was, I moved over to the left and down to a haystack which was approximately 50 meters from the wood line, where I ran into SGT Tooley, one of my squad leaders, and I asked him if he had seen Lieutenant Link, and he said no.
Now the last I remember hearing anything from the platoon leader was right after we were hit. I heard him hollering, and that's the last I heard of him.
I saw Tooley had pulled some people back that were wounded, and I was checking their names off and were getting them out from behind the haystack back to the roadway where they were securing a LZ for the dustoff. And we got all the people that were in the close proximity at the time. We got them out, got them back, got them dusted off.
Now I had approximately--there were approximately 12 men that I could not account for at this time, so we waited until approximately ... I guess it was about somewhere around 1800 or 1900 hours, and one of the men from Delta Company went in and got another man out that was still alive. The name was Streight. He had observed him crawling back, and he went out and assisted him in coming back.
SGT SMITH: Did you try at any time to contact Lieutenant Link?
PSG MITNAUL: Yes. After I had gotten back. Of course, my radio was not working, but I used one of the radios from (I think it was) Bravo Company, and I told my FO to see if he could contact Charlie 2.(15) And I believe at one time he told me that he had gotten into contact with Charlie 2, but when I got over there and tried to talk to him I couldn't get Charlie 2. So I never did talk to him. But he ... after I talked to the FO he seemed to think that he did get hold of Charlie 2 at one time. When I did find the radio that night when I went through, the radio had been shot through the receiver. There was a hole through the handset of the radio.
SGT SMITH: PSG Mitnaul, you mentioned the gunships started supporting you about ten minutes after the action started. Were there any other supporting fires: artillery and air strikes? And if so, what time did they start?
PSG MITNAUL: Yes. Immediately after the gunships started supporting us, I looked up and I noticed that there were [AH-1] Cobras up there. And, of course, they circled a while, and they did ... we did get support from the Cobras. And they had a jet came in. Because I know that jet came in because I seen him. I was afraid he was going to drop napalm. That's what had me shook up, because I was too close to him. But he came in, and he did make a strike. And, of course, after we got the men back some, they got artillery in there. And the gunships, everything was dropping in on Charlie.
After they'd made these strikes, that's when Delta Company started sweeping from the right flank, but they didn't get too far in. They ran into fire from across the blue on the opposite side, a little sniper fire, and they ran into AK-47s that were in these bunkers up ahead. That's when they had to stop and pull back.
SGT SMITH: The next interview is with CPT William A. Coleman, last name spelled phonetically Charlie, Oscar, Lima, Echo, Mike, Alpha, November; service number [deleted]. CPT Coleman is the S-2 of the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry.
CPT Coleman, could you give me a basic background of the mission of Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, on 19 June?
CPT COLEMAN: The basic mission was that of the entire battalion: to conduct air mobile operations in the area north of the Rach Tra Stream. This is to stop infiltration into the Saigon and Hoc Mon area.
SGT SMITH: CPT Coleman, could you identify where the Rach Tra Stream is?
CPT COLEMAN: The Rach Tra Stream is north of Hoc Mon City. It crosses Highway 1 at the ... what is called the Coa Bong or Hoc Mon Bridge along the ... also it joins into the Saigon River on the east.
We had received intelligence for quite some time that enemy forces had been attempting to infiltrate in the Saigon-Tan Son Nhut area.
SGT SMITH: CPT Coleman, where did these intelligence reports come from?
CPT COLEMAN: The intelligence reports originated from collection agents, from 'Sniffer'(16) missions (the people sniffer), from interrogation of prisoners, and from captured enemy documents. The area was considered an infiltration route into these areas, also an area in which rocket caches were kept for firing on Saigon and Tan Son Nhut.
The mission of Alpha 3,(17) which was the only element of Alpha Company, was to LZ into a bald piece of high ground up there which we believed the VC had been using, and recon in force in that area. They were put in with five slicks(18) from the 116th Aviation [Company, 269th Aviation Battalion]; it's also known as "The Hornets." They were our supporting air assault element that day.
