19 Newspaper Stories About Us
If you have ANY articles you would like to add, please send them the Mike Lapolla, 2819 South Cincinnati Avenue, Tulsa, OK 74114 or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. If possible please include the source and date of the story. We have provided a short introduction to each story.
March 8, 1967
Peekskill (NY) Evening Star
Letter to the Editor/Mike Lapolla
Local Viet Commander Praises Ability and Stamina of GIs
Pleidjerang, Central Highlands, Vietnam
To The Editor:
I understand that many people back home do not really understand the Vietnam War. The war is like anyhing else, if you or your loved ones are involved, it will be much more meaningful. Otherwise, the natural incentive to learn about what is going on is stifled by lack of participation. This is human nature.
But there is one phase of the war that everyone should be concerned about. That is the actions of America’s young men under presure and emotional stress. This war, among other things, is a gauge by which the quality of our young men can be accurately measured. Today’s young men are tomorrow’s national, state and municipal leaders. And, by judging from the men I work with, America will be strong and stable when the younger generation takes responsibility of national leadership.
At the present time I am Detachment Commander of a select group of soldiers. They are all volunteers for dangerous and lonely missions in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Our missions are classified, but I can tell you about the men. They are aged anywhere from 19-24 years old. The detachment is a cross-section of America. We have men from Alaska, Virginia’s mountains, others from the Philadelphia Main Line and Chicago; an orphan from Wyoming and another from Wisconsin; several men from Tennessee and many others.
These men possess nerve, stability, common sense and dedication to the cause of the United States and the Free World. Every day I become more proud of them and the work they are doing. Their jobs are neither pleasant nor comfortable, but they never complain.
Be proud of these men and the thousands of men like them in Vietnam. They are the world’s finest examples of mankind and have been tested under pressure and emotional stress.
Out of this cruel and dirty war will come men the United States can rely upon. These men will get things done. They are men of decision and action. With them the United States will grow, prosper and remain the world’s bastion of freedom.
LRRP, 2nd Brigade, 4th Division
(Lt. Lapolla, a graduate of Peekskill High School in 1961 and the United States Military Academy in 1965, has been in Vietnam since July 21, 1966.
June 12, 1967
Memphis (TN) Commercial Appeal
Sgt. Ronald Lee Speck of Memphis, a communications specialist with the Army in Vietnam, volunteered for the reconnaissance patrol reported in the following story because “things got pretty dull.” A brother, Bobby Lee Speck of 3613 Shirlwood, said he talked with Sergeant Speck when he was on leave in Japan after the patrol. “He told me it got pretty hot,” said Mr. Speck. Sergeant Speck, 21, was graduated from Central High School three years ago. He was drafted in August, 1965, and is due to be discharged this August. In his last letter to his brother, Sergeant Speck said he wanted “to give college a whirl” when he got home. Four other members of his family live in Memphis Ã his mother, Mrs. William Rhodes of 2463 Ketchum, two sisters, Mrs. W.G. Sparks of 1092 Craft Road and Miss Trudie Carol Speck of 1209 Sledge, and his grandmother, Mrs. V. E. Browning of the Sledge address. Another brother, Leon Speck Jr., lives in Columbus, Miss. Sergeant Speck is pictured with his grandmother.
A Patrol Hides From ‘Dinks’ In Hostile Jungle
By THOMAS CORPORA LANDING ZONE REGULARS, Vietnam, June 11. – (UPI) – Monsoon rains are for cursing. I cursed one for two days. Now every breath begged for a deluge. We were half a dozen Americans trapped by North Vietnamese soldiers 2,500 meters from the Cambodian border. The thick brush jungle in which we lay protected us from their eyes. But the jungle also was our jail. If we tried to crawl away, the deadfall on the jungle floor would sound like popcorn gone mad. Our only hope was the monsoon. In the jungle, its driving rains would drown the sounds of even the clumsiest.
It was noon and the hot tropic sun steamed us in our sweat as we lay ready to fight our way out if discovered. There was nothing to do but wait. Our plight started 24 hours earlier at the oasis, the forward base camp of the Fourth Infantry Division’s Second Brigade a few miles south of Pleiku. The First Battalion, 22nd Infantry, operating along the border, had asked for two long-range reconnaissance patrols (LRRP, pronounced lurp) to locate NVA infiltration routes from Cambodia. I was to go with the team led by Staff Sgt. Charles J. Britt, a serious 23-year-old soldier from Ferndale, Md. “The situation,” Britt said in a terse briefing, “Dinks all over the place.” “Dink” is the 4th Division soldier’s name for NVA troops. “Charlie” is the Viet Cong. Master Sgt. Norman Lowell, 35, of Bethel, Maine, the battalion intelligence NCO gave us a more detailed briefing.
We were to leave the battalion position at dusk and move into an AO (Area of Operations) about 2,500 meters southeast and the same distance from the border. If the patrol was not compromised, we would stay out five days. Lowell told us that if there was no way we could avoid contact then the fire support base would give us “fire power plus” from its 4.2 inch mortars and 105mm, 155mm and 8-inch guns. There also was a close air support available from Pleiku. “If you spot those Dinks in time just give us a call and we’ll pull a lanyard,” Lowell said. We carried 10 dried LRRP rations, two for each day, four canteens of water, a poncho, a compass and map, two smoke grenades, fragmentation grenades and 200-plus rounds of ammunition. I had armed myself with a rifle, but intended to use it only in self-defense and defense of the men who would defend me if we got into a fight.
