Firefight with the Viet Cong Near the Ho Chi Minh Trail

U.S. Army Sergeant Arnold Krause told journalist Peter Alan Lloyd, “It was December 14th, 1968, and we were making a company combat assault just south of the village of Sa Nho, Vietnam, almost due east of FSB Pershing, about 5 clicks. The evening before, the Lieutenant had briefed us that it would be a two platoon lift (Eagle flight) and the S-3 (Air Operations officer) scheduled 10 choppers for the mission. Lift off would be at 1400 hrs, and our field strength was approximately 60 men. We were to sweep south east, then rotate north hitting our checkpoints along the way. Intelligence (S-2) said that there had been enemy movement spotted in the area. Right after landing in an area of rice fields, the company formed up into two columns. Our platoon (3rd) had the point (meaning we had to walk ahead of the rest of our force). SP4 Jim McInvale was leading us, with Sgt. Conlin right behind him. I sent out flankers as we began to move out to our first checkpoint. [Source: Sergeant Arnold Krause, Peter Alan Lloyd, Eyewitness Accounts The Vietnam War, April 2013]

“The terrain where we’d landed was mostly dry rice fields mingled with dense wooded thickets and hedgerows. From the landing zone, the company was about 200 meters from the wood line. As the column neared the hedgerow area, we started taking heavy automatic and machine gun fire, and we were pinned down out in the open. The rice paddy area afforded us some protection because of the dikes that were built to hold water, but it made maneuvering difficult. Sgt Richard Conlin went down with the first burst and we couldn’t get to him. He was about 15 meters to my front. As soon as the shooting started, we automatically recoiled into a defensive position, finding any cover we could.

“SP4 Jim “Big Jim” McInvale was leading Sgt Conlin when he got hit not 5 feet behind him. McInvale was also hit in the opening volley, in the side under his left armpit. Close by is Darrell Kuhnau, a rifleman who is screaming and out of control. McInvale tries to reach Conlin but knows he’s dead. He continues to fight using his M-79. My squad and 1st squad spread out and return fire. Sgt Price and Sgt Buckley move the M-60’s up to the front and we start laying out a suppressing fire along the tree line.The VC continued to return fire. They are about 40 meters to our front Bullets were kicking up dirt and dust everywhere. You could hear them whistling by, sounding like mad bees. I could see muzzle flashes from VC rifles at three or four points to my front and settle my sights on one of them.

“PFC Ed “Wally” Wales from New York, and SP4 Jesse “Taco” Tostado, who hails from SoCal were dropping high explosive rounds from M-79 grenade launchers into the wood line. We were getting no word from command about what to do. No effort was made to try a flanking movement to the left and into the tree line. Any attempt to move to the right with no cover would have been suicidal. We were without an officer since 1LT James Merrett was killed two days previously. SFC John Partee wants to call in a C.S gas drop using one of the planes from Cu Chi equipped for that, and asks Buckley about it. Buckley retorts by asking him if he’s crazy because none of us have gas masks with us. Then Partee starts talking about bring in an air strike, but that thought gets no traction. I ’m burning through my ammo pretty quick and others up front are also. I send a runner to the rear to get us more ammo.”

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