On July 29, 1968, Company C 2/12 of the 1st Cavalry Division was ambushed on a routine search and clear mission while operating in the Hai Lang District of Quang Tri Province in I Corps Tactical Zone, South Vietnam. The following is my recollection of our time leading up to the events of July 29:
In the preceding days, the weather had been moderate. There was little rain and lots of sunshine. We were operating in mountainous and heavily canopied jungle terrain. The trees afforded relief from the sun, helicopter resupply had been adequate, and we got mail every day. In the weeks preceding we had been pulling mine-sweep duty south of Hue on the so-called "Street without Joy". Somehow it seemed safer in our new area of operations. The "rear" for us was LZ Nancy and LZ Jane, and we did get back to those places a few times a month. In the mountains there were frequent enemy sightings...it seemed the hills were alive with movement, especially in the evening hours.
On July 27, the 3rd platoon (Wildcard 3-6) of Charlie Company set up a daytime ambush about 1000 meters from our night ambush. On that day we learned from intelligence sources that a regimental-size NVA force had moved into our area and that we could expect some manner of contact in the coming days. B Company was combat-assaulted in as reinforcement. A Company had been informed by civilians of VC movement along the river.
On July 28, C Company engaged an individual enemy, who was found reconnoitering our position. He evaded and was engaged with mortar fire but nothing was found. Later that day we sighted about 12 VC dressed in black and running single file. They were too far away to engage with available weapons. We had several other sightings that day which we engaged but with no casualties on either side. Later that afternoon we made it to the top of a hill that was a good candidate to clear for helicopter resupply.
On July 29, C Company closed its night ambush on the hill at about 0900 and began an unflanked movement to the southwest. The move was supposed to have been across a saddle, over a second hill and into a valley. First Platoon (1-6) was in the lead. As they surmounted the second hill, they came under rocket-propelled grenade and automatic weapons fire. 1-6 platoon leader and several of his men were wounded. Most of the rest of the company had not yet moved off the first hill. Our (3-6) Platoon was ordered to move ahead to provide suppressive fire so that 1-6 could withdraw. As we began our descent through the saddle we came under enemy fire from tree blinds and other concealed positions. The intensity of the fire and the masking effect the jungle had on detecting sound direction made it very difficult to get our heads up to determine where the incoming fire was coming from. The action was quite intense and generated a lot of smoke. When we were finally able to break contact, I looked around for Lieutenant Orvis, my platoon leader, and Sergeant Davies, my squad leader. I had seen neither of them since shortly after contact began. I discovered both of them in a shallow draw emanating from one side of the saddle. They were beyond help.
By the end of the day, our company sustained 4 fatalities and 25 wounded. The names of the men we lost on the field of battle that day are: