Vol. III, No.10 May 11, 1970
173d Airborne Brigade
2nd Bat Whips NVA's 3rd Div
In a recent battle, Paratroopers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade killed 13 North Vietnamese soldiers, captured two light machine guns, and six AK47 rifles.
The Sky Soldiers of Co B, 2nd Bn, 503rd Inf, were on an operation south of Landing Zone Uplift. Their mission was to find and destroy the Headquarters of the 3rd NVA Division which was thought to be in the area.
"We were in the area for two days without seeing anything. We got resupplied the next day and moved out. That night our resupply point got hit with rockets. The NVA probably thought that we were still there," said Platoon Sgt Daniel L. Davis of Gastonia, Ga.
"The next day, the Company split up into Platoon elements and began to search the 'mountainous area with unfruitful results. We sent out a water party to a nearby stream that afternoon. On the way to the stream, they were ambushed," continued Davis. "At the same time, our rear element was on their way to our location when they ran into a bunker complex and were fired on. They moved around the complex and joined the rest of us," added the Staff Sergeant.
Davis took four men, one of them a Combat Correspondent of the 173rd, and headed down toward the stream where the water party was still fighting. Davis went on with his story: "We were moving through the undergrowth as quietly as possible when I just sort of stumbled over this bunker. Just as I spotted the bunker, an NVA with a machine gun jumped up in front of me and opened up. I just stepped aside and let him have it. I hit the dirt when two other enemy soldiers got up and fired at us with AK47 rifles. My slack man took care of them with his M-16. That is as close as I ever want to get to an AK47 in that type situation."
As soon as the three NVA had bit the dust, the Paratroopers began receiving fire again. The rest of the Platoon had now, moved up with the four lone Sky Soldiers. The Platoon moved back from the area and Helicopter Gunships came in to work the place. After the 'Gunnies' were finished, the Platoon moved back into the area to check it out. After finding three dead NVA, an RPD light machine gun, and two AK47 rifles, the Platoon started down to the stream bed where the original ambush of the water party had taken place.
Then it happened. The Americans began taking fire from three different directions. Bullets filled the air, and the enemy was throwing hand grenades at them. Davis again moved his squad toward the bunkers where the fire was coming from. As they methodically knocked out each bunker, the combat correspondent went down.
When the smoke cleared and the Paratroopers began moving around to check the area, 10 more NVA soldiers were found dead. The Paratroopers picked up another machine gun, more AK47's and some other equipment. One American was killed in the action - a reporter from the 173rd's Information Office who was covering the fight.
Sharpshooters Save Ammo
One Bullet Equals One Body
LZ N ENGLISH - Eight North Vietnamese Soldiers became easy pickin's for a 173rd Airborne Brigade sniper team led by a 4th Div Sergeant, after a Rifle Company boxed the enemy in with massed fires.
Staff Sgt Earl Waterman Jr, Santa Barbra, Ca, a principal instructor of the 4th Inf Div's Sniper school at An Khe, came to the 4th Bn, 503rd Inf, to teach "Long Range Contact" tactics on his own time. "I toured each of the Battalions," recalled Waterman, who came to North English during a four day break in training, "and found the 4th Bn to be the most enthusiastic and responsive to improving their Snipers."
Waterman emphasized the need for night firing by using the Starlight Scope. The second night of 'training', Waterman moved his four man team into position. "We moved out after dark to our location and set up to wait for any enemy soldiers who might pass through the valley. Everyone stayed on the alert, viewing the area through the night vision device mounted on our weapons.
"About 1 AM, we received a radio call from the Company Command Post (Co D) advising us that they had spotted approximately 10 persons moving toward our location." Minutes later, Waterman and a Delta Company trooper spotted 12 NVA. "They were ditty-boppin' along the rice paddy dikes, still coming straight toward us. The way they were doing the 'An Lao Shuffle' they must have really been fired up on drugs."
Slowly, the unaware communists walked into the kill zone set up by the team. "Four of us fired well aimed shots, then quickly checked the area with our scopes. Two dropped immediately, but got back up and tried to run we drilled both of them." The rest of the NVA scattered in three directions trying to escape.
