I can’t remember the exact date, but it was around the time when the Ist Division went home. I want to say it was November of 1969 with the Big Red One 1st of the 16th Mech. Inf.
Our Platoon was heading back to get resupplied from our HQ Co about three miles away. The lead track (Iron Butterfly) hit a 750 mine in front of me as I was driving the 2nd (Blood Sweat and Tears) of a two APC convoy. The squad was through into the trees from the explosion and the driver was trapped inside.
We first checked for ambush and did not receive any fire from outside our AO. Myself, and I think it was Jack Speck and Mark Cripion left our tracks to rescue the five injured and dug out the driver from the track. Our medic was somewhat shell shocked. He was running around putting wraps on the injured men and letting them wander out in the jungle. We told him to sit down and we would perform the medi-vac as we did. He sat there and did nothing at all.
We had completed the tasked and were ordered by the major fling in the chopper overhead. He requested we remove all the guns, ammo, and supplies from the track and blow in place. As I entered Iron Butterfly, my Sergeant called out “ambush”. I climbed out of the track and went to grab the 60 cal to prepare to return fire. We heard two major explosions, but could not figure out where it was coming from. We later found that out when I got out of the track to prepare for an ambush and two others went in to complete the mission of getting the equipment out of the track. They were both KIA when the claymore mines we carried exploded. We later found out that the three other units with the name of Iron Butterfly had as well hit mines within two hours.
Then we packed up and went on about our mission to get supplies for the rest of the platoon. We really thought no more of the situation, other than our friends that we lost. Our Medic was a conscientious objector and did not carry a gun.
Well about two or three weeks later we were in the rear in our base in Li Kay or ZION for our day and half of R&R. Jack and I were walking to the EM club when we saw a lifer ceremonies giving out medals for whatever went on that month. I told Jack “ Hey, let's watch this for a few minutes and then go get a beer.” He agreed as we did.
Well who do we see go up and get a SILVER STAR? Our medic for the exact situation that we had just gone through. Now keep in mind that there were only about 8 troops at the scene and two were KIA. And nobody in our unit ever talked to any higher up in our unit about the situation. So we could not figure how this all came about.
We never even thought about getting any medal for what we did. We were only doing our job of supporting our comrades. We then went to the IG General and filed a formal complaint with him about it. We got back to our company and told the others what we just saw. They were also pissed. Within one hour we had orders from our CO to get packed up and ship out to Central Vietnam .
We salute and carry on. I am now 62 and I still think about this.
Was anybody there?
“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale