Taking Fire on a Search and Destroy Mission Near Khe Sanh

Describing a search-and-destroy mission in Khe Sanh, platoon commander Andrew DeBona told the Washington Post, “Mike Company was used as screening patrol force. We’d usually work out from the combat base and conduct six-to-seven day patrols looking for the NVA or any sign of them…We were in our forth or fifth day…The plan was to have two platoons, 1st and 3rd…conduct a large semi-circle sweep operation. The terrain was largely elephant grass that varied in length form waist to shoulder height. The area we were sweeping towards was somewhat wooded…The 2nd Platoon, along with the section of 81-mm mortars, remained in our night defensive position [as ] the reaction force if we made contact.”

After “smelling” the enemy and finding flattened elephant grass that was slowly rising, he said, “I said, ‘Oh man…Keep your eyes opened. Keep moving.’ We hadn’t gone more than another 20 steps when all hell broke loose. Rounds were zipping everywhere….The really nasty twelve-sevens [.51 caliber machine guns] normally used for anti-aircraft—when those thing are coming at you it sound like the biggest bullwhip, and they were snapping all around.”

The man in front took a bullet in a grenade on his belt, “and suddenly there’s this tremendous flash and plume of white smoke…he’s screaming and thrashing around because this thing is burning him [and] there’s mass confusion.” “I had an M-16 in each hand. I said, ‘C’mon, we’ve got to find those missing guys.’ We went booming back up there and we found all of them…deader than a doornail. All five of them were within 10 or 15 feet of one another. It was like a shooting gallery for the bad guys.”

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