The Battle on LZ Pat
Note: If you don't wish to read the entire
narrative, which is quite long, I have linked the 3 paragraph references
to Mike here: Mike 1 | Mike
2 | Mike 3
The battalion command post (CP) and fire base had been established at Landing Zone (LZ) Champs with Company A providing base security for the Battalion CP and C Battery, 2d Battalion (105), 19th Artillery. The battalion had returned to the Pershing Area of Operations on 3 August after a month's duty at Camp Radcliff, the Division's base camp, and was placed under the operational control of the 3rd Brigade.
The operation started at 7:37 a.m. with the air Assault of Company B into LZ LOU to secure the forward fire base for C Battery and the battalion CP. Following that maneuver, Company A was to be air assaulted further into the valley at 9:45 a.m. to LZ PAT. However, this time was adjusted to 9:35 a.m. since C Battery had completed its move ahead of schedule and was ready to fire preparatory fires in support of the assault into LZ PAT.
The Song Re Valley can best be described as a picturesque valley with numerous hillocks in the valley floor, fertile fields of rice, and well-fed livestock. Aerial reconnaissance resulted in several ground to air firings directed at the helicopters. Although the valley appeared prosperous, only a few inhabitants were observed. This situation led intelligence experts to suspect that military-age personnel were either hiding in the hills as Viet Cong or being used as laborers by the Viet Cong force in constructing fortified positions.
The ridgeline on which LZ PAT was situated is 2300 meters southwest of abandoned airstrip at Ta Ma and is dominated by Hill 450 to the northwest and Hill 625 to the west-southwest. Hill 450 has a crown about 100 meters long running generally northeast to southwest. Using the southeast corner as a starting point, the trace of the ridgeline, that was to be LZ PAT, runs to the southeast as a lower elevation by about 50 feet. There is a slight dip coming off Hill 450 rising to a slight knob on the northern edge of the LZ. Proceeding downhill, there is another slight depression rising to a second knoll, followed by another slight depression, a third, somewhat smaller rise, and then the ridge drops off to the valley below. The eastern slope of the LZ was burned-off arid almost clear of vegetation. The vegetation on the crest of the ridgeline consisted of short grass about 12 inches tall with occasional clumps of grass about 18 inches in height. This covering extended about 25 meters down the western slope. At this level, the slope inclined rather steeply and was covered with grass about waist high, scrub brush and small trees. further down the western slope and into the valley below and going up to Hill 625, the ground was covered with a heavy canopy of trees and undergrowth.
Moving from the northwest corner of Hill 450, the ridgeline traverses west and consists of a slight dip, followed by a sizeable knoll and a rather large dip covered by a thick growth of tree's. The ridge then rises gradually to Hill 625 in a southwesterly direction. This places Hill 625 about 1200 meters to the west-southwest of LZ PAT.
The weather that morning was favorable to airmobile operations, with clear skies, 7 miles visibility, and a expected high temperature of 89 degrees. The prevailing wind's, under the influence of the Southwest Monsoon, were from the southwest at 15 knots with gusts up to 25 knots. The direction of the winds being such, the final short approach of the incoming flight was from the northeast to the southwest into LZ PAT. The significance of the wind direction would not be appreciated until the end of the battle.
Company A commanded by Captain Raymond K. Bluhm, Jr. was given the mission of air Assaulting into and securing LZ PAT, clearing Hill 450 and the ridgeline to the northwest, reconnoitering to the northeast and north of Hill 450 and moving down to the valley floor by 5 p.m. and establishing a blocking position across the Son Re Valley to prevent movement either north or south.Capt. Bluhm organized his company to be air-lifted in four flights of six UH-1D (Huey) Helicopters, each lift ship carrying five combat loaded troopers. The company is authorized six officers and 162 enlisted men. Since the lift capability for that morning was a total of 120 troopers, the company deployed with four company officers, an artillery forward observer (F0) and 115 enlisted men.
The company plan called for the first platoon to move in on the first flight of six ships along with the company command group, and secure the left half or southern portion of the LZ. The second platoon, to be placed on the ground by the second flight of ships, was to secure the right or northern half of the LZ. The weapons platoon, coming in on the third flight was to set up its mortars and two machine guns and provide fire support for the third platoon, the last element to come in, on their move to secure Hill 450 and the area north and east of the Hill.
