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"THE BEACH"

Daily Staff Journal

     16 Feb 1968.... Intelligence reports indicated the presence of an NVA battalion and possible higher headquarters near the coastal fishing village of Gia Dang 3, near Quang Tri, the provincial capital. A and B Companies were combat assaulted into a "green" L.Z. near each other and linked up on the ground for final coordination. During the air assault, the supporting helicopter ARA gun ships had received gunfire from near Gia Dang 3 and one pilot was wounded. The two Air Cav companies began the Reconnaissance in Force mission through Gia Dang 3 with no enemy involvement . The companies moved abreast, although neither could see the other due to the vegetation. B Co. moved parallel to the beach (South China Sea), but "back" among the small scrub pines and undergrowth for some concealment from enemy vision. During the movement, B CO. received fire from one lone fortified bunker. The CAV men were able to place well-aimed fire into the front bunker opening, which wounded one and may have killed one. The enemy firing stopped and the CAV men approached very cautiously. By some method, one NVA soldier signaled his desire to surrender and came out of the bunker with no rifle, but wearing his "web gear" which had about four Chinese "pineapple" grenades attached to the front of his web gear. Each grenade had a heavy duty cord loop that acted in place of the U.S. grenade "pin" to activate the timer and detonation. The NVA seemed composed until a CAV man hit him, then the NVA became upset. Lt. Bill Blevins stepped forward and ordered the NVA to put his hands above his head. The man immediately locked each thumb through a different grenade "pin" cord and tightly wrapped his fingers around each wooden throwing handle. Lt. Blevins thought the man intended to pull the cords, then bear hug the Lt. and wait for the explosion. "In a flash" Lt. Blevins stepped forward and grabbed the mans wrists, they struggled, as the two men looked at each other "eye to eye". The NVA soldier was the same height as the American and had a very determined look on his face. The fast-acting Lt. then jerked the man's forearms and spun and pushed downward, simultaneously, as the NVA was propelled to the ground on his stomach. All CAV men reacted by fast movement away. The grenades exploded and the NVA absorbed the explosion; no Americans were hurt. Lt. Blevins' "stock went up". The NVA was large for a Vietnamese about 5ft.10 in.; he wore a newish, crisp-looking green uniform and had a neat, short haircut. Although the NVA was near death, the CAV men were impressed by his physical size and appearance. They were also very impressed with Lt. Blevins' actions. The B CO. men were very alert. They knew that two or three NVA soldiers would not be alone. Their unit must be nearby.

     The move toward Gia Dang 3 started again. The B CO. men were so accustomed to operating as a separate and single rifle company, that, even though A CO. was near, it "was out of sight out of mind". A few hundred meters later, B CO. found an enemy 60mm mortar tube that was damaged and, apparently not repairable. Another sign the NVA was near. Minutes later, still near the beach and in an area with a small stream that ran generally parallel to the ocean, the B CO. point man was shot through the forehead and the battle began at about 1410 hrs. Within seconds two more men were wounded and medevac was requested. No one could see the enemy; they were well dug-in and camouflaged. B CO. poured fire toward the enemy, while medics and other men tried to rescue the wounded. Artillery was requested, but in a "cardinal sin" by the superiors, no artillery units could "reach" the AO. A "tactical emergency" was declared by superiors and CH- 47 Chinook helicopters were diverted to lift two 105mm artillery tubes to support the battle. Helicopter gun ships provided fire support. It took about 45 minutes to give first aid to the initial two wounded men and to drag and carry them to the beach area for medevac.

     The beach sandy area was about 40 meters wide and sloped slightly downward to the ocean from a very low dune area. The sand area was protected from direct enemy fire and was used to land medevac choppers. Pilots were told to fly along the beach at sand level to avoid enemy fire. In the meantime, three more men were wounded and two others killed. As before, it took 30 minutes, or so , under intense enemy fire, to stabilize the wounded and get them back to the beach. Their medevac occurred at 1620 hrs. One of the dead had initially been shot in the wrist; he was in pain and rose up, perhaps to call for a medic, and was shot in the chest. The other man had "gone back" to a trailing platoon to lead its medic forward to the wounded. As the two neared the battle area, the "guide" man was shot several times in the stomach by machine gun fire and they both fell into the stream. He died in the arms of his friend Medic Gary White.

     At some point, Cpt. Brett requested an "emergency ammunition resupply" which came by chopper. He observed enemy shoulder-fire rockets landing on the beach; they were used as indirect-fire weapons, since the NVA could not fire directly onto the beach at the choppers. A scout helicopter team that was "covering" the battle area reported to the 1-8 command radio net at 1705 hrs that, from above, they could count 29 bodies and many weapons lying on the ground. Many men were heroes on 16 Feb. The four dead men: SSG Thomas H. Morris, and PFCs Anthony L. Capozzi, Wayne T Severino and Eugene A Sorenson all performed with great distinction. Catholic Chaplain Cpt. Lucid was present and helped with the wounded until he was shot in the elbow his second or third wound. Sgt . Robert G Lynch, SP4s Gary White and Alvin Schroeder both medics, and Benito R Esparza, and Pfc. Montalvo F Acosta, and others all comforted and aided the dying and wounded. Sgt. Lynch was shot through the knee while dragging a wounded man and was then evacuated. Indirect fire support came from the U.S. Navy Cruiser, USS Manley, and 1st CAV artillery units. SP4 David Bowman described seeing the Naval gunfire projectiles overhead that were "the size of a VW". Casualties on 16 Feb. were; 4 KIA and 5 WIA . The company captured one rifle and one light machine gun at the inital bunker engagement. By 2000hrs, the 72 men and 4 officers moved 200 meters down the beach, dug holes in the sand and tried to get some sleep. Enemy forces apparently withdrew hurriedly during the night as artillery pounded the area. Alpha CO was nearby throughout and provided fire support as they could; they had no casualties on 16 Feb. The next morning 2- 3 searched the immediate battle area and found: 5 NVA bodies, some body parts, 3 AK-47 and 2 SKS rifles, 15 Chinese mortar rounds, assorted enemy rifle ammo and equipment, medical supplies, blood trails and drag marks. AT 0940 hrs, two 10- minute artillery and U.S. Naval gunfire TOTs and a CS gas firing by ARA gunships began on possible enemy areas nearby. Immediately after that A and B companies attacked abreast toward Gia Dang 3 and within 2 hours, the village had been cleared without resistance. By 1600 hrs. B CO. had been extracted and very happily left "The Beach". B CO. received credit for killing 29 NVA soldiers.

LZ SHARON