A Battery Stories

The 1/92nd Field Artillery
Association - Vietnam

A Btry and Its Wings

By Fred Stella

Middle of June 1967 Battery A went to Dak To. There was a Special Force's Patrol missing, and a lot of enemy activity. Our mission was to support the 173rd Airborne Brigade. We arrived very late in the afternoon. The Special Forces Camp was on the highest point of the hill overlooking the river. Our position was at the end of their killing zone about a mile away. (For those who have been to Dak To, the airstrip was built later. They did have a dirt surface there. To give you some understanding where we were; our position would be a couple of hundred yards past, and to the right of the far end of the new airstrip. We were on the same side as the camp.)

We immediately set up our guns digging log holes and sandbagging. The ammo men started to put out rounds and power. There was something about this place that gave everyone a bad feeling. The Captain called me over. We tied a piece of ammo crate behind a five ton and started driving around our position. Running over the high grass, which was a good four or five feet high, this was necessary just to make Perimeter foxholes. It was a little boring but it sure beat digging in. In fact every time I passed my gun crew one of the guys gave me a dirty look; which made me enjoy my truck ride a little more. This went on for quite a while until we had a little problem. It wasn't the lack of grass but the edge of the hill.

The Captain and I took a roller coaster ride about one hundred yards down the hill. After several attempts to back up the hill failed, the Captain told me to take cover while he went back up for help. It didn't take me long to realize I wasn't alone. I had a few words with the Lord and was backing that baby up the hill before the Captain got back with the men. I always had a special relationship with my CO. So I got Perimeter guard with ammo for a couple of nights. The first night the whole Battery was up sandbagging, the next day also. No fire missions. Most of the second night, was spent sandbagging, once in a while a noise on the slope. We would send off a flare, set the guns for direct fire and that would quiet things down. After all these years I still wonder why Charlie didn't try to take us that night.

The next morning about sunrise with the fog hovering over the ground, an infantry Company from the 173 Airborne came in behind us walking through our position. They walked past me in single file down the hill. The fog was so thick that you could only see the men from the waist up. I wish I had said something to them, but we only gave each other a nod or a glance as they walked by. About 30 minutes later the ambush started. You could not see them, but the jungle exploded with gunfire. I started down the hill, but was ordered to hold my position. I could see a couple of jets coming in, I remember thinking OK baby let them have it. It wasn't napalm that fell from the sky; it was leaflets. They were dropping hundreds of leaflets, which were falling down on us, like snowflakes. Our guys were getting killed and they were dropping leaflets. NVA were killing our men and we were dropping leaflets asking them to surrender. (I have kept one so I will never forget. I will scan it at the end of the story).

The gunfire was over, the jungle quiet by time the jets made their second pass. This time the napalm was dropped so close that I could feel the heat on my face. I stood there staring at the jungle but none of our men walked out. Later on that day a fire mission started that would last for several days. That evening another Company of 173rd came and took a position on our right flank. This was the Company, who found the Special Forces Patrol, (in my attempt to keep this story readable, for younger visitors to our web site, I will not tell you what the NVA did to those men when they captured the Special Forces patrol). That night the jungle was full with 155 rounds, and m 60s. Sometime during the next day, with the fire mission still going on, some one said there was a Priest between the 3rd and 4th gun with Communion. The Priest was from the 173rd. There were about fifteen men there. A couple from the 3rd and 4th guns and some 173 guys. No time for Mass, He gave us absolution and Communion, a quick prayer: He then spoke and said, "I want you all take a deep breath, do you smell that, that smell is the bodies of our men laying out there, we can't get to them. Most of them were captured yesterday. They were lined up and shot in the head, murdered. This is straight from General Westmoreland; remember that the next time you see an N V A, no prisoners."

The priest left and I never saw him again. The fire mission lasted into the next day. After a short break another one. Battery A was credited with several hundred NVA kills. Our Captain was Decorated and Transferred, Battery A received an Award From the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and orders were given to paint Airborne Wings with the Number of NVA kills on Battery A Guns. I wrote this for two reasons. 1) To tell the story of those brave men, who were murdered by the NVA, while the Politicians were making us drop leaflets and 2) So every one would know why 1/92 Battery A has Airborne Wings.


Web Master Note: This is a picture of one of the leaflets that was dropped during the incident that Fred wrote about. These Chieu Hoi, or "Open Arms " leaflets were dropped by the ten of thousands throughout the highlands, and all of Vietnam. They guarenteed safe passage to any of the enemy that produced it in the proper way. The sucess rate of these leaflets was debatable, but usually the rate increased in direct proportion to the pressure applied by the friendly forces.
Thank you Fred for the fine example of this aspect of the war.

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