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War Stories

Battle for TayNinh - Aug to Sep 1968

In the military archives there is a 25th Infantry Division, Combat After Action Report of the Battle for Tay Ninh (dated 7 February 1969). It was a major Division level battle that lasted from 17 August to 27 September 1968. Most of the information here is about 19 August 1968

Gene Peters Video (Cav Reunion 2018)

Gene Yonke comments (Apr 2019)

Gene Yonke story - "Remembering 19 August 1968" from A Troop website

Bob Schneiderstory - "My Last Night"

Bob Schneider story- "Left Behind" from the War Stories section of A Troop website

Steve Chicione - The Craig Peterson Story

Bruce Powell "Gunship Notes" from the battle (Oct 2018)

Combat After Action Report the Battle for Tay Ninh

A Troop Website Timeline

 

 

Gene Yonke Comments Apr 2019

The picture that appeared as the background shot in Gene Peters video was the very last 35mm picture that I took while in Viet Nam. I was sitting in the cupola behind the .50 cal of 8 track when I took the shot. At the moment the picture was taken, 8 track was still on route 239, just about 20-40 feet prior to turning right onto highway 26. I wanted to capture the shot just before we actually made the turn and I guess I did. It was the last exposure I had left in my camera. The photo is shown below:

ambush pic

 

The modified map below shows the position of 8 track during the ambush, identifies the kill zone and labels the roads and the kill zone.

map

Gene mentioned that once he was loaded onto Craig's chopper, my driver, Larry Wilkerson carried Al Langford in a fireman's carry over to Craig's dust-off chopper. Al, our medic, had chosen to ride on 8 track that day. He always rode either on 6 track or 8 track. I lost two other men that day, also.

m113John Veara, our first sergeant was on one knee directly above and behind me. He was between the cargo hatch and immediately adjacent to the cupola. He was returning fire from his M-16 above my head. I turned around to warn him to take cover in the track as the position that he was in provided no protection whatsoever. When I spoke to him, he looked down toward me and immediately took a burst of AK fire to his chest, throwing him off the track onto the ground.

At that point we lowered the back ramp of the APC and Langford left the track to attend to John. Moments later, Al returned and announced that John was dead. Al was still outside of the track when 3rd platoon leader, Lt. Peterson approached him with a wound to his right forearm. While standing just beyond the tailgate and working on John Peterson's arm, Al took a round in the side of his chest which killed him. The same bullet that killed Al wounded Lt. Peterson once again. Peterson then took cover inside of 8 track at which time we raised the tail gate.

The third man that I lost that day was a Sgt E-5 who went by the name of Harry. Harry was in front of and atop of the track immediately in front of the cupola. The .50 itself was directed to our right flank. Harry took a burst of AK fire to his left arm. I never saw him again after that day although I spent years trying to locate him. It wasn't until the 2008 Ft. Mitchell reunion that I learned from John Moore that his name, more than likely, wasn't actually Harry, but Herman. He had been from Michigan and had passed away. I believe John told me that at the time, Harry was attached to our unit.

The Centaur's have done a nice job compiling Gene's video presentation as well as the rest of the site. Thanks for all your dedicated hard work and for saving our butts...more than once.
Best wishes, Gene Yonke

 

The Battle for Tay Ninh - Gunship Notes - 19 August 1968

by Bruce Powell (Oct 2018)

It is now October of 2018, a few days after the 3/4 Cavalry Reunion in Colorado Springs. At the reunion, I met and talked with Gene Peters of A Troop about the Battle for Tay Ninh and asked him if he knew anyone in the troop that might remember when I landed my AH-1G Cobra gunship on the road to prevent a cavalry element from entering an active enemy kill zone. He certainly did; and referred me to the A Troop website "Timeline" for 19 Aug 68 Counter Offensive Phase 5. Also to Tank Crewman Bob Schneider's story "Left Behind"  published in the A Troop War Stories Section.

I read Bob's story and also the Combat After Action Report, The Battle for Tay Ninh, by LTC Duquesne A. Wolfe, Commander, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division; and also reviewed the 3rd Squadron Log entries for that day.

