July 19th, 1966 Battle in the HOBO WOODS of A 1/27 2nd Platoon
My father once told me when I was about 11 or 12 years old a person can’t escape their fate or destiny that has been laid out for them no matter how much the journey seems to twist and turn. I never gave much thought to what that meant after all I was 11 or so. Our family lived on the northern fringe of the New Jersey Pine Barrens in Howell N.J. I grew up with a lot of woods to play in, where I spent a lot of my time playing war games with my friends.
Going in to join the Army
I joined the Army on October 14th, 1964 for a 4 year military hitch. The morning while I was waiting for the bus to take me to Newark, N.J. My mother and father waited with me as we stood there at the bus stop my mother was crying and begging me not to go. She was afraid I would end up going to war. I told her not to worry I was going to Hawaii and had joined US Army less Korea.
I took my basic training at Ft Dix, NJ with Hotel Company 3rd Training Regiment we finished about December 18th. We received our orders and I thought I was going to electronics school somewhere. I didn’t understand the orders and I asked my platoon sergeant where I was going to school for missile school. He laughed and said you are going to missile school alright the missiles are so big showing his thumb and index finger the size of a 7.62 round. I was going to Advanced Infantry Training to Ft Ord.
At Ft Ord I tried getting out of the Infantry reporting by reporting on sick call complaining about my flat feet were hurting, he replied you have the wrong kind of flat feet. I tried a few more times and I finally I realized they were not going to let out of the Infantry so I tried to sign up go to jump school. I was a week to late because you had to volunteer before your sixth week of AIT. Okay I thought I am at least going to Hawaii. When I received my orders they were for Korea. I reported to the orderly room the next morning and said I wanted out of the Army on a breach of contract. They said come back tomorrow morning when I got there they had my orders for Hawaii.
Getting to Hawaii
We got to Hawaii around the 10th of March 1965. As we were sailing in to Pearl Harbor I thought wow it looks like some kind of scenery from a movie set. It was so lush green with beautiful flowers. When I finally got up to Schofield Barracks I still had sea legs and I couldn’t stand still wobbling from my left to right side. I was at the USARHAW Headquarters reporting in at which time two clerks were decide my fate, talking back and forth about what they can do with me. First one asked the other who had my orders in his hand what is his MOS. He said he is Infantry he said okay send him over to the MPs to which case the other one holding my orders replied we can’t he is to young. I was still 18 and you had to be at least 19 and a half to be an MP. The hell with it just send him over to the 25th Division they are here in Hawaii too. I was taken by a jeep to the A 1/27th Infantry I reported to the orderly room where 1st Sergeant was Leonard Letoto, who was sitting at a desk and the CO was Capt. Stanton Curbow.
The rest of the company was out in the Kuhukus with rest of the regiment on Operation Black Knight as the aggressors against the 35th Infantry Regiment. They finally came back in from the field around the 21st of March 1965. I was assigned to the 1st squad 2nd Platoon Bravo Team with whom I stayed as a member until October 1966. While on Operation Black Knight they had stashed C-rations all over the Kuhukus and I was put on a detail to help recover them. Climbing up and down there on those mountains was very wearisome and I thought to myself man I don’t want to be out here doing this for long periods of time.
Going to Vietnam Shotgun X
The 25th Division at that time had a shotgun program where they were sending door gunners to Vietnam. I volunteered for that thinking this has to be a lot easier than climbing up and down those mountains. It was about a 4 week program for the Shotgun where they taught us water survival, stripping M-60 machine guns and learning to fire the machine guns from a helicopter. Our tour to Vietnam started in the first week of June 1965. After we did an Island hopping flight hitting Wake, Guam and Clark Air force bases. We landed in Saigon from there we went by C-123 to Camp Halloway Pleiku. We were to be door gunners for the 119th Aviation Company of the 52nd Aviation Battalion, their gunships were called the Crocodiles and the slicks were the Alligators. On a mission to an SF camp at Cheo Reo I was wounded on the 15th of June 1965 on a resupply mission. The bullets tore through the floor of the chopper setting off a round and shrapnel tore in to my right knee I felt the sting but I was caught up in heat of the moment returning fire. I thought nothing about the wound because of heat of the moment reactions which had my adrenaline rushing
As we were flying back the pilot and the crew chief were trying to talk to me over the headsets after not being able to the crew chief finally tapped me on my left shoulder. I turned to see why when he pointed at my headset I looked down at it and saw the wire was cut and dangling near my left cheek. A bullet had severed it and the crew chief pointed at my right knee when I looked down I saw blood on my fatigue bottom. Apparently that what I had thought was warm water running down my leg that I kept rubbing was really my warm blood running down my leg. Then on June 19th, we were on another resupply mission when we stopped at the MACV Compound in Kontum to pick up supplies to take to SF Camps north northwest of Kontum. While there at the MACV Compound was the first time I heard the “fuck you” lizard I walked around looking for whoever was saying fuck you and finally they told me it was a lizard while they were chuckling at me. Those SF camps were all in the same valley Dak Suk, Dak Pec and Dak To. I was riding on one of the Croc ships one of the armed choppers that were escorting the slicks as we entered the mouth of the valley a slick took a hit from a .51 caliber and went down. Our Shotgun Group platoon leader 1st Lt John Ball from WV was the gunner on board that ship. They all were killed their chopper just disappeared. I don’t know when they recovered their bodies.
The SF guys I met were all informal no one wore insignias to denote their rank I guess that was just in case they got captured. The pilots and crew chiefs must have known the SF guys because they stood around laughing and joking together. On the ground lay all these captured weapons AK-47s mostly one of the SF guys asked the pilot if he had a bottle of whisky ? He said if you do have a bottle we’ll trade all those weapons laying there for it, that made me chuckle.
Then on the evening of July 20rh, 1965 one of the choppers was making a dusk patrol around the perimeter of Camp Holloway. The base was attacked in February of that year so they instituted a patrol around the perimeter at dusk . My best friend SP-4 Johnny R Triplett was the gunner on that flight when they surprised a lone VC walking on a trail who lifted his AK-47 and fired at the chopper striking Johnny in the chest he died instantly. Call came over the radio that gunner was shot I ran down to the chopper pad as it came in. Johnny was slouched down and there was a big pool of blood on the floor they said he was dead. I just shook my head as I walked away from the pad I got drunk that night.
In August the NVA were besieging an SF camp at DUC CO on the Cambodian border with a few regiments it took almost three weeks to break the siege. The camp was set up like a triangle with layers of concertina wire strung out. I went on a flight to DUC CO that had to pick up dead bodies that had been out there 3 or 4 days because the Special Forces guys said the Mountngnards would stop fighting we didn’t remove the dead bodies. We landed near the wire where they had the bodies piled up waiting on us. I got out and began helping an SF guy load the bodies. I asked him while we were putting the bodies on board how far was it to the enemy positions he said on the other side of the airstrip. I asked which side he said the narrow part about 40 yards I saw how close it was hurried up loading the bodies faster. We lifted up and started to fly south away from the camp turned right towards Cambodia I opened up with my M-60 as we lifting up right towards the area the SF guy said the NVA were. The pilot asked me gunner you see the enemy I said no sir I just want them to keep their heads down he said good show gunner. in the air on the flight back to Camp Halloway I began to get overwhelmed by the stench of the dead bodies I wanted to vomit they had laid out there for three-four days. I had never been around dead bodies that were decaying before and I have never forgotten the stench of death since then. The 52nd Aviation Battalion received a Valorous Unit Award for their action in support of Duc Co which included lifting elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade to finally lift the siege. The 119th Aviation was part of the 52nd
Back in Hawaii
We returned to Schofield in early part of September and we were all given a thirty day leave. There were two other Jersey boys on our shotgun group with us. The three us flew back to Newark, New Jersey together. I had a girlfriend whom I hadn’t seen almost ten months and I was anxious to see her. I had a pretty good time seeing her and my friends from my neighborhood. The leave went by real fast next thing I knew I was back at Schofield and it was October been a year since I had joined the Army. Then my troubles started I got a Dear John letter I was devastated and heart broken. I thought some way I had to get back to Jersey I just knew I could get her back. I started missing bed checks at first it was a company grade Article 15 then the 2nd time it was a field grade Article 15. I knew the 3rd time it would be summary court martial and then I would get my undesirable discharge.
It seemed like a lot of time had lapsed and the company was going out on operation to the Kuhukus and this was early November. The night before they were supposed to go out the next day I went AWOL again to miss that operation. I came back the next day but they hadn’t gone out instead they were going out the day after I got back so I got stuck going out to the Kuhukus as much as I didn’t want to go I went. This was the last major training exercise to the Kuhukus before the division would deploy to Vietnam. Up and down we climbed I asked where the hell are we going the sergeant he pointed straight across to the other peak and said right over there straight a head I said oh that’s not far. The deal was we had to go down a thousand feet or more and climb back up a 2.000 it took us two days. The Kuhukus are one of the wettest places in the world it gets about three hundred inches of rain a year. As we were climbing up it began to rain the trail we were on turned in to a stream so we were slipping and sliding grabbing on to small trees to move up the through the slippery lava soil.
We finally got to the top and dug in around a ridge line overlooking a trail or least that was the position I set up in. We ended manning a machine gun in our position I was on watch at the time when I saw some movement in front of our position I opened up with the M-60. Luckily these were blanks because as it turned out they were a friendly unit going out on an ambush patrol. They were yelling cease fire there were some people behind my position yelling. The platoon sergeant SFC Jesus Rodriguez came running over yelling at me why the fuck are you shooting at friendlies I replied I didn’t know they were friendly all I know is I saw movement in front of my position and thought they might be aggressors moving in. It became a lesson learned to let everyone know when a friendly unit is going out on ambush patrols As Sgt Rod was walking away he turned and yelled at mE “you’re no fucking good Moschkin.” I yelled back that I didn’t know about the ambush going out he said you are no fucking good in garrison but you are the best field soldier I have. He said I would take a whole platoon of men like you to war but you are just no fucking good in garrison, so don’t you ever think about staying in the Army. People like are just supposed to fight a war and get out.
We came in out of the field just before Thanksgiving, the day after we got back was called a training holiday which really meant it was time to clean up our gear. I was cleaning my stuff when they called me down to the orderly room. I was told to report to battalion headquarters so I reported to battalion headquarters as it turned out I was given a Summary Court Martial and sentenced to 30 days in the stockade. Now that I was court martialed and found guilty I couldn’t go by myself so they sent for some one from the company to escort me to the stockade. It was Sgt Chilton my fire team leader who came to escort me as were walking he asked me you aren’t going give me any trouble Moschkin are you, I laughed and said why would I do that you are my friend.
I got out of the stockade after 25 days I got 5 days off for good behavior by that time the division had come down on orders to deploy to Vietnam and there I was up for an undesirable discharge. I was over my love loss and I wanted to deploy with my company so I asked for permission to see the Battalion Commander Lt. Col Cathrow. I reported to him and said sir I would like permission to stay in the Army. He said why should I let you stay in the Army I replied I wanted to go with my company I cried to him if anything ever happened to Alpha Company and I wasn’t there I would just die I promise I’ll never get in trouble again if you let me stay in. He said I will have to check this out with your company and get back to you, A few days later I was called to headquarters again he said I am going to let you stay in but you better never get in trouble again I had tears in my eyes when I thanked him.
We left Hawaii on January 5th 1966 and got to Vung Tau Vietnam around the 19th of January 1966 after a couple of week sea journey by boat. I think it was the USS Gordon because some one in the 2nd Battalion said they came over on the USS Walker and there two ships the USS Walker and the USS Gordon. Once we landed they flew us to Bein Hoa Air Base. From there we were trucked to the Saigon University staging area where we stayed for a week. On the 25th of January we were convoyed up to CuChi. As we were jumping off the deuce and halves we could hear rifle fire and mortar fire from a battle that was going on with a unit of 2/28th Infantry of the Big Red One who were engaged in a heavy fire fight. Our battalion 1/27 crawled up to behind their bunker lines dragging our duffel bags as we went. When they got back in from that battle I got a chance to talk to one of their guys. My first stupid question in Vietnam I asked is this place that bad his answer was you can keep this fucking hell hole I’ll be glad to get back in the jungle I never forgot that. Their battalion left with less than half strength and we were taking over from them, they left the next day by convoy. We A 1/27 took over a sector that was in the rubber trees in the north west corner of what was to become the CuChi Base Camp.
The other units in the 2nd Brigade were already conducting combat operations to the front of their sectors before the end of January. However since our company sector were inside the trees we had to cut rubber trees for fields of fire and to extend our perimeter . We cut about 60 to 80 yards of trees across the length of our perimeter and put up three strands of concertina wire. We finished all this in about a week’s time and on February 5th we A 1/27 went on our first combat operation. We had gone a little over 200 yards before the VC opened up on us. We hit the dirt near some trenches. Bullets were whizzing through the air the NCOs were yelling move up I glanced to my left and right down the line no one was moving. I looked straight ahead and saw a VC in khakis with a square back pack, pith helmet with an AK-47 weaving between the trees coming toward us. I was then carrying the M-79 grenade launcher so I aimed to where I thought I might hit him with some shrapnel as he weaved between the rubber trees. When I fired our whole company opened up with return fire. Then I could still hear yells of move up from the NCOs as the volume of fire picked up I laid there thinking how scared I was but a had a greater fear and that was of my father getting a letter saying your son has been charged with cowardice in face of the enemy. I took a deep breath and took off running forward I landed behind a rubber tree for cover as the bullets were whizzing by some hitting all around my position some rounds thudding as they hit the dirt near my head.
By mid- afternoon we had fought out way into a small village in the rubber plantation which was to become known as “nightmare village” to us. We fought our way in to that village I can’t remember how many times but when we got back at night there were screams from guys that had nightmares as they tried to sleep at night That was reason it was named “nightmare village”. That day was on February 5th, 1966 we took 55 WIAs and 2 KIAs. It seemed like we were getting replacements right away and after that we never really got up to full company strength again. One night we went out and set up a perimeter not far from that village. There was a little excitement that night, I had put the poncho over my head and had a cigarette when I finished my foxhole buddy asked me if he can have a cigarette too. I said sure go ahead thinking he would do as had just done instead he lit a match right out in the open inside the foxhole it lit up like a torch. I yelled you fuck what are you doing you gave away our position and about that same time a grenade exploded. Guys in a foxhole a few foxholes over from ours got in to a grenade duel. The next morning the sergeant who was in that foxhole found a chi-com grenade in their foxhole the thing was it still had the grenade pin in it.
Going into the HoBo Woods
Operations began for our entry first entry to the HOBO Woods in late March early April. We were lined up with a company of armor which I believe was either a troop from ¾ Cav or 69th Armor Company. They cut through hedges that were booby trapped as the armor cut through they set off booby traps. To lead the way with us Infantry setting off booby traps as they cut through. As we were approaching towards the hedges one of the tanks set off an anti-tank mine in the paddy which blew it in to the air. Us Infantry upon seeing this froze in our tracks seeing a tank fly in to the air all mauled up. Officers and NCOs yelling move out those are anti-tank mines which wasn’t very reassuring to us. The APCs were going along the hedges using their flame throwers setting off the booby traps. The thing that stuck in my mind was seeing that tank in the air and what the fuck would that do to us, they wouldn’t even find enough of our pieces to send home. We dug in for the night in the HoBo with Infantry between tanks and tracks kind of made you feel better knowing those .50 calibers were there.
The next time we went back to the HoBo Woods we were lined up as a battalion on line on the edge of one row of hedges looking at the woods. I thought we would do a battalion on line deal but as it turned out we did a wedge or vee formation. As luck would have it Alpha Company was going to lead out then it came down to the second platoon would lead Alpha Company to move out first finally the 1st squad was going to lead the platoon. There are two fire teams in the squad and bravo team got the top honors. I don’t know how I was chosen as the point man for all of this but looking over to the tree line across I was scared I had butterflies in the pit of my stomach. There was about 800 yards of open rice paddy to cross. I asked how far do I have to go out before the company begins moving out behind me ? The Lt said about half way so I asked him can I recon by fire he said no, no recon by fire. I walked half way across and opened up spraying the trees and bushes. The Lt came running out and asked me Moschkin did you see something over there ? I replied no sir but when I get over there I don’t want to see anything either. He just patted me on my back and said good show now just keep on moving !
April Ambush Patrol April 20th, 1966
My squad was sent out on ambush patrol about a klick from where were dug in as a battalion perimeter in the HOBO Woods. We had set up in an L-shaped ambush and my position was near the center not far from our M-60 machine position near the center of the ambush because my automatic rifle, the M-14-E-2, could give supporting fire power to the machine gun. As we lay out there was rifle fire behind us apparently the VC moved in and were probing the perimeter. Then there was some chunk, chunk of mortar fire at first we didn’t know if it was in coming or going out mortar fire. Then I happened to look back behind me and saw the flash of mortar rounds leaving the mortar tube. About then the arty fired a 105 WP marker round which went over our heads. I told the squad leader radio back tell them cease fire because the mortars were within reach of our kill zone all we had to do was turn the right leg to the other side and we had them. He didn’t listen a medic who was out there with Sp-5 Mussa said he heard that but didn’t know who was saying that about having them. The ambush got split up half the guys made it back inside the wire the rest of us spent the night in a large bomb crater. It was a long night in that bomb crater because 5 men weren’t enough to look out and watch behind us. One of those rounds that the VC had fired had landed in a foxhole killing two NCOs from the weapons platoon. Sergeant Grover Taylor and a new E-5 Roy D. Watts who came in February as a replacement. Sergeant Taylor was the platoon sergeant of our Shotgun group in June, July, and August 1965. I was talking to a medic who had served with my company and who just so happened to have been with us on that ambush that night Spec-5 Massa (from San Antonio who was retired) about that ambush when he said he remembered that ambush but didn’t know who said that about calling off arty and moving a leg of the ambush. He said it was dark so he didn’t see who said that until I told him what I had said he said so that was you.
Bao Trai Area near
On June 28th, 1966 one of our squads from my platoon the 2nd platoon went out on Ambush Purple I remember joking around with some of them who had come over from Hawaii with the company. One of whom was a close friend from Bristol, PA across from Trenton N.J. Sp-4 Carl Fell. We often talked about seeing each other after the war since I lived in Jersey about 30 miles from Trenton. Late that night the ambush was hit by a platoon of VC we could see traces flying in both directions. Our mortar section began firing their 81s, they shot so many rounds that their tubes were glowing red. They were pouring oil down the tubes to keep the rounds from cooking off while in the tubes. We were going around to get 81 rounds from all the other companies. The platoon sergeant wanted to go out to help them and asked for volunteers for which the whole platoon volunteered to go out. They wouldn’t let us go out there telling Sgt Rodriguez that there might be another ambush waiting for us to come out. The firing finally stopped about a half hour later the VC had used their RPG to knock out the Fell’s machine gun position.
The next day in the morning we went out early to try to locate the squad and our worst fears were that they were all killed. When we did finally locate them we could see that their bodies were scattered about. That day was the only time I ever saw my platoon sergeant cry wiping his tears with his towel. We began searching the area right away we had anger and hate eating at us and we wanted pay back revenge . Butolph, who was the other machine gunner in the platoon and I came up to a hooch door. I don’t remember if we knocked on the door or Butolph just kicked the door back I was standing to the hinge side ready to fire my automatic rifle on full auto if I saw any one. As it turned out there was an old lady standing behind the door with blood coming out her nose caused by the door going back so fast the tip of her nose was almost all gone except for a small sliver still attached her hand was full of blood. She was medivaced and they did reattach her nose. I remember standing there thinking to myself “so this is what we have become animals”.
Among those that were killed that night one was a new platoon leader Lt Runey he was with us about 2 or three days. He wanted to know what it was like to be on ambush.
The 12 KIAs were:
2nd Lt Lawrence Runey of Bristol. PA Sgt Russell Price of Baltimore, MD
Sp-4 Harry Dwyer Portales, NM Sp-4 Carl Fell of Bristol, PA
Sp-4 William Scheidt of Concord, Cal PFC Manuel Alicea of NY, NY
PFC Michael Bingham of Philadelphia, PA PFC Donald Byrum of Wooster, Ohio
PFC Gerald Crosby of Rockville, MD PFC Pedro Luis Lamourt-Tosado of Camy, PR
PFC Arthur Mitchell of Oklahoma City, Ok PFC James Tazelaar of Muskegon, MI
In July the 1/27th started eagle flight search missions in to the HoBo Woods it was Operation Mokulea which was to be a series of insertions in to preselected areas in the HoBo Woods. During this operation each of the companies of 1st Battalion 27th Infantry “Wolfhounds” did rotation to provide security for the artillery at the Trang Bang soccer field. On the day we went out those units were A -Battery 1/8th and D- Battery 3/13. The 8th had 105s while 3/13th had 155s and 8″ers. B Company left by convoy to replace C Company at Trang bang. Which was about a distance of 4 Klicks from Objective #1 and 5 Klicks from Objective #5 these were the locations of A 1/27’s July 19, 1966 Battle in the HoBo Woods.
The first lift of the day was the 1st Platoon they were inserted in to Objective #5 about 12:24 where as they started their sweep they came under some sniper fire around 12:35 their platoon leader notified the Battalion CO they could handle it. Upon hearing that the 3rd Platoon was ordered to be inserted in to Objective #1 around 12:39. Where before landing they started receiving small arms fire as they advanced they came under intense automatic weapons fire and were quickly taking casualties. Shortly after their last transmission from this platoon could be heard ” holy shit the haystacks are opening up”. It was shortly after this that our Platoon Sergeant Jesus Rodriguez yelled saddle up to us the 2nd Platoon. (We were the reactionary platoon since we were down to two squads having lost our 3rd Squad on Ambush Purple 3 weeks before.) We boarded the choppers at 12:55 and left for the Battlefield to where we had no idea since by then the 1st Platoon had become heavily engaged. We did end up at objective # 5.
The chopper I boarded had seven of us on it 1st Sergeant Leonard Letoto, Platoon Sergeant Jesus Rodriguez, RTO Michael O’Shaughnessy, Bravo Team Leader Reuben Hamby, Grenadier Earl Edwards, Rifleman Anthony Greco, and myself AR-man M-14-E-2 Megmer Moschkin. As we approached the LZ. I got out on the skid ready to dive off, which I did do about 5-7 feet off the ground. We all ended up on the nsrth side of the berm looking out I quickly looked behind us and saw the wood line so I instinctively dove over to the south side as did everyone else. The machine guns opened up on us while we jumping over at least 4-5 so I quickly crawled to the east side of the berm to where it met another berm to form a T looking northward and watched the muzzle flashes of the machine guns raking back and forth. Sergeant Rodriguezz crawled over to my right side and said cover me Moschkin but I continued to watch the machine guns. Then Sgt Rod raised his voice “I said cover me Moschkin” so I thought to myself if I can hit any part of the machine gun it would silence it for a little while (I had been on Shotgun X and knew a lot about machine guns from my training and knew if a bullet hit one it would take it out for however long.) I had my rifle set on full automatic so I gave it three rounds burst on the furthest one which was to our east. It went silent so I then gave it another three rounds burst in to the second one it went silent. While doing this I realized shit I used up six rounds already in a matter of seconds so I switched to semi-automatic. I knew I just had to hit them with one round all the while using the muzzle flashes as my target.
Sgt Rod dove over the berm followed by Sgt Letoto, Sgt Hamby and PFC Edwards they crawled forward about 20 yards (north) and about 40 yards out (east). Then Sgt Rod started yelling O”shaughnessy who was still near Greco and I. I yelled over to him “O’Shaughnessy Sgt Rod is calling for you” so he went over and out to where they were. I was watching northward when out of the corner from a group of trees alongside an ox cart trail on the left side further back near the wood line I saw some figures running kind of towards us. As I set aim to shoot I saw that they were our guys four abreast leaning on each other one was hobbling all without weapons. Then some machine guns opened up on them I saw it as it all as it seemed to happen in slow motion their bodies flailed through the air in different contortions as each time their body got hit with a slug that hit them. Then they fell plop all at once in normal motion behind them I saw another figure from the same corner backing up firing as he did so I guess he was covering these guys and he too fell forward toward the enemy with his rifle still shooting as he fell. Right behind him came the VC. My first shot hit one in the chest as he flipped backwards the next guy I hit in the upper body as he twisted backwards the third guy I hit in the head because his head snapped backwards. I just kept on shooting from there on out I started with 280 rounds of 7.62. I had 12 magazines in my pouches (240rounds) and two taped together (40) and when I boarded the chopper I only had six rounds left in my last magazine when after 4 hours of none stop shooting.
As they were attacking I had urged Greco to start shooting because there just so many of them coming at us at this point. His first two rounds hit the dirt so I yelled over to him “today is not the day to scare people you better start hitting these mother fuckers”. He yelled I got one I got another one he stopped yelling and kept his mind on shooting these guys. We were the left flank of Alpha Company after all ! He ran out of AMMO within a half hour and said Mosch give me some AMMO I told him Greco you have the M-16 and I have the M-14. Then he said give me your rifle I told him go fuck yourself ! LOL I wasn’t giving up my rifle to anyone especially at this time ! The mortar fire started with chuump after chuump as the exploding rounds kicked up the dirt. They were walking them directly at us so I thought as I watched them but it traversed to the east about 20 yards then 40 yards when one of the rounds landed right between Sgt Letoto and O’Shaughnessy but it turned out to be a dud luckily for them. We were started to get air strikes about this time also, the pilot turned his head towards us and he could see our faces as well as we could see his face. He radioed the FAC and asked him where are (is) the enemy I can see the faces of those guys on the ground. The FAC replied to him you know where you dropped your bombs well you dropped it behind the enemy the pilot said holy shit. The bombs must have knocked out the mortars because they stopped firing after his run .
Meanwhile Edwards had got hit by couple of rounds one hit him in the lung and one in his stomach while doing what Sgt Rod had told him to do. They moved away from Edwards Sgt Rod, Sgt Letoto, Sgt Hamby, and O’Shaughnessy to where the rest of the platoon had come around to, over to my east about 100 yards and the platoon medic SP-4 Rios was with this group. After having giving first aid to those guys over there he started to crawl out towards Edwards because the machine gun fire now concentrated on his movement I tried covered him as best as I could silencing them for at least a little while. I turned back to covering the left flank. When I did look over to Rios he was administrating first aid on Edwards. Then a machine gun that was between us and his position opened up, this is when I saw his body rise up above the berm to administer aid for the sucking chest wound Edwards had. I was talking to myself get down Rios that is when I saw his body shoot up in to the air all prone. The round had shattered his vertebrae leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. I thought he was dead because I didn’t see him move again. For his actions I had put Rios in for the Medal of Honor because later after we left him and Edwards on the battlefield, he still had enough presence of mind to attract the attention of the passing choppers by waving his white T-shirt. The “GUNS AGOGO” (an armed CH-47 named Birth Control) landed and rescued him and Edwards leaving Knot’s dead body in place.
As we laid here fighting for four hours for the 2nd Platoon and four and a half hours for the 1st Platoon shortly before choppers came in for the extraction. I saw from the right front (east) about 200 VC coming out in two columns at port arms double timing out from deeper in the wood line. I thought to myself Jesus fucking Christ just how the fuck many of these mother fuckers are out here today. We were almost out of AMMO I began shooting every fourth or fifth man hoping to cause a disruption they just closed rank setting up for the final charge. I had made up my mind when I watching them that I would get up and charge at them knowing full well they would cut me down. Upon seeing them lining up while still shooting at them I said to Greco “don’t worry it will all be over in a few minutes” (gallows humor). Then out of no place came this CH-47 blazing away with its two 20MM canons, M-79 Grenade Launcher on its nose, rocket pods on each side dice through those two columns. There were body parts flying through the air as well as globs of blood Greco came back to life yelling look at those guns go. Shortly after the GUNSAGGO made its second pass the choppers cam swirling in for extraction the first one landed half way between us and the rest of the company. They may have seen Rios and Edwards but it went up in flames as it touched ground it got shot up pretty quick no sooner had its skids touched the ground it was in flames. I said to Greco well there goes our ride out (gallows humor again) it was chaotic those last few minutes. I was waiting for anyone to give me orders to pull out. I looked to my right (east) and I didn’t see anyone I was kind of at a loss at what to do. A chopper landed behind us about 30-40 yards and the pilot was waving his hand frantically gesturing for us to come on. I thought to myself I’ll get this pilot’s name if we get any shit on why we left. I told Greco go and I pulled back kneeling down on one knee firing as I pulled back covering our movement back. Finally when I did get to the chopper turned to board the gunner gave me a thumbs up sign and as bent over to board the chopper two bullets went across my back.
I don’t know for sure how many people I shot throughout the battle what I do know is I shot at over 250 targets between the silencing the machine guns and holding the left flank when we came under attack from there. I don’t know what they were doing on the right flank but I was told that they too were under attack. They say we were hit by two battalions the 320th Boi Loi Battalion and 1st Battalion 165th A Regiment yet there seemed to be far more than two battalions because when the battalion CO asked for re-enforcements for us, to drop Charlie Company off 500 yards to our east he was told that they were concerned that Charlie Company would get shot at from behind. Twice the Battalion Commander asked to re-enforce us and twice he was declined by higher ups from doing so. His replacement was told he inserted us to far from artillery cover I don’t know the range of 105s or 155s nor 8″ers but I do know Objective # 1 Was 4 Klicks and we on Objective # 5 were 5 Klicks from Trang Band where arty was at.
We had left 15 KIAs out in the field due the intensity of the battle.
14:12 Line item # 75: F Bn CO: My plan is to move a (1) plat from Trang Bang to Reinforce plat at obj # 1 (568-264). Choppers will then move to obj 5 (575- 265) and extract plat located at that location.
14:37 Line item # 78 To Bde TOC: Want one company to land on East side to obj 5 and sweep to West.
15:28 Line item # 85 To Bde TOC: Ref item # 84 are trying to extract obj 1 now. Will have trouble getting out of obj 5 Are mixing it up at close quarters.
15:30 Line item # 86: To BN CO : From Bde CO (Monitor) can you move elements from obj # 5 to obj # 1 so that the troops can extract by nightfall. (ans) Negative , too much firing-will have to wait & see. Bde TOC- Could you use a CH-47 (GO GO Ship). If so I will have it on stand by status. (ans) I may be able to use it- will inform you if I can.
18:20 Line item # 108 Battalion radio log July 19, 1966: Fr (Bde S-3) Gunships and CH-47 extracted 2 seriously wounded. 1 KIA was left behind, couldn’t extract him.
20:20 Line item # 113: To Bde TOC: Total 16 VC KIA; 32 US WIA US WIA; 23 US KIA: 15KIA were not extracted due to intense enemy fire.
We got back to the chopper pad at CuChi loading up on deuce- halves I saw a pile of bodies thrown in a heap and some one asked me if I could help identify them. Stupidly I walk over the first one and only one I saw was Sgt Michael Mummel from the 3rd Platoon, with whom I was laughing and joking with earlier in the morning at the company area before our operations began. There was a young 2nd Lt who was yelling this is a disgrace to the Wolfhounds I said what the fuck you talking about as I raised my rifle to butt stroke his ass. He quickly said not you guys but a disgrace to the Wolfhounds because we didn’t send re-enforcements out to help you guys. As I sat on the back of the truck there sat a guy across from me wearing a helmet with a bullet hole right in the middle over his forehead I picked up off his head he said what you doing I said I want to see the hole in your head that matches this hole. The helmet had a hole in the back of it also so I asked were you wearing this when this happened he said yes he was. I said man I would send that home he said I am sending it home.
Around 6 or so the platoon leader came around asking if we wanted to recommend any one for medals, I said yes I do I would like to put our medic Sp-4 Rios in for the Medal of Honor. He asked me why and I described what I had witnessed him do. Which was moving from the main body of the platoon, where he had already patched up guys, towards Edwards who lie about half way between my position and the main body. The distance was about 50 yards for him to crawl under heavy machine gun fire to get to Edwards as much as I tried to cover the machine guns kept coming back on line as well as the attack along the left flank. In order to save Edwards life he had to treat the sucking chest wound. When I turned and looked towards them I saw Rios rise above the rice paddy berm I guess to put pressure on the sucking chest wound. I round hit him in the spine shattering some parts of his spine he was paralized from that moment on . I thought he was dead the way his body shot straight out in the air. The attacking was still going on. Yet as severely as he was wounded he had enough presence of mind and will to signal choppers by waving his T-shirt to attract their attention. We didn’t learn until around 6 PM he and Edwards were extracted alive. He saved Edwards life and both of theirs by signaling the choppers. Under the conditions he sacrificed his own well being to save a life and that to me was a Medal of Honor Act. It may been down graded because they didn’t want to admit we had left two wounded in the battle field.
The company area was like a ghost town when we got back yet there was a skid of ice cold Budwiser that is 144 cases of beer. They told us to take as much as you want so I grabbed a case went inside the hooch and sat on bed and popped one open. When that case was finished I went back and got another case everyone seemed to have their own case of beer. After drinking so much so quick I had to take a piss so I stepped out behind the hooch to take a piss near the corner made of sandbags. It felt so relieving taking that piss I said aah from relief and looked up. We were in the rubber trees A 1/27 that is when I saw bodies, body parts, and strands of blood hanging like strands of spaggetti . It was all a red haze filling the air to me when I screamed from seeing this. I looked up the 1 sergeant and some other people were standing over me. I screamed out crying God I didn’t mean to shoot that many people !
The PUC Sept 1st, 2010
I had heard we A 1/27 were put in for a Presidential Unit Citation for this action and Rios’ Medal of Honor recommendation was down graded to a DSC. His DSC award was approved in 2009. As it was we never heard any more about this again then in 1990s I made contact to the platoon leader of the first platoon. I told him I had the radio log for July 19th, 1966 to which he had replied he had more paper work on July 19th then any one else. At the time I didn’t know he had all the paper work which really was A 1/27’s recommendation for the PUC. Then in 2004 he released a copy to some one who was a retired major. The major was supposed to work on getting the paper work through. I waited a year and I asked the major how things were coming along he told me forget about the PUC, that was a long time ago. I was thinking to myself when he said that fuck giving up if I was going to give up I would have given up on July 19th. After I got that platoon leader to send me a copy in 2005 I went in 2006 to Hawaii along with 1st Sergeant Letoto, O’Shaughnessy, Hamby, Jerry McKinney and I , we went to Senator Akaka’s office in Hawaii to see if they could help us with the PUC. Nothing happened so in 2008 I went back to Hawaii with the intent of going to Senator Inouye’s office in Hawaii when I met a guy who retired a LTC and lived on Oahu. He had served as a squad leader in the first platoon. We met for some beers I told him about our efforts and asked him if he would be interested in handling it (otherwise 1 Sergeant Letoto, Jerry McKinney, O’Shaughnessy and I would take to Inouye’s office). Finally it was. O’Shaughnessy and I had about 12 copies run off and we gave to that we gave the guy it was approved on September 1st 2010.e
15 KIA bodies:
I had heard the bodies we left in the battle field were found by the 1/5th Mech unit the next day all lined up in a neat row. I often wondered where those bodies were located either to the front of the back of the burned up chopper (the front of the chopper was facing east and the back of the chopper was west)? That question was settled for me when I talked to a guy who was in that company that found the bodies so I asked him where they in front of the back of the burned up chopper. He told they were found to the front of the burned chopper next to a pile of machine gun AMMO I told him it was not a machine gun position it was the pile of AMMO casings of my M-14-E-2 I left. That was my position 100 yards from the main body of the platoon to the east of me that burned up chopper was about half way between us. I thought by the enemy doing what they did might mean a Medal of Honor might be warranted. But really what I did was not heroic in my mind I fought to stay alive. Yes I did have to ignore enemy fire not to would let them over run my position. Just the thought of an enemy leader that aware of what was going on and had enough respect for my actions to honor me like that is okay with me!
About the Author, Mike Moschkin: