Talking Proud --- Military

One hometown's Fallen in Vietnam — "from someplace called Cheektowaga"

"Death in Nam was just a heartbeat away" — Unnamed soldier

By Ed Marek, editor

August 8, 2015
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Addendum, March 1, 2016: Several people have alerted me to yet another Vietnam veteran from Cheektowaga who was killed in the Vietnam War, Anthony J. Minotti. Minotti listed his home of record as Alden, but we now believe that is because that was where his home was when he entered the Army. At least two people, Carol Albrecht and Phyllis Kaupa Hand say they knew him when he lived in Cheektowaga. I have added Sgt. Anthony J. Minotti to our list of Cheektowaga Fallen. I began this effort with seven KIA, and we now have nine. For those who might know of others, please contact me at edmarek@mac.com

Addendum, February 26, 2016:
I have received an alert from Fred Sztukowski that another Vietnam veteran from Cheektowaga died in the war, Ronald W. Zydel. I do not know how I missed him, though the military lists his home of record as Buffalo and not Cheektowaga. That said, the newspaper listed his home of record as 153 Ridge Park, Cheektowaga. I have added Pfc. Zydel to our list of Cheektowaga Fallen.

Addendum, August 12, 2015:
I have received an e-mail from Jim Copeland, who was on the scene when Sp4 Kloss's truck hit a land mine near Hoi An, Vietnam, six souls aboard lost. I have added this and some photos Jim provided to the section on Klos.
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Introduction

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I have been operating this "Talking Proud Service & Sacrifice" web site for 15 years or so as a hobby. I concentrate on those who served and sacrificed, mostly in our military. Many of the stories I have done are at once heartbreaking yet the cause of spine chills filled with pride.

While doing these stories, I have always asked myself:

"Where do we get these people, so courageous, so strong? Why do they risk themselves to save others?"

Every time I ask, I answer the question myself:

"We get them from our neighborhoods, our schools, our churches, the house next door; they were the kids just down the street, our chums, or people we barely knew in school."

And, I have found, their courage and valor is often a gut response. They are built to respond to crisis. They react in an instant, without considering the costs and benefits. They just do it. They take the risk, they take the consequences. They come in many forms. And they made a difference.

I decided recently to find out who from my hometown, Cheektowaga, New York, was killed in action (KIA) in the Indochina War. I found we lost eight. I do not know any of them. One graduated from my alma mater, Cleveland Hill, and two from nearby Maryville High School, where I did a bit of student teaching. Two lived in Cheektowaga but attended schools in Buffalo.

This is not a story about whether the Indochina War was right or wrong. It is a story about eight guys from my hometown who served in that war and died as a result. You will have no trouble respecting them, often beyond your imagination, as you learn about their service and sacrifice. And, I hope you learn something of what our men and women faced in that war — a small glimpse, but meaningful nonetheless.
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One writer reporting on the loss of one of the men in our story said he was "from someplace called Cheektowaga." Yes indeed — it was some place for sure, founded in 1829, a great town in which to grow up. Its name comes from the Erie-Seneca Indian word, Ji-ik-do-wah-gah, or "place of the crabapple tree." As kids, we knew it as "the land of the crabapple tree."

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Nine American military men from someplace called Cheektowaga died in the Indochina War during these days.
Please meet them.

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Richard A. Knaus, USA, Pfc., USA, KIA , Binh Dinh, RVN, December 27, 1966, Cheektowaga Central High School, Cheektowaga, NY, Class of '64

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Richard A. "Buddy" Knaus, USA, Pfc., USA, KIA , Binh Dinh Province, RVN, December 27, 1966. He was 21. Buddy Knaus arrived in Vietnam on May 3, 1966, based at An Khe, assigned to B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 19th Artillery "Eagles," also known as the "Reflags," (B/2-19th), 1st Cavalry Division. He died from small arms fire in an effort to protect one of his fellow soldiers. His body was recovered. He is buried at Buffalo Cemetery. Richard Knaus was the first resident from Cheektowaga to be KIA in Vietnam. He was survived by three brothers, a sister and his parents.

Buddy's mom, Alice, said he "was a good-natured, generous kid who shared everything he had with friends or anyone in need. He always seemed to connect with the less fortunate … Buddy had a deep concern for the welfare of animals … As he got older, my son enjoyed hunting or fishing with is dad or brothers."

Knaus was developing skills in art that were getting noticed in school. Alice said she saw it when he was just five. She commented, "Bud's greatest strength was his artistic ability. His high school teacher, Mr. Joseph Granditz, influenced him greatly and helped develop his skill … He was about 16 when I realized his artwork was worthy of being displayed."

His older brother, Bob, said this about Buddy: "Happy-go-lucky. He liked to help people. I remember one time these guys were beating on this one boy. And Buddy went after them. It was none of our business, but he said, 'Ah we gotta help that kid over there.'"

Buddy's younger brother, Howie, said he would "try anything." Bob added, "Never seemed afraid of anything."

Knaus's sister said the following:

"Waiting for the school bus in the early morning on the corner of Freda Ave. and Harlem Rd., on a cold winter day, he asked his friends to help him surround me and the other small children to block the wind and help to keep us warm … As a teenager, he made my brothers pull over the car they were riding in so he could run back and help a stranger – a young boy who was being bullied by a group of other boys - the bullies then ran away … He coined the phrase 'Rum Dum Did It' in our house to point out the guilty to Ma Knaus … I remember watching in wonder as Buddy created beautiful sketches and oil paintings – and I was so proud of him as his painting won a ribbon at the Town Park Art Festival … His nickname in high school was 'the little giant!'"

M102HowitzerVietnam

The 2/19th Artillery's mission was to support the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division operations in its tactical area of responsibility (TAOR), which included An Khe and the surrounding area. The 1st Cavalry Division was not a conventional infantry unit, but rather an air assault division. Its headquarters was at Camp Radcliffe in An Khe. It arrived in Vietnam in 1965, the first Army division to do so. The 2/19th received the M-102 105 mm howitzer, an example shown here, in early 1966. This weapon increased their capability to provide support to rapidly moving cavalry units. And, it was an air mobile howitzer.

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Knaus's battalion moved around the RVN's Central Highlands but staged out of An Khe. An Khe was seen as the "hub of the wheel" for 1st Cav operations in the Central Highlands. The Central Highlands were a favorite spot for the enemy to move supplies into the RVN from the Ho Chi Minh Trail in neighboring Laos. Knaus sent this photo of him and his howitzer to his family from Vietnam. He is clearly proud of his machine.

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Knaus's battalion deployed at some point before December 1966 to the Kim Son Valley The red dot shows the location of An Khe main camp, while the red arrow points roughly to the area of the Kim Son Valley, a very rugged and sparsely populated area to the north of An Khe.

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This is a photo of Kim Son Valley as seen by a crew conducting an air assault.

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The battalion went to a place called Landing Zone (LZ) Bird, located approximately by this red arrow in the Kim Son Valley area.

On December 27, 1966, the day Knaus was killed, three North Vietnamese Army (NVA) battalions, about 1,000 troops, from the 22 Regiment took advantage of a two day Christmas truce to move into position for a surprise attack on Landing Zone (LZ) Bird (approximate location red arrow) in the Kim Son Valley. There was nothing sacred about an agreed on truce to the NVA. They used it and abused it.

The regiments for this attack were operating well away from their normal locations. Charlie Co of the 12th Cavalry and B/2-19th (M-102 105 mm howitzers) along with C/6-16th (155 mm artillery) defended the LZ. There were two other Fire Support Bases (FSB) within range. Initially the weather restricted air support.

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Backing up one day to December 26, 1966, US Army Security Agency (ASA) intercept operators located on a hill top in An Khe, such as shown here at Ban Me Thuot, intercepted enemy communications revealing they intended to attack LZ Bird soon. A helicopter crew flew that same day to LZ Bird to warn the men, telling them, "You will soon be attacked by a massive human wave."

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This is an aerial after-action, annotated photo to help describe the attack. It is followed by a graphic blow-up of LZ Bird. Try to work with all these presentations to get a sense for what happened. On this photo, the red-orange arrows show the thrusts of the attack on LZ Bird, one from the right, which is from the north, and two arrows from the bottom right, which are from the east. My guess is the large red-orange circle shows the rough location of where the enemy assembled for the attack. I will repeat this is rough country, plenty of foliage to cover the enemy's whereabouts. Arguably one of the most difficult challenges of this war was to locate the enemy — to find him.

Capt. Robert D. Middleton, USA, commanded C/6-16th Artillery. However, Lt. Stricklin, USA was acting commander at the time of attack, was seriously wounded, and was evacuated immediately after the attack started. Middleton arrived, I believe during the attack, as incredible as that sounds. Hats off to those insanely couragous helicopter crews that would fly in and out despite a major battle being underway. We'll talk more about that later when discussing one of the other Fallen. In any event, Middleton has written a memoir of the attack. I will extract from it and other sources.

This was no trivial battle, and there is quite a bit of information available about it on line. From a US standpoint, we had about 1,000 NVA against about 170 US artillerymen and two platoons of C/1-12th Cav infantry. The C/1-12 Cav was responsible for securing the perimeter.

LZBird

The attack occurred at 0106 in the morning, December 27, without warning. The enemy advanced under the cover of mortar fire, recoilless rifle and machine-gun fires, attacking all the way in human wave assaults, killing the wounded. Knaus's 105 mm howitzer battery (B/2-19th) was located on high muddy ground. The men were asleep when the attack occurred. Then mortar rounds began hitting the compound, along with rifle fire, machine gun fire, and the sound of screaming enemy troops advancing on the battery. Knaus jumped to his feet, jammed an ammunition clip into his weapon, and began firing.

Knaus's battery was located on the southern side of the LZ, where you see the line showing the enemy's farthest penetration. C/6-16th was on the northern side. The main thrust came through the northern end. The enemy broke through and overran four of the six C/6-16th howitzer positions. Most of the battery's men were forced to the rear, and then to a secondary position.

SSgt. Delbert O. Jennings received the Medal of Honor for his actions during this fight. Upon the enemy's fierce attack, he decided to cover the withdrawal of his men with heavy machine-gun fire. He then destroyed an enemy demolition crew trying to blowup one of his battery's howitzers. He continued covering his men's withdrawal, and then noting the enemy's secondary attack from the east which I shall cover in a moment, ran to warn his men and lead them to a secondary position. He and his men then continued fighting. Jennings helped incoming helicopters by throwing white phosphorous grenades on the LZ. Braving sniper fire and booby traps, he and some volunteers ran beyond friendly lines to recover eight wounded comrades and moved them to safe positions. The eight survived as a result.

The secondary attack came in from the east almost at the same time after which the enemy turned south directed at Knaus's battery, B/2-19th Artillery.

Throughout, the enemy fired mortars over the full length of the LZ and as was normally the case the enemy simply charged right through their own fire. The few US infantry there, located around the perimeter, were quickly overrun. The enemy overran about half of Knaus's battery but was then blunted. The enemy was not successful in destroying the bunkers around the first three guns, and those still able to fight placed effective fire against the enemy.

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Nonetheless, the rush of enemy was so overpowering in Knaus's area that the command was given to get out of the bunkers and form a tighter defense. Up until that time, his section had been firing its 105 mm howitzers directly at the enemy at point blank range. B/2-19 fired two "beehive rounds." These rounds each were packed with 800 metal flechettes (pointed steel projectiles as shown here) which blew out over a large area, working as an anti-personnel weapon. These two rounds are said to have decimated a large portion of the NVA attack force.

Knaus complied with the order to evacuate and jumped to the top of his bunker, but stopped, and looked back, and saw his mate, Pfc. Donald Leaderhaus, still in the bunker clinging to the sandbags, by one account "frozen on the gun," by another refusing to evacuate the position. Knaus jumped back into the bunker and tried to convince Leaderhaus to evacuate, but Leaderhaus continued to refuse. Knaus then decided to remain with Leaderhaus and began firing his rifle at the enemy until he ran out of ammunition.

Sgt. James Johnson witnessed the entire event. Johnson saw Knaus and Leaderhaus lying in the bunker, both dead, one shot through the head, the other through the chest. Knaus was draped over Leaderhaus as the result of his effort to protect him. Johnson jumped into the bunker and drove the enemy back, staying with his two lost comrades.

For some reason the fighting quieted down for 20-30 minutes after the first ten minutes of heavy assault. Those still able scrambled about to get their hands on weapons and ammunition they could find.

By now, friendly forces outside LZ Bird began to illuminate the sky and LZ with flares. Two other fire support batteries from LZ Pony fired rounds outside the perimeter of LZ Bird. The weather began to clear and attack helicopters arrived with aerial rocket artillery, employing anti-personnel air launched artillery with great effect. Furthermore, an AC-47 gunship arrived along with some tactical fighter aircraft. Then men from A/1-5 Cav arrived as reinforcements and met no resistance from the enemy. Together with the men left alive from LZ Bird, they cleared the LZ so more helicopters could come in. All together they and the men on the ground shut down the enemy advance.

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The enemy withdrew after losing 211 men. This is a photo after the battle showing some of the enemy dead strewn about the LZ. Forces from the A/1-5 Cav came in to reinforce the LZ and pursued the enemy after the battle for several days and did more damage to him.

C/6-16 lost four KIA; B/2-19 lost seven; C/1-12 infantry lost 15; and two more men were lost assigned to supporting helicopter units. The total US loss at LZ Bird was 28 KIA. It was determined this was not a good location for LZ Bird and it was moved to another hill in the area.

Middleton noted, "The various acts of valor are too numerous to mention. Hand to hand combat was common and many troops engaged in pitch and catch with enemy hand grenades."

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Pfc. Richard A. Knaus, USA, received the Silver Star for gallantry in action and the Purple Heart, both posthumous. In addition, the State of New York awarded him the Conspicuous Service Cross, also known as the Silver Cross. In addition, his unit received the Presidential Unit Citation for extraordinary heroism.

The local Amvets' Post #14 was named in honor of "Buddy" Knaus, and is called the Amvets' Buddy Knaus Post No. 14. It is now located in Depew, NY. I am told it was named in his honor because he was the first military member from Cheektowaga to die in combat in the Vietnam War.
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Richard Dewane, Pfc, USMC, KIA Quang Tri, RVN, February 28, 1967, Cleveland Hill High School, Cheektowaga, NY, Class of '65

Richard Dewane, Pfc, USMC, KIA Quang Tri, RVN. He was 20. Dewane attended Cleveland Hill High School in Cheektowaga, NY and graduated in 1965. He was a rifleman assigned to the 2nd Platoon, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment (2/G/2-3 Marines), 3rd Marine Division. Prior to his death, he was wounded in September 1966 and received the Purple Heart. He died on February 28, 1967 from small arms fire about five kilometers northwest of Hill 124 in Quang Tri Province, the northernmost provence of the RVN, one that bordered the DMZ. I have seen another record that located the place of death as five kilometers northwest of Cam Lo, RVN, also Quang Tri, which synchronizes with the Hill 124 location. I will show some maps in a moment. His body was recovered and he is buried at Lancaster Rural Cemetery, NY. He was survived by two sisters, two brothers, and his parents.

Edward Hinz has written, "Richard was a few years older than me but I knew him as a quiet guy whose family attended the same church as me. We rode the same school bus and I remember one time (in the Buffalo Bills' glory year of 1964) at the bus stop when a bunch of us younger guys were discussing the undefeated Bills and their chances against the NFL powerhouse Baltimore Colts. Richard listened for a few minutes, took a drag on his cigarette and then said 'Unitas would kill us.' We all nodded in agreement. An upperclassman had bestowed his knowledge on us. In retrospect I'm sure he was 100% correct. Rest in peace Richard. You gave your all."

Judith Deyell Cole said, "I seem to remember attending a memorial assembly at CHHS for him, as he was the first casualty of the Vietnam War with whom we had a personal connection. I was a sophomore in '67, so it's hard to remember back that far.

Brian Walker remembered that assembly, saying, "I remember the assembly, which was somber, and I remember Dick Dewane. He was several years older, and was in Boy Scouts with my older brothers. He was a pretty solid guy, and a Scout longer than most of his peers. I don't think he'd been in Vietnam long when he was killed. He died along with several comrades in Quang Tri Province on Feb. 28, 1967."

Pfc. Dewane was the only Marine from Cheektowaga KIA in Vietnam, so I want to spend a few moments talking about the Marines and their outlook in the early days.

MarinesLandDanang

The first batch of 3,500 Marines from the 3-9 Marines arrived at Danang AB, RVN on March 6, 1965. These Marines were not to engage in day-to-day actions against the VC. Their mission was to defend the air base. Their strength grew to 5,000 by month's end. However, four battalions were in place to launch the Marines' first major offensive combat operations in August 1965. Early on, in December 1965, General Victor Krulak, USMC, wrote a report disagreeing with General Westmoreland's search and destroy war of attrition (Westmoreland was commander US Military Assistance Command (USMACV) from 1964-1968). Krulak said It was "wasteful of American lives, promising a protracted, strength-sapping battle with small likelihood of a successful outcome." Krulak proposed instead a focus on a pacification program to provide village security plus increased air strikes. Westmoreland disagreed and continued the search and destroy strategy.

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With that background in mind, the Marines began a major operation, Operation Prairie, in August 1966. It terminated on January 31, 1967, and Operation Prairie II began shortly thereafter, in February, the month Pfc. Dewane was killed. Operation Prairie II was a search and destroy operation to prevent the 324B NVA Division from entering Quang Tri Province below the DMZ.

Prairie II was fought in and around the DMZ area, Con Thien and Gio Linh. The 3 MARDIV had its forward command post at Dong Ha, and its intermediate position at Cam Lo, seven miles west. Route 9 was the major route, east-west running between the Laotian border and Dong Ha.The mission was to seek out and destroy enemy forces and to defend against attack. Thirty-three infantry battalions, two reconnaissance companies and supporting units were involved. Rifle companies were often shifted around to different battalions to handle the tasks.

In total, Operation Prairie II involved all three battalions of the 3rd Marines (1, 2 and 3-3 Marines), the 3-4 Marines, the 1 and 2-9 Marines, and the 2-6 Marines. I am not certain Dewane was in this operation, but the odds are high he was since his battalion and so many others were involved. All together, one hundred twenty nine Marines were killed in Operation Prairie II.

At this point in the war, Quang Tri was Marine Country, with the III Marine Amphibious Force (MAF) and the 3rd Marine Division (MARDIV) in charge, Lt. General Lew Walt, USMC, in command. Like General Krulak, General Walt disagreed with General Westmoreland's search and destroy strategy, and did so often and loudly. Walt preferred what he called "clear and hold," writing, "The struggle was in the rice paddies — in and among the people, not passing through, but living among them night and day — a journey with them toward a better life long overdue."

Regardless of Westmoreland's preferences for search and destroy, Walt began what he called a Combined Action Program sending platoons of Marines and medics to the villages to "protect the villages, get to know the people, find the local Communist infrastructure and put it out of business." The program was quite successful.

Nonetheless, Walt had to conduct search and destroy missions as those were the orders. Operation Prairie II was such a mission and the Marines planned and executed it.

During the beginning of 1967, the Marines were fighting two wars: one along the DMZ where division confronted division, and a counter guerrilla war in the rest of Quang Tri and Thua Thien provinces. Priority was given to the DMZ. The Marines were at a bit of a disadvantage because they were not allowed to attack across the DMZ into the NVN. As a general rule, Marines do not like that — they prefer to move forward and attack instead of sitting back and defending.

Brigadier General Louis Metzger, USMC, who later became the assistant commander of the 3d MARDIV, commented:

"It has long been my belief that the most significant aspect of operations along the DMZ was the publicly stated United States policy that U.S. forces would not enter North Vietnam. This allowed the enemy to deploy his forces across the DMZ at the time and place of his choosing, and to withdraw to a sanctuary when it suited his convenience; to utilize his artillery against U.S. positions and bases while at the same time denying the Marines the most effective means of destroying the enemy weapons, i.e., to overrun them; [and] to free his infantry elements from guarding his artillery so that they could be employed against U.S. forces and positions south of the DMZ."

Initially, activity during Operation Prairie II was by standards of warfare "light." However, on February 12 enemy movements increased dramatically. Large concentrations of enemy forces were detected north of the Ben Hai River which flowed through the middle of the DMZ. As a result, the Marines were allowed to fire artillery into and north of the DMZ starting on February 25. These artillery attacks hindered enemy preparations, so they launched heavy mortar, rocket and artillery fire at Con Thien and Gio Linh in retaliation. These attacks continued through February 28.

