The First Battle of Loc Ninh

While I was with Charlie company "March-66 Feb 67" there was only one major battle  that occurred on the 11th of June 1966, all of our engagements were small and did not last very long.  This is the story and how it came about. 

I would remind the readers this was my view from my location, someone a 100 yards away could well have a very different view

1st of June 1966 Operation EL Paso began, I don't know how many units were in the field but our Brigade and our sister BN was in the field (1st BN/28th Inf ). Our first objective was the small airstrip at LOC NINH, Loc Ninh is a village aprox 90 miles north of Lai Khe and is about 3 mile from the Cambodia border. There was and still is a huge rubber plantation all around the village. The French had their plantation house and out buildings at the east end of the air strip perhaps a ½ mile from the village. It was here around the air strip that our BN setup a perimeter.

From here we ran Plt &Squad  sizes patrols in every direction. Now I must say that nothing of the big picture seldom got passed down to the squad level. If our Plt Sgt had any info he kept it to his self . This could have happened, as later events showed that this man was a poor soldier and a coward to boot! We did not have a Officer as Plt Ldr, it would probably not have made much difference anyway.

For the last week their was signs of increasing enemy activity ( snipers, short fire fights etc ) On the morning of 11 June 1st and 3rd Plts were sent on Patrol. 3rd to the west & 1st to the north. The 2nd Plt (mine ) was held in reserve and for area guard. It was about noon when the sound of small arms fire could be heard in the distance to the N by NE. Word came down that 1st Plt had made contact, but there wasn't much in the way of details. The sounds of firing had stopped so every one kinda relaxed. It was perhaps a ½ hour later that the firing started up again at a brisk pace. Almost at once word came for the 2nd Plt to meet up with the BN Recon Plt and to proceed at once to the north to the aid of the 1st Plt.  The plan was simple as Recon leading the way we would swing left and come up on the 1st Plts left flank. Recon Plt far left, 2nd Plt in the center, with 1st Plt far right.

As we moved in to position once again the firing slowed and stopped, When  in position my squad was closest to the 1st Plt but not in sight. ( later we found the distance to be 200 yards )Our positions were on a low ridge facing another low ridge perhaps 150 yards away, there was a low valley in-between with a small stream bed in about the middle of the valley. ( The whole area was a rubber plantation, with waist high grass and heavy under brush on the ridge facing us.)

W e had just got into position when we started receiving small arms fire from the ridge facing us ( not heavy , but perhaps 5-8 rds per min) we had good cover being right on the top of the ridge and the rubber trees, after the firing died down I moved to a bigger tree which had a irrigation ditch beside it. ( ready made fox hole) this movement brought heavy MG fire, but either I was to quick, lucky or they were poor shots.(my angel again? ) The GI who was carrying the Plt extra radio soon joined me. It was soon after, that we saw our 1st enemy soldier, he was moving back up towards the top of their ridge, we could only see his upper body, my RTO was carrying a M79 and I a M16. I don't know which, but after several rounds one of us put him down.

While all this is going on the 1st Plt was adjusting 105mm fire on where they thought the enemy was. Well I knew where the 1st Plt was ( to my right but out of sight ) They had been bringing 105mm fire to our right front at perhaps 100 to 150 yards distance. I am monitoring all this on the radio when the 1st Plt called for a adjustment for the 105mm, "Down 100 Left 100" , This was my position, not the enemy, it didn't take long for me to raise the CO and tell him what the deal was, he asked me what I thought the adjustment should have been. I told him left 100 was fine, no drop. This was fired and the rounds hit on the ridge to our right front, At this time the Recon Plt Sgt took over and adjusted the fire to cover the ridge to our front.( he was KIA perhaps 50 min later )

After dropping 105mm shells the length of the ridge all was quite from over there. As I said before, we had up to that time never met the enemy that he didn't withdraw within minutes of the 1st engagement. It is very easy to apply hindsight and to be quick to point out mistakes made. I at the time put a lot of blame on our CO but information that I found years later, made it clear to me at least that part of the blame laid with the Generals who were supposed to be running this war. The day before, heavy contact had been made up and down Highway 1 not 30 miles from our location. North Vietnamese attacking US & Arvin troops, and not backing down.

Where the ball was dropped, I do not know, but someone should have been smart enough to get the word down to company level to expect anything. To  many Generals and their staff who for the most couldn't find their ass with both hands !

As it was, after the 105mm fire on the enemy ridge ceased and all was quite, the CO ordered the Recon & 2nd Plt to advance to the other ridge and see if we could come up with a body count or any other info ( assumption that once again the enemy had withdrawn ).( further assumption that these two plt sgts knew what they were doing )

Here any training that the two Plt Sgts had, seemed to have been forgotten , I was not part of the decision but soon word was passed down that we were going to line up ( as if on police call ) and advance to the top of the ridge to our front .Well that's what we did Recon on the far left had aprox 200 meters to go to reach the foot of the ridge while at my end perhaps just a 100. So as we started off I held my squad back until such time as our police call line was fairly straight.
( I Think perhaps my angel was working hard again )

Training situations such as this, calls for keeping auto weapons in place to provide covering fire. ( not done ), anyway I am not to happy about this stroll to what had been the enemies position not 30 min ago. As we approached the creek bed I threw my 1st and last hand grenade in what could be called a combat situation   In front of us you could tell that the bank was deep enough to hide several people and it was my idea to pitch a grenade into this area before walking up to it. To this day I can see it ( one small tree between me and the creek bed ) yes that's right ! the grenade hit the tree and bounced straight back, it landed perhaps 20 ft in front, no problem, yell fire in the hole and hit the dirt. I guess the Enemy siting up on the ridge must have thought we were nuts. Anyway we proceeded through the creek bed and to our designation with the enemy.

