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Living and dying during Tet offensive......
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Brave Men, Tet doesn't seem like it was 50 years ago....
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Auburn Man Was Marine, CIA Operative in Vietnam War
Duty and Honor: He was a Marine, a CIA operative and a hero; before any of that, he was an Auburn man.
Feb. 10, 2018, at 1:02 a.m.

Auburn Man Was Marine, CIA Operative in Vietnam War



By TROY TURNER, Opelika-Auburn News

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — No one saw it coming that previously calm, cool, 1968 morning in the heart of Vietnam, and certainly not a young United States Marine captain from Auburn, Alabama, who found himself there working on a CIA mission before the enemy struck.

Sadly, 50 years ago today and during that surprise attack that changed the course of an entire war, Capt. Robert W. Hubbard lost his life.

But not until he put up a damned good fight, as one witness described it.

The following is an account of how Capt. Hubbard fought to the end, killing numerous enemy combatants while saving the lives of fellow Americans at a time when enemy yells struck fear, their bullets struck death, and heroes struck back.

They attacked everywhere

Out of ammunition, out of food, out of water and mostly surrounded, the handful of young Marines knew they had to do what Marines do: stay mobile.

It would be days after his death on Feb. 4, 1968, before Hubbard's bullet-riddled body could be recovered and returned to Auburn for burial, but the story behind the four harrowing days leading up to that tragic ending recently was allowed by the CIA to be shared by one of the men who survived the events.

It was called the Tet Offensive.

Tet, which celebrates the lunar new year, is the most important holiday on the Vietnamese calendar.

Vietnam at the time was torn from years of war, with the Communist North Vietnam battling the U.S.-supported South Vietnam. American officials feared the spread of communism if the North took control of the entire country. The war in general, however, seemed to be at a stalemate.

The overall strategy of the North Vietnamese was to inflict as many casualties as it could and try to sway an already-divided American public against the war and for the U.S. to leave Vietnam.

The war's momentum took a drastic shift with the massive holiday offensive launched on Jan. 30-31, 1968, when most Vietnamese families were celebrating the first day of Tet, associated by them with the first day of spring.

Within 24 hours, the enemy engaged in more than 120 attacks throughout South Vietnam, some of them involving massive military assaults and others involving organized suicide squads at strategic targets such as the American embassy.

One such target was the city of Hue.

Hubbard was there.

The CIA's role

Hue lies in the center of Vietnam, and in addition to a population of more than 350,000 today, it features several historically significant palaces and shrines.

Hubbard was recruited by the CIA for what some called a "pacification program," akin to more contemporary descriptions of "winning the hearts and minds" of the local people. His job was to help plant seeds on why the Vietnamese living there should be more interested in freedom and democracy than in a communist style of government.

He often wore civilian clothing because of that role, as did Marine Capt. Ray Lau, who joined Hubbard and a small group of others temporarily living and operating in Hue. It was Lau who would manage to survive the Tet attacks and who was allowed to tell his story last December to the Studies in Intelligence magazine, which focuses on topics of interest to the Central Intelligence Agency community.

Lau, like Hubbard, was recruited by the CIA to act as a so-called adviser.

The timing of his arrival, however, was a bit more ominous.

The fighting begins

Lau arrived in Hue on Jan. 30. After the long journey to get there, he was assigned to a house with two other men, and on the morning of Jan. 31, "We were awakened at about 4 a.m. to the sound of gunfire and explosions in the distance," he wrote in his first-person account.

South Vietnamese guards were concerned, reporting that a guard camp across a nearby canal was under attack, but to Lau and others, nothing seemed unusual from previous, small-scale attacks.

After a sustained firefight and the continued sound of gunfire, they realized something bigger was afoot.

Hubbard and Marine Sgt. Howard Vaughn arrived in a Jeep at about 7 a.m. Hubbard was concerned about having not had radio contact that morning with other colleagues, so he and another man named Jim, a former special-forces member, left on foot to learn more.

Lau and Sgt. Vaughn were standing by their compound's gate posts when Vaughn noticed enemy soldiers running down the street about 70 yards away.

Vaughn let go a short burst of fire with his M-16 rifle.

"Almost immediately, his volley was answered with automatic fire," Lau wrote in his accounts. "Vaughn wheeled away from the post and fell to the ground."

He was wounded, but not killed. Mortar rounds began falling and an explosion from one on a roof showered the men with debris.

