Article A few days that changed my life forever

Frisbee

Mi Sergeant
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10 July 69
0900hr.

Bco to be inserted at YC 312923 and Dco at YC 315927, both to assist A/2/17th Cav's Aero-rifle platoon. who has been in contact with NVA all night.

Brigade informed of fire coordination line:
YC 305950 SE to YC 308948 SE to YC 319935 SE to YC 326930 SW to YC 324923 along river to border. 2nd fire coordinating line, YC 305955 W to YC 300948 NW to
YC 307952 W to YC 290954 NW to YC 287958 W to 284958.
Area to N & E covered by Arty and area to W covered by ARA

Sounds good don't it? Sounds like everything is covered don't it?

1046hrs

Brigade informed NVA unit identified as the 803 Regt.
Brigade S-3 is trying to get an ArcLight Mission and need clearance. (ArcLight mission never happened. )

1235hrs

Battalion S-3 informed of Dco's insertion at YC 312931.
4th platoon was the first into the LZ and they called it cold. It was for them but it wasn’t for the rest of us.

1240hrs

Dco at YC 312931 receive incoming mortar rounds during rest of company insertion. They have visual sighting of movement 350 meters to their front. Enemy has started to register rounds. SA, MG and RPG
ARA on station.

At YC 312923 Bco receive AW fire from the west where there are caves. Bco returns fire having 2 enemy KIA's.

1310hrs

Dco in contact with unknown size force and informs Battalion that the enemy has gas masks and are dug-in around boulders and caves.

Things are lookin' good. What more could a guy ask for on a summer day. You think we would rather be back on the block and miss all this?

1500hrs

Dco receives incoming mortars from YC 308938. Have visual contact w/enemy mortar tubes and engage with MG’s
ARA on station. Incoming mortars 18 sec. between flash and impact.

1547hrs

At YC 312932 Dco request medevac.

For the rest of the afternoon we had running firefights with the enemy . We didn’t know it at first but their actions were deliberate as they drew us into a trap.

Now for some of us more experienced grunts, the red flags went up and we knew the enemy was making us do just what he wanted, but our CO wouldn’t listen. He never did take anyone’s advice. I only have a month and a half to go until my tour is up…..I’m thinkin’ what am I doing here? I’m to short for this S**t.


1703hrs

Brigade informed of typhoon coming in off the coast. Will bring bad weather for 3 days.

1738hrs

Dco at YC 313947 report enemy is fleeing to the north. Dco pursues and recons by fire. Gunships requested.

1740hrs

Dco at YC 313947 finds trail running up to Hill 996 and also finds trail w/commo wire.

1835hrs

Dco reports gunships observe trails to N, S, NE and west. Gunships also observe 50 to 100 fighting positions and bunkers.

Lets stop right here. Looks like a good spot. Why don't we NDP here for the night? Find enemy gravesite, of the fresh kind


2110hrs

Dco’s NDP probed on North and East. Request illumination. Didn’t help much. Between the jungle and the weather you couldn’t see S**t.

2200hrs

Dco. at YC 313939, LP's report movement 25 meters to their south.
( a whole lot of movement )
Yes, I'll bet you grunts guessed it. A MAD MINUTE!

They didn't bother us again until O812 hrs the next morning, 11 July 69. Now this is according to the record , but I'm not so sure. The wind was blowing and it was still raining to damn hard to hear and we were too tired to care. Well that's not entirely true. We cared enough to forget about sleeping, but that's all. Took a moment or two to think about that girl back home. I wondered a little bit about what my friends were doing back in the world tonight. That PISSED ME OFF enough to keep that one eye open.

The stage is set for the battle for Hill 996

The next few days have always been hard for me to get through and I know that I'm not supposed to be here talking like this, but I think that those who didn't make it are looking down and maybe getting a chuckle out of me doing this.
Maybe I'll just go out on the porch and cut lose with my SKS. See how my neighbors react. Hell, I'll say I heard movement 25 meters out in front. They should learn just how that feels. Maybe they can invite me to a protest march so I can see how that feels. That sounds like an even exchange of experiences, doesn't it?

To be continued……….maybe
 
FANTASTIC!!! Great stuff, eagerly awaiting installment two. :!:
 
Great stuff Bill, keep it coming Bro. :)
 
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I hope this second part isn't a let down to anyone, for it's not like the first.

Before I continue with the story let me note something before the upcoming narration:

Yesterdays post was fairly easy because I have a copy of the AAR for 10 July 69’ and I just used facts from it with some of my words but as far as we know there isn’t an AAR for the 11th. It’s like it never happened. Even all of the official records of the 101st Airborne Division all the way down to company level do not make a mention of Hill 996, or any action for that matter, on the 11th. There are two theories we have for this: First one is that Hill 996 happened on the heels of Hamburger Hill and the 101st didn’t want Hill 996 to become the fiasco that Hamburger Hill turned out to be back in the U.S. press and then Congress. The second one just came to light recently by a correspondence I had with a FAC pilot who flew some aerial recon missions over the A Shau Valley in 67’ He had contacted me and asked if I would be interested in some aerial photos of the A Shau. He sent them and then asked me for the coordinates of Hill 996 and I answered with the one where we found the trails leading to the hill and he told me those coordinates are in Laos. We weren’t supposed to be in Laos during that time frame.
Although there may not be any type of “official” report mentioning Hill 996, there are plenty of other documents with the 11 July date and they are the awards and citations given to men for their actions that day. The highest one being the CMH awarded to Gordon R. Roberts of Bco 1/506. In my company alone there were three Silver Stars awarded and four Bronze Stars with V device for heroism of which one was awarded to me. There’s no denying that SOMETHING happened on the 11th but the 101st Airborne Division didn’t want it known for whatever reason.

