Our mission was to pick up a LRRP unit. I was assigned as a "Forward Observer" Recon Sergeant for C Troop 3/5 CAV. The rest of the troop was maybe a click away. Captain Bachman was our CO. We headed west after dinner to set up a night defensive position and wait on the LRRPs. We had to cross a stream. The bridge was out so we had to go down the one bank and come up the next bank. A Sheridan tank had to pull up the APCís because they couldn't to it on their own. Our position was on a little hill just off the road close to the stream.
Our Platoon Leader had just gone on R&R, so we were without an officer. We had the Platoon Leaderís APC and a radar APC located in the middle. The radar APC was not working. I adjusted in our on-call artillery to about 600 meters. I then adjusted mortar fire. I believe it was to give the mortar crew some training. While I was doing this I was teaching another sergeant how to adjust fire.
The LRRP team came in from the area that was controlled by the NVA and reported that they were being followed. Little did we know. We set an ambush patrol along the road to our west. That night while we were setting claymores, trip flares, etc., one of the trip flares went off and burned the hands of the tank commander whose tank I was sleeping behind. The Sheridan was facing east toward the steam and the rest of the CAV element. "Doc" didn't think it was serious enough for a Medevac, and said that he could go out in the morning. As shown below, the fact that he burned his hands saved a lot of lives. The tank commander was on watch about 2:00 AM soaking his hands when all hell broke loose. Who knows what would have happened if he had been asleep. The one round of beehive that he fired got everybody's attention. This action probably saved our lives.
I am the first to admit that I was scared. I realized I had a job to do and called for all of the predetermined artillery adjustments. I didn't know where the NVA were. All I know was we were being attacked. I believe I got the mortars adjusted. I don't remember whether it was HE or illumination. When I figured out that the NVA were just north of us on another hill, I started to adjust in the artillery and got the illumination adjusted. I called in the HE somewhere between 75 and 100 meters of our position.
At some point the Sheridan that I was sleeping behind got hit with rockets and caught fire. I remember scrambling up the back of the tank and pulling out the tank commander. Then another solider came and helped me pull out the loader.
At this point we were rocking and rolling. We had three M-60's between two APC in a fighting position. The M-60's fired so much they had to change out the barrels and dig out the shell casings.
The battalion S-3 had me moving around to get SitReps. As I was doing this a B-40 rocket (I presume) went over my head. Battalion wanted to know what type. I should have told them I didn't get the tag number.
The 155's got down to their basic load of illumination and I got a flare ship to come in and provide illumination. A MEDVAC was dispatched to pick up our wounded. That is when I took over firing the howitzers. When I got "splash" over the radio, I advised the MEDEVAC to come in so many seconds. Once it landed I let the firing battery fire the guns until the chopper was ready to lift off and then I reversed the process. I don't remember the number that was lifted out, but it seemed like a lot. At one point one of the 155's shot long and I remember hearing it and thinking "Oh sh_t." The round hit right in from of the tank on the gun target line. The tank kept the shrapnel from coming back on us. Later the CAV guy who were in the cupola said they heard the round coming and dropped straight down into the tank.
We got word that the NVA were pulling out and heading west on the road. I tried to get the firing battery to shoot the "brown line" on the map. Later that morning when we were searching the bodies for intelligence one of the bodies was bobby trapped with a grenade. The CAV man who was wounded looked as though some had taken a knife or razor and mad small nicks in his body. He was alright, but it didn't set well with us. I was told that morning that a Red Chinese advisor was found dead with a Sheridan TM.
Then the "strap hangers" started flying in.
C Btry 69-70
[FO Platoon attached to C Troop, 3/5 Cav]