Shortly after this Delta Company, the entire company consisting of ten slick loads, was to be LZ'd into a north-south ... in the vicinity of a north-south canal line. The terrain around us, as in the case with Alpha and Charlie's LZ's, is generally level, flat, has high grass (usually about waist high). It's paddy-type terrain. It hasn't been cultivated in a long time and is interspersed with streams. These streams generally have a high berm on either side of them and bamboo hedgerows.
3d Platoon, Alpha Company's Lima Zulu [LZ] was in the vicinity of grid coordinates [XT] 774088. The LZ for Delta was in the vicinity of a north-northwest to south-southeast streamline. In the vicinity of the [XT] 783098 (about) grid coordinate.
Delta's mission was to move to the south-southeast along that canal, reconning in force, searching for enemy positions, cache sites and personnel.
SGT SMITH: Sir, how far was Delta Company to move south?
CPT COLEMAN: I'm not completely sure of this myself. The initial mission called for them to move clear down this canal to the approximate vicinity of the Rach Tra Stream. This is my understanding, initially. However, in light of the events that happened, this never really quite came about.
Shortly after Delta, Charlie 2's mission (that's 2d Platoon, Charlie Company) was called into recon in force down a parallel canal--parallel to the canal Delta was working. This was based on a sighting of a Victor Charlie considerably to the south of the location of their LZ. Their mission being to recon down there searching for enemy bunkers, cache sites and personnel.
The mission of Bravo 3 was to reinforce the 2d Platoon of Charlie Company (that's Bravo 3, the 3d Platoon of Bravo Company) after they were in their hot LZ.
3d Platoon, Alpha Company landed on their LZ. They had no contact; it was a cold LZ. They moved out on their reconnaissance in force. A little later they stated that they spotted an individual running to their north, and they found in a position in that area some clothing, a pistol holster and a little bit of fresh food.
Delta's LZ was also cold. There was no contact. The gunships supporting Delta's LZ stated that they saw what they believed to be (initially) three to four Victor Charlie running along the north-northwest to south-southeast canal line, considerably to the south of Delta. Delta moved in to check out the reports from the gunship; try to pick up the body count. Gunships claimed three Victor Charlie body count [and] upped the estimate of the Victor Charlie running in that area to six to eight VC.
The canal that was parallel to this on the eastern side joined in the southern portion the same canal line that Delta was moving along. So the 2d Platoon of Charlie Company was going to be LZ'd in the northern portion of this canal. Their mission was to be to move down the canal in support of Delta; to try to box any forces that were at this junction down there together and eliminate them.
A CS drop had been put in in support of Delta to try to get the ... any enemy forces in the area running. Now the CS drop was accomplished by a slick helicopter type aircraft. The wind was blowing generally from the west to the east, and this caused some of the CS to move across the area where Charlie 2 (2d Platoon, Charlie Company) was going to be LZ'd. They were advised of this.
The LZ for Charlie 2 had been selected in the northernmost and sparsely wooded area of the canal--the ... on the eastern side on this canal. The general tactic being to move out as quickly as possible into the hedgerow, to get cover, and to get their security out--rather than putting them in in a wide open field where they'd be exposed on all sides. The gunships supporting the aircraft (the flight) put in the mark with smoke, with a smoke grenade dropped on the point at which the lead ship would normally land in the LZ. This was a five-ship lift. The formation that they were to go into was an echelon, placing all five ships up tight against the berm line; allowing the troops to get out with maximum fire support if necessary from themselves in the ships and get directly into the berm line so they could move right down it.
The slicks appeared to overshoot the mark a little. The smoke wound up about the center of the lift, this being about the middle, about even with the middle ship. The initial report we have--or we had--from 2d Platoon, Charlie Company was a bit broken. The words "LZ over" came through quite clearly. MAJ Smalley, the S-3, then advised them, as is normally the case, to get their security out, get up tight against the berm and to put their commander on so that he might be confirmed as to the exact location he was in and give him any further instructions. During that transmission we received a "break break" from Charlie 2 element on the ground, and the transmission "I said hot LZ, hot LZ". At the same time the aircraft commander informed the battalion commander and the S-3 and myself that the ships on the ground were receiving fire, that it was a hot LZ.
The ships lifted off, took off. The aircraft commander reported that two of the ships were hit; the damage was considered minor. The gunships began very, very quickly to go down the berm line and proceed [INTERRUPTION] and spot the positions. Friendly personnel were on the ground throughout the area, some of them right up next to the berm line. The gunships initially could not open fire. They moved in for a second try and were able to suppress over the heads of friendly troops with their door gun.
At this time we realized that communications with the 2d Platoon, Charlie Company, had been lost. We could get nothing but a high-pitched buzz on the radio from them, and we attempted to tell them to communicate with us. We would ask them questions, a yes or no--just to depress the push-to-talk button if the answer was yes; if it was no, depress it once--to try to give us an idea of what their situation was. This proved to be impossible to do, apparently because their RTO down there had been hit.
At that time we started using a smoke ship and CS drops to try to cover the withdrawal of every personnel down there. The smoke ship went right down the hedgerow. The CS was dropped in the area to saturate the area with CS in the hopes that the VC would not be able to see our personnel and, therefore, could not shoot at them. Also during this time a [AN]/PRC-25 radio was dropped from one of the gunships to try to reestablish communications. The personnel down there were not able to get a hold of this radio. We noted that some of them were moving around on the ground, some trying to crawl away. One individual (who was later identified to be PSG Mitnaul) was crawling as fast as he could out of the area. Also at the same time we began getting Bravo 3 (3d Platoon, Bravo Company) who was waiting on their on PZ(19) to come into the area to try to take the pressure off of Charlie.
SGT SMITH: CPT Coleman, was Bravo 3's PZ still in their night location?
CPT COLEMAN: That's right. The ... they were back at their night location in their PZ with the rest of Bravo Company. Bravo 3 was the only one in the PZ. They were the only ones scheduled to go on this activity that day. Their mission, then, was to come in to try to take the pressure off and pull Charlie 2 back.
They ... we used a false PZ. That is, the ships came in, touched down, and then moved back out to the northeast of where Charlie 2 was. This was directed as a precautionary measure by the brigade. They received no fire on their LZ. They landed. About this time PSG Mitnaul was observed to get up and run towards the ships. Also at this time elements of Charlie 2 came in radio contact with us--shortly before the LZ of Bravo 3. The personnel down there on the ground were not sure how many people were up there. They knew most of their element was up there. They couldn't see them all; couldn't see exactly where they were. Did not believe any of them were in the creek (in the stream there) or actually up in the wooded portion of the hedgerow. These personnel were in the vicinity of a haystack which was to the east of the enemy contact. They had all crawled back. There was about five in all.
3d Platoon, Bravo Company, was joined basically down at their LZ by the brigade commander. At this time they began moving up on a berm which paralleled the hedgerow that Charlie 2 was up against. At the same time, Delta Company was turned around, moved back to the north-northwest along their canal line in the attempt to bring them up--bring them across the open field which separated them from Charlie 2's location to the north of the contact--so they could sweep down the hedgerow and stream line that Charlie 2 was pinned down against and drive the enemy away from them.
Also at this time we had artillery fire going in from the 1st [Battalion] of the 8th Artillery which had been firing support for us to the south of the contact (in the vicinity of the junction of the two streams I mentioned earlier) and further southward. An air strike was also on station, and they were put in in the area to the south of it in the hopes that any enemy reinforcements attempting to move into the area would be cut off and any further enemy personnel in that area would be destroyed.
Delta Company was pulled back to the north across the open field north of the [INTERRUPTION] north of Charlie's contact so they could move to ... in a south-southeasterly direction along the canal and attempt to extract 2d Platoon, Charlie Company. As they moved down there, they picked up some personnel and were also provided with flamethrowers and 90mm ammunition for their ... in addition to their basic load that they were carrying for their 90mm recoilless rifles. The purpose of these two weapons was to clear a path right straight down the ... through the hedgerows down there and engage in the enemy bunkers with the 90 and the flamethrowers.
As they moved down, they began receiving sniper fire from their left and their right. The width of this stream line and the hedgerow complex was such that it's described as only about four men could move abreast. This hampered getting the max[imum] firepower of the company directed towards the enemy, because of the number one fear of hitting the friendly troops and also the width of the berm. At the same time, Bravo 3 (3d Platoon, Bravo Company) and an element of Delta, and remaining elements of Charlie 2 which were back on the berm line to the east were to put down suppressive fires along the hedgerow over the heads of the friendly wounded and dead. The gunships during their low level passes indicated that it appeared that about twelve personnel were laying in the grass just to the east of the berm and hedgerow. These were elements of Charlie 2 that were still in the area of contact.
As Delta Company moved down they, as I mentioned earlier, came under heavy fire. The location of this fire was both to the left and the right. It was effective fire. The gunships were called in and indicated they had spotted Victor Charlie and opened fire. All three elements, the VC, the gunships, and Delta Company, were firing at the same time. Delta indicated that the gunships were hitting his personnel and the gunships were cut off and did not fire again. The contact was such that Delta Company could not move forward effectively. They couldn't mass their firepower, and they were pulled back. They had recovered at this stage about two personnel from 2d Platoon, Charlie Company, who were on the northern edge of the area of contact. They pulled back, a reorganization took place, a redistribution of ammunition.
Further directives were issued by the brigade commander and the battalion commander in an effort to move the attack forward. A plan was devised by Mustang 6 (the battalion commander) and the brigade commander to conduct a night assault into the area of contact to retrieve the personnel from 2d Platoon, Charlie Company.
[END OF SIDE 2, TAPE 1]
CPT COLEMAN: While waiting for darkness, several personnel from the 3d Platoon, Bravo Company, spotted one individual trying to crawl out of the area of contact through the brush. These personnel ran out, grabbed the man and ran back behind the berm line with him. In the meantime, wounded and killed personnel from Delta and from Charlie (2d Platoon, Charlie Company) were dusted off in the area.
At 2400 hours the assault (night assault by stealth) by Delta with approximately six personnel from Charlie Company (from the 2d Platoon of Charlie Company) and elements of 3d Platoon, Bravo. The assault was to be one by stealth. They moved into the area of contact from the east in an attempt to overrun it and to pick up the casualties.
Prior to darkness, it appeared from the air that at least one, possibly two, individuals in the area of contact may still have been alive. It was a little difficult to tell. The gunships picked up movement among the personnel down there. During their low-level passes it appeared that one individual might be trying to wave to the gunship. This was one observation that was made. We felt at this time that there were still personnel who were wounded but alive in the area; also that there might be further personnel who were playing possum to keep the VC from shooting at them more.
The night assault moved in. One individual from Delta Company was hit by friendly fire. In the area of contact they recovered all bodies. The friendly personnel in that area from Charlie 2 were all dead. Also in the area were approximately 25 Victor Charlie bodies in a number of bunkers that they had been hiding in.
Several of these bunkers had been blown apart by a Cobra gun team that had come into the area earlier. When we saw the live personnel down there, the battalion commander requested that the gunships--if they felt and if in the opinion of the airborne commander--if they felt that the gunships could strike the bunkers accurately without endangering any personnel on the ground to please go ahead and try to eliminate them.
SGT SMITH: CPT Coleman, could you tell me which aviation unit supplied the Cobras?
CPT COLEMAN: The Cobras were from "The Diamondheads." That's the gunships from [Company B of] the 25th Aviation [Battalion]. Their fire was extremely accurate. None of their fires went astray into friendly troops. They had scored several direct hits right on the bunkers and literally blew the top right off of them.
