« It cost "a man a yard" at San Pietro | Main | Starlink phase 2 »

11 November 2019


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Colonel Lang,

This is a powerful and moving piece. Thank you for sharing the memories of that day and those men with us.



Thank you. Your annual re-runs like this story are some of the best posts on SST.


Col. Lang,

Let me see. Bad judgment, trouble concentrating, impulsive, reckless, hot-tempered. I'd say there was no telling how many American soldiers that battalion commander would have gotten killed and maimed for no good reason on his way to the rank of colonel.

But he was stopped.

Another thought about your account: Somebody had to provide evidence that the Montagnard agent had not given deliberately misleading intelligence -- that on the contrary he'd warned that the enemy had been dug in for two weeks, a clear indication they were well-prepared for an assault. So although you were admonished by 525th MIG, your subterfuge would have allowed the operational upper echelon to include your report in their investigation. That might have been the only way they could have nailed the CO, given his blame-shifting.

From my reading of an article by Thomas Ricks ("General Failure"), by the Vietnam War the emphasis on accountability in the U.S. military was being replaced by careerism. So that CO might have gotten away with it, if you had not filed a report.


Old Gun Pilot

What a great bird the Cobra was. The Marines didn't get the Cobra until '69.
When I was there (67-68)we had the huey gunships, and I first saw the Cobra being flown by the 101st whose AO was next to ours in Northern I Corp. I was fortunate to fly it for over 2000 hours in the National Guard but never got to fly it in combat.



In the ABN fight a cobra expended its load at the bunkers and then turned to leave. An NVA RPG team standing on a bunker roof shot it through the boom. the rocket did not arm (too close maybe?) and the Cobra staggered away heading for LZ Buttons. pl

Old Gun Pilot

I've heard a lot of stories like that. To be made of aluminum sheeting and rivets those birds were amazingly resilient. I wasn't quite so lucky, the same thing happened to me but the shot severed the tail rotor and we came crashing down. Fortunately there was no fire and no one was seriously injured. After we were picked up a flight of F-4s naped the wreckage to prevent the NVA from salvaging anything useful.

Account Deleted

In that case sir, I hope it is many long years before they see the light of day.


I've read this at least four times and still find it riveting. Think your memoirs should be published.

I worked with a locomotive engineer who took a 50 caliber in the leg as a helicopter pilot in VN. Don't know where or when. He was good natured and one of the best hogheads I worked with.



FWIW this same Battalion (2/7 Cav) lost 155 KIA at LZ Albany in 1965. I became old at Ap Bu Nho although there were worse fights. In my second tour I was often given the additional job of recruiting NVA officers for our side from the RVN National Interrogation Center. I was quite good at this. They were old soldiers like me pl


To the Col.
I was always amazed at the "Kit Carson Scouts with our Bn. They often walked point for us. I'll always remember a platoon passing thru our position in the northern end of the Ashau Valley. The 1st "Marine" thru the wire was a Kit Carson on point. It had been a long, hard patrol. He approached me, threw down his NVA pack, looked me in the eye & smiled before saying, "Maline Corps number 10 G**Damned Thou." A bitching Marine is a happy Marine.


I don't even know what to say...too many emotions aroused by Col's story.
Just such a waste of life.



The Bn CO of 2/7 Cav shot himself ten or twelve years later, Whether it was from remorse or thwarted ambition I do not know.



I thought I remembered for many years that the Bn involved was 2/5 Cav but a historian researching my time in VN proved to me that the unit was actually 2/7 Cav.


Its a harrowing read everytime you repost it Colonel.

As a civilian I have no real conception of what you went through but I am glad you survived.



And I was spared to tell the tale. I must honor the dead of both sides. I remember seeing a two man NVA RPG team mount the roof of a bunker to duel with a Cobra at a hundred yards or so. Bullets from the Cobra's Gatling gun kicked up dust all around them They stood solidly until they fired a round that wounded the Cobra. Foemen worthy of our steel.


A movie for remembrance any day - Midway - now out: https://www.redstate.com/stu-in-sd/2019/11/11/sure-see-remake-movie-“midway”/


Been following SST for many years and have seen this post before. It is just as powerful as the first time I read it.


One of my best friend's husband is a VN vet and just got out of the hospital (again) today. He's been in poor health for the past 4-5 years and during that time, he's talked more about his service than he ever did before. He and all veterans have been in my thoughts and prayers, especially today.

Larry Johnson

Heart wrenching and instructive. Thank God we still have men like you to remind us what honor and duty entail.

jd hawkins

"... men like you to remind us what honor and duty entail".

And I'd like to second that!

Diana C

Thank you for posting this. Vietnam is almost never out of my thoughts. So many of the "boys" I grew up with, along with my brother and four cousins, were impacted by that war. The ones who came through it are most likely better men than they would have been without it. But that doesn't make it right to send boys to war with incompetent officers.

The one "boy" I grieve for the most is the one who came home, found a wife, had two daughters, but died suddenly when those daughters wee in grade school. He developed sores on his legs. About the same time that they figured out what was wrong--the effects of Agent Orange--he was dead.

We just learned that another of our classmates, who came back totally shaken but who seemed to have moved on, finding a good wife and raising orphans they adopted from that part of the world, has just begun again to suffer from terrible PTSD.

One who won a Purple Heart is just now finally coming out of years of almost isolation. He was one who had been spat upon when he arrived back in the states.

Thanks again for remembering my generation's soldiers.

Keith Harbaugh

In thinking about this, a thought occurs to me:

The wood was about one kilometer in diameter.
What the [U.S.] discovered, as they closed on the wood, was that the 141st had organized the position for a 360 degree, all around defense.
The fire and bunkers were just as solid on the other sides as on the east. The position was so large and so well put together that it may well have contained the whole 141st Regiment.
1 KM (a "klick") is about 3280 feet.
Did the U.S. not have the capability to OBLITERATE that 1 km diameter area,
and all the top-quality NVA within it?
Arclight comes to mind.


keith harbaugh

A B-52 "cell," three plane loads of bombs, was a sloppy box a kilometer long. The Montagnard village of Bu Nho immediately adjoined the wood. The village was full of people. A B-52 strike would have killed many of them.

Keith Harbaugh

Interesting. The accuracy of bomb placement is largely a function of the altitude from which the bombs are dropped.
Of course, effective AAA necessitates a higher altitude.
My guess (purely a guess) is that NVA tactical units such a the 141st IR would not have indigenous AAA capability, beyond their heavy MGs.
If the BUFFs had come in low and slow, I would think their bombardiers/crew could have placed their loads rather accurately,
perhaps with a CEP of 100 feet.
Anybody know how small a CEP a B-52 could provide in ideal conditions?

On the tactical situation there, the village could have been evacuated before the B-52 strike occurred.
Whatever physical damage was caused, the U.S. could have replaced.
Seems worth the price.


keith harbaugh

I described the events as they occurred. The B-52s NEVER came in low in SVN missions.. They always bombed from the stratosphere. To organize that evacuation would have taken a day or so under fire from the NVA in and around the wood. The point of my account of the event is that it never occurred to the US chain of command to do anything like that. There were dozens of operations of this size every week in 1968-69 VN. This one was ruined by the infantry Bn CO. I find it sadly amusing that you challenge me over this event for which I am a primary source.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad