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Pacific Stars and Stripes
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VC BURN TOWN; 73 CIVILIANS DIE
By SGT Roger Neumann S&S Staff Correspondent
SON TRA, Vietnam
- A Viet Cong sapper squad attacked this refugee hamlet six miles south of Chu Lai shortly before midnight Friday, killing 88 persons - 73 of them civilians - and wounding at least 103 others.
More than 85 per cent of the hamlet's homes were burned to the ground, leaving 4,000 homeless.
Fifteen of the dead were Regional Defense Force soldiers who were killed in the initial ground attack as an estimated 35 VC broke through the barbed wire perimeter, exploding four satchel charges and setting fire to the tiny grass huts. Two of the attackers were killed.
Nearly all the civilian casualties were caused by the blaze.
"Most of the dead burned in their homes," said 1st Lt. Floyd McLean of Lawton, Calif. McLean commander of B. Co., 1st Bn., 52nd Inf. of the 198th Light Inf. Brigade, was on the scene two hours later with his men.
"All these huts have bunkers where the people hide in case of an attack," he said. "When this one came they went into the bunkers and that's where most of them were found-burned to death."
The ground attack was followed by about five mortar rounds. They all fell beyond the perimeter. The attackers then withdrew quickly.
The enemy squad was apparently part of an estimated VC company that has been spreading terror through this coastal region of Quang Ngai Province. They had been in Son Tra before and vowed to come back and burn the hamlet when the villagers refused to join them.
"They come through here at night and try to recruit these people," said Capt. Dennis M. Eilers, information officer of the 198th. "They don't have much success around here.
"In April they told these people they'd come back and burn the place down."
The closely-grouped huts were swallowed by flames in minutes, fanned by a strong breeze blowing in off the South China Sea.
The fire was out when the American soldiers arrived. A small clearing that divided the hamlet was all that saved it from total destruction.
"When we got here everything was smoldering," McLean said. The lieutenant put his men on a ridge around the perimeter to guard against a repeat attack.
Helicopters were called in from Chu Lai to evacuate the wounded for treatment. Some died in the hospital. The toll mounted through the day.
Smoke rose from the rubble Saturday as survivors wrapped their dead in cloth and prayed over bodies. The families who had been spared rationed out rice to the homeless.
The Perverse Qualities of the Red 122MM Rocket
By Brig. Gen (RET.)
Military Affairs Analyst
DA NANG, South Vietnam - The 122mm rocket, Soviet=-made, is becoming the No. nuisance of this war, killing fewer people but fraying more nerves than the do-it-yourself booby traps and the family of Red Chinese mines that come in all shapes and sizes.
That particular horror of yesterday, the punji stake, is now a bad memory more than a real menace to troops afield. The big bang of the 122mm drowns out other fugue themes in the enemy weapons orchestration.
As Tom Carlyle said: "It's not the crowing of the rooster but the damned waiting for it," that gets to people. Oddly enough, it's far more annoying to troops fixed fairly firmly in bunkered bases than to Vietnamese civilians wide open to attack in cities remarkably lacking in bomb shelters.
In Da Nang, Saigon, the Delta cities and elsewhere, the few unlucky ones in the impact area, and their mourners, alone suffer. All others continue on their daily rounds. What the buzz bomb did to Cockney nerves in June, 1944, is not duplicated here. The rocket arrives unannounced and the killing area of the blast is quite small, which characteristically limits its value as a terror weapon.
The 122mm stands about shoulder high to a runty man and has approximately the circumference of a drain pipe The metal shell looks like highly polished aluminum. On explosion, the metal breaks apart in large hunks, badly twisted, ragged at the edges and quite brassy in appearance.
The bang is highly distinctive, resembling more than all else the explosion of a giant cannon cracker. There is no crump as with mortars and no follow-up rumble as with an artillery shell. One split second of crackle, more than roar, and all is done. Getting to know this weapon at first report is as easy as falling in love at first sight. After the second round hits, the listener is an expert.
The rocket weighs 102 pounds, with 41 pounds in the warhead. Its extreme range is 11,000 meters, which is about as far as our 105mm howitzer can shoot with average ammunition, and is 5,300 meters more than we can lay it on with the 4.2, our heaviest mortar. The Viet Cong usually engage with the 122mm at somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 meters from the target area. These distances mark the breadth of the so-called rocket belt outside the perimeter of our main military bases and South Vietnam's larger cities.
At an ocean port city such as Da Nang, the rocket belt is more or less a semi-circle. Around Saigon, it could go almost full circle but for difficulties of terrain - flat country, water surfaces, lack of tree cover and defilade - which pretty much restrict the belt to north and east of the city.
Our patrols beat out these rocket belts day after day, and also by night, seeking firing sites, crews and caches. Most of the time, they're punching in air. Now and then, they crack open a cache, but rarely do they jump a firing battery at work, though a dozen or so launchers - some undamaged have been captured.
The finely-machined tube weighs about 23 pounds. The tripod base is also of light construction and is fitted with a highly sophisticated range-finder and other gadgets. However, the high mobility and extraordinary elusiveness of the rocket attack is little related to the small weight and maneuverability of the equipment. The Viet Cong rarely bother to lug along the projector.
They simply place the rocket between two sticks, such as bamboo, for steadiness, get off a few rounds, then slip away to another location before counter battery fire can get at them.
With few exceptions, our main military bases are adjacent to high ground, either the piedmont, or the tall peak country.
The enemy rocketeers set up near the base of a reverse slope and fire pretty much from defilade.
The accuracy of these attacks is to a large extent a gift from French colonial administration. Old French surveys were much too accurate. Except in the remote highlands, the countryside is checkered with antique bench marks.
So the crews set up next to one of these markers, and at once have the range pegged, say from the firing site to the center of Camp Evans, the supply depot at Da Nang or MACV headquarters on the fringe of Saigon.
North Vietnam currently is bringing forward in full flood the 122mm, the lighter RPG rocket and heavier ordnance such as the 130mm gun, the obvious purpose being to impress world opinion, depress South Vietnamese morale and express contempt for the proceedings at Paris. There can be little room for doubt that Hanoi views this summer as the high crisis of the war and is swinging with everything.
(The Los Angeles Times)
Copters Rake VC Sampans
S&S Vietnam Bureau
SAIGON - Army helicopters attacked a fleet of enemy sampans off the coast of South Vietnam Sunday, killing 40 Viet Cong, sinking four sampans and damaging 36.
A U.S. copter spotted the flotilla six miles southeast of Hoi An in Quang Tri [sic] Province and called in copter gunships.
The Army gunships raked the sampans with rocket and machine gun fire.
Navy swift boats checking the remains of the enemy fleet found 40 enemy bodies in the water and aboard the sampans.
A UH1 Huey helicopter from an Army medical unit was hot down Sunday afternoon by ground fire 81 miles southwest of Saigon.
Three American soldiers were wounded and the copter was badly damaged, U.S. spokesmen said Monday.
A U.S. spokesman said all copters attached to medical units are marked with a large red cross. He said he didn't know what type mission the aircraft was on when it was hit.
U.S. warplanes flew 133 strikes Sunday in North Vietnam, meeting what pilots called moderate to heavy anti-aircraft fire.
Air Force crews hit targets around Dong Hoi, destroying or damaging 10 warehouses and triggering more than 20 sustained fires and 13 secondary explosions.
Navy pilots from the carrier America struck a large highway ferry complex 12 miles west of Vinh. It was described as a transfer point where war materials are shifted between supply barges and trucks.
One of the pilots, Lt. Cdr, Scott Greiling of Orange Park, Fla. sank one of the barges with his five inch rockets.
"The rocket must gone right through it," Greiling, of Attack Sq. 82, said. "My wingman came back around a minute later and said it was starting to settle in the water and was on its way to the bottom."
Red Mortar Round Bounces Off NCO
CHU LAI, Vietnam (Special)
- A soldier with the Americal Div.'s 196th Inf. Brigade was hit in the back with an incoming 60 -mm mortar round and lived to tell about it.
"I was so busy ducking bullets I really didn't know what had happened," said Sgt. Phillip Darrington of Paterson, N.J., of A Co., 4th Bn., 31st Inf.
"I remember we were assaulting an enemy position and drawing heavy automatic weapon and mortar fire," said the squad leader. "Suddenly I was knocked down hard."
He lay dazed until one of his men dragged him into a nearby hole.
"When I regained my senses one of my men said I had been knocked down by an incoming mortar round which bounced off my back and exploded on down the hill," said Darrington.
"I wasn't even hit by any shrapnel and I had only minor bruises where the round had hit me," he added.
GI's Stumble Well Received
CHU LAI, Vietnam (Special)
- One awkward infantryman from the Americal Div.'s 196th Inf. Brigade can be as clumsy as he wants as far as his buddies are concerned.
Pfc. Francis Mihalek, of Terre Haute, Ind., was on his way to get some hot chow at the 2d Bn., 1st Inf., company command post when he stumbled.
