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Enemy loses 51 in day-long clash

Copy of article provided by George V. Ellis

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Duc Pho -- During a recent search and clear mission in an area four and one-half miles south of here, Co. C, 3rd Bn., 1st Inf. of the Americal Division, led by Capt. Boots Blanks Jr., made heavy contact with a battalion-size enemy force.

The 11th Bde. soldiers held their ground and kept the enemy busy while two more companies and armored personnel carriers from E Troop, 1st Cav., moved in for the kill.  A total of 51 enemy were killed in the action.

"We were walking through cane and potato fields in a wedge formation," explained Staff Sgt. Willie T. Helms, 1st Platoon leader.  "There were sugar cane fields to our rear, hedgerows to our right, a hill to our left and nothing but open potato fields to our front."

The enemy waited until the Americans reached the potato fields before making their move.  "When we got well into the potato fields, we started receiving sniper fire," continued 2nd Platoon leader Lt. Paul H. Yamada.

"We started returning fire, and that's when they threw everything they had at us.  We began receiving RPGs, automatic weapons fire, and small arms fire from three sides and suffered heavy casualties.  The NVA were dug in with bunkers and spider holes. "They were all over the place like ants," commented Helms.  "Most of the men in my platoon were hit by the first few bursts of automatic weapons fire."

The Americal Division soldiers then called for support from E Troop, who immediately responded with six APCs under the command of Staff Sgt. Gary T. Whitnack.  "The first thing we did when we got to the area was to give supporting fire and get the wounded to safety," explained Whitnack.

Early in the action, he suffered facial wounds from an M79 round but refused medical attention and continued to coordinate the APCs with the infantry unit.

After the wounded had been cared for, the tracks were put on line and began sweeping toward the enemy.  "We put down a heavy base of fire and then began to move over the enemy positions" Whitnack continued.  "As we passed the spider holes, we tossed grenades into them.

"They couldn't have been in the area very long because we conducted a patrol throughout that area just three days before the action took place and there was no sign of the enemy."

LT. Col. George V. Ellis, commanding officer of the battalion, explained the over-all operation.  "The operation developed in textbook form.  Although Co. C had suffered heavy casualties, they maintained contact with the enemy and fixed his position while Co. B combat assaulted to the south of the action and Co. D acted in a reserve capacity.

"We were able to box the enemy in a horseshoe type cordon and made it practically impossible for him to maneuver.  Contact was made with the enemy at 8:30 in the morning and he was not able to break contact with us until 6:30 in the evening, which attributed to the large number of casualties he suffered."

Weapons captured included 4 AK47s, 2 light Chicom machineguns, 1 heavy Chicom machinegun with tripod, 7 RPG rounds, 20 82mm mortar rounds, and 10 60mm mortar rounds.  Enemy packs and other field equipment were also captured.

In summarizing the action, Ellis said, "I consider the action to have been very successful.  We were able to ward off future attacks against firebases in the area and hurt the enemy severely."

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The above action occurred on May 12, 1969 near the village of Xuan Thanh, which is about 4 miles south of Duc Pho.  Killed on the battlefield that day were SSGT Kenneth Lee Brinks, SP4 Hugh Caldwell, PFC James Ralph Stevenson, PFC Isaiah Truman Stukes, SFC Bertalan James Toth, and SP4 Alberto Rios Vasquez from Charlie Company.  During the battle, LTC George V. Ellis directed the operations from his Command and Control helicopter.  He was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions that day.

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