I need to say from this point forward, I have gone through two in-depth accounts of what ensued and have found it very hard to synchronize them. The first is
"US Marines in Vietnam, Fighting the North Vietnamese 1967," by Major Gary L. Teller, USMC, Lt. Colonel Lane Rogers, USMC and V. Keith Fleming, Jr., all respected historians. It is one of several volumes, and is on file with the Library of the Marines Corps. The second is a "Command Chronology for the period 1 February to 28 February 1967," produced by the 2-3 Marines. Frankly, I found the first easier to follow than the second, so much of what I have written has been drawn from it in summary fashion —- I'll do my best to summarize and remain accurate. Forward any corrections to edmarek@mac.com.

CampCarroll

Dewane's 2-3 Marines were located at Camp Carroll. But it is important to note that many of the 2/3's battalion had been relieved and were on board ships ready to rotate out of the RVN and go to Okinawa. Dewane's Golf Company was the only one left in tact and ashore, Capt. Carl E. Bockweitz, USMC, in command. Capt. Bockweitz reportedly had been assured his Golf Co. would not have to go north.

However, on February 27, a Marine reconnaissance (recon) team located about 5 kms northwest of Cam Lo ran into trouble. It tried to ambush two enemy soldiers and soon found itself engaged with an enemy company, lead element of the 324B Division which had already made its way into the RVN. As you recall, the 324B planned to cross the DMZ and invade. The Marine recon team was surrounded by some 100 NVA troops.

As a result, the L/3-4 Marines were ordered to reinforce, but encountered slow moving because of 4-foot high brush that blocked the route.

The assurances given to Capt. Bockweitz rapidly melted away. The recon team was trapped and had to be saved. Bockweitz was told to move Golf Co. out of Camp Carroll, on February 27. L/3-4 Marines (Lima Co.) moving toward the recon team were hit by the enemy and there was a significant firefight. Nonetheless, it broke the enemy and kept moving toward the recon team. Tanks were involved in the movement, but one threw a track. Golf Co. decided it could not leave the tank unattended, so it established a night position during which time wounded, I believe mostly from Lima Co., were evacuated.

More reinforcements were committed, including the 2nd Bn command group and its Foxtrot Co. Their goal was to link up with Golf Co. and sweep through the area back to Cam Lo.

I need to pause here. Note that I said L/3-4 Marines were on their way to reinforce the recon team. That's Lima Co., 3rd Bn 4th Marines. Recall I said most of the 2-3 Marines were on their way back to Okinawa, except Golf Co., Dewane's Co. My point is that the 3-4 Marines were replacing the 2-3 Marines when all this occurred.

The enemy blocked that plan to link up with Golf Co. by launching a vicious mortar and infantry attack, much of which was directed at Lima Co. It was hit with some 150 mortar shells striking from three sides, heavy automatic weapons, small arms and rocket propelled grenades (RPG). Reinforcements now were directed to help Lima Co. So we have at least the recon team and Lima Co. in trouble.

I need to highlight here that multiple Marine infantry companies from two different regiments were moving to the fight and were engaging enemy all along the way. If you read the details, this is what can make the entire fight tough to follow — lots of Marines on the move and finding themselves on some kind of fight along the way.

In the mean time, Dewane's Golf Co. made it to meet the recon team, and together they moved north to Hill 124 to establish blocking positions. Hill 124 was a commanding terrain feature along the enemy's probable route of withdrawal. At about 1035 in the morning of February 28, Golf Co. began moving up the hill. The enemy was well concealed around both flanks and opened fire. The fighting was heavy and casualties mounted on both sides. Capt. Bockweitz, the Golf Co. commander, was killed. Second Lieutenant Richard Mellon, Jr. took command. The fighting continued. Golf Co. survivors were only able to recover their dead in late afternoon. Reinforcements moved to join up with Golf Co. The Marines, seeing they could not establish fire superiority, and knowing the enemy was well hidden behind the brush, began to withdraw in late afternoon.

Major Robert F, Sheridan, USMC, in charge of the 2nd Bn command group, said this about their withdrawal:

"All radios had been hit and casualties continued to mount. Moving the dead out of the killing zone required feats of bravery beyond comprehension."

He also has said:

"(We) attacked and secured the high ground in the area, encountering large numbers of well-equipped NVA troops. In my year in Vietnam, I had never seen this number of NVA troops in the open … We were ordered to proceed . . . knowing full well we were walking into a hornet's nest. Based on the number of enemy forces we had already encountered and the vast amounts of equipment, new weapons, and ammunition, we knew we were outmanned and outgunned. . . . We left the perimeter . . . and within 200 yards we came upon a very large radio complex. The trail was narrow and we could not disperse our troops. One could almost smell the enemy forces."

I believe Pfc. Richard Dewane was in this fight somewhere, was killed in action by the small arms fire during these incredible attacks, and was recovered and removed by his Marine Corps brothers and taken back to Camp Carroll for ultimate return to his family.

Overall, the NVA's plan to invade was set back. Actions were taken to reinforce the Marines in I Corps with Army forces, an action that enabled the Marines in southern I Corps to move north toward the DMZ and Danang areas since the NVA were expected to regroup and try again.
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Neil Ellis Bateman, Pfc, USA, KIA near Duc Pho, RVN, May 15, 1967, Maryvale High School, Cheektowaga, NY Class of '66

BatemanNeil
Neil Ellis Bateman, Pfc, USA, KIA Quang Ngai, RVN, May 15, 1967. He was 20. Neil went to Maryvale High School in Cheektowaga, and graduated in 1966. He was a former president of Explorers of Cheektowaga. He attended St. Stephens Church. Harold Reese remembers him as “the gentle giant .. loved and respected by all … he was a hero and a patriot.” He was an outstanding athlete at Maryville, an “All State” champion in wrestling and an Eagle Scout. His body was recovered and he is buried at Buffalo Cemetery in Cheektowaga. He was survived by his parents, and two brothers, one of whom was a Navy Hospital Corpsman.
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Editor's note: Hopefully you have read about the loss of Richard Knaus, the first from Cheektowaga to be KIA in Vietnam. Like Bateman, Knaus was buried in Buffalo Cemetery in Cheektowaga. I am told by a relative of Knaus that he and Bateman were buried amidst a circle of others, and that each's burial site is exactly opposite the other.
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Neil’s brother noted, “He was a leader of his patrol. Neil ran at the enemy firing his rifle so that his patrol was able to get back to safety.”

Paul Wilde commented:

“The cool crowd (in high school), the preppies, the hoodlums, you name it, always respected Neil, because he respected them, no matter their differences. I remember his funeral, it must have been 5 miles long, the whole school went … We heard the story of how they (his company) had parachuted into a hot zone and were ambushed. Neil stayed behind to lay down cover fire with a M30. He never moved from the machine gun. He saved many a friend that day, but couldn't save himself. I can only imagine, knowing him as I did, that all he was worried about were his friends. They instituted a Neil Bateman award at Maryvale Senior High School in Cheektowaga, NY in his honor.”

Bateman was assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division "Screaming Eagles," or B/1-327 Infantry. He posthumously received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and Purple Heart.

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The following is extracted from his Citation accompanying the Silver Star Medal. It describes what Bateman encountered, and what he did:

“Private First Class Bateman distinguished himself by valorous actions on 15 May 1967 while serving as Point Man for Company B, 1st Battalion (Airborne), 327th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, while on a search and destroy mission in the Duc Pho vicinity. While moving down a trail Private First Class Bateman came under intense enemy automatic weapons fire from a well entrenched numerically superior North Vietnamese Army force. Without hesitation, and with complete disregard for his personal safety, he charged forward into the murderous hail of fire being directed at him until he was only forty meters from the enemy emplacements. Upon seeing the rest of his platoon pinned down, he stood up completely exposing himself to the enemy in an attempt to place effective fire on the insurgents, and to draw their fire so that his comrades could withdraw the wounded. After his comrades had withdrawn, Private First Class Bateman remained in his exposed position, undaunted by the torrid wall of fire being directed at him, and continued to place effective suppressive fire on the insurgents until he was killed by machine-gun fire.”

Many of us have different feelings about the role of a point man, and some see him being used as bait. So I will remark here that the "point man" is among the most important and trusted men in a ground patrol. Sp4 Chuck Colgan and John Podlaski wrote an article entitled, "A day in the life if an infantry point man in Vietnam," and said this about one who served as a point man for them in Vietnam, nicknamed "Tennessee:"

"The platoon leader has a great deal of confidence in Tennessee, whose friends claim that he is the best point man in the company. Months of experience have taught him to be sharp and listen to his sixth sense – the latter, saving his men on numerous occasions. When he’s up front, his eyes continually search out any irregularities in the terrain – picking up on things as simple as a broken twig or a turned over leaf on the trail – either is sufficient to alert him of an enemy presence. His ears analyze every sound heard from the jungle and his body is ready to respond in a micro-second if he senses danger. He faces booby traps, punji sticks, snipers and ambushes every minute they are on the move. Tennessee is an excellent map reader, uses the compass regularly and understands tactics in the event something goes awry. Pick out the coordinates on a map and Tennessee will lead you safely to that very spot."

The deal is the rest of the group follows the point man. He carries an enormous burden on his shoulders when leading these men. He also faces a lot of risk. He is out front, the one likely to make contact with the enemy first, perhaps a sniper, a deadly mine or a booby trap. Often a point man will be the experienced guy, the one leading men who are on the first or second patrol. Sometimes the point man would prefer being out front, because of his experience — he might think he had an advantage, a feeling of liberty, of being there on his own, leading men, not depending on some other point man. With their experience came senses that were heightened to be alert, sometimes able to pick out the enemy before he saw or heard them. Some point men didn't want anyone else in the platoon to take point, not trusting any of the others. All that said, a point man might be the "newbie," and that placed special stress on everyone. But I've read some memoirs from point men, and they've all said their senses out in the jungle got sharp as tacks very, very quickly.

You've read the citation describing what Bateman did. I'd like to review the kind of battle I believe Bateman found himself in on May 15, 1967, the day he was killed.

ICorpsVietnam

Bateman's unit, the 1/327th Infantry was one of three frontline maneuver battalions belonging to the 1st Brigade (1st Bde) of the 101st Airborne Division. The 1st Brigade was one of three brigades to form Task Force Oregon (TF Oregon), Major General William Rossen, USA, in command. TF Oregon had about 30,000 men assigned and they began to form up in February 1967. This is a map of I Corps, which had for some time been "Marine Country." You may recall from my discussion of Pfc. Richard Dewane, USMC, that following the attack on LZ Bird, the Marines moved up from southern I Corps to the DMZ to defend against an attack across the DMZ. They were replaced by Army units — in this case the 101 Airborne. You can see Quang Ngai Province, the province in which Bateman was killed, was the southern province of the Corps.

