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Photo Gallery Album: Combat Assault

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Most of the pictures on this page were taken on my first combat assault which was my first day in the field after joining the 1st Platoon. I had brought a Kodak Brownie camera from home to Viet Nam. Since this was my first day in combat, my first helicopter ride, I was excited to have so much to photograph so soon. The pictures below document that first day.

Combat infantrymen who participate in aerial combat assaults from helicopters are awarded the Combat Air Medal.

Combat assault - flying in Hueys; Del Wilder(?)

Combat assault - looking down at ground from Huey. I humped a 90mm rocket on my first day. I had never seen one before that. That might be it on the floor. We never fired the 90 during my tour as far as I remember.

Combat assault - circling before landing

Combat assault - Hueys flying in formation and Sgt. Jerry Rohr

Combat assault - landing first sortie, 1st squad.

Setup for next sortie

Waiting for second sortie. Ate a can of olives.

Another sortie.

The 1st Platoon entered the tree line first. A village ahead was smoldering from being prepped by artillery before we landed. My squad, the 1st Squad was at point. I was humping the 90mm recoilless rifle along with my M-16. This was the first time I would face the enemy. We gathered in the tree line and out Lt ordered troops online. I was in the middle of the line as we advanced through a little clearing towards the empty village a hundred yards ahead. As I looked ahead I saw a couple of uniformed NVA in the village staring back at us.

I turned to my squad leader, Sgt. Barber and pointed them out, "Sgt. Barber, is that the enemy over there?"

"Yes", he replied.

"Well, should I shoot at them?" I asked, seeking his approval to fire at another human being for the first time in my life.

"Yes", he replied. I quickly aimed and started firing. That seemed to start things rolling. As we received return fire we abandoned our line formation and dashed to the right into the cover of some trees. In the trees there was a ditch in the sand about 3 or 4 feet wide and 2 or 3 feet deep. An NVA machine gun began firing at us from what seemed like twenty meters ahead in the ditch. Davis was at point although I could not see him because of the vegetation. Then we heard calls from the ditch that some of our guys were hit and they needed help to recover them all while the machine gun kept firing. I jumped into the ditch and started low-crawling towards the machine gun and whoever was up there. I think I was the 4th or 5th guy behind the point man Davis. As I crawled ahead following the guy in front of me, I passed Sgt. Barber who was crouched in a little space on the side of the ditch. I made eye contact with him and wondered why he was not crawling ahead, too. As I crawled ahead a little more, the wounded bodies were being dragged back in the crowded ditch. Another squad member and myself grabbed the body of the wounded guy. I recognized him. He was the blond guy from Naperville, Illinois. He stuck in my mind after meeting him a day before because I was from Illinois, too. We dragged him back about 10 meters where the rest of the platoon was situated. We struggled to lift his body out of the ditch. He was on his stomach as we slid him up the side of the ditch. As we inched him out, I noticed a bullet hole in the small of his back. Blood was slowly rising and falling in the large hole.

After recovering the wounded we withdrew back out to where the choppers dropped us off in the rice paddies. Davis was wounded for the third time. It would be his last day in the field. He would be rewarded with a job in the rear for having survived so many wounds. Air strikes and helicopter gun ships were called in to blast the village we had just left. Daniel Duenas, from Guam, was nominated for a Silver Star for his actions on this day. Del Wilder was wounded and awarded his first Purple Heart during this engagement. This was also his first day in the field after joining the 1st Platoon.

After the bombs and rockets stopped, we went back in to clear the area. At one point I found myself in a large trench that had tunnels dug in the sides going in perpendicular to the trench. I had no idea what was in those tunnels. As I stood there looking into the entrance of the tunnel our platoon sergeant, Sgt. Martinez, walked by on the ground above me and the trench. He looked down at me and ordered me to "Clear the tunnel". I assumed he meant that I was supposed to go into the tunnel. I hesitated, he kept on walking. I looked around and noticed that other guys were throwing grenades, so I quickly threw my first grenade in combat into that tunnel and walked away. I had no desire to explore any underground tunnels.

Soon we were in the middle of the bombed out village. I was amazed to find that there was a giant bomb crater about 20-30 feet across and maybe 10 feet deep. The amazing thing was that right next to the edge of the crater was a grass hooch still standing. I took note that air strikes were not to be counted on to provide any guarantee that the enemy was destroyed. Although psychologically they must have accomplished the mission of clearing the village of NVA because we found neither any living nor dead bodies there.

That ended the action on my first day in combat. I wondered how often we would engage the enemy. I wondered what I had got myself into. I had a lot to learn that was for sure.

Air strikes from dive bombers.

Huey gunship firing rockets

Bombed village

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