Britt and I wore jungle fatigues. The others had green and navy blue “tiger” camouflage. We were guided through the perimeter defenses by a small unit from the battalion and then left. Sp-4 Male Hatchett, a quiet 22-year-old from Detroit, was point man. Following was Sp-4 Daniel L. Harmon, a 21-year-old Cherokee Indian with a quick smile whose forebears somehow got to Kodiak, Alaska. He was the radio man. I followed Danny and Sgt. Ronald Lee Speck, 21 of Memphis Tenn. – a draftee like Danny – was rear security. Speck is a laughing, freckle-faced, red-haired boy who speaks with a soft drawl. He was the platoon communications man and didn’t normally go on patrols. He volunteered for this one when another man got sick. About midnight we reached the border of our area of operations and Britt ordered us to halt for the night. Each man would stay awake for part of the night listening. If there were any unusual sounds the whole patrol would be instantly awakened. The night was uneventful and miserable. During the night it rained hard and the spot where I lay became a small lake. At 7:30 a.m., after a cup of cold coffee and candy bar from the LRRP rations, we were on our way again.
It was a gray, foggy morning. Soon after we began moving we found what we were looking for Ã a new trail running north and south, possibly a route used in the mortar attack against a nearby battalion the night before. Britt decided to find a place where we could listen for movement on the trail and not be seen. At 10:28, we moved into thick brush about six or seven feet tall, took off our packs and lay down. The sun was high now and had burned off the morning fog. My jungle fatigues had started to dry. About 11 I dozed off, woke 10 minutes later in a sweat. At 11:57 I woke again. Hatchett was wide awake and listening. Danny had picked up his rifle. He was staring straight past me into the bushes behind. Britt was doing the same. I couldn’t see Speck.
Then we heard it. People moving, a too heavy step, the clunk of metal and finally voices in high pitched Vietnamese. A shock wave of fear swept from my brain down my spine to every nerve in my body. I lay without moving, hardly breathing, my heart pounding and every pore in my body streaming sweat. Hatchett had put his weapon on automatic. Danny had done the same and had two frag grenades lying beside him. Britt’s rifle and grenades were ready. My rifle was lying beside me, but I was too frightened of making any sound to reach over and grab it. Everyone was lying still listening with an intentness that could be felt. We were totally aware of Britt. Britt was the man, he was in command though not a word had been whispered. No one would move a muscle unless Britt gave the sign. We lay listening to the sounds, praying they wouldn’t move closer than the 15 feet from where they were coming. We heard the voices, at least three.
We heard the occasional clunk of heavy metal and now a digging, scraping noise – a mortar position. Then there was something else. More sounds, this time along the east-west trail. The thump of wooden rifle stocks against thighs, the tinkle of a swivel, the light shuffles of rubber-sandaled feet on damp leaves. Speck was the closest. He tried to count the sounds as they moved past. Two men, six, 10. At least 12, possibly 15. They moved into positions down the trail. We were trapped. I reached for my rifle, clicked it to full automatic and laid it across my chest and stomach. I opened the ammo pouch with my grenades. It’s now 12:49 and hot. I’m still scared, more than I’ve ever been. It must show in my face. Danny looks up and smiles. I smile. Hatchett’s face wrinkles and he grabs his jungle hat and rams it against his face. Achoo! Just once. The lightest sneeze I’ve every heard, but it scared me and everyone else. Then silence. The NVA didn’t hear it. At fifteen minutes past one the sky begins to cloud up. Five minutes later it begins to rain. Britt signals us to get on our packs and ammo belts. We’re going to try to escape under cover of the rain Speck is on point now and leads us down a small hill, across a stream and into more high, thick brush. Once there, Britt radios the battalion and calls for a fire mission on the position we just left. About 3:15 the first artillery rounds come screaming in on the position. Britt whispers to us to get our heads down. At 5 o’clock Britt decides the patrol hasnÃ•t been compromised, that we’ll spend the night where we are, listening.
The rain is beating lightly on the brush around us and over the sound there’s a sudden snap Ã dead wood being stepped on by a man. I listen and there’s another, then a third. Britt moves a few feet back toward the radio and his rifle. I’m already flat on my stomach with my rifle off safe. Britt signals me to get out my grenades. I hope to God I don’t have to throw one. I’d been checked out on the rifle but it had been 13 years since I threw a grenade. Britt picks up a grenade, bends the pin open (his hand is shaking badly) slides the pin out, jumps up and lobs it into the brush 15 meters away.
There’s a deep boom and Britt is immediately on the radio to the battalion: “Three-three, this is four-one. We’re in contact. One enemy killed in action. No friendly casualties. I’m shutting down the radio and getting out.”
Britt throws two more grenades and orders us to move out fast and to leave any loose gear. Danny, Britt and Speck all leave sleeping gear. We estimated there was a squad trying to move within hand grenade range of us. Britt saw three – one of them, the one he thought he killed, very close. Hatch saw one. We didn’t wait to count more. We rushed through the jungle, fought it, bulling through thick underbrush, pushing low branches out of the way. Instead of carefully untangling thorn vines, we ripped them away with our hands. The next day I counted more than 150 cuts on my hands and wrists. They ranged from a thorn prick to two-inch long gashes. While we were waiting for a chopper to take us back to the brigade headquarters. Britt asked me what I planned to do now.
“I’m going to Saigon and cover the pacification story.”
June 18, 1967 IVY Leaf
2nd Brigade LRRP Observes Enemy Mortar Crew In Action
By Capt. Ed Ciliberti
VUNG DAT AM – The 2nd Brigade’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols often get into some pretty tight situations. Few are tighter than sitting in bushes 15 feet from members of an enemy mortar section blissfully chattering away as they set up their “tubes.”
“They were all talking, blowing noses, sneezing, wheezing – I think everyone of them had a cold,” said Staff Sergeant Charles Britt (Ferndale, Md.), leader of the small group that listened to the chatter for more than two hours. The LRRP had left the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry fire base in the darkness the night before. It was heading for an area where a LRRP several days earlier had spotted several enemy platoons carrying mortars. Artillery and infantry had broken up that threat to the fire base. Walking towards the contact area, the men found brushy, open terrain. In the location planned by the enemy as a mortar site, the Ivymen found tall trees and a single-canopy jungle. “We found two recently used trails and a water point around there,” said the LRRP leader. With enemy signs that good, the LRRP decided to get off the trail and watch for a while. “This was just before noon,” said Sergeant Britt. “A group of three or four came along, then a few more.
Just after noon, a large party came by clanking metal and talking.” About a half-hour later, the LRRP members found they were sitting cheek-by-jowl with the mortar section. “We wanted to draw back and bring in artillery. It was a beautiful target,” said the non-commissioned officer. But there was traffic on the trail and any movement in the weeds would have given away their position. The Ivymen waited and prayed for rain. “For two hours we laid there in the hot sun. When you want it to rain it never does,” said the team leader. Finally the rains came. Under the cover of the noisy downpour, the patrol pulled out. When the Ivymen were far enough back, they called in 155mm artillery. But the contact with the enemy was not yet finished. Moving to a new location near the mortar site, the patrol set up for some trail watching. “At about 6:30 p.m., I heard a branch swish, as though swinging back into position,” said Sergeant Britt. “I looked in that direction and there was an enemy poncho with the enemy inside it looking straight at me, not more than 12 feet away.”
Sergeant Britt slid behind his equipment and readied a grenade, signaling the others of the patrol to do the same. Two more enemy soldiers appeared and the team leader lobbed his grenade at them. Specialist 4 Male Hatchett (Detroit), a member of the patrol, heard crawling on his side of the perimeter and lobbed another grenade. The crawling ceased. “We figured by then it was time to head for home,” said Sergeant Britt. But before they got all the way home, they Ivymen left a few more calling cards on their last position, a flurry of 4.2 inch mortar rounds.
Primary Source Unspecified
Airstrikes Get Patrol Out of Tough Spot
PLEIKU, (4th INF-10) – After fighting off a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) force for three hours, a small group of tired soldiers tumbled out of the evacuation chopper at their home base. Minutes before, the tiny force, a Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) from the 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, had been plucked from a flaming hilltop which an estimated NVA company had attempted to seize. The men had been on the summit about one and a half miles from the Chu Pou Mountains, for three days, calling in artillery and airstrikes on what appeared to be a large NVA concentration. Only that morning the patrol had guided Air Force fighter bombers to a target and had watched large secondary explosions blossom skyward.
It was estimated that the LRRP could hold off a company trying to storm their position. Apparently realizing this, the NVA force crept up the sides until it was within easy striking distance of the small defending force. The siege began at 8 p.m. Sounds of movement in the nearby brush were the first warning of the attack. One of the Americans spotted three figures. A burst of M-16 rounds drove the intruders back down the steep side. From all around the defenders’ position the night erupted into bursts of small arms fire and flying grenades. Specialist Four Russell Oliver, the patrol leader, saw the patrol was in trouble. “If you wait until morning to get us out,” he told his radio operator, “there won’t be anyone here.” Specialist Four Joseph F. Camper radioed brigade headquarters for assistance. By this time an Air Force forward air controller (FAC) and a flareship were circling the hilltop. The flares lit the night and kept the enemy at bay.
During the wait for air power, 175mm guns from the brigade headquarters splattered the hillÃ•s slopes with continuous fire. The enemy, unrelenting, tried three or four assaults during the artillery barrage. “Here they come again,” shouted Camper in the middle of one radio message. With his set still open, the sound of gunfire and bursting grenades was heard back at headquarters. One enemy grenade plopped into the LRRP’s position, but it was a dud. Another was tossed over the lip of the hill but bounced back, exploding among the attackers. The Skyraiders were soon zooming overhead. The FAC asked the infantrymen where they wanted the strikes. “Feel free to do anything you please as long as you don’t shoot us,” replied Camper. The planes worked over the top of the hill, dropping their ordinance within 30 yards of the small group. With the attack broken and summit still lit by flares, the LRRP leader called again for extraction. “Where’s the ship to get us out of here?” By 11 p.m. the chopper lifted out of the area with the LRRP members safely tucked into its belly.
