Eye Witness Accounts

Bruce,

I can confirm that PFCs James E. Farrar and Earl W. Goodall were both assigned to ABU, 1/327th when they were KIA as was Lt. Kenneth G. Collins when he was wounded in his left eye. These three were officially cited in Bde orders for their heroic actions and those orders were issued on site at Dak To within days of the 1/327th marching out of the jungle and “passing in review” of the Bde staff and assembled dignitaries. I have a copy of that Honor Roll which was published in ‘The Diplomat and Warrior”, the Bde newspaper, at that time and I’m sure Ivan Worrell could probably dig up that issue from his files, as he was the Public Information Officer and Editor.

You can get a good overview of that battle by reading those chapters in “Battles in the Monsoon” written by SLA Marshall and published in 1967, or similar chapters in ” About Face” by Dave Hackworth, COL, USA, Ret’d, who, as a Major, commanded The 1/327th, for the entire battle.

You are partially correct in stating that there are many discrepancies in official documents of that era, but lets not be too hard on the BN and BDE staffs and lets look at some factors that complicated their jobs. I’ll list just a few here.

The initial BDE personnel were DROSing by the day shortly before, during, and after, the battle. Incoming personnel were being assigned as soon as they appeared in the forward area, and in many cases were thrown into battle the same day. As the battle intensified and casualties mounted, provisional and “bastardized” (ie Individual replacements of 326th Combat engineers, 2/17th CAV, MPs and Phan Rang assigned personnel were sent whereever they were needed.

To be specific about ABU, and Cold Steel Cobra Companies, ABU had been shot up by friendly fire (Choppers) early in this battle, and was augmented by a squad from A 2/502 choppered in just before the battle reached its peak period of activity, roughly 7June thru 14June. As pltn ldr of 1st pltn, C Co, 1/327th, I was ordered to detach from C Co, and the pltn was assigned OPCON to BN HQ and directed to proceed to the relief of The Tiger Force which had entered the bivoac area of The 24thB NVA Regiment which had attacked the 2/320th psns earlier. Without going into a lot of detail here, my pltn from C Co, the Tiger Force and ABU, under the command of Cpt. Ben Willis, were mutually involved in close quarters with the enemy over the next several days.

I still have in my possession the map and little green books recording the names dates and events from my perspective. A good deal of the tactical radio traffic between units in the field and the BN forward CP were conducted through radio relays in bad weather. Is it any wonder that these messages passing thru several hands before being written down (by hand on radio log forms w/o alot of room per line.) and not typed until several days later, were not always accurate as to the personnel details? A case in point: SFC John Dixon and SP/4 Allan Combs were both hit by enemy fire at approximately 16:30 hrs on 8 June ’66. SFC Dixon was hit 4 times, and despite the heroic efforts of our assigned platoon medic, Pfc Jim Dolinger, he died at 06:05 hrs on 9 June. However SP/4 Combs, a point man at the time, was killed after being hit with a second burst of fire within minutes the first time. That’s the facts, so why the discrepency in “official dates”? Three reasons; medics fill out the initial paperwork on KIAs and Jim was busy trying to save lives and patch up 5 other wounded grunts, which we all agree was more important at the time. Secondly, the battle went on for several more days with no time nor place for debriefings or verifications.(Every committed unit moved constantly and was closely entwined with the enemy.) Thirdly, I would not risk any more men to recover him as 100% of our casualties resulted from previous attempts and the unit was heavily engaged with the enemy at less than 50 ft. (Only a small stream bed and elevation change seperated us from their dug in psns.)

I worried about that decision until 1994 when I finally met up with SP/4 Carmen Guyette in Boston. He was there with Allan Combs and they both were hit about the same time. Carmen had his M-16 and shoulder smashed and was down on the ground when Combs was hit with a burst of automatic wpns fire seconds later. I told Carmen that I had heard cries of pain and pleas for help for several hours after the initial contact, and that I had worried about it for 28 years. He stated that I had heard correctly but that it wasn’t Combs, it was Tiger Force members who we were sent to aid. Someone shouted when he was close and all hell broke loose. From his downed psn, he had a clear view of what happened to Combs. Carmen was medevaced out of the jungle on 9 June after ABU linked up with us and the survivors of Tiger Force. He was then sent to a hospital in Japan, and I had no contact with him until ’94.

Hope this helps.
Pete Mitchell

I was with Tiger Force early June 1966 at Dak To when we walked into a North Vietnamese CP. Here is my account as I remember it.

Early June 1966, Tiger Force LRRP of the 1st 327th Infantry Battalion was sent out into the mountains surrounding the tiny village of Dak To. Our mission was to identify any NVA units within our AO, to harass them with ambush, artillery, fighter and bomber support and overall to act as a blocking force for the Brigade as they launched Operation Hawthorne.

We were choppered into the mountains in Platoon strength, comprised of two elements, Alpha Team, and Bravo Team. When we were approximately 30 miles from the 1st Brigade’s Base Camp at Dak To, the choppers set us down in a small meadow at the edge of the triple canopy jungle. This was mid day of day one. We patrolled the area in question all that day. We set up our perimeter for the night in some heavy undergrowth and placed two small teams out on ambush sites. No contact that night.

We patrolled all the next day and still no sign of the NVA.

We extended our patrol into the evening on the second day. We were still walking softly through the undergrowth at 11 :00 PM that night when the radio broke silence. It was from Captain Tom Agerton of the lead element. I was the RTO for Second Squad, Bravo Team

“Tiger 48, this is Tiger 49, over.” “This is Tiger 48, over” I said in a whisper.

“This is 49, tell your team to turn around and quietly go back the same way we came in.”

“Roger 49, what’s the problem? Over.”

“Look around, but don’t make any noise, we’re coming back, go ahead and move out.

I passed the word to Sgt. “Frenchy” Girard who was near me. We looked around and we could faintly see in the dark several dozen dying charcoal fires smoldering in the night. All around us were North Vietnamese Regulars, sleeping Battalion strength at least. We had walked right into a North Vietnamese CP. Even their security was asleep.

We made it out of the area, and started double timing it back the way we had come in. It was getting near daylight, the night had passed swiftly.

Our CO, Captain Tom Agerton was really thinking, when he said; “The only reason those bastards didn’t open fire on us last night is because they would have killed dozens of their own men, but rest assured they’re looking for us right now.”

We stepped down into a fast flowing stream and walked along the bank back towards the NVA. The CO’s rational was they wouldn’t be looking for us near their base camp.

The water started getting deeper, about up to our chests, when we heard the sounds of several men running along the riverbank. We took refuge in large caves that the monsoons had carved out of the stream bank. The water was up to our shoulders now, and cold as snow melt.

We stayed there all day and into the evening before the NVA gave up and finally went back to their base camp. For over ten hours we were one second from death had the NV a spotted us under that stream bank.

We later found that we had walked right into the CP of the 24th NVA Regiment as per Pete Mitchell’s account.

Above The Rest & No Slack
Dave Gratton
Tiger Force 1966