Vietnam Memories My Canh II

Phil Neel
Tiger Force 1966

I re-enlisted in Jan 66 after a 3 year hitch in Panama and a 10 month break in service.  I signed up Vietnam, Airborne unassigned and was assigned to the 101st and ultimately to the Tiger Force.  The Tiger Force was the Reconnaissance Platoon for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. I arrived in country at the end of Jan 66 and was assigned as a machine gunner as I was a Corporal (lost one stripe due to the time out) and had both 111 (Light Infantry) and 112 (Heavy Weapons Infantry) experience.

I saw my first action on Feb 7 at My Canh II. The village of My Canh II was located in the Tuy Hoa valley of South Vietnam. I never was briefed on the situation as I was not a team leader or above so when we went in, I had no idea of what we were in for. At this point, I am including information provided by SGT Bill Cook who was also with the Tiger Force at that time.

“As I recall it was B 1/327 who got in the jam and also a company from 2/502 who also got pinned down coming to the rescue of B company. We then got the call up as a reaction force and choppered in as a heavy platoon both platoons of Tiger Force. Crossing that field was a nasty time , they had (2) .51 cal. machine holding down their corners. I remember a new Tiger member, a young black guy, didn’t even know his name was hit by the big gun right above the jaw and it took off his head. He never had a chance. The other order you probably didn’t hear was just prior to the charge the order to “fix bayonets”, we followed the order then made the charge. It costs us a lot of dead and wounded, but we accomplished what neither B company nor 2/502 could do. A lot of very brave actions on that date. It may sound unusual, but not a day has gone by for me in the past 40 years, that some memory of that day does not come to my mind. You were there, you probably understand what I mean.”

The Tigers went in as a complete unit and I remember we went in with a total of 54 men and had  4 dead and 11 wounded at the end of the battle. This included Lt Gardner the Tiger Commander who receive the Medal of Honor for Heroism.

As I sit and recall the events of 2-7-66, some are clear and some are not. I had already had 3 years of experience in the jungles of Panama, but no experience in actual combat. We were choppered in and walked toward the village. We maneuvered so that there was a berme between us and the village and I placed my M-60 on the top of the berme and opened up.  There was an enemy machinegun that had me spotted, but evidently he could not lower his fire enough to hit me. I was able to raise my head above the top of the berme just enough to see the village and fire my M-60 in a sweeping motion. I could hear the enemy bullets passing over my head within about 6 inches but they never got any lower. Evidently I was having the same problem getting to the other gunner as I was never able to silence that gun either. When the charge came, I was totally surprised as I was never told what was going to happen. I was told to continue to lay down covering fire and then from the end of the berme I heard the cry CHARGE. That was the first I knew about the charge across open rice paddies. I immediately realized what was going on so I laid down as heavy a fire as I could for as long as I could.  Once everyone was across, I had to stop firing as everyone was spreading out and was in the line of fire. I then moved to the end of the berme with my crew and realized that we then had to cross the open paddy just like everyone else.  As we ran across, I saw one man down in the field and it was the other M-60 gunner. We made it across ok and moved into position to continue laying down covering fire.  From that point to dark, I really don’t remember much at all.

That young black trooper mentioned as being killed was the other machine gunner as I remember it. I remember thinking as I ran past his body that I was the only machine gunner left. Someone else had picked up his weapon so it was still in action I presume.

For some reason, I have been able to remember the casualty figures for the Tigers on that date. The 4 dead were Lt Gardner, his RTO John “Jack” OShaunessy., the black machine gunner and a black SSG who was shot between the eyes as he ran around a hill to catch a running VC. I do not know the names of the wounded but I do remember that the majority of them were NCO’s because it was not long before I was moved from Machine gunner to Team Leader because there were not enough NCO’s left to do the job after we were split up into Squad size units.

After dark, I was ask to join a recovery team and provide covering fire while they recovered Lt Gardner and the RTO who was killed with him. My assistant gunner went also and I don’t even remember his name. (Information I have recently received identifies my assistant gunner as Carroll Dinkle) We moved in the dark so I never saw the faces of any of the other recovery team members and because I was totally new, I did not know anyone. The bodies were brought back with no problems but the men were so tired, they ask if I could carry one of the bodies. I then helped carry Lt Gardner back to the evacuation area. I remained there most of the night helping load the dead and wounded onto med-evac choppers. That infantry company had really been shot up with the 51 cal machine gun the VC had.  That is one night I will never forget.

One of my vivid memories of that battle was that night trying to get the dead and wounded evacuated out of the area. We had set up an LZ where the Dust-Off chopper could land. It was not a good place as there was an enemy 51 cal machine gun which was shooting at the choppers as they took off. I remember that the pilot would give us 15 seconds on the ground before he took off again. We would put the wounded and dead in ponchos and use 4 men to carry them. The chopper would come in, hit the ground, and slide to the X panel on the ground. As it was sliding, we were running and would literally toss the man into the chopper, poncho and all, and peel off to the outside so the next group could throw their man on board. As soon as the wounded were aboard, the Crew Chief would throw himself across the men and hold on to the Pilots seat, pinning the men to the floor so they would not fall out. The chopper would take off and when about 50 feet in the air we could see the enemy tracers converging on the chopper and the pilot would dive to the left and drop down behind some trees and get away. I don’t know how many times those pilots made that run but they were the heros of that night for sure.

The next morning, an F-4 air strike was called in and the bombs landed so close that debris from the explosions was falling on us and all we could do was duck and cover.

I do not remember anything else. I do not even remember going back to base camp. I seem to recall that we went from My Canh II on regular patrols and a forward area base camp was established somewhere in the Tuy Hoa Valley and there we remained for several weeks.

Following that action, I was promoted to Team Leader with SGT Francis (Frank) Donovan as the Squad Leader.  We worked together until we were both wounded twice. Punji stake the first time while moving into a blocking position in the Tuy Hoa valley and shrapnel from a Chinese claymore mine the second time in Phan Thiet. My leg wound was bad enough that I was evacuated to Okinawa after being operated on and then back to the states.

Frank was at my house for Christmas 1966 at Ft Bragg and told me he was wounded a third time during the action in June when CPT Carpenter called napalm in on himself.  Frank had walked into a VC Battalion base camp with everyone home and his worst wound was from our own 105s which he called in on himself.

I stayed in and went into Military Intelligence and was later promoted to Warrant Officer and served with the 525th MI Group in the Delta in 1971-72. In 1977, I was caught up in the reduction in force and released from active duty with 15 years of service.  I couldn’t get into the reserves due to my rank and therefore lost all government benefits for my service time.

Phil Neel


 

Here is my answer to Phil’s e mail describing the TF involvement at My Chan II.  NONE of this is SIZZLE.. This happened and I will remember it forever.  Even though sometime I don’t know what day or month it is.

I was the RTO for Cpt Heiser of B Co.  I don’t remember the details of the first contact but do remember it was huge for 2nd platoon.  Being the RTO for the company freq. I was totally involved with what was happening and passing messages to the CO.  I remember one message from 2nd Plt golf stating his 6 had been hit.  I asked how serious and he said he was hit in the leg.  I passed this info to the CO and within 10 to 15 minutes he decided a stalemate had to be dealt with and told me to follow him.

We started crawling behind a dike that was about 1 ft high and 2 ft thick.  I remember the MG rounds hitting the other side of the dike and the dirt in my ears and remembering the “low crawl” instructions from training.  Also trying to hold down my antennae, keep my rifle out of the dirt and listen to my handset.  These are very vivid memories that I will never forget.

Since I couldn’t look up while crawling and keep my head down I followed the CO’s feet and kept tight.  He suddenly stopped and I heard him say “SHIT”.  He started crawling again and after advancing a few feet I saw why.  It was the 2nd platoon LT shot through the head.  I stared at the hole and nearly went crazy remembering “shot through the leg”.  My mistake.  I felt like shit for all of 30 seconds that seemed like a week.  We crawled on.

Within a few feet (maybe 30 yards but seemed like 100) he stopped again.  All the while the tree row MG knew we were there and was tearing up the dike.  This stop he was talking to someone.  I crawled up alongside and recognized the 2nd plt MGunner.  Heiser was only carrying his 45 and yelled at the gunner to get his gun firing.  The gunner had a 45 in his hand, pointed it directly at Heiser and told him his gun was junk and since the CO had a gun to get his going.

This stuck in my mind and I don’t remember much what the outcome was.  I do remember the MGunner later became a sniper and received a sliver star for charging a MG.  I was at that action also and saw the bullet holes in his web, helmet,ammo pouches,  finger tip missing and M14 stock shot in two.  I wish I knew his name.  A real soldier.

Cpt Heiser later went to some staff job.  I respected him for his bravery and effort to get something going in a stalemate situation.  What he didn’t know at the time was that 2nd platoon no longer existed.

I live in So Cal if your ever in this area let me know.  I travel in RV often so let me know if we can get together.

Tim  Zumwalt  B/1327