2d Presidential Unit Citation Recon LRRP Team 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav June 1966

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Jerome Conners

Combat/Reconnaissance Patrol of the Recon LRRP Team 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav during Operation Nathan Hale June 23, 1966

On July 19, 1966 the 2d Bn (ABN) 327th Inf, 101st Airborne Division conducted air assaults northwest of Tuy Hoa in the vicinity of Trung Luong Valley and encountered heavy resistance and casualties from battles with the 66th, 95th and 18th Regiments of the North Vietnamese Army 302d Division. B and C Companies of the 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav, 1st Cav Division were inserted to reinforce the 2/327 Inf on June 20. B Co 1/8th Cav linked up with B Co 2/327 Inf in the morning on June 21 in the vicinity of LZ Eagle. The two airborne battalions experienced continuous attacks, including hand to hand combat, and inflicted heavy losses on the two NVA attacking battalions. One wounded NVA company commander was captured from the area in front of the rifle companies and reported his unit had been annihilated and the other NVA units had begun to withdraw on the evening of June 22d.

On June 22, Recon 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav (Chinese Bandits) were extracted from reconnaissance operations being performed in Kontum Province and airlifted to Tuy Hoa airport and placed under the operational control of the 1st Bn 9th Cav, 1st Cav Division. At 0530, 23 June, the Chinese Bandits Recon Platoon and one Recon Platoon of the 1/9th Cav were inserted into separate landing zones southwest of LZ Eagle to regain contact with one of the withdrawing NVA forces. The sun was shining and the weather dry and combat engagement was anticipated so the ranger patrol caps were stowed and helmets donned as the Bandits approached and then exited the helicopters on the tree lined hilltop LZ. Both landing zones were located adjacent to wide, ox cart size, trails that led to the higher hilltops where several hundred of the NVA 66th Regiment were believed to be occupying. The Bandit LZ was located along the ridgeline approaching the expected enemy position and the 1/9th Recon LZ was located further downhill in a draw on the Bandit’s left flank.

The Bandits moved along the ridge line trail and at mid-morning, point man PFC Raymond Carley observed a NVA size squad moving towards them and away from the 1/9th Recon Platoon which was proceeding along the lower trail towards the intersection of both trails. Carley and three others moved into a position ahead in the vicinity of coordinates CQ 958626 where they were able to kill three of the fleeing NVA before the remaining NVA, wearing khaki uniforms and some tan helmets, retreated further uphill.

The Bandits continued up hill along the trail with Carley now opting to carry the new AK47 that he had removed from one of the NVA and having given his own M16 and ammunition to the medic assigned to Recon. Anticipating a main NVA force to be occupying the intersection of the trails being used by the Bandits and the 1/9th Recon Platoon, the 25 man Chinese Bandit force advanced slowly along both sides of the trail while listening to the voices and sounds of the NVA preparing positions along the ridgeline ahead. Carley continued uphill ahead of the other Bandits until he located the first enemy positions and machinegun along the left side of the trail where the Bandits began to move into combat positions amongst the small and sparsely treed locations below the NVA. A second machinegun position was located on the right side of the trail and moments later a third NVA machinegun opened fire and the Bandits exchanged small arms fire (rifle, machinegun, and grenades) for several minutes as they attempted to advance and attack the NVA force.

Operating without orders, SP/4 Frank Spickler, team leader of the 3d Scout Squad, immediately ran forward to assist Carley and those engaging the most concentrated NVA force located in the vicinity of coordinates CQ 962618 where he observed Carley laying along the trail about 30 feet in front of the nearest NVA position. Carley had been shot several times and although alive, he was unable to crawl clear of the withering fire. Spickler moved closer and avoided detection by the NVA until he attempted to cross the trail and pull Carley to safety. Heavy enemy fire prevented Spickler from advancing and he withdrew a short distance to obtain the assistance of other Bandits located near him. Spickler positioned one of the scouts in a location where the scout could provide suppressing fire during his effort to move Carley. Leaving his rifle with the other Bandits, Spickler again moved into position near Carley, he dashed towards him, dropping to a low craw when the NVA fired on him and then rolling near Carley, he was able to hoist Carley on his back and quickly dragged him towards the side of the trail. During this attempt, Spickler felt the impact of bullets entering Carley. Once clear of the most intense fire, Spickler carried Carley to the medic who was already treating several, but less wounded Bandits.