The troopers normally carry a reserve of two C-ration meals in their combat packs, but since this was to be a reconnaissance of some duration, each man had drawn an additional meal. In addition to their meals, the combat load consisted to two canteens of water, poncho, poncho liner, air mattress, one machete per two men, one entrenching tool per three men and individual weapons. Each rifleman carried at a minimum, 220 rounds of ammunition, in some cases up to 600 rounds, and a minimum of four fragmentation grenades. Additionally, the NCOs and squad leaders carried a minimum of two smoke grenades. The M79 grenadiers carried a minimum of forty, 40mm high explosive rounds per weapon. M-60 machine gun crew's carried a minimum of 1000 rounds per gun. The weapons platoon took one 81mm mortar with 21 rounds. Additionally, the first and second platoons each had with t them a 90mm recoilless rifle. A total of five high explosives and five anti-personnel rounds were taken into the LZ. The ammunition for the crew served weapons were tied to pack boards and carried by various individuals throughout the 24 lift ships.
Information of the enemy situation available to Capt. Bluhm and the men of Company A was rather limited and very sketchy, in that this was the first time US elements were to enter the Song Re Valley in any force.Due to strong guerilla activity, the local Popular Forces advised by Special Forces teams, were unable to gain any hard intelligence. The company was informed that somewhere north and south of LZ PAT, elements of 2 Enemy battalions were suspected to be present, but no definite intelligence as to the location of the enemy in and around the selected LZ. The ridgeline which was to be LZ PAT was selected because it was the only high ground large enough and clear enough of obstructions to allow six lift ships to land, and because it was in an area which would give the assaulting company the advantage of reconnoitering from high ground down to the valley floor below.
At 9:36 a.m.following five minutes of preparatory fires totaling 150 rounds on and around the LZ from 105mm howitzers,the first of six ships touched down abreast of each other on the ridgeline.The six ships were to land the first platoon, led by Lieutenant Richard A. Hostikka, along w with the company command group, moved left to secure the southern half or the LZ. The second flight bearing the second platoon, led by Lieutenant Robert L. Wilkinson, touched down about 30 seconds later and moved out to secure the right half of the LZ. As soon as the second flight of six ships lifted off, the weapons platoon was on the ground followed by the last flight of ships carrying the third platoon.
During the time of an Air Assault, Two Gunships armed with 2.75 inch aerial rockets, and 7.6Smm machine guns, accompany the flight on each side and fire suppressive fires on the sides of the LZ, then orbit about on the left and right, providing protection for the lift ships during the time they are most vulnerable to ground Lire. With the noise of the suppressive fires and momentary confusion as troops exited the lift ships, it was difficult to determine if hostile fire was being received on the LZ during the first few minutes of the air assault.
As the final flight of ships came in sporadic hostile fire could be distinguished and the last ship started to lift off before all the men had exited. Platoon Sergeant Frank M. Theberge, the last man on the third platoon ship, had to jump about eight feet, and being loaded down, broke his right ankle as he hit the ground. The first enemy position that was spotted was a large caliber anti-aircraft weapon that was located on the slopes of Hill 625. The position could be readily identified by muzzle flashes as the weapon was fired. Then all hell broke loose.
At the same time as the Air Assault, Major
William Harvey, Troop Commander of C Troop, 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry
was piloting his command helicopter just north of Hill 450. Accompanied
by his chase ship, piloted by Captain Robert A. Thompson,
he was in general support of the 3rd Brigade and was providing aerial surveillance
on the periphery of the LZ. An artillery forward observer was a crew member
in Thompson's aircraft in the event suppressive fires were needed to isolate
the area where the insertion (Air Assault) was taking place, the observer
would be able to direct the fires. Suddenly, Major
Harvey's aircraft, flying at an altitude of 100 feet, received intensive
large caliber automatic weapons fire taking numerous hits. At that very
instant, he looked back and saw his chase ship, flying at 500 feet, hit
so severely that it started to burn, went out of control and crashed, exploding
on impact. Harvey' s aircraft was shot down and crashed. Luckily, the crew
escaped with minor bruises. Thompson and his crew were not as fortunate
and all perished in the fiery crash.
Within 15 minutes from the start of the air assault, Company A was totally committed, and was faced with a pitched battle for the next four hours. The enemy situation, reconstructed from information gained from the interrogation of a captured North Vietnamese Army Sergeant, captured documents, survey of the battle area and interrogation of a Mantagnard VC detainee, disclosed an awesome situation, which was to make LZ PAT an extremely "hot" LZ.
