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War Stories

Battle of the Hobo Woods 29 Jan 1968 (TET)

Updated 21 May 2016
Click on these names to see their input: Morrison Pickett, Todd Jackson, Robert Warner, Ralph Mabry, Tuioalele Suiaunoa, Bill Mosenthal, John Collins, Tom Owen, John Wimberly, Pat Eastes, Rick Arthur, Tom Fleming, TJ Lange, Norm Clark, Doug Olsen, Bill Altenhofen, Walter Cooke, Lee Burgess, Harry Swiencki, Jim Ashbranner, Dennis Pfoor, Larry Lodding, Michael Greber, Col Adams, Buck Buxton, Walt Baum, Ted Mathis- Email Discussion - History Channel Movie

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In the afternoon of 29 Jan 1968, two days before TET (The Battle for Saigon), one the biggest battles of the war for the Centaurs took place. Five of our Aeroriflemen were killed and 4 were wounded; the 2/27th Wolfhounds had 3 KIA and 6 or 7 wounded; 268 enemy were killed. It involved nearly every element of D Troop. An early morning kill of an NVA soldier by the Dawn Patrol (Buxton & Baum) My have kicked off this whole sequence of events. The unbelievable teamwork that day demonstrated the value of having a well trained, self contained unit like the Centaurs. This was also camaraderie at the highest level.

KIA: SSG Morrison Pickett, CPL Todd Jackson, SSG Robert Warner, SGT Ralph Mabry, SSG Tuioalele Suiaunoa

Wounded: 1LT Bill Mosenthal was hit in his ammo pouch, causing internal injuries; SGT John Collins, left arm; Sgt Tom Owen, left arm; and SP4 John Wimberly, headwound, bullet hit his helmet and the helmet caused the wound.

The Battle was so significant that the story was recreated by the History Channel on its' "Shoot Out" television program in July of 2010. They listed it as one of the most significant "Shoot Outs" of the war.

They used video testimonies, reenactments, and graphic animation to show the platoon of AeroRifles from D Troop (Air), 3/4 Cav taking on an NVA Regiment (multiple Battalions) and possibly saving Saigon from being overrun during TET of 1968. Their reenactments are dramatic, and it is a great overview of the battle. See their video.

Author Keith Nolan wrote up the battle in his book "The Battle for Saigon".
He included a bit of the Hobo Woods Battle in his book.

Dale Dow has provided the Squadron Daily Staff Journal for that time period: click here to see the pdf file.

This information is great, but it is not the whole story. There is much more to be told by the men who were there.

We want to use this section of the website to gather the rest of the story and someday present it in a single Essay or even a screenplay.

Here is what Pat Eastes put together in line with that Essay mission: "Firefight in the Hobo"

Mosenthal Audio: The History Channel used only a small portion of their original video interviews with Bill Mosenthal and John Collins. We edited Bill's presentation down to a 22 minute audio which you can listen to here.

Video stories:
Click on these names below to view personal videos telling of their remembrances of that day.

Buck Buxton tells of the early morning (Dawn Patrol) kill of a regular NVA soldier that may have caused the Division to insert LRRPs to get more info.

Rick Arthur tells of the LRRP insertions that preceded the AeroRifle Platoon insertion.

Tom Fleming has two videos. PreBattle (Part One) and Commanders Overview (Part Two) of the Battle

John Collins addresses the ground actions of he and Tom Owens and of them both getting wounded.

Pat Eastes flying UH-1C Gunship support overhead.

TJ Lange as Crewchief of aircraft 462, dropping ammo and supplies to the troops.

Norm Clark, gunner in 513 covering the action.

Bill Altenhofen tells what happened the next day in a sweep of the area and capture of an NVA lieutenant.

Text stories:

Walter Cooke and Smokey Burgess were the OH-23 Scout team providing the amazing support for most of the battle. Smokey has passed on, but Walter has written his recollections.

Dennis Pfoor, was a machine gunner with the 2nd squad and tells his story.

Harry Swiencki, was a crew chief with Cooke and Burgess. We await his input.

Leland "Smokey" Burgess did a Veterans History Project video in 2002. In it he gives a detailed accounting of what he and Walter Cooke did in their OH-23 aircraft. He mentions SSG Pickett directing their fire on each pass until he was killed. It is a long video. Get it started then use the slider at the bottom to move to different areas of Smokey's testimony. We hope to eventually obtain and edit the video into sections for this website.

Ted Mathis, Wolfhound unit leader that came to rescue. Awaiting his story.

Audio discussion:
At the reunion in Nashville (2012) Bill Mosenthal hosted a session dedicated to discussing this battle. The idea was to get as many of the survivors and support troops together as we could to compare stories and fill in gaps prior to each of them making video testimonies of their portion. In attendance were Bill Mosenthal, Tom Fleming, Bill Altenhofen, John Collins, Pat Eastes, Norm Clark, Jim Ashabranner and Rick Arthur. Rick recorded the 50 minute session on audio tape. You can listen to the mostly unedited versions here. Since this was intended to be a coordinating session, much of it is also covered in the individual video presentations above. It is left in here because it contain details not yet covered by a video. Below sketch map provided by Bill Altenhofen.

Sketch

Can you help?
Some of you may have been there! Think about that timeframe. What other gunships were available that day besides 462 and 513? Who were the crew members? Does anyone have contact with Tom Owens? What did it look like from the air? Can you suggest any improvements to the sketch made by Bill Altenhofen of the battlefield (located in the audio section)?

Support Units:
We seek input from the 2/27th Wolfhounds and their Commander Col Adams who, with extremely short notice, came to the rescue of the Centaurs. It was said that he was happy to return the rescue favor for the Centaurs who had so many times helped him out. We would also like to hear from those of the 116th (Hornets) who managed to come up with the necessary lift aircraft to make the rescue happen.
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Email Discussion:

Tom Fleming 08 Nov 2011
One of the survivors of the battle who was found the next day in the sweep of the contact area by 2/27 and CPT Haskell Stone and SSG Altenhofen was a soldier by the name of Michael Gerber (no email) 2268 Victory Blvd, Staten Island NY.  I corresponded with him back in the ‘90s helping him get a Purple Heart (that he legitimately deserved) that he wanted to prove to the VA that he had the basis for a claim for PTSD.  He and another trooper (whose name I can’t remember) drove into the stream when the battle started, hunkered down and stayed there all night through all the artillery, rockets and gun fire and survived without a scratch.  He may have a story to tell that will add to the overall story of the battle.  I think I queered Bill Mosenthal about him and he didn’t have much to say about him then.  I never asked SSG Altenhofen.  I may have asked Dale, I can’t remember. Tom

Bill Mosenthal 11 Sep 2011
His name is actually ‘Greber’. I corresponded with him a few years ago about some VA benefits he was seeking, sent him some corroborating information. He is not particularly communicative but it is worth a try. I think Bill Altenhofen retrieved him out of the creek the next morning.   …Bill M.