"I was looking at an old well, and as I passed I stumbled over a portion of the bucket rope and the bucket plunged to the water," said Mihalek.
Seconds later a booby-trapped grenade exploded in the well sending water flying in all directions.
"I guess they figured some GI would be hanging over the side of the well when the rope was lowered." he added. "I guess if I hadn't been going to the CP to get hot chow I might have been the guy hanging over the well drawing water."
Mihalek's buddies still got fresh water from the well, but not before thanking their awkward friend.
5 U.S. - Built Hospitals to Open
S&S Vietnam Bureau
SAIGON - Five hospitals financed by the Department of Defense and the United States Agency of International Development *USAID) will be added this month to South Vietnam's Ministry of Health facilities.
The U.S. mission said Saturday the hospitals will greatly improve the ministry's capability to care for Vietnamese civilian war casualties.
In addition, the missing said nine more American doctors will arrive in Saigon Monday for two months of volunteer service in provincial hospitals and medical centers.
One of the hospitals, an American military facility, has already opened at Chu Lai. The others to open this month are:
An American military hospital in Da Nang; a USAID-built hospital in Chau Doc Province; a military hospital at Can Tho; and a USAID-built hospital in Lam Dong Province.
American military hospitals have been open since 1967 to Vietnamese civilians when space is available.
The American physicians will work at Vinh Long, Bac Lien, Bien Hoa, Da Nang, Phan Rang, My Tho, Tay Ninh and Nha Trang. They are sponsored by USAID and serve without pay except for travel and living expenses.
The volunteers are:
Dr. Ray L. Brewer, Houston, Tex.; Dr. William F. Haines, Malvern, Pa.; Dr. Charles W. Hase, Dallas, Tex.; Dr. Ira D Lefevre, Coeymans, N.Y.; Dr James K. Mac Kennie, Burlington, Va.; Dr. Eliot D. Sorsky, Fresno, Calif.; and Dr. Stanley C. Stamar, Forest Park. Ill.
17Jul68 - Wednesday
Photo - The door gunner came dressed for the occasion as his chopper lifts newlyweds CWO Don Sewell and Capt. Patricia Mann to their new home at Chu Lai (AP Radiophoto)
Takes Newlyweds to Honeymoon Hut
Copter Gives Cupid a Lift
CHU LAI, Vietnam (UPI)- A helicopter that usually lifts wounded men from battle Saturday carried a pair of newlyweds to their honeymoon hut, and the pilot could not have been happier.
In his months in South Vietnam, CWO 2 Norman Shanahan, 22, of Jacksonville, Fla., has been shot down twice while trying to remove wounded Americans from the fighting zone. Each time CWO 2 Don Sewell, 22, of San Antonio, swooped out of the sky to rescue him.
Shanahan returned the favors Saturday. He chauffeured Sewell and his new wife, Capt. Patricia H. Mann, 24, an Army nurse, of Washington, to their new home and a gala reception.
The bride wore white and the helicopter had "just married" painted on its nose.
Green and yellow clouds from smoke grenades heralded the couple's passage and those on the ground cheered. It was the first marriage between Americans at this forward combat base, and all agreed it could not have happened to better people.
Sgt. 1.C. Carnello Arria volunteered to cook the food for the reception and Chaplain Donald Kinney, of Syracuse, N.Y., obtained South Vietnamese Boy Scouts to act as altar boys for the church service.
Maj. Patrick Brady (?Winner of CMOH?) of Seattle, Wash., agreed to be the best
man and Maj. Kenneth Cass, of Waterbury, Conn., gave the bride away.
First Lt. Kathleen Waguespack, of Raceland, La., was the bridesmaid.
"I roomed with Sewell through flight school and he has pulled me out twice after I was shot down," Shanahan said. "It was real great flying him from his wedding.
A house resting on a bluff above the South China Sea reflects what the other men of the 54th Medical Evac. Det. think of the Silver Star winning helicopter ambulance pilots.
It is a three-room affair decked with air conditioners and stereo.
"It is fantastic," Sewell's new wife said. "It has everything a bride could want."
This will be the home of Sewell and his wife who works as a nurse at the 2nd Surgical Hospital for the next nine months.
"The people in the unit scrounged all the materials for the house and guilt it," Sewell said. "It was a fine wedding present."
Even with the rank difference, however, there is no question who will be the boss of the household. "I am only the Mrs.," the captain said. "He (the warrant officer) wears the pants."
Cool GI Keeps His Head, Life
CHU LAI, Vietnam (Special) - "When I felt my boot give, I new I had to freeze in place and pray for help."
Spec. 4 Raymond E. Anton of Minneapolis, Minn., a squad leader with Americal Div.'s 196th Infantry Brigade, was describing his reaction when he recently stepped on a Viet Cong mine.
A Co., 2nd Bn., 1st Inf., was on a search and clear mission.
"We were moving through exceptionally difficult terrain when I felt my boot give and I knew right away what had happened," Anton said.
When Capt. George Hamm, of Daniels, W. Va., company commander, arrived at the head of the lead platoon, he worked 25 minutes to dismantle the mine.
Heavy Fighting Hits Northern Provinces
SAIGON (AP)- Heavy ground fighting was reported Tuesday in the sensitive
northern provinces, following a coordinated series of heavy shellings against key American and South Vietnamese installations.
Michael Goldsmith, Associated Press correspondent, reported that elements of the U.S. Americal Div. were in heavy contact 20 miles south of Da Nang, the center of military operations for the five northernmost provinces.
A U.S. spokesman at Da Nang said 60 Communist soldiers were killed by late Tuesday afternoon in the fresh fighting that centered around the provincial capital of Tam Ky. He said the fighting was continuing and there was "heavy contact."
"Enemy casualties are expected to rise" the spokesman added. The U.S. troops also captured a supply of weapons:
There was no immediate report on U.S. casualties.
Earlier, several allied installations in and around Da Nang, including two airfields, were shelled, South Vietnamese troops guarding the southern and southwestern approaches to Da Nang also were attacked.
In one of the heaviest shellings in several weeks, the Communists slammed between 200 and 300 rounds of mortars and huge 100-pound Russian-made rockets into U.S. and South Vietnamese military installations in and around Da Nang, 75 miles farther south in Quang Ngai Province, and 50 miles north in Thua Thien Province.
The thrust of the attacks were aimed at Da Nag, South Vietnam's second largest city and the nerve for military operations in the five northernmost provinces.
Da Nang is the headquarters of the U.S. Marine forces in Vietnam and two divisions of South Vietnamese troops operating in the five northern provinces.
Military spokesmen reported that elements of the South Vietnamese 51st Regt. and militia-men guarding the southern and southwestern approaches to Da Nang also were attacked.
American casualties were reported as light. U.S. headquarters in Saigon listed damage to aircraft and other facilities as either negligible or light.
A full report was not available on South Vietnamese casualties, but initial reports said four civilians were killed and four soldiers wounded.
NVA Give Jet Pilot A Pat on the Back
CHU LAI, Vietnam (Special)
- A Marine jet pilot received a belated birthday present from the North Vietnamese Army.
An enemy .50 cal. machine-gun bullet penetrated the canopy of his aircraft, slapped him on the back and passed out the other side.
Capt. Douglas P. Light, 24, of Waterloo, Iowa, was flying his Phantom jet on an air support mission in northwest Quang Tri Province the day after his birthday when the incident occurred.
Light's target was an enemy bunker located on a small hill and he was making his second and final run on the target.
"I released my bombs," he stated, "and was pulling out of the run when the round (an incendiary) punched through the canopy filling the inside of the cockpit with smoke."
He pulled to a safe altitude and had his wingman look him over for further damage.
The enemy bullet had cut through his parachute harness straps and flight suit before smashing its way through the aircraft's metal pilot's seat and out the canopy on the other side.
50% of U.S. Wounded Fight Again
WASHINGTON (AP) Nearly 50 per cent of the American troops wounded seriously enough to be hospitalized in the Vietnam war are reassigned to fighting units, according to Pentagon statistics.
The figures show that of 51,252 hospitalized wounded in the 1965-67 period, 23,539 returned to service in Vietnam.
Of the rest, 15,006, or about 30 per cent, were assigned outside the war zone, 3,400 got disability discharges, 1,585 died and 7,722 were still in the hospital at the end of 1967.
A total of 48,565 others who suffered what is loosely termed as bandaged wounds either continued fighting or returned to duty after getting treatment.
The percentage of wounded men leaving the war points up the policy differences among the services concerning the reassignment of men wounded during the fighting.
A Navy man or a Marine, for example, may be shipped out of the war zone for good if he is twice wounded, both requiring 48 hours or more in the hospital.
The Army has a much tougher policy. A soldier can be laid up nearly two months and still go back to the war when he is fit.
The Air Force has virtually no policy at all except in the case of serious wounds.
The Pentagon says the decision on casualty reassignments is left to each service because of their varied manpower needs.