Found a letter “Tex” Keith L. Anderson, 3rd platoon, wrote me in March of 71 after I was home and he had about 70 or so days left. Might be a bit for the journal. I believe I say he’d been located, if not, let me know cause I’ve got a line on him thru Terry.
“I don’t guess you’ve heard about them running us off the Rock Pile. Just before we went to Khe Sahn, they had us sitting on a hill just north of the Rock Pile. We stayed there 19days. When we went up there we had 5 P.C.’s, 2 Sheridans, old 39er, and 50 to 60 men. When we left, we had 3 P.C.’s, 39er, and 23 men. They hit us with over 300 rounds of 82mm, 122 rockets and RPG’s all within 3 days time. Nobody got killed, but Boo Coo dustoffs.”
We are getting an account thru print media with its own agenda, thru a reporter who was not there, for purposes not associated with Nam service. Nonetheless, there are points of interest.
There are a lot of names I don’t recognize, but I was recently departed. Bounty on Captain’s head – oh, I heard $10,000 on ______ when I left, reckon that’s the reference. (Note to all interested: best you do NOT go out of your way to locate ______.)
Two majors shot at in the 1/77 – that is true to my knowledge. I had dealings with both. One was seriously wounded, one was killed, and the man killed was a fine fellow, says I. A good man, his heart was with the troops in the field. The other was strictly a rear echelon guy, which was his lot in life, I didn’t like his attitude, but he thought he was doing his job. They apparently went to investigate “loud noise” in an enlisted bunker after dark in base camp, the guys were doped up according to the Stars & Stripes Article at the time, the officers got shot by the people in there. One major crawled back to an HQ bunker. The guys responsible were rear echelon MF, people wholly isolated from field activity, near as I could tell from the article, which was published after I was back in the States. I remember it well, was really disturbed that a good guy had been killed by REMFs.
There weren’t a lot of people above CPT rank I had much respect for over there. Truth be told, rank was irrelevant as to whom I respected. Willing to bet that is true for many of you. But the guys I knew who got killed or fucked up never “deserved” it near as I could tell. Shit just happened, as later popular philosophy had it. Or as we said, “Don’t mean nuthin.”
The other stuff – well, Lehtinen sounds like he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Doesn’t matter who you are to get hit like that. Could have been me. Could have been any of us. Let’s get him on the net.
Hey Guys, Things really heated up after we went into Laos and Khe San. I was lucky to spend one night in Khe San, The main gun blew a seal so I had to return to base for repairs. But I wasn’t so lucky at the Rockpile. We were occupying a hill that was a perfect location for an artillery observer and as you can guess the NVA wanted it. We got bombarded with mortars (over two hundred we figure with a 24 hour span), RPGs knocked out one tank, showed me how Superman flies and shared it’s shrapnel with myself, Lt. Bergstrom, and I think about 4 others in our platoon. It was the most frightening time in my life and my back has never been the same. I remember the night before we thought we were goners. I was so scared my M-60 turned cherry red before I could release my fingers from the trigger; I must’ve fired 2,000 rounds. We had them linked inside a mini gun container 5K +.
And of course that was around the same time Nixon escalated the B52 strikes and we were the recipients of the misfires. They make a nasty land mind. We lost some good men from them. I’d like to go on but I’ve got to ditty-mow. Headed to N.C. to visit my kids.
Have a nice weekend.
Rockpile at Khe Shan: 1st Platoon was guarding Hwy. 1; we were facing the Rock; 2nd or 3rd Plt. was to our left rear on another hill as you face the Rock. They were overran with NVA and had to call for our platoon to fire on their position with small arms and mortors. They had dug in and had constructed bunkers while located on that hill for two weeks. Charlie was trying to dig into their bunkers that night. We couls see gooks running in the paremiter as trip flares were burning. Our orders were to fire at anyone we saw in the light–for all our guys were either in bunkers or dead. Our position got plastered by incoming rockets every afternoon about 3:00 o’clock. One guy (Greg Sessions) from my track (12) and another guy along with a FO were airlifted to the top of the Rock to spot the location from where the rockets were being launched. Arty from FSB Vandergriff would plaster them. Khe Sanh was an adventure and a nightmare!
I think we were out in the bush for 90 days when we left Quang Tri for Khe Sanh
NVA: This Charlie’s unit hit a LRRP team and we had to reenforce them. The LRRP team lost 2 KIA and we lost 1 KIA. One of the LRRP’s was a friend of mine who had extended and was about to rotate home in 60 days. I lost several friends at Khe Sanh. This Charlie did not make it home either Our unit got him in a fire fight when we arrived to extract the LRRPs.
