01 Nov 2003
A Remembrance given during the Flag Ceremony
"The Moving Wall"
Bridgeport, Washington, 27 Oct 2003
The Attack on the Listening Post
The 1st Squad, 3rd Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry, consisting of Staff Sergeant (SSG) Willard L. Hardin, Specialist fourth Class (SP/4) John R. Pitts, SP/4 Douglas D. Sloan, SP/4 Daniel B. Christenson, SP/4 James E. Newsome, Private First Class (PFC) Randolph Baynard, PFC Gary A. Broas, and PFC James F. Boe, received orders from their Platoon Leader, First Lieutenant (1LT) William W. Blevins, Jr., to move from the company's perimeter on the night of 18 May 1968, and set up an ambush site along a nearby well travelled road. Then, for the remainder of the night act as a Listening Post (LP) on a small knoll about 75 meters from the company's position (LPs provide early warning to the company of any advancing enemy amassing for an attack).
SSG Williard L. Hardin, a recent graduate of the Army's Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) Training Program, had arrived that very day to assume command of the squad. Since this was his first day "in the field" and he had never before been in combat, he deferred command to SP/4 John R. Pitts, who had been a member of the 1st Squad for several months. The squad's two fire teams were lead by SP/4s Douglas D. Sloan and Daniel B. Christenson.
They started out from the company's perimeter about 8:00 PM in total darkness. Everyone was extremely nervous and jumpy. The company and 1st squad of the 3rd platoon in particular had seen very heavy combat in the last two major operations (Operation Pegasus-Lam Son 207, the relief of Khe Sanh, and Operation Delaware-Lam Son 216, the invasion of the A Shau Valley) and had "lost" several members in combat. Their orders were to move east for a distance, and then south to set up an ambush along a road. They arrived at the road, formed their "L" shaped ambush, assigned their watch schedules and waited for about 4 hours. They saw and heard nothing.
Since the second part of their orders were to form an LP, they "saddled up" (gathered their gear and prepared to move) then moved to the small knoll in the area assigned as their LP site. They formed a small perimeter and continued their watch schedule. In about 15 minutes all hell broke loose. SSG Hardin was not on watch therefore went to sleep immediately. Since he went over the situation so many times with the men in the squad, 1LT Blevins, Captain Howard Wilson (Company Commander) and the majors and colonels who flew to the company's location the morning after the firefight, he said the chain of events are very clear in his mind. In his own words, here is what happened.
"We moved to the knoll exactly at midnight and it couldn't have taken us more than 20-25 minutes to get there and another 10-15 minutes to set up. No more than 15 minutes after we were in position (this would put the time at about 12:45 am), Danny heard movement in front of his position (he was in the position nearest to the advancing enemy). He reported to SP/4 John Pitts, who went to his position to find out what was going on. After a few minutes, Pitts also heard movement. Pitts told Danny to get ready to move out, and then he went around to the other positions, awakened the men, told them about the movement, and also told them to get ready to move back to the company's perimeter. After Pitts had done this, everyone was awake, but before we could move out in an orderly fashion the NVA attacked.
"They came straight ahead with small arms fire and satchel charges (one pound blocks of TNT). The whole squad started back quickly to the company. They held their weapons behind them and fired occasionally. Danny, I believe, was the only one to fire while still facing the charging NVA. It's hard to say if it was out of bravery or because he was nearest to the attacking enemy and was the most heavily laden (carried the M-60 machine gun). Anyway, Danny fired a burst from his M-60 as he was getting up and was hit with an AK-47 (Russian 7.62mm assault rifle) round in the chest.
"Several other members of the squad were wounded at the same time. The LP was overrun by the NVA force. The remaining LP members, both wounded and not, had to feign death, or they would have been executed by the NVA regulars who were searching their bodies and removing their weapons and equipment.
"The battle between B Company and this NVA unit continued throughout the night. The small arms fire was so intense during this battle that the heat generated from the automatic fire on one NVA's AK-47 melted its barrel. The weapon was retrieved the next morning.
"Before daybreak the NVA broke contact and escaped west toward the jungle covered mountains in the region known as Base Area 101. The main NVA force left behind one wounded soldier and many weapons including AK-47's, SKS carbines, PRG machine guns, B40 rockets and launchers, 82mm mortars, as well as backpacks full of satchel charges and other military equipment.
"While making their escape the NVA would carry their dead and wounded while rear elements booby trapped their escape route. They would return to the site of the large grave they dug before the battle, and deposit their dead.
"After daybreak, B Company's 1st Platoon commanded by Lt Harold C. Jensen followed the drag marks and blood trails. One of the soldiers in this platoon tripped an explosive booby-trap and three members of the platoon had to be medevaced.
"At first light, Lt. Blevins and a few members of this 3rd platoon returned to the site of the Listening Post. He medevaced the wounded and took charge of Danny's body. Danny's personal possession were inventoried and evacuated with his body.
"Later in the morning, another company in the battalion following the instructions of the POW found a shallow grave about 5 kilometers west of the firefight location. In it were found approximately 100 NVA dead."
And that's the end of the story of "The Attack on the Listening Post" and the death of Danny Christenson of Oroville, Washington - and my cousin.
Written copy of a presentation given by
Walt A. Hart, Oroville councilmember and cousin
27 Oct 2003