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Aug. 68
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Pacific Stars  and Stripes

An authorized publication of the U.S. Armed forces in the far east.

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   Saltless VC Somewhere

   CHU LAI, Vietnam (Special) - It's back to the salt mines for a group of unwary Viet Cong in the 198th Inf. Brigade's area southwest of Chu Lai.

   A patrol led by 2nd Lt. John L. King caught the enemy with an unguarded cache and captured 13,800 pounds of slat.

  The tip-off came three days earlier when a Forward Air Controller spotted a large number of suspects gathering in an unoccupied hamlet.  The same group was spotted on the next two days, but on the third day the 1st Bn., 52nd Inf. unit moved quickly.

   "We cordoned off the area," King  said.  "Then we began our search and found seven tons of salt."

   Prisoners said the salt was moved by night to enemy units hiding in the mountains.

  Heads Aviation Unit

   DA NANG, Vietnam (Special)

-Col. William C. Tyrrell of Arlington, Va., has taken command of the 16th Combat Aviation Group, replacing Col. Daniel G. Gust of Milwaukee, Wis.

   GI Gets Charge Out of Job

   CHU LAI, Vietnam (Special)

- When Spec. 4 Gregory C. Faulk set out to smooth some of the bumps out of the roads of Landing Zone Bronco, it began just like any other day on the job.

   But before he was finished, Faulk, Mentor, Ohio, plowed up quite a bit of excitement in the 11th Inf. Brigade base camp.

   About midmorning, Faulk, of the Americal Div's, C Co., 26th Engineer Bn., was working with the toothed ground-breaking attachment (scarifier) on his grader, attempting to level a particularly stubborn section of road near the brigade headquarters section.

   "I had the scarifier set to dig down to a depth of about eight inches," Faulk said.  "The fork hit something buried in the road, but I didn't think too much about it because there are a lot of rocks in this area."   

   Suddenly the "rock" started to sputter, and a second later, a muffled explosion spread a 30-foot circle of fire around the front of the grader.

   "I wasn't sure what it was at first," Faulk recalled.  I backed the grader out of there and when I jumped down to help beat out  the fire I saw that it was gunpowder burning."

   Faulk had hit an old powder charge for a 175mm gun which had somehow been buried in the road.  It was still in its container, but when the scarifier dragged along the friction set off the percussion primer.

   "It was a good thing the container was partially rusted out," Faulk stated, "because as it was, the explosion was only enough to spread the flaming powder around a little bit and didn't really damage anything.

   GIs Stung By Attack

   CHU LAI- Vietnam (Special) - Thousands, possibly millions of enemy dive bombers with fixed bayonets attacked an 11th Inf. Brigade recon platoon 15 miles southwest of Quang Ngai.

   The recon platoon, from the Americal Div.'s 1st Bn., 20th Inf. had spotted about 20 VC suspects in a village.  "We had just started after them when our two Vietnamese point men stumbled into a thicket of bumble bees," said Spec. 4 Richard A. Rodriguez, of Tuscon, Ariz.  "They immediately tried to warn us, but the bees were all around us.  Everyone was swatting them while we ran for cover."

   "There was  a cloud of bees in battalion formation coming toward us," Spec. 4 Rolando De Leon, also of Tuscon, recalled.  "The bees were all over our flesh.  I kept wiping them off my face, but as fast as I did they were back.  They flew up my nose and I could hardly catch my breath."

   De Leon darted for the river at the bottom of the hill.  "As soon as I jumped in the water with all my equipment, they stopped stinging," he said,  "I know I swallowed two of them and it took me 15 minutes to pull the fifty or sixty 1/8 inch stingers out of my face and arms."

   As the men were putting up a losing battle, 1st Lt. Donald Hopper, of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, the platoon leader, called in a dustoff for his men.

   "The side of the hill was covered with bamboo shoots where the bees had their hives," Pfc. Robert Voss, of St. Louis, Mo., said.  "They seemed to attack on command."

   Some of the men in the rear used ponchos to cover themselves.  Even though they had cover only two men were not stung.  Four needed hospitalization.