The 25 enemy bodies that we found in there were searched the following day when Delta Company was relieved by Alpha Company, who was air mobiled into the area the following morning. Alpha Company conducted a thorough search of the entire area of contact. This search resulted in the finding of further enemy bodies. Total body count in that area was 47 Victor Charlie body count.
Documents were taken from the enemy bodies as well as numerous items of equipment, web gear, clothing. A readout of documents for identification indicated that the enemy force was either from the 101st North Vietnamese Regiment or the 272d Viet Cong Regiment. A positive identification of which one of the elements, or if it was both of them, was not able to be made because of the dates of the documents.
There were no prisoners of war taken from this. The fire taken by friendly troops in the area consisted of small arms, automatic weapons fire, and RPG fire. A number of RPG rounds, RPG-2 rounds were found in the area of contact and in the enemy bunkers in that location.
SGT SMITH: CPT Coleman, could you tell me what enemy equipment losses were and, if possible, what the friendly casualty losses were?
CPT COLEMAN: Enemy equipment losses were approximately 25 RPG-2 rounds, about the same number of Chinese Communist stick grenades.
SGT SMITH: Were these items destroyed or captured?
CPT COLEMAN: We captured them and then blew them in place out in the area of contact after we had thoroughly searched the entire area.
Enemy clothing in the area was a basic mix sort of uniform that we found on Victor Charlie and North Vietnamese personnel: khaki shirts and black pajama-type shorts, some khaki shorts, a small amount of green fatigue-type uniforms.
The ... also were found the ChiCom stick grenades. These are fairly common issue to North Vietnamese and VC alike. Also, the standard web gear that they use; some food. Not an extensive quantity; it appeared to be just basic food that the individuals had been carrying with them. We also found in the area about seven AK-47 assault rifles. These were the type with the triangular bayonet. These were evacuated.
Friendly losses were 15 killed, 13 wounded in the action. All friendly equipment was regained by Delta during their night assault and returned to the units that it belonged to.
SGT SMITH: CPT Coleman, do you have any background information on the enemy activity that was previously in the area where the action took place?
CPT COLEMAN: Yes. The area has been used as an infiltration route in the Saigon area and to the Hoc Mon City area. This battalion was in the area during Tet, during the Tet offensive in and around Hoc Mon, and the time after that. We've fought in the area for quite a bit of time, obtained numerous rocket and other enemy ammunition caches throughout the area, as have other elements of the 25th Division that have been operating there.
It's an extremely difficult area to operate in largely due to a great deal of inundation in the area and mud. As I mentioned earlier, the area's criss-cross by streams with bamboo and low scrub trees and brush. Along the canal lines the fields are generally open, with grass varying anywhere from head to about waist high. Now under this grass is usually mud up to about anywhere from ankle to knee deep, usually with about a foot or more of water on it. This impedes friendly foot traffic in there tremendously.
The area has also been bombed out quite a bit. There's been air strikes and artillery strikes throughout the entire area. There is no civilian population, per se, living in the ... in this area. This is considered part of what is locally called the 'Hoc Mon Estates' area, which includes the area north of the Rach Tra Stream to the Saigon River and north along the Saigon River just to an area just south of the Village of Binh My which is directly across the river from the Binh Xuan provincial capital of Phu Cuong.
SGT SMITH: CPT Coleman, could you give me any estimate of the aircraft damage?
CPT COLEMAN: Right. There was seven aircraft damaged. Damage was estimated as minor during the entire contact.
SGT SMITH: Okay. Thank you very much, CPT Coleman.
SGT SMITH: The interview with CPT Coleman was conducted on 22 June at 1600 hours. [INTERRUPTION] The next interview is with MAJ Bruce G. Smalley, last name spelled phonetically Sierra, Mike, Alpha, Lima, Lima, Echo, Yankee; service number [deleted]. MAJ Smalley is the S-3, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry.
MAJ Smalley, could you give me some background and intelligence information on the action that took place on 19 June?
