B Company 1966
Dear Mr. Dudley and Family,
I served with your uncle Jack in B company 1/327 1st BDE 101st ABN in 1966. In fact I was with him when he was killed. I have lived with his death all these years because he died in my arms. Your uncle was a brave man and died fighting. He was a machine gunner and I was his assistant gunner when he was killed. The whole story unfolds like this. B company fought a battle with the 95th PAVN (Peoples Army Viet Nam), a regiment that had controlled the Tuy Hoa area since the French Indo China war. They were experienced and reinforced by North Vietnamese regulars. The first big battle was on February 7th at My Cann II when B company and tiger force recon platoon 1/327, and elements of the 2/502 and encountered and fought dug in 95th PAVN soldiers. I came to B company as a replacement shortly afterwards and volunteered for a machine gun crew. The gunner on the gun to which I was assigned had been killed at My Cann II and the assistant gunner, Masterson had taken over as gunner. Later, on an ambush 1st platoon of company had set at My Phu three men were killed and two wounded included Masterson. This was on February 27th I think. Anyway, Jack who had just come back from R & R from Cam Rhann Bay took over the machine gun as gunner since he was more experienced. ( He was supposed to go to Bangkok, Thailand but someone had stolen his wallet so he spent his R & R in the tent city near Nha Trang).
Jack and Norman Buell were the first friends I really made in B company and both were killed on March 3rd Vietnam time which was the 4th in the U.S. Norman Buell was the first platoon medic. The night before they were killed we had shared a c-ration supper in that same graveyard which was just really worn down mounds of dirt. Buell said he wanted to be buried in the Punch Bowl National Cemetery if he were killed and Jack and I said that we wanted to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The next morning we moved out on operation but were called back to provide security to an artillery battery which was supposed to be attacked. Early in the afternoon B company was ambushed by a battalion or more of the 95th PAVN. Our ammo bearer, was killed I think, because we didn’t see him again. Jack and I set up the machine gun under fire at the forward part of the graveyard and were very exposed since the grave mound afforded very little cover. There was a sergeant beside me also who was wounded. I was feeding the ammo belt to the gun and calling out targets to Jack and he was firing on them, We had almost fired all the six hundred we had when Jack was shot. He kept sitting up and exposing himself and I kept telling to keep his head down when he was shot from the right front thru his neck. He pitched over and I held him my arms and screamed for a medic but the bullet had severed an artery in his neck and he was dead within seconds. Buell got to him right away thru all that incoming fire but there was nothing either of us could have done. Buell was killed later in the battle by a stray bullet as he was treating wounded.
So you can see that Jack was a fine and brave soldier who died fighting against a well trained experienced professional enemy in battle. You should be very proud of him and honor his memory. As I said his memory lives with me and will until the day I die.
The guys who knew him at Fort Campbell said he used to sit on the floor of the PX and read the comic books. He was very likable and a friendly sort of guy.
You may email me if you or any family members would like at [email protected] I didn’t have contact with anyone to whom I could share my experiences with especially other combat veterans until the early 1980’s. I guess I just wanted to let the families of those I knew that they were very brave men to face what we experienced. No one really knows the suffering of the infantry soldiers of 1st Brigade 101st ABN and especially B company 1/327 because there are too few of us left to tell the story. Being a machine gunner is a very hazardous trade. The life of an Airborne Infantry combat soldier was extremely hard in the early months of 1966 with amenities, such as socks, underwear, boots, or even toothbrushes, tooth paste or powder lacking. We didn’t take a shower for weeks at a time and slept on the ground for months with no roof except for a poncho only when out on operations. Dehydration, semi starvation, and death were constant companions to all of us. So be proud of your uncle and the rest who served.
Above the Rest (motto of the 1/327)
Harry Jack Fletcher