Monday, August 15, 2022

Book tells tale of a mission gone wrong

by ROGER GREGORY Contributing Writer
| August 3, 2022 1:00 AM

Oct. 17-18, Vietnam, 1st Infantry Division (My division when I was there in 1966), Black Lions Battalion commanded by Lt. Col. Terry Allen, son of General Allen, who had commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Europe in World War II.

Company D commanded by 1st. Lt. Clark Welch and was a hero of the battle. It was near the Cambodia border. The mission was basically a screw up. This is from the book, "They Marched Into the Sunlight". They were on a mission to go after Viet Cong in the jungle, commonly called a search and destroy mission, but it was the Americans who were destroyed.

The usual B-52 strikes were way off target, the artillery barrage on the Viet Cong was stopped due to a snafu in the orders. A Company was in the lead and had spotted 7-10 Viet Cong, they pursued.

In second platoon, Private Arias saw something flash above him, the trees were moving and someone is in them and were shooting at them. They had walked into an ambush.

Private 1st Class Breeden was the first to die. Company commander Jim George of Alpha Company was shot in the face. Welch and Delta company moved up in support, but the battalion was getting hit from three sides, front, left and right. Our troops were dropping right and left, the order came to “fall back," and they fought their way back to the battalion command post.

The Viet Cong had a regiment, greatly outnumbering the Americans, the Viet Cong pursued the two companies. Lt. Clark Welch was hit several times and other men were getting shot and killed or wounded, all around him, it was a massacre.

At the command post, Lt. Col. Allen was shot and wounded, he continued to give orders, until he was shot again and killed. Radio men, medics were all shot and killed. Finally more American troops came up to support, the Viet Cong then took off as they normally did. Going in, both companies were only at about half-strength. From the battle a typical story, Greg Landon had taken off his radio, was trying to unjam his gun and was shot and killed. Lt. Welch lying wounded told his men to leave him, he would provide covering fire support, but his men admired him and took him half dragging him back to the rear.

A total of 58 soldiers were killed and almost 100 wounded, which amounted to half of the two companies, or one out of two soldiers were killed or wounded. The 1st Infantry division commander wouldn’t admit that a battalion of the 1st Division had been wiped out, but it happened.

Roger Gregory is a Vietnam veteran, serving in the 1st Infantry Division, and is business owner in Priest River.

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