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6 May 19697415 Reads  Printer-friendly page

Vietnam In the early morning darkness of 6 May, the NVA retaliated with an intensive rocket and mortar barrage, followed by a massive 95th Regiment pincer grand assault against 2 sides of the base an hour later. LZ Carolyn's garrison was reduced by the absence of several line companies on patrol, and the withering defensive fires of the battalion's COMPANY C and E were unable to prevent the onrushing battalions from storming through the wire and into the LZ from both directions.

Six perimeter bunkers were overrun, one of the medium howitzers was captured, and the enemy threatened to slice through the center of the base.

The Americans counterattacked with all available personnel, the officers involved being killed at the head of their troops. Artillerymen, supply and signal personnel, and engineers fought and died as emergency infantry reserves. The counterattacks were hurled against both enemy penetrations, but the most violent fighting occurred on the northern side, where a seesaw battle raged for possession of the 155mm howitzer position. During the course of the battle, this weapon exchanged hands 3 times in hand-to-hand fighting deceded at close range with rifles and E-tools.

Overhead, rocket-firing AH1G Cobra helicopters rolled in, ignoring heavy flak, and blasted the NVA with rockets and miniguns. Air Force AC47 SPOOKY and AC119 SHADOW aircraft, supported by fighter-bombers, were employed against the numerous enemy antiaircraft weapons ringing the perimeter.

Controlled and uncontrolled fires were raging everywhere, and it seemed that the LZ was ablaze throughout its entire length. Waves of NVA infantry charging into the southern lines were met by defending troops who took advantage of the aviation gasoline storage area. They shot holes in the fuel drums and ignited them to create a flaming barrier, which effectively blocked further enemy penetration. In the LZ's opposite sector, a medium howitzer gun pit received 3 direct hits which touched off a fire in its powder bunker, yet the crew calmly stood by its weapon and employed it throughout the night.

Both 105's ammunition points were exploded by enemy fire around 0330, and shrapnel from more than 600 disintegrating rounds in the 2 dumps sprayed the entire LZ for more than 4 hours. LZ Carolyn appeared threatened with total destruction as the thundering conflagration tossed detonating arty projectiles to shower men and equipment with flying rounds and burning shell fragments.

The defending artillerymen and mortar crews fought in desperation heightened by the loss of commo between most weapons and their fire direction centers. The initial enemy barrage destroyed commo from the 155 gun sections to their FDC, forcing crews to individually engage targets on their own volition by leveling tubes full of BEE HIVE or HE charges. When telephone lines from the mortar tubes to their FDC were severed, the direction personnel switched to a bullhorn to relay fire commands across the deafening noise of the battlefield. The battalion mortar platoon's four tubes fired 1500 rounds, ranging from critical illumination to searing WP. In all cases effective fire support was maintained.

Ammunition shortages quickly developed. As on-hand mortar ammunition beside the weapons was exhausted, volunteers dashed through fire-swept open areas to retrieve more rounds from storage bunkers. The destruction of the 105 ammo points caused an immediate crisis in the light howitzer pits. The cannon cockers were fored to redistribute ammo by crawling from one gun section to another under a hail of enemy direct fire and spinning shrapnel from the exploding dump. The crews continued rendering direct fire, even though they were often embroiled in defending their own weapons. One light howitzer section caught in an enemy cross fire between a heavy machine gun and rifles, until the artillerymen managed to turn their lowered muzzle and pump BEE HIVE flechettes into the enemy. All automatic weapons fire against the howitzer was instantly silenced. Cavalry counterattacks reestablished the perimeter, and the enemy force began withdrawing, breaking contact at 0600.

It was the longest night of my life. Thanks Doc Fred, many of us ended up with you. Thanks Air Force and thanks Red Team for the Cobras.




This all happened during operation MONTANA SCOUT/MONTANA RAIDER series. We lost 567 troopers KIA and 3,555 wounded. This was from November of 68' to June 23rd of 69.

C CO AND E WERE BOTH AWARDED THE VALOUS UNIT AWARD for that night.


Packo

C Co. 2nd Bn. 8th Cav (Airborne)
1st Air Cav Division (Airmobile)

In Memory of all those brave Troopers that night!
Never Prouder to be a Paratrooper and a Sky Trooper!

Note: by Tom Lane


Comments

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Re: 6 May 1969
by Anonymous
on Jan 08, 2007
A moving and accurate description of that life changing night. I was the air ops NCO (read shiny new buck sergeant and 55 days short) on duty in the BN tactical operations center (TOC). Being a recently promoted RTO I also monitored all the battalion and brigade radios that night.

As the air assets came online my job was to coordinate between the pilots, the S-3 and the C Co. and E Co. commanders and then direct the aircraft. It was not unlike being an air traffic controller without the benefit of radar. I had to keep a mental picture of the airspace above and around the LZ and communicate with the aircraft and the company commanders. I recall more than one instance of having to quickly shift a Spooky or lightship out of the LZ area so that an inbound fighter-bomber flight could make its passes. An intense experience for all of us who were there that night.

One small addition: HHC was also awarded the Valorous Unit Award for its actions that night.

Ken Zeller
Louisville, KY

by DMZ-LT
on Mar 02, 2010

Thanks to all who served there that night, and thank you Tom


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