I arrived in Pleiku, South Vietnam in September 1966 and was assigned to the 3rd Platoon, A Company, 1/35th Infantry Battalion. In April of 1967, I was promoted to Captain and assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company with duties as the Battalion Intelligence Officer, S-2.
NOTE: My name is Jack Burr not James as label above.
A short time after my new assignment, our battalion got into a major fight. Viet Cong had taken over several villages and snipers had wounded several of our soldiers.
Young men of the village had been either conscripted or volunteered to join the VC. Women, children and old men had fled the area. This development meant the village was a free fire zone and later became ground zero for a major battle. Very soon I would be in the thick of it, leaving behind the relative safety of the Tactical Operations Center.
The following excerpt was taken from the Combat Operations After Action Report, for period 23-24 April, 1967, 1/35th Infantry Battalion.
23 April, 1967, The requested air stirke was made at 0630 hrs. C Company platoons began to move into the village as soon as the dust and smoke cleared. The Bn Cdr and S-3 ( LTC Moore and Maj Tippin) flew to the village and began to orbit at 0700 hrs. C Company found no resistance and easily swept through the village, getting to the opposite side at 0755 hrs.
The company sweep back through the village at 0758 hrs to obtain a body count and met resistance this time. Seven VC were picked up on initial sweep. B Company picked up one VC at 0800 hrs.
Medevac was called by the Bn CDR for the 3 wounded Vietnamese from the village at BS775426. The Medevac also extracted 4 US WIA and 1 KIA during the first hour.
The B Company sweep yielded 2 VC KIA and 36 VC capture. Suddenly, VC jumped out of a large bunker inside the village and tossed a grenade.
B Company Commander and 1st SGT were wounded and evacuated.
As the reports came into the Tactical Operations Center, I heard what happened to B Company Commander and knew what was coming. LTC Moore called and said he was two minutes out and instructed me to be on the LZ for pickup. Fifteen minutes later, I was on the ground as B Company Commander.
I felt a bit apprehensive since I was a new captain. But, I knew the enemy and I had been listening to the action as it had unfolded. The following excerpt from the After Action Report recorded the on-going battle.
2nd plat, B company had just crossed the railroad when the VC opened fire. The Bn CDR called for an immediate air strike on the village of Binh My (1). At 1724 hrs the Bn CDR reported the VC were pinned down on the SW and the NW sector but B Company was still receiving heavy fire, and there were several US WIA at BS768411 near the railroad bridge. Three men from B Company were on the ground in an exposed position in front of three enemy bunkers.
One of the gunship pilots, Lt Wood, 174th Aviation Company, distinguished himself by hovering directly over the wounded at an altitude of 20 to 30 feet, and directly in front of’ the enemy bunkers.
With his guns blazing, resembled an irate, protective, mother eagle shielding her young. With the valiant support of the gunships, and the courageous effort of the B Company Forward Observer, Lt Keith, who crawled out to rescue the wounded, the area was cleared for the air strike.
All positions were marked with smoke and the F-104’s who were standing by, began to pound the enemy positions.
At 1810 hrs, the air strike was finished and the 2nd platoon, B Company and the Recon platoon began to close on the village, Dinh My, (1). The next flight of F104’s team was used to provide a white screen to the SE side of the village Binh My (1).
At 1810 hrs, 1 US KIA and 1 WIA were extracted. The other WIAs were treated on the battlefield and were evacuated later. The Air Force-47 was requested and at 1930 hrs B Company reported 1 VC KIA who was armed with an M-16. Again, the night was spent watching for VC attempts to escape.
24 Apr 67 – At 0640 hrs the first air strike of 3 F-104’s delivered their ordinance on the village. A White Team was sent in to screen and observe reported VC movement in the village in the vicinity M803340. The second air strike was completed at 0750 hrs.
At 0735 hrs 3d plat, B CO shot one VC who was attempting to swim the river. The Recon plat and 2nd plat, B CO swept through the village at 0750 hrs meeting no resistance. However, the enemy had not left the area.
A few months after the above story was published, a friend called and said he knew a Woods that flew a Gunship in Vietnam who had retired as LTC and now lived in Arkansas. After a bit of investigating, he determined that it was the same Lt Woods. We traveled to see him and listened to his story. He revealed that he had received the Distinguished Flying Cross for the actions described above. It is gratifying to visit with and share stories that heal emotional wounds that only soldiers understand.
Note: The After Action Report quoted above is part of the Vietnam Historical Collection which was created and is maintained by the Texas Tech University. Gateway to this extensive collection can be accessed by using this link. https://www vietnam.ttu.edu/. On the first page Select “Browse the Collections” as a starting point and follow documents about 1/35 Infantry Battalion, Combat Operations Report, 22-30 April, 1967, 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Pleiku Vietnam, 1967.