Notes from The Virtual Wall
Rangers Find Dead Regiment
Associated Press photographer Horst Faas accompanied South Vietnamese reinforcements to the
scene of a savage Communist attack on a rubber plantation 45 miles from Saigon. Here is his report.|
BY HORST FAAS
DAU TIENG, Vietnam-(AP)
South Vietnam's 7th Regiment died at 8 a.m. Saturday.
It died on the sprawling Michelin rubber plantation after trying desperately to fight off hordes of Communist soldiers charging in waves through the rubber trees.
Most of the Vietnamese troopers, with their American advisers, fought to the last bullet.
The senior U.S. adviser to the slain regimental commander was found Sunday sprawled dead beside a foxhole. At 7 a.m. Saturday he had radioed a nearby Ranger battalion adviser: "My radio operator has just been killed, and we can't hold out much longer unless we get air strikes immediately. Put the strikes right among us, that's where the Communists are."
A few minutes later the adviser, his voice still calm, called, "I'll have to get out of here. We're folding up."
He didn't make it.
A VIETNAMESE machine gunner was sprawled in his foxhole, spent shells up to his knees. The Viet Cong had shot off the barrel of his weapon, then killed him with a bullet through the brain.
Some of the regiment tried to give up, but were rounded up and massacred by the Reds, a wounded U.S. adviser reported.
The dead lay scattered among fallen branches and in the deep foxholes they had dug in the four days they had been in the area.
Most of the dead had been killed with bullets in the head and neck.
There were no Communist bodies. The Viet Cong had dragged their dead and wounded away.
The Vietnamese Rangers who had come to help fight no longer were looking for any enemy. They were looking for their comrades. By early afternoon they had gathered up 100 bodies. There were many more.
FOUGHT TILL THE END - A Vietnamese machine gunner lies dead in his foxhole with hundreds of shells surrounding him. The knee-deep spent shells are silent proof that he fought to his death when Viet Cong overran his position at the Michelin Rubber Plantation, 45 miles northwest of Saigon. The battleground was retaken today and over a hundred corpses recovered.
AP Wire Photo Nov. 1965
Mom's Letter Told Fallen GI Of Christmas He'll Miss
MICHELIN RUBBER PLANTATION, VIETNAM.-(AP)
The pages of the letter fluttered among the debris of battle.
Nearby, lying half out of a foxhole, was the body of a young American Army sergeant. His tall body was crumpled in the shadow of the trees, his arms flung out.
The letter had been scattered by the Viet Cong who killed him and many Vietnamese soldiers Saturday in a bloody two hours on the plantation. The Viet Cong had gone through the wallets of all the men and had taken their money and valuables.
They had left the letter behind.
It was from the sergeant's mother.
"Dear Sarge," she wrote affectionately. She spoke of the plans she made for Christmas. She did not expect him home, she wrote, because he had several months left to serve in Vietnam.
But she knew he would be interested in Christmas back home.
Then she turned to more serious matters,
"We read your letters, and we understand how difficult it is over there.
His mother discussed the demonstrations in the United States against American involvement in Vietnam.
"There's a great group of mothers and wives and children in the United States this year who won't have their loved ones home for Christmas. But oh, how we think of you,"
"Many people at home seem to be against what you are doing, but we know you are doing good.
"We pray you'll achieve what is right over there. I want to assure you this Christmastime that your mother and your family are completely behind you all the way.
"But we don't have to tell you that, do we? You already know."
The Michelin Rubber Plantation near Dau Tieng was a hotbed of VC and NVA activity. The action described above involved the VC 272nd Regiment, which overran the South Vietnamese 7th Regiment in the Michelin Plantation.
Although the news reports above make it clear that three US Advisors were killed in the battle - the senior advisor, his radioman, and SFC Vander Weg - it is certain at least four Americans were involved. Other available information indicates SFC Vander Weg "... and an American captain, a lieutenant and a private first class were attached to the 1st Battalion, 7th Regt., 5th South Viet Nam Infantry Division..." The captain was Captain James W. McNeely, and the lieutenant was 1LT Carl A. Gray.
However, seven US military advisors died in battle on 27 Nov 1965 and all seven can be placed with the 7th ARVN Infantry Regiment:
- MAJ Guy H. McCarey, Tampa, FL
- CPT James W. McNeely, Norwich, CT
- 1LT Carl A. Gray, Morganton, NC
- SFC Phillip J. Vander Weg, Wayland, MI
- SGT William H. Crisman, Detroit, MI
- PFC John M. Grasso, New Britain, CT
- PFC Lester J. Kersten, Chicago, IL