1st Bn, 8th Infantry & A Btry, 6/29 FA
Near Pleiku, South Vietnam
18 - 23 May 1967
Raymond A. Harton
LTC, FA, Retired
Preface: The 1/8th Infantry Battalion and A Btry 6/29th
Artillery were part of the 1st Brigade,
4th Infantry Division during Operation "Francis Marion". The mission was: Search and Destroy.
The Infantry Battalion and A 6/29th airlifted into
position just West of Duc Co at coordinates YA 790239 on 13 May 67. The artillery (Commanded by
Cpt. McCreight) hurriedly prepared their firing position and prepared to support the infantry.
The FSB was initially secured by C Company 1/8th Infantry. The infantry companies A & B continued
their normal sweeping and patrolling action with little contact.
This is my analysis as to what took place during
the period 18-23 May 1967. The general scenario is related in the book, 4th Infantry Division,
Vietnam, on pages 96-100. The artillery was placed on restrictive firing. No recon by fire missions
were authorized unless personnel we're in contact. I told my Forward Observers that if they were in
contact that I would give them all the support they required. Early in the afternoon of 18 May 67
the FO told me and the FDO (Lt. Dlugosz) that they were in contact. I authorized firing the artillery.
The Infantry had a platoon that was receiving fire. I went with the Infantry Battalion Commander (Ltc.
Gannon (MUSTANG)) in his C&C chopper to monitor the battle and assist in any way possible. The FO had
A Btry 6/29th firing for him, while I had C 5/16th (Cpt. Meek) firing for me. Other artillery and air
assisted in fire support.
An Infantry platoon (4th platoon, B Company) had got
ambushed and were pinned down. I placed blocking fires to the west of the pinned down platoon (C 5/16th
155mm howitzers). This went on for quite a while. Suddenly MUSTANG (BN CO) tapped me on the shoulder and
told me they (the platoon) wanted the artillery on top of them. I said "Are you sure that is what they
want?". He said "YES" put it on top of them. I immediately made a correction for C 5/16th and fired many
rounds of 155 mm artillery on top of the platoon. Ltc. Gannon made the decision. I made the correction
and ordered the firing. In the meantime, the Bn S-2 with personnel of the Bn formed a Company Minus and
they were dropped in by chopper to try and find the platoon. At darkness, MUSTANG and I went back to the
TOC (Tactical Operation Center of the Battalion). Around 9 p.m., MUSTANG told the Company Minus to secure
for the night and told them to start at first light in the morning. We got the Company Minus's coordinates
and I got the did hit data from C 5/16th. After checking the two plots, I can remember telling Mustang
that if they went so many mils in that direction that they would find the platoon. I recall this vividly
because MUSTANG said "That is Artillery talk (mils), put it in Infantry talk". I converted the mils to
degrees. The platoon was only 500-600 meters from the Company Minus. The Company Minus pushed out at
first light and found the platoon shortly after they started. They found 8 people left alive. They had
been stripped of their valuables, weapons etc.
On 19 May 67,we regrouped and MUSTANG stayed on the ground
with the troops that evening (forward CP). I declined to stay on the ground because I would not be able to
get up in the air to assist if trouble began again. We fired many DEFCONS (defensive concentrations) and
H&I"s (harrassing & interdiction fires) for the people on the ground throughout the night.
The following morning, I took the C&C chopper with some
replacements into the area. Mustang called me enroute and told me not to shut it down. I was to take a
passenger to the hospital. When they set the stetcher in the chopper,the BN S-2 looked up at me and said
"What the f--- happened? I told him I did not know. (It seems like he had been sitting on his helmet
briefing his troops,when a large limb came down and landed on his head. Got hurt pretty bad. I was told
that they evacuated him to the states for surgery.). While laying on the stretcher in the chopper enroute
to the aid station I asked him what the conditions were like where the platoon was at. He told me he could
not see how people got out of there alive. The artillery had cut everything to shreds. After bringing the
S-2 to the aid station I returned to pick up MUSTANG and we went back to the TOC.
The Infantry set up their perimeters and security and the
artillery prepared their DEFCON's. About dusk the sh-t hit the fan. On 20 May 67, MUSTANG and I flew for
20 hours. The only time we were not in the air was when we ran from one chopper to another chopper. There
was always another one waiting with radio's,food etc. During the evening and early morning hours A Btry
fired continuous fire. Lt. Dlugosz (FDO) called me a couple of times. Once he told me his tubes were getting
hot. I asked him if he could put his hands on them. He said "Barely". I told him that they were not hot
enough and to continue to fire. What made it worse is that all the firing was "DANGER CLOSE" (Less than 100
meters from the troops). In one instance,I asked Lt. Schoeck, one of the FO's on the ground if he was sure
he wanted that correction. He said "Yes". I told him "get in your holes" (The next morning he showed me his
back which had shrapnel burns through his clothes).
Another time Lt. Dlugosz (the FDO) called me and told me
he was running low on ammunition. I told him to call the S-4 (Cpt. Borders). He told me the S-4 could not
get any birds (choppers). I also called the S-4 and he told me he could not get any birds. I told him he
better sh-t some birds. A few minutes later he called me and told me he had four birds on the way with some
passengers. The 6/29th had gathered up cooks, mechanics and anyone else around and flew them into the firebase
to help with the ammo etc.
During the period 18-23 May 67 A Btry 6/29th fired 8300 rounds
of 105mm rounds in support of the operation. C Btry 5/16th fired 1845 rounds of 155 mm rounds. B Btry 6/14th
fired 1794 rounds of 8 inch and 690 rounds of 175mm rounds in support of this operattion. In addition 57 air
sorties were utilized in this operation (18-26 May 67). On 23 May 67, a decision was made to pull the 1/8th
Infantry and A 6/29th from the field. All the preparations were made. Control of the fire base was passed on
and we went to bed early for a change. Suddenly we heard thump-thump of mortar rounds coming in. Lt Dlugosz
said "Are those good guys or bad guys"?. We hustled out of our tent into the TOC.I called my counterpart,
who had taken control of the security and asked him if he was going to fire or should we fire. He told me
he had a patrol out but didn't know exactly where it was. I told him "You better fire or I will". I gave
the Firing Battery clearance to fire and told them to fire vt fuze with a zero time setting and to fire
at such and such an elevation and azimuth. The mortar firing stopped. Lt. Dlugosz and I had both saw the
light from the mortars being fired. That woke up the patrol and the rest of the night passed without incident.
The following morning the 1/8th Infantry and A Btry 6/29th artillery retired from the field. We became the
palace guard for a short time in order to lick our wounds and get replacements.
During this operation the 6/29th lost one man, SGT Leland Thompson.
He was acting as the observer for the platoon that was ambushed. Others were wounded. The 1/8th infantry lost 45
KIA and 96 WIA. Enemy body count was 157 KIA. The 1/8th Infantry had three "Medal of Honor" recipients during
this operation. Platoon Sgt Bruce Grandstaff, Staff Sgt Frankie Molnar and PFC Leslie Bellrichard. Sgt Thompson
received the Silvar Star. Unfortunately all these awards were posthumously.
These memories are based on my recollection of the events. No
attempt was made to corelate them with the actions of the 1/8th Infantry.These events have stayed with me
for the past 33 years.I think you might understand why some nights I wake up in the IA DRANG valley.
Raymond A Harton, LTC, FA, Retired
Artillery Liaison Officer with 1/8 Infantry
Photos were provided by Cpt. McCreight, A Btry, 6/29th Arty
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