Primary Source Unspecified
Hawkeyes In Vietnam Live Close To Death
By THOMAS CORPORA United Press International
THE OASIS, Vietnam (UPI) – The Hawkeyes of the 4th Infantry Division get closer to the Communist enemy than most GIs in Vietnam. It is a deadly intimacy. It means death in places the Communist soldiers believe safe, death at the length of a rifle barrel. The Hawkeyes are Maj. Gen. William Peers’ long range reconnaissance patrols with something added Ã hunter-killer missions. They range the “rear” areas of the North Vietnamese soldiers, known to the 4th Division as “Dink,” and of the Viet Cong “Charlie,” gathering intelligence, calling air strikes and artillery fire down on unsuspecting units too large to attack, and picking fights with smaller units. The idea of the Hawkeyes came from the 4th Division commander’s experience in Burma during World War II. There, small units, often made up of indigenous troops, raided the Japanese rear and kept them off balance.
Tries Same Thing
When Peers took over the 4th Division, he decided to try the same thing in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. He gave the hunter-killer teams the name Hawkeye because it fits the hunter-killer role – and because Peers was born in Iowa, the Hawkeye State. Peers’ Hawkeye teams are either all American or mixed American and Vietnamese.
The teams are so small, less than half an infantry squad, that Peers would prefer their exact size go unmentioned. By PeersÃ• own assessment, the Long Range Reconnaissance Platoon (LRRP pronounced lurp) of the 2nd Brigade, whose forward base camp about 15 miles south of Pleiku city is known as The Oasis, is the best. The 2nd Brigade LRRPs have 43 kills to their credit and up to this month had not lost a man. Seven LRRPs have been wounded, but all returned to duty. Often Decorated It is Peers’ policy to promote end decorate the LRRPs as often as they deserve it, which is often, and it is not unusual to find two-year draftees making sergeant or a man holding a Silver Star and two Bronze Stars for valor. One LRRP has won two Silver Stars.
The GIs who become LRRPs are often called the toughest and best soldiers in Vietnam, but their similarities end there. There is no one, kind or breed of soldier who becomes a LRRP.
S. Sgt. John A. Sanderson, 22 of Detroit, is a Canadian who was drafted from college into the Army. He is married but that didn’t stop him from joining the LRRPs or from winning two Bronze Stars with “V” devices. He made staff sergeant in 19 months.
S. Sgt. Charles J. Britt, 23, of Ferndale, Md., is a serious young man who knows most of what there is to know about small arms. He has been a LRRP since the platoon was formed and recently volunteered for six more months in Vietnam. Britt, who took me on a LRRP mission recently, is rated by everyone as the best. The men in the platoon call him “The Living Legend,” or “Ledge” for short.
Although friendships are probably closer in the LRRP’s than in an ordinary unit and there’s probably more partying (rules around a LRRP platoon are understandably more relaxed), the LRRP is alone with his thoughts a great deal of time. On a five-day patrol, a man might never speak to other members of the team and the only voice he might hear would be a whispered command from the team leader. For men who deal in death, and especially at close quarters, death is never far from mind and the easiest way to think about it is to laugh about it.
Whenever a team gets a mission the first thing everyone else in the platoon does is start shouting for the team members to “Leave your money with me,” “Give me your watch,” “Hey, you got a pocket knife. Leave it with me.” Platoon Sgt. Carl W. Littlejohn, 24, of Binghamton, N.Y., and Knoxville, Tenn., a Silver Star holder, shouts the loudest and by tradition – and perhaps as an offering to the gods – the men give him whatever they want left behind. But if Littlejohn had to keep any of those things, he’d be the unhappiest man in the Army.
IVY LEAF July 7, 1968
New Threat To Highland
Communists ARVN Soldiers Undergo LRP Training
CAMP ENARI – South Vietnamese soldiers have accepted a new challenge in the war against the Communists in the Central Highlands. A selected group of ARVN soldiers recently finished a two-phased Long Range Patrol (LRP) training program, including an initial 20-day phase at Camp Enari, and 40 days in an integrated program with the division and brigade LRP members. The aim of the training program was to assist ARVN Forces in the development of their own LRP capability. The 60-day, two phase course was developed and taught by the division LRP members along with II Corps units.
The accomplishments of 4th Division LRP members have become widely known and this program gave the division an opportunity to share the knowledge gained in almost two years of LRP operations. Instruction was given with the aid of interpreters who were themselves LRP candidates. Similar courses for ARVN troops were also taught by other U.S. divisions. They were trained first in map reading, “which they were remarkably good at,” said Sergeant John Miller of Milwaukee. “Then we went into VC tactics and weapons,” the sergeant added. As with all teaching, the immediately applicable – maps, enemy tactics, and current survival techniques – were the most easily retained. Grueling physical training, culminating in a seven-mile run with equipment, pre-pared the aspiring LRP members for their future tasks in the field. “They seemed to find knots, rigging, and rappelling a challenge,” said Specialist 4 Nick Pasdnikoff of Syracuse, N.Y. “They look forward to these classes.” Eighty meters was the mark set for the swim-ming test held at the Air Force pool in Pleiku. The day not only tested swim-ming ability, it also attested to the fraternal warmth between teacher and student.
