Dennis Ray Forney
Sergeant Dennis Ray Forney
He arrived in country in December '68 and became a squad leader in A, 3/7, 199th Light Infantry Brigade, Second platoon.
Although I knew him only for a short time, he was a stand-up guy. He came in as an (instant) NCO but respected the lower-ranking guys in the unit with more time in the bush. He was open to suggestion and willing to learn.
Sadly, we lost him as a result of a small arms wound on January 27, 1969. It was a bad head wound. The firefight and mop up operation lasted over three days, however Dennis was dusted off (evacuated) that afternoon.
He passed away of this wound on June 20. We, of course, hoped against hope that he might have made it until we heard the bad news. He was a brave man and we missed him. I'm sure he would have become an excellent leader.
The incident of January 27, 1969 ... I remember it too well. We had been going through a period of very little contact. There were quite a few operations around Tan An and the Pineapple grove with very little contact. I seem to remember that the only casualties in our unit were from booby traps since before Christmas. In fact, I was just learning to walk point around that time and got a monofilament trip wire tangled-up in the zipper of my flack jacket during a sweep in the Pineapple. Becker (best point man I ever met and my teacher) saw the wire before I could do any damage. There was a 105 or 155 mm artillery shell on the other end. I was lucky. I also stepped on a fragmentation grenade that had been pushed down in the mud with the pin pulled (On Christmas Day) but the mud had dried and it didn't go off. I lucked out again.
On the "27th" (that's what we called the January 27 fire fight) we were to be inserted in the "Parrot's Beak" area of the Vam Co Dong River for a company-sized ambush. The word was that Charlie had been active in that area and we were going to set up there for about three days and see if we could surprise him. If I remember right, it was about a 15-20 minute flight from what I think was Fire Base Stephanie. I had been humping the 90mm recoilless rifle for about a week because I liked to shoot it (trees, bunkers, haystacks, bamboo) and it was actually easier than humping all your normal stuff plus an ammo can. I thought it would be good to have on the company-sized ambush (especially since the other guys would be carrying the ammo).
I was on the second group of slicks to go in and did not realize that the LZ was hot until we were on the ground. When I heard the door gunner and crew chief open up with their M-60's, I just thought they were reconning by fire. I guess I should have figured that they wouldn't do that if we were supposed to be slipping in quietly to set up an ambush. Well, it was a hot LZ and it got hotter. The estimated 100 man NVA / VC unit was waiting for us.
I remember that every thing was very loud and confusing. It was hard to tell where the fire was coming from but it was coming from areas to our front (the river) and sort of to the left. The enemy was hard to see but every once in a while a machine gun would open up sort of to the left front. It took me a while to realize that he was probably shooting at that 90mm rifle. He must not have known that the guys with the ammo were not there yet, and probably were being delayed in the confusion of the next eagle flight.
When I figured this out, I got as low as I could and tried to use that 90 for a bunker. I did have my M-16 with about 20 magazines so I wasn't totally defenseless. The initial contact had wounded several of our people. I understand that the point element got as far as the dike at the river before the shooting started. Becker was up there and was pinned down for a while. I remember it seemed like a lifetime before we got organized enough to return fire. We couldn't figure out where all our people were.
Sgt. Forney, as I said, had been in country less than 6 weeks. He was in the initial contact and sustained a wound to his forehead. I think that machine gunner got him. At that point, I took it upon myself to care for him until a dust-off could get in. All I could do was bandage the wound and try to make him as comfortable as possible. I talked to him, sang to him, and tried to keep him from getting hit again until things calmed down a bit and the dust-off helicopter could land.
Time is still a blur but I guess a couple of hours went by. I don't really know why but at some point I thought it would be appropriate to Baptize him. Somewhere in my Catholic up-bringing (probably around 3rd grade) I had learned that in the event of an accident, you can baptize someone if you don't know that they have been baptized... So I grabbed a hand full of swamp water and said "I Baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost". It seemed to be important at the time and I'm sure it wouldn't have hurt him, whether he needed it or not.
He made it to Japan at least, but we learned later that he died as a result of the head wound of the 27th.
I remember him as being a real nice guy. He was a good soldier.
I went to the Memorial Wall in Washington almost 15 years ago. His name was the first I looked up and found......
I have many times thought of trying to contact his family but never have. Perhaps I will some day. Of course I fear that my words would be of little comfort to them in their grief.
- - - A fellow soldier - - -
E-Mail may be forwarded via the
22 Aug 2002
Company A, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Brigade, was conducting a search and destroy mission on January 27, 1969 in Long An Province, South Vietnam, near the city of Tan An.
The unit was inserted by helicopter and began a sweep. While crossing a field, the company was taken under fire by enemy machine guns. During the initial fire four men were wounded. PFC Conger moved up to attempt to knock out the machine gun nest and was reportedly wounded in the right shoulder and neck. Attempts to recover Conger and five other wounded individuals at that time were unsuccessful because of continuing fire.
Later in the afternoon, after the unit withdrew from the area, and they did not attempt to try to recover the men from the contact area during the darkness. On January 28, U.S. ground forces cordoned off the area. but an attempted sweep of the area failed due to heavy enemy fire. U.S. artillery and aircraft shelled and bombed the area as a result.
On the 29th, the bodies of 5 Americans were spotted by an observation helicopter lying in an open area where they had fallen the previous day, but shortly after the spotting, the helicopter was shot down. Although the area had been secured, Conger and the other individuals could not be located.
On October 13, 1969, the remains of the individuals who had been missing with Conger were found, but no trace of Conger was located. No further searches were conducted.
The unit lost a total of 6 men from this event. They were:
SGT Forney was wounded as noted above by his fellow soldiers, and was evacuated to the United States where he passed away on June 20, 1969 at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas. In January 1970, his mother was presented his medals as shown in the Lawton Constitution Newspaper article below:
He was buried in Restlwan memorial Gardens, Duncan, Oklahoma.
- - - The Virtual Wall, April 17, 2014
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