War Stories

Narrative by SGT. William R. Hayes
Squad Leader, B Company, 3/187
8 July 1968

“This narrative is based on my memory at the time of combat action on July 8, 1968. It is not meant to dishonor those living or dead, but is meant to be a caption of events as I recall from my fading memory. The company was performing a "reconnaissance in force" near the Iron Triangle and Hobo Woods area. We had been having sporadic contact with the NVA and local Viet Cong cells all during the week. We lost men through enemy contact and booby traps while traversing our area of operations. The area itself consisted of rice paddies, open fields and hedge groves, which in most cases surrounded some sort of village. The company had been humping for a while and we were trying to get to a position so that we could set up an NDP. As the sun started to recede, the company started to receive sniper fire. Every time the company moved, snipers would open up with a few rounds. Each time this happened, the company would move away from the fire. The sun had totally set, and we as a company were still trying to get in position.

When the company stopped to get our bearings, myself, SSG Donald E. Bear and our Kit Carson Scout approached the company commander (CPT Russell W. Jenna) and told him that if we continued what we were doing the company would for sure get ambushed because we were being herded like cattle, and maybe the company should (1) stop and set up an NDP where we stand, (2) Withdraw and set up an NDP. With this, the company commander stated he was in charge and we will continue until we reached our designated map coordinates. As we walked back to our squads, both SSG Bear and the Kit Carson Scout stated we would get ambushed tonight. This would be the last time I would see either of these men alive. The company started moving towards our setup location. After about twenty minutes all hell broke loose. As my squad hit the dirt, I could see flashes in the trees. I returned fire at the suspected enemy positions. Once the sniper fire was suppressed, my squad was put in a defensive position to stop any flanking movement. We kept up a high volume of fire to keep the NVA from over-running us. By keeping up this high rate of fire my squad’s ammo began to run low. Some of the company was new "FNGs". Many were not carrying as much ammo as those of us who had more combat experience. I carried extra ammo and began distributing it to my squad. After giving out the ammo, I saw SGT David L. Freeman coming back to our lines. He was wounded in the chest and was in pain. This is when I heard Freemen say that SSG Bear was dead and that they had walked into an L shaped ambush. During the firefight, the RTOs were trying to get in contact with the company commander. No contact was made with the commander and all the company waited for instructions. I could hear the radio, and HQ was asking for a sitrep but the CO was not responding. This is when a second lieutenant called for men to get on line and assault the ambush and retrieve our dead and wounded. Once this was done we moved out. When entering the ambush location, we received incoming from the NVA. It was at this time SP4 Richard J. Rummler was wounded. I hit the ground and bullets from the NVA kicked dirt in my face. I still to this day don't understand how I was missed. As the NVA was firing, I pulled a grenade from my ammo pouch and let it fly. The grenade exploded in the face of the NVA and his last rounds went sailing over our heads. After some of the dead and wounded were retrieved, the order to fall back came. During this time, a major was choppered in to take over the situation. Artillery and Spooky Gun Ships were called in to rake the NVA positions. Man was I proud to see a black officer taking charge (this was the battalion S-3, Major Bynam). I also thought that the lieutenant who took command of the company for the assault should have gotten a medal for his deeds. To this day I would love to know his name. After all is said and done we lost some good people. I think from hindsight if the commanding officer had listened to his experienced people lives would have been saved for another day and the commanding officer would not have been relieved of his command.”

This is an excerpt from the book Rakkasans by James E. Bond. This story was my contribution to the history of our Unit.