With the initial 20-day phase completed, the indigenous LRP members moved to the field for training with their U.S. counterparts. At the brigade as well as division level, the new LRP members underwent, a 40-day on-the-job training period. In this, the most important phase of their training, the Vietnamese moved in and lived with their experienced American counterparts. Operating with the established LRP teams, the Vietnamese members went along on actual patrols in enemy infested territory. They subsisted on their own native rations, packets containing rice, dried fish and shrimp. “It’s a little bit different from what I have always been used to,” said Corporal Phan Van Dat, returning from his first patrol in the Ia Drang Valley. “I was always working with large forces. With this small patrol, I felt as if I was almost invisible.”
“They’re all aggressive and all volunteers,” said Williams Andrews of Jacksonville, Fla., com-manding officer of the 1st Brigade LRP teams. “They want all the missions they can get.” At Camp Enari, where the division LRP headquarters is located, the Vietnamese candidates were again integrated with U.S. LRP members and even received special instructions in English. “The progress has been substantial. The AVRN LRP members have been learning from a close relationship with our own men,” commented Captain David Christie of Rockaway, Okla., commanding officer of the division LRP members. “Given time, these scrappy and determined men will probably be better than we are,” commented Sergeant Leonard Valeen of San Bernardino, Calif., a 2nd Brigade LRP member. “After all, it’s their own backyard that Charlie is running around in.”
IVY LEAF June 1968
Ivy LRRPs Bag 2 VC
CAMP ENARI – “You might say it was the same thing happening all over again,” grinned Sergeant Leonard Valeen of San Bernardino, Calif., with the Ivy’s 2nd Brigade Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) section, after his team had just detained a Viet Cong soldier walking down a trail. Several days earlier, SGT ValeenÃ•s team had trapped a hard core Viet Cong in exactly the same spot, almost at the same time.
“This time we were moving to set up our ambush,” recalled Private First Class Nick Posdniakoff of Syracuse, N.Y., one of the patrol, “when I spotted this figure duck behind a tree.” As the team cautiously moved in on the suspect, the man pretended to chop wood. A quick but thorough search of the area revealed a bagful of carbine rounds which the detainee had just hidden. The detainee was held for further questioning, later revealing himself as a local VC supply man. The suspect then volunteered to lead the LRRPs to the spot where he stored his weapons. The next day a slightly beefed-up LRRP team followed the VC to a cave where he disclosed his cache.
IVY LEAF March 1968
Fierce Gunfire Shuffle Fells NVA Woodsmen
VUNG DAT AM – As the morning grew warmer, members of Long Range Patrol (LRP) for the 2nd Brigade moved cautiously toward the stream to replenish their water supply. “As we neared the stream we saw a North Vietnamese Army soldier break through the tree line. He was moving as if he was looking for something,” explained Sergeant Gary Robinson of Rodgers City, Mich., the LRP team leader. “We followed him and after a while found a trail. Following the trail for about 150 meters we heard some chopping and saw another NVA.”
From that point the LRP team moved upon the unsuspecting enemy. The team members crept to within 15 meters of the NVA woodsman where they observed another enemy soldier. The brief, but fierce, volley of gunfire killed both of the NVA. Moving away from the scene of the contact, the team observed another enemy soldier fleeing across a rice paddy. “As soon as we saw him, he dropped behind a bush,” recalled Specialist 4 Rick Clyburn of Paramount, Calif., adding “but we all opened fire and I don’t think the bush afforded too much protection.”
IVY LEAF May 1968
Red Squad Talks Way Into A Jam
THE OASIS – A group of Viet Cong soldiers talked their way into a jam recently just as members of a Long Range Patrol from the 4th Division’s 2nd Brigade were getting ready to go back to their camp. “We really didn’t expect to find too much. The area was thick with bushes, but sparse on trails and signs of enemy activity,” said Specialist 4 Keith Naccarato of Priest River, Idaho.
Then, just after a lunch break, Specialist 4 Nick Posdniakoff of Syracuse, N.Y., the team’s pointman heard several voices. SP4 Naccarato and SP4 Posdniakoff moved up for a better look and spotted two VC taking a smoke break alongside a small waterpoint. Signaling his team to try and take them alive, SP4 Naccarato came out of a jungle of vines and approached two enemy soldiers from the rear. “Before I could get close to them, they spotted me and his started to run. One picked up his weapon and thatÃ•s when I cut loose.” The enemy soldier was slain instantly.
LRRP Kills 7 Before Being Lifted Out; First Battle For 2
PLEIKU, (4th INF-10) – For two members of the small reconnaissance team the fight was a literal baptism of fire. The entire team came close to death. The Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) from the 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division had tangled with 15 North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Regulars. Although the odds were not in the recons’ favor, the small unit managed to kill seven of the enemy before being lifted out of the hot spot. “We were sent in to recon targets of opportunity,” said Sgt. Lawrence R. Willey, leader of the patrol. “We could fight ourselves, or if we thought it too much to handle, call in artillery or air strikes.”
The little group was inserted at the base of the Chu Go Mountain complex, about 40 miles due south of here, two days before the fire fight. The steep hillsides and ravines, thickly covered with a double canopy, were to be the team’s stomping grounds for several days. Willey was beginning his 14th patrol. Specialist Four Charles Ditterman was on his third, and Sp4 Russell Oliver and SSgt. Loyd W. Lee their first. “We searched the valley around Hill 600 for the first day but found nothing except some fresh tracks around a small water hole,” Willey said. The following day the group heard movement and saw three NVA in the area.
Air strikes were called in and three secondary explosions were reported following the bombing. Since it was too late to check out the area, the patrol headed for its night location. As they reached the secluded spot and set up for darkness, the men heard noises in the brush moving in their direction. The noises stopped about 100 yards short of he LRRP’s night position. “They were looking for us,” said Willey. “They were definitely looking for us.” At daylight the searchers continued towards the LRRP position and moved right in on them.
“They thought we were on a hilltop but we were on an abutment just off it. The NVA moved right past us, 15 of them. We killed the first five and moved out,” the sergeant said. With the rest of the team making it for the landing zone, Willey stayed behind to cover their flight. “Two more NVA came over the hill and I cut them down. Then I followed the others,” said the team leader. The escape, as all LRRP exits, was pre-planned, but complicated. All but Willey had received shrapnel wounds during the brief fire fight. But they kept going for about 2000 yards. At the landing zone there was still a thick canopy overhead, broken slightly by a small hole. A helicopter couldn’t land, but a rope could be dropped. While gunships peppered the escape route with machinegun bullets and rockets, the team was pulled, one by one, into the hovering chopper. “The NVA were still chasing us,” said Willey after the extraction, “but those gunships really slowed them down.”
Primary Source Unspecified
Thanks to Montagnards
LRRP Member Spots NVA Soldiers
By Sp5 George Beidler Oasis – A fleeing North Vietnamese Army soldier was killed recently when three Montagnard laborers inadvertently warned a 2nd Brigade Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol of danger. Under the direction of Staff Sergeant Sherman T. Tilley (Savannah, Ga.), the four-man team was patrolling in the Central Highlands. During the first afternoon the team discovered a cache of rice and NVA uniforms. Early the following morning the LRRP received word to serve as a blocking force for elements of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry who were in contact at a nearby landing zone. “While moving through the thick brush to a pre-designated location we crossed two well-used trails,” recalled Sergeant Tilley.
“Finally we set up in the wood-line surrounding a large field.” “There were some Montagnards working out in the middle,” said Specialist 4 William L. Branson (Ewa, Hawaii), assistant team leader, “I watched them for about half an hour and then they moved out rather quickly. I knew they hadnÃ•t spotted us, so I began looking around.” “There they were,” continued Specialist Branson, “three enemy – one in khakis, the other two in pajamas – coming out of the brush about 60 meters to our front. One was carrying an SKS. I warned the team, then fired a burst into him.” The LRRP pulled back and set up an ambush along a trail without venturing into the field to search for the two remaining enemy soldiers. Four hours later the team was extra cautious. It was kind of hairy being by ourselves,” concluded Specialist Branson, “but with the gunships on call, you can get up the nerve.”
Primary Source Unspecified
LRRP Members Return From Mission
Immediately Receive Bronze Stars
By Sp5 George Beidler Plei Djereng – Five members of the 2nd Brigade’s Long Range Reconnaissance Platoon were awarded Bronze Star Medals by Major General William R. Peers, 4th Division commander, immediately after the team returned from a mission which resulted in six enemy killed. Under the direction of Staff Sergeant John Sanderson (Detroit), the LRRP team had been patrolling the Central Highlands for four days when an uncharted trail was discovered. “It was obvious the route was frequently used,” explained the sergeant, ” so we moved about 50 meters off to the right and waited.”
The team began preparing for the evening while Private First Class Daniel Harmon (Kodiak, Alaska), radio-telephone operator, cut an observation and night ambush route through the dense jungle foliage to the trail. Nothing occurred until early morning when the LRRP was alerted by small arms and automatic weapons fire. “We knew there were Civilian Irregular Defense Group forces working to the south so we crawled to predesignated positions along the main trail,” said Private First Class Houston Whitlock (Los Angeles). Four hours later, Sergeant Sanderson saw 10 NVA soldiers Ã armed with a French light machine gun and carrying packs Ã moving toward his position. “Three stopped right in front of me and one pointed the machine gun my way,” explained Specialist 4 James R. Hart (West Chester, Pa.). “I emptied a magazine into them, then Harmon and I pulled back.
It’s hard to say what could have been following them. “We didn’t get 10 feet when we heard grenades and Sanderson calling for help. By the time we got back he had killed three more and the others were ‘dee-deeing’ down the path. We grabbed their packs and weapons and made it into the brush.” The team informed brigade headquarters of the incident and within minutes helicopter gunships were enroute to a nearby landing zone to extract the infantrymen. “As we were leaving we noticed that one man was still alive, but in bad shape,” recalled Specialist 4 Jackie Simmons (Jamaica, N.Y.). “We carried him about 300 meters before he died.” The men were extracted and upon arriving at the 2nd Brigade forward command post – still clad in sweat-soaked “tiger” fatigues and web gear – they were presented Bronze Stars for their day’s work by General Peers.
