I did not know Lon or Gary very well. They transferred to 3rd platoon from another Bravo platoon several weeks before they were killed. I do remember that they were friends and that they were good guys. We were glad to have them. It all started one afternoon while on a firebase. Bravo Co. was rounded up and flown out to relieve Delta Co. which had run into some kind of trouble. We were dropped some distance from the site and I remember cresting a hill and seeing a single-engine prop aircraft (probably ARVN) dropping bombs. We already had an uneasy feeling about what we were getting into and this didn't help. It turned out to be a bunker complex and we were to assault it. I'm fuzzy on the sequence of events, but I think it was when we were about to go in that we got our first casualty. It was from friendly mortar fire. We got on line and moved in, "reconning by fire" as we went. Unfortunately, the area was sparsely populated with trees and had no ground cover. We were lying on the ground when the enemy opened up. We had a group of ARVN with us and I think it was about this point that they jumped up and bolted to the rear.
Another guy (who?) was between me and Lon and Gary and he was hit in the ankle. Somehow we got a chance to remove the bodies and several wounded. I do remember carrying Lon and Gary back to the LZ and putting towels over their faces before loading them in the helicopter. We regrouped and began the assault again. I can't recall much except that it was late in the afternoon and we ended up having to spend the night in place. It was a long and uncomfortable night. Next morning we were back at it. When we finally got in we found nothing. Evidently higher-ups felt we didn't do so well. A short time after this incident, Bravo (and I assume other companies) were brought back to the rear and given live-fire training on assaulting bunker complexes. I've thought about Lon and Gary a lot over the years. I can't help but think what a twist of fate it was to bring them to our platoon. If they had not transferred, they could still be alive and others might have died instead.
-- Bob Brandin
Twice in my tour, I carried the radio and was doing so when Freddie Kemp was carrying the radio for the CP group at the beginning of August, 1966. One morning A, 1/7 had tangled with an NVA regiment and had a platoon overrun. After this action, 1/7 was taking many prisoners and engaging in a few small firefights. We had blown down a good sized tree to act as a bridge over what I think was the Ia Drang river (or another close by the Cambodian border). While not that wide, it was very swift. As two RTO's, Kemp and I were talking before the crossing and he confided in me that he could not swim. Came his time to cross and about mid-way, he froze. I called to him not to stop or look down because I was closest to him. The tree was wet and though he used his rifle to balance himself, he took only a couple more steps and slipped into the river. The rest of the day the platoon on the far side of the river searched for him with no luck and the following day, 2nd platoon hunted for him on our side, but with the same negative result. --Dennis Blessing
On May 4th, second platoon was on a hill west of Bong Son just waiting. We were alerted that someone had ambushed a large unit trying to reach the Bong Son plain through the mountains. On the 5th, we air assaulted to where "A" company was engaged in heavy contact; the hottest LZ I ever went into. Second platoon was used as rear guard because we did not have a platoon leader. I heard the Captain say when asked about evacuating a wounded "B" man, "Not now, there will be plenty more today" and I just knew I didn't want to be there that day. A squad was sent out and ran into some NVA trying to put in a machine gun and blasted them and, after firing a green flare, came pouring back into their fox holes.
On the 6th.
The 1st and 3rd platoons got shot up pretty bad, so the 2nd was moved up. As we started to cross a big field, an NVA jumped out of a hole running and the front three of us opened fire. We were in contact and before it was over, my entire load of mags had been used. Bob Engberson was shot through the neck (with only 20 or so days left in the army.) This is when Sgt. Shelton looked over at me and asked if I saw anything on his neck. I said , "A red streak" and he told me a bullet had hit the tree he was behind and clipped his neck. Not 15 minutes later, he was killed by a rocket. I knew him three days and he seemed like a really nice guy. He had told 3rd platoon to just keep doing what we had been doing and he would take over little by little which sounded more reasonable than the army usually was.
Sp5 CALVIN BOUKNIGHT B 1/7
B Co Medic. Assigned to 3-6 on Nov 1, 1965. I was the 3-6, the Platoon Leader and was assigned Bouknight because I didn't have a medic. On 14 Nov. we were the first company to land in the ID Valley. Calvin was a Conscientious Objector and refused to carry a weapon due to his religious beliefs although he was a career soldier. I asked him several times in the two weeks I knew him to carry a sidearm (very difficult at the time due to lack of .45 ammo, lots of pistols, no ammo). In the hell that was the ID Valley on 14 Nov., Calvin was with my "command group" (me, medic, RTO, PLT SGT). I don't think I exaggerate when I say at any given second there were 1000 bullets flying around. We got to a point where we were doubly surrounded. There were many wounded up front where we had been but had been forced to withdraw. We were all on our stomachs trying to figure where to maneuver next. Suddenly I felt someone's boots literally running up my back in the face of all this fire where nobody could get to their knees without being shot (ref: 2LT Wayne Johnson). Calvin proceeded to place his body between the enemy and our wounded and succeeded in treating 2-4 of them before the inevitable happened. He was shot between the shoulder blades and paralyzed waist down. A lull in the firing occurred and Calvin was recovered by 2 men who made a seat for him by criss-crossing their hands and as he passed, he said as tears flooded down his face, "it hurts, sir, it hurts so bad" and they moved him on. I told him he would make it and to hang on. I was told he died in mid-scream from his horrific pain. We had given him morphine and may as well have injected water for all the good it did. COL(R) Herren and I tried to get his Silver Star upgraded to a Medal of Honor but were not successful. Later at base camp an EM club was erected and named Bouknight Hall. The real injustice for this gallant man who upheld the highest standards of the Medic Credo is that his Silver Star is not engraved on his tombstone at Arlington. Only the worst award of all is on it, the Purple Heart.
14-Nov-65: Calvin Bouknight
18-Jun-71: Lon Paul Gregorash and Gary Lee Johnson