Commanders Diary

18-24 September 68

Diary 18-24 Sep 1968

18 Sep - Quiet  nite - A Co. & Recon open Rt 22 to CP 22 (not resp. for Little  Rubber). Convoy ok in both directions. B & C Co's open Rt 26 with  OPCON A & B Co's 3/22. Neg contact. 1 of 2 culverts repaired. DT  convoy ran. Closed 1830.

Mailed film

From the Tropic Lightning: "Fire Support Base ST. BARBARA at BAU CO XT275685), 17 kilometers north of TAY NINH City" 

"The  enemy's threat to ST. BARBARA continued on 17 September as the base was  hit by two separate mortar attacks (1851 and 2050 hours) which resulted  in 15 men being wounded. On 18 September the fire base was struck by  three separate attacks by fire at 0810, 1520 and 1612 hours which  wounded 16 personnel within the base. These attacks by fire on the base  continued for several more days but were gradually eliminated as the 4th Battalion, 23d Infantry (M) moved to BAU  CO to conduct extensive sweep operations in the area and drive off the  harassing enemy elements." 

19 Sep - Quiet  nite - A Co. & Recon open Rt 22 to CP 22. Convoy okay in both  directions. B & C Co's open Rt 26 with OPCON B Co. 3/22. Neg  contact. Culverts repaired 1030-1615. No convoy. Closed 1730.

Rec'd pkg from Pop
Ltr to ML & Pop

20 Sep - Quiet  nite - A Co. & Recon open Rt 22 to CP 22. Convoy okay in both  directions. B Co. & C Co. (-) open Rt 26. C Co. hit 1200. Arty, gun  ships, AS, 81 mm. B-3/22 hit by small arms only. One arty short rd  killed 1, wounded 3 from B-3/22. Results - 28 BC, 2 POW, 19 weapons, 1  APC destroyed from C Co.

Culvert repairs completed.
No convoy.
Letter from ML. To ML
B & A Co's switched 1700 (15 days). B Co. secured down chopper on way in.
POW from 174 Regt.

From the Division commander's Journal, 20 Sep 68:
"CG states that the action involving the 4/23 on the Dau Tieng MSR appears to have been conducted in a good manner."  

21 Sep - 1st day for B Co. on Rt22. Quiet nite - B Co. & Recon open Rt 22 to CP  22. Convoy ran in both directions. A Co. (-) & C Co. (-) open Rt 26.  C-3/22 came out in trucks. Convoy ran in both directions. FSB [probably Rawlins] received 7 rds 82 mm mortar.

Rich__________, AP correspondent [visited and interviewed troops]
DT-TN convoy by CP 36 - 1315
TN-DT convoy by CP 35 - 1630

22 Sep - Quiet  nite - B Co. & R open Rt 22. Convoy up and down with no problem. A  Co.(-) and C Co. open road to French Fort. C Co. hit at base of mountain  1200. Arty, AS, gun ships, CS, re-entered contact area 1600. Found 2 BC , 1 AK47, trench line, spider holes, bunkers. Leaving area at 1630 hit by RPG, 122 mm mortar. Capt Phillips KIA. 9 WIA. Lt Hockett died of wounds.

Carl Berning, on 22 May 2004, provided this platoon leader's eyewitness description of the day's action: 

On the day Capt. Phillips was killed my memory tells me that we  (Charlie Co) were reinforced by LT Belzik's platoon from Bravo. When we  got into the mess, our column stopped. As we were heading South,  Belzik's platoon was in the lead and my Charlie, 2nd platoon was the  last of the column. From what I learned right there, Belzik's driver or  TC's on his then lead tracks saw one or two RPG teams crossing the road from the West to the East and started setting up in  the short undergrowth along side of the road. As they didn't want to  drive through them, Belzik sent a squad or two, I think still mounted,  off the road to the West to see if they could find a way to lead the  column off the road and toward the bananas.

Seems like straight down the road the bananas would have been 600  to 800 meters, if that far. As I could see it and hear it, Capt  Phillips had dismounted with his RTO's on the West side of his track and  was 5 to 10 meters West of the road trying to raise Belzik on the radio  and see what was holding us up.

The first mortar or two came in and wounded Capt Phillips in the  leg, I was looking right at the explosion sites and could see the next  two 82 mm's in the air as they came down in the same spot. At least one  of these was a direct hit on Capt Phillips.