The Company Commander ordered a blocking force of lead that pigeon-holed the communists in a fifty meter square. "The Old Man had artillery, mortars and automatic weapons fire going in so thick that the NVA had no choice but to stay within range of us." Twice the enemy tried to break the encirclement, but a murderous hail of machinegun fire drove them back into the target area where snipers systematically shot them.
After the troopers thought the enemy had been lain to rest, a Hawk ambush team moved into the paddies to check for weapons and bodies. The team came within scant meters of the bodies when one NVA jumped up with an automatic assault rifle and began spraying the Paratroopers.
The rapid cracks of rifle fire caused all but one of the Hawk Team to dive for cover. As the NVA turned his blazing weapon toward the team Medic, Sp5 John H. Dalton, Sweetwater, Tn, the Paratrooper ripped him with a 20-round burst from his M-16. To make certain no more NVA were playing possum in the darkness, the Hawk Team saturated the area with grenades.There was no more resistance. A quick search of the area revealed eight khaki-clad NVA, all of which were armed with weapons or grenades.
Battle Of The Minds
Stag Team Five, 4th Bn, 503d Inf, 173rd Airborne Brigade, has locked horns with the local Viet Cong in an unusual battle of the minds. The outcome will depend on just who has the best deal to offer the farmers and their children in Hy The Hamlet, a complex of six small settlements about two miles north of Tam Quan.
Staff Sergeant James L. Mattingly, Clarksville, Tn, has his team located with the hamlet's protective force, the Third Platoon, Company 150,2nd Regional Force (RF) Battalion.
"Viet Cong terrorists burned the hamlet's school to frighten the people into supporting them. The villagers, terrified with this show of power, put their children back to work in the fields, just where the Viet Cong wanted them, where they cannot be educated by the Government of Vietnam." said Mattingly, "This is what the VC have to offer the people !"
"My team has given the Regional Force Platoon classes about field sanitation, water purification, support weapons and everything else we have to help them to help themselves in the community.
"If I could get soap to the people to heal their sores, get lumber to rebuild the children's desks and tin to fireproof the roof of their school, the one-time Viet Cong villagers would believe in and practice their governments' philosophy and literally starve out the Viet Cong."
Mattingly and his team continue the battle of minds, to help the people to help themselves, to strengthen the indigenous forces with the knowledge neccessary to halt terrorism. His Medic cares for the villagers and teaches them how to treat their own medical needs.
Mattingly says that as soon as he can acquire the materials to provide for the community projects, "The people won't be afraid to tell the RFs just where the enemy is working. Then the RFs, with their newly acquired knowledge will wipe out the Viet Cong and win the battle of minds."
Supply Sarge OK
The spirit of giving is something that has been looked upon as one of the admirable traits of man for centuries. To a Supply Sergeant of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, that spirit has more meaning than to many others.
Sergeant 1st Class James R. Gillenwaters, Lafayette, Alabama, runs the supply shop of the 4th Bn, 503rd Infantry. From his base on LZ North English in Binh Dinh Province, Gillenwaters distributes supplies to over 32 different locations. Not only does he have the responsibility of distributing regular supplies to the troops in the field, but Jim must also see that the many isolated small units get one hot meal each day.
Gillenwaters gives much of the credit to his co-workers. "Breaking down the many supplies for the 32 different locations and making sure they arrive at their destination would be impossible if I didn't have such a good crew to help me out."
As if this dedicated NCO weren't busy enough, he is saddled with another responsibility, managing the enlisted men's club at LZ North English. He not only runs the club which serves sizzling steaks and cold drinks to the troops on "stand down" in the rear, but he built the place and continues refurbishing it at each opportunity.
Commenting on this extra duty, Gillenwaters said, "The NCO's have their club and the Officers have one also. I just wanted to see our Enlisted men have a place to relax in a comfortable atmosphere when out of the field."
