|Echo Company 1968 - 1971
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|ECHO COMPANY 1968-69
Echo Company was formed and became operational in late May, or early June 1968. It initially consisted of a mortar platoon that would provide
base defense to the Battalion forward LZ's, and a Reconnaissance Platoon.
The Recon Platoon worked directly for battalion operations. We seldom entered the field with more than 20-24 men and performed most of our
missions, after insertion, in teams of six men. A significant portion of our missions required movement at night, in known enemy strongholds.
Our primary mission was reconnaissance, which required insertion into an area of operation, usually five kilometers by five kilometers, by a means
designed to keep us undetected. Typically insertion was followed by detailed examination of the terrain, by six man teams. Our missions usually
lasted five days, during which We received no re-supply. Thus We were required to carry everything needed for mission completion on our
persons. During these operations, We tried to avoid detection and contact with the enemy, but were not always successful.
We were also used as an offensive instrument. Much of our operational success involved killer team operations. We inserted into an area of
operation of the size described above. Teams of six men would, after dark, move into areas of suspected enemy operations, with the sole mission
of making contact with and killing as many of the enemy as possible. We became very successful at these operations. Survival depended upon our
ability to disappear into the darkness after making contact, and to remain concealed until We could rejoin the rest of the platoon, which was often
from one to four kilometers from the killer team.
Unlike many reconnaissance units in Vietnam, We had no prior training to equip us with the skills necessary to perform the assigned tasks, but
rather learned on the job. For the first month after the units’ organization, it appeared as if the Recon Platoon would do little more than serve as a
base security element. There was no leadership in place to prepare us for what was to come.
This changed in early July of 1968, when a remarkable man, Joe Musial, who became known by his nickname throughout the Cav., “Sgt. Rock”,
took command of the platoon. Having served with the Recon Platoon, which was then part of D Company, during his first tour in 1965-66, Rock
had not only learned the necessary skills, but was a master at teaching those skills, even if his methods were often unorthodox.
Rock did not endear himself to the men immediately, as his first act was to take away all creature comfort, including air mattresses, machetes and
entrenching tools, and anything else that could produce unnecessary noise in the bush. He quickly taught us the methods and value of noise
discipline, scouting skills, navigation and coordination with fire support units. He not only deserves the credit for training the Recon Platoon but in
developing leadership within the unit.
NCO's and men who were not able to adapt to what the unit needed were quickly transferred out, and leadership was developed from within. The
value of this leadership development is best demonstrated by the fact that, although Rock left the field in March 1969, the NCO's he trained were
ably serving as platoon sergeants and squad leaders as late as October 1969. Until that time, no NCO's were assigned from outside of the Platoon.
In October 1968, it was learned that, for the first time since Rock's arrival, an officer was being assigned as platoon leader. This fact angered the
platoon members, who felt that Rock was the only leader needed. However, Rock urged us to give the new officer a chance, and We quickly
learned that this officer was more than up to the challenge.
Lt. Dave Hadly, a platoon leader in C Company was placed in command of the Recon platoon, and even after he became Company Commander,
continued to operate as platoon leader until he left the field in March 1969. He quickly dispelled the common belief that West Pointers made good
field grade officers, but poor company grade officers. Dave had a keen interest in guerrilla tactics, and had intensely studied the subject. Because of
his standing with the battalion leadership, he was able to convince operations to allow us to not only operate as a reconnaissance unit, but to go
That Dave and Rock were on the same page became apparent almost immediately. Dave and Rock were given great latitude in trying innovative
tactics, and other than battalion telling us what was needed during an operation, operational planning was done internally. Rock and Dave sought
input from the NCO's in mission planning. We developed multiple ways of insertion into our area of operation, which minimized the possibility of
our being observed. Operations by six man teams, as opposed to squad or platoon movement became the norm.
It also needs mentioning that the freedom in planning and carrying out our missions is attributable to retired Maj. Gen. Todd Graham, then our
Battalion Commander, and Maj. Tom Weiskirsch, the Battalion Operations Officer, who recognized the skill and intellect of Dave and Rock. They
both recognized that even when trying new and innovative small unit tactics, planning must be carried out with dual emphasis on mission success and
unit safety. Their leadership was a critical element in the units’ success.
The training and skill development of the Recon Platoon occurred during the unit’s service in I Corps and reached such a level that the battalion
recognized the unique missions We were performing and the success level We had attained by authorizing us to wear tiger striped camouflage
uniforms. We were the only unit so authorized within the battalion.
Additionally, due to our on the job training, and the nature of our operations, the MOS of many NCO's in the Recon Platoon was changed to 11 F.
This MOS designated a specialist in special military operations and intelligence, and initially was awarded only to Non Commissioned Officers in the
Special Forces who had completed a multi-month training course. The unique nature of our operations resulted in the assignment of this
As a further result of our successes, the platoon was presented, prior to the 1st Cav Div deployment to III Corps, with a blue scarf bearing the
emblem of a stalking panther, with blood in his mouth, and lettering stating "The Panther Stalks You---Silent Death. The use of the panther was
based on a local legend in the Quang Tri area about the dangers presented by this animal. This is the genesis of our being identified as the Blue
Panther's. We also had printed business cards with the same logo, which would be left behind after a successful mission, and from which the enemy
also came to know us by this name.
Validation of the units’ success and documented proof of our fame came after our move south. Our primary function in the north, dictated by
terrain, was as a traditional reconnaissance unit, although We also had a number of offensive contacts with the enemy. However, after the move
south, We were given significantly more operations of an offensive nature that proved highly successful. This proof came in the form of a bounty
poster, which came into the possession of Battalion's intelligence section, and which offered a reward to anyone killing a member of the Blue
We take great pride in the fact that our successes dictated such a reaction by our enemy, who found it necessary to adopt this reward incentive as
an inducement to eradicate the platoon. We can think of no greater recognition of the impact We had on enemy operations.
