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02Oct68-Mistake Costs Reds 90 Killed
20 Troopers Fool Two Companies
By SGT. ROGER NEUMANN
S&S Staff Correspondent
TAM KY, Vietnam - "they didn't use the mortars or the grenades on us at all. I guess we scared them. If they'd known we only had about 20 able-bodied men, it might have been a different story."
First Lt. John W. Snapp, platoon leader of D Co., 1st Bn., 52nd Inf., 198th Light Inf. Brigade, was describing how he and his handful of Americal Div. troopers fooled two companies of North Vietnamese soldiers into thinking they were outnumbered by an American force that was actually only one-tenth their size.
The mistake cost the Reds their battalion command post-- and 90 lives.
It was part of two-day running battle with NVA soldiers in an area about eight miles southwest of this provincial capital. The fighting claimed 367 enemy dead at the hands of the Americal Div.
Early Thursday, aeroscouts were put into a hamlet by helicopters to search out suspected NVA positions. The scouts were dropped at the edge of a rice paddy just outside the hamlet and walked into a hail of bullets.
The hamlet contained justa few houses, but was on the edge of a small jungle area surrounded by rice paddies. The NVA were dug in along the dikes to protect the commnad post, hidden deep in the undergrowth.
"I think somebody in there got trigger-happy," said a brigade officer. "They were so well camouflaged they might have gotten away with it. But somebody opened up, and from then on they were finished."
For four hours the aeroscouts were pinned down and helicopters couldn't get back in to pull them out.
A platoon from Delta was lifted by choppers to the paddies at the south edge of the hamlet, where they were to sweep north to reinforce the scouts.
"The first slick landed on a dike and a .50 cal. machine gun opened up and wounded five of them right there," said one soldier. "The rest of us had to land further south and work up to them."
Helicopter gunships and jet dive-bombers were called in. But snipers in the hills shot down a Marine A4 Skyhawk and two choppers.
The strikes were called off and the platoon from Delta went in to see what was left.
As the troops stormed the hamlet, the NVA abandoned the command post and fled into the open paddies where gunships cut them down. In the hamlet the soldiers found a small cache of rocket-grenades and 82mm mortar shells.
"They didn't use the mortars or grenades on us at all," said Snapp.
There were an estimated 200 NVA in the hamlet. They survivors scattered into the hills and patrols have gone out to hunt them down.
"We ran into some snipers Friday while sweeping the hamlet but it's been pretty quiet since them," said Lt. Col. William C. Stinson, commander of the 1st Bn. "Now we've just got to go out and find them again."
05Oct68(Sat)-Unarmed GIs Win Death Duel With VC
CHU LAI, Vietnam (Special) -
"Grenades and mortars were exploding all around me as I wrestled him into the wire. It was like a motion picture speeded to three or four times the normal rate. All I wanted was to keep him from getting any of the grenades off his belt," said S. Sgt. D. Ray, chemical NCO for the 5th Bn., 46th Inf.
"Stay alive, Stay alive, over and over, there just was not anything else to think," said Lt. Henry L. Stauffer, "but there we were out in the open. Our hands were our weapons."
The two 198th Inf. Brigade soldiers did stay alive, captured one AK47, five grenades and killed the Viet Cong they engaged in hand-to-hand combat.
The close fighting started when the VC attacked an Americal Div. firebase northwest of Chu Lai. Under the cover of an intense mortar attack, a VC managed to reach the wire. He was running for targets he was instructed to destroy.
"It was instinct I ran out and grabbed him," Stauffer said. "Then I realized he was armed. I grabbed his weapon and yelled for Ray."
Ray said, "I hit him as he was about to go through the wire. I knew he could give us valuable information, but he was trying to kill us.
08Oct68-Song Tra Defies VC
Village That Rose From Its Ashes
By SGT. ROGER NEUMANN
S&S Staff Correspondent
SAIGON - The village of Song Tra is what the war in Vietnam is all about.
In the three months since the Viet Cong burned down the tiny village on the coast of the South China Sea near Quang Ngai City, South Vietnamese government officials have repeatedly pointed to it as an example ofthe destruction wrought by the Communists and the determination ofthe people to oppose it.
"Son Tra is more important and effective than all the VC propaganda put out in this neighborhood," village chief Le Qaung Thuan said recently. "Other villagers can see what can be done to improve their living standards by cooperating with our government."
Son Tra grew out of the determination of the villagers to cooperate with the government. Fleeing the Communists, they came from nearby hamlets to set up a picturesque fishing community that stood up stubbornly against threats to join forces with the Viet Cong or see their homes burn.
On June 28 a VC sapper squad carried out the threat, attacking the sleeping village around midnight with satchel charges that set fire to 450 thatched -roof huts and left 3,555 persons homeless. Eighty-eight villagers were killed and 103 wounded in what government officials called one of the worst atrocities of the war.
It turned the town into a mound of ashes that lay like an ugly scar on the beautiful seaside the next morning. The survivors dug their dead from the ruins and cared for the wounded.
Within two days of the attack, the government hauled in more than 14 tons of emergency supplies, including tents for temporary shelter, food, blankets and clothing. Plans for rebuilding Son Tra were formulated by advisory teams from the government and the U.S. MACCORDS civil development office.
Army engineers from the U.S. Americal Div. cleared the rubble with road graders and a bulldozer. With building materials supplied by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Refugees, the villagers were soon at work on their new homes-with never an interruption in their fishing and rice industries.
"We have new hope now," says Thuan. Officials say the VC are again circulating rumors in the Quang Ngai area that Son Tra is destined for another attack unless the villagers return to their former homes in the VC hamlets. Once a group gathering bamboo for the frames and walls of their new homes was fired on by snipers.
American and South Vietnamese security patrols escorted the villagers the next time they went out for bamboo, and there has been no trouble since. But Thuan wants his people to protect themselves, so he has set up a defense force of a Revolutionary Development Cadre team, a Popular Forces platoon and a platoon of Combat Youth.
"We have suffered much," he said. "We don't look back to our tragedy; we look ahead. We are prepared to suffer more if the VC attack us again as they have threatened. But this time we will be ready for them."
13Oct68-Photo Caption-'Needed That Like a Hole . . . '
Pfc. Ray Hammons, Chico Calif., checks a bullet hole in his helmet after an operation near Tam Ky in Quang Tin Province. The Americal Div. soldier narrowly missed being shot in the head on his first day in combat. (S&S)
23Oct68-Big New Red Shells Found
By PFC. JAMES LINN
S&S Staff Correspondent
SAIGON - A new weapon in the Communist's arsenal was uncovered Sunday, U.S. spokesmen reported.
Troops of the 198th Light Inf. Brigade on a sweep in Quang Tin Province, found a cache of 44 rounds of 70mm howitzer ammunition in a tunnel complex five miles southwest of Tam Ky.
This type of shell reportedly has never been found in Vietnam before, nor the weapon that fires it. The howitzer weighs an estimated 468 pounds. The shell weighs 9.3 pounds. Both are manufactured in Red China.
Despite heavy rains, Americal Div. forces reported killing 19 Reds Sunday and detaining eight suspects in widely scattered actions throughout the southern portion of I Corps. Units of the Americal's Light Inf. Brigade accounted for 10 of the 19 killed during operation Wheeler Wallowa.