Gillenwaters is due to rotate to the US soon. His only worry is what will happen when he's gone - "I know my replacement will take care of my boys when I leave, but I want to get as much done for them as I can before I go. The work is nothing to me, as long as I can make a little better life for the guys out there."
To All Sky Soldiers:
Armed Forces Day is a time to highlight the sacrifice, the devoted service and the unsurpassed record of accomplishment, of the men and women of the military.
For almost two hundred years, the United States Army has served the cause of freedom. We serve the national interest with a positive response to our nation's security needs. In this charge, the Army has never failed.
Our Army is made up of more than a million men and women who represent and safeguard the American people and their traditions.
Our Brigade, nearly seven thousand strong, is one of the few units left to maintain the Elite Airborne Spirit. I am proud to serve in the vanguard with the Soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. I salute you dedicated men of the Brigade for your unselfish courage and your vital contribution to the preservation of our ideals an freedom.
AIRBORNE, ALL THE WAY !
H.S. CUNNINGHAM Brigadier General, USA Commanding
Elephants In Crow's Foot
Those who have been in Vietnam for a period of time come to believe anything they hear, even stories about pink elephants. Well, maybe pink elephant is a bit too much, but would you believe two big gray ones?
A Pilot from Hawkeye, Cpt Ray Massieu, recently spotted two of the pachyderms lumbering along a trail in the 'Crow's Foot' area. Hawkeye is the 173rd Airborne Brigade's aerial observer outfit.
Not believing what he saw on the first pass, Cpt Massieu made another swoop through the Valley in Binh Dinh Province. Sure enough, there they were in all their glory. One of the elephants did have a rather peculiar color, however. Ray rubbed his "eyes and shook his head - no it couldn't be pink!
Another banked turn brought the O-1 Birddog aircraft over the beasts again. The "pink" one was encrusted with mud which had dried, leaving the unusual pigmentation. The other was just plain gray.
Since the beasts were very close to the area of a recent battle, the elephants may have been used as transport for war materials to the Viet Cong, neverless they were unarmed and apparently harmless.
The kind hearted Pilot of the 173rd let them wander along their way. Oh, the two big fellas were moving north with determination.
Art by Sgt Leslie Sheridan Story by Lt. Donald Jordan
The unit that came to be known as the 173rd Airborne Brigade's '5th' Battalion has left the Brigade. The 3rd Bn, 506th Inf, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile), left their base of the past four months in the middle of April. During their stay in Binh Dinh Province, the Screaming Eagles proved themselves as excellent men to the Paratroopers of the 173rd.
Under the leadership of Lt Col Joseph N. Jaggers, they assumed a mission of combat operations under the control of the 173rd. While most of the 173rd remained on a "Pacification" mission, the 3rd of the 506th went into enemy infested mountains and valleys to do battle with the NVA.
Their first big contact was with elements of the 8th NVA Battalion on Hill 474, 10 miles northwest of LZ English. The Screaming Eagles surrounded a huge bunker and cave complex on the hill and methodically eliminated the enemy within. After air strikes and fighting for more than a month, the 101st soldiers moved into the caves to assess the damage they had done. Over 100 enemy soldier's bodies were found in the cave complex. The caves were sealed off and the Screaming Eagles moved on to fight yet another battle - this time with Headquarters elements of the 3rd NVA Division.
"Wildcat," as Jaggers was called by the men, caught this Headquarters element in another cave complex about 20 miles southwest of LZ English in Phu My District. The area was much the same as Hill 474 with rugged mountain slopes and lush tropical vegetation in the valley below. After the Screaming Eagles had finished with the fight there, more than 20 enemy soldiers were found dead.
The '5th Battalion' has finished its job in Binh Dinh Province and has moved on to An Khe, were it will continue combat operations in that area. The 3rd of the 506th did an outstanding job working for the 173rd, and the Brigade is truly sad to see the '5th Battalion' leave.
Moments of leisure for Paratroopers of the 2nd Bn, 503rd Inf, before they were ordered into battle against entrenched elements of the 3rd NVA Division's Headquarters.
These photos were taken by Sp5 Rafael Santos shortly before he was killed assaulting an NVA machine gun.
Tickets Now; Lead Before
"I just got a traffic ticket in the same area that only a few days ago was under heavy Viet Cong (VC) attack," cries a Geronimo driver on his way down QL1.
The highway, Tam Quan's vital inter-village link, is patrolled by the 173rd Airborne Brigade Military Police. Here, the road hawks have the mission to keep us safe from each other and to protect the many civilian pedestrians from the excessive speeds that the rushed soldier may expose them to.
As if it weren't dangerous enough to dodge the oncoming fast traffic, the Airborne police are subject to enemy threat. Unusual to many wars, the MPs must patrol "their own," even in hostile areas. To the enemy, the MP is just as good a target as any other GI.
With or without the hazards, the prosperous highway must have someone to control its travelers, mostly allied troops, who patrol against VC terrorism.
The MPs do protect us and the Vietnamese who use the roads, a sometimes thankless job, but a vital one, on QL1.
Bong Son Tea Number Ten
BONG SON: To 173d Airborne Brigade old-timers, the town of Bong Son seems a very different place today than it was this time last year.
The old town was a roaring holocaust of honky-tonks, bordellos, and gyp joints that lived off GIs. There were a few shops where the local farmers could buy things they needed, but the prices were prohibitive and the quality of goods was low. The farmer's $35 a month salary made it difficult for him to compete, hence the poor man suffered.
The face of Bong Son has changed now. The old familar, "Hey GI, you buy me tea?" is no longer heard. The trinket shops which sell stolen or black market goods are still there, but not nearly so many or so busy. Now there are groceries, drug stores, and seed stores with reasonable prices for the farmer.
The tea girls are still around, but their salaries have dropped dramatically. The local honkeys no longer bring in $1000 a month which, incidentally, was tax free since such questionable employment is not reported.
The cause of this change? The Government of Vietnam's pacification program and the American's try to "Vietnamize" the war. By keeping a larger part of the GI's dollars out of the local municipalities, the black market in piasters and Army goods has decreased enormously. Accordingly, the merchants are changing to service for their own people instead of chasing the dollar.
Such changes make some people unhappy - the bar owners and the girls and some GIs. On the whole, however, most everyone is smiling. The winners in this change are the people of Vietnam who just want to grow their rice in peace and live a happy life.
There is another winner too - the American. Such a change in Vietnam does one thing, it hastens the growth of a stable country-side and enables us to go home as the job is done.
No More Rice for Charlie -
Villagers Deposit in Bank
Rice is sometimes plentiful for the Viet Cong because some villagers lack a secure place in which they can store their rice. But 'Charlie' will soon find a change when the villagers start to store their rice in rice banks.
"Up to now, the only storage place for rice in Phu My District was in the people's homes," explained 1st Lt Grant LaMothe of Queensland, Australia. "And when the Viet Cong came to collect what rice they needed, the villagers were forced to give whatever the enemy wanted."
Originally village chiefs in Phu My had a hard time convincing the people to join the program. Many of the people felt they were going to lose their rice just the same.
Lieutenant LaMothe, S-5 for 1st Bn, 503rd Inf, 173rd Airborne Brigade, explained how the system would work. "It's the same concept used in America. The village chief acts as the president and insures the safety of the people's rice. A record is kept of the grade and amount of rice each farmer turns into the storage bank, and he gets back the same when he needs it."
Building the three storage banks will be the job of the villagers themselves. "It will take a lot of work," concluded LaMothe, "But as soon as the people realize the advantage of a rice bank, Charlie will have a hard time getting rice."
Ranger Tad - the True Professional
The following story was printed in part on the front page of the Honolulu Advertiser. Staff Sgt Tadina, who has been in-country nearly 60 months, has just submitted his request for a final six month extension.
By SSG Mike Mangiameli
BONG SON, Vietnam - He's only five-foot five and weighs 130 pounds. He carries a 60-pound rucksack and a heavy communist rifle and dresses occassionally in North Vietnamese khakis or the black pajamas of the Viet Cong. In the nearly 60 months he has been in Vietnam, he has sent 111 enemy soldiers to their graves.
