Fire Support Base Tomahawk

Doc Burton

I was working with Delta Company, but assigned to Headquarters. D-company had been beating the bush in the Ashau Valley for about a week. The only contact we had was to kill two black bears with white markings while on ambush via Claymore Anti-Personnel Mines. The story made “The Stars and Stripes” newspaper. We had info that there was a big gathering of the VC in the area. We deployed back to Marble Mountain and set up. We called in air support and bounced the artillery off the big black marble side of the mountain, watching the fire show from down below. We were then flown in on the side of the mountain. We walked out all the way to FSB Tomahawk about a week later. We, D-Company, were ready for a three day stand down at Tomahawk to get re-supplied, a shower, and a hot meal.

(We were told later from the enemy POW’s that the Viet Cong followed us in, positioning themselves on the side of Tomahawk preparing to attack us at 2 AM, June 10, 1970, when they tried to over run the hill.)

I had just gotten off radio watch in the bunker on the first bunker to the right when you get to the very top coming from the chopper pad. I was sitting on the edge of my bunk at approximately 2 AM when someone hollered, “They are in the wire!”

Sappers were almost through when one set off a trip-flare that he didn’t see. The 60 gunner cut him in two. We started taking fire. I was told to gather all my medics and go to the Colonel’s bunker in the middle of the compound where they would bring the wounded to us. I grabbed my M-16 and aid bag, then met with about three of the medics at the Colonel’s bunker. We started setting up stretchers for the wounded. About two or three minutes had passed when the Top Sergeant entered and said to deploy the medics around the compound. There was a wounded guy down by my bunker. I told the other medics to get on the line and check for more wounded. We ran out of the bunker in the middle of impacting RPG’s and 122mm Rockets coming in on us.

The Colonel’s bunker was destroyed. I lost my aid bag, M-16, and steel pot. I lay there for a second or two, feeling around my body to make sure that all of me was still attached. I gathered up my things and headed to the first bunker on the left coming up the hill from the chopper pad. When I got there, three guys were laying down fire toward the chopper pad. I asked them which one was wounded. They said, “Neither, but the guy in the fox hole two meters away was hit.”

I didn’t see anyone in the fox-hole, so I crawled over to it and looked down. There was a soldier there in the fetal position with an empty artillery canister sticking out of the top of his head. Hell, I didn’t know what it was at the time. I threw a poncho over him and crawled back to the bunker. I told them that the guy had a bomb sticking out of his head. One of them told me it was an empty canister from an illumination round. They were firing straight up to illuminate the Fire Base. I started laying down fire. We were running low on ammunition. Someone went to pick up some. I saved my last full magazine and started throwing grenades down the hill until the guy came back with more ammo. I threw about 30 or 40 grenades as fast as I could pull the pins. I noticed that the first two didn’t explode as I had forgotten to remove the safety ring also. The rest of them worked just fine. I heaved grenades at three VC that were just lying there. I’m sure the guys in the bunker had already wasted them, but I was not taking any chances.

We made our sweep down the hill when it got daylight. We could see the VC running onto QL1 and getting into vehicles to escape. I went down the hill with a guy we called “Sue”. He was a short timer. We bought up three wounded VC. In all, we captured four POW’s total. We killed about 35 or 40 of them. At least that is the number of bodies they left behind. We placed all the dead enemies on the chopper pad. The Top Sergeant took a picture of me on top of the pile of bodies as I held my M-16 above my head. I tried to mail the photo home, but it was confiscated.

My Sergeants in charge, Sgt. Robert Ryan and Sgt. Don Lawson came up to Tomahawk from TOC the next morning to check out the damage and to see how we made it. I had blood on the side of my pants. The two of them checked me over. Sgt. Ryan said, “Looks like you got yourself a Purple Heart.”

I was still so pumped up that I didn’t know I had gotten some shrapnel from those incoming 122mm rockets. I know my wounds weren’t as bad as some of the guys I medevacked that day. Hell, I’m grateful that I made it home in one piece and not like some of the guys that lost limbs and had haunting memories of the war.

NO SLACK! Charles “Doc” Burton 2/327 Vietnam 1969-70 101st Airborne.

About Doc Burton

Autobiography

Born 12/05/49, Nashville, Tn. Drafted 6/12/69 at Centerville, Tn. Basic Training Ft. Campbell, Ky. AIT Medical Training Ft. Sam Houston, Tx. HHC 2nd BN 327th Inf. (Medic) 1st BDE 101st ABN Div, Viet Nam. 2nd Armored Division “Hell On Wheels” Ft. Hood, Tx. Expiration of service 6/11/71. Honorable Discharge. Viet Nam Service Medal with 2 bronze stars, National Defense Service Medal, Republic of Viet Nam Campaign Medal, Combat Medical Badge, Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Purple Heart, Expert Rifle, Good Conduct Medal. Made Specialist 5 just before I left Viet Nam Oct. 29 1970. ETS date was 6/11/71. MOS 91B20 Medical Specialist

Earned Combat Medical Badge first month in country. Purple Heart 6/10/70 Firebase Tomahawk. Made several Hot LZ’s with C Company and D Company. Set up ambush with D company and claymore took out two Black Bears with white stripes across their chest. It made the Stars and Stripes Paper. Helped deliver a baby with C Company while on ambush late one night in village outside Phu Loc. In fire fights along with C and D companies where we had body counts each time. Stayed at TOC or as we called it “District” for 1 month. Did my last month on Tomahawk before ETS.