Most from TF Oregon were sent to the Chu Lai area (top red arrow). Smaller sized forces were assigned to the US base at Duc Pho (bottom red arrow). The airfield there was less capable of providing support than Chu Lai The troops began moving to their destinations in April 1967.

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Bateman's brigade was assigned to an area of responsibility (AOR) that included the Song Tra Cau and Song Ve Valleys, roughly shown by the graphic above. Its mission was to conduct search and destroy operations to find, fix and destroy residing VC and NVA forces and weapons caches and to eliminate their base camps west and northwest of Duc Pho.

Bateman's brigade moved out from its main base camp at Camp Eagle's Roost in Phan Rang along the coast. Phan Rang is off the map, on the coast to the south of Duc Pho. They moved by truck convoy and Navy Landing Ships Tank (LST) starting on May 1 and ending on May 6, 1967. Bateman's entire brigade made it to Duc Pho and settled in by May 8. Bateman's battalion, the 1/327th Infantry was known as "Above the Rest."

UH1AirAssaultInsertion

Phase 1 of the operation began on May 11 and ended on June 8, 1967. Bateman's 1st Battalion suited up and boarded 176th Helicopter Assault Co. (176th AHC) UH-1 "slick-ships" used for transporting troops on May 11, 1967. This photo shows a UH-1 insertion of Army troops as an example of a "slick ship" troop transport. Sometimes they dropped their forces on a hill, sometimes on flat land, sometimes hovering, sometimes landing, rotors always running for a quick departure.

Bateman's battalion's effort was known as Operation Malheur I. Its landing zone (LZ) had been bombarded by friendly artillery and "hosed down" by Army gunships prior to its arrival. His 1st Bn was taken to the Song Ve Valley.

SongVeValley

This is a photo of part of the Song Ve Valley River basin. Bateman's LZ was at the bottom of the Song Ve Valley River Basin. Each company was assigned coordinates for its search and destroy missions. The three companies spread out to increase the probability of finding enemy and destroying them.

Please recall two points from reading the accounts preceding Bateman. First, among the greatest challenges facing US forces in the RVN was finding the enemy. That's why they had to search for him. Second, our forces all too often, even when ostensibly involved in an offensive operation, actually found themselves in defensive operations because the enemy was dug in and would ambush and attack at will. Our forces had to react to that, starting on the defensive and if all went well moving to the offensive.

Bateman's company's location was about 10 kms from the coast. There were plenty of rolling hills at the base of the Central Highlands, along with thick jungle and heavy vegetation. The population was hostile to Americans and the RVN, and it hosted a well embedded VC infrastructure. To say the least, this was hostile country. It was not a question of the 1st Bde searching out the enemy —- the enemy was already there, well entrenched and ready to pounce on the offensive.

Intelligence estimated the 2nd VC Regiment to be the main opponent. Temperatures rose to the 90s in the day with humidity levels 60-90%.

The battalion encountered 10 light contacts in May 11. On May 12 there were eight more. Enemy casualties were high while the battalion lost one KIA and two WIA.

On May 14, 1967, more contacts were made. The official Army after-action report said there were eight US KIA and 36 WIA by this time.

On May 15, 1967, the day we lost Pfc. Neil Bateman, one platoon of the 1st Battalion contacted an estimated VC battalion size force located in fortified positions employing automatic weapons and mortars. I do not know for sure whether this was Bateman's platoon but the after action reports I was able to find left the impression that this was the main contact of the day, and could well have involved Bateman. It is worth summarizing.

Once the platoon of the 1st Bn became engaged with a VC battalion size force, UH-1Ds brought in a reinforcing company. One UH-1D was hit by direct mortar fire and destroyed. Results of this contact, which I believe is the one in which Bateman was involved, were US 3 KIA, 34 WIA, 1 UH-1D destroyed, seven UH-1D damaged, five UH-1B damaged and 20 VC KIA.

I will note that a platoon is normally 15-30 men strong, while a VC battalion can range from 300-800 soldiers. Cleary the platoon was outmanned and outgunned.

I believe the overall operation involving Bateman's 1/327th ended on August 2, 1967. There was intense fighting throughout this period. The Army reported the 1st Brigade accomplished its mission with 869 enemy KIA confirmed, 105 KIA probable, and some 80 WIA, 771 detainees. The US lost 81 KIA, and 594 WIA.

I probably should have mentioned this earlier. But this was Westmoreland's search and destroy strategy and it depended greatly on kill counts. The more enemy you killed, the better the war was going was the idea. The problem with that is the enemy just kept sending more men to fight, and the enemy was prepared to do that seemingly forever.

UH1Insertion

I'd like to pause for a moment on another point. While reading some accounts of events by 176th AHC fliers who were placing 1st Bde forces into the Song Ve Valley area I learned that the 176th was inserting troops "amidst a hail of machine-gun, rifle and mortar fire." The photo above shows a rifle squad from the 1st Cav being inserted in another battle — to give you the flavor. Pilot comments are instructive not only in seeing what the aircrews faced, but also what the ground forces they were inserting encountered in this battle of May 15, 1967.

One pilot, Donald Long, "remembers that we had to fly through a wall of green tracer fire going up in front of us." Many of the troops were hit by enemy fire shortly after jumping out of the helicopter. The helicopters would drop men off and pick up wounded for evacuation. This same pilot commented that the wounded were urging the aircrews to get out of the area fast. He said, "As we departed, the door gunner and crew chief were calling out 'machine gun 2 o'clock, machine gun 10 o'clock, machine gun left, right, etc...about 8 in all but miraculously we were able to keep flying. We weren't sure of whether we were hit going in or coming out. After departure, our instrument check showed all were 'in the green' so we kept flying. We took the wounded to the aid station, picked up another load of soldiers, and went back." During the extraction of forces later on, troops on the ground were told to go to the furthest helicopter so the ones closest could be available for the wounded. To get to those furthest helicopters meant the troops had to run through gunfire and mortar fire, and the aircrews had to sit in their helicopters hoping they could load up and get out before being destroyed. Long finally said, "To put this in perspective, I don't believe the 176th ever had a day quite so bad after that. I know for a fact that they had not had one even close to such intensity up to that point."

So Bateman was most surely in the thick of a very tough fight.

I found a quote from Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, circa 500 BC that seems to apply to Neil Bateman:

"Of every One-Hundred men, Ten shouldn't even be there,
Eighty are nothing but targets,
Nine are real fighters...
We are lucky to have them...They make the battle,
Ah, but the One, One of them is a Warrior...
and He will bring the others back."

I understand that Maryvale High School instituted a Neil Bateman Award in his honor. I believe it is called the Neil Bateman Dedication and Spirit Award. This award goes to an athlete who has been an inspiration to the team, who is always there for his teammates and can always be counted on when the going gets rough. Furthermore, Bateman was inducted into the Maryville Athletic Wall of Fame in 2000.
__________

Michael J. Hilburger, Sp4, USA, KIA Quang Tin, RVN, May 1, 1967, Bennett High School, Buffalo, '63.

Michael J. Hilburger Photo
Michael J Hilburger, Sp4, USA, KIA Quang Tin Province, RVN, May 1, 1967. Michael went to Bennett High School, Buffalo NY and graduated in 1963, but his home was on S. Huxley Drive in Cheektowaga. He was 20. He also attended Niagara Community College and worked at the Chevrolet Motor Division, Town of Tonawanda. He was the eldest of seven children, five boys and two girls. He served in the infantry with B Company, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment (B/4/31 Infantry),196th Light Infantry Brigade. The record indicates he died from multiple fragmentation wounds incurred from an enemy grenade. Valerie Hilburger Giacotto, has written that on May 1, 1967 he was point man during Operation Junction City and stepped on a land-mine. She said he was a machine-gunner. His remains were returned to the US and he was buried at Acacia Park Cemetery, North Tonawanda, NY. He left a wife, Maryann Jordan Hilburger, a daughter Michelle, four brothers, two sisters and his parents.

CFJC-map

Hilburger's 4/31 Infantry "Polar Bears" — he was in Bravo Company — was one of three battalions assigned to the 196th Light Infantry Brigade "Chargers" during what was known as Operation Junction City. The 196th in turn was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division (ID) "Tropic Lightning." The 4/31 deployed to Vietnam in spring 1966, initially operating in War Zone D and around Tay Ninh near the Cambodian border.

airassault

Junction City was a search and destroy operation. It employed more troops over a larger area than ever before and employed more helicopters than any previous operation in Army history, some 240. Four Army of Vietnam (ARVN) and 22 US infantry and 14 artillery battalions were involved, totaling 25,000 troops. The photo is an example of what a major air assault might look like as the UH-1s come roaring in with their ground forces aboard.

cosvnLocations

The main targets were the Central Office for South Vietnam (COSVN) Headquarters, the 9th VC Division, and the 101st North Vietnamese Army (NVA) Regiment, and their installations. US intelligence felt it had a good handle on the COSVN location on the Mimot Plantation astride the Cambodian/Vietnamese border. Tackling these units was meant to ease the pressure on Saigon to the southeast. The operation was conducted from February 22 - May 14, 1967.

COSVN HQ was a controversial subject. It was believed at the time to be a mini-Pentagon for the enemy, responsible for all political, logistical and military operations throughout the RVN, at the least the southern RVN. The National Liberation Front (NLF) headquarters, the VC, was adjacent to Ta Not while the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG), an underground government opposed to the RVN government, had its presidential headquarters near Ben Ra. The PRG justice ministry was in the area of Hoa Hep. Other ministries and bases were stretched out along the border from Xom Giua to below Tapang Robon. USAF B-52s bombed the areas in secret in 1969 and 1970 and called the COSVN area Base Area 353. Most of the PRG compounds are targeted as Base Area 354. All this said, to view the COSVN HQ as a "mini-Pentagon" may well have been not completely accurate. It has been thought by many that various elements of the COSVN HQ were spread around in pockets along the border area, rather than in one centralized location.

Despite US intelligence at the time feeling it had a good location of the COSVN HQ on the Mimot Plantation, the reality is the US had a lot of problems during much of the war determining precisely where it was located. During the period 1965-1970 the COSVN HQ was pretty well thought to be on the Vietnamese-Cambodian border in and around the Cambodian Mimot rubber plantation. Its main advantage was that all its supplies and forces came to it through Laos and Cambodia, both places where US ground forces were not allowed to fight. Junction City would concentrate on War Zone C (on the next map, the shaded area top-left).

I should comment here that once US ground forces were allowed to go into Cambodia searching for the COSVN HQ in 1970, a place the GIs called "The City," they did find vast amounts of stores the enemy left behind in camouflaged bunkers and huts. The quantities were so massive that Army engineers had to construct new roads to enable US forces to move the stores out of the area.

Back to the fight.

The VC 9th Division was subordinate to COSVN and operated along the border area though one of its regiments was located only 25 kms northeast of Saigon. And this was the worry, that enemy forces would stream through Cambodia into the RVN and straight to Saigon. The US acquired intelligence changed the focus of the operation from eastern War Zone C to west-central War Zone C, which caused the operation, scheduled to begin in January, to be moved to February. For many reasons, this was a very complex operation. Up until now, much of this area had been a sanctuary for the enemy.

Hilburger was in the fight from the start. The 196th brigade, Hilburger's outfit, was tasked to locate and destroy key enemy installations and fortifications, deny use of the Saigon River area as an enemy logistical base and headquarters, and establish blocking positions to prevent enemy escape using the Saigon River.

HilburgerMap

I have assembled this map based on a description of events presented on the internet by Hilburger's sister, Valerie Hilburger Giaccotto. She said her brother's unit, 196th Brigade's 4/31 Infantry "Polar Bears," were airlifted out of Tay Ninh on February 21, 1967. They then assembled at a place called Soui Da, close to the Saigon River. I have labeled the approximate location of Soui Da as the Landing Zone (LZ) with the green arrow. Recall the 196th was subordinate to the 25th ID. It was assigned the northwestern and western portions of War Zone C, tasked to drive north, though it would have to stop at the Cambodian border.

So the brigade was lifted from Tay Ninh to Soui Da on February 21, 1967, the day before the operation was to start. Hilburger wrote a letter, subsequently printed by the
Buffalo Evening News, entitled, "Living Hell," in which he talks of a fierce firefight on February 21. An excerpt read:

"Things were pretty bad on Operation Junction City. Our platoon was ambushed February 21 on a sweep. It was living hell. God spared my life. By all rights, I should have been killed. We found the Viet Cong bunkers and were blowing them. As we were walking down the trail, the Cong opened up. The point man was shot in the heart about 10 feet from me. I could see he was dead. I took a step back and opened up. The VC were about 25 meters from us but we couldn't see them–the jungle was so thick. When I finished firing, I hit the ground. In front of me, no farther than 10 feet away were the point man, his shepherd dog, the medic and to my right, a sergeant, all dead. We got the bodies and the wounded out on homemade stretchers. Three of my friends are dead, one is wounded and another went berserk. It was like a nightmare. I have 17 weeks to go and I pray to God I make it. Specialist 4/C Michael Hilburger, Cheektowaga."

Operation Junction City was a long one, almost 90 days, and I expect Hilburger was in it for most of that time until he was killed. Begun on February 22, it ended on May 14, 1967. He was killed on May 1.

On May 1, Michael was point man and stepped on a land-mine. His sister wrote that Michael warned his patrol that he had stepped on a land-mine so they could take cover. He knew it would blow as soon as he lifted his foot. His sister said they were only 50 meters from their objective. She then went on to say, "As I read in articles/writings of this group of men, none had survived." Michael Hilburger was killed about two weeks before he was scheduled for discharge. He received the Purple Heart (posthumous).

I'll not try any further details on this operation. It was at the time the largest military offensive operation in the war.

From a "search and destroy" standpoint, General Westmoreland's war of attrition standpoint — kill more of them than they kill of you —the enemy suffered 2,728 casualties by the end of the operation. The VC 9th Division was just about destroyed. Most enemy forces that remained alive were forced to recede into Cambodia, a safe haven. The US recovered a treasure-trove of important documents. The enemy had put up its very best, hard-core troops, and lost most of them. Indeed during the first six months of 1967 the enemy lost an estimated 15,000 troops per month from all causes including defections, disease, wounded, desertion, and battle deaths. The enemy could not replace those men that fast, but, importantly, the enemy could and would replace them, and that was what was wrong with the search and destroy concept — The US simply could not kill them all.

The US lost 282, one of whom was Sp4 Michael Hilburger, along with some 1,500 injured-wounded.

Most objectives were accomplished. Most enemy forces and their installations in War Zone C were destroyed. However, the COSVN was not destroyed, in retrospect primarily because the enemy abandoned it fleeing into Laos and Cambodia. US forces were unable to get behind the enemy to prevent them from receding into those countries because they were restricted from going in there. Furthermore, the US forces found themselves on the defensive more than the offensive. Most of the engagements were initiated by the enemy, not the US, and most were small unit engagements instead of major encounters which is what the US sought. There is also quite a bit of documented evidence that the enemy had intelligence sources well placed in the RVN bureaucracy to include social circles frequented by General Westmoreland and ARVN generals.This may have reduced the effectiveness of US deception and reduced the element of surprise.

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General Westmoreland was well aware of what was happening during this operation. He met with President Johnson (LBJ) in Guam on March 20, 1967. He told the president he did not believe the enemy organization could be totally destroyed unless US and ARVN forces were permitted to stop the NVA infiltration of manpower and supplies, which would require those forces to go into Cambodia and Laos. Westmoreland told LBJ the war could go on indefinitely if he were not allowed to go in. LBJ would not permit it, worried over the impact on the Geneva Accords of 1954 which labeled those countries neutral. The enemy did not abide by these accords, but the US generally did with the exception of covert special forces infiltrations — at the least, the US wanted to leave the impression globally that it was abiding by those accords.

I wish to repeat what I said for another man killed while walking as point man on a patrol:

The "point man" is among the most important and trusted men in a ground patrol. Sp4 Chuck Colgan and John Podlaski wrote an article entitled, "A day in the life if an infantry point an in Vietnam, wrote this about one who served as a point man in Vietnam, nicknamed "Tennessee:"

"The platoon leader has a great deal of confidence in Tennessee, whose friends claim that he is the best point man in the company. Months of experience have taught him to be sharp and listen to his sixth sense – the latter, saving his men on numerous occasions. When he’s up front, his eyes continually search out any irregularities in the terrain – picking up on things as simple as a broken twig or a turned over leaf on the trail – either is sufficient to alert him of an enemy presence. His ears analyze every sound heard from the jungle and his body is ready to respond in a micro-second if he senses danger. He faces booby traps, punji sticks, snipers and ambushes every minute they are on the move. Tennessee is an excellent map reader, uses the compass regularly and understands tactics in the event something goes awry. Pick out the coordinates on a map and Tennessee will lead you safely to that very spot."

The important point here is the rest of the group follows the point man. As a result carries an enormous burden on his shoulders when leading these men.
__________

Daniel Edmund Klos, Sp4, USA, KIA Quang Nam, RVN, November 12, 1967, Maryvale High School, Cheektowaga, NY, Class of '65

KlosDaniel
Daniel "Danny" Edmund Klos, Sp4, USA, KIA Quang Nam, RVN, November 12, 1967. He was 19. Daniel attended Infant of Prague elementary school and Maryvale High School in Cheektowaga, graduating in 1965. He served in Alpha Company, 37th Signal Battalion (Bn), 21st Signal Group, 1st Signal Brigade, Danang, the location of the 37th's headquarters. Some records say he was in Bravo at Hoi An, but his obituary and a few other sources say Alpha Co. I am fairly certain Alpha Co. is correct. The reason this was an issue for me is he was killed near Hoi An, but I'll talk to that later. Daniel was a multichannel transmission systems specialist and worked as a radio relay carrier attendant.

Bob McCarthy, who knew the family, has said, "Danny was a great guy. Absolutely the best."

Mike McCarthy grew up with Danny. He has said that he, Dave Lewandowski and Danny were pals together all the time. They had Honda "160 motorcycles" and rode around a lot. Mike said Danny was "an excellent guy. He had a cute girlfriend. He came home after his brother was killed in an accident and we told him he did not have to go back, he was a sole survivor. But he was going to go back, and that was that. I think he was killed shortly after he returned. He was a fabulous guy, still missed to this day. When I and Dave Lewandowski get together we always bring him up. He was always fooling around, always funny."

Larry Fisk has written, "Danny: I reflect on our friendship from high school and have never forgotten you. I think of you often. A more gentle soul I've never met. I'm sorry for the sacrifice you had to make, but I'm proud to have known you. To me you are a hero. Your friend and brother always, Larry Fisk, SP4."

Eileen Shaefer has said, "Dear Dan, I remember you so well from grammar school. One of the cutest guys ever. I saw your name on the moving wall yesterday. Hurt is new all over again. Thank you for your sacrifice and know that you are missed greatly everyday."

And Robert Tripp commented, "I salute a fine neighbor and a brave warrior for freedom, gone too soon from this life."

KlosDaniel
The record indicates he died because of an explosive device while missing in action (MIA). I have found another record which says the cause of death was "other weapons including cutting or piercing or blunt instruments." I received preliminary information from a lady who was told at the time of Klos's loss that "his jeep hit a mine and blew up." I have also found a record that says he died from and explosive device. His obituary said he was killed by a land mine explosion near Hoi An. I have also found a record which listed him as KIA while MIA, which I learned meant "died while missing."

DeuceAndAHalf2


A friend of the family and a close friend of Danny, and a note left by a Marine, tells the real story — Sp4 Danny Klos was in a Deuce-and-half truck which hit a 500 lb. bomb put down as a landmine. The MIA label may have been attached early on because he was unrecognizable when friendly forces came upon the remains, the blast was so violent. The exact words from a friend were, "There was nothing left." In any event, he is formally liked as KIA.

A Marine, James Copeland, assigned to the 2nd Combined Action Group (CAG), Tan Thanh, Vietnam, was tasked to recover the remains. He reported there were a total of six, all killed. Copeland said the 500 lb. bomb device was set off electronically outside his unit's position in the village of Tan Thanh. Tan Tanh is a ward of the town of Hoi An and therefore not far from Danang, Klos's home base

The following are the other five killed in this explosion. All were from Klos's Alpha Co. — Sp4 Joseph Candiano, Sgt. Goler Williams, Pfc James Hood, Sp4 William Nulph, and Sgt. Sylvester Sagen. My information is that they were traveling to Hoi An to test fire weapons at a US compound located there.

The 500 lb. bomb was probably a Mark 82 unguided, low-drag general-purpose bomb, used extensively by fight-bombers and bombers in the Indochina War. It probably failed to detonate, which many of them did, the VC must have found it, learned how to convert it into a landline, and then buried it, hooking it up to electronic detonation devices.

Vietnamese and Laotians were extremely innovative in what they would use these "duds" for. Do a Google search on this bomb and see the images. It's incredible. While the bomb looks big it was among the smallest the US used. That said, it was a powerful bomb.

Jim Copeland on August 12, 2015 sent me an e-mail containing his memory of the scene and some photos.

"From what I was told 6 members of an Army signal unit, stationed in or near Hoi An, decided to come to our compound which was due east on the coast, to fire their weapons. We had a free fire zone across the river from us.

KlossMineCrater


"(This picture) shows the crater and a temporary foot bridge we built to allow us and the villagers to cross as this was the only road to our compound.

KlossMineTruckBedAnotated


"The second pic shows us crossing the bridge on patrol but if you look to the right of the man walking across the bridge you can make out the rear of the truck bed. it is upside down. (Editor note: I have pointed the red arrow where I think the rear of the truck bed is). The cab was totally destroyed.

"We saw the explosion and ran to the site, about 50 yards from the hole we saw the engine block by the side of the road. When we got to the site we found three men on the road who had been riding in the back of the truck. One man was still barely alive but died while our corpsman was working on him. We recovered the remains of three more bodies in the rice paddy about 20 yards from the blast site. We called in a med-evac helo and set up a security perimeter. That's when we received fire from the VC across the river.

"I was slightly wounded in the leg. A reaction force from Charlie Company, 1st Bn., 5th Marine Regt. came out to support us and the bodies were picked up and returned to DaNang."

I would like to stay with Marine Corps member Copeland briefly. I have described previously the debate between General Westmoreland and his search and destroy strategy and the General Walt Marine Corps strategy of "clear and hold" and the Marine Corps Civic Action Program. Copeland described his mission with the Delta-5 2nd CAG this way: "The mission was to keep the VC infrastructure out of the village and control the village and do civil action stuff, like building schools. Kind of win their hearts and minds." In January 1968, VC penetrated the village from the inside, attacked the Marines, Copeland was shot in the leg, nonetheless returned to his post to continue fighting and when the Marines prevailed was evacuated to the Danang hospital. That the VC had come from the inside of the village with which the Marines were trying to work is very telling.

Thanks to Copeland and the others with him, Sp4 Klos's remains were recovered and identified. He is buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery, Cheektowaga. Sp4 Klos was survived by his parents and a sister.

Bob Reitmeier, a friend of his, went through basic training and advanced infantry training with Daniel. They were also assigned to the same signal battalion, though Bob was in Charlie Co. Bob has noted, "Dan had to go home that summer because his brother was killed in an accident, we told Dan not to come back and in retrospect we probably could have insisted, except Dan would have come back no matter what … One remembers kindergarten through high school, baseball every day in that burned out field, sipping his mom's iced tea and talking, the laughs and tears of all those years are the memories that still linger 34 years after his passing."

Lorie Hettinger said Daniel lived across the street on Lyman Ave. She commented, "He was a nice guy, a little shy around us girls, kind of quiet."

37thSignalMotorPoolDanang

The 37th Signal Bn was one of three important signal battalions set up in the RVN in late 1966, responsible for I Corps, the northern most corps and the one straddling the DMZ. It was headquartered at Danang. Alpha Co. was also located at Danang. This is a photo of the 37th Signal Bn motor pool at Danang in 1967 — you can see the deuce-and-halfs lined up to move communications equipment and technicians around the region to install and operate. They were also used to pick up Vietnamese workers from town and take them back.

37thSignalBnDanang

I Corps at that time was Marine Corps country. But the Army's 1st Brigade was responsible for military communications throughout the RVN. Remembering that the Marines only arrived in 1965, setting up communications in I Corps in 1966 and 1967 was a daunting task, especially since the Marines move around a lot, and set up fire bases and other outlooks in remote locations. Klos's 37th Bn was responsible for supporting a tactical, fighting zone with vital communications to support rapidly expanding combat operations. Most units didn't even arrive until late December 1966. The 37th operated a very sophisticated long line communication system with radio links to several other bases in the RVN. All of the electronics were in the building shown here called the EE Building. There was also a supply warehouse and a powerhouse with huge electrical power generators. A system like this took a lot of energy.

I can say that by December 1967 Hanoi was infiltrating massive numbers of troops into the RVN, and military authorities expected a major offensive in I Corps at any time. As a result, new communications had to be set up quickly to support area command and control. It is mind boggling how quickly the 37th Bn's 1st Brigade had to set up all manner of communications to include satellite communications and many installations on the ground. Much of the equipment being employed was new, including portable and mobile communications and battlefield secure devices.

During the war, the 1st Signal Brigade suffered 193 casualties. I can tell you that the 37th Bn at Danang suffered a major enemy rocket attack in February 1967. The cryptographic, maintenance and operations vans and a 100 KW generator were destroyed. Two barracks, a laundry building, one storage shed and the side of a communications building were damaged. There were eight KIA and 15 Wounded in Action (WIA) from the 37th as a result of this attack. tell you this because Danang was hit by numerous enemy mortar and rocket attacks throughout the war.

I should also mention that while the men in the 1st Signal Brigade had a support role, as the saying goes "everyone is infantry," and they would often have to fight, especially when an enemy force infiltrated their area of operations.
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Ronald Walter Zydel, Pfc., USA, KIA Tay Ninh, RVN, September 17, 1968, Seneca Vocational High School, Buffalo

Zydel_Ronald_Walter_DOb_1948
Ronald W. Zydel, Pfc., USA was killed in action in Tay Ninh, RVN, September 17, 1968. He was an infantryman with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry "Bobcats," 25th Infantry Division "Tropic Lightning." His body was recovered and he is buried at Saint Adalbert's Roman Catholic Cemetery, Cheektowaga. Fred Sztukowski alerted me to this loss on February 26, 2016 and I added him to our list of Cheektowaga's Vietnam Fallen that same date. Mr. Sztukowski knew Ron and his family as they grew up in the same neighborhood.

BronzeStar
Zydel received the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart posthumous. He had been in-country for exactly five weeks before being killed. He was a 1965 graduate of Seneca Vocational High School and was employed by Western Electric Co. Inc. until he entered the service in March 1968. He was engaged to Miss Christine Kasprowicz, also of Cheektowaga.

Greg Feldt knew the family well. He commented, "From what I can remember he was only there a short time. He gave the ultimate sacrifice. I lived on Reo Ave and used to catch the school bus on the corner, and when the weather was bad the Zydel family would let us into the foyer to stay warm and dry. Was a great man, will never forget that family."

During August 1968, a month before Zydel was killed, the entire 1st Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division assembled at Dau Tieng about 75 miles northwest of Saigon near the Saigon River and set up a base camp on part of an abandoned rubber plantation, which I believe was the Ben Cui Rubber Plantation, which I'll talk about in a moment. On August 19 the mechanized unit was attacked by 1,000 NVA.

SoldiersatBenCui1968

Fighting was so heavy that Dau Tieng was cut off and convoys could not get through to resupply the force. As a result supplies were flown in. The rubber plantation was filled with enemy forces. Many small units were attacked by overwhelming enemy forces and suffered greatly. More infantry and artillery were flown in. Fighting was heavy and casualties high.

The fighting here is often referred to as the Third Offensive, the third wave of massed North Vietnamese troops after the Tet Offensive. The photo shows troops of the 25th Infantry Division relaxing in between fighting at Ben Cui.

Approximate-location-of-the-Ben-Cui-Rubber-Plantation-in-the-Iron-Triangle-Area-of-South-Vietnam

The day before Zydel was killed, September 16, 1968, his company relieved Alpha Company and occupied night defensive positions at the Ben Cui Airstrip, roughly in the area marked by the red oval on the map. While Alpha Co. was in place, a flare ship was orbiting over its position and enemy movements were observed to the south of the perimeter. Alpha Co. came under heavy enemy attack with RPGs, small arms and automatic weapons fire including ground assault. Alpha suffered two killed and ten wounded.

Ben-Cui-Rubber-Plantation-today-Digital-Military-Historian-1

The Ben Cui Airstrip was located adjacent to the Ben Cui Rubber Plantation, known locally as the "Little Rubber." The plantation was part of the Michelin Ribber Plantation near Dau Tieng, about 75 miles northwest of Saigon. This is a photo of the Ben Cui plantation today. Even in daylight, walking through this maze can seem like walking at night it can get so dark inside.

On September 17, 1968, at 0202 hours, Company B reported that it was receiving mortar, rocket propelled grenade (RPG), and small arms fire from the north and east. At 0220 hours, Company B reported that it was receiving a heavy ground attack. At 0325 hours, RPG and automatic weapons fire was still being received. At 0422 hours, Company B reported that enemy contact had ceased. Air strikes were employed in the area.

BenCuiDustoff

At 0435 hours, Company B requested a dust-off medevac. At 0452 hours, another enemy ground assault was launched against the perimeter. Enemy mortar fire was also received. The assault was short lived. At 0516 hours, dust-offs were again requested. By 0640 hours, the dust-offs were completed. Dust Off is a military term for emergency patient evacuation of casualties from a combat zone, usually by helicopter, but also by vehicles on the ground. I have done an in-depth story about the Dust Offs, "Medevacs & Medics, Angels of Mercy." The photo is an example of a 1968 Dust Off rescue at Ben Cui.

Two Bobcats from Company B were killed in the contact, one of whom was Zydel, and fourteen were wounded.

As a result of the 1st Battalion's service during the time Zydel was with it, the battalion received the Presidential Unit Citation which read, in part, as follows:

"The 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 5th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division and its attached units distinguished themselves by extraordinary heroism in combat operations against numerically superior enemy forces in the Republic of Vietnam from 18 August to 20 September 1968. During this period the 1st Battalion Task Force, through reconnaissance in force, ambush, counterambush, and reaction missions effectively destroyed a regimental-size enemy force and prevented the enemy from seizing the initiative in its "third offensive … The heroic efforts, extraordinary bravery and professional competence displayed by the men of the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry and attached units are in the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon themselves, their units, and the Armed Forces of the United States."
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James Mark Skomski, Sp4, USA, KIA Tay Ninh, RVN, February 8, 1969, Seneca Vocational High School, Buffalo.