Patrick Tadina has possibly the most impressive record of any Infantry Soldier of any war. Not only has he an extraordinary personal body count, but the 200-plus American soldiers he has led since his arrival in 1965 have all returned to the United States without a scratch.
Tadina himself has been wounded three times. He has accumulated 12 medals for heroism, including three from the South Vietnamese government.
Getting Tad, as his friends call him, to talk about his time in combat, is very difficult. He speaks with a rare, honest modesty that makes one wonder if this is the same individual in Co N, 75th Infantry (Rangers) that everyone brags of to their friends.
Tad was born in Wailuku on the island of Maui on Aug 16, 1942, the youngest of two sons. He dropped out of high school two months before graduation, a factor that would imply he cannot stand everyday pressure or criticism or whatever the multitude of psychiatrists would have us believe are the causes of such drop-outs.
Tadina can take pressure. And he can apply pressure; pressure, where in this unpopular war, means the difference between life and death, between going home whole or an invalid, a coward or a hero.
He is a Paratrooper who loves his work. Ever since his brother was killed near An Khe with an Infantry unit, Tadina has devoted himself not to revenge, but to a professional dedication of ridding this country of NVA and VC and training the men under him to do the same and go home alive.
Much of his success on the battlefield can be attributed to his dress and appearance. While the majority of Paratroopers wear closely cropped hair, Tadina wears his better than six inches long. His hair, his dark complexion and small size makes him appear a Vietnamese. To further confuse the enemy, he wears their uniform, carries one of their rifles and walks "point," the first and most dangerous position on a patrol. But it has been this that has enabled him and his teams to remain alive.
Several times he has accidentally stumbled into an enemy base camp, but because of his appearance, the enemy failed to fire first. One of his closest calls with death was when he inadvertently walked into an ambush.
"They were very well camoulflaged," he recalls. "One gook leaned out from his cover and was staring at me. It was obvious they thought I was an NVA. The only thing I could do was spray a thirty round burst at them."
Tadina took two rounds through his calves, but his quick action allowed his team to escape, and the enemy ambush failed.
His first experience in combat was in early 1965 when he extended his time in the Army for two months so that he could go with the 82nd Airborne Division to the Dominican Republic. Later he re-enlisted for Vietnam, just as the troop build-up began. Although a Paratrooper, the Army sent him to the 1st Infantry Division. It was while he was with their Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol he came under his heaviest fire.
"We were in War Zone C next to Cambodia. I don't know how many gooks there were, but at least two Regiments must have attacked our Brigade, anyway, that's what it seemed to me. I thought for certain I was going to die. We called in air strikes, napalm, artillery, everything we could, trying to keep the gooks from overrunning us. They were shooting automatic rifles and machineguns, hitting us with mortars and rockets and even flamethrowers. A lot of good men died that day, and I think maybe I died a little too, watching GI's blown to pieces and shot all to hell."
He spent a year with the 1st Division, was never wounded, but was hurt far worse. He was in the hospital with his second case of malaria when he was notified his brother Stephen was killed.
This will be his last tour, not his choice, but the Army's. Because of the troop withdrawal no one will be allowed to stay past eighteen months. Tadina will be getting out of the Army, primarily because they won't let him stay in Vietnam anymore. One hell of a 'lot of NVA should be glad of it.
In October he'll be discharged, and unless he gets one or two more medals, he'll return to Hawaii with two Silver Stars, seven Bronze Stars, five of which were for Heroism, three Army Commendation Medals for Valor, three Purple Hearts, one Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Silver Star, another one with Bronze Star and one with Palm Leaf.
The only thing that worries him about returning to civilian life is the fear of running into one of those demonstrations that have become commonplace. He cannot understand how a people can elect a man for president, then fail to support and instead of trying to help him, do everything they can to fight him.
Many Thanks to Gregg Corbin, C/3/503d, 9/69 - 9/70 who Contributed This Issue
FIRE BASE 173 is an authorized Army newspaper published biweekly by the 173d Airborne Brigade for military personnel.
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