Hubbard and Jim returned, and Hubbard checked on the injured Sgt. Vaughn and moved him into a side bedroom of the house they all occupied now, as they watched steady streams of enemy soldiers pour into the city across the main streets further down and wondered when more troops would approach their location.

The men took up positions inside the house, and they prepared for a fight they knew was coming.

No surrender

A foreign service officer named Tom lived in a neighboring house. As enemy soldiers began searching and destroying pockets of resistance, surrender did not seem to be an option.

Lau later would learn that Tom and the other man had surrendered when their house was surrounded.

"Tom's story was especially sad," Lau wrote. "He was in his 60s and had served in the army through World War II and the Korean War.

"In World War II, he was captured by the Italians. In Korea, he was captured by the North Koreans. This time the North Vietnamese were not so kind, as Tom did not make it."

Tom and the other man were taken into the bathroom and executed.

Although Hubbard, Lau and the injured Vaughn did not know those details at the time, they knew enough about their enemy.

Cornered in the house and already exchanging fire when an enemy soldier would approach, they began to realize the large scale of the attack and knew they would be taking enemy lives in this fight. So they made a vow:

They would not be taken alive.

Death at close range

There were two Jeeps parked in front of their house, and at least one had a radio, but efforts to reach someone for help were fruitless, as battle waged on throughout the country in the concerted attack.

American troops and officials throughout South Vietnam were fighting for their lives; everywhere.

Around 8:30 a.m., Lau saw a grenade fly through the air and land in one of the Jeeps. It exploded and the Jeep burst into flames.

The same happened to the second Jeep moments later. "So much for using the Jeeps to escape," Lau recalls.

Around 9:30 a.m., an enemy soldier entered the house.

"He walked slowly and stealthily in, toward the right-side bedroom where Bob Hubbard and Jim were," Lau said, describing how the scene unfolded. When the enemy soldier was about 10 feet away from Hubbard, "Hubbard stood up, and they both started firing on full automatic. It was like the movies, where chips of wood were flying off the door around Hubbard.

"But Hubbard's bullets found their mark, and the (enemy) wheeled, staggered a couple of feet and collapsed at our front entrance."

Lau described how seeing a man killed a close range was not the same as firing a rifle at a more-distant target.

"I thought about how easy physically it was to kill a person," he wrote, "but it is the psychological aspect that is more difficult."

Surviving another day

About 10 minutes later, an explosion blasted the house at the front door from an RPG round (rocket-propelled grenade).

Around 10 a.m., the enemy attacked again, and then, again moved onward.

The men stayed quiet and patient for the rest of the first day of battle. Vaughn's condition, meanwhile, continued to worsen as he bled from his wounds.

Day 2 arrived. Around 11 a.m., the enemy returned.

Grenades and gunfire sprayed the house and soon it was again close-quartered fighting.

"It seemed as if the (enemy) were now in the other bedroom, as one grenade rolled into our room," Lau recalled. "Bob Hubbard dived for it and threw it back outside the living room, where it exploded."

A second grenade rolled in and exploded near the doorway. Lau suffered a small shrapnel wound in his left arm.

They waited for their attackers to charge the room, but to their surprise, no charge came. Most likely, the enemy thought they were dead.

The men knew, however, they had to move. No doubt, more soldiers would be coming, and sooner or later they would be outgunned if they sat there as targets.

Hubbard helped the injured Vaughn through a back window and the men moved to a smaller house.

It wasn't long before their next encounter with NVA, or soldiers of the North Vietnamese Army.

Shots were fired into the small room they occupied. One of them hit Vaughn as he lay on the floor, inflicting yet another serious wound.

Lau recalled Hubbard's response:

"Hubbard yanked the door opened and fired, killing three NVA.

"Hubbard pulled back, yelling that he was out of ammunition."

Lau went to the door to help, but the only NVA he could see were the three men Hubbard had killed.

Once again, the American trio survived.

But how long could it last?

Looking to escape

Lau peered over the dead bodies and saw a usable AK-47 rifle and clips of ammunition. He picked them up, as the American servicemen were about out of any and all supplies.

Little did he know that simply carrying the rifle would later help save his life without even firing a shot.

During a tense moment in a move to find another location, Lau looked toward a building and saw an enemy officer staring at him. But the officer didn't order any shots fired nor took any other action before moving elsewhere.

Lau reasoned that because he was wearing civilian clothes and carrying an AK-47, the officer likely thought he was a North Vietnamese guerrilla fighter.