The 107th Air Defense (AD) Battalion, North Vietnamese Army, had infiltrated into South Vietnam in January 1967 after traveling through Laos and had arrived in Quang Ngai Province in April. In June the Battalion arrived in the Song Re Valley and one of the four companies of the Battalion, the 3rd Company, had occupied gun positions in the saddle between Hill 625 and Hill 450. The 107th AD Battalion is composed of a Headquarters Company and 3 firing Company's, each normally equipped with nine 12.7mm (.50 caliber) Chicom Anti-Aircraft Guns. However in their infiltration to the South each Company had bought only 3 Anti-Aircraft Weapons. Upon their arrival each firing company was assigned a Montagnard Rifle Company from the 120th Montagnard VC Battalion to provide security and Delaying actions in the event the Weapons had to be withdrawn.
From this, it can reasonably be assumed that the hill mass over looking LZ PAT was occupied by approximately 80 men of the 3rd Company, 107 th. AD Battalion with three anti-aircraft weapons and approximately 80 men of a Mantagnard rifle company. In addition, captured documents in a well-constructed bunker on Hill 625 disclosed the presence of a Heavy Weapons Company of the 120 th. Montagnard Battalion in the same hill mass. This company is approximately 80 men strong and is normally equipped with 1 2.7mm. guns, 82mm mortars and 57mm. recoilless rifles. Further intelligence indicated that most of the elements of the two battalions were within a 5-kilometer area of LZ PAT.
The enemy had built bunkers on the southwest slope of Hill 450 and along the ridgeline running west to Hill 625 which enabled them to place grazing fire along the entire western slope, along the crest, and almost all of the eastern slope of the ridgeline which was to be LZ PAT. The only cover afforded Company A was provided on the southeastern side by the northern and middle knolls on the LZ.Additionally, enemy Antiaircraft weapons were able to place plunging fire from Hill 625 and the surrounding slopes into the western slope of the LZ and in the dip between the LZ and Hill 450. The ridgeline was rimmed with 12 foxholes at the level where the knee high grass started. 4 well-concealed bunkers, almost flush with the ground, were situated on the crest. Upon this treacherous piece of terrain, Company A Air Assaulted with 120 men at 9:36 a.m.
As soon as the third platoon had hit the ground, the cry for "Medic's was heard above the noise of the Gunships firing suppressive fires. Specialist Five Andrew Conrad, an Aid man attached to the second platoon rushed to give aid to a fallen comrade and was struck in the forehead by an enemy bullet and was killed instantly.
Staff Sergeant Gerald Donovan, platoon sergeant for the second platoon, hit the LZ on the extreme right, nearest Hill 450. On board his ship were four other troopers, his radio operator and one of the two machine gun crews of his platoon. While moving away from the lift ship to secure their portion of the perimeter, Donovan spotted muzzle flashes from automatic weapons on the slopes of Hill 450 and instructed his gunner to place fire on the positions. Specialist Four Michael Hotchkiss, gunner standing upright, sprayed the hill, firing his M-60 machine gun. Realizing that the fire was ineffective, Donovan moved the gun crew over to the eastern side of the knoll to get into a better firing position and one which provided a little cover. Mike 2
Staff Sergeant John Stipes,
weapons platoon leader, hastily attempted to place his 81 MM mortar into
action, Because he and his crew were receiving small arms fire, time wasn't
available to place out aiming stakes and to mount the mortar with its sight.
Caught out in the open, and firing at a very close range, the mortar tube
stuck up like a stove pipe and pinpointed their position to the enemy.
A few rounds were fired, using the direct lay method for direction and
calculated guesses for elevation, towards the bunkers on Hill 450. Before
the fire could be effectively adjusted, the enemy began their mortar fire
onto the ridgeline. The first volley
of six or seven rounds landed all along the LZ, indicating that the enemy
had the ridgeline pretty well "zeroed-in'. One of the rounds hit 25 meters
from the mortar position and wounded two men while one round, a dud, fell
five feet from Donovan, between him and the machine gun crew. Two other
rounds landed on the southern half of the crest, one a dud on the eastern
slope within the first platoon area.
Meanwhile Lieutenant Wilkinson had moved over to the Western Slope, and his men reported receiving small arms fire from the forward slope of Hill 625. Wilkinson requested artillery fire, which was called in by the Artillery Forward Observer (FO), Lieutenant William Birdseye, and at approximately 9:48 a.m. the first of the supporting fires came in. Artillery fire was then shifted into the saddle between Hill 450 and Hill 625 to neutralize enemy fire being received from that area. However, due to the heavy canopy of trees and well-constructed bunkers, the artillery had very little effect.
