War Stories

Friday the 13th June 1969

by Wiley dodd
June 13th 1969

Friday the 13th of June 1969

Recon 2/35th

I will start this with a disclaimer this was 51 years ago and all I could remember, or maybe it didn't happen at all LOL.

We had been humping for a few days in the Highlands on 6/12 we set up our position for the night and ate our last C rat meal from our 3 day supply. We figured to stay in this location till resupplied in the morning. It got dark and we had settled in, guard rotation had started and the rest were sleeping. When we got a call that one of our line companies was receiving incoming mortar fire from the vicinity of a Village nearby and they wanted us to move, to seal off one side of the village which would be searched the next morning.

Nighttime in the Nam was always pitch black with no visibility at all, or fairly light. As luck would have it, it was pitch black. Moving at night was a dangerous thing and usually was avoided when possible. You couldn't help but make noise and give your location away. Recon being a small unit used stealth at all times, so this was especially scary, tension was high doing this, but orders are orders and off we went. We had to move slowly and stay close enough to the man in front of you to touch him so not to become separated. We all had our weapons and ruck sacks and ammo so it was difficult. I carried the M-60 machine gun and I usually carried it across my body, I had to carry vertically now so it wouldn't get tangled in vines and brush I couldn't see.

After what seemed like a long time but may not have been, we got on a trail that led to the village so the humping got easier but the threat of an ambush was always there. We came to a creek and knew from the map the village was close on the other side. We waited as sunrise was starting until we had enough light to cross it.

After we set up on the side of the trail that had cover the other not so much. We set up ambush style hidden along the trail but didn't put out claymores because we knew we would be moving for the village search, after a little bit some Village women came down the trail to the creek they had huge jugs to transport water back. We let them do this and maintained our cover. As they went back though one looked thru the brush seen me and smiled, then I knew they had known all along we were there.

Then the line company arrived Charlie 2/35th and we left our position and joined them at the village. A chopper came in and an interrupter and an Officer from Intelligence, I think.

We began the search by herding everyone in the village to one end and then the search began. Because I had the M60 I was assigned to act as security to watch the villagers. I sat there with my 60 pointed in that direction. I knew if any threat from this group happened, I would have to open up on them. The safety of our men would come before the safety of them women and children and all. Thank god nothing happened during the search.

We still hadn't been resupplied and every man was getting really hungry. Some of the guys from Recon caught a chicken with the plan to boil it. But we must have been all city raised boys because no one knew how to pluck this chicken.

The search went on with the Officer from intelligence questioning some villagers. Nothing was found there and I don't know if we learned anything either. Lt. Mac had us all rounded up back together and we were going to move out. I think the plan was to get resupplied in a couple of hours at least we hoped so.

So we moved out from the village the terrain was open and flat for a 100 meters or so then the grass got taller and there were vines and bush with it we could see a tree line in the distance. Lou Ricardi our point man had already proved himself several times over, was the usual 10 to 20 meters in front the next man and the grass was getting high enough for us to lose sight of him sporadically and that was not unusual. It was at one of those times when we heard two rounds from an Ak-47 and Lou answering with his M-16. We all knew what to do as having several experienced men in our platoon. When Lt. McGunngle raised his hand out to the side we quickly left our single file positions and formed a skirmish line into that area and opened up with our weapons. Myself and Johnny Bassey opened up with our 60's spraying the area and the rest of the platoon opened up with their 16's. We stopped after a couple minutes and heard Lou call out, he had been hit. Sgt, Tibbit our platoon Sergeant started toward Lou's position and more AK-47 fire began along with Mortar Rounds from the wood line. Bassey with his 60 was closest to the advancing Sgt.Tibbit and covered him.

Myself and Sgt. Mark Bradley were near the end of our skirmish line across the open field to the Woodline, where the mortars and sporadic Ak-47 were fired at us. We were trying to advance toward it as we fired. I had stood up and Mark had to and we started forward when Mark yelled Tiny (that was me) and pointed toward the end of the wood line. There were two NVA soldiers running across the wood line and were almost right in front of us. They were about 30 to 50 meters in front of us and really running fast. They turned to go up in the wood line right in front of us I was standing up with the 60 and firing from waist I got them both.

Because of the Mortar fire Lt. Mac ordered us to pull back we had no idea from our position what was coming. It was an airstrike! We pulled back from the wood line and a couple minutes later our Lt. was told to mark our position we threw a couple of smoke grenades out a small spotter plane flew over then here the F-16's came it seemed from out of now where they streaked down to less than 200 feet from the ground and fired there rockets, the noise was unbelievable with the jets and the explosions simultaneously. As soon as they fired the rockets, they went straight up. There were three of them and they did this over and over. I wished I had a camera.

Sgt. Tibbit brought back Lou, He had hit the ground in the beginning when he first spotted the NVA he had been shot on the very back of his heel blowing his boot apart. He had killed the NVA who shot him. Sgt. Tibbit had several small shrapnel wounds from the Mortar fire but they were not serious. The medivac chopper came in and took Lou and Sgt Tibbit out. We then formed a perimeter and got resupplied. Next day on we went Humping and looking for the NVA.

But we also knew that the people in that village had to know they were there, which was a lesson learned.

Sgt. Tibbit and LT got Silver Stars that day, Lou and Bassey were awarded Bronze Stars, Mark Bradley and myself were awarded Army commendation medals.