Welcome to Charlie Company

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Welcome to Charlie Company website.  This site is dedicated to the fine men that served with Charlie Company 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division in Vietnam from 1966 to 1972.

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Swift Boat Ambush

Between the hours of 1800-1900, 12 April 1969, at a well-camouflaged sector along the narrow Duong Keo, southernmost in South Vietnam’s vast system of navigable waterways, U.S. Navy PCF’s (“swiftboats”) then supporting Vietnamese Marine river operations under the aegis of SEALORDS incurred their most devastating and demoralizing setback to date. A well-planned and perfectly executed Viet Cong heavy weapons ambush inflicted heavy material damage to every swiftboat unit involved in the action and accounted for thirty-nine wounded in action, many seriously and requiring immediate medical evacuation. Vietnamese Marine casualties were of equal severity. One of the eight boats involved, PCF 43, was totally destroyed during the encounter. Its mangled, blackened carcass still rests on the ambush site. Her seventeen-member crew included ten members of an underwater demolition team, two were killed: Only three of the remaining fifteen escaped unscathed.[Source: By LTJG Peter N. Upton, UDT-13, article supplied by Steven L. Waterman, mwweb.com/ndc/SwiftBoats]

LTJG Peter N. Upton wrote: “Vietnamese mornings are singularly beautiful… However, this morning elegance passed quickly, when word was passed to UDT promulgating the modus operandi and logistics requirements for the upcoming three-day SEALORDS operation. It was about 1630 hours when UDT personnel scampered down the sagging cargo net, consummating the already bulking load. Rendezvous with the PCF units involved in the mission took place approximately one hour later, one thousand meters outside the gaping mouth of the Duong Keo, the watery path which would lead to the day’s assigned sweep area. Forty-three informed the command boat of her special cargo, then took her assigned station as the rear element of a stately file of eight units. Flak gear was donned and battle stations manned on the fantail as the boats proceeded to enter the foreboding jaws of this river, infamous for its demonstrated hostility to allied units who dared venture into her inner reaches.  Continue reading

Surviving a Helicopter Crash in Vietnam

Helicopter pilot USMC Gunnery Sergeant Paul Moore told the journalist Peter Alan Lloyd, “I had one particularly close call was when I was flying an H-34 to determine some control problems. I had a VNAF Capt as co-pilot and we were observing a flight of Army HU-1s on a mission on a mountain. I auto-rotated down the mountain side and when I added power and pulled up the collective to recover from the auto rotation, the helicopter began a rapid spin and loss of fore and aft cyclic control. (Later I discovered that the tail pylon had sheared resulting in an extreme out of balance fore and aft). [Source: USMC Gunnery Sergeant Paul Moore, with Peter Alan Lloyd, Eyewitness Accounts The Vietnam War, May 2013]

“I followed the known emergency actions which I was very familiar with, since I also taught them, as we dropped approximately 1,500 feet, including auto rotation prior to the flare at about 500 ft when the tail pylon failed and the spin began. We hit nose down because of loss of fore and aft control, then I applied full left cyclic to wind up the Main rotor blades, as they struck the ground. These procedures were: ) Reduced the hand throttle to idle to stop or reduce the spinning; 2) Turn off the battery switch; 3) Turn off the magneto switch. These actions were to help prevent a fire when crashing. Then I had to stop the main rotors before they came through the cockpit. I did that by full left cyclic so the main blades would strike the ground, and stop their travel before they could hit the cockpit. I was on the bottom left side of the helicopter, and the VNAF Captain disappeared out through the right side window, leaving me with my left leg trapped. Continue reading

Helicopter Missions in Vietnam

Michael Herr wrote in “Dispatches”, “I was already down at the strip waiting for a helicopter to come and take me out of there… At one lz the brigade chopper came in with a real foxtail hanging off the aerial… “Best way’s to just keep moving,” one of them told us. “Just keep moving, stay in motion, you know what I’m saying?” We knew. He was a moving-target-survivor subscriber, a true child of the war, because except for the rare times when you were pinned or stranded the system was geared to keep you mobile, if that was what you thought you wanted. As a technique for staying alive it seemed to make as much sense as anything, given naturally that you were there to begin with and wanted to see it close; it started out sound and straight but it formed a cone as it progressed, because the more you moved the more you saw, the more you saw the more besides death and mutilation you risked, and the more you risked of that the more you would have to let go of one day as a “survivor.” Some of us moved around the war like crazy people until we couldn’t see which way the run was even taking us anymore, only the war all over its surface with occasional, unexpected penetration. As long as we could have choppers like taxis it took real exhaustion or depression near shock or a dozen pipes of opium to keep us even apparently quiet, we’d still be running around inside our skins like something was after us, ha ha, La Vida Loca. [Source: Michael Herr, “Dispatches”, Knopf, 1977] Continue reading

Drugs, Freaks and Beyond Fear in the Vietnam War

Michael Herr wrote in “Dispatches”, “Going out at night the medics gave you pills, Dexedrine breath like dead snakes kept too long in a jar. I never saw the need for them myself, a little contact or anything that even sounded like contact would give me more speed than I could bear. Whenever I heard something outside of our clenched little circle I’d practically flip, hoping to God that I wasn’t the only one who’d noticed it. A couple of rounds fired off in the dark a kilometer away and the Elephant would be there kneeling on my chest, sending me down into my boots for a breath. Once I thought I saw a light moving in the jungle and I caught myself just under a whisper saying, “I’m not ready for this, I’m not ready for this.” That’s when I decided to drop it and do something else with my nights. And I wasn’t going out like the night ambushers did, or the Lurps, long-range recon patrollers who did it night after night for weeks and months, creeping up on VC base camps or around moving columns of North Vietnamese. I was living too close to my bones as it was, all I had to do was accept it. Anyway, I’d save the pills for later, for Saigon and the awful depressions I always had there.[Source: Michael Herr, “Dispatches”, Knopf, 17

“I knew one 4th Division Lurp who took his pills by the fistful, downs from the left pocket of his tiger suit and ups from the right, one to cut the trail for him and the other to send him down it. He told me that they cooled things out just right for him, that he could see that old jungle at night like he was looking at it through a starlight scope. “They sure give you the range,” he said. This was his third tour. In 1965 he’d been the only survivor in a platoon of the Cav wiped out going into the la Drang Valley. In ‘66 he’d come back with the Special Forces and one morning after an ambush he’d hidden under the bodies of his team while the VC walked all around them with knives, making sure. They stripped the bodies of their gear, the berets too, and finally went away, laughing. After that, there was nothing left for him in the war except the Lurps.

I just can’t hack it back in the World,” he said. He told me that after he’d come back home the last time he would sit in his room all day, and sometimes he’d stick a hunting rifle out the window, leading people and cars as they passed his house until the only feeling he was aware of was all up in the tip of that one finger. “It used to put my folks real uptight,” he said. But he put people uptight here too, even here. “No man, I’m sorry, he’s just too crazy for me,” one of the men in his team said. “All’s you got to do is look in his eyes, that’s the whole fucking story right there.” “Yeah, but you better do it quick,” someone else said. “I mean, you don’t want to let him catch you at it.”

But he always seemed to be watching for it, I think he slept with his eyes open, and I was afraid of him anyway. All I ever managed was one quick look in, and that was like looking at the floor of an ocean. He wore a gold earring and a headband torn from a piece of camouflage parachute material, and since nobody was about to tell him to get his hair cut it fell below his shoulders, covering a thick purple scar. Even at division he never went anywhere without at least a .45 and a knife, and he thought I was a freak because I wouldn’t carry a weapon. “Didn’t you ever meet a reporter before?” I asked him. “Tits on a bull,” he said. “Nothing personal.”

But what a story he told me, as one-pointed and resonant as any war story I ever heard, it took me a year to understand it: “Patrol went up the mountain. One man came back. He died before he could tell us what happened.” I waited for the rest, but it seemed not to be that kind of story; when I asked him what had happened he just looked like he felt sorry for me, fucked if he’d waste time telling stories to anyone dumb as I was. His face was all painted up for night walking now like a bad hallucination, not like the painted faces I’d seen in San Francisco only a few weeks before, the other extreme of the same theater. In the coming hours he’d stand as faceless and quiet in the jungle as a fallen tree, and God help his opposite numbers unless they had at least half a squad along, he was a good killer, one of our best. The rest of his team were gathered outside the tent, set a little apart from the other division units, with its own Lurp-designated latrine and its own exclusive freeze-dry rations, three-star war food, the same chop they sold at Abercrombie & Fitch. The regular division troops would almost shy off the path when they passed the area on their way to and from the mess tent. No matter how toughened up they became in the war, they still looked innocent compared to the Lurps. When the team had grouped they walked in a file down the hill to the lz across the strip to the perimeter and into the treeline. I never spoke to him again, but I saw him. When they came back in the next morning he had a prisoner with him, blindfolded and with his elbows bound sharply behind him. The Lurp area would definitely be off limits during the interrogation.

“When the commander walked by us he almost took an infarction.”Don’t you men salute officers?” “We’re not men,” Page said. “We’re correspondents.” When the commander heard that, he wanted to throw a spontaneous operation for us, crank up his whole brigade and get some people killed. We had to get out on the next chopper to keep him from going ahead with it, amazing what some of them would do for a little ink. Page liked to augment his field gear with freak paraphernalia, scarves and beads, plus he was English, guys would stare at him like he’d just come down off a wall on Mars. Sean Flynn could look more incredibly beautiful than even his father, Errol, had thirty years before as Captain Blood, but sometimes he looked more like Artaud coming out of some heavy heart-of-darkness trip, overloaded on the information, the input! The input! He’d give off a bad sweat and sit for hours, combing his mustache through with the saw blade of his Swiss Army knife. We packed grass and tape: Have You Seen Your Mother Baby Standing in the Shadows, Best of the Animals, Strange Days, Purple Haze, Archie Bell and the Drells, “C’mon now everybody, do the Tighten Up. . . .” Once in a while we’d catch a chopper straight into one of the lower hells, but it was a quiet time in the war, mostly it was lz’s and camps, grunts hanging around, faces, stories.”

Fire Fight During a Night Ambush Patrol

U.S. Army Sergeant Arnold Krause told journalist Peter Alan Lloyd: “Shots ring out and the platoon dives for cover, each of us landing in pools of water and mud on the floor of the rubber plantation. We are as surprised as Charlie as we come face to face less than 50 feet apart. Because of how we were moving, not everyone has a clear field of fire. I have a number of troops between me and the enemy. There is random and sporadic fire directed at the VC. They are returning fire as well. I can hear the crack of some AK-47’s and then “Whoosh”. I know a RPG is coming and there is a loud explosion to my right, then another one. This one sprays me with shrapnel. Nothing serious, just small fragments in the hands. PFC Juan Antu, a 20 year old Mexican kid from Yvalde, Texas, one of our grenadiers who packs a M-79 Grenade Launcher, is hit in the exchange. [Source: Arnold Krause with Peter Alan Lloyd, Wall Street Journal, Eyewitness Accounts General News The Vietnam War, May 2013]

“We have no cover other than the darkness that surrounds us. Everyone is staying put from where they have dropped to the ground. Finally, we are returning a base of fire at any muzzle flashes we can see and Charlie disappears into the darkness, the firing stops and the rain, which was pouring down, eases up but the wind continues to blow hard. It’s around 2100 hours. We do a quick check to see what our casualties are. Juan Antu, who was in front of me, has taken a bullet. The round hit his helmet, spun around in the helmet liner and entered his skull in the back.  Continue reading

Night Ambush Patrol on the Ho Chi Minh Trail

U.S. Army Sergeant Arnold Krause told journalist Peter Alan Lloyd: “Today is June 9th,1968 and our company has ambush patrol once again. Tonight, the company will leave the base camp and split out into three different platoon sized (roughly 20-25 men) ambush sites along a major supply route west of the village in the Ben Cui Rubber plantation. The company has orders to leave the “wire” (base camp perimeter) at 1600 hours. The azimuth will take us out into the rubber plantation. It will be dark soon and there is no moonlight. I have left the machine gun crew and started my new job as the RTO (radio telephone operator) for my3rd platoon leader 1LT Chris Brown, who hails from Texas. I change the battery to my PRC-25, turn on the radio and start the procedure to perform a commo check with the C.O.’s (company commander’s) RTO, call sign “Charlie 6 X-Ray”. [Source: Arnold Krause, with Peter Alan Lloyd, Wall Street Journal, Eyewitness Accounts General News The Vietnam War, May 2013]

“We leave the base camp with 1st platoon taking the point followed by 2nd and 3rd platoons. I locate LT Brown, who has a stocky build and a pleasant smile and fall in behind him in formation. The company moves to a checkpoint where we will wait for darkness…. We arrive at our assembly area around 1830 hrs. The word is passed down from 1LT Ron Hendricks, our C.O. This is Ron’s first assignment as a company commander. He has been reassigned from Delta Co. It is time to head out to our AP (ambush patrol) sites and it begins to rain. I check my watch and it is 1917 hrs.  Continue reading

Sprayed By Friendly Fire and Retreating During a Firefight with the Viet Cong

U.S. Army Sergeant Arnold Krause told journalist Peter Alan Lloyd: “Our C.O, 1LT David Riggs seems paralyzed and can’t figure out what to do. He was our platoon leader prior to being elevated to the company C.O, but he looks like a deer in headlights right now. The F.O. (Forward Observer for artillery) who is sitting beside Riggs calls for a fire mission and within a minute there is a White Phosphrous round landing in front of us. The F.O. adjusts fire with a second round, then radios “give me six rounds and fire for effect” and within a few minutes we started peppering the tree line with 105mm high explosive shells. That’s all good for now, but we’re still stuck out in the open. The F.O. continues to adjust the artillery fire and is slowly walking it closer to our lines. Soon, we are being hit by the shrapnel. [Source: Sergeant Arnold Krause, Peter Alan Lloyd, Eyewitness Accounts The Vietnam War, April 2013]

“I ask my R.T.O. (radio telephone operator) SP4 George Toto to contact the F.O. to adjust fire, but for whatever reason the artillery fire does not get adjusted and the rounds continue to pour in. Right now, I’m afraid that someone in the platoon is going to get hit. Again I ask the R.T.O, to get the C.O. on the horn and to cease fire. The firing continues so I jump up and race back to where Riggs is, zig-zagging as I go to avoid fire. I yell at him and ask what the f*** is going on. No reply. He is not in good shape and is trying to light a cigarette but his hands are shaking so much he can’t hold the lighter still enough to hit the end of his cigarette with the flame. I look at the F.O, and tell him what is happening up front. He finally issues an order to lift the fire. I race back to my position turning my ankle in the process. The action continues on for a few more minutes and then the incoming fire ceases. Kuhnau is still yelling up in front of us like a crazed man. We tell him to stay put and stay down. Continue reading