MAJ SMALLEY: On this particular day we had no specific intelligence that there were any Victor Charlies (enemy) in the location into which we were combat assaulting. For some time now we have known that the VC have been using the 'Hoc Mon Estates,' as it is known, as a route, a line of communications, a logistical line. They spend nights in large units in certain locations frequently in that area. Mustang, the 1st to the 27th, has had considerable contact in the area in the past, and it certainly is one of the most prominently used pieces of terrain in this area. And, therefore, of course, it is treated as such. And this was the basis for our going into these ... into these LZs as we did. Now on the particular day in question we had no, like I say, had no specific intel[ligence] relevant to the LZs that we did select. However, they are along major canal systems, major routes, and astride major routes of movement of weapons caches that have been found in the past, and the VC is a creature of habit also. So this is the reason we went in there.
SGT SMITH: MAJ Smalley, could you state what the actual mission of C Company was on 19 June?
MAJ SMALLEY: Well, first of all, our operation was a combination of combat assault and Eagle Flight, utilizing five-ship sorties. That is, five aircraft loaded with six men each for a total of 30. This we call Eagle Flights because of the small size, I guess, and the frequency with which they are moved once we are in an area of operation. And then we combat assaulted with Delta which had a ten sortie lift or ten ... utilized ten ships with their personnel.
The concept on this particular day was for Alpha with a lift of five to Eagle Flight to LZ-1. Delta was to follow with a lift of ten into LZ-2. Now both of these LZs were oriented to the south, and the elements were going to search or recon in force to the south along the canal systems running from the LZs. After Delta, Bravo was going to Eagle Flight into LZ-3. The purpose of them going into LZ-3 was to block the ever-present civilian traffic to the west along the little road that runs east and west about a mile or a click [kilometer] north of the Hoc Mon canal.
We've been in there so many times, this is a situation that always occurs. And we don't know where these people come from because there's no houses or built-up area in the Hoc Mon Estates, but suddenly they'll appear on this road di di mau-ing(20) to the east along the road (males primarily, some females) on bicycles. So they were going into LZ-3 to block and check these personnel.
And finally, Charlie Company, or I should say a platoon from Charlie, an Eagle Flight of five ships were to go into LZ-4 which was north of LZ-1 and -2, and they in turn were to move ... move or recon to the north and slightly east.
Now these were preplanned LZ. This was the plan as we initiated activities at approximately 7:15 in the morning. And we also planned for the use of air strikes and artillery. We prepped the LZ (LZ-1) with artillery and an air strike. We were unable to obtain a second air strike, so we did not use air on LZ-2. However, we did prep it with artillery.
SGT SMITH: Okay, thank you very much, MAJ Smalley.
The interview with MAJ Smalley was conducted on 23 June at 1400 hours at the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry, forward location.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
1. Eagle Flight was the Vietnam-era term for air mobile insertion.
2. UH-1 Iroquois utility helicopters, called "Hueys."
3. Viet Cong, known colloquially as "Charlie" or "VC."
4. Rocket Propelled Grenades, either RPG-2 [B-40] or -7.
5. Automatic 40mm grenade launcher. The infantryman's single-shot 40mm grenade launcher was the M-79, leading to SP4 Hayes' technically incorrect common usage.
6. Company B, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry.
7. Medical evacuation by helicopter.
8. M-72 Light Anti-tank Weapon.
9. Load-bearing equipment.
10. Another common usage expression for air mobile flight.
11. Company D, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry.
12. The M-16E1 rifle has a forked flash suppressor.
13. The 27th Infantry's regimental nickname is "The Wolfhounds." The 25th Infantry Division's combat engineer battalion was the 65th Engineer Battalion.
14. Forward Observer.
15. Radio call sign for the leader of 2d Platoon, Company C.
16. Airborne personnel detector.
17. 3d Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry.
18. Utility helicopters.
19. Pickup Zone.
20. A pidgin Vietnamese expression meaning fleeing at high speed.