20 Mar 1971
Articles found by Dennis Perrino (Zero):
Miami Herald article written on 25 Feb 1990:
Our combat base was Quang Tri for the duration. The Troop worked out of many AO’s, Charlie Alpha 4, Vandegrift, and we were at Khe Shan when everybody pulled out, now that was an experience! (Walter “SKI” Slawinski HQ 70-71)
3 APR 1971
After reading Keith Nolan’s very informative book, Into Laos, The Story of Dewey Canyon II/Lam Son 719, I found a couple of errors that were probably only meaningful to me and a few others. I was sorry to hear that Mr. Nolan has passed away February 19, 2009 because he has written some fine books on the Vietnam War. And, that a correction to history will most likely not be made. In Chapter 17, Pages 354-356 Mr. Nolan describes the events of the last known soldier to have died in the Lam Son 719 operation, Sgt. Felix Marcial Trujillo. There are several references to a “Felix” in the book. Although, it was not the 3/5 Cav that rescued the Sniper Team that night on April 3, 1971, but the men of 1st Platoon, A Troop 4/12 Cav.
A Troop 4/12 Cav was assigned to the Rockpile area during most of the Lam Son operation, our mission securing a section of Hwy. 9 leading to the Khe Sanh Valley and beyond. There were many light skirmishes and things started to heat up our last few of weeks there. For whatever reason the higher-ups sent A Troop to Khe Sanh to act as a blocking force and patrol the hills around the Khe Sanh fire base. It was typical for us to set up on any given high point outside the base each night. Sometimes the high points weren’t so high and were not the best defensive positions. I was in 1st Platoon riding on A10 with Lieutenant Gordon Davis, our platoon leader and the TC behind the 50. Cal. Andy Bellinder was our driver, Ed Monreal and Bob Brouwer manned the M60 machine guns.
In the late afternoon of April 2, 1971, on our way to our night defensive position or NDP, I was surprised to notice several guys up atop an open grassy hill a couple hundred yards away. It turned out they were American soldiers. We gave them the peace sign and it was returned. I asked LT. what was up. He didn’t know, but called it in since there weren’t supposed to be any “friendlies” in the area. We were told it was a Sniper Team. I remarked to LT. that it’s one hell of a place to set up! Too exposed I thought. I know there were others thinking the same thing.
1st Platoon continued to our NDP about a klick north of the Sniper Team, got set up and settled in. The afternoon was gloomy and grey. Nightfall wasn’t any better. It was one of those cold, black as black nights can be, with a light rain. Sometime after midnight we got the call. The Snipers were being overrun by enemy soldiers. We figured NVA regulars. In what seemed to be less than a few short frantic minutes we pulled out of our perimeter with two M113 Tracks and one Sheridan Tank. As we headed towards the direction of the Sniper Team the artillery flares launched from Khe Sahn firebase were lighting up the area. At least we could see what a mess we were in.
The Sheridan tank made the first move up the hill. Halfway up and it started to slide back, another try and no luck. The hillside was just too wet and slippery. By this time my driver, Andy Bellinder, said he could do it. We made two attempts. Andy was really “horsing it up” and “workin the sticks”. On the second try we crested the hill and all our guns were blazing laying down cover fire. Command at Khe Sanh firebase called urgently on the radio and said we were penetrating their perimeter and ordered a ceasefire. Yeah right. FU was our thought. We didn’t comply with the ceasefire until we determined there was no return fire and the tank and other track were agreeably positioned up on the hill.
The Sniper Team was really professional with an immediate Sitrep. One American KIA and one NVA KIA. The NVA had high tailed it out of there when they heard us coming. Hard to not hear the CAV coming. I remember we loaded the body of Sgt. Trujillo in our vehicle. I checked him again because I thought for a moment he was still alive. I was assured by one of the snipers he was not. This was a very distressing time for all the men on that hill.
With Sgt Trujillo, a couple other snipers on board and captured a RPG Launcher locked and loaded, we pulled off the hill. The other Track carried the remaining snipers and one enemy KIA. We took them to the Khe Sanh firebase before returning to the NDP.
One of the Snipers told me that with all the rain they were huddling in their fox hole under ponchos. It happened when one of them peeked up and out to do a check. They found they were within feet of what we think was 20 or more NVA soldiers on patrol. Both sides were taken by surprise. What a nightmare for them.
We returned to search the ambush site the next morning. We found no other enemy KIA. What we did find was an incredible amount of enemy grenade pins. I don’t know how any of the Snipers survived that night. Or, how many NVA died on and around that hill.
When we returned later in the morning to the NDP, the grave for the NVA soldier was not covered yet. We were still filling it with the Platoon’s trash. Not an honorable burial. In those days we didn’t think much of those we were fighting and respected them only up and until their death.
Felix Marcial Trujillo’s tour in Vietnam began July 14, 1969 and ended that night April 3, 1971. According to Mr. Nolan’s book Felix may have been the last U.S fighting man to fall in battle during Operation Lam Son 719. Felix is resting now, atop a hill in San Pedro, CA.
There are only a few that know this story, included were the men on A10; LT. Gordon Davis, Platoon Leader; SP4 Andy Bellinder, Driver; SP4 Ed “Coffin Ed” Monreal, Right M60 Gunner; SP4 Bob “German” Brouwer, Left M60 Gunner and me Sgt. Walt “Fergie” Ferguson, Track Commander.
Written by: Sgt. Walt “Fergie” Ferguson on December 1, 2010
- 03 APR 71
—1-77, 032310H, XD820418 (2km N Khe Sanh). Team received AK-47 fire and grenades from an estimated 6x NVA. Small arms fire and grenades were returned. A/4-12 reinforced team. Results: 1x US KIA, 1x US WIA, 2x NVA KIA. Sniper team at 040800H, made a sweep of area where there was contact resulting in the following items captured: 2x RPG rounds, 1x RPG cleaning kit, 1x estimated one pound type of explosive, 1x homemade bangalore torpedo, 1x hunting knife with scabbard, 1x first-aid packet, 1x NVA pistol belt with fish cakes. There were heavy blood trails and drag marks throughout the area.
This event in the paper back of Nolan’s book is on pages 364 and 365. The book seems to indicate that this event took place 08 April 1971. It also seems to indicate the area of this event was a 3-5 Cav hill outpost (whatever that means). The text isn’t too clear about this or the reason there was an insertion there, as it might also have meant that the helo the team was on was diverted enroute to a 3-5 Cav outpost and on the way dropped the two snipers off on a hill with a couple of 101st snipers.The XD820418 map coordinate from the Lam Son 719 CAAR is 1900 meters SW of the western end of the Khe Sanh air strip. The coordinate is also 350 meters south of LZ Turkey at XD834417 on a hill between it and Khe Sanh, where the 101st had a 265th RRC team out of Phu Bai/Camp Evans working for a couple of years–and I’m thinking this was probably the 3-5 Cav outpost being referred to in the Nolan text, as maps do show trails going up to the top of this hill from the north.There are also a couple hills to the NNW of the XD820418 coordinate (See attached 1971 map .jpg from the Huong Hoa Map, Sheet 6242 III where a red “X” marks the CAAR map coordinate and this was probably where the sit-reps were being radioed from regarding this).I will file this story away with the CAAR. Feel free to have any of these veterans contact me about this. Thank you . . .You and your has a wonderful Christmas/New Years season and I wish you all the best . . .Sincerely,
I think it was sometime in May of 71 when the 1/5th was replaced by the 101st Air Cav and of course we were reassigned to them. I remember the changes they made weren’t good. They wanted accountability for every bullet fired and as a result morale suffered. We felt very unsafe and became rebellious at that point. To add insult to injury the US cut our budget so allocations for promotions trickled in .I was in country 8 months before getting my Sp4 stripe. I couldn’t leave there fast enough. It hurt seeing a great unit falling apart. Our First Sgt. didn’t help morale much neither, he pissed off alot of men back then. He had a preference for Article 15s.
When I returned to the world and seeing all the protesting towards us, I flew back to the east coast in civilian clothing. I didn’t care being called baby-killers or warmongers; I just wanted to go home. I glad to be found and the painful experience is behind me. I hope that most of our brothers have healed. It made me a stronger person and no matter how bad things can get, if you can survive Nam you can survive anything.
May 21 1971
C2 was rocketed and B 1/61suffered a high number of casualties. See page 42 for the story:
I was third track behind Farmer’s tank went it hit a mine. (KIA webpage for Thomas H. Farmer). Earl Warren and myself tried to crawl up to the tank and pull Farmer body away from the burning tank. We got about ten feet away and the ammo started going up and the flames got too hot. Farmer lay next to the tank and his body was badly burned. I remember seeing the grate off the back of the tank flying over my track when it hit the mine. There was an E-6 black guy that was TC and he was blown about 20′ from the tank when it hit the mine. He had a huge piece of shrapnel protruding from his left foot. The driver got out OK but don’t remember who he was either. I just remember how bad me and Warren felt that we got so close and yet failed.
Buddy Puryear 1st Plt. ’70-71
Tommy Farmer’s death — it happened in the “Backyard” (area around Quang Tri Fire Base). Buddy Puryear
5th Inf Division stood down July 31, 1971.
For a while we worked out of Camp Eagle w/101. While we were out in the bush with the 101, a 30 day mission, the maintenance track was with the 2 nd Plt and we had half of the tracks down, so we were stuck on this hill for at least a week, even the LTR was down, during the day the rest of the Plt would go out looking for Charlie while we sat on this hill pulling guard on all the dead tracks, one day a Huey was flying by when we heard a machine gun and watched the Huey take evasive action, we called it in and the next thing we know there were Cobras firing up a hill about a click from us then the Hueys came in and dropped off some grunts and they took off and a few hours later they came back and picked them up. It sure put us on guard being that close to us. After they left the cobras had fun with us, they flew by then came back and dived on us, everybody was eating dirt. They came back a second time and flew just above our heads and we could see the pilot real good and he gave us the peace sign, laughing all the time! We didn’t think it was funny at all! (Walter “SKI” Slawinski HQ 70-71)
The trip to turn in the equipment was very interesting to say the least. After we loaded all the tracks on a LST we headed towards DaNang, 100 miles south, and everybody (us landlubbers) got seasick, I didn’t cause I went down below deck and found a rack and went to sleep, as we arrive there was a typhoon going on, the people put us up in condemned barracks that we didn’t stay in to long cause we thought they would come down on us. (Walter “SKI” Slawinski HQ 70-71)