by Stanley 'Ski' Homiski
We had been working in an area of War Zone C. We had been looking for the enemy for a couple of days when, on Saturday morning, we kind of stumbled into a Viet Cong base camp. It was obvious that the VC had left the area very suddenly as we found pots of rice still cooking and there was commo wire and the like all around the area. Of course this made it necessary to do a real good check of the camp and the surrounding area. This particular region of War Zone C consisted of really thick jungle with dense undergrowth and this made the going very slow. The CO at the time was a Captain Westbrook, he assigned HQ Platoon to take charge of the base camp which meant searching for any tunnels, booby traps, bodies and wounded. The other platoons were spread out over the surrounding jungle in an attempt to locate the VC who had recently occupied the base camp.
While we were sweeping the base camp, one of the platoons on the outer sweep made contact with the enemy but with the jungle being so dense it was very difficult to pinpoint ones location on the map, which made calling in air support or artillery almost impossible. Captain Westbrook did have the platoon that was in contact fire off some star clusters in an attempt to at least get a heading in which the rest of the troop could move, however this proved to be futile as the clusters failed to penetrate the canopy.
By this time, early afternoon, the platoon (we found out later that it was the 2nd Plt) had been in contact with what they estimated as probably a reinforced company. The 2nd Platoon took some casualties during the firefight. As luck would have it, just as the enemy disengaged, the 3rd Platoon came upon the retreating VC, engaging them again. As evening began to fall the enemy broke contact and melted back into the jungle, somehow, and I really can't say how, the rest of the troop found their way back to this VC base camp.
The CO figured that we might as well laager right where we stood even though the size of the clearing made it necessary to have the outer perimeter very tight. If I remember, there probably wasn't more than 5 meters between the vehicles on the perimeter and the inner perimeter was really bunched up.
'The Morning After...
Due to the fact that we were so deep in the jungle and the hour late the CO opted to forego calling for re-supply. We still weren't sure of our exact location and he figured that if we all shared ammo we should be set until we could get a re-supply chopper in. In the end this almost proved to be a fatal mistake. The casualties from the firefight during the day had to be treated as best they could by our medics and the 2 dead we suffered were placed in body bags and left on the outer perimeter.
We ended up sharing our ammo as equally as possible, however, we were low on beehive and canister rounds although the .50-cal and coaxial 7.62-mm seemed to be adequate. After we ate our C rations again we put out 3 LPs and the CO decided to put an Ambush Patrol out about 400 meters along what appeared to be a bicycle trail. Most of the night things were quite. At 0300 hrs the AP was recalled, for what reason I was never able to ascertain. I came off watch at 0330 hrs, just abut the time the AP was entering our laager and shortly thereafter we started to take in-coming mortar and RPG fire from the general direction that the AP had been in.
The 3 LPs retreated to the laager and once we were sure that all our people were in the perimeter we opened up with .50-cal machinegun fire along with Main Gun Beehive and Canister. The firefight lasted about 4 hours. I guess it was about 0730 hrs when everything went quite. At this time the CO sent out patrols to sweep the area. These patrols were done dismounted and we found around 15 or so dead VC's, all in the area from which the AP had come. The CO figured that the VC followed the AP back and opened up when they were most vulnerable.
The nearest that the VC got to our location was about 10 meters. Most of the VC deaths were caused by our beehive and canister. We also found signs that the VC had removed several bodies be they dead or wounded from the battlefield. It turned out to be a fortunate chain of events that the VC disengaged when they did as our ammo supply had been almost totally expended. We had no beehive or canister left, only a few rounds of HE and some APT's, the .50-cal and 7.62-mm numbered a grand total of maybe 6 boxes and our 5.56-mm consisted of what we had left on our own persons as all the cases were gone.
The strange part of the whole thing was that, even with the intense incoming fire, we didn't lose a single tank or APC to enemy fire - but we did suffer some heavy casualties. We added 3 more to the dead and 27 more of us to the wounded, some of us not as serious as others. We were finally able to get a good fix on our location so that by noon of Easter Sunday we were re-supplied and the most serious of the wounded dusted off. The last to go were our dead. It was an Easter Sunday that I will never forget as I still carry the reminders of that day in the form of scars from when I got hit with shrapnel from a mortar.
Stanley 'Ski' Homiski was Commo Sergeant with 'B' Troop 3/4 Cavalry, RVN, 1968-1969
My sincere thanks are due to Ski for this personal contribution to and this page is respectfully dedicated to the men of 'B' Troop, 3/4 Cavalry who died during the course of this engagement.