The men became more desperate as the days passed, supplies ran out, and the enemy continued to hold the city. They knew American forces would retake the area sooner or later, but they had no idea how widespread the attack had been, and it was obvious that their survival depended on finding help.

Lau described more firefights before the men eventually became separated.

Vaughn's injuries had become too serious to move him, and he passed away.

Lau became separated from the others because of his small body frame and his ability to crawl through a small culvert. He soon realized the others were making a dash the best way they could.

Villagers during the next several days hid Lau and gave him food and water. They stashed him away in a pig sty, but it kept him alive, as enemy soldiers continued their search for Americans.

Finally, on Feb. 7, 1968, Lau heard the most wonderful words he could hear being shouted in English:

"U.S. Marines!"

They were looking for survivors, and in Lau, they found one.

Only later did he learn that his fellow serviceman who had fought so heroically and helped save his life, Bob Hubbard of Auburn, was killed by gunfire while trying to cross a bridge in his own escape attempt. One report said he was leading others, armed only with a single hand grenade.

"He had been shot at close range and likely died instantly," Lau wrote.

But Lau hasn't forgotten about his brave friend.

And he's coming to Auburn to tell about it.

A sincere dedication

The Marines don't leave anyone behind. Nor do they forget.

Bob Hubbard, who posthumously received the Navy Cross for his bravery, had a lifelong connection to Auburn, and Auburn to Hubbard, who was a 1963 graduate of Auburn University.

Tuesday afternoon in Auburn University's Langdon Hall, an all-star cast of heroes was set for a dedication ceremony organized in part by Alabama Assistant Attorney General John Davis, a family friend.

Hubbard "spent the last Christmas of his life with my family, Christmas 1967," said Davis, whose wife Barbara, an artist, will present a portrait of Hubbard that later will be displayed in the Nichols Center, home of Auburn's ROTC programs.

Among those attending and speaking at the portrait dedication will be Medal of Honor recipient and 1962 Auburn graduate, Marine Maj. Gen. James E. Livingston; and Opelika resident and Medal of Honor recipient, Army Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins.

And, retired Marine Capt. Ray Lau.

Semper Fi, Capt. Robert W. Hubbard.

Semper Fi.


xxxxxxxxxx
When considering US based operations of guides/outfitters, check and see if they are NRA members. If not, why support someone who doesn't support us? Consider spending your money elsewhere.

NEVER, EVER book a hunt with BLAIR WORLDWIDE HUNTING or JEFF BLAIR.

I have come to understand that in hunting, the goal is not the goal but the process.
 
Posts: 17099 | Location: Texas USA | Registered: 07 May 2001Reply With Quote
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Thanks for posting. Glad his story is being told so others will know and may his memory go on.
 
Posts: 8274 | Location: Mississippi | Registered: 12 April 2005Reply With Quote
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Semper Fi


Mike
______________
DSC
DRSS (again)
SCI Life
NRA Life
Sables Life
Mzuri
IPHA

"To be a Marine is enough."
 
Posts: 3577 | Location: Silicon Valley | Registered: 19 November 2008Reply With Quote
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those were days i'd much rather remain forgotten
 
Posts: 13205 | Location: faribault mn | Registered: 16 November 2004Reply With Quote
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that's no shit.


Never mistake motion for action.
 
Posts: 14901 | Location: Austin, Texas | Registered: 11 March 2013Reply With Quote
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Tet offensive was worst defeat the NVA ever experienced.


xxxxxxxxxx
When considering US based operations of guides/outfitters, check and see if they are NRA members. If not, why support someone who doesn't support us? Consider spending your money elsewhere.

NEVER, EVER book a hunt with BLAIR WORLDWIDE HUNTING or JEFF BLAIR.

I have come to understand that in hunting, the goal is not the goal but the process.
 
Posts: 17099 | Location: Texas USA | Registered: 07 May 2001Reply With Quote
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I am ashamed to say that I have never heard the story of this Auburn man. Thank you for sharing it!

War Eagle Capt. Hubbard!

WPA, class of 1972.
 
Posts: 229 | Location: Alabama | Registered: 06 January 2005Reply With Quote
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Hard to believe that 51 years later, the president is meeting the North Korean dictator in a Hanoi bustling with the fruits of limited capitalism.


There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.
– John Green, author
 
Posts: 14087 | Location: Alamogordo, NM | Registered: 03 June 2000Reply With Quote
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Why hard to believe? What about Germany & Japan? We always re-establish international relations with all countries with whom we have engaged in warfare.

Semper Fi
I Corps 1966-67 3rdMarDiv


Mike
______________
DSC
DRSS (again)
SCI Life
NRA Life
Sables Life
Mzuri
IPHA

"To be a Marine is enough."
 
Posts: 3577 | Location: Silicon Valley | Registered: 19 November 2008Reply With Quote
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Mike, yes, but that war was so bitter. And we actually had the chance to thoughtfully help rebuild Germany and Japan.
I know veterans who have gotten great healing from returning to Vietnam.


https://www.reuters.com/articl...summit-idUSKCN1Q40U6


There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.
– John Green, author
 
Posts: 14087 | Location: Alamogordo, NM | Registered: 03 June 2000Reply With Quote
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War Eagle and God Bless, Capt. Hubbard.


Auburn University BS '09, DVM '17
 
Posts: 535 | Location: Selma, AL | Registered: 16 January 2005Reply With Quote
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I will never go back. Made my decision years ago. I loved the Vietnamese people I knew in country and have helped many who escaped and took up residence here. But I'll never go back. If someone wants to return because they believe it will "help" them, I don't object. But I'm not returning. Don't need it. Don't want it. Will not do it.

VA rated 100% disabled, PTSD and Agent Orange survivor of 3rdMarDiv. Fuck McNamara!


Mike
______________
DSC
DRSS (again)
SCI Life
NRA Life
Sables Life
Mzuri
IPHA

"To be a Marine is enough."
 
Posts: 3577 | Location: Silicon Valley | Registered: 19 November 2008Reply With Quote
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arrived a little late for the '68 Tet party, but still had fun.

yeah, right...

Semper Fi
 
Posts: 8169 | Location: humboldt | Registered: 10 April 2002Reply With Quote
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quote:
Originally posted by LionHunter:....... ......Fuck McNamara......

+1

There is a special place in Fighter Pilot Hell for that shitweasel.
- Mike (A-7D & A-10)

DRSS
 
Posts: 296 | Location: Colorado, USA | Registered: 13 April 2017Reply With Quote
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After watching a recent documentary on THUD pilots and the terrible price they paid, I have to concur. I just really don't understand his thinking at the time.


There is hope, even when your brain tells you there isn’t.
– John Green, author
 
Posts: 14087 | Location: Alamogordo, NM | Registered: 03 June 2000Reply With Quote
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Bill,my dad was one of them. The F-105 jocks.


Never mistake motion for action.
 
Posts: 14901 | Location: Austin, Texas | Registered: 11 March 2013Reply With Quote
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Lost friends and fellow warriors in I-Corps
near Khe Sanh and Hill 881/Hickory.
Hickory was a MACVSOG/CIA radio relay site N. of
Khe Sanh. MACVSOG/CCN had people there and it was overrun in 1971. CSM Jon Caviani earned his MoH there. We were between Khe Sanh and Quang Tri when the NVA hit. Kept as many alive and got the rest out OK.

5th Special Forces Gp (ABN)MACVSOG
10th SF Gp (ABN)
7th Special Forces GP(ABN)

0-5 Lifer
SFA-Life-
SOA-Life
NRA-Life

De Oppresso Liber
 
Posts: 135 | Location: Between Alaska and Gulf of Mexico | Registered: 22 December 2017Reply With Quote
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When I was an E-5 back in 2001, I went on a POW/MIA recovery mission.

We did 3 digs, all near Vihn City. We found an A-6 intruder Bombadier (well what was left of him), a F-105 that had landed in a lake in Vihn City (the following team recovered him, but we found his plane). He was entact in a oil/mud goo in the bottom of the lake still in his plane. And we dug up a cemetary about 20 miles from Vihn trying to find a H-1 pilot that had been killed and buried in the cemetary.

My uncle (mother's 1st cousin, probably not an uncle but not sure what that is called) was killed during Tet at Cam Duc Airfield.

My understanding is that he is the first Wyoming POW/MIA. Wyoming also has the distinction of having the first KIA from Afghanistan.

COEN, HARRY BOB

Name: Harry Bob Coen
Rank/Branch: E3/US Army
Unit: Company E, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, 196th Infantry Brigade, 23rd
Infantry Division (Americal)
Date of Birth: 22 September 1948 (Lander WY)
Home City of Record: Riverton WY
Date of Loss: 12 May 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 152630N 1074806E (ZC005090)
Status (in 1973): Missing in Action
Category: 2
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: Ground

Personnel in Incident: Ngok Tavak: Horace H. Fleming; Thomas J. Blackman;
Joseph F. Cook; Paul S. Czerwonka; Thomas W. Fritsch; Barry L. Hempel; Raymond
T. Heyne; Gerald E. King; Robert C. Lopez; William D. McGonigle; Donald W.
Mitchell; James R. Sargent (members of USMC search team - all missing); Glenn
E. Miller; Thomas H. Perry (USSF teammembers - missing); Kham Duc: Richard E.
Sands (missing from CH47); Bernard L. Bucher; Frank M. Hepler; George W. Long;
John L. McElroy; Stephan C. Moreland (USAF crew of C130 - all missing); Warren
R. Orr (USSF on C130 - missing); Harry B. Coen; Andrew J. Craven; Juan M.
Jimenez; Frederick J. Ransbottom; Maurice H. Moore; Joseph L. Simpson; William
E. Skivington; John C. Stuller; Imlay S. Widdison; Danny L. Widner; Roy C.
Williams (all missing); Julius W. Long (released POW).

REMARKS: GROUND ATTACK POSS KIA

Source: Compiled by from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S.
Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published
sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 2020

SYNOPSIS: Kham Duc Special Forces camp (A-105), was located on the western
fringes of Quang Tin ("Great Faith") Province, South Vietnam. In the spring of
1968, it was the only remaining border camp in Military Region I. Backup
responsibility for the camp fell on the 23rd Infantry Division (Americal),
based at Chu Lai on the far side of the province.

The camp had originally been built for President Diem, who enjoyed hunting in
the area. The 1st Special Forces detachment (A-727B) arrived in September 1963
and found the outpost to be an ideal border surveillance site with an existing
airfield. The camp was located on a narrow grassy plain surrounded by rugged,
virtually uninhabited jungle. The only village in the area, located across the
airstrip, was occupied by post dependents, camp followers and merchants. The
camp and airstrip were bordered by the Ngok Peng Bum ridge to the west and Ngok
Pe Xar mountain, looming over Kham Duc to the east. Steep banked streams full
of rapids and waterfalls cut through the tropical wilderness. The Dak Mi River
flowed past the camp over a mile distant, under the shadow of the Ngok Pe Xar.

Five miles downriver was the small forward operating base of Ngok Tavak,
defended by the 113-man 11th Mobile Strike Force Company with its 8 Special
Forces and 3 Australian advisors. Since Ngok Tavak was outside friendly
artillery range, 33 Marine artillerymen of Battery D, 2nd Battalion, 13th
Marines, with two 105mm howitzers were located at the outpost.

Capt. Christopher J. Silva, commander of Detachment A-105 helicoptered into
Ngok Tavak on May 9, 1968 in response to growing signs of NVA presence in the
area. Foul weather prevented his scheduled evening departure. A Kham Duc CIDG
platoon fleeing a local ambush also arrived and was posted to the outer
perimeter. It was later learned that the CIDG force contained VC infiltrators.

Ngok Tavak was attacked by an NVA infantry battalion at 0315 hours on May 10.
The base was pounded by mortars and direct rocket fire. As the frontal assault
began, the Kham Duc CIDG soldiers moved toward the Marines in the fort yelling,
"Don't shoot, don't shoot! Friendly, friendly!" Suddenly they lobbed grenades
into the Marine howitzer positions and ran into the fort, where they shot
several Marines with carbines and sliced claymore mine and communication wires.

The defenders suffered heavy casualties but stopped the main assault and killed
the infiltrators. The NVA dug in along the hill slopes and grenaded the trenches
where the mobile strike force soldiers were pinned by machine gun and rocket
fire. An NVA flamethrower set the ammunition ablaze, banishing the murky flare-
lighted darkness for the rest of the night. SFC Harold M. Swicegood and the
USMC platoon leader, Lt. Adams, were badly wounded and moved to the command
bunker. Medical Spec4 Blomgren reported that the CIDG mortar crews had abandoned
their weapons. Silva tried to operate the main 4.2 inch mortar but was wounded.
At about 0500 hours, Sgt. Glenn Miller, an A-105 communications specialist, was
shot through the head as he ran over to join the Marine howitzer crews.

The NVA advanced across the eastern side of Ngok Tavak and brought forward more
automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. In desperation, the
defenders called on USAF AC-47 "Spooky" gunships to strafe the perimeter and
the howitzers, despite the possible presence of friendly wounded in the gun
pits. The NVA countered with tear gas, but the wind kept drifting the gas over
their own lines. After three attempts, they stopped. A grenade fight between
the two forces lasted until dawn.

At daybreak Australian Warrant Officers Cameron and Lucas, joined by Blomgren,
led a CIDG counterattack. The North Vietnamese pulled back under covering fire,
and the howitzers were retaken. The Marines fired the last nine shells and
spiked the tubes. Later that morning medical evacuation helicopters supported
by covering airstrikes took out the seriously wounded, including Silva and
Swicegood. Two CH46's were able to land 45 replacements from the 12th Mobile
Strike Force Company, accompanied by Capt. Euge E. Makowski (who related much
of this account to Shelby Stanton, author of "Green Berets at War"), but one
helicopter was hit in the fuel line and forced down. Another helicopter was hit
by a rocket and burst into flames, wrecking the small helipad. The remaining
wounded were placed aboard a hovering helicopter. As it lifted off, two Mike
Force soldiers and 1Lt. Horace Fleming, one of the stranded aviation crewmen,
grabbed the helicopter skids. All three fell to their deaths after the
helicopter had reached an altitude of over one hundred feet.

The mobile strike force soldiers were exhausted and nervous. Ammunition and
water were nearly exhausted, and Ngok Tavak was still being pounded by sporadic
mortar fire. They asked permission to evacuate their positions, but were told
to "hold on" as "reinforcements were on the way". By noon the defenders decided
that aerial reinforcement or evacuation was increasingly unlikely, and night
would bring certain destruction. An hour later, they abandoned Ngok Tavak.

Thomas Perry, a medic from C Company, arrived at the camp at 0530 hours the
morning of the 10th. He cared for the wounded and was assisting in an attempt
to establish a defensive perimeter when the decision was made to evacuate the
camp. As survivors were leaving, Perry was seen by Sgt. Cordell J. Matheney,
Jr., standing 20 feet away, as Australian Army Capt. John White formed the
withdrawal column at the outer perimeter wire on the eastern Ngok Tavak
hillside. It was believed that Perry was going to join the end of the column.

All the weapons, equipment and munitions that could not be carried were hastily
piled into the command bunker and set afire. The helicopter that had been
grounded by a ruptured fuel line was destroyed with a LAW. Sgt. Miller's body
was abandoned.

After survivors had gone about 1 kilometer, it was discovered that Perry was
missing. Efforts were conducted to locate both Perry and Miller, including a
search by a group from Battery D. They were searching along the perimeter when
they were hit by enemy grenades and arms fire. Neither the men on the team nor
Perry was ever found. Included in this team were PFC Thomas Blackman; LCpl.
Joseph Cook; PFC Paul Czerwonka; LCpl. Thomas Fritsch; PFC Barry Hempel; LCpl.
Raymond Heyne; Cpl. Gerald King; PFC Robert Lopez; PFC William McGonigle; LCpl.
Donald Mitchell; and LCpl. James Sargent. The remaining survivors evaded
through dense jungle to a helicopter pickup point midway to Kham Duc. Their
extraction was completed shortly before 1900 hours on the evening of May 10.

In concert with the Ngok Tavak assault, the Kham Duc was blasted by a heavy
mortar and recoilless rifle attack at 0245 hours that same morning. Periodic
mortar barrages ripped into Kham Duc throughout the rest of the day, while the
Americal Division airmobiled a reinforced battalion of the 196th Infantry
Brigade into the compound. A Special Forces command party also landed, but the
situation deteriorated too rapidly for their presence to have positive effect.

The mortar attack on fog-shrouded Kham Duc resumed on the morning of May 11.
The bombardment caused heavy losses among the frightened CIDG soldiers, who
fled from their trenches across open ground, seeking shelter in the bunkers.
The LLDB commander remained hidden. CIDG soldiers refused orders to check the
rear of the camp for possible North Vietnamese intruders. That evening the 11th
and 12th Mobile Strike Force companies were airlifted to Da Nang, and half of
the 137th CIDG Company from Camp Ha Thanh was airlanded in exchange.

The 1st VC Regiment, 2nd NVA Division, began closing the ring around Kham Duc
during the early morning darkness of 12 May. At about 0415 to 0430 hours, the
camp and outlying positions came under heavy enemy attack. Outpost #7 was
assaulted and fell within a few minutes. Outposts #5, #1 and #3 had been
reinforced by Americal troops but were in North Vietnamese hands by 0930 hours.

OP1 was manned by PFC Harry Coen, PFC Andrew Craven, Sgt. Joseph Simpson, and
SP4 Julius Long from Company E, 2nd of the 1st Infantry. At about 0415 hours,
when OP1 came under heavy enemy attack, PFC Coen and SP4 Long were seen trying
to man a 106 millimeter recoilless rifle. Survivors reported that in the
initial enemy fire, they were knocked off their bunker. Both men again tried to
man the gun, but were knocked down again by RPG fire.

PFC Craven, along with two other men, departed the OP at 0830 hours on May 12.
They moved out 50 yards and could hear the enemy in their last position. At
about 1100 hours, as they were withdrawing to the battalion perimeter, they
encountered an enemy position. PFC Craven was the pointman and opened fire. The
enemy returned fire, and PFC Craven was seen to fall, with multiple chest
wounds. The other two men were unable to recover him, and hastily departed the
area. PFC Craven was last seen lying on his back, wounded, near the camp.

OP2 was being manned by 1Lt. Frederick Ransbottom, SP4 Maurice Moore, PFC Roy
Williams, PFC Danny Widner, PFC William Skivington, PFC Imlay Widdison, and SP5
John Stuller, from the 2nd of the 3rd Infantry when it came under attack.
Informal questioning of survivors of this position indicated that PFC Widdison
and SP5 Stuller may have been killed in action. However, the questioning was
not sufficiently thorough to produce enough evidence to confirm their deaths.

The only information available concerning 1Lt. Ransbottom, SP4 Moore, PFC Lloyd
and PFC Skivington that Lt. Ransbottom allegedly radioed PFC Widner and PFC
Williams, who were in the third bunker, and told them that he was shooting at
the enemy as they entered his bunker.

SP4 Juan Jimenez, a rifleman assigned to Company A, 2nd of the 1st Infantry,
was occupying a defensive position when he was severely wounded in the back by
enemy mortar fire. SP4 Jimenez was declared dead by the Battalion Surgeon in
the early morning hours of May 12. He was then carried to the helipad for
evacuation. However, due to the situation, space was available in the
helicopter for only the wounded, and SP4 Jimenez'remains were left behind.

At noon a massive NVA attack was launched against the main compound. The charge
was stopped by planes hurling napalm, cluster bomb units and 750 pound bombs
into the final wire barriers. The decision was made by the Americal Division
officers to call for immediate extraction.

The evacuation was disorderly, and at times, on the verge of complete panic.
One of the first extraction helicopters to land was exploded by enemy fire,
blocking the airstrip. Engineers of Company A, 70th Engineer Battalion,
frantically reassembled one of their dozers (previously torn apart to prevent
capture) to clear the runway. Eight more aircraft were blown out of the sky.

PFC Richard E. Sands was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry,
198th Light Infantry Brigade being extracted on a CH47 helicopter (serial
#67-18475). The helicopter was hit by 50 calliber machine gun fire at an
altitude of 1500-1600 feet shortly after takeoff.

Sands, who was sitting near the door gunner, was hit in the head by an incoming
rounds. The helicopter made a controlled landing and caught fire. During the
evacuation from the burning helicopter, four personnel and a medic checked PFC
Sands and indicated that he had been killed instantly. Because of the danger of
incoming mortar rounds and the fire, personnel attempting to remove PFC Sands
from the helicopter were ordered to abandon their attempt. The remaining
personnel were evacuated from the area later by another helicopter.

Intense antiaircraft fire from the captured outposts caused grave problems.
Control over the indigenous forces was difficult. One group of CIDG soldiers
had to be held in trenches at gunpoint to prevent them from mobbing the runway.

As evacuation was in progress, members of Company A, 1/46, who insisted on
boarding the aircraft first, shoved Vietnamese dependents out of the way. As
more Americal infantry tried to clamber into the outbound planes, the outraged
Special Forces staff convinced the Air Force to start loading civilians onboard
a C130, then watched as the civilians pushed children and weaker adults aside.

The crew of the U.S. Air Force C130 aircraft (serial #60-0297) consisted of
Maj. Bernard Bucher, pilot; SSgt. Frank Hepler, flight engineer; Maj. John
McElroy, navigator; 1Lt. Steven Moreland, co-pilot; George Long, load master;
Capt. Warren Orr, passenger, and an undetermined number of Vietnamese civilians.

The aircraft reported receiving ground fire on takeoff. The Forward Air Control
(FAC) in the area reported that the aircraft exploded in mid-air and crashed in
a fire ball about one mile from camp. All crew and passengers were believed
dead, as the plane burned quickly and was completely destroyed except for the
tail boom. No remains were recovered from the aircraft.

