|Echo Company 1968 - 1971
My First Impression of Vietnam by Rick Smith 1969-70
I grew up in the North Georgia countryside drinking water from the same well all my life. When our Boeing 707 landed at
Cam Rhan Bay; it was a hot, humid night. On the bus ride to Bien Hoa I asked a guard what the wire grids on the windows
were for. He politely told me the grids kept anyone from throwing things inside the bus. Things like explosives.
That really didn't bother me too much. When we finally got off the bus, I was very thirsty. Someone pointed me towards a
large trailer with a cup hanging on it. It was of course the famous "Water buffalo" or drinking water trailer. When I tasted
that water, I knew I would die if I had to drink that chlorinated water for a year!
Eugene D. Colgan, 1968 - 1969.
I joined the CAV in the beginning of April 1968, and returned home the last week in March 1969. During that period I had
the honor and distinct privilege to command two companies in the Jumping Mustangs. After a few months in G-3 at Camp
Evans I joined 1/8 CAV at LZ SHARON in September 1968.
Echo Company, 1st Battalion 8th Cavalry, call sign Ramrod, September 1968 - November 1968.
The Battalion rear was on LZ SHARON and the Battalion was working out of LZ ANN. E Company's RECON Platoon
was responsible for a portion of the LZ's perimeter, and the mortars and surveillance sections were in general support for
the Battalion. The RECON Platoon would CA (Combat Assault) out each day and patrol the hills and draws between LZ
ANN and the A SHAU Valley. Life was good. The NVA had not fully recovered from the hard fights in the Valley and Khe
Sanh and the excitement and actions we encountered were small unit fights, 2 or 3 uglies or small group stragglers. We did
a lot of day and night ambushes and search and destroy patrols. I was blessed with a squared away First Sergeant who
had everything under control. I also had a strong RECON Platoon Leader (1Lt David Hadley) and Sergeant who took me
under his wing and taught me what is was like to fight, survive and win in the "Enchanted Forest". Sgt Joe "Rock" Musial
was a great mentor, a solid warrior and an outstanding combat leader. Echo RECON humped those hills every day. We
would CA on to a hill top, walk down into the valley, check out the draws and trails, climb back up over the ridge line,
back into until you hit or grabbed something. Some days we patrolled from first light to dark and never covered over a
kilometer of map distance. On an up and down basis we went 5 - 10 K's through heavy cover. I remember turning
LZ ANN over to the USMC. I was impressed with the Marine haircuts and clean uniforms. I looked at my RECON guys
and realized we were a pretty messy group, but we were going back to SHARON and showers and clean uniforms would
be the order of the day. The company left Quang Tri City by C-130 for Tay Ninh and the sea leg departed Wunder
Beach with 3-4 CONEX containers. It took about 2 days to clean up the company area at our new rear home of Tay
Ninh. Early one morning the Battalion CA'd out to secure and build LZ MUSTANG in War Zone "C". This was a CA!
24 slicks, 6 guns, 4 White-birds and a 30+ minute prep that started with 2000-pound daisy cutters, 175/8 inch Arty, 10
plus minutes of 155mm and 105 mm Arty, and the Cobras finishing up with 2.75 rockets, mini-guns and then the lift birds
door guns. The RECON Platoon was responsible for securing the northern point of the new LZ, and then moving out to
the north on a Recon patrol once the rifle companys had closed the LZ and the Arty and Engineers had started to sling in.
The whole LZ area was smoke and dust. The lift birds were in two staggered trails, Echo Company RECON had 5 or 6
birds, I was on the second or third bird in one of the trails, a rifle company and I can't remember which one had the rest
of the assault lift. When we entered the smoke and dust at about 50 - 100 feet, the visibility went to about 30 feet and I
saw the tail rotor of the bird in front of us, we were about to have a mid-air! Things got flaky, and birds started doing
strange things as they tried to get down without hitting one another. I remember seeing a troop standing on a skid of a bird
across from us fall off and drop into the dust. It flashed through my head that we just had our first casualty. We got on the
ground, organized our sector, and I went looking for the troop I saw fall out of the bird. The LZ in our area was a series
of deep bomb craters and the ground was loose sand. As I skirted the lip of one of the craters I saw a troop climbing up
the side to get out of the crater. This was the Snuffy that fell off the skid. Can't remember a name, but this was him. He
said he hit feet first on the lip of the crater, rolled down one side, almost up the other side and settled in the bottom as a
pile of equipment and dirt. A little shaken, really dirty, but OK. LZ Mustang was established, we pushed the jungle out a
few meters, put up a dirt berm, built some bunkers and strung the wire. War Zone "C" was a different life. Someone had
forgotten to tell the NVA that we were the CAV and they should fear and avoid us. The fights got hard and frequent. This
was not the I Corps we left where we had beat down the NVA/VC over a series of tough battles. We were starting new
with a different, hard enemy and we had to earn our spurs each day. The big change here was long term established
bunker complexes with well-organized NVA formations that ranged from squad through regiment. It seems that a day and
sometimes an hour would not go by without a contact. The Mustangs were earning their combat pay. At some time in
November, LTC Adams informed me I was moving to Charlie Company and LT Hadley, the RECON Platoon Leader
was taking Echo. I remember getting my kit, saying later to the guys and getting on a bird to join Charlie in the "Enchanted
Forest". They had had a sharp contact the day before and a new first Sergeant and myself were joining the company.
Above is a scan of a neckerchief presented to Recon Platoon grunts after we intercepted an NVA Company near Long
Binh around April, 1969. No GI received a scratch from the encounter.
At dusk we left the road for night patrol on a hill about 1500 meters from the base. We were told Charlie was going after
the 25th Medical Group there after his less successful Tet offensive in March of '68.
The weather was clear and the fires and incoming across the valley were clearly visible. Recon wanted to get in the bush
and out of site. Most of the NVA were wiped out by M-60, frags and artillery fire. It was the only time we got caught
walking a trail.
My eyes told me a child was standing on the trail with a rifle on his shoulder but my brain wouldn't believe it. A guy from
Tennessee put his M-16 on my shoulder and saved my life.
We never wore the scarf in combat because of the obvious good target it makes. It was my first experience