About 10:15 a.m. Capt. Bluhm spotted a scout ship (H-13) and asked the pilot to look to the west of the LZ and see if he could spot any-thing. While the pilot was acknowledging the request, the aircraft was hit by ground fire, taking a round in the hydraulic system and had to leave the area for an emergency landing. Within minutes, the 3rd Brigade Commander's command and control helicopter was hit with a 12.7mm mound arid was no longer flyable.
The Third platoon, led by Lieutenant Joseph Petrovich, started receiving fire immediately after exiting from the aircraft and were scattered over the length and breadth of the LZ. Petrovich, accompanied by his radio operator, Private First Class Edward F. Hynes, had hit the LZ about mid point. He attempted to gather his platoon together, since his task was to move out towards the north and secure Hill 450. However, with the enemy delivering intense and accurate fire along the ridgeline, the men of the platoon were pinned down arid immobile. Never the less, Theberge, with a broken ankle, crawled up to the middle knoll, took charge of a machine gun crew that belonged to the 2nd platoon, and started directing its fires against positions on Hill 450. All the forces that Petrovich could muster were three men.
Capt. Bluhm had radio contact with his platoon leaders and platoon sergeants and could issue them orders. However, being under fire and caught on both sides of the ridgeline, the subordinate leaders were unable to get control of their units and to move them as units. After sticking with the original plan for about 15 minutes, Capt. Bluhm then decided to move his 2nd platoon towards Hill 450 arid establish a firebase to ease off some of the enemy fire.
Wilkinson, on the western slope, moved about from man to man, some from his platoon, others from the third and weapons platoon, directing them to return fire on suspected enemy positions. Accompanying Wilkinson, was his radio operator, Private First Class Joel D. Fendley with his radio strapped inside his combat pack. As soon as the company had been taken under fire, the men had shed their packs. However, the radio operators, having their radio secured in the pack had to retain their packs. Stopping momentarily Fendley settled himself low on the slope with his head up toward the crest of the ridgeline. Suddenly he cried out, "Oh, my arm ". Wilkinson asked, are you going to be all right, to which Fendley replied yes Wilkinson called back to Capt. Bluhm and told him that his men on the western slope were receiving friendly fires from the eastern slope. Capt. Bluhm said that's not possible since the company was oriented towards Hill 450. Wilkinson then realized that there might be some enemy in spider holes within the LZ, and so informed his company commander. Noticing that Fendley was bleeding rather badly Wilkinson cut the heavy combat pack straps to relieve some of the pressure on Fendley's arm and at the same time hollered for a Medic. Upon closer examination the Medic discovered another bullet wound in his chest next to the Heart. Fendley was bandaged as best as could be done and although medical evacuation by helicopter (MEDEVAC) was requested, evacuation was not possible. Noticing that Fendley was bleeding rather badly, Wilkinson cut the heavy combat pack straps to relieve some of the pressure on Fendley's arm and at the same time hollored for a medic. Upon closerthemedicdbandaged as best alt Because of the intense anti-aircraft and other automatic weapons fire, it would have been certain destruction for the helicopter if an attempt was made to land. The resulting wrecking would then have created an obstacle on the LZ making further landings hazardous. Wilkinson felt that the fire came from within the LZ because of the angle of entry of the bullet and the closeness of the two shots. Fendley died quietly a short while later.
Hotchkiss and his gun crew continued to place fire into the bunkers and pretty much held their own.How ever, when they stopped to reload, the enemy gun would start up again. During one of these exchanges Private First Class Theodore Lysak, assistant gunner, was hit in the forearm. Donovan, knowing that MEDEVAC was not possible at this time, told Lysak to get back over the side of the ridge and patch himself the best he could. Private First Class Mark A. Ybarra, ammunition bearer, took over the job as assistant gunner. After putting on his combat dressing, Lysak returned to his buddies and started feeding the gun. Mike 3
While Company A was fighting
a rifleman's war on LZ PAT, a Forward Air Controller (FAC) performing a
visual reconnaissance mission from his 0-1, Bird Dog. Aircraft was contacted
by Major Olson,
Operations Officer for the Battalion, orbiting above the LZ in the Lt.