When asked how long the fire fight lasted, Sergeant Sanderson mused, “Oh, about a Bronze Star’s worth.” For Sergeant Sanderson, Specialist Hart and PFC Harmon, this was the second Bronze Star for Heroism they have earned within two months.
Primary Source Unspecified
Sgt. Littlejohn Gets Silver Star Medal
The Silver Star has been awarded to S/Sgt. Carl W. Littlejohn “for gallantry in action” in South Vietnam. During the action he was severely wounded and won the Purple Heart medal. He recuperated from a wound in his side during a month in a hospital in Japan, and now is back in action in Vietnam. His year of service in Vietnam will expire in October.
He “distinguished himself,” the citation says, “by heroic action as a team leader of a long-range reconnaissance patrol Feb. 10” during the truce which included that day. He and his patrol made their way along a jungle trail and suddenly made contact with a Viet Cong force which opened fire, killing one of the patrol and wounding Sgt. Littlejohn. But he quickly regrouped his force and called for artillery support. Then he led his force toward the enemy to stave off an infiltration or flanking movement. He directed artillery fire along the path of enemy withdrawal, then led the patrol to an emergency landing zone, all the while refusing to slow down or stop, despite extreme pain from his wound.
He is a son of Mrs. Mary Watts, of Chicago, but lived with his grandmother, Mrs. Rosa Galyon, 6003 Chalmers Drive.
IVY LEAF September 3, 1967
For SSG Tilley, LRRP Member
Once In A Lifetime Stories Replaced Again and Again
By 1LT William C. Foster
VUNG DAT AM – “Well, we were moving quietly through the wooded area when all of a sudden we found ourselves almost surrounded by a North Vietnamese unit. That’s when all hell broke out.” To many soldiers this would be a once in a lifetime story which would be told over and over. However, for Staff Sergeant Sherman T. Tilley (Savannah, Ga.), a team leader with the long range reconnaissance patrol of the Ivy Division’s 2nd Brigade, it is a story which is soon replaced with another and then another. SSG Tilley is a cool, calm Ivyman who loves his job. He likes it so much that when his tour was up in July he extended for another six months.
Building A Reputation
Around the 2nd Brigade areas, he is building quite a reputation. “When Tilley goes out, you can almost be sure there will be contact,” say those who know him best. He has made contact with the enemy in three of his last five patrols. SSG Tilley says he has quit counting the number of patrols he has been on. “I think I’ve had 25 or 30, but I lost count a long time ago,” he shrugged. The “kid,” as he was once known because he was the youngest team leader with the LRRP element, says that he doesn’t mind contacting the enemy as long as he knows support is close by. Gets Good Support As he tells the story, “I was leading a team and suddenly, we found ourselves involved with a company that was about to encircle us. I don’t know of anyone that wants to tangle with these odds, so I jumped on the horn (radio) and began calling in my support. “There for a while I had 175s, 8-inchers, 155s, 105s and air strikes all pouring in for me. Would you believe that we got out without firing a single shot ourselves? That’s the kind of support we get,” he explained. One of the most fantastic things about the energetic LRRP member is his age. He is only 19 years old, but an experienced veteran when it comes to combat. “SSG Tilley is a real asset to our platoon,” reported First Lieutenant James R. Bradley (Alexandria, Va.), LRRP Platoon leader, “he knows his job well.”
Exhausted Team Leader Guides Searching Unit
VUNG DAT AM – “He really knows how to move out there,” said Specialist 4 William G. Rogers (Arlington, Va.) of Staff Sergeant Sherman T. Tilley (Savannah, Ga.), a long-range reconnaissance patrol member. SSG Tilley and SP4 Rogers had just gotten back from a patrol in the 4th Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade’s area of operations. The team had come upon a high speed trail near a water point. The team leader decided to set up an ambush near the trail. After a while, SSG Tilley motioned for the rest of the team to stay in place while he scouted up ahead. There wasn’t a long wait – he found the enemy.
The young team leader reported seeing two North Vietnamese Regulars near two bunkers and huts. Later three more individuals appeared. The Ivymen moved back to call in airstrikes on the position but movement was soon heard around them. “We were hoping to get the first jump on them,” exclaimed SP4 Rogers. “SSG Tilley began firing on the five then. That’s when we decided to get out of there.” “We were spraying the area around us all the way to where the choppers were waiting to pick us up,” recalled the specialist, a veteran of six patrols. The team moved to a bombed-out crater and were extracted. Gunships were soon over the area saturating it with deadly fire. Although tired and exhausted from moving in the jungle, SSG Tilley volunteered to guide an Ivy unit back to search the area.
October 29, 1967
LRRP Member Gets Award For Valor
VUNG DAT AM Ã Infantrymen are modest about their hazardous job. Sergeant Henry Cox (Ripley, Tenn.) is no exception. SGT Cox, a team leader with the 1st Brigade’s Long Range Reconnaissance Platoon, was recently awarded the Bronze Star for Valor while assigned to the 9th Infantry Division near Saigon.
