Commanders Diary

11-17 September 68

(For photo's please refer to LTC Neilson's photo album)

Diary 11-17 Sep 1968

11 Sep - Quiet  nite (FSB Buell, French Fort, a 1/5 NDP hit by RKT, mortar, grnd  attack.) R at RC, open road, OPCON A Co; A Co. open Rt 22- 2 large  craters at CP 22 held up opening road until 1200. C Co. initially opened  Rt 26. Then escorted engr work party to crater site and return. B Co. -  1 plat stand down, 1 plat resupply convoy, 1 plat to FF road. [B Co.] stand down plat OPCON 3/22 at 1400. B Co. (-) with 2 A Co. tracks  opened FF road to CP Black. Ordered to return 1610. Attacked on way  back. 2 KIA 8 WIA (one from A Co. at FF by mortar.) 9 BC by Stogy and  AS.

Road open 1200
Convoy up 1400

Gone But Always Remembered
From the 4/23 KIA list.
SSGT David Oliver Painter, B Co.

12 Sep - Switch  A & B Co's. Quiet nite - A Co. open RT 22; crater in same place as  yesterday. R at RC, open road, pickup AVLB & Engr work party, escort  to crater. 1 sect outpost Big Rubber. C Co. open RT 26. B Co. (-) open  FF road ( 1 plat B Co. OPCON 3/22.)
I. C Co - engaged enemy in bunkers w/ air strikes, arty, & gun ships at end of Rubber. VC hit DT convoy as it passed. C Co. broke contact at 1700. 2 BC.
II. B Co. - opened road to FF. Stodgy got 1 BC & 1 poss[ible].
III.  A Co. & R - Romeo moved into ambush site at Big Rubber; broke VC  attack. A Co. moved to reinforce. Sprung convoy. Cleared Rubber. 14 BC, 9  wpn. R had 1 K, 2 W (Lt. McCollough)
Convoy ran north to TN only, 1/3 convoy ran DT-TN.

From the 12 September 1968 New York Times,  p. 1,3: "TAY NINH REPELS BIG ENEMY FORCE 2dDrive in Month on City of  200,000 Is Hurled Back. Allied forces turned back a major enemy assault  on Tay Ninh City and nearby American installations today but the enemy  was holding on in several suburbs trying to increase his foothold. North Vietnamese prisoner said this morning that three regiments had been sent into the area and told to  capture and hold Tay Ninh for three days...."  

Gone But Always Remembered
From the 4/23 KIA list
PFC Leonard Joseph Liparoto, HHQ Co.

13 Sep - Quiet  nite (Buell attacked) - A Co. secure FSB Hull, open Rt 22 to CP 04; B  Co. escort resupply to CP 31, pick up Engr & take down to craters  vic [CP] 03 & 04, outpost; C Co. open Rt 26. R at RC; open road to TN, escort Engr vehs back & forth to RC. A (-) & B Cos, & R - neg. contact. (Convoy rolled south only.) Engr work accomplished. C Co. contact vic. CP 36 - AS, arty & gun ship. 1 KIA, 3 WIA - 12 BC, 10 wpns. A Co. plat - ambushed XT285655 5 K south of FF -
2 KIA (LT Elbert, 1 medic; 2 LRP. 1 Engr Marino), 9 WIA, Brought plt back to FF. Arty, gun ships & AS. Lost 1 APC. 88th NVA [Regiment, identity of the attacking force.]

Sgt E-5 Hopkins, Robert L US 53702443
SP E-4 Noonan
PFC E-3 Young, Barney
PFC E-3 Wallert, Harvey
[No notation as to significance of these four names.]

The entry above "Brought plt back to  FF" pales to insignificance concerning the circumstances surrounding it.  I was in my C & C chopper with the Arty LNO, Captain Ken Koy, and  the BCSM, John Wise over Charlie Company. There was heavy contact at CP  36 and I was coordinating fire support for them when I got the call  about the ambush, probably from Captain Montgomery, Alpha Co. Comdr. I do not know how he knew about it because  the ambushed platoon had no reliably operating radio and A Co. was many  miles away. I transferred fire support coordination responsibilities to  Col. Fair, 1st BDE Co who was in his chopper in the vicinity and had my pilot fly the chopper to the ambush site. 