SkomskiJames
James M. Skomski, Sp4, USA, was killed in action in Tay Ninh, RVN on February 8, 1969. He died from small arms fire. Skomski was an infantryman with Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion 12th Cavalry (A/2/12 Cav), 1st Cavalry Division. Skomski attended St. Ann's Parochial School and Seneca Vocational High School in Buffalo. He lived with his wife, Lorraine, on Burdette Dr. in Cheektowaga. He was a former employee of the American Optical Co. in Cheektowaga. His body was recovered and returned to the US.

airassault

Skomski's 2/12 Cav served the 1st Cav Division as airmobile infantry, meaning that the men were usually inserted into and extracted from a potential combat area by helicopter. Such airmobile operations were first employed on a major scale in Vietnam after several years of exercising the concept in the US.

Tay_Ninh_Base_Camp_196_op_800x448

The 2/12 Cav was located at Tay Ninh Combat Base from November 1968-May 1970. Tay Ninh Combat Base, shown here, was only 12 kms (7 miles) from the Cambodian border.

I do not know the circumstances surrounding Skomski's death. I do know the enemy ramped up its attacks against American bases and RVN cities throughout the country in February 1969 which would evolve into a major offensive by February 22. I also know that in 1969 the 1st Cav Division's Tactical Area of Responsibility (TAOR) was a 50-square mile area from 35 to 50 miles north-northwest of Saigon. This sector included several RVN provinces that bordered Cambodia. One such province was Tay Ninh. It was contiguous with Cambodia on three sides and one of 10 RVN provinces that experienced the highest war casualties. The division's three brigades were dispersed throughout the TAOR. There was a very large base at Tay Ninh West from which the helicopters and logistics worked. The infantry patrolled mostly jungle terrain east and north of Tay Ninh, often from Fire Support Bases (FSBs), also called Landing Zones (LZs). The infantry's job was to find the enemy and his supply caches and destroy them. Infantry forces often operated from the LZs.

NVACambodiaBorder

Eastern Cambodia hosted a large number of NVA and VC forces along with massive supply depots. Enemy forces could easily withdraw from the RVN into Cambodia to rest, reorganize, retrofit and resupply. The Ho Chi Minh Trail from the NVN through Laos into the RVN had by this time been extended into Cambodia and thence into the RVN. Cambodia was a safe haven for them. The Cambodian leader, Prince Sihanouk, had cut a deal with the NVN to allow it to operate freely in Cambodia. The US, however, would not let its forces cross into Cambodia at this point in time, except for small groups of special recon forces.

NVAInfiltrationCambodia


Furthermore, Routes QL-22 converging with QL-1 and QL-13 were major infiltration routes from Cambodia toward and into Saigon. You can see several were in Tay Ninh. It is worth noting that the 1st Cavalry Division and the
11th Armored Cavalry Regiment along with an ARVN Cavalry Regiment and ARVN Airborne Brigade went into Cambodia largely from Tay Ninh Province in 1970, one year after Stomski's death.

This area was dangerous country for US and ARVN forces, very dangerous. And it was the 1st Cavalry's TAOR. It arrived in the RVN in 1965, the first full US Army division in the RVN.

One American soldier was said to have commented:

"We had lost many men in combat assaults near the Cambodian border while the gooks would go back into Cambodia, sit there and laugh at us."

While US forces did sustain heavy losses in this region, the 1st Cav along with other units did a good job pushing enemy forces back into Cambodia and to the border region. Nonetheless, intelligence analysts projected the enemy was preparing a massive invasion into the southern RVN from Cambodian sanctuaries. Much of this work was done during the time Skomski served with the 1st Cav and, of course, he was infantry.

As a result, the years 1968 and 1969 saw the 1st Cav concentrating on protecting Saigon. February and March 1969 were turning points for US policy in Cambodia, President Nixon now in command. In 1967, President Johnson had authorized covert intelligence collection missions into Cambodia to find enemy base areas. By late 1968, President Nixon, elected but not yet serving, had already decided that military action against enemy forces in Cambodia had to be taken. On January 30, 1969 General Earle Wheeler, USA, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), recommended to now-President Nixon that he authorize bombing of enemy sanctuaries in Cambodia. General Creighton Abrams, USA, now the US commander in Vietnam, agreed and on February 9, 1969, one day after Sp4 Stomski's death, Abrams recommended the targets.

The enemy ramped up its attacks against American bases and RVN cities throughout the country in February 1969 which would evolve into a major offensive by February 22 employing assault teams and artillery attacks. The 3rd Brigade conducted Operation Cheyenne Sabre during February 1969. It was a search and destroy operation northeast of Bien Hoi designed to straddle and cut enemy infiltration routes. I have assumed Skomski may have been involved in this operation.

These enemy attacks in February infuriated President Nixon, especially when they attacked Saigon. He thought the US had an agreement with the NVN that it would not do this in return for the November 1968 halt to US bombing of the NVN. Infuriated, he authorized the bombing of enemy sanctuaries in Cambodia.

Operation Menu-Operation Breakfast carpet bombing of sanctuaries in Cambodia began on March 19, 1969. It was to be a covert operation and it went on for years.
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Anthony J. Minotti, Sgt, USA, KIA Bien Hoa, RVN, May 15, 1969, Saint Mary's High School, Lancaster, NY, Class of '64

MinottiAnthony
Anthony J. Minotti, Sgt, USA, KIA Bien Hoa, RVN, May 15, 1969. He was 24. Anthony went to Saint Mary's High School in Lancaster, NY and graduated in 1964. He attended the Erie County Technical Institute before entering the Army in November 1967. He arrived in Vietnam during October 1968. He was assigned first to B Company and then to the Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, "Jumping Mustangs," 1st Air Cavalry Division (B/1/8Cav and HHQ/1/8 Cav). He was first an infantryman and later served as a supply sergeant while in Vietnam.

Minotti was married to Susan who lived at the time in nearby Alden, NY. He had listed Alden as his home of record, which likely was because that was where his home was when he entered the service. However, at least two people, Carol Albrecht and Phyllis Kaupa Hand say they knew him when he lived in Cheektowaga, Albrecht saying he lived on Barrymore Rd. off of Maryville Dr. in Cheektowaga, three houses down from Albrecht's home. Furthermore, Albrecht has said she graduated with him in 1964 from St. Mary's. Gerald H. Wienckowski, Major, USA (Ret.) also went to St. Mary's with Minotti and graduated in 1964 with him. So I have added him to our list of Cheektowaga Fallen. As an aside, Phyllis Kaupa Hand has said she "had a crush on him." Steve Weiser was also his friend.


MinottiGrave

Minotti died of wounds suffered from a land mine, wounded by bomb fragments. He was hospitalized and apparently thought to have recovered, returned to work, but died three weeks after the incident. He was buried at Saint John the Baptist Cemetery, Alden, NY. He earned the Combat Infantryman Badge and received the Purple Heart.

Al Garcia was a friend of "Tony" Minotti. He wrote a special tribute published in theJuly 27, 1987 edition of
The Milwaukee Sentinel. Garcia said:

"Tony was a grunt, an infantryman with the Army's 1st Air Cavalry Division. He was so strikingly handsome I was certain no young woman would be safe around him. When I learned he was from New York, it only lent credence to my assessment. His charming smile helped round out the image of the young Casanova.

"Instead, Tony was a kind and sensitive 18-year old caught in the deadliest game on Earth and not quite sure how to adapt. (Editor's note: Minotti was born on October 17, 1945, making him 24 when he died, 22 when he joined the Army.)

"What he was certain of was his Bible. He carried it with him all the time, quoted form it as only the knowledgeable can and was easily the most quietly inspiration young person I have ever met.

"Tony didn't preach. His friends came to him for rejuvenation. He was unbelievably self-controlled for one so young."

Sgt. Minotti served as an infantryman in the combat zone for four months and became the supply sergeant for his company. I believe while in the field he was assigned to Bravo Company, B/1/8 Cav. Quite interestingly, hie comrades-in-arms "elected" him to be their supply sergeant. May of these men had more time in the field than Tony and would therefore have gotten a higher priority for the supply job, seen as more secure than fighting in the field. However, they all elected Tony to be the guy instead.

About a month later, Minotti drove his vehicle over a land mine at night. He was delivering a load of supplies to the helicopter pad for the men in the field fighting. The men who had voted him in to this supposedly secure job were devastated.

Garcia closed his commentary this way:

"(Tony) you will live with those of us who knew you. We will not let the others forget."

AirmobileMinottiStory

During Vietnam, the 1/8 cav was an airmobile unit, in the air assault business. That means helicopters like UH-1 Huey shown usually inserted and extracted them in and from the combat zone. The 1/8 arrived in Vietnam in 1965 and fought numerous campaigns in the RVN and Cambodia. You will recall I said that Minotti spent his first four months, about October 1968 - January 1969 in the field as an infantryman, so I will assume he saw his share of combat.

PhuocBaseCampRVN

In November 1968, about the time Sgt. Minotti arrived, the 1st Cav, after a succession of heavy combat operations, relocated to Phước Vĩnh Base Camp northeast of Saigon, near Bien Hoa Air Base. The Base Camp served as a place for troops to train, refit, relax, and then deploy, usually by helicopter lift into a combat zone. Minotti would likely have been airlifted out of here to forward positions while serving as an infantryman in the field, and would have spent most of his time here when he served as a supply sergeant. My research indicates much of the division's time during the rest of 1968 was devoted to clearing and securing the new division headquarters basecamp.

I have estimated that Sgt. Minotti served as an infantryman in the field rom October 1968 - January 1969. I cannot say he was in this operation for sure, but I feel confident he was part of Operation Navajo Warhorse I from December 15, 1968 through January 15, 1969. The operation included the 1/8 Cav along with the 2/8 and 2/12 Cavs conducted. This was a screening operation along the Cambodian border to prevent enemy infiltration and resupply. Generally what this meant is the troops were to intercept small units of enemy troops infiltrating from Cambodia safe havens into the RVN. My experience has been that quite often our forces were vastly outnumbered when intercepting these "small enemy units" that frequently turned out to be large enemy units.