Capt. Orr was not positively identified by U.S. personnel as being aboard the
aircraft. He was last seen near the aircraft helping the civilians to board.
However, a Vietnamese stated that he had seen Capt. Orr board the aircraft and
later positively identified him from a photograph. Rescue efforts were
impossible because of the hostile threat in the area.

At the time the order was given to escape and evade, SP4 Julius Long was was
with Coen and Simpson. All three had been wounded, and were trying to make
their way back to the airfield about 350 yards away. As they reached the
airfield, they saw the last C130 departing. PFC Coen, who was shot in the
stomach, panicked and started running and shooting his weapon at random. SP4
Long tried to catch him, but could not, and did not see PFC Coen again. Long
then carried Sgt. Simpson to a nearby hill, where they spent the night.

During the night, the airfield was strafed and bombed by U.S. aircraft. SP4
Long was hit twice in the back by fragments, and Sgt. Simpson died during the
night. SP4 Long left him lying on the hill near the Cam Duc airfield and
started his escape and evasion toward Chu Lai, South Vietnam. SP4 Long was
captured and was released in 1973 from North Vietnam.

The Special Forces command group was the last organized group out of the camp.
As their helicopter soared into the clouds, Kham Duc was abandoned to advancing
NVA infantry at 4:33 p.m. on May 12, 1968. The last Special Forces camp on the
northwestern frontier of South Vietnam had been destroyed.

Two search and recovery operations were conducted in the vicinity of OP1 and
OP2 and the Cam Duc airfield on July 18, 1970 and August 17, 1970. In these
operations, remains of personnel previously reported missing from this incident
were recovered and subsequently identified. (SP4 Bowers, PFC Lloyd, Sgt. Sisk,
PFC Guzman-Rios and SSgt. Carter). However, extensive search and excavation
could not be completed at OP1 and OP2 because of the tactical situation.

It was assumed that all the missing at Kham Duc were killed in action until
about 1983, when the father of one of the men missing discovered a Marine Corps
document which indicated that four of the men had been taken prisoner. The
document listed the four by name. Until then, the families had not been advised
of the possibility there were any American prisoners taken other than Julius
Long. A Vietnamese rallier identified the photograph of Roy C. Williams as
positively having been a POW.

Until proof is obtained that the rest of the men lost at Ngok Tavak and Kham
Duc are dead, their families will always wonder if they are among those said to
still be alive in Southeast Asia.
 
Posts: 7314 | Registered: 10 October 2012Reply With Quote
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Picture of Big Wonderful Wyoming
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I served 20 years from 1993-2013.

Thank you to those that served in Vietnam from someone who served in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.
 
Posts: 7314 | Registered: 10 October 2012Reply With Quote
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Thank you for your service and your efforts. I am sure these families appreciate the recovery program and the volunteers who dedicate their time to this.


salute


___________________

Just Remember, We ALL Told You So.
 
Posts: 22442 | Location: Occupying Little Minds Rent Free | Registered: 04 October 2012Reply With Quote
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It is a strange business to be in. I was an augmentee deploying with Joint Task Force Full Accounting. I consider it to be the single greatest thing I have ever done for my country. It wasn't glamorous, but it was interesting and rewarding.

Thank you for your support.

I rarely ever saw people in Vietnam over the age of about 50. So they would have very young children during the war 5-15 or so.

The few people in their 60-70's that I saw hated us.
 
Posts: 7314 | Registered: 10 October 2012Reply With Quote
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quote:
Originally posted by Big Wonderful Wyoming:
I served 20 years from 1993-2013.

Thank you to those that served in Vietnam from someone who served in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.


Thanks for your work recovering our guys. My uncle was on a mission where his lead was shot down (Dick Perry). He was observed alive in his 'chute but was never reported as a POW. Years later his remains were recovered from the crash site and repatriated. It means so much to the families and their shipmates.

In this link, my uncle is the first picture shaking hands (dark blue shirt) with Beth Ruyak.

https://www.ruyakmedia.com/lady-jessie


Dave
 
Posts: 871 | Location: AKexpat | Registered: 27 October 2008Reply With Quote
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A7's were retired my 3rd or 4th year on active duty. I have only seen one as static.

Holloman AFB has drone F-4's that they shoot down for weapons test here at White Sands.
 
Posts: 7314 | Registered: 10 October 2012Reply With Quote
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