A Note from The Virtual Wall
The "Manchu" Vietnam timeline contains the following entry:
"680302: Hoc Mon Bridge east of Tan Son Nhut near the small village of Quoi Xuan. Company C 4/9 soldiers caught in devastating ambush. 49 members of Co C were killed. In addition, Co C had 24 wounded and Co D suffered casualties in the fighting to reach Co C."
Delta 4/9 had been leading the way, but just short of the Hoc Mon Bridge Delta stopped in place and Charlie 4/9 passed through - and thus was in the lead at the bridge itself. Delta's lead platoon was in the western-most portion of the killing zone and took heavy fire, but Charlie 4/9 bore the brunt of the ambush.
The ambush was reported in the US as follows:
48 U.S. Soldiers Killed in Ambush on Edge of Saigon
SAIGON, South Vietnam, Monday, March 4-Forty-eight Americans have been killed and 28 wounded in the ambush of a United States infantry company four miles north of Tan Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon. Twenty enemy soldiers were killed.
Fewer than half of the company's 150 soldiers escaped unscathed, a United States military spokesman reported yesterday.
The ambush, one of the worst in the war, occurred Saturday [March 2nd]. Most of the American casualties came in an eight-minute burst of fire from machine guns, automatic rifle, mortars and rocket launchers. Mines were also detonated.
The ambush near Saigon occurred about 9:20 A.M. when troops of the Unites States' 25th Infantry Division marched through an old French rubber plantation. They took a road that runs between parallel canals several yards apart.
Well-informed military official say that the enemy unit - probably a reinforced company of perhaps 150 men - had hidden along the banks of these canals. In front of the advancing Americans another canal cut across the roads, but it was spanned by a bridge.
"Apparently when the lead elements of the company got to the bridge everything cut loose," the official said. "Then the VC broke contact, and that was it. It was all over in about eight minutes."
All of the units' officers - ordinarily there are six in a company - were either killed or wounded.
New York Times
Monday, March 4, 1968
GI Patrol Trapped, 48 Killed
SAIGON, March 4 (Monday) - Forty-eight members of a U.S. infantry company were killed and 28 others wounded in a weekend ambush nine miles north of Saigon, the American Command announced Sunday.
The weekend ambush was the worst mauling that an American unit of company size has ever suffered in the Saigon military district. The U.S. Command declined to say how many men were involved in the action, which began as a routine patrol. An Army rifle company normally has about 178 soldiers, but many companies in Vietnam are under strength.
The Vietcong sprang the trap at 9:15 Saturday morning. The Americans - part of the 25th Infantry Division - called for reinforcements and air support. The fighting finally sputtered out at nightfall.
Military spokesmen said a sweep of the area later turned up 20 enemy bodies and four weapons.
The ambush near Saigon occurred along a secondary road known as Route 248. This leads into Route 13 - known as "Bloody 13" because of past Communist activity along it - which connects Saigon with the strategic Central Highlands and the areas adjacent to the borders of Cambodia and Laos.
The Americans suffered most of their casualties in the first eight minutes of contact, spokesmen said. The enemy was said to have well entrenched. They hit the Americans with machine gun and small arms and Claymore mines, weapons that spew out thousands of pieces of shrapnel.
The U.S. Command withheld its report of the fighting for 24 hours. This may have been because of new regulations restricting the dissemination of some information on the ground that it might be useful to the enemy.
American and South Vietnamese forces have had numerous clashes with the enemy in the ambush area since the Tet offensive began on January 30. At one point, they stopped a guerrilla force believed to en enroute to attack the capital's Tan Son Nhut Airport.
Monday, March 4, 1968
As noted, 48 American's died at the Hoc Mon Bridge ... and one, PFC Augustine Vergara-Arbil, died two days later from wounds received in the ambush. The 49 are
- A Co, 65th Eng Bn:
- CPL Aristides Sosa, New York, NY (Dist Svc Cross)
- PFC Larry A. Widener, Youngstown, OH
- C Co, 4th Bn, 9th Infantry:
- 2LT James F. O'Laughlin, Dayton, OH
- SSG Charlie F. Lee, Elba, AL
- SGT Jerry W. Byers, Greenville, SC
- SGT Lee R. Lanier, Morganton, NC
- SGT Willard Skaggs, Sellersburg, IN
- SGT Walter C. Velvet, Waverly, VA
- SGT Kenneth W. Winget, Pueblo, CO
- SP4 Charles E. Bonds, Winston-Salem, NC
- SP4 William B. Cawley, Hobart, IN
- SP4 Alvin L. Cayson, Lexington, KY
- SP4 Nicholas J. Cutinha, Alva, FL (Medal of Honor)
- SP4 Bruce Eliot, Manhasset, NY
- SP4 Cal D. Johnson, White Deer, TX
- SP4 Thomas L. Mork, Newburgh, NY
- SP4 William Rassano, Berwyn, IL
- CPL Danny G. Swazick, Kansas City, KS
- SP4 Warren L. Tall, Moorhead, MS
- SP4 John M. Thompson, Grand Prairie, TX
- SP4 Carrel J. Titsworth, Reeds Spring, MO
- SP4 Gary W. Watkins, Blooming Grove, TX
- SP4 Virgil L. Williams, Snyder, CO
- SP4 Danny S. Young, Hendersonville, TN
- PFC Jose L. Alvarez-Tapia, Rio Piedras, PR
- PFC Gerald L. Avery, Mio, MI
- PFC Harlan R. Brandts, Sheldon, IA
- PFC Gary V. Frazier, Pocatello, ID
- PFC Michael D. Frost, Mercer Island, WA
- PFC Raymond L. Gallagher, Bozeman, MT
- PFC Lawrence Johnson, Chicago, IL
- PFC Jack J. Jordan, Columbia, MS
- PFC James R. Mathis, Buffalo, NY
- PFC Robert J. McGee, Whitnel, NC
- PFC Charles E. Melott, Rodgers, OH
- PFC Leonard D. Moore, Bessemer, AL
- PFC Kenneth L. Oldham, Indianapolis, IN
- PFC Roy D. Page, Eva, AL
- PFC Jose A. Reyes, Cotton Center, TX
- PFC Michael R. Rivers, Kennedale, TX
- PFC Ronald L. Salvani, New York, NY
- PFC Clifford G. Stockton, Chester, PA
- PFC Augustine Vergara-Arbil, New York, NY (DoW 03/05/1968)
- PFC Larry H. Walden, Columbus, MS
- PFC Darrell E. Wheeler, Live Oak, CA
- PFC Joseph J. Williams, St Louis, MO
- PFC Willard F. Young, Oxford, AL
- HHC, 4th Bn, 9th Infantry (medics with C/4/9):
- SP5 Ronald A. Slane, Lincoln City, OR
- PFC Paul E. West, Shawnee, KS