Memories of Firebase Illingsworth, Vietnam

We moved in to construct Illingsworth throughout March. The location was a grassy clearing. We arrived late within the day and began constructing gun pits for our mortars, hooches for sleeping, and storage for our ammo. We had our mortars, 105’s, our radar unit, a line firm, and our battalion headquarters (TOC). We had been informed that we couldn’t fall asleep till we had 3 layers of sandbags on our sleeping hooches. It began raining about sunset. Filling sand baggage turned very tough. Round 11:00 pm we gave up on the sandbags. I laid down on a cote and positioned a sheet of plastic over me. I wakened at first gentle the following morning and thought I had misplaced my listening to. Then I spotted the cote was holding water which was up over my ears.

The subsequent day we continued to construct the hearth base. We had been informed that we might be firing on targets in Cambodia. Charlie had been transferring down in Cambodia after which transferring throughout the border to connect our items. Illingsworth was known as a leap LZ. We’d be there for a couple of days after which transfer to a brand new location. By in regards to the second day there, six 155’s had been moved in. We had been getting hearth missions a number of instances a day. The 155’s had been firing day and night time. The 155’s had been pounding targets regularly. We had been getting a lot ammo for the mortars every day that we couldn’t presumably hearth it in in the future. We had been having to stack up bins of mortar ammo on the bottom. At one level we simply rolled two pallets of mortar ammo off the mule and let it lay the place it landed. After we had been there a number of days, two track-mounted 8 inch artillery weapons had been moved to the hearth base. You might have seen that I by no means talked about any wire or claymore mines. We did not have any. There was nothing between us and the wooden line.

A few weeks earlier than the top of March Bobby Barker got here to me and requested if I’d take into account letting him go to the rear to get his tooth mounted. He mentioned sarge could a few days earlier than I’m speculated to go house. Bobby was a terrific man, he all the time did his job, and he had a terrific perspective. I informed Bobby that I would really like for him to go away the following day. I wrote a bit observe the first Sgt asking him to ship Bobby to have his tooth mounted. I advised that Bobby ought to keep within the rear since he solely had a few weeks left in nation. Bobby left on chopper after all of us informed him goodbye and wished him effectively.

Close to the top of March, a younger Lt named Mike Russell confirmed up on the firebase. He had a number of months in nation with the 4th ID. The 4th went house, however Mike didn’t have sufficient time in-country to go together with them. The unfortunate man ended up with us. By the top of March, Mike had been there lengthy sufficient for us to grow to be fairly good pals. He was a squared away man. A few days earlier than the top of March, Firebase Jay obtained hit actually exhausting. They had been positioned a couple of clicks from us. The sky seemed prefer it was on hearth. I did not know any guys on Jay, however I frequently prayed throughout their assault that they’d be capable of defend in opposition to the connect and that we might not get the identical dose of medication.

On the final day of March, 1970, issues appeared extraordinarily tense. I noticed excessive rating individuals leaving the firebase on choppers. I search for and see Bobby Barker strolling in from one of many choppers. Bobby came to visit to me and mentioned sarge’ I simply needed to come out and allow you to see how good I look with my tooth mounted and I wished to inform everybody goodbye. Bobby gave me a giant smile as he confirmed his tooth and mentioned, “My momma goes to be so pleased with me and my tooth.” I informed Bobby to go see everybody and get again on a chopper and get out of right here. I then mentioned Bobby weren’t you supposed to go away right now. He mentioned yey I did not get on the airplane, I obtained on a chopper as a substitute to come back see you guys.

Ammo for the 8 inch weapons was moved on to the firebase all day. That they had the identical drawback that we did solely worse. That they had tons of ammo and no place to place it. They fired on the wooden line a couple of time through the day. It was actually superior to see the facility of those weapons. Late within the day I noticed Bobby was nonetheless on the firebase. There was a chopper on the bottom. I informed Bobby to run on the market and get on that chopper. He mentioned sarge’, please let me simply keep out right here with the fellows I really like only one extra night time. I mentioned no Bobby, it is advisable go away. He walked away from me.

At about 11:30 pm, our radar unit notified Lt. Russell and me that we had quite a lot of motion on the Crimson Ball which was simply throughout the border. The border was about 1 click on from the firebase. That they had decided that the NVA had been transferