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.

“The platoon stops shooting as well and we sit and wait and catch our breath. The sweat is pouring off of us and we are all thirsty for a drink of water. When it looks like the enemy has retreated we rush in to get McInvale, Kuhnau and Conlin. “Big Jim” has been hit pretty bad and needs help fast and a dust off. Tostado hoists Big Jim up and we pack him out of there. Kuhnau is not hurt, but is really shaken up. There is no urgency for Conlin; he is gone. He took a burst across the chest. A call for a dust off is made and Jim McInvale, George Toto (I think he got hit with shrapnel from the artillery) and Conlin’s body are loaded on the chopper.

“We searched the area for bodies and found 4 dead VC but no weapons. We deduced that the VC had been camped in the area and we had landed on top of them, rather than they were waiting to ambush us or had assembled once we’d landed. Not long after this, we were picked up by Hueys and returned to our night laager at Pershing. Once we made ‘contact’, all bets were off and the rest of the mission was usually scrubbed. With our lack of command leadership, we would not have been in good shape to remain there and to establish a NDP, which is why we headed back to Pershing for a pretty somber night. Conlin had been with us for about 4-5 months and was well liked by the guys. And, anytime you lost someone, it became a fairly quiet night. Later, McInvale was given the Bronze Star for Valor along with a Purple Heart for this action.”

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