Cacti Blue Soldiers Use Cave
As Hideout, Return Unscathed
IVY LEAF Article Late 1968
By SP4 John Rowe
OASIS — Three
Famous Fighting Fourth Division soldiers found themselves in a
mountain cave with Quirt, a scout dog, "an M16, an M79 and
a lot of prayers."
Separated from the rest of Company. B, 2nd
Battalion, 35th Infantry, the men were trapped in a cave as
friendly airstrikes pounded enemy bunker complexes in the Chu
Prong Mountain area around them.
Five hours later, Specialist 4 Randy Harritan
of Wilmington, NC., Private First Class Ken Eldridge of Stanton,
Mich., and Private First Class Michael Boyle of Overland Park,
Kan., provided Company B with a pleasant surprise as they found
their way back to their company’s location.
The Cacti Blue troops were elated. Not only had
their fellow infantrymen returned safely, but eight NVA had been
killed in the fighting.
Three more enemy were killed the following
morning as Company. B raised its enemy dead to 11 in what started
as a search and clear mission of the densely vegetated area.
The harrowing experience for the three soldiers
and scout dog began when PFC Eldridge, walking point for the
company’s Second Platoon, was fired at by an NVA soldier who had
darted out from behind a tree.
"I dove behind a nearby tree and lost my
M16 and steel pot in
the process," said PFC Eldridge.
"Apparently they thought I was dead so three of them came
into the open to get my weapon," he continued.
Specialist Harritan, a dog handler who was
directly behind the pointman, killed the three NVA with fire from
In the ensuing firefight, the three infantrymen
became separated from their company when they sought cover in a
Company B proceeded to send a patrol to look
for the missing men. Sergeant Larry Nenne of Toluca, ILL., said he
called out the names of the men, but received no answer.
"We were afraid to yell because we might
give away our position," said PFC Boyle.
"We could see NVA running past the
cave," explained PFC Eldridge.
First Lieutenant William Burdick of East Lyme,
Conn., Company B commander, said he thought there was "no
hope" for the missing soldiers and the scout dog when
Sergeant Nenne returned with his negative report.
"I then called in the artillery, gunships
and airstrikes to help us against the well entrenched enemy
force," explained Lieutenant Burdick.
What were the missing soldiers thinking about
when the airstrikes were going on? "It shook us up a little.
There we were with an M16, an M79 and a lot of prayers,"
commented PFC Boyle.