Significant events etch themselves and associated events into ones memory. The action of this day and pieces of the day before and the day after have persisted over these past 29 years. Others have told me that no "after action" report exists for this event, so this is all from memory. From 29 May, I recall moving through the Cambodian forest (it seemed less like a jungle than the Vietnamese flora) heading for some X on the map as our next NDP. We came across a vine rope laid out by the NVA at about hip height which we presumed would help them navigate at night. We came to a point and stopped for the night. An automatic ambush was set out and I spent the night on the ground over a tree root. Can't recall if we were a single platoon or more. On the morning of the 30th, we back tracked a bit to a large field fenced from the jungle with barbed wire. We waited among the trees for choppers which took us to our log site where the whole company assembled.
Approaching the log site, the trees suddenly gave way to a huge open area which turned out to be many rice paddies, the only ones I ever recall seeing in person "over there". One guy was ending his tour that day and popped smoke as the log bird carried him away. We did not realize that many more eyes than our own watched as he bade us good-bye. After the log, the CO divided us into two groups. We (third platoon) and 4th platoon headed north (an assumption based on coordinates, memory and a map) along the edge of the paddy collection, 3rd platoon on point. We went perhaps 300 yards to the edge of the open area and turned east across the narrow neck of this paddy field. On the east edge, we attempted to cross a river that ran north-south, but it apparently was too deep. I have a vague memory of the point man cutting his hand, but if he stayed with us or went back to the CP for attention and medevac, I can't recall. Waiting on the edge of the paddy for things to clarify at the point, the rest of us took a break in place which was at the edge of the jungle. I casually touched a compound leaf on a small plant and was astounded to watch it react and with its fellow leaflets, close up on the stem they were attached to. Never having heard of such a thing, I was greatly intrigued. Inevitably, the patrol began to move out once again.
Word drifted back that they thought they heard metal clanking on the opposite side of the river. There was a trail along the river and we followed it south for maybe 200 yards when it and the river turned left sharply to the east. Within 10 seconds of making this turn (most of the platoon was ahead of me), I had that feeling that something would surely happen very soon and it was only a couple more seconds before the sound of the first shot cracked back to me.
Not for sure how it started, but I recall hearing that our point (probably Mike Fannon) had opened up on a group of NVA on our side of the river coming down the trail towards us, possibly to set up to catch us in cross fire. From the opposite side of the river, snipers and mortars opened up and our machine gun was lost almost instantly, though the gunner was uninjured. Our M-79 man, Dick Weid, suffered a head wound and could not return fire. Harry Pickard died on the spot from, I believe, an abdominal wound and so many were wounded that there was little fire power available as efforts were made to retrieve the wounded. Fourth platoon, still on a north-south line, began to lob M-79 rounds toward the sound of mortar fire and their men began to fill in as our wounded were pulled back. Gunships were soon overhead and medevac birds were arriving. We later learned that Dick Weid had to be brought back to life twice on the dust off but later died on the operating table. Both Harry and Dick were "old timers" in the company and their loss was felt deeply..
Sgt. Tom Lipp was wounded in the back and years later it was read that he survived, though paralyzed, and died about 15 years later from complications of that wound. In addition, about 9 other 3rd platoon men were wounded and medevaced back to the world. We had to leave Harry's body overnight. Many of the 3rd platoon survivors had lost packs and weapons (a letter home about this incident states that of 23 rucksacks in the platoon, 22 were lost). The two platoons pulled back across the narrow neck of paddy fields and made what NDP we could in the jungle on the west side. The remainder of the company linked up with us the next day and under air cover, Harry's body was retrieved. Higher ups choppered us out from that area and we took the longest ride I can recall, high in the clouds, and it seemed like they wanted to give us a break in place, to get us away from the jungle for a little breather. When we came down, it was another large field and we were told we would be building LZ Corral at that site.
There are over 58,000 names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. What follows is the story of how three of those names came to be there.