Coloner Stannard's command and control Helicopter. Equipped with UHF,VHF,
and FM Radios the FAC can establish contact with the ground commander as
well as the Air Force Aircraft he controls. His task when working with
troops is to contact the commander to determine the target for the incoming
high performance aircraft to adjust their bombing and strafing runs and
finally when possible to relay damage assessment to the aircraft when the
strike had been completed.
Bird Dog, aircraft was contacted by Major Olson,,operations officer for the battalion, orbiting above the LZ in the Lieutenant Colonel Stannard' s command and control helicopter. Equipped with UHF, VHF, and FM radios, the FAG can Olson, after verifying the need of an air strike with Capt. Bluhm, requested an immediate strike. Since the battalion was conducting a reconnaissance mission, and definite targets were not selected, preplanned air strikes had not been programmed. Three A 1E (Sky raiders ) made their first pass, at 10:45 a.m. approximately 30 minutes from the time of the request. On the first pass, one of the aircraft took a hit from a 12.7mm round. The FAG also received ground fire. Although company A was pinned down on the LZ and needed fire support to ease the murderous fire being received from Hill 450, for the time being they had to be on their own. First priority targets were the anti aircraft gun positions on the hill mass over looking the LZ. By this time, Company A's fire power was limited to shall arms and 40mm Grenades. All of the available mortar rounds near the mortar position had been extended and the five high explosive 90mm rounds had been fired by the first platoon recoilless rifle crew. The remaining anti personnel rounds could not be used because of friendly personnel in front of the first position.
At approximately 10:50 a.m., a continuous barrage for about five minutes was fired on Hill 450, raising the moral of the troopers and allowing them to advance slightly by leaps and bounds. However, as the fires lifted, the men were stopped by automatic weapons fire from the three bunkers on the southwestern slope of Hill 450. Although the 105mm artillery rounds were on target, the well constructed bunkers provided protection for the enemy located therein.
By this time, second platoon had suffered numerous casualties rendering them ineffective as a maneuver force and so Capt. Bluhm decided to commit the first platoon was generally in the southern slopes and had received only a few casualties.
Lieutenant Hostikka started his men moving along the western slopes of the ridge. after moving forward about 50 meters, the first platoon's advance was stopped by a burst of automatic weapons fire. Private First Class Joseph Harrison, assistant machine gunner cried out, "I'm hit! I'm not going to make it." He died within moments struck by a bullet just above his heart. Hostikka, crawling about trying to determine his next move, was hit with a rifle bullet that went through the front of his helmet, grazed his temple, continued out the back of the helmet and struck a man behind him. Crawling back to his company commander who was located on the southeastern slope, Hostikka reported, " They have the western slope flat covered. We can't go up that way. Every time someone moves, he gets hit." First platoon then started to move around towards the eastern slope.
It was sometime during this move, Specialist Four William Shotwell recalled, that a call was herd for 81mm mortar ammunition. Sergeant Robert J. Maxwell, weapons platoon had exited the first platoon area from his lift ship. Having carried two rounds in with him, he rushed towards the mortar position, only to be hit in the stomach with a 1 2.7mm round with such force that he was thrown back five feet. Although he was evacuated by MEDEVAC ship which braved intense small arms fire, Maxwell died In route to the medical clearing station.
The 21 rounds of 81mm mortar ammunition were carried by various men in the weapons platoon in the six lift ships. The men on hitting the LZ had dropped thrown packs all over the ridge, seeking what ever cover they could find and returning the rifle fire against suspected enemy positions Private First Class Prentice D. Leclair, ammunition bearer, had to scurry around the LZ rounding up the mortar rounds. Very early in the firefight Leclair was shot in the head and chest and killed, very likely by an enemy soldier located within the LZ. Hotchkiss and his crew were delivering the most effective fires against enemy positions on Hill 450 and there fore became a prime target for enemy mortar fire. Mortar rounds began falling in and around the gun position. At approximately 11:30 a.m. a mortar round hit Hotchkiss in the middle of his back, killing him instantly. Lysak and Yberra were also wounded by shrapnel and were ordered to move back down the eastern slope so that they could be evacuated.The mortar Fire damaged the machine gun feed cover so that it could not be fire automatically. Donovan was now alone with his rifle. Private First Class Gunter, his radiotelephone operator, had been shot in the head and was thought to be dead. However, he was alive, though very seriously wounded, and had to be evacuated. Capt. Bluhm received several calls from his platoon leaders, asking when the MEDEVAC was coming. The aircraft, piloted by Captain Norris C. Goodman had attempted to land twice but had to be waved off due to intense enemy fire. BOTTOM
At 11:50 a.m. after successive air strikes had neutralized or damaged the anti-aircraft weapons on Hill 625 and the surrounding ridges, the first of' three MEDEVAC ships was able to come in. On his third attempt, Goodman guided by Private First Class James Andrews, Capt. Bluhm's radio operator, slid his ship up the eastern slope much like an escalator ramp. Sergeant John Crespi the medic on board the aircraft jum ed off and assisted Andrews load the wounded aboard. With seven men loaded, Crespi, electing to stay with the other wounded men waved the ship off. Goodman returned about 20 minutes later, hovering below the crest, pick-up Crespi and six other wounded men. Although NEDEVAC is normally handled as an administrative measure, it is not unusual in circumstances such as this, for the MEDEVAC ships to brave enemy fire and dismal odds when attempting to evacuate wounded men desperately in need of medical attention beyond first aid A logistical helicopter was brought in about 1:00 p.m. with an emergency re-supply of ammunition and evacuated seven men.
