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War Stories

How LRRP Scored Big in Op. 'Gadsden'

Page 8 TROPIC LIGHTNING NEWS February 27, 1967 by Sp4 Doug Kearney

TLN

LRRP mission involving SGT Jerry L. Caldwell, CPT Gary L. Hatfield, CPT Joseph Lacy, SSgt. Patrick L. Lacy, CPL Albert G. Pruden Jr.,

SP4 Larry D. McIntosh and PFC William J. Boyd III.

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"The eyes and ears of the division."  That's what Maj. Gen. Fred C. Weyand calls the 25th Inf. Div. Long Range Reconnaissance  Patrol (LRRP), and that's what he called decorated the men of two patrols recently for their part in Operation "Gadsden."

Two Silver Stars, a Distinguished Flying Cross, six Bronze Star Medals with "V" device, and three Air Medals with "V' device were presented to the men of the two teams by General Weyand.

The general credited the two teams with pinpointing the position of enemy forces.  As a result, he was able to request an emergency B-52 raid to destroy the Viet Cong.

The first team went out on patrol from January 31 to February 2 under the leadership of Sgt. Jerry L. Caldwell, 29, of Kingsport, Tenn., a member of Trp D, 3rd Sqdn., 4th Cav.

That evening four armed VC came straight toward the teams' position.  The team opened up with rifle fire and called in artillery to within 50 yards of its own position.  The team broke contact and moved several hundred yards to set up for the night.

Toward dawn the next morning, the team spotted 12 VC within the span of 90 minutes, but were able to stay hidden.  The five men moved about 100 yards before they heard sounds and stopped.  They called for artillery fire and waited.  After the firing stopped everything was quiet.

Suddenly, things began happening a little too quickly for comfort.  At 8 a.m., four VC were spotted near their position.  A few minutes later, six more came nearby and turned off into the woods.  The five-man team waited and watched.  Then at 9 a.m. the sounds of voices came from all around their position.  It was time to go and they called for a helicopter to extract them.

Half an hour later, nearly 20 VC began closing in on the team.  Them men pulled in and tried to remain hidden, but they were spotted by several Viet Cong, a scant 10 feet away, and had to open fire.  The pilot of the pick-up chopper arrived before the gunships.

Sensing the urgency of the situation, aircraft commander Capt. Gary I. Hatfield landed in the burning landing zone, and with cover from the door gunners, the team escaped.

Sgt. Caldwell was awarded the Silver Star.  Capt. Hatfield the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Capt. Joseph A. Lacy, 28, of Columbus, Ga., commander of the LRRP detachment, led the second patrol into enemy territory in the early morning of February 3.

From late afternoon until early the next morning, about 150 Viet Cong filed past their position.  They moved in small groups, widely spaced, and they all carried weapons ranging from pistols to light automatic weapons.  Capt. Lacy crawled to within ten yards of the moving enemy to observe and count them.

Late in the afternoon of the same day an air raid bell sounded and American planes soon were over the area, dropping bombs nearby.  Soon after, activity started again, and the patrol heard digging within 20 yards of their night position, but they stayed where they were.

Early the next morning the patrol moved out toward a bridge they had to cross, but spotted a VC ambush.  Capt. Lacy moved close to the enemy position and called in an air strike, killing four VC and capturing a rifle.  The patrol moved out and crossed the bridge.  They had gone 200 yards when they were spotted by two Viet Cong with rifles.  After a brief fire fight, one of the enemy lay dead and the other escaped.  The patrol reached their rendezvous point and was extracted without further incident.

Capt. Lacy was awarded the Silver Star for his action, and the other four members of the team each received Bronze Star Medals with "V" device.  They were SSgt. Patrick L. Lacy, Cpl. Albert G. Pruden Jr., Sp4 Larry D. McIntosh and PFC William J. Boyd III.