Thursday, September 8, 2016

Learning the hard way

Which is the only way soldiers learn war.

Tet 1968 for 244th Aviation Company:

"The TET truce never had a chance to get underway before the VC struck. General Westmoreland had personally alerted the IV Corps TOC for an impending VC offensive throughout the country to begin on 31 January, 1968. Nothing happened until about 0230 hours on the 31st. Then approximately 150-200 VC from the Tay Do and 303rd VC Battalions attacked the airfield. The 244th was manning a portion of the perimeter on the south side of the runway and bore the bulk of much of the night's fighting. The VC attacked savagely, using B-40 rockets, AK-47s and M-79 grenade launchers. The enemy got close to the 244th's positions but were repulsed - several dead VC were found only feet from the bunkers. The company duty officer, Captain Jack Spisak, directed the Cobra helicopters to the enemy and helped adjust their fire. The fighting lasted throughout the morning and finally at about 0500, the remainder of the enemy withdrew, being pursued by the Cobras. The 244th perimeter was not manned by trained infantrymen - they were mechanics, clerks, imagery interpreters, cooks, radio repairmen and other non-combat soldiers on the line that night, but they held it despite the intensive efforts of the VC to overrun their positions. Men who had fired their weapons only in basic training quickly became experts. The untrained men on the line held their positions and repulsed a well trained and determined enemy. The VC had suffered 67 killed and 32 of the attackers were taken prisoner. For the brave actions and determined defense against the enemy, every man on the 244th line was nominated for award of the bronze star. (The VC were quite astute in their plan of attack, they approached the perimeter fence, upright, laughing and joking, they entered through a gate. For that short period of time, it was thought that is was just the ARVNs coming back into the line. It was after that, all hell broke loose. Not to diminish the efforts put forth that night, but it was a case where those defending had no where else to pull back to without exposing themselves to the attackers. They had to stay put and fight because there was too great a distance of open terrain between each position. Bunkers did not exist, all we had were berms of that fine gray clay pushed up by dozers, and you kind of hunkered down behind the dirt. In retrospect of that evening, at mid-night, the sky lit up all round the city with tracers, we guessed that they were just ARVNs celebrating TETs arrival. Little did we think that it was our friends in black pajamas, checking their weapons for later use that night. I was one of the "lucky" people, that evening, I was down over the Umen Forest when the radio informed us that Can Tho and all of the other air fields were under attack. The pilot made comment that this was a rather interesting predicament. However, for some reason, the VC did not launch the offensive on Bien Thuy Air Force Base, so after some sweated bullets and lightened sphincters, my pilot decided to chance a landing there, which we did with no opposition. Because of the precariousness of the situation during TET, the Hawks bugged out to Vung Tau {bg})".

"(When we arrived in country, all of our weapons were locked up in a supply conex, after the first ground attack, we were given our rifles, to be locked up over our bunks but no ammo, that was stored in the supply conex. After TETs visitation on us, we had weapons, we had ammo and we had a little nastier region to be working in and flying over {bg})."

NOTE ON WEAPONS AVAILABILITY: The first Army advisors sent to Vietnam were not (supposed) to carry weapons on operations with the South Vietnamese army. That changed to advisors could carry weapons, but were enjoined to use the weapons only in self-defense. Here is a fact: In war, any trigger pulling is in self-defense.

No comments:

Post a Comment