During his second attempt to retrieve Carley, Spickler had located SGT James Lester lying less than ten feet from where Carley had been laying. Again acting without orders, Spickler returned to the area in front of the enemy’s position where he low crawled under fire and dragged the much heavier Lester clear of direct enemy fire.

The Recon Platoon of the 1/9th Cav had quickly advanced along the wide trail located in the draw and came alongside the left flank of the Chinese Bandits, where both Recon Platoons unsuccessfully attempted a coordinated attack in an effort to over run the NVA positions located near the intersection of both trails.

MSG Johnson, acting platoon leader of the Chinese Bandits, directed Spickler to move forward to a position between the lead scouts and the NVA and mark the position with smoke grenades. All available indirect fire mortars and artillery were positioned to support the other elements of the 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav and the 2d Bn (ABN) 327th Inf and only ARA equipped gunships were able to provide supporting fires. Spickler remained in position, marking the enemy lines while the gunships continually attacked the NVA located in front of the two Recon Platoons and on the higher hill tops for about thirty minutes. One gunship pass was made ‘danger close’ resulting in a 2.75-inch FF aerial rocket exploding and injury several Bandits, including SSG Robert Grimes, the 1st Scout Squad Leader and acting Platoon Sergeant.

The NVA withdrew further uphill allowing the two Recon Platoons to carry their killed and wounded scouts along the side of the lower trail that had been used by the Recon Platoon of the 1/9th Cav. However, as darkness fell, another large NVA force resumed the attack and pursued the wounded men of both Recon Platoons as they made their way towards the LZ designated for extraction. Small fire fights occurred thoughout the night resulting in further Bandits being wounded. Approaching the LZ which was secured by other troops from the 3d Brigade, 1st Cav Division, in the early morning light, medivac helicopters arrived and both Recon Platoons were airlifted to a field medical station that had been located along Highway One. The bodies of Chinese Bandits PFC Raymond Carley and Sergeants James Lester and Honorio Ramirez and the other many wounded Bandits were left with the medics, doctors and nurses. The remaining Chinese Bandits rejoined the 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav and commenced patrolling in the area SW of LZ Eagle on June 26, 1966.

This description of the actions taken by Carley and Spickler is only one of the many efforts made by the scouts of both Recon Platoons and warrant being written in recognition of those that fought that day on June 23, 1966. Efforts are underway to post the other detailed descriptions of those engagements on the Recon LRRP Team 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav homepage.

Raymond Carley, our youngest Chinese Bandit, is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego County, California; Frank Spickler was awarded the Bronze Star with V Device (something that remains a source of irritation after forty years…it was initially discussed that he was to be given the Distinguished Service Cross); and Recon 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav was awarded its SECOND Presidential Unit Citation for valor. 101st Recondo Spickler was later shot in the lung while serving as the Platoon Sergeant of the 3d Platoon, C Company, 2d Bn (ABN) 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division and unable to remain on jump status and later left the military in 1970.

The 1965-66 Chinese Bandits were to remain a fighting airborne Recon Platoon with its LRRP Team performing extended long range reconnaissance operations along the borders of Laos and Cambodia until November 1966 when they were disbanded having lost most of its original NCOs and scouts.

Extracted from written statement made by Duke Barrett and interviews with Frank Spickler and others serving with the Recon 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav on June 23, 1966; and the official after action reports of the 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav and the 2d Bn (ABN) 327th Infantry.