Duc Pho, Vietnam, 15
By Garold L. Tippin
On 15 July 1967, Company C, 1st Bn 35th Inf, 3d Bde 25th Inf Div was
conducting a Search and Destroy Operation in the rugged terrain about 15
Kilometers SW of Duc Pho, Vietnam. The area that the company was
operating in consists of rugged mountains whose slopes are covered with
thick jungle undergrowth. In most places the double canopy completely
shuts out the sunlight. On this particular day the temperature was 103°
and the men of Charlie Company were thirsty, hot and tired. The
Battalion had received intelligence that an NVA Battalion was operating
in the area. In an attempt to find the enemy and gain tactical surprise,
the Battalion Commander, Major James E. Moore Jr., Mclean, Va., decided
to infiltrate his Company into the area on foot with three days rations.
On the third day the company was moving south on two axes. The 2nd
and 3rd platoons were on a high ridgeline with the company (-) moving
parallel in the valley below. The 2nd and 3rd platoons were to swing
down a finger to the east and link up with the remainder of the company.
At about 1000 hrs the two platoons on the ridge began their movement
downhill. The 2nd platoon was in the lead with the 3rd platoon
following, echeloned to the left. At 1035 hrs the 2nd platoon
commanded by, 2nd Lt Anthony M. Hassa, North Hollywood, California,
approached an enemy bunker from the rear. The position was orientated to
fire east down the finger. Three NVA ran from the bunker and were
quickly cut down. Two AK-47’s and one Chicom LMG were captured. (See
The platoons continued moving cautiously down the finger. Suddenly,
the jungle interrupted in a blaze of fire. Two men were wounded in the
initial volley. The enemy had evidently allowed them to get within 15-20
meters before they opened up. According to PSG Jack H. Jasper, Lawton,
Okla., the Plat Sgt 2nd plat, "The fire was so intense that no
one could move - if he did he was hit. We had nine men hit in the first
30 minutes. The men were magnificent! - they followed orders and
operated like machines. As our firepower built up the enemy fire
decreased. We fired sixteen, M-72 LAWs during the firefight. I’ll
never be without LAWs again, they are a good weapon. I don’t know how
many we killed but I do know those LAW’s really hurt the PAVN’s."
(See figure 2).
The third platoon maneuvered to the left in an attempt to flank the
enemy. However, it wasn’t long before they too were heavily engaged
with two enemy bunkers. (See figure 3). The 3rd platoon leader, 2nd Lt
James H. Smith, Patterson, N.J., was hit in the arm. He picked up a 45
cal pistol and assaulted one of the bunkers. He was hit again in the
left leg and was pinned down by the heavy fire. SP/4 Lawrence W.
Ireland, Houston, Texas the platoon medic, ran through the enemy fire
and carried Lt Smith back to a covered position where his wounds could
In the meantime, Capt John H. Cavender, Waycross Georgia, the company
commander, was bringing his lst and 4th platoons up the finger in an
attempt to close the pincer on the enemy. The 4th (Wpns)
platoon was being used as a rifle platoon for this operation. (See
.figure 4). His elements were fired upon by a lone rifleman at the base
of the finger. When fire was returned the enemy fled. .The vegetation in
this area was so thick that the elements with the Company CP were forced
to move on the narrow trail. Capt Cavender sent the 1st and 2nd sqds of
the 1st platoon toward a small knob east of the enemy to act as a
blocking force.(See figure 5) He then maneuvered the remainder of the
1st plat and the 4th plat to the north of the enemy. (See figure 6).
When this had been accomplished he moved forward with a squad to locate
the enemy positions and determine his course of action.
At this time the men of Charlie Company believed there were only two
enemy bunkers, the ones that were engaged with the 2nd and 3rd platoons.
Upon approaching these positions from the rear, Capt Cavender and the
squad began receiving heavy automatic fire from their left front,
resulting in several casualties.
The Battalion Commander, Maj Moore and his S-3, Major Garold L.
Tippin, Columbus, Ohio, had been in the air over the battle since 1100
hrs. Capt Cavender requested an ammo resupply and medevac for two
seriously wounded men while he completed his maneuver and brought
forward his 90mm RR. There were no landing zones in the area, so, at
1230 hrs, one squad from the 2nd plat pulled back 100 meters to care for
the wounded and assist in the resupply. (See figure 7). The Bn Cmdr
requested a medevac helicopter with a hoist and flew back to the fire
base in his C&C (Command Helicopter) to pick up ammunition.
Meanwhile, the squad from the 2nd plat began clearing the underbrush for
the medevac and resupply drop. Minutes later, the Bn Cmdr returned; the
C&C flew down and hovered at tree top level while the ammunition was
dropped to the waiting men below.
The 3rd platoon using M-72 LAWs maneuvered and destroyed the two
bunkers to their immediate front. By this time they were receiving heavy
fire from further to their east. Because of the dense vegetation and the
proximity of US troops, artillery was not feasible and gunships could do
little through the thick jungle canopy. Maj Moore talked to the Company
Commander concerning the feasibility of pulling back and bringing in TAC
air. Capt Cavender stated that the enemy fire was so heavy and accurate
that he felt he would sustain more casualties by withdrawing. He also
had all escape routes cut off and was waiting for his 90mm recoilless
rifle to be brought forward for a direct shot at the enemy bunkers. At
this time it appeared as if the fire was coming from one or two
positions that were situated in the saddle.
The disposition of Charlie Company was as follows. The 2nd and 3rd
platoons were west of the enemy positions. Two squads of the 1st plat,
4th platoon, and Company CP group were to the north and two squads
from the 1st had laboriously worked their way up to the knob to the
east. The only gap in the encirclement was to the south, but it was
covered effectively by fire from the 2 sqds east of the enemy positions.
By 1420 hrs the medevac ship had arrived and evacuated two of the
wounded by hoist. At this time, however, there were 14 more wounded
which had been brought to the rear. The Bn Surgeon Capt Carroll P.
Osgood, West Hartford, Connecticut, volunteered to be lowered into the
battle area to care for the wounded and organize their evacuation. On
the medevac ship’s third trip, the doctor was lowered into the area,
with much needed blood plasma, and another wounded man was evacuated.
Unfortunately, the hoist on the medevac ship broke, so a CH-47 Chinook
was requested to hoist out the remaining wounded. When it arrived four
more wounded men were hoisted aboard. The Brigade Surgeon, Capt Dennis
E. Lee, St. Louis, Mo. was on the Chinook with medical personnel and as
soon as the wounded were lifted aboard their treatment began. The hoist
was not working properly and the Chinook hovered for 45 minutes in the
battle area while the men were being extracted. As the fifth casualty
was being lifted the hoist stuck in place. The Chinook proceeded toward
the 25th Med hospital with the wounded man dangling some 50 feet below.
Maj Moore then directed the Chinook to an open area and landed his ship.
The man was removed from the hoist and taken to the medevac center by
the C&C. Because of the soldier’s condition this action probably
saved his life.
While the Chinook was extracting the wounded the Company attempted to
neutralize the bunkers using M-72 LAWs and the 90mm recoilless rifle.
The thick vegetation hampered these efforts, although they did get
several direct hits. By this time Charlie Company had 17 wounded.
Captain Cavender decided, therefore, that he could no longer afford to
continue the stalemate. The enemy fire was extremely accurate and his
casualties had been steadily increasing. It seemed as though every time
one of the men exposed himself he was hit
by the unseen marksmen. Therefore while the hook was making the final
extractions, Capt Cavender organized his men for a final assault. At
1600 hrs, using the 2nd and 3rd platoons as a base of fire, Capt
Cavender led the two squads of the first platoon and the fourth platoon
in the final assault. The assault wave rose up as one man. Shouting and
screaming at the top of their lungs they closed on the enemy positions.
The violent assault was so effective that some of the enemy fled from
the bunkers, others were found cowering in their holes. As the men ran
forward they threw hand grenades in the enemy bunkers, and cut down the
fleeing enemy. It wasn’t until the positions were overun that the men
from Charlie Company realized that there were five large bunkers
arranged in a circle instead of the one or two they had expected to
find. (See figure 8). In and around the bunkers 25 NVA bodies were found
along with 6 AK-47’s, 3 LMG’s, 2 SKS, 1 Mauser and several grenades.
1/Lt David W. Hockett, Marengo, Iowa, platoon leader of the 4th
platoon, led his platoon in the final devastating charge. He said,
"About 1600 the CO informed me that my platoon and two squads from
the 1st would assault the enemy position. I organized my platoon into
two waves; instructing the 2nd wave to fire in the trees above the first
wave and to move up and replace any men hit in the first wave. I was in
the middle and the CO was on the right. On the signal we moved out;
after a few meters, enemy fire became intense and the line began to
hesitate. At this time Capt Cavender let out with that "Georgia
Rebel Yell" of his, and that releived the tension. The men picked
up the cry and we surged forward through the enemy positions.
"As I broke through the thick foliage I saw Sgt Michale H.
Mortenson, Chicago, Ill, assaulting two bunkers under the covering fire
of Dale W. Kindred, Arrowsmith, Ill. Kindred was firing directly into
the apertures of the bunkers as Mortenson ran forward and threw in
"SP/4 Clyde F. Walker, Corinne, Utah, jumped into the last
bunker, screaming & using his rifle as a club — he was hit three
times by the remaining NVA inside — he got one; then we pulled him out
arid tossed in two grenades — that finished the fight. It was suddenly
very quiet, there were dead NVA all over the place. There is no doubt in
my mind that once we started yelling — the battle was ours. I felt
then that nothing could sot us".
Sgt Mortenson said, "I don’t think we could have taken the
position without the final charge. I already had three men in my fire
team hit. Once we saw the bunkers and started yelling, those gooks must
have known they were dead — They had no where to go and nothing to do
After the battle Capt Cavender said, "This battle was won by the
men, not artillery or airpower — but the infantrymen who were willing
to close with and destroy the enemy. They did everything I asked of them
and more. Once we started our assault I knew that it would soon be over,
and victory was ours".
"The longer we stayed where we were, the more casualties we were
taking. I have never seen enemy fire so accurate. It seemed like
evertime a man moved he was hit. We were too close for artillery and
air, and we couldn’t pull back without taking a lot of casualties. I
know Charlie was surprised when we charged. His fire was still heavy —
but not as accurate and we could see some of them trying to run out of
their holes. When I heard the men yelling and saw the determination on
their faces — I was proud to be an infantryman and their company
commander. I sure wouldn’t have wanted to be in one of
those bunkers. I still prefer to use our basic concept of finding and
fixing the enemy — then use all the artillery and air we can get.
However, I feel that on that day I fulfilled a company commanders dream
— to lead his men in an overwhelming, successful assault of an enemy
fortified position. We learned an important lesson that day and that is
that an aggressive, well trained American rifle company is the ultimate
This action by Co C is an outstanding example of the application of
fire and maneuver plus the use of organic direct fire weapons. No
artillery, air, or gunships were employed. Support was not used due to
the close-quarters fighting with infantryman engaged within 15—20
meters of the enemy. Of particular note was the final assault in true
infantry style, through heavy enemy fire, and the fact that only one man
Company C had a total of 18 casualties, two of which subsequently
died of their wounds The remainder of the wounded were not serious.
After the battle area was policed, the company moved back down the
finger to the east to their night location. Here, the remaining six
walking wounded were extracted. (See figure 9).
The Battalion’s normal concept of operations has been to use the
Infantry to find and fix the enemy and then to use all available fire
support means to kill the enemy. Company C had been in many other
battles where the enemy body count was much larger and their casualties
were fewer. However, the men were proud of this victory, as they had met
an NVA platoon in prepared positions; fighting on the enemy’s
own terms, and defeated him as Infantrymen.