War Stories

Squad Lost

William R Hayes

On October 6 1968, I as a squad leader had the worst thing that could happen in combat, and thatís to loose men under my leadership. I had taken great pride knowing that I as a squad leader had not lost a man under my command while in combat with the enemy. Squad members as well as I thought we were not only good at our job, but also very lucky not to have been shot to pieces as some of our sister units had. Little did we know the Oct 6 would be a turning point in our young lives?

During the month of October, my unit the 3/187 was hit hard while in the Cu Chi district. Our sister company (A Company) had been over run by a battalion of NVA solders, which caused the company to suffer many casualties. It was up for the rest of the battalion to find and destroy the NVA (north Vietnamese army), which we did.

Part of the 187 had located the enemy and we were now going to pile on and destroy them to the last man. That what was our thought, but the fog of was can rear its ugly head at any given time, and these times were ripe with the unknown.

My platoon (3rd) (2nd) squad was given orders to sweep out from our firebase and to secure the area. Our firebase had been getting hit with mortars, we were sent out to scout and give back the information to HQ to the nature of what we found.

All was quite as we walked slowly and deliberately through the nearby village searching for any telltale sign of the enemy. We were approaching the last hooch in the Ville, when I halted my squad and we concurred on how to approach the situation at hand. There was a little fence and a trail that led to the building. So as to not have the whole squad is funneled into a kill zone. I went left with my machine gunner and assistant gunner and Sgt Perry Sgt Spence and grenadier went right.

Then it happened by instinct I found myself face down in a rice patty with bullets zinging everywhere. I picked my head up so ever slightly and looked to my rear and saw my gunner face down in the water, I scanned back to the hooch and I could hear the enemy MG gunner charging his weapon this is when I knew I had an opening. I reached around my body and took my LAW off my shoulder extended the weapon and fired with my head resting on the weapon as to not expose me to the fire coming from the enemy machine gun. The explosion that came from the weapon in an instant had my ears ringing. The rocket (66MM HE) exploded in the NVA gun position, which became silent.

It was at this time I crawled over to my gunner lifted his head and saw that he was dead, from a bullet to the temple. My friend SPC4 Tinsley was gone but he still held on to the M60. I pried the gun from his hand and began to crawl to the safety of a small bream. This was the time I heard my dumb LT Robertson say who fired that law as he looked down on my mud packed face, I could only look at him with disgust, what an ass.

This day I lost my best friends Tinsley and SGT William Perry were killed SGT Spence was wounded. Perry went to jump school and was stationed with me in Germany. I lost my cool when Perrys body was being dragged to a collection point by a couple PVTs. I screamed thatís no way to treat a fallen buddy. I wanted to cry but I did not have the time because the Cornel Scheets had landed to look and take over the situation.

I stood in a small depression and had just turned around when I was summoned to come over and discuss the situation with the Col. Scheets and 1LT Robertson. I greeted the commander without a salute (we were in an exposed area and snipers were possible). The conversation began and I could not hear a word that was being said, but the ringing in my ears continued its high-pitched tone. The Col. Scheets gave me a look and then motioned for me to take a knee as he and the Lt continued to make plans on the up coming battle that was to take place and last for the next 2 and a halve days. These 2 plus days would be filled with high anxiety and the cries of the wounded as we battled the 101st Cu Chi regiment of the North Vietnamese Army and kicked their assess. Revenge was sweet, and dues were paid in full. The NVA felt the full impact and weight of the RAKKASANS of the 101st . After the battle was over, documents were found on dead NVA officers to avoid contact with the 101st, because we would not back down and a force to be reckoned with, we were.

The battle for TRANG BANG and the defeat of the NVA put the 3/187 in the military history journals and the Presidential Unit Citation was awarded to the brigade for this action, in the Republic of Vietnam.

During the battle for Trang Bang I came close to and face to face with death. I received my third Purple Heart also this action. Changes would take place at the unit level, but that is another story.