This recognition came soon after our arrival in III Corp, when We began performing a number of killer team operations, with great success. Enemy
losses inflicted by the undersized Recon Platoon were significantly higher than expected, according to Todd Graham, our Battalion Commander.
We seldom had more than twenty-four men available to go into the field at any time, and these operations were conducted by six man teams.
Additionally, the Recon Platoon was the first unit in the battalion to be employed to work with the Brown Water Navy performing Nav-Cav
operations on the Vam Co Dong River. The platoon would board vessels, and be inserted along the riverbanks to search the area. Immediately,
We began to find large caches of weapons and materials, among which was one of the only 120mm Mortars captured fully intact, stacks of
wooden coffins, rice supplies, and numerous weapons and munitions.
The most important find occurred on January 2, 1969, when the campsite of an NVA officer in charge of coordinating the infiltration of equipment
into the area was discovered, along with a logbook, which included maps of the area showing where materials were cached. As a result of this find,
other units within the battalion were assigned to work with the Navy, and the battalion began to amass ever-increasing quantities of NVA munitions
and supplies. According to former Battalion Operations Officer, Maj. Thomas Weiskirsch, the discovery of the logbook and interdiction of the
supplies sent into the area resulted in the NVA having to cancel a planned offensive, similar to Tet, which had been scheduled for the spring of 1969.
Despite the nature of our missions, the Recon Platoon never had a man killed in the field as a result of enemy fire during the period of May 1968-
June 1969. However, during this time period, every man suffered some type wound, from minor to severe. Our first fatality was Glenn Miller,
whose death in October 1968, was the result of friendly fire, when a sister company mis-fired a mortar round which landed within our perimeter. A
second loss due to friendly fire was the last casualty during this period. John Kopriva was killed in June 1969 when a scout helicopter mistakenly
fired at the Recon Platoon, which was waiting to ambush NVA scavengers in an AO that was being vacated by a line company. Fast action by the
platoon sergeant, who popped a smoke grenade, prevented what would have been more casualties, as a Cobra helicopter was following the Scout,
with rockets ready to fire.
The worst day of this period for Echo Company occurred on March 21, 1969, when LZ White was attacked by enemy mortars and rockets and
infiltrated by an enemy sapper unit. We lost eight men on that night, most from the mortar platoon. The mortar pits were the area in which the attack
was directed. The names of all men killed during this action can be found on this site.
The mortar platoon, unfortunately did not receive the recognition they so richly deserved. While the Recon Platoon was often able to return to the
battalion rear for showers, clean cloths and hot food, the Mortar Platoon was continuously assigned to the battalion forward LZ. Also, almost every
man in the Mortar Platoon spent time in the field with the Recon Platoon. Because the Recon Platoon was almost always under strength, men from
the mortar platoon would often volunteer to go on missions, and each quickly learned the same skills and performed the same duties as those
assigned to that platoon.
Additionally, during the day, particularly when the battalion was on LZ Tracey, the mortar platoon performed numerous snatch missions, when not
required for duty in the mortar pits. These missions involved teams boarding choppers, and searching for men of apparent military age. When
spotted, the choppers would land and the team would interrogate these men, and if suspicious would detain them for further investigation of whether
they were, in fact, NVA or VC operatives.
These missions were not without risks, as on one such mission a Kit Carson scout assigned to the unit was killed by sniper fire. While others in the
battalion may not have recognized the contribution of the men in the mortar platoon, those of us in the Recon Platoon highly valued their service,
and willingness to assist us by volunteering to serve with us in the field.
The men in Echo Company have the distinction of being one of the only two companies in the First Cavalry Division, the other being C Company,
to serve in all four Corps in Viet Nam. These two companies were based on LZ Elrod, in IV Corps for a short period of time, the only time the
First Cav served in that area.
In March 1969, Dave Hadly and Rock were ordered out of the field. Both had remained in the field for a longer period than normal, and they were
re-assigned to S-2. As much of the senior NCO corps was short, many were pulled out of the field at the same time. The men who served during
the times mentioned and who remained in country as late as October 1969, say that while the platoon continued to have great success in performing
assigned missions, the platoon was never again given the autonomy it had enjoyed as far as mission planning, and that the types of missions assigned
The Mortar Platoon, which had suffered so many losses on March 21, 1969, had to be reorganized, and a new leadership was put in place. The
men who served between May 1968, and October 1969, agree that although our entire tour was significant, our heyday was from deployment in III
Corps, and during operations in the area of the Angel's Wing and Parrot's Beak, until late March of 1969. It is clear that the stars aligned with
Rock, Dave Hadly, Tom Weiskirsch and Todd Graham commanding or directing the unit during that period. The mutual trust going from the lowest
man in the field, to the top of the battalion chain of command, and back down, allowed for a distinguished tour for the men who served during that
The amazing thing is that the forty plus men who have been found, and who have participated in Echo Company activities since returning home,
have learned that the bonds of friendship and trust, forged in combat, remain as strong today, as they were in Vietnam. We each value the other
men with whom We served and recognize that We share a very unique bond today.
A review of the daily staff journals from October 1969 until the First Cav left Vietnam clearly shows that the men of Echo Company continued to
serve with distinction, and valor. The story of their service is left to be written by the men who carried on the tradition.
|The ECHO COMPANY REUNION 2016
September 12-14 at the Admiral's Inn
in Ogunquit, ME
Hosted by Jake Kubik
Rate: $99.00 per night, King and Double Queens + 8% Occupancy Tax.
Other rooms available at higher prices.
Make your reservations early, as the Inn fills up fast!
Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 978-496-0633.