“It wasn’t much,” SGT Cox said. “Our cavalry troop was mine sweeping a road that was used heavily by track vehicles. I was on the lead vehicle watching the ground and saw an area that hadn’t been covered, so I halted the column.” Jumping off the vehicle, SGT Cox kneeled down and began probing the suspected area. “After a few deep probes I located a 500 pound mine,” he said. “An armored personnel carrier would have run right over it if it wasnÃ•t spotted.” SGT Cox was credited with saving the APC and all the personnel in the action.
“Heck, it was just something you’d naturally do,” SGT Cox remarked. “I am proud of the Bronze Star though.” SGT Cox has been working with the 1st Brigade LRRPÃ•s since he joined the 4th Infantry Division several months ago.
October 29, 1967
New Team Leader Works Like Veteran
VC VALLEY Ã The first mission as team leader proved to be very exciting to a 2nd Brigade long range reconnaissance patrol member. Sergeant Robert C. Crawford (Tillamook, Ore.) and his LRRP team were dropped southeast of Pleiku City where they had received reports of repeated enemy activity.
The team came in contact with the enemy shortly after their insertion. It was SGT Crawford’s first mission as team leader, but the young Ivyman handled the situation like a veteran. As the team crossed several rice paddies enroute to higher ground they stopped for water. Two men pulled security while the others filled canteens. Specialist 4 Malan E. West (Baron, Wis.) looked up when he heard two low whistles.
The LRRP member saw three North Vietnamese soldiers. He opened up on them killing one. The team moved into the area and found a SKS rifle. They also found a note on the dead enemy soldier which they later found out was a letter from the NVA’s battalion commander. The team pulled back to prepare a landing zone for extraction, but were unable to contact their platoon leader. The radio antenna was broken. At this they heard movement, but they didnÃ•t find anyone.
As the helicopters made a number of passes over the area the team moved onto the landing zone. Another NVA was standing at the edge of the woodline. SGT Crawford shot at him. The chopper landed and the men were extracted.
Stars and Stripes
Recon Patrol Finds Busy Supply Route
PLEI DJERENG, (4th INF-10) Ã After a day and a half of searching for an enemy base camp, a recon patrol from the 4th Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade moved off the trail for lunch under the cover of thick brush and the jungle’s double canopy. Assistant team leader SP4 James E. Umberger heard noises on the trail and, accompanied by Sgt. John Sanderson, moved within five feet of the path for a closer look.
Three North Vietnamese Army (NVA) soldiers passed in front of them. “I don’t know how they missed seeing us,” the specialist said. “I guess they just didn’t look.” The pair moved back to better cover and watched the trail for the remainder of the afternoon. “We counted 20 more in groups of three or four,” explained Sanderson. “Usually one man would be armed with an AK-47 or carbine and the others carried supplies.” Artillery support was requested by the teamÃ•s radio-telephone operator, PFC Dan L. Harmon, and the patrol prepared for darkness. Traffic on the route was sparse throughout the night. “About 3 a.m. I heard dragging noises,” said PFC Ronald E. Norton, “but it was too dark to make anything out.”
Shortly after dawn the team continued its search for the base camp. Upon discovering an uncharted junction in the trail, security positions were established and Sanderson began to transmit their location to the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry fire base. “I was on a rear position behind the sarge,” said Norton. “I heard them coming and flipped my weapon on automatic. The sergeant had earphones on so I knew he couldn’t hear them, I threw a rock to warn him, but didn’t have time to see if it hit its target.”
“Two came over the rise right in my face. I emptied a magazine into them and they fell to the ground. It sure didnÃ•t take long for us to get out of there. We used artillery in an attempt to break contact.”
The patrol moved north to be extracted. Throughout the 45-minute push, 105mm artillery support “walked” behind them to discourage NVA advances. Huey gunships were circling the landing zone when the patrol arrived. As the pick-up chopper hovered, it received two hits from enemy fire but the team managed to scramble aboard and make their exit. “The door-gunners were laying out a lot of ammo,” chuckled Umberger, “but I had to let my ’16’ do a little talking of its own.”
The members of the reconnaissance patrol were awarded the Bronze Star medal with V device for their actions during the encounter.
March 24, 1967
2nd Brigade LRRP Members Awarded Medals
Plei Djerang Ã Seven Bronze Star Medals for Heroism were awarded to members of the 2nd Brigade Long Range Reconnaissance Platoon recently. Major General William R. Peers, 4th Division commander, presented the medals during ceremonies at the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry forward fire base.
The medals were earned by the LRRP members for their action February 10 and 25 when they were responsible for foiling an enemy mortar attack on a fire base, and killed three North Vietnamese Army soldiers.
The awards were presented to Specialist 4 Dan L. Davis (Des Moines, Iowa), Specialist 4 James E. Umberger (Pulaski, Va.), Private First Class James R. Hart (West Chester, Pa.), Private First Class Ronald E. Norton (Knoxville, Tenn.), and Private First Class James E. Roberts and Private First Class Harry W. Schreiner, both from Oconomowoc, Wis.