As an aside, in 1970 the Division went into Cambodia to search and destroy enemy safe haven headquarters located there.

In his book
The Rise and Fall of an American Army: US Ground Forces in Vietnam, 1963-1973, Shelby Stanton wrote:

"The 1st Cavalry and 25th Infantry Divisions were committed along the Cambodian border.

"One of the toughest areas (was) NAVAJO WARHORSE, a stretch of dry rice fields covered by six cavalry battalions on one side squared off against several North Vietnamese divisions on the other. The brigade posted its battalions in Indian-fighting style, safeguarding the frontier with screening patrols backed by fire support base (FSB) strong-points in lieu of wooden stockades."

FSBTerryNavajoWarhorseAO

This photo shows Fire Support Base (FSB) Terry in the NAVAJO WARHORSE Area of Responsibility (AOR), during a quiet moment. NAVAJO HORSE was was called an operation, but it actually was an AOR. Combat operations occurred within that AOR that carried their own names. For example, Operation Toan Thang II combined the 1st Cav Division and an ARVN force in late 1968 through early 1969, the period of time Minotti was in the field. During that period, they claimed claimed nearly 270 known enemy casualties and uncovered one of the biggest caches of munitions found during the war. The spoils included more than 100,000 AK-47, 643 mortar, and 35,000 rounds for heavy machine guns plus a ton of explosives.

This was the problem for US forces, who at the time were not allowed to go into Cambodia. The result was the enemy stashed its weapons, ammo and supplies either inside the border or in the RVN close to the border.

As I mentioned, Sgt. Minotti was killed while driving his vehicle to a helicopter pad with supplies to be carried out to the fighting troops. I assume he did this on the Phouc Vinh Base Camp. That in turn implies infiltrators and saboteurs had placed the landmine on the base. One might think this not to be a prevalent occurrence. It was more prevalent then we would like to admit.

In a quick scan, I found one soldier's account of a suspected Viet Cong/NVA working in one of the division's mess halls at Phuoc Vinh. Another wrote of a Vietnamese always staring at his hootch (the building in which he lived). The two would frequently stare each other down, so the finally he troop turned the Vietnamese in. This Vietnamese turned out to be in infiltrator. Soldiers also would find unexploded hand grenades lying on the ground. The town outside the base was on-limits for the soldiers and Vietnamese were allowed to come onto the base. And of course, the base frequently received rocket and mortar attacks, and some of those rockets and mortars would not explode, instead lying on the ground.

If you are interested in seeing life on the base, I commend a worthwhile
photo album of the base camp on line.
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Ralph Theodore Glim, Sp4, USA, KIA Thua Thien RVN, December 15, 1970, JFK High School, Cheektowaga, NY Class of '68

GlimRalph
Ralph Theodore Glim, Sp4, USA, KIA Thua Thien RVN, December 15, 1970. He was 20. Ralph went to JFK High School in Cheektowaga, NY and graduated in 1968. He was assigned to the 2d Battalion 319th Field Artillery Regiment (2/319th FA) and was officially a member of the Engineer Corps. He was a power generation equipment operator and mechanic with 2/319th "Black Falcons." While in Vietnam, the 2/319th was assigned to the 3rd Brigade (3 Bde) of the 101st Airborne Division "Screaming Eagles." He had begun his tour of duty in Vietnam on November 10, 1970, shortly before he was killed.

One record says he died in an accident, non-hostile. However, I also saw he was killed in action, KIA. That indicated to me his death was more than driving his truck off a cliff. By the grace of God, I found an article in
The Buffalo News, dated November 12, 2001, written by Anthony Violenti. Violenti reported, "She (Ruth Glim, Ralph's sister) said he was killed while clearing a field of high grass when he spotted an explosive device." Violenti quoted Ruth, "My brother fell on it so others wouldn't be hurt." So he was KIA saving his brothers in arms. A newspaper announcement said the explosive device was at the boundary of his base camp.

David Davis was in Vietnam with Ralph and was there the day he died. Davis said, "His wit and sense of humor are memorable even now." His body was recovered and he is buried at St. Mathews Cemetery, West Seneca, NY. He had the nickname "Buzzy."

Jerry Laventure also served in Vietnam. When he got home and learned of Buzzy getting killed in action. Jerry remarked:

"I put on my uniform and went and stood Honor Guard over him until I broke down when I seen 'MA', his Mother, off to the side and she looked like the world had just ended. Ralph, his Father, came over to me and Cried on my shoulder. His Sister, Ruth, was in several of my classes when we were in JFK High together. Ruth came over and, with tears in her eyes, hugged and kissed me and thanked me for what I was doing.

"Ralph and I played on the same Little League team, the Braves, with Ralph's Father and Mother as our coaches. Ralph was a very good ball player and I was just there to warm the bench. That didn't matter to Buzzy or his Parents. They treated me as an All-Star and gave me every opportunity to play. Fortunately, I never really hurt the team as we went on to win the Championship in our division."

Robert Gordon said he lived across the street. Gordon said further, "He was what you would call a good guy … Buzzy never picked on anybody, never got into fights; he was just fun to be around."

The 2/319th deployed to Vietnam with the 3rd Brigade (3 Bde) 101st Airborne Division in December 1967. The 3 Bde had three infantry battalions and along with other support units, one of which was the 2/319th FA.This deployment was the world's largest and longest airlift directly into a combat zone.

For the next four years the 3 Bde moved all around central RVN, and elements of the 2/319th moved with it providing fire support. The brigade became known as the "Fire Brigade" and the "Wandering Warrior." While the 3 Bde and its supporting units were involved in some intensive fighting through 1969, the American strategy in Vietnam had begun to change. As a result, field action by the 3 Bde centered on support of civil operations in the pacification program and support to the Vietnamization program to get the RVN forces to take most of the load.

ThuaThienMap

The 3 Bde established a series of fire and patrol bases and conducted several operations that prevented the enemy from re-entering Thua Thien Province, the province shown in white. This province hosted the ancient city of Hué, and is the next province to the south of the northernmost province of Quang Tri. You may recall that the Battle of Hue of 1968, two years before Glim's death, was one of the bloodiest and longest battles of the war.

Through the period during which Sp4 Glim was killed, the 3 Bde assumed responsibility for pacification and development efforts for four districts of Thua Tien Province on the Perfume River. The Perfume River passes through Hué. The 3 Bde's infantry battalions supported by the 2/319th also did conduct search and attack operations in its brigade area of responsibility, which was in Thua Thien where Glim was killed. Shortly after his death, the brigade began to push westward into the highland jungles.

BronzeStar
He received the Bronze Star, posthumously.

Violenti talked of the importance of the traveling Virtual Wall. Ruth said, "When I saw my brother's picture on the computer, I just sat there and cried." His brother Bob submitted the photo, and said, "It makes me proud to see his picture and his story on this Web site … It shows that people do care about someone who gave his life for our country."

I will guarantee you he did not receive the Bronze Star for being killed in an accident.

I would appreciate any amplifying information on Sp4 Glim. Send to
edmarek@mac.com.
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I have tried to be as accurate as I can fifty years after the fact. If you find errors, please report them to me and I will repair the mistakes. It is easy to do. If you have anything to add, by all means, please do. I was able to find more about some of the men than the others. I am especially eager to receive more photos of these men. My e-mail is edmarek@mac.com. I will also remark that I have read and re-read this more than is proving useful — if you see grammatical or spelling errors, please holler. I hate them.
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About the editor

Ed201575px
I was born in Buffalo, NY and raised in Cheektowaga, a suburb of Buffalo. When I was a kid, we knew it as "the land of the crabapple tree." I lived on Cleveland Drive very close to the border with Buffalo. I attended Cleveland Hill Elementary and High Schools, graduated Class of '62, and attended the University of Buffalo, graduating in 1966. I was in the Cleveland Hill Elementary School fire of 1954 where we lost 15 students. I was commissioned a second lieutenant in the US Air Force in summer 1966, and entered active duty on January 30, 1967. I am an Indochina War veteran, 1972-1973, having flown aboard EC-47 electronic reconnaissance aircraft mostly over Laos and sometimes the RVN and Cambodia. I lost an aircrew to enemy fire on February 5, 1973, just days after the end of the Vietnam War, eight souls aboard, and I lost one aircrew on a crash landing at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base in northeastern Thailand, across the Mekong River from Laos. I served 20 years, retiring on February 1, 1987.

During my 20 year USAF career, I supervised mostly enlisted Airmen aged between 18-24, known as "first-term Airmen." They have always occupied a special place in my heart and soul. They, like those I have talked about here, served their country with valor, courage, loyalty and a sense of duty to their country and their fellow Airmen. I know them well and respect them greatly.

I have been operating this "Talking Proud Service & Sacrifice" web site for 15 years or so. I do it as a hobby. I concentrate on those who served and sacrificed, mostly in our military. Many of the stories I have done are at once heartbreaking yet the cause of spine chills filled with pride.

While doing these stories, I have always asked myself, "Where do we get these people, so courageous, so strong?" Every time I ask, I answer the question myself: "We get them from our neighborhoods, our schools, our churches, the house next door; they were the kids just down the street." I therefore asked myself recently if I knew whether we lost any Fallen in Indochina from my hometown, Cheektowaga. I was shocked that I and many others did not know the answer.

So I told myself that cannot stand. I must know. I did a bit of research, and found we lost seven. I do not know any of them. One graduated from my alma mater, Cleveland Hill, and two from nearby Maryville High School, where I did a bit of student teaching. Two lived in Cheektowaga but attended schools in Buffalo.

I decided to find out more about these men, specifically how they were remembered, and most important, how they died in combat, or might have died — the circumstances under which they were lost. Each one was killed in action (KIA), which means they were combatants who died at the hands of hostile forces. For me, each one of these men, along with the over 58,000 others KIA in the Indochina War demonstrated enormous courage and valor. Most of all those who died were drafted, and many of them did not really want to serve, but serve they did. They were well aware of the politics and distaste for this war back home, and many were aware of the limitations and restrictions placed on their shoulders, but most could not or would not deal with these issues — they had work to do, they had to fight, they had to protect their comrades, they had to try to survive, they had to fulfill their oaths — this was their duty, something expected or required of them by moral or legal obligation.

This is not a story about whether the Indochina War was right or wrong. It is a story about seven guys from my hometown who served in that war and died as a result. You will have no trouble respecting them, often beyond your imagination, as you learn about their service and sacrifice.