(Map from public domain.)
I like this map. It’s pretty clear where we were headed, but also where the 25th Infantry was, as well as where the ARVN were fighting. I think they gave a good account of themselves when attacking the Parrot’s Beak.
Beaucoup dead VC!
Not to forget the 11th ACR. What I have read indicates they had a tough time crossing the border in their tanks and APCs where they ran into prepared NVA/VC positions and a hailstorm of rocket propelled grenades. God Bless and keep those troopers that didn’t make it back home.
May 30th, 1970
Without exaggeration, this is surely the longest day of my life. As I have recounted before, the trouble all started early in the morning as I finished taking a dump in some of the tall grass outside our perimeter. I stood up to button my fly and looking up I saw a group of NVA coming down the trail toward me. Two of them I remember clearly. The first enemy soldier was maybe 20 meters from me and carrying a rucksack but no weapon that I could see. A few meters behind him was an NVA with a rocket launcher slung over his shoulder, jogging along, looking awfully casual like he could be going fishing somewhere. It was not loaded. There was a bend in the trail so they were moving to my right and not looking at me. More were coming, but in the half second I spent taking this in as I ducked back down in the grass, it was those two I saw clearly.
Keeping down, I scrambled back to the platoon to alert everyone. Another clear image still burned in my memory is the moment Sgt. Cossey dropped his cocoa as I whispered loudly, “Gooks on the trail!” Then we were scrambling to get to the trail where we could alert others and get a clear shot at the enemy.
We had checked out the local Montagnard village the day before near the top of the ridge, where we had questioned a suspicious looking character who said, “No VC! No VC!” Oh sure, we were just a 100 meters from the dang Ho Chi Minh trail, but no VC.
The next few minutes are now like a bad dream where I was desperately trying to get somewhere but I never can. I thought I could get to the part of the trail where they were headed but then the shooting started. This must have been Hammonds, Salty Brown and others who could see the trail. Then Hammonds, the M-60 gunner is yelling, “Get down! Get down! Get down!” Salty had left our position and ran onto the trail where he is fatally wounded. Mother stops Doc Schramm from going after Salty and goes himself. How he escapes being wounded also is hard to imagine. Maybe the enemy is disorganized, wounded or pulling back to regroup. Mother says there was an NVA leaning against a tree looking at him but he doesn’t fire. He drags Salty back into our perimeter where Doc tries valiantly to save him. I can hear Salty saying, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe”, but then is quiet. There is an exchange of fire still going on and RPGs hitting the trees, but they don’t reach us. Eventually the firing dies down and the enemy appears to pull back. Soon we move out to clear the area along the trail. I discover an enemy soldier who has crawled under a dead tree. Not knowing whether he is dead or not, Ski and I fire a lot of ammo into him until Coz is yelling, “Cease fire, cease fire, cease fire!”
Well ok, maybe we over did that.
Still you don’t know in that situation, he could still be alive and clutching a hand grenade. Coz told me to pull him out of there, “Grab his belt!” So I do and simply pull it off of him, it is shot in two. I grab his waistband and pull that shot up son-of-a-gun out from the tree. He has no gear or weapon except his knife. This is it:
Everyone is greatly affected by the death of Tim Brown. What the hell happened? Where was he going? They are sending a out a re-supply bird to pick him up. We are trying to hack out a small LZ near our position which we are able to do. The bird comes in trimming the tree limbs around us as we load Tim’s body on board. Susie is there! He must of been worried and jumped on the bird to fly out to see us. They kick off some ammo and then take off.
We have to recover our automatic ambushes, reload and eat something. The NVA have had enough for the moment and headed North back up the trail. They didn’t go far as we will soon find out.
The monsoons have started and it begins pouring rain. I don’t remember thunder and lightning that would be associated with kind of downpour back in Missouri. Just driving rain. We never wore ponchos; I think for several reasons, they would be in your way when trying to handle your weapon and reload, etc. In this climate it would be hot and just increase the amount of sweat you would produce, soaking your clothes anyway. We had them rolled up and packed away so they would be in good shape when we needed to set up our shelters at night. Even then it was a challenge to stay dry in the rain.
So we set off, North up the trail, we really need to get away from our position so we can’t be mortared, but also to see what’s up? Have the NVA left the area or are they planning something else? In reality, unknown to us, they had a bunker complex hidden in the woods at the top of the ridge.
To be cont’d.
That village photo is from O Rang cuz I couldn’t find the one I was looking for. It must be one of Cossey’s, if not, then Cossel’s.
Hey Nick ,
Good to hear you are thinking about coming to the 2021 Reunion in Charleston.
There were seven of us at that 1st Reunion in Muncie, Indiana-I remember it well
We picked you up at the bus station.
I can guarantee one thing, if you come to one Reunion-You will never miss another one.
See you in the Spring in Charleston
Good to hear from you
Nick Mychajluk says
Same here., Mother. Always thinking about you and all the guys I served with. 50 years is a helluva round number. I was at the 1st reunion and, with my wife’s encouragement, earlier this year we were talking about showing up to this coming one together. However, with this pandemic thing, we stopped thinking of any long travel plans at all, even to visit our daughter in San Diego.
Thanks Bird, one of life’s unanswered question will always be, what was Salty thinking? Admittedly there was a lot of confusion and small arms fire from more than one direction. He had just transferred into Recon from a line company, maybe they did things different. My encounter with the NVA soldier leaning against the tree is another mystery. He had a weapon slung over his shoulder pointing down. In retrospect, I think he was wounded and completely surprised when I showed up. At any rate I didn’t hang around long enough for a decision.
David Adams says
That’s Mother with the radio. Chico with his back to the camera. Stallion and Chou Snih. Interesting the complete lack of headgear or “cover” on everyone except the Cambode.
Nick Mychajluk says
Looks like Szczebak, Buynak, and good ole David Martin on the left side of the picture. Will be in touch.
David Adams says
Good to hear from you. Stay well and stay in touch.