  VC Lose 'Pitching' Duel 17-0

  CHU LAI, Vietnam (Special) -

A midnight grenade throwing contest in the mountains west of Tam Ky ended in a lopsided win for six 198th Inf. Brigade soldiers, as the score was 17 enemy dead to no U.S. casualties.

   "We caught them in a draw beneath our bunkers," said Sgt. Phillip G. Martocci of A Co., 1st Bn., 6th Inf., in relating how the six men furiously lobbed grenades

for 15 minutes.

   The close-in fight started when the Americal Div. soldiers heard the enemy trying to get through the barbed wire surrounding their positions.  When the sounds of moans followed the explosion of a grenade tossed into the wire, the battle was on.

   More than four and a half cases of grenades were hurled down the slope in the next few minutes and an M79 grenadier fired almost 80 explosive rounds point blank into the attackers.

   "Our platoon leader and sergeant rushed over with a machine gun and more grenades,"  Martocci said, "but by then it was almost over.  The machine gun, however, got six as they tried to get away."

   A combat patrol the next morning captured a Viet Cong who said many more dead and wounded had been carried away by a group he was in.


Couple Give up VC Role

   CHU LAI, Vietnam (Special) - Tired of constant fear, hiding and moving, a Vietnamese husband and wife, formerly Viet Cong leaders in the 198th Inf. Brigade sector of Vietnam, have turned themselves in for an opportunity to work for the government of Vietnam.

   The husband was assistant company commander of 62 in a Viet Cong unit.  His wife was a political leader in the same position of the Americal Div. area and organized women's groups.

   The young couple - 22 and 24- made the decision to defect together.  During questioning they stated the Viet Cong were going to move them to near Khe Sanh and that the upcoming move triggered their decision.

   The husband told questioners, "I want to learn to speak English and work for Americans as a Kit Carson Scout."

   His wife, who received extensive training in the Vietnamese school system, wants to become a secretary.


  Reds Playing It Safe in Beefed Up I Corps


   DA NANG, Vietnam (UPI) -

South Vietnam's norther sector has lost much of its military significance since the days early this year when fears were expressed of an Allied defeat at the besieged fortress of Khe Sanh.

   American strategists said a large scale buildup of American troops in the I Corps, or norther section, of South Vietnam apparently has dashed North Vietnamese hopes of a major victory in the area.  The Communists are expected to look further south for their victory.

   Since Marines waded ashore in Da Nang in 1965 to spearhead the American ground involvement in South Vietnam, they have repelled several North Vietnamese invasion attempts.

   But in the last few months the picture in I Corps has changed dramatically.

   Three elite Army divisions - the Americal, 1st Air Cavalry and the 101st Air Cavalry-were rushed to the northern provinces to bolster the Marines.

   There are now over 192,000 American troops in I Corps, plus 38,000 regular South Vietnamese troops and 37,000 Vietnamese militia.  The North Vietnamese also have kept a healthy chunk of their forces in the area - nine division totaling some 100,000 men.

   On military officer explained the situation this way:

   "Before, they were always in there with a chance to land that knockout punch.  We were spread too thin to cover everything.  Sure, they can still mass and attacking force, but we now have the troops, helicopters and fire support to either stop them before they attack or meet them head-on and beat them."

   With no lucrative victory in sight, the Allied planners believe the Communists will turn their attention further south.

   Recent operations tend to confirm this theory.  The current offensive in the A Shau Valley- until three months ago the major Communist supply are in the south-has turned up only minimal supply caches.

   Marines along the DMZ raided north of Con Thien in the area traditionally a Communist redoubt and again returned almost empty handed.

   Cavalry troops operating in the jungles west of Hue have uncovered huge arms and food caches but intelligence sources indicate many of these are months old and they were probably used during the Tet Offensive in Hue.

   Although American officers believe division sized battles are a thing of the past in I Corps, they still predict bloody fighting.

   The style of fighting may already be emerging in the An Hoa Valley south of Da Nang.  Here, for the last few weeks, Marines and North Vietnamese have fought a series of bloody company-sized engagements.


  Troops Walk Off With Red Bikes

   CHU LAI, Vietnam (Special) -

A dawn patrol led troopers of D Co., 4th Bn., 31st Inf., 196th Inf. Brigade to an unusual find.