Realizing that more fire had to be place on the positions on the. slopes of Hill 450 to allow his men to maneuver forward, Capt. Bluhm sought out the machine gun crews. Moving along the eastern slope, Capt. Bluhm first came across Private First Class Arthur R. Brakebill, a machine gunner in the second platoon. Theberge, in the meantime, had been directing Brakebifl's fire, and while exposing himself repeatedly in order to determine the enemy locations was struck by a bullet grazing the back of his neck and striking the rear of his head.Specialist Four Hines covered the wound with a combat dressing to stop the bleeding. Specialist Five Jeremiah White, senior medic attached to Company A, arrived moments later and treated the unconscious Theberge.
By this time Petrovich had rounded up Specialist Arthur H Forsyth and his machine gun crew from the first platoon. Although Petrovich was able to get within 150 meters of Hill 450 himself, he could not maneuver anyone else further than the northern most knoll without taking more casualties. The last dip between the knoll and the base of Hill 450 was covered with intense cross fire from the bunkers on the hill and from positions west of the hill. As Petrovich later related, "Either I was lucky or because I'm smaller than the rest, I was able to move about without getting wounded. ' Petrovich is barely five feet tall and weighs all of 130 pounds.
The company, being virtually pinned down as they exited the lift ships, had by now suffered at least 20 men wounded and five killed. Capt. Bluhm could not move his company back to the safety on the southeastern slope since half of the men were on the western slope and would have to cross over the crest of the ridgeline. To drag their wounded men would mean exposing more men and sustaining more casualties. To stay still was to take more casualties. The only thing left for Capt. Bluhm to do was to urge his men to move forward, hugging the ground, concealing themselves as best as possible in the short grass and every bit of depression in the ground and attempting to place rifle fire into the enemy positions. By building up his base of fire, Capt. Bluhm hoped to break loose a platoon size element to assault Hill 450.
Although Capt. Bluhm had asked
for some help, the decision to reinforce was ruled out by Lieutenant Colonel
Stannard. Even though Company A was in a real tough spot, Capt.
Bluhm had reported that there was no danger of the company being overrun
or kicked off the LZ. Because of the enemy fire, bringing more troops on
to LZ PAT was out of the question. Troops brought
in the valley below would take hours to get up to assist Company A. The
men on LZ PAT had to hold their own until such time as tactical air strikes
could be diverted to help them out.
Desiring to get more effective fire on the enemy bunkers, Capt. Bluhm took the machine gun from Brakebill, gave the ammunition to Petrovich, and told his platoon leader, 1'll race you to that knoll up there. He then told Brakebill, "If I make it you come on up, and dashed forward with Petrovich 30 meters across the open area to northernmost knoll. Seeing his - Company Commander make it safely, Brakebill ran forward and manned his gun. Capt. Bluhm them moved over to join Donovan, the only able-bodied man remaining from the original group that had exited nearest to Hill 450.
Successive air strikes consisting of Two F4C Phantoms and Thirty Five F100 Super Sabers had continued since 11:00 a.m. delivering 500 and 700 pound high explosive and Napalm bombs and firing 20mm cannons on Hill 625 and in the saddle between the two hill.
At approximately 1:15 p.m.the
FAC was finally able to direct his efforts towards the bunkers on Hill
450. He dropped a smoke grenade on the hill and the rifleman fired tracers
at the bunkers to pinpoint the target. Birdseye, now in radio contact with
the FAC had moved forward to notify Capt. Bluhm about the incoming air
strike, and asked if he felt it was safe enough for the troops on the ground.
Before the message could be transmitted to hold off the strike until troop
safety could be determined, a bomb scored a direct hit on one of the three
bunkers stopping the forward Progress of the company. The blast, no more
than 200 meters in front of Capt. Bluhm and Donovan literally lifted both
of them off the ground, and showered them with rock and debris. A second
pass followed soon after with three bombs being dropped. Another bunker
disappeared. Although the men were rather close to the impact area, the
accuracy of the pilots on their bombing runs gave the men of the company
no concern for their own safety, just a feeling of jubilation.
As soon as the air Strikes ceased, six or seven enemy soldiers ran out of the third bunker arid moved over the hill to northeast, helping their wounded comrades along. The fleeing enemy was out of sight before the men were able to fire more than a couple of bursts with their weapons.
When Petrovich received the word to assault the hill, he did it with three other men, all that he had near the base of the hill. The rest of the third platoon personnel. were either wounded or scattered all over the LZ arid attached themselves to the other platoons. Noticing only a small group making the initial attempt, Capt. Bluhm ordered Brakebill to join the assault with his machine gun, and Forsyth to provide covering fire if needed. However, as a result of the accurate and devastating air strike, the assaulting element received only occasional sniper fire as they secured the hill. Petrovich was joined by one of his squads soon thereafter.
With the task of securing Hill 450 well underway, Capt. Bluhm now turned his attention to clearing the enemy from fortifications within the LZ itself. Hostikka organized the remaining men for the three platoons and started a methodical search of the ridge line. The largest of the emplacements located in the middle of the LZ contained five enemy with automatic weapons. This position consisted of three holes with connecting tunnels and small rooms off the main hole. During the initial landing, a grenade had been dropped in one of the holes. However this had not neutralized the position and the enemy had stayed there throughout the four hour battle. Even after two more grenades were tossed in, the enemy returned fire on the approaching men. Finally, after a total of 10 grenades had been tossed in, the men were able to pull out the dead enemy soldiers. Further search of the LZ and the forward slopes of Hill 450 resulted in two more enemy dead.
On Hill 450 one enemy body was found for a total body count of eight enemy killed. Estimated enemy killed can reasonably be considered higher in view of the total destruction of two of the three bunkers that had been stopping Company A. Further with a Total of 42 sorties delivering 82,500 pounds of bombs, 28,000 pounds of napalm and firing 22,600 rounds of 20mm cannon and 76 aerial rockets on and around the two hill masses, neutralizing ant-aircraft and mortar positions, it can be assumed that the enemy suffered additional casualties. Additionally, C Battery had fired 932 rounds of 105mm shells, Aerial Rocket Artillery had expended 576 aerial rockets, and two armed CH-47 Chinook Gunships (GO-GO) had delivered eight tons of ordnance on probable escape routes of the enemy. An estimate of 20 additional enemy casualties was reported in the battalion daily journal for this action.
The enemy weapons captured included one US BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle), a machine gun and two rifles (Chinese C2mmnnist), an assault weapon, and an automatic rifle of foreign make, a French 75mm rifle and one US Carbine. 1000 rounds of rifle ammunition of assorted caliber and 1 claymore mine (Chicom) were also captured. Company C, continuing the reconnaissance mission on the 12th of August, captured three 12.7mm anti-aircraft guns abandoned along a trail and presumed to be part of the weapons withdrawn from the battle area near LZ PAT.
losses for the day were Six Killed and Twenty wounded from Company A, Four
Killed and One wounded from C Troop, One Killed from D Company, 229th Aviation
Battalion (gunship door gunner), Two Helicopters destroyed and Five Helicopters
damaged. In retrospect, the direction of the prevailing winds takes on
much more significance. If the wind had been from the northeast, the final
approach of the heavily laden lift ships would have been right along the
enemy anti-aircraft gun positions and the loss of aircraft and personnel
would probably hay been much greater. As it was none of the 24 lift ships
were damaged. Subsequent searches in
the Song Re Valley netted a Total of 73 enemy killed by body count. Company
A, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry successfully accomplished its mission of
locating the enemy in a here to fore unexplored region and destroyed one
of his fortified areas.