The 1/92nd Field
w/106mm in background
B Btry 1/92nd FA
My name is Larry Seeley; I was a rifleman with A Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division at the time that LZ Vera came under attack. I was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with “V” Device in the defense of LZ Vera 13 th November to 15 th November 1968 . I was wounded on the 14 th of November when LZ Vera came under attack by mortar/artillery/rocket. With others who were wounded remained to help defend the LZ.
Before I can give my account of the action, I would like to give some history up to and including the night of 13 th November 1968. Some of this may differ from accounts that have been written.
On the early afternoon of 23 October 1968, “A” Company was notified that it was to perform a combat assault (C/A) into an area not far from the Cambodian border (approximately 2-3 kilometers). We were to set up a company size fire base and run short range patrols (SRPs). This was in response to an intelligence report of a build up of enemy forces across the border. What we did not know at the time was that the 24 th NVA Regiment with elements from the Viet Cong were part of the build up. The name given to the fire base was LZ Vera. If I remember the map correctly LZ Vera was set up on a long abandoned Montonard Village hence the burm and trench area.
Approximately 200 meters from the perimeter and down a slight incline there was a stream approximately waist deep. It was used for bathing and for getting drinking water (letter home 30Oct 68). My defensive position faced towards the stream. My sleeping bunker was about 15ft from there. On the first day SRP teams were sent out and from radio contact over night had reported movement around them.
A few days latter I'm not sure of the date we had 106 mm recoilless rifle teams came to LZ Vera. One was set up at my position. During the day we would lower it down and at night it was set back. Only afterwards did we learn, that intelligence reported that the NVA was massing armor across the boarder. “A” company continued to set up the fire base; barbed wire, tangle foot wire and claymore mines were set in place. SRPs continued reporting movement. On one of the patrols, a friend of mine was ambushed when they discovered VC/NVA setting up a mortar position. None of the members returned to “A” Co after they were evacuated. Another patrol was ambushed when they came across people clearing an area. It was reported the clearing size was large enough that a helicopter could land.
On 26 October 1968 two companies from the 3/8 th arrived at LZ Vera. The fire base was expanded to battalion size. “A” company was put under their control. Do to the lack of latrines, and places to put them; someone had one built not even 10ft in front of a defensive position. Elements from the 1/10 th tanks were coming to our area. On the way one of them was damaged by a land mine and was towed in to LZ Vera for repairs. That evening while I was on guard duty someone tried to get in. I fired one round from my M-79 grenade launcher. The movement stopped and the next morning a blood trail was found but no body. A few days latter the tanks left and we didn't see them again. Some time after this, C Battery 2/9 th arrived.
From that point on patrols were increased but less contact was made. There were an increasing number of reports of unidentified air craft flying from and near the Cambodian border. At one point one of the air craft was shot down. Because of the thickness of the vegetation it wasn't found. I had written a letter home on the 3 rd of November that we haven't seen any action. It has appeared that the NVA was pulling back over the border. What we had been finding were stashes of equipment left behind. At the watering hole a bunker had been built and a water purification system put in place to accommodate the increase of personal. I know from spending nights there, we heard movement around us and some splashing in the water on either side of us. We were unsure if it was an animal or people but reports were made.
On 10 November 1968 my friend and platoon leader SSgt Jose Garcia was killed when his patrol was ambushed. Reports put it that they were ambushed by 10 NVA. Danny Bannister, one of the survivors, mentioned to me that it seemed to be a lot larger number. We received word that 3rd platoon will go out and recover 2 bodies from ambush site.
Early on 11 November 1968 we went out to the ambush site and recovered SSgt Garcia's body. We searched the area looking for the second body and could not find it. We received word that the second body had walked in at the LZ. On the way back we left one SRP team out in the area (my friend Hubert Hyde was on that team). Upon our arrival back at the LZ, late that afternoon, we learned that the two companies from the 3/8 th were pulled out. The artillery also was pulled out. I can remember the face of Captain Wankee; he was trying to figure how to cover a three company perimeter with one company. It was determined latter that we were surrounded by the 24 th NVA Regiment.
On 12 November 1968 we saw more artillery arriving at the LZ. Extra ammunition and other munitions were arriving also. Joe Basonto, Walley Walquest, and I built a mini ammo bunker by our position. Capt Wankee stopped by to check our positions. I remember telling him I had a bad feeling something was going to happen. I also told him that there was some yellow bastard staring at me. I never did find his exact location but I could feel him. That night I was on guard duty by myself at the 106mm position until relieved by one member of the 106mm crew. To the left of my position was Joe Basonto in his bunker, to his left farther down was Harry Cartee, to the left of my position was Danny Banister, I'm sorry I don't remember all their names but I can see their faces.
NOTE: I wrote the above time line because I don't know how much information the 1/92 nd Field Artillery Association has about LZ Vera.
13 November 1968
I had just gotten off of guard duty at midnight . I was in my sleeping bunker for a short time when the first rounds started coming in. Since the 81mm mortars were next to my sleeping bunker I thought they had a fire mission. Then I heard screams and people shouting out for the medics and others yelling incoming. I grabbed my flack jacket, steel pot, my grenade launcher, and ammo. For those who don't know, an M-79 grenade launcher was also known as a blooper. It fired a single 40mm grenade up to 400 yards. There was hardly any sound when it was fired.
When I left my sleeping bunker there was an explosion near the mortar pits, I took off toward my position and another round went off near me. It seemed that they had the area zeroed in. I stopped by a couple of sleeping bunkers getting the guys out and up to the bunker line. From there I went and checked on the 106mm crew. I didn't find anyone there but a round was jammed in the breach. I found out that an explosive charge was thrown over the wall and took out the crew. One man got it in the back of head and the position was abandoned. From there I went over and checked up on Joe. When I got there Joe told me to watch my step, there was someone in front of him behind the latrine tossing charges at him. Joe had thrown sandbags over the explosives that landed in the trench. I tried to take him (the enemy) and his position out with my grenade launcher, but being made out of dirt filled ammo crates I did little damage. I told Joe I needed to check on Cartee, he told me that he noticed two explosions near his position (in front of 1/92 nd position) and thought he might be dead. Joe told me that he need more ammo and hand grenades, I told him I would get it. From there I went and checked on Banister and on any other positions I could. Banister was ok but thought he saw flashlights near the wire. I had noticed that I hadn't heard the machine guns firing. I made it down to their position and found them inside the bunkers on the floor. I was told that they had jammed and couldn't be cleared (I am not sure if these were the ones that were sent in for repairs a few weeks earlier). Each of the positions I went to asked the same questions. What's going on? Have I heard anything? We had no contact with the Command Post (CP). I made my way up to the CP and found Capt Wankee and made my report. He told me that the perimeter had been breached and we had gooks inside!
There were gun ships on the way and to tell the men to hold their positions. Anything in front of them was to be shot at. I made my way back to the bunkers and passed the word along. I got to the ammo bunker, got as much I could carry and passed it out, and at each position, I passed on the orders I had received. When I made it back to Joe I had only few hand grenades left and I was about out of ammo. Joe asked me if I could get him a case of hand grenades. I got him the case he asked for; he was determined to get the guy that was still lobbing charges. I found two other guys with grenade launchers, we got more ammo, and we made our way back to Joe's position. We laid on our backs near my sleeping bunker and tried to act like a mortar. We lobbed grenades out in front of Joe's position until somebody tried zeroing on us. The explosions came close so we split up. I made my way back to Capt Wankee's position and gave him my report and was given additional orders to pass on. Along the way back to the bunker line I came across an M-16 and two bandoliers of ammo and picked it up. When I got back to Joe's position, I saw a flashlight come on by the wire and took it out with my M-79. Joe thought that there was someone still in front of him and wanted more hand grenades. After what seemed forever, a spooky gunship arrived and started working the area over with its miniguns and illuminated the area. That was the most beautiful sight in the world, especially when it's dark.
Finally daylight came and we started to check out the area. Capt Wankee came down to our area. Capt Wankee told me I had to turn in the M-16; I told him when I was done with it. The guy that Joe had a problem with was still there and we were about to go over the sandbags to check him out and his legs moved. Capt Wankee tried to get him to surrender, but when he lifted his weapon, we opened fire. Someone climbed over the sandbags, crawled up behind the latrine and dropped a hand grenade on top of him. At the area where I had shot out the light we found an M-79 grenade launcher and a pile of grenades but no body.
I found Cartee in the morning and he related this to me. When the assault started his area was hit hard. He saw one gook come up and toss a grenade down the barrel of the 90mm recoilless rifle and explodes. Next thing he knew he was to be over run. He heard a whooshing noise and was exiting his bunker when there was an explosion. He said that he covered himself with some sandbags fearing that a hand grenade would be tossed in. He heard the gooks talking above him then they left. He also stated that he laid there for a short time before he made it to another bunker. I asked him how bad he was wounded. He turned around and his flack jacket saved his back. But the back of his legs had cuts down them. I reported this to Capt Wankee, who had him evacuated.
There was a sleeping bunker near B Battery; it had 3 or 4 men in it from the 1/35 th at the time of the attack. One of the men in there his name was Radowski (I did not see him after that night). It had an antenna with a California flag attached to it. The antenna made it look like a command bunker. That antenna was used for a radio that one of the guys had. The sappers were already inside the perimeter when the men tried to leave it. Two of them were shot when they came out the entrance, the 3 rd man pushed out the sand bag in the back. He noticed 3 sappers standing there and emptied his M-16 on the center person. This caused the explosive he was carrying to explode killing all 3 of them. The rest of the day was spent cleaning up the area inside, cleaning weapons, and checking the perimeter for any of the enemy, and of course dodging the incoming rounds.
14 November 1968
After spending most of the night on the bunker line we could smell the stench of rotting corpses. We couldn't bury them until the intelligence people could come out and gather information and make some identification. EOD teams came out and cleared any unexploded grenades etc. I had just checked out my sleeping bunker when we started receiving incoming rounds. I remember hearing someone yell incoming, next thing I knew I was on the ground. I felt burning in my arm and in my knee. I could hear the guys yelling at me to get to the bunker but at first I couldn't get off the ground. When I looked in their direction it appeared that I was looking down a tunnel. I made it to the bunker someone said the medic was killed. With the help of the guys I patched myself up. Capt Wankee was notified and asked if I wanted to go out on the next chopper. I told him no way if we got hit again I wanted to be there.
15 November 1968
LZ Vera came under another barrage of incoming rounds. While in a bunker a Chaplin came and asked use if we had room for him. He said he would pray for our safety. I made a comment that he could pray and we would kill them. The dead or pieces of the sappers were buried in a crater near that damn latrine.
24 August 2008
Some reports said that we didn't get shelled again after the 15 th of November. But I believe we were being shelled for a few days longer. I was on a patrol off of LZ Vera. Towards night fall we were so close to a mortar that we heard the bang of a round makes when it leaves a tube. We called incoming on the radio and due to the darkness we couldn't locate the exact position. The next day they were gone.
I was fortunate to be in B Battery area when they received word to shell Cambodia to get the artillery that was shelling us. That was an impressive sight and wouldn't want to be on the receiving end. I also remember the night the B-52s bombed the area that the NVA artillery was in and the secondary explosions we observed.
Finally I want to thank the chopper pilots that came in and got our dead and wounded out that night.
A Co 1 st BN 35 th INF 4 th INF Division