July 17 – 23, 1970
Day by Day Report
by Lee Widjeskog
July 17, 1970
Today the NVA ratchetted up the pressure on FSB Ripcord. The dropped 50 rounds of mortar on the hill and shot at incoming helicopters with their .51 heavy machine guns. Just so all could participate the also fired a few rounds of small arms during the day. It resulted in 14 WIAs, one was the captain of the Bravo Battery 2/319 Field Artillery, David Rich. The radar unit was also knocked out making counter fire a little more difficult.
Just after midnight, D2/501 had observed lights during the night and employed ARA on their location. Two hours later a mechanical ambush detonated and Delta received CS rounds, small arms fire and satchel charges from the west and south west. Counter fire was employed and the NVA quickly broke contact. After day light, Delta received resupply and move out to a secure LZ for extraction. As they moved, one of their Kit Carson Scouts detonated a grenade killing himself and injuring seven others. Medevac extracted the wounded but two, David Beyl and Wilfred Warner, died of their wounds in the hospital. Because of the delay in getting the wounded out, Delta was forced to spend one more night in the field. They set up down the trail, kept alert and quiet and hoped the NVA did not attack.
Else where, A,B,C and E 2/501 were extracted from the Hill 1000 area and returned to their base at Phu Bai.
B 2/506 continued to secure Ripcord and avoid mortars.
C2/506 remained on FSB O’Reilly.
D2/506 patrolled around the Triple Hill area.
Recon Team E of E2/506 sought NVA well northwest of Ripcord.
A2/506 worked through the jungles southwest of Hill 805 and destroyed bunkers.
D1/506 was OP-Con to 2/506 for deployment
July 18, 1970
D2/506 had listening post out when they heard movement just after midnight. Grenades were employed and no further movement heard.
With fewer line companies in the jungle, the NVA felt they were free to fire on FSB Ripcord. By 1128 ripcord had received 18 rounds of mortar and 1 75mm round. Burke Miller A2/11 Field Artillery, known as “Buck” was in a bunker chatting with friends. He left to return to the FDC (fire direction center) when a mortar round hit near him. A piece of shrapnel hit and killed him instantly. Four others were wounded that morning.
By mid-day, D2/501 had completed extraction from Hill 805 and returned to their base camp at Phu Bai. The last four helicopters picking up the troops received small arms fire as the NVA tried to close in. Deltas time on Hill 805 left them with 9 KIAs and 34 WIA.
At 1340 a CH-47 Chinook helicopter was attempting to deliver munitions for the Ripcord 105mm cannons. .51 heavy machine gun fire by the NVA hit the hovering plane. The rotors were seen to go out of sync from the gun fire and tilted towards the ground. The load was dropped in an attempt to help the pilot right the ship. It did not work and it came down on the ammo and fuel bunkers. Crew members started leaping form the plane. Mike Walker jumped free but before he could clear the area the ship rolled onto him pinning him by the legs against the rock hard ground. Men on the ground rushed to get him out using shovels and picks while others sprayed fire extinguishers on the plane and Mike. There simply was not enough time or equipment available to get Mike Walker out fast enough. The Chinook caught fire and was soon engulphed by flames forcing the rescuers to retreat. Mike Walker died with his CH-47. All this took place in less than two minutes and the ammo soon began exploding. A mushroom cloud of smoke and fire blew hundreds of feet into the air. Shrapnel was landing 1.5 kilometers away where A2/506 watched while waiting for a resupply.
The 105mm cannon battery of 6 guns was destroyed in the fire and explosions. The fuel deposit caught fire and leaked and flowed down the side of the hill. The commo bunker and TOC were destroyed as well as the infirmary. The radar unit was once more wiped out as were the 106 recoilless rifle and the mechanical mule. The explosions continued for hours and the NVA added to the issue by firing 20 additional mortar rounds. One of these killed Bill Rollason who was a sniper for E2/501. He was helping to relocated the FDC when hit. Ten men were wounded and only Mike Walker died as a direct result of the crash.
Loss of the 105’s suddenly made Ripcord much less effective.
Following this disaster, the Brigade Commander had FSB Gladiator reopened and by A & B 1/501 and the 105 unit of Bravo 2/320 FA manning it to support Ripcord.
A2/506 found a .51 heavy machine gun and engaged 2 NVA at a distance with negative results. the also received a resupply and six replacements as two of their men left for R&R. Alpha set a NDA southeast of Ripcord and southwest of Hill 805 about 1 kilometer from each.
B2/506 secured Ripcord and began the cleanup of the explosion.
C2/506 secured FSB O’Reilly.
Delta 1/506 was assigned to the 2/506 and spent the night in a NDP south of ripcord.
D2/506 remained on patrol between Ripcord and O’Reilly.
Recon Platoon E2/506 was in the area well northwest of Ripcord.
July 19, 1970
As FSB Ripcord was recovering from the fatal helicopter crash, B of the326 Engineers came in to dispose of ordinance and get the area ready for a new battery. To hamper the situation, the NVA dropped at least 26 mortar rounds onto the base wounding 3 men. The firebase and aircraft continued to receive sporadic .51 machine gun and small arms fire.
B2/506 provided security and was busy helping to get the base back in shape.
There was a powder fire on FSB O’Reilly which resulted in 2 GIs receiving burns. C2/506 remained on O’Reilly.
FSB Gladiator was now supporting Ripcord with 105 artillery. It was secured by A & B 1/501.
D1/506 was now working in the Ripcord area of operations and combat assaulted to Triple Hill. Here they destroyed 6 bunkers, discovered a body killed by artillery and note a well used trail through the jungle.
A2/506, while on a trail break to verify their present position on the map, had 2 NVA soldiers walk upon the middle of the column.. Capt. Hawkins spotted them quickly and fired almost as fast, killing both men before they could fire back. A sweep of the area found no others. Papers indicated the two had been wounded on Hill 805 and were returning to their unit when they encountered Alpha Company.
D2/506 continued to patrol south of FSB O’Reilly.
Recon Teams d & E of E2/506 worked around the O’Reilly area.
The day saw many air strikes, ARA and artillery hits on suspected mortar and heavy machine gun sites around Ripcord.
July 20, 1970
At 0615 the NVA gave FSB Ripcord a wake up call by lobbing three mortar rounds onto the area. As the day went on Ripcord received 35 more mortar rounds and 1 75mm as well as sporadic small arms and heavy machinegun fire. By 0930 the mortars had hit some of the men. A 120mm mortar landed amid some of the engineers who were clearing debris from the July 18 helicopter crash and explosion. This round killed Dennis Fisher and Durl Calhoun. The later should have been back in the states , but recently signed up for an extension of his tour. His men thought he was invincible.
D2/506 operating 2.5 kilometers south of FSB O’Reilly, discovered and destroyed a bunker and 8 mortar rounds. Later they found a one meter wide trail showing signs of recent use.
A2/506, south of Hill 805, requested a medevac for a soldier who accidentally shot his foot. Later Alpha discovered a 4′ wide trail with a commo cable. Tapping into the line, their ARVN interpreter, SSGT Long, found it was a between the Division HQ and some mortar pits. Ambushes were set out. Second Platoon killed a single NVA who was looking for a view. First Platoon killed one NVA and wounded a second who escaped. They were checking the commo line.
D1/506 left the Triple Hill area by helicopter and landed east of Hill 805 and south of Hill 605. They received small arms fire as they landed and the 11th ship in took fire wounding two who flew out on the same plane. Once on the ground, at 1230, Capt. Workman had 2nd and 3rd platoon move to set up on a northern knoll while 1st Platoon set up an the southern knoll. As they moved three NVA were met and killed and ARA was employed around the area. Contact was broken and the units set up. Bunkers were found on the area in various stages of construction. Around 1700 hours, the point team of Valle and De Wulf, for 1st Platoon, moved south on a recon. They spotted NVA and were pulled back. They re-grouped and on a different axis tried to flank the NVA position. They hit well hidden bunkers manned by NVA. The enemy opened up and killed Eloy Valle. Pat De Wulf hollered and tried to reach his buddy when he too was killed. During the shooting, John Knott was hit and unable to move back. Soon Dale Tauer and Bill Browning tried to get Knott when they were hit with a RPG. Browning took most of the blast and died while Tauer was knocked unconscious. The NVA stripped him of his ammo vest and his wallet but left him for dead. Sometime later his buddy, Randy Benck, thinking Dale was dead, crawl out to retrieve his body. Luckily , Dale was still alive. During this attack, mortars hit the company further causing problems.
First Platoon broke contact by 1830 and was sending 8 WIA for medevac. NDPs were established on the two knolls as D1/506 awaited further attacks. Illumination was fired most of the night.
C2/506 securing FSB O’Reilly, received small arms fire and one RPG from outside the wire perimeter. One man received a minor wound and the attack broke off.
B2/506 continued security on Ripcord.
D2/506 continued patrolling south of O’Reilly with out further incident.
A2/506 was back near their previous NDP ready to proceed in the morning.
Recon Team D, E2/506 worked the area near O’Reilly.
At higher headquarters Col. Harrison was seeking additional troops if Third Brigade was to stay in the area. The only way to keep Ripcord and other fire support bases open was to have troops on the ground denying access to the NVA. Options were being discussed.
July 21, 1970
Delta 1/506 spent the night in two NDPs and got little sleep as they anticipated a night assault. Although movement was heard, no attack came before day light.
At 0712 the NVA sent a “Wake UP” call in the form of 40 mortar rounds on the NDP. Medic Robert Hays was one of the first hit. He was thought to be all right , but was then hit a second time and shortly died after going into shock. Before Capt. Workman could get his units moved to the LZ, both Frank Asher and Peter Huk , new guys with little field time, were killed by the mortars.
Counterfire with artillery and ARA allowed the company to relocated close to the LZ. The unit was now down to 40+ men from the 80+ they had when they arrived yesterday. Fighting continued off and on through the morning. At 0820 the first medevac came in and took out7 WIA. The second ship in was hit in the tail with an RPG and small arms fire hit the cockpit. The crew was tossed out and the helicopter stayed on the edge of the LZ with its rotor blades still turning.
Lt. Rosen returned for his second load of wounded and avoided the spinning blades. His medic, Brent Law, ran over to the disabled ship and turned off the fuel shutting down the rotors. He then returned to Rosen’s ship and tended to the load of WIAs.
Loaded up they took off, but unknown to they the senior company medic tried to join them and grabbed a hold of the strut. The chopper quickly made altitude and speed causing the medic Ron Schultz to lose his hold. He plumetted to his death 300 feet below.
His body was never recovered.
As Rosen and crew made their way for a fourth load of wounded, choppers were still being hit coming and going on the LZ. They no sooner landed when they received small arms fire hitting the co-pilot and Medic Law. The co-pilot survived, but Brent Law died of internal bleeding long before they could get to the hospital. 326 Medical Eagle Dustoff lost one of their best medics that day.
Lt. Col. Luca sent in D2/506 to help shore up D1/506. They landed up on Hill 605 and immediately captured a .51 machine gun and found a bunker complex. As they moved toward Capt. Workman’s group, a bobby trap was hit wounding 4 men. An hour or so behind them C2/506 also landed on Hill 605 and shipped the.51 back. Lt. Col. Lucas was dropped off by his bird and met with the three captains to plan the next move. He wanted them to continue the offense but Capt. Workman was opposed due to his heavy losses and the heavy numbers of NVA in the area. Lucas did not concur and left. However, he soon realized he would not have adequate reserves if their fight was larger than he thought. He then called back and told them to prepare for evacuation.
With that decision made, Rollison’s men pushed the damaged helicopter off the LZ. By 1640 most of Workman’s D1/506 was out. As Capt. Workman’s helicopter came in, it was hit by a RPG and fell on it’s side as the infantry moved to get on. A rotor blade cut the captain in half and blocked the LZ.
Captain Rollison then moved all back to Hill 605 to evacuate from there. This move took place with air strikes and ARA and artillery being used around them to keep the NVA away. Once on 605, D1/506 was lifted out followed by D2/506 and finally in the dark using strobe light to guide the choppers, C2/506 under Capt. Lamb was lifted off at 2027.
While all this was happening things were not quiet on FSB Ripcord. During the day they received 37 mortar rounds and sporadic sniper fire. this resulted in 11 WIA and 5 KIA.
The first two killed were Francis Maune and Larry McDowell of B2/506. They with a few others were around the quad .50 machinegun offering to help when the round hit. Maune died instantly, but McDowell survived long enough to get to the hospital and sucummed to his wounds on 27 July.
Towards dusk, a work party was moving 155 rounds from the helo pad down to the guns when a mortar hit. the well liked Roberto Flores of B2/506 was killed as were Dave Johnson and Bob Kalsu of A 2/11 Field Artillery. the two had become good friends on the firebase and often competed with one another in seeing who could move the most 155 artillery rounds. All three died instantly. B 2/506 continued to secure the base.
On FSB O’Reilly, C2/506 was engaged in shooting with NVA outside the wire resulting in one WIA for Charlie Company. By mid-day they had left the base to the ARVN and flown to help D1/506 on Hill 605.
FSB Gladiator, which provided Ripcord with 105 mm cannon support was being secured on the base and the surrounding jungle by A,B & D 1/501.
In the early morning, A2/506headed back towards the cable to see if the one dead NVA was still on the rock. first platoon came upon two NVA walking up the trail. Shots were exchanges leaving one NVA dead and the other wounded and running away. Searches did not find the WIA or the dead man from the previous day. later, as A2/506 moved to a NDP, 2nd Platoon dropped off Sp4 Journell and SP4 Walker to ambush anyone who followed them. A half hour of so, they opened fire killing one NVA and rousting the other. Examination discovered that this dead man was a scout who had plans for the assault on Ripcord. A2/506 set up for the night and after a few hours, moved a couple hundred meters to throw off any surveillance. A2/506 was now the only infantry unit in the jungle around FSB Ripcord.
July 22, 1970
Another day on Ripcord. Mortar fire and 155 fire was being put out from the firebase as needed and some extra as the plans to evacuate the firebase progressed. In return they received 22 rounds of mortar fire and .51 machinegun fire from the NVA. This fire wounded seven men and killed Stanly Diehl.. He had been with D2/506 when they assaulted Hill 1000 . After that he took R&R and returned to Ripcord on the 21st to work with mortars as he had trained As they fired, he was hit and killed by incoming NVA shells. By the end of the day plans for evacuation on the 23rd were finalized and A2/11 FA was busy firing as many rounds as possible so there would be less to leave or back haul at day light on the 23rd.
Alpha 2/506 was up and checking the perimeter at daylight. The First Platoon led out heading to a LZ across the tributary, southeast of Ripcord. While they moved, Lt. Col. Lucas radioed Capt. Hawkins and said he felt there was too much danger in that area and go north to a previously used LZ. First Platoon was called back and when they arrived, Second Platoon took the lead to the north. About 100 meters from the perimeter, Second encounter a NVA mortar section and received RPG and machinegun fire. The platoon of 17 men was quickly surrounded while the mortars fired onto the rest of the company. A ground assault hit the company while Second Platoon laid down a base of fire from their hurried defensive position.
At the company site, 3rd Platoon was strung out in column in preparation to leave and First Platoon was just getting up when the mortars, tear gas and assault hit. The platoons fled to impact area and found cover on the other side of the hill. In the opening fight the FO, 1st platoon leader and platoon sergeant with others were killed.. The fighting continued on both areas for over 5 hours.
Capt. Hawkins was able to get artillery , ARA and air support to slow the NVA.
At 2nd platoon the NVA made a concerted effort to over run their position when a cloud of grenades and satchel charges hit them. The GIs responded in kind and for a bit the smoke was very thick. along the way two GI (Schultz and Journell) were killed and 13 wounded.
The other platoons had reorganized and soon a jet came in to drop 250 pound bombs close. One landed on the hill the company controlled , but did not detonate the other landed in the area the NVA sent their troops from and blew up. After the smoke cleared, the NVA would get up and run every time a jet made a run. The battle was over.
A2/506 remained on their hill that night expecting an attack. Due to that fight they lost Virgil Bixby, Steve Olson, Robert Journell, Tom Schultz, William Pahissa, Gerald Singleton, Danny Fries, Ovell Spruill, John Babich, John Kreckle, Harvey Neal, Don Severson, Robert Brown, Mark Draper, Danny Fries, and interpreter SFC Pham Van Long. An additional 55 were WIA. Only six were unwounded in the battle. There was no LZ so medevac was not attempted.
D2/506 was planning to CA to assist A2/506 around 1600 hours. Their LZ caught fire and they could not get in. Soon, the A2/506 situation stabilized and the assistance was called off.
At FSB Gladiator D1/501 patrolled the area while A & B 1/501 secured the base. B 2/320 FA provided artillery at Gladiator.
July 23, 1970
The decision had been made to evacuate FSB Ripcord rather than put more GIs in the line of fire. To do this while under fire is not a simple or easy task. The plans were developed and what needed to leave first were the 155mm cannons. Through the day and night of the 22nd and early in the 23rd the 155 crews fired off round after round of ammo so it would not fall into the hands of the enemy or have to be back logged. By sunrise the guns were ready for lifted off by the CH-47 from the 158 and 159 Aviation units.
Troop A and B of 2/17 Air Cav. worked the hills through out the day in support.
The NVA soon saw what was happening and soon was firing on the base and the helicopters from the Hill 805 area and else where. By 0747 one CH-47 was hit and landed on the destroyed 105 area. It was later destroyed on site. Ripcord was under fire from heavy machine gun, small arms and mortars all day long. Over 600 rounds of mortars hit the base that day until final lift off at noon. Twenty three men were wounded on the 23rd.
Helicopters were dropping CS crystals on all suspected NVA areas around the fire base. Bombs were being dropped and artillery from Gladiator and Rakkason were firing into the hills near Ripcord. The mortar units, that were to be shortly pulled off, fired round after round in order to lighten the loads.
As their guns were lifted, the crews jumped onto Hueys and were returned to Camp Evans. Lt. Col. Lucas and his executive officer, Maj. Tanner were checking the progress near their bunker when a 120mm mortar round hit . This explosion and shrapnel killed Tanner and nearby PFC Gus Allen, and mortally injured Lucas. He was tended to and placed on a medevac, but died shortly after lifting off. These three were the last men to be killed or injured and die as a result of the battle.
Captain Peters of Bravo 2/506 took over the ground evacuation and in co-ordination with Capt. House of the helicopters, the evacuation was successfully completed by1230. The base was then covered with CS crystals to make it harder on any NVA that might show up.
Earlier in the morning, D2/506, lifted off Camp Evans to assistA2/506 in their extraction. They landed on their designated LZ and moved as quickly as they could. They covered the900 meters of jungle in about an hour and joined up with Alpha. Here, Delta blew a landing zone on site due to all the litter cases of wounded. The LZ ended up consisting of a opening in the 150′ hig canopy that was just wide enough for the Hueys to hover straight down. Then they had to hover over the downed tree trunks as the men were loaded on. Each chopper in turn ascended straight up before they could then accelerate and return to Camp Evans. Alpha was back at Camp Evans by 1345 and Delta followed them by 1425.. With that extraction, all on and near Ripcord had been successfully evacuated.
On FSB Gladiator, 7.5 kilometers from Ripcord, a few mortar rounds were landing on their perimeter , but not injuries. A. B. and D 1/501 continued to secure the base of the surrounding area. E 1/501 recon teams worked the area seeking NVA locations.
That night B-52’s conducted heavy bombing of the base and the surrounding area. Ripcord was closed.