A couple of minutes later the two medics came to me running, both  were slightly wounded. They said Capt Phillips was gone. I didn't  understand and asked them what they meant and they repeated it . They  said they knew he was wounded and were headed the few meters back to the  track to get help when the other rounds hit and they couldn't find him  after that.

Later we thought that the explosions had blown his body into a  B52 crater and it sank. I think I am repeating myself here. Anyway, as  far as I know, Capt Phillips was the only KIA that day. I had my driver  Silvers, from Atlanta, hurt pretty bad, and the two guys lying on top of  the track with me both got slight shrapnel or ricochet wounds.

Also want to add, that the day we went back into the fray after  losing Capt Phillips, the pucker factor was as high as anytime I could  remember. Our line of departure was the bananas and we were on the West  side of the road. We were going to sweep back through at least as far as  we were when we got hit, and see if we could recover Capt Phillips. I  think, and I could be wrong, that the 2nd Platoon was a full nine members strong on the ground. That included me, the medic,  RTO and the Platoon Sgt.

We didn't have the personnel to cover the area from the road to  the berm which was about 75 to 100 meters off the road. This berm was  made from Rome Plows clearing the area for fields of fire and it left  Charles a wonderful place to ambush us from. Which is exactly what he  did and just the other side of it was where we found him and his spider  holes.

I  remember the guy on our far left flank as we were headed back in going  North, an AK started firing about 5 meters to his left from the berm.  Evidently the NVA had just held the gun up and fired it over the berm.  The rounds came down the line right in front of us and didn't hit any of  us. The left flank guy was so startled he dropped his 16 and started  scrambling back and toward the road on his hands, knees, and feet. He looked like a spider flying across the  ground. We were in the open with only a few scrub bushes and Charles was  behind the berm. We shot the hell out of the berm and probably not much  else. We were too close to back off and call in anything. Fortunately,  Charles left the area and we looked around and went to the house. 

My remembrances: 

I was  flying over the area when the attack occurred. When I could no longer  reach Captain Phillips on the radio, I landed on the road and  temporarily took command of C Co. We could not find CaptainPhillips'  remains and as it was getting dark and we were in a dangerous situation,  I decided to load up and hauled ass out of the area. We went through  the banana plantation with everyone firing in all directions.

In a message received 26 January 2004, Don Starnes, former 4/23 Executive Officer observed: 

"...Hank  (Phillips) was a member of the USA pistol team prior to coming to the  4/23. His combat record was brief but outstanding. He was killed on TL 4  on the west side of Nui Ba Dinh shortly after the convoy ambush. Col  Wolf [1st Bde CO] ... recommend Hank for the DSC  [Distinguished Service Cross]. A pistol range at Ft. Benning was named  in Hank's honor. In my mind the ambush was caused by the desire of truckers and others to operate on a fixed  schedule and an 8 hour work day..." 

Gone But Always Remembered

From the 4/23 KIA list
Captain Henry Richardson Phillips, C Co.
Lieutenant James Raymond Hockett, C Co.

23 Sep - 60th malaria. [Field strength] 455 [This is the first notation about field strength since 30 July. The  strength is about 30 men less the lowest previously noted. I do not know  why field strength ceased to be of sufficient concern to me that I went  nearly 7 weeks without recording. ] Quiet nite - B Co. & Recon open Rt 22 (OPCON to BDE). Convoy ran okay in both  directions. A Co.(-) & C Co. open Rt 26. Road open 1300. Convoy by  at 1430 (DT->TN)no return convoy. Closed 1630. Capt Lincoln assumed  command [of C Co.]

Letter from & to ML.

24 Sep - [Field strength] 450 Quiet nite - B Co. & R open Rt 22. Road open 0730. Convoy okay in both directions. A Co.(-) & CRIP [Combined Reconnaissance & Intelligence Platoon. This is the first time the diary entries contain notice of this newly-created organization.] -  open Rt 13 to Phuoc Hoa (Sioi Da) escort engr. C Co. (+ 1 plat B Co.)  Open Rt 22 to Rubber factory. Road open 1235 - TN-DT convoy by at 1430..  Road open 1300. Convoy by at 1430 (DT->TN) no return convoy. Closed  1630.

Cliff Neilson
Mohawk 6
May-Nov 68

Illegitimati non carborundum