No Man Left Behind Part 3

Pat Bieneman 1968-69

We had a MACV photographer with us for four days and nothing happened. The day he was due to leave, we (the Blues) were called out on a mission. As we approached the area, we were told that an undetermined number of NVA soldiers had been spotted moving in a wooded are and artillery was still firing rounds into the area. We were to meet up a platoon from D 2/5.

Once on the ground, there was still machine gun fire coming from the helicopters and we were told that some NVA were still moving around. As we moved forward SGT Blankenship saw an NVA starting to crawl over a log. He fired and hit an RPG round on the man’s back. As it exploded I got hit in the leg with a very small piece of shrapnel. Doc Hipple came up to bandage it. The platoon leader from 2/5 came up to see how bad it was.

While this was going on an NVA soldier about 25 meters out in front of us starting shaking a small tree. Word came from the Colonel in the C&C bird above us to get him to Chu Hoi. I asked him to keep a look out for enemy movement. He said there wasn’t any. After about 5 minutes the NVA soldier yelled out "DO Mammy Chu Hoi" (I take liberty with the spelling) and with that all hell broke loose. It seems that while we were getting this bastard to give up, his friends were setting up a Horse Shoe Ambush around us.

They were firing fast and furious. They used their RPG’s as anti personnel mines by firing them into the tree therefore showering us with shrapnel. One RPG round landed just in front of me. It blew Doc Hipple and I backwards and into a tree. I had a piece of shrapnel go through my left ear and into my neck. Doc Hipple had been shot in the head. Luckily it was more of a glancing blow. A straight on shot, of course, would have killed him. Blue Mike (SFC Guzman) had tried to play John Wayne and sneak up on the NVA. When the ambush was sprung he was shot up real bad. The Platoon Leader from D 2/5 was shot in the head and killed instantly.

Everyone started to move back to an PZ. Sergeants Singletary and MC Cann grabbed Blue Mike and got him out of there. The 2/5 took off and left their LT behind. Cavalier Blue (1LT Guthrie) grabbed him and put him on his shoulder and ran for the PZ. That left Doc Hipple and me. I had been cussing out the Colonel in that small chopper because when the shit broke out I could hardly hear him. I looked up and he was probably at 1000 feet or higher. Just then Cavalier Red came on. He told me to shut up and he would get us out of there. I was to pop smoke and everyone above would light up the area behind us. Doc Hipple was fighting shock, he had lost a lot of blood from his head would. With Red’s help we made it back to the PZ.

LT Guthrie was treated for injuries and returned to duty. Doc and I went to two different hospitals together and then I was sent back to the unit. Doc was sent on to Cam Rahn Bay to a rehab hospital where he almost got killed during a sapper attack. The platoon leader from D 2/5 was sent home. He had had a daughter born the day before the mission.

In the 12 months that I spent in Vietnam, we never left anyone on the battle field. Everyone made it home. I have one photograph the MACV man took. It is a reminder of a battle but it is also a reminder that myself and everyone else made it home.