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The Plei Trap had a nickname - the Valley of Tears. And into the Valley of Tears came the men of the 4th Infantry Division.
The 4th's Second Brigade had arrived in Vietnam in August 1966, and the entire Division had closed by mid-September 1966. Between September and the end of the year, 4th ID engaged in heavy jungle training and operations in the coastal plain area of I Corps.
In early January 1967 the 4th Infantry Division moved into the western area of the Central Highlands, determined to engage the North Vietnamese Army's 1st and 10th Divisions. Operation Sam Houston began immediately, with US units clearing the highland plains of Pleiku and Kontum Provinces, preparatory to more substantial campaigns west of the Nam Sathay River.
Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.|
Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
The 2nd Brigade, 4th ID, crossed the river in mid-February, entering the Valley of Tears. Artillery and air support was difficult due to the terrain and weather conditions. Joined by the 1st Brigade, the 4th Division pushed slowly westwards, hoping to trap the NVA close to the Cambodian border. Instead, they suffered constant ambush in ideal defensive terrain. By mid-March, both brigades began pulling back to the eastern side of the Se Sanh River.
In the last major engagement of Operation Sam Houston, elements of the 1st Bn, 8th Infantry, were employed as blocking forces intended to hamper the movement of NVA forces. On 22 March 1967, near the village of Polei Duc the 85 men of Alpha Company, First of the 8th Infantry, were ambushed by a battalion or more of North Vietnamese regulars - well trained troops familiar with the terrain.
Storm'd at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well,|
Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
"We were supposed to be a blocking force against a small unit of NVA that had been spotted by a Recon Team and spotter plane. We choppered out to an LZ on the 21st and proceeded to march towards the NVA force. When we set up our perimeter that night I as well as others were on LP's.
Next morning we set out for the final position and were ambushed by a Battalion sized NVA outfit. The battle started around 7:30 AM and the heaviest fighting ended around 4:30 PM. Lighter fighting continued after 4:30 PM while the choppers were getting the wounded out."
John Nelson, SP4, A/1/8
They that had fought so well Came thro' the jaws of Death,|
Back from the mouth of Hell, All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
The day's action brought the men of Alpha 1/8 one Medal of Honor, two Distinguished Service Crosses, seven Silver Stars, a number of Bronze Stars, too many Purple Hearts - and the pride of brotherhood and heroism that Alfred Lord Tennyson captured in the Charge of the Light Brigade.
|Alpha Company, 1st of the 8th Infantry|
|PFC Floyd Barker||PFC James A Cunningham|
|PFC Blair E Dennis||PFC Ralph Gray|
|PFC Charles F Harrison||PFC Jacob A Horn|
|PFC Richard D Kaminski||PFC Gary M Ladd|
|SP4 Raul Montes||SP4 John A Mott|
|SGT Timothy X Murphy||SP4 Dennis A Prentice|
|CPT William D Sands||SP4 Richard S Sedies|
|SP4 David Vasquez||PFC Ralph M Wentzel|
|PFC Junior Wilkerson||PFC Billy J Witzkoski|
|PFC John Zupan||ARVN Scout (Name unknown)|
|A Bty, 6th Bn, 29th Fld Arty, FO Team|
|PFC Jerry L Pickworth||2LT Thomas E Shannon|
|Bravo Company, 1st of the 8th Infantry|
|SP4 William T Kauffer||PFC William J O'Brien|
|PFC Joseph R Piambino||PFC Daniel M Taylor|
|PFC Robert D Jenkins||SP4 Calvin E Schwartz|
When can their glory fade? All the world wonder'd.|
Honor the charge they made!
Noble six hundred!
Johnathan Lee Nelson
A 1/8 4ID Vietnam 1966 1967
Poem Copyright ©2001 Johnathan Nelson
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Last updated on 14 April 2001