| At the 2008 9th Engineer Battalion reunion, Fred Dupont, talked to me about putting something down about the Delta Co ambush on 6Aug68. He finally got around to requesting something via email, so I sent him a few lines about what I remembered. Its amazing that I can still remember all this after 40 years.
Myself and several other Service Company folks were Temporarily Assigned Duty to Delta Company on Hill 63 in the late summer of 1968 for the purpose of transporting bridge material from DaNang to Hill 63. On August 6th, John Ruley (Serv Co) was driving the gun truck and Ray Cummings (Serv Co) and myself were driving low beds loaded with heavy bridge timbers. Somewhere south of Hoi An on Hwy 1, we passed a 7th Engineers mine sweep team headed back to DaNang.
I remember one of the guys on the sweep team saying that the VC owned the village just to the south of us. We continued south on Hwy 1 with Captain Rizzo's jeep in the lead, the gun truck behind the jeep, then Cumming's low bed, my low bed, and some cargo trucks behind me. We passed some A
rmy Republic Viet Nam (ARVN) Armored Personnel Carriers (APC) on the north edge of the village, when all hell broke loose.
|Billy Lee, USMC 9th Engineer Battalion, RVN 1968|
Captain Rizzo's jeep and gun truck were already in the kill zone and the jeep got knocked out with what I believe to be an Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG), sending it off the roadway. The gun truck continued on around the jeep and through the kill zone. It's my understanding that it was shot up pretty good and had to stop on the south side of the village to change a flat tire. Ray Cummings stopped his low bed at the north side of the village at the edge of the kill zone and I was about 20-30 yards behind him. The rest of the convoy was behind me. There was a lot of small arms fire and RPGs coming from the village at that time.
As I made it down to a water well just east of the roadway by Cummings truck, there was already some Delta Company guys with SSgt Edwards and Capt Rizzo at the well. Both Edwards and Rizzo were wounded.
Rizzo gave me the radio frequencies and call signs and told me to go back to the ARVN APC, use their radio, and call for help. I don't remember the frequencies, but I believe the call signs were...Empire State Delta and Rosemont 2. As I started back, across a rice paddy, I heard a shot and something hit me in the upper right shoulder of my flack jacket and I went face down in a rice paddy. I felt inside of my flack jacked and did not find any blood, so the bullet must have hit the top shoulder of the flack jacket, missing me. As I went into the water, my rifle got mud in the barrel and around the bolt. After I determined that I wasn't shot and got myself together, I continued back to where the ARVNs had their radio and used it to call for help.
One of the ARVNs brought me a canteen of water and I remember using it to clean the mud out of my rifle. I returned to a berm by my vehicle and continued to return fire at a figure in black pajamas by a hooch just to the east of where the others were pinned down. My rifle still had grit around the locking lugs on the bolt and I had to use the forward assist each time I fired.
An ARVN APC had moved up through some water to my east and I used it for cover and moved back up the water well where the others were. I remember there was still small arms fire from the village and a guy from Delta Company getting hit in the shoulder right next to me. There
was also an ARVN that got hit and I think he was KIA. By this time, the ARVN APCs had moved up into position and were working the village over with their .50 caliber machine guns. We used this cover fire to get our wounded back to the rear for evacuation. I remember carrying Captain Rizzo across the pond with my rifle slung over my shoulder. I had his arm across my shoulder and my rifle was bumping him as we were moving across the pond and I remember thinking that it was probably hurting him.
|Billy Lee, Retired Texas lawman, 2008|
We eventually got back across the pond and got the wounded loaded into a vehicle so they could be transported back to an evacuation site. At that time, we decided to go back to DaNang for the night. Since Cummings truck was so close to the kill zone, and small arms fire from the village was still heavy, it was left in place. I had a difficult time turning my low bed around on the narrow road, but finally got it done. As I was turning the vehicle around, my tractor was hit with a round that I believe came from a sniper in the trees somewhere to the southeast. I believe this guy had been there all along and might have been the one that got me in the right shoulder of my flack jacket. I believe this because the trajectory of the bullet that hit my tractor was downward.