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War Stories

The Crescent - Sep 1970

The story of SGT Milan Lee's death

This is an article that was condensed from the full 25th Div After Action Report Report 26

People Interviewed for the Article

Maps and Overlay Sketchs

Comments from Jack Nemeyer 15 Jan 2014

 

Centaurs mentioned: CW2 Loren McCoy, SP4 John Adams, SGT Milan Lee (KIA), MAJ Robert L.Grof, 1LT James Dunham, CPT Michael J. Hagger, CPT Ted R. Mathis, CW2 Michael Mayer

Crescent (XT397496) Tay Ninh Province Troop D (-), 3rd Squadron, 4th cavalry and 1st and 2nd Platoons, Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry.

Intelligence indicated that elements of the 101st NVA Regiment were operating in the area. 

The air and ground reconnaissance undertaken by D/3-4 Cav and A/3-4 Cav in the contact area were initiated to try and detect this meeting and/or locate enemy infiltration routes or supply points in the area.

The mission of the LOH, as part of a Light Scout Team (LST), was to visually recon the general area around the Crescent (XT3949) to detect enemy movement along trails which showed signs of recent activity.

The Aero Rifle Platoon from D/3-4 Cav was on an insertion mission to the northwest into a suspected enemy base camp.

A/3-4 Cav was engaged in searching for the meeting area of political and military personnel of COSVN, which was supposed to have been in the area, as well as searching for enemy supply and infiltration points.

1325 hours, the crew of a light observation helicopter (LOH) from Troop D, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry was conducting a low level reconnaissance flight over the area of the Crescent (XT397496) when signs of enemy activity were detected (see Sketch Map 1).  Reconning as part of a LST, the LOH was accompanied by an AH1G Cobra gunship.

The LOH was piloted by CW2 Loren McCoy, SP4 John Adams was the crew chief and SGT Milan Lee the observer/gunner.  Two and three man trails were spotted.  Visual reconnaissance was conducted for approximately 20 minutes, during which time no sign of the enemy was observed.  To make a determination of how recent the enemy activity in the area was, Mr. McCoy decided to land and check out the water jug and trails.

As the LOH made its final approach, approximately 10-15 feet from the landing site, an unobserved enemy opened fire on the aircraft.  The initial burst sprayed the front of the aircraft (18 rounds total, 13 rounds hit the front of the LOH) wounding CW2 McCoy in the right arm and killing SP4 Lee.

As McCoy and Adams exited the aircraft, they began to return fire toward the suspected enemy position with an M16 rifle and an M60 machine gun.  While McCoy was firing, Adams crawled back into the aircraft and confirmed that Lee was dead.  During this time, the accompanying Cobra engaged an estimated three to four enemy 100 meters to the southwest of the downed LOH.

Responding to the emergency call from the Cobra, a mini-cav of three UH1H helicopters and two AH1G Cobras was diverted from another mission, 15 kilometers to the west, and inserted the Aero Rifle Platoon (ARP) 25 meters south of the downed LOH.  The time elapsed from the call for assistance and the insertion of the ARP was less than 10 minutes.

On the ground, the ARP swept the immediate area and formed a perimeter around the downed LOH as preparations for extraction were made.  As the mini-cav was inserted, CW 2 McCoy and SP4 Adams were evacuated to Dau Tieng.  The dust-off ship returned immediately and removed the body of SP4 Lee to Dau Tieng.

1435 hours  The heavily damaged LOH was extracted by a UH1H helicopter.

1545 hours.  The ARP then swept the area to the west, found one enemy KIA (BC)(see Sketch Map 2) and returned to the vicinity of the downed LOH.

1600 hours The 1st and 2nd Platoons of Troop A, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, who were on a ground reconnaissance approximately 6 kilometers to the east, joined the ARP (Aerorifle Platoon) and together, the two units made a further search to the west (see Sketch Map 3) finding nothing.

1630 hours The ARP returned and was extracted.

1700 hrs, the prisoner-of-war captured by A/3-4 Cav on 19 September in the vicinity of XT395496 identified his unit as the 3rd Company, D14 Battalion of Tay Ninh Province which had been inactive during the last few months.

The PW (Prisoner of War) stated that the 3rd Company's headquarters was located about 4 kilometers northwest of his place of capture.  He did not know the whereabouts of the D14 Battalion headquarters but had heard it was located in the jungles of Duong Minh Chau, Tay Ninh Province.

Captain Thomas Morgan, the Commander of A/3-4, continued the search, this time moving his two platoons farther south and west.  An LST (Centaur 40 and 55) flying cover for A/3-4 Cav observed and engaged an estimated six enemy soldiers inside a bamboo hedgerow to the north of where A/3-4 Cav was sweeping (see Sketch Map 4).

Captain Morgan moved the 2nd platoon north to the area of contact.  They found one wounded enemy soldier and evacuated him to Dau Tieng.  Movement was then detected in some bushes to the south.  As the 2nd Platoon swung around and cordoned the area, Morgan ordered his 1st Platoon to check out the area due east where fishtraps, footprints and other signs of enemy activity had been reported (see Sketch Map 4).

Dismounts from the 1st Platoon moved to the bushes where they received small arms fire.  The dismounts pulled back and the tracks were brought up.  The area was heavily fragged and swept with fire.  Another dismounted sweep was conducted and one seriously wounded enemy soldier was found who later died of wounds.

As the sweep continued, a third enemy fired and wounded one US dismounted soldier.  The man was evacuated to Dau Tieng by Centaur 40 (LOH), while fire was returned into the enemy position.  A final sweep uncovered another seriously wounded enemy soldier who died almost immediately.

As darkness closed in, a night laager site was set up and resupply arranged.  The Centaurs remained on station to recon suspected enemy positions.  Later that evening, the Centaurs were replaced by Diamondhead gunships and Shadow 67 (spooky) which placed illumination and fire on the wood lines throughout the night.

This operation was a successful air and ground reconnaissance carried out by 1st Brigade elements. Enemy personnel losses during the day were three killed and one wounded prisoner-of-war captured.  US forces suffered one man killed and two men wounded.

Lee, Milar SGT D/3-4 Cav 19 Sep 70 KIA

McCoy, Loren     WO2     530449436     D/3-4 Cav     19 Sep 70 WIA

Arenholz, Kenneth     SP4     094403221     A/3-4 Cav     19 Sep 70 WIA

 

People interviewed for this article included:

Adams, John W. SP4 Crew chief, D/3-4 Cav
Beel, John A. SGT FO, 3-13th Arty
Dunham, James 1LT Platoon Commander, ARP/3-4 Cav
Grof, Robert L. MAJ CO, D/3-4 Cav
Hagger, Michael J. CPT Platoon commander, ARP/3-4 Cav
Mathis, Ted R. CPT XO, Forward Operations
Mayer, Michael WO2 Pilot, ARP/3-4 Cav Command Ship
McCoy, Loren WO2 Pilot of Downed LOH
Morgan, Thomas CPT CO, A/3-4 Cav

 

Maps


Map of Crescent area - 1:50,000

Sketch Map 1: General Area

Sketch Map 2: Initial ARP Sweep and Find of First KIA

Sketch Map 3: Linkup and Joint Sweep of ARP and A/3-4 Cav

Sketch Map 4: A/3-4 Cav Movement and Contact

 

Map of Crescent area - 1:50,000

CrescentMap

 

 

Sketch Map 1: General Area

Sketch1

 

 

Sketch Map 2:Initial ARP Sweep and Find of First KIA

Sketch2

 

 

Sketch Map 3: Linkup and Joint Sweep of ARP and A/3-4 Cav

Sketch3

 

 

Sketch Map 4: A/3-4 Cav Movement and Contact

Sletch4

Comments from Jack Nemeyer 15 Jan 2014:

I was CPT Hagger's CE. I have pictures (Slides) taken at Altitude of this area showing impacts of Cobra Rockets.

We landed at the Loach as it sat on the ground and his body (Lee) was still inside.

David Atkinson was given the task of "cleaning " up the blood out of the aircraft and Got into a heap of trouble by a bunch of Jerk ass Officers from another unit who were cutting thru the Corral and thought they'd stop and laugh about all the blood and take a bunch of pictures ! He got into a mouth match with em and they tried to press charges against him thru our CO. He got his ass chewed is all..... I think.

Cleaning out Blood Soaked AC is never easy, we had NO WATER..... That loach took several boxes of hootch maid tide and the Fire Dept pump truck. Dave worked his ass off on that mess...... Jack

Updated 28 May 2015