War Stories

18 May 1969

by Wiley Dodd
18 May 1969

May 18th 1969

By Wiley Dodd, Recon Platoon, 2/35th Infantry 4th Infantry Division

It was hot, the hottest time of the year in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The lush green foliage and beautiful rivers and creeks were now burnt up and dry. Water to the grunts in the field was now being sent out in big black rubber blivets. The water was always warm and you could taste the rubber of the blivet.

Contacts with the enemy for the Recon platoon had been sporadic in April and no large contacts had happened since an all day firefight on March 29th. The platoon had a few new members including a new platoon leader who were settling into there roles and everything was getting monotonous. As crazy as this may seem being on alert all the time in the bush becomes hard tiring work and the veterans of the platoon would almost wish for something to happen so to release the pent up anxieties that build up.

Our Platoon Leader got the call, find a suitable LZ. We were going into the firebase for a few days rest. Everyone's spirits picked up. Even though it was just a few days living in a bunker and getting one hot meal a day, It was a release from the discipline necessary to survive in the bush. Our only responsibility on these stand downs was night bunker guard, and the cleaning of our weapons and equipment.

We found a suitable LZ and the choppers took us in. It was mid morning when we arrived. We were assigned a couple of bunkers on the perimeter. Some of the guys took their shirts off, some sat on top of the bunkers with their boots off. We had mail call and everyone was occupied with that for a while. Most everyone emptied their gear from their rucks. It was scattered everywhere. It felt good to be able to talk and laugh out loud. Then the RTO shouted out "Delta just hit the shit!"

We all quieted down and listened to the radio. We could here the Delta RTO yelling in his mike, but we couldn't understand him because the sound of Ak's on full auto were drowning him out.

Delta Company was the hard luck company of our unit. They had lost the most men in the Chu-Pa Mountains in March and we had reinforced them 3 or more times. A few minutes later our Platoon Sergeant Jim Tibbt came running to our bunker. He yelled," saddle up were going to help Delta. Then he said Lt. Winn (our old platoon leader) is already on his way out there. There CO was shot and they were sending Lt. Winn out there to replace him and he wanted Recon out there with him.

We gathered our gear, as fast as we could and rushed to the chopper pad. The choppers weren't there yet so again we gathered around the radio, and listened.

Lt. Winn

The Chopper set him down in a clearing just outside a woodline. He began to make his way into the woodline toward the sound of the firefight in front of him. He could hear the sporadic sniper fire being fired on Delta Company as he went. The lieutenant moved thru over 300 meters of this sniper fire to the heart of the firefight. He ascertained when he got there that the company was completely disorganized and spread out over a 400-meter area. The lead platoon was pinned down in an open area the troops were spread out on the ground. The snipers from the other side of the clearing were still firing at the exposed troops. The troops for the most part were not firing back. They had several wounded and KIA's. He immediately took charge of the Company. He started reorganizing platoons and personally directed the evacuation of over 20 wounded soldiers.

The choppers set the Recon Platoon down in a clearing to one side of the firefight. We to had about 300 meters to get to the heart of the contact. We moved as fast as possible in almost a full out run the 300 meters to the area. We came up to the side of the clearing the Delta platoon was pinned down in. We could see Lt. Winn Moving thru these men ordering them to fire into the woodline ahead of them.

Lt. Winn then had our platoon leader order us on line across the clearing. I carried the M60 I was ordered to start firing into the trees to cover our movement I started shooting and moving along with the rest of the platoon across the clearing. We then began moving forward in spots stepping over the soldiers on the ground. Some of them who were not wounded began firing with us. After what seemed like a minute or two of this we were ordered to cease-fire. There was no return fire we had broken the NVA ambush.

The Lieutenant then sent out security and the rest of us began helping this Company. The Lieutenant then put the two rifle platoons left in this Company under the command of two Recon squad leaders. We began treating and evacuating the wounded members and KIA's to an area the choppers could land in.

We were then re-supplied there, as was Delta Company. We spent the night there with them. The next morning we left them. The Lieutenant and what was left of D Company were flown into the firebase. We went to see if we could find the NVA in the area. It was back to work as usual. So much for a break.

Delta Company had 5 men killed that day, and over 20 men wounded

First Lieutenant Charles R. Winn was awarded a Silver Star for that

day. I think he deserved even more!