Running along the base of this ridge was a old irrigation ditch, perhaps 3 ft deep, as I said before I wasn't leading my squad in a race to get to the top, by the time we reached the irrigation ditch we were in tall grass and could not see very far to the front or the rest of the Plt to the Left. Just as we were crossing the ditch heavy firing broke out to our left, it took no orders as my squad as one dove into the ditch, as we dove heavy fire broke out in front of us, and for those of you who have heard the snap of a bullet, you can imagine what it is like to have a whole ridge erupt in fire with you on the wrong end.

What saved my squad was they couldn't see us and they waited a split sec after the ambush was triggered to open fire, that plus the lay of the ground was that they couldn't get their fire down to just maybe 12 inches above the ditch. ( this gave us a small safe window to return heavy fire back up the ridge, even though we couldn't see them) My  training as a Tanker came back " keep your fire down low" a ricochet will kill just as good as a straight shot plus it makes the enemy keep his head down.

Time seems to stand still in a sudden fire fight and it is hard to judge, but very soon my Plt Sgt came crawling down the ditch over the top of everybody, as he came to me he never stopped but as he went by, he said for me to take charge, everybody was dead in Recon , his RTO was dead and he was going for help, and that is the last any one in my Plt ever saw of him again. I Must admit that the thought entered my mind to shoot this yellow bastard my self.

Later we learnt that he never stopped running until he was back in the company area, about 2 miles away. He was transferred out that same day.

After Q---- left I was able to raise the CO and tell him what the situation was, I guess I was pretty excited as I remember the CO telling me to settle down, and that was all it took. Suddenly instead of a squad Ldr I was a Plt Sgt of my Plt and what ever was left of Recon. I  had radio contact with the Recon RTO at that time, I told him to get what ever was left of his Plt back to the irrigation ditch and that I would be adjusting 105mm fire in as close as I could. ( Recon Plt had  passed the ditch when ambushed ) a few minutes later when I tried to contact recon plt to tell them art fire was one the way there was no contact. Later I was to learn that the young man was killed trying to get what was left of recon back to the irrigation ditch.

I can remember walking the artillery fire at least 5 times down the length of the enemy held ridge, It might have been more. All this time we were under heavy fire, but in my squads area at least the enemy was firing blind. They knew where we were, it sounded like they had a hundred mgs up there, but in truth it was probly only 2 or 3. The young man who was carrying our squad M60 was found later to have 3rd degree burns on his left forearm from the heat of the mg barrel. Judging time by how long it took to adjust and walk the 105 fire where I wanted it, and by the fact that when the last chopper had taken out the last KIA, it had just got dark, we were pinned down some where between 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours.

For me the worst part was after the firing stopped and we had to carry our dead and wounded to a area where trees could be cleared enough to get a chopper in. This was a distance of perhaps 100 yds. I know that I pulled most of the ligaments in my back that day and to this day suffer from a bad back..Myself and my squad were like walking zombies, I remember carying bodies and choppers comeing straight down through the rubber trees and I remember the walk back to the airstip. I don't remember talking with anyone nor do I remember seeing anyone except some guys that had cleared a circle for the choppers to come down

I have to praise those unknown pilots that hauled the wounded and dead out. The clearing was so small that the chopper blades were whacking tree limbs from the standing trees as they came straight down to the ground. These trees were tall mature rubber trees.

The next day one of the other companies went into this area, to determine just what we had tangled with. They found 97 bodies, ( reported I can not vouch for this, but perhaps a week later I led a patrol close to this area, the stink of dead body's was every where ) plus numerous blood trails where dead or wounded had been drug off. We had more or less stumbled right into what was later found to be a NVA BN Hqs, this would have been some where between 150-200 troops depending on how up to strength they were. For a two plt force we did as well as could be expected. Our fucked up generals have changed the records to reflect we tangeled with Viet Cong. Perhaps they were but the only one I seen was wearing a uniform and the bad guys had commo wire strung on the ridge. Viet Cong? BULLSHIT!
If not for that extra radio my squad had BOTH plts would have been wiped out.

The following day there was a after action debriefing, which involved My company commander, the Bn commander, several Bn staff officers and some one star general  who had flew in for the briefing. As a Sgt E5 I would not normally attend such a debriefing but as I was the new Plt Sgt and the only nco left from 2nd plt., I had to attend. Well when this General came in, all of us were introduced to him. Me the lowest ranking man there, the Gen looked right through me.( I was not there ) this was just fine with me. Well the debriefing is going on , the Bn Co is explain that we had apparently made contact with a North Viet Force, not VC, well I  guess the briefing was about over cause the General takes over and he is telling us, that no, this was just a VC force. Like most Generals he was talking like his words were gospel, ( for those of you who have never been in combat I should explain, that afterwards those who survive are mentally not prepared to listen to no bull shit from any one) I was no exception. As this General is going on with his theories , without thought I blurted out "BULL SHIT" now I have always been the type to stick my foot in my mouth, but would argue with the devil himself. I preceded to tell this stuffed shirt that who we had tangled with wore uniforms and helmets and were NOT VC. That broke up the meeting.

Nothing was ever said to me about this afterwards, I sorta thought that perhaps their were some at this meeting who would have like to said what I did?

# we had a brave helicopter pilot who twice hovered over our position and dumped out cases of ammo right on top of us. He couldn't see us because of the dense tree tops, but we had popped yellow smoke and where it went up through the trees that's where they threw the ammo out.

I guess now is as good as place as any to remind you who are reading this that,
when it comes to putting my thoughts down I am a  amateur. I have hand written notes from years ago to go by, but they keep bring back  memories and I end up side tracked once again.

Thanks to Carrie at Homestead, I was able to get this text on
these pages. Maybe when I get time I will finish the above


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