Some vivid memories of that day were rekindled. I'm attempting to contact other Centaur Cobra Pilots who may have been with me. I remember a few events of that day because they were big time adrenaline rushes. We did close support like this continuously for so many different units and engagements, day in and day out, that it is often difficult to remember the overall tactical situation and units supported. 

I will tell the story from my perspective and include some of the new facts I have learned from the information provided by the A Troop guys and the Squadron Logs (Special thanks to Bob Schneider, Mel Moss and John Moore).

The 2nd and 3rd Platoons of A Troop and possibly other elements, were caught in a lengthy fortified kill zone East of Tay Ninh on highway 26 (the alternate convoy route into Tay Ninh). Rome Plows had cleared either side of the road of trees to make it harder to set up and execute an ambush. The problem was that they had not yet removed them. It didn't take much for the enemy to dig in behind the fallen trees and wait for the convoy.

The battle had been going on for sometime when my Centaur Cobra team arrived to replace a Diamond Head Gunship team from the 25th Aviation Battalion.

The Air Force and Artillery had plastered the areas on both sides of the road, and the Diamond Head gun team had been providing close air support.

I came on station with two Cobras and began hitting targets. Not sure who I was talking to on the ground, but the targets were easy enough to see. The big issue was how close could we get our fire to the road without hitting friendlies. 

Soon we were out of ammo and getting critical on fuel. The Diamond Head team had problems and had not yet returned to relieve us. I sent my wingman back to refuel and rearm and decided I would try to stay on station a little longer.

Either the guy on the ground told me that every time we rolled in we drew the enemy fire away from them or I just imagined it. Either way I told my front seat gunner about that and he said "Ok, Lets Do it". He knew damn well that I was going to attack without weapons to draw fire and give the guys on the ground some relief. 

Now wait a minute; this was not a crazy decision. It was really well thought out; although quickly. The Cobras were very new and fast. Most of the enemy were still using the old drawings showing that you lead a gunship by three lengths of the ship. At Cobra speeds they were shooting well behind us. We were not taking hits routinely like we did in our UH-1C model gunships.

So here goes; super steep dive, then high speed 2g pull out. Many people didn't know that the new Cobras had a smoke dispenser unit built into the belly. It held 12 smoke grenades in two rotating canisters. It hardly ever worked for me unless I was in a high speed dive pullout. I punched off a few at the right time thinking to myself "why didn't I load that with frag grenades?". 

I completed the maneuver and climbed for another run, gleefully imagining the VC running for cover from the impending doom of whatever I had sent their way. 

We were really, really low on fuel (like 15 minutes into the 20 minute fuel warning light) but decided that after one more run we could climb for Tay Ninh then autorotate into the basecamp when the engine quit. It probably sounds silly to you now, but it was a reasonable risk. (Well, one of us thought so). We were not hit; our fellow Calvarymen were getting the crap shot out of them; so let's do everything we can to help.

On second run, the VC got smart and hosed us good.  I wasn't really concerned about getting a few AK-47 hits; we got that all the time with the old C model gunships; but when the first 51 cal hit my right skid, Wow, that got my attention. I pulled out at treetop level with heavy vibrations, not knowing whether something important got hit or I was just going into retreating blade stall (that is where you are going so fast that the rotor blades have no lift on the left side, or retreating blade side, and the aircraft begins to come apart in some terrible ways.

I got below their range while avoiding some rubber trees that were too tall and was turning for Tay Ninh. That is when I saw an armored unit ripping up the road through the clearing headed straight for the Rubber Tree kill zone. Where the hell is a C&C bird? Isn't somebody in charge of this mess? Maybe the unit had been briefed and were ordered in there. Didn't make sense to me. I had to be sure they knew what they were headed for.

My aircraft was very nimble now, with no fuel or ammo and a few extra holes, so I turned it on a dime and headed for the lead tank. My gunner spotted a guy frantically riding a bike out of the kill zone towards the tank. I had knocked guys off of bikes and motorbikes with my OH-23G Scout Aircraft, but never with a Cobra. I flared, knocked the guy and his bike some distance into the field, then sat my Cobra down perpendicular across the road in front of the oncoming tank.

"Cover me!" I said to my front seat gunner. I guess that came from watching too many John Wayne movies. I don't know what he said back but it was probably not flattering. He opened his canopy then swiveled his empty weapons turret to the left towards the kill zone, and tried to look menacing. He may have had a CAR 15.

I scrambled out the right side of the Cobra with my map and ran to the tank. I do remember Bob Schneider's facial expression when I jumped up on his tank (I didn't know him at the time). Sort of a "What the F…?" look. I pointed out what I knew about the kill zone on his map and got his radio frequency. Then I pointed at the guy I had knocked into the field and said "He just rode out of the kill zone and might provide good intel."

We made it back to Tay Ninh and got patched up enough to get back to Cu Chi for some serious maintenance.

I never did know until now if we had helped or hindered the overall mission. I never said anything about it to anyone at our Operations thinking that some high ranking C&C bird commander might be looking for the pilot that interfered with his battle. I rotated home a week or two later. My second extension had been turned down.

 

The Battle for Tay Ninh - My Last Night - August 1968

by Bob Schneider

Medivaced by Craig Peterson

I was on watch and it was about midnight on Aug 24th, 1968. I was sitting behind the loaders hatch. We had an unauthorized co-ax mounted up there. The 50 was in front of the TC’s hatch. We sat on watch behind the loaders hatch because snipers and RPG’s always hit the TC’s cupola. Ronnie Walker was sleeping on the drivers hatch in front. On the disabled tank they had the motor running, the Infra Red on, and were reporting movement to our front (south). They did get permission to recon by fire. This went on for maybe a half an hour.

I woke up the driver sleeping on the front slope and told him to get on the back deck as we had movement or our front. He did do that. I was drinking an O.B. (Korean) beer and just as I finished it and threw the empty can down over the side all hell broke loose. An RPG hit the search light (which wasn’t turned on). I got shrapnel in the left eye and I just thought it was dirt or something. Everybody unassed the tank thinking it was knocked out I suppose. I stayed on, I emptied the co-ax machine gun that was in front of me. I jumped up behind the 50 caliber in the TC’s hatch and emptied it. I fired the main gun. I went down inside to reload the main gun and came up as fast as I could (I did not want to be inside for fear of getting hit, and/or having someone sneak up and pop a grenade in on me).

Just as I got back up, the APC on my left (east) went up in a ball of fire. Three guys were flying in the air. I reloaded and emptied the 50, and fired the main gun. I went down to the front of the tank and popped the 1st shot on the fire extinguisher cuz the drivers compartment was on fire. I reloaded the 50 and the 90. When I came back up, the APC on my right was blown away (Ray Spinler got killed then).

There were 4 gooks putting the bums rush on me. One of them had an RPG and they were running towards the tank from about my 11 oclock position. I got all 4 of them with the 90. I saw their limbs flying in the air and I can still see that in my mind today - just like playing it back on a VCR.

I stayed on top for a while working with the 50. I was afraid that if I went back down to load the 90, somebody would be able to get to me. It seemed like forever. I kept working with the 50, and started on the 90 again. I had about 8 or 9 cases laying on the turret floor and they would jam up the turret every now and then.

One time when I just got back up, I saw a muzzle flash from about 11 oclock. I stood on the TC’s seat so only my chest up was sticking out of the TC’s cupola. I took out my zippo lighter and lit it and held it at arms length above me. I again saw the muzzle flash and I fired the 90 over there. I re-lit the zippo and did not receive anymore fire from that direction. Eventually Suddeth came back, and I told him to get in and back this baby up to the north side of the road since we were the only ones left of the perimeter on the south side of the road. We just got there and we were receiving heavy fire from about the 9 oclock position.

Suds was on the back deck hosing with his M16. There was a big flash and an RPG went over the top of the tank. I jumped back down on the TC’s seat and traversing the main gun over that way. I just got lined up and there was a hell of an explosion. Everything goes into SLOW motion when this stuff happens. The only was I can describe it is like you are a fly getting hit by a fly swatter in mid air. I flew up against the inside of the cupola. I wanted to touch the left side of my head but I was afraid to because I thought I would feel my brains coming out. I started to fall inside the turret and as I was going down all I could hear was a real loud buzzing in my ears. I thought to myself in a peaceful sort of way, “well God, I guess this is it”. I figured it was all over with and I wasn’t worried or anything.

Then I landed on the floor inside the turret and I opened my eyes. All I could see was blood and fire all over. I immediately got up and started climbing out - fire has scared the hell out me ever since Jan 20th. On the way out I cooked off the main gun. I grabbed an m16 and there was very heavy fire coming from the left. I pulled myself over the side of the cupola as low as I could get so I wouldnt get hit again. I fell onto the ground head first. I looked down and my left leg had the bone sticking out of the thigh, my pants leg was gone and my foot was rotated about 270 degrees. I distinctly remember saying “well I’ll be damned”.

I took off my shirt and made a tourniquet out of the sleeves as best I could. While trying to hold the tourniquet with my left hand, I was laying on my back in like a creedmoor positon, firing the M16 with my right hand and trying to push (crawl) with my right leg. It hurt like hell. My left leg was what seemed to be about 1 foot longer then my right. Only a small piece of skin on the inside of the knee was holding it together. I was coming up on a foxhole and there were two guys in there blazing with an M60 machine gun. I was yelling as loud as I could “help me, help me, I’m a GI, I’m with the 3/4 horse” One guy got out of the hole and ran to another foxhole. They got a guy in the next hole to man the 60 while the two of them came out and grabbed me under each arm and dragged me into the perimeter.

A medic came along and gave me a shot (morphine?) In the right (okay leg) and told me don’t drink any water or I might drown on my vomit. A while later, some Sgt came by and said “hows it going Schneider?? I said “fine sarge, I’ll be out of this fuckin army in 6 months” (I figured 6 months to get an artificial leg and get out - How LITTLE did I know!!!) Pretty soon the driver who I woke up came by and asked if there was anything he could do for me. I said if you can get me some water I’d appreciate it. He got me a FULL canteen, I dont know where cause we didnt have any water earlier in the day. I drank the whole thing. This killed the effect of the morphine and the leg started hurting like hell. I remember crying and begging God top save me.

The medevac choppers started coming in and could not land because of heavy ground fire and their rules of engagement. I remember seeing the Red Crosses on them. Finally a Centaur Huey came in and started taking the wounded out to various evac hospitals etc.

Later, at the Cavalry reunion in Kentucky....I think it was 1990, I found out that it was Craig Peterson..Centaur 63 from the 3/4 Cav and from Apple Valley no less (1 mile from where I lived) who medevaced me out of there. I remember when getting medevaced that this guy was wearing a purple scarf which is strange and not military type,

When medevacs finally did come to Dau Tieng I was on about the 4th or 5th one out of triage. I didnt know such a thing as triage existed back then. There were many flights by he medevac helicopters to take out all of the wounded from Dau Tieng to main US Hosp in Saigon.

Keep in mind that A troop when at full strength would have been 21 APC’s, 9 tanks, and 180 to 200 men. On the day after I was told (again many years later) that there were 3 APC’s and 11 men left from our unit that were uninjured.

Centaur flew me into a field hospital in Dau Tieng. They were pulling me off of the chopper (on a strecher) and jamming and I.V. into my arm and running at the same time towards the hospital aarea. Inside was the same medic that I said “see you later” to the day or so before. Some guy was there with burns on his groin and was worrying if he would ever have intercourse with his wife again. The medic was scissoring my boot and pants off of me. They put a rubber splint on which hurt like hell. I told the medic that I said I’d see him again.

They started hustling me out on the same stretcher and jamming more I.V.’s into me. For all I know, it may have been the same helicopter I came in on that they put me on. I think I went to a hospital near Long Binh, all I remember it was dawn and I was being wheeled in on a gurney on the same stretcher.

A doctor told me to open my eye. I couldn’t and he said “open your eye BOY!!!” This really pissed me off some non combat dude calling me a boy, you’d better believe I opened my eye. They were jamming another I.V. into me and the next thing I knew was I was in a cast up to my chest (1-1/2 hip spika) I expected to see five toes at the foot of the bed. I looked as hard as I could and I saw 10 toes. Then I started to think, see if you can move them or feel with them, but be careful because this will probably hurt like hell. I braced myself expecting a lot of pain and moved them. It didn’t hurt and they moved. I thought “well I’ll be damned”. I had to stay there the rest of that day and night, and the next day I was to move on.