When I arrived I saw 3 APCs on the  road with troops milling about and someone waving at the chopper  pointing at his PRC-25 radio. It turned about to be the Platoon Sergeant  who I later discovered had 20 months in the Army and 8 in RVN. I  finally contacted him on the company net and through very broken  transmissions, he told me that his was the only operable radio in the platoon, the platoon leader had been killed, there were several wounded  on the APC with him, and a wounded trooper with a fourth APC disabled at  the ambush site further north toward FF.

I had the chopper land next to the  road with the intention of giving the platoon sergeant the ARTY LNO's  PRC-25 so that he could have radio contact with me as he led the platoon  back to FF. I gave him the radio and instructions to take the platoon  back up the road, stop at the ambush site and recover the wounded  trooper, and then continue to the "French Fort". It became obvious to me that such a mission was too much to lay on the  shoulders of a well meaning but inexperienced NCO when so many lives  were at stake. I quickly decided I could not abandon the platoon in such  a precarious position and that I would lead them back to FF.

I had the platoon mount up with  every weapon on top of the APC loaded and ready to fire. The .50 cal  machine gun on APC 1 covered to the front; APC 2 covered to the left;  and APC 3 to the right. An M60 machine gunner covered to the rear from  APC 3. Everyone else lay down on top and arranged themselves to fire  alternately left or right.

In the meantime, the ARTY LNO  arranged for artillery to cover both sides of the road and began the  fire missions before we were ready to leave. A USAF TAC showed up and  started scrambling Air Force fighter-bombers.

We moved up the road at top speed,  not knowing the exact ambush site location. We "hosed down" both sides  of the road until we got to the inoperable APC. We stopped, everyone hit  the ground, stripped it of radios, weapons, and ammunition and looked  for the wounded trooper. We could not find him and presumed the NVA had  captured him.

We reloaded and continued to FF.  Fighter bombers laid napalm down on either side of the road and as soon  as they finished the artillery started again. We pulled into FF without a  scratch, got off the APC, and the NVA started mortaring the Fire Base.  Several troopers were wounded.

I got back in my chopper and returned to the Charlie Co. action.

In my 6 months of command, this is as close as I ever got to engaging in combat at the "grunt" level.
As we roared up the road firing wildly I do not recall that anyone shot back!

The wounded man had  been rescued by some nearby villagers in the field but he died; we  recovered his body the next day from them at the same time we fixed the  disabled APC.

COL Fair found out what I had done  and really chewed me out for using bad judgment since I was a Battalion  Commander not a Platoon Leader. Then he assured me that he would have  done the same thing.

I received my second Silver Star.

My real reward came when the platoon  sergeant came up to me in the chow line several days later with tears  in his eyes and thanked me.

"All in a day's work in Tay Ninh Province."

Gone But Always Remembered
From the 4/23 KIA list
SGT Edward Kenneth Ryan, C Co.
LT Joe A Elbert, A Co.
SP4 Kenneth George Cushman, A Co.

14 Sep - Special prom
1 E6 1
10 E5 111
5 E4 11

Quiet nite - A Co. (-)  opened Rt 22. R at RC, reinforce A Co. (Lt. Bennett Plt Ldr). B & C  Co's open Rt 26. B Co. in contact 1200 hrs vic CP 25. Arty, air, gun  ships, until1820. 1 KIA, 5 WIA B Co. 1 WIA C Co. 2 AK-47 A - 5 NVA  graves BC damaged 1 APC.

Cu Chi-TN-Cu Chi convoy ran both ways
DT-TN convoy one way to TN
SP-4 Hust, Brent B Co. BS"V"
SP-4 Ferguson, Daniel B Co. BS "V"

Gone But Always Remembered
From the 4/23 KIA list
SP4 Robert Paul Walsh, A Co

15 Sep Exit interview - today, tomorrow, or next [I have no idea to what this refers.] Unquiet nite - Sporadic mortar & RPG (?) fire until silenced about  2400 by arty. 3 WIA. A Co. & R open & outpost RT 22; B Co. &  C Co. (-) open & outpost Rt 26. 1 plat C Co. accompany resupply. RF Co. 164 w/ B Co.

Convoy up 1030 Down 1530
DT convoy to DT only - 1530

Weapons count - 3 AK47, 1 RPD, 3 RPG-2, 1 RPG-7, 15 RPG rds, 15 grenades. 9 BC. [Something must be missing from the entry above which would account for the weapons and bodies.]

16 Sep - 59th malaria. Unquiet nite - 6 mortar rds at 0200 - no cas. A Co. &  Recon - open Rt 22. B Co. (-) & C Co. (-) open Rt 26. 1 plat B Co.  stand down. 1 plat C Co. escort resupply.

Road open 0810
Convoy up - 0945
Convoy down - 1400
[Then all hell broke lose on Rt 26 when the 4/23 suffered the most KIA in one day while I was its commander.]
DT to TN convoy hit vic CP 36 (coord XT354441) at 1230. Gun ships, arty (956 rds), AS, CS [incapacitating tear gas] [incapacitating tear gas. 2 APC destroyed, 1 APC damaged; 1 ST tractor truck destroyed. Several vehicles dam. 7 KIA, 6 WIA, no body count.

Letter to ML & Dad

Gone But Always Remembered
From the 4/23 KIA list
Lieutenant Alfred Vincent Schofield, C Co.
SP4 Anthony Robert Signa, C Co.
SGT Dale Arthur Morrow, C Co.
SGT Donald Eugene Glime, C Co.
PFC James Ray Miller, C Co.

(From a message sent to me in 2004; My Apology to the author as I neglected to note the name. )
"I  knew James Miller, we called him Red. We were both in the third  platoon, Charlie Company. He was KIA on September16th 1968 when our  platoon was ambushed on Route 26. We had 7 KIA and 8 WIA (myself  included) that day. Started the day with 22 men and 3 APC's, two APC's were completely destroyed by satchel charges and the third got hit with a  RPG. Red was a good guy and is remembered fondly by the other guys that  I have been in contact with from the third platoon."  

SGT Joseph Raymond Brown, C Co.
PFC Ralph Warren Kuchinski, C Co.

17 Sep - Quiet nite - Admiral McCain [CINCPAC. At the time of his visit, his son, COMDR John McCain, USN (now Senator McCain) was a POW in Hanoi.], LTG Kerwin Deputy COUSMACV], assorted VIPs visited. Adm presented decorations, received trophy [AK 47 mounted on a plank with the 4/23 crest]

observed arty & flame thrower demonstration.
Departed pleased.

[During the Admiral's visit, FSB  Rawlins was mortared . The Admiral, his aide, and I went in a bunker.  Making small talk, the admiral asked me where I was going when I left  RVN. I told him I had no orders yet but that I had requested Hawaii. He  turned to his aide and said something to the effect "Make sure that  happens." The aide did as he was told and on 31 December 1968, my family and I arrived in Hawaii for our next tour. 

The Admiral heard I was aboard,  invited my family and I to meet with him in his office. He showed my  three kids the AK47 the 4/23 had given him which was hanging on his wall  and then surprised us all by presenting me with the Silver Star awarded  because of the ambush on 17 Sep discussed above.

While  in Hawaii, my wife and I attended several cocktail parties at which he  was present. When he noticed us he would called us over and told the  crowd around him about being mortared at FSB Rawlins. Since he was a  highly decorated submariner from WWII, I figured he wanted me there as  backup so his Navy buddies wouldn't think he was telling a sea story.] 

23 September 1968


VIP VISIT - Admiral John  S. McCain, Jr., Commander in Chief, Pacific, (left) talks with Major  General Ellis W. Williamson, 25th Infantry Division Commander, (center)  and Lieutenant General Walter T. Kerwin, Jr., Commanding General, II  Field Force, (right) at Fire Support Base Rawlins during the Admiral’s  recent visit.  (PHOTO BY MAJ. A.J. SULLIVAN)

A Co. & R - open Rt 22. B Co. (-) & C Co. (-),
B & C Co's, 3/22 opened Rt 26.
1 plat C stand down.
B plat escort.
B  Co. rec'd mortar fire vic blown culvert CP 25.. B-3/22 on north side  ran into enemy in bunkers. Called in arty, gun ships, air strikes, CS.  Broke contact. Pulled out 1630. 3 KIA, 10 wounded - 3/22, 12 WIA - B Co.
Cu Chi-Tay Ninh convoy ran okay
No DT convoy

Letter from ML

Cliff Neilson
Mohawk 6
May-Nov 68
Illegitimati non carborundum