11 July 1969


At daylight we were given the warning order for our assault. The first platoon and the CO with his HHC platoon were to be the lead force out of the NDP and try and position themselves on the south side of the hill and my platoon, the third, and the fourth platoon were to setup on the east side with Bco on the north and west. Sounds good right? Because of the weather we were told that we would have no air support and the arty prep before our assault would be minimal. This, on a hill where they originally wanted to call in an ArcLight mission. Go figure, you know?

My platoon moved out and was on a ledge on the side of the hill and we started taking fire. We radioed the CO and he said it had to be stray rounds from Bco who were in contact and drive on. What an asshole he was. We knew better but moved out anyway and started to climb the hill when we were hit with everything including the kitchen sink. We withdrew back to the ledge for it gave us more cover.


The CO and his group with the 1st platoon ran into trouble right away. Snipers had pinned them down and our CO didn’t know what to do to maneuver his men to either kill the snipers or at least make them withdraw. He was such a screw up that our Battalion Commander came out in some of the worst rain I had ever seen and took command. I’ve already made my comments about the CO in another thread, so I won’t get into it here.

The snipers quit firing and they actually showed themselves and ran down a trail and our men, like fools, followed them down into a saddle where they were cut to pieces. In the first volley from the NVA our Battalion Commander and his RTO were KIA along with men of my company’s HHC and the 1st platoon.


Between the RTO’s who were KIA, their radios being destroyed and the terrain, we lost communications.
The NVA had flanked my platoon and we were in a fight for our lives trapped on the ledge. The 4th platoon was pinned down by a heavy barrage of mortar fire and couldn’t come to anyone’s aid. The 1st platoon and HHC were trapped in the saddle. Things look good (for the enemy) don’t they?

Well if there’s anything I learned that day, it was to never underestimate the courage and ingenuity of the American GI. One RTO, of my company, literally gave up his life to restore communications. He was awarded the SS posthumously. With commo restored, we were able to maneuver and call in arty. Our Field First was awarded the SS for pretty much single handedly reversing the situation that the 1st platoon and HHC were in down in the saddle. There were many, many more acts of bravery and heroism. I think I’m done now for to continue wouldn’t add much and I’m not so good at telling war stories in the first place. We took Hill 996 that evening. Between the KIA’s and the WIA’s, my company had about 50% casualties.

What I’m going to do now is leave a link to a site that a combat medic and myself ( with a whole lot of help from the great people at the virtual wall ) put together to honor the fallen of the battle.

http://www.virtualwall.org/units/hill996.htm
 
A fine memorial.
They will be remembered with respect,gratitude,and love.
I salute you all.
 
The final chapter and July 12th. Although most of the combat was over except for an occasional mortar attack, it was in many ways the toughest day.

12 July 1969

When we finally took Hill 996 on the 11th it was dark. After digging in so we could repel any counter attack, we were able to get a great deal of the wounded and KIA on medevacs except for the men who had been caught in the ambush down in the saddle. We had sent, at three different times during the night, squads down into the saddle to recover the KIA and wounded but all three times they were ambushed and we suffered more casualties so it was decided to wait until first light on the 12th ( by our chickenshit CO) to try and get to them. I have never agreed with this decision because during the night, from down in the saddle we could hear single AK-47 reports and we knew it was the NVA checking out the fallen and God only knows how many were wounded during the battle and were still alive only to have the NVA plug them. I feel to this day that we should have tried to get to our brothers no matter what the cost. The sounds of those shots will haunt me forever. One man of the 1st platoon did manage to get to our NDP by crawling inch by inch up the side of the hill while playing dead at times. The weather had cleared up a bit the morning of the 12th and we were able to recover all the KIA's from the saddle because we had ARA support which took out the enemy mortars and provided covering fire for the detail sent down into the saddle.

My squad was detailed to come down off the hill and go about 1500 or so meters to the east to an area where a re-supply chopper had been brought down in the early morning hours of the 12th. When we got to the crash site we found the chopper in the trees with the dead crew still inside. We had to climb the trees and lower the bodies down with ropes. This is another scene forever etched in my mind.

War, as General Sherman stated, is Hell and those of us who have faced the horrors of it have been changed forever and we may not always like what we have become, at times, because of it.
 
Powerful information - I've read this several times and impressed with the stark reality of death, powerlessness and fighting power. All strength to you mate, to your brothers and to those brothers who did not come back. Thank you for these posts.
 
Again, thanks for finishing the story, Bill. All of you will be remembered by all who read it.

Welcome Home, my friend.
 
Wow Bill. That was an outstanding account. You and your brothers who took that hill will always have my respect.

Mike
 
disregard, 03Fox2/1
 
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Welcome back 03Fox2/1,

I’ve missed you. Hope that all is now as well as can be.

Silky
 
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Yes welcome back 03Fox2/1 and you Bill (Y)
 
Powerful Stuff. Someone always has to survive in order to tell the world.
 
Bill,
Sometimes it gets wearisome, being the conscience of the world. I know that to you, the suffering of the participants and the deaths of these brave men and the terror of that long engagement, seems like yesterday. Your words are a fine tribute to these heroes of long ago and I include you as one of them.
Semper Fidelis
 
Keeping Their Memory Alive

39 years ago Bill. Thanks for keeping their memory alive. " If you are wounded , I will carry you. If you are captured I will come for you and if you are killed I will always remember you "
 
Just a bump on the anniversary ... you are not forgotten
 

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