   Company commander Capt. Henry Robinson reported that his men stumbled onto a cache of Viet Cong bicycles, used to haul supplies along jungle trails.

   "We moved out early in the morning," said  Robinson, "along a well-used trail about 3 to 5 feet wide.  After a short while we noticed some kind of symbol or sign at the side of the trail.  Our Vietnamese scout took a look at  it, and discovered another trail leading off from it to the side.

   "The trail led to a hooch, and inside we found 30 bicycles, parked side by side.  There were two VC there also taking care of the bikes.  In addition to the bikes in movable condition, we found 10 or 12 frames and other parts that could have been made into other bikes."

   The discovery was made about one kilometer east of Landing Zone Mellon, in a heavily-wooded area along a stream.

   Apparently, the dense jungle canopy had kept the bikes well hidden.

   First Lt. Billy Fleming, leader of D Co.'s 1st Platoon, made the initial discovery.

   The bicycles were tied together and lifted out of the area by a helicopter.

   Robinson says he figures "A lot of people in Chu Lai are riding bicycles now."


   Viet's Action Saves Lives

   SAIGON (S&S) - An officer of the 112th National Police Field Force Co. has been credited with saving the lives of American soldiers and fellow Vietnamese policemen

in an operation which took place Sunday near Duc Pho District in Quang Ngai Province.

   On patrol with elements of the U.S. 11th Brigade and national policemen, the officer, Ngoc Van Thanh, discovered a tunnel from which five Viet Cong threw hand grenades and began firing rifles.

   Although seriously wounded Thanh returned the fire until his companions had taken cover.  U.S. troops on the patrol said Thanh's action had saved their lives.  All five Viet Cong were killed.

27Aug68-Allies Kill 555 Reds in Weekend Fighting

   DAN NANG, Vietnam (AP) - American and Vietnamese troops killed more than 300 soldiers in a string of sharp clashes in the five northernmost provinces in South Vietnam Saturday, military spokesmen reported Sunday.

   In addition, another 255 Communist soldiers reportedly have been slain in fighting that began Friday around the village of Hoa Vang two miles south of Da nang and near Quang Ngai city 85 miles south of Da Nang.

   In the biggest battle fought Saturday, soldiers of the Americal Div. reported killing 180 North Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong in a day-long fight along the coast five miles southwest of Tam Ky.

   Soldiers of the 1st Armored Cav. made contact early Saturday and they were quickly reinforced.  Contact was broken at 7:30 p.m.  Headquarters said U.S. casualties were only 11 wounded.  Most of the Viet Cong were reported killed by helicopter gunships.

   In another major engagement.........

  -In fighting that began just west of Quang Ngai City Friday, 40 Communist soldiers were believed slain and fighting continued.


   Near Dien Ban about 15 miles south of Hoi An, the Viet Cong attacked a hamlet and a company of militiamen guarding a bridge.  The guerrillas set fire to the village of Vinh Dinh and 192 houses were destroyed, military spokesmen said.  The militia company suffered moderate casualties, the spokesmen said, and 10 of the attackers were killed.

   In the village of Bong Cat, which is just south of Quang Ngai City, six civilians were lined up and executed by the Viet Cong Saturday afternoon, according to a government spokesman.

28Aug68-Fleeing N. Viets Mauled 2d Day in Row



      S&S Staff Correspondents

   SAIGON - U.S. infantrymen fought a running battle for the second day Sunday with a North Vietnamese division trapped on South Vietnam's north-central coastal flatlands, and killed 213 Communist regulars before the enemy again slipped away in the night.

   The heavy fighting, five miles west of Tam Ky city in Quang Tin Province, picked up Sunday less than four miles from where the two forces fought all day Saturday.  In two days, the NVA division has lost over 500 men.

   In .................

   The six-hour battle near Tam Ky began when a cavalry squadron of the Americal Div. managed to regain contact with the fleeing North Vietnamese.  More infantrymen were moved up in an attempt to surround the enemy forces.  Air strikes, artillery and helicopter gunships pounded the REd positions throughout the day.

   The Communists, tentatively identified as the 2nd NVA Div., finally managed to withdraw again at 6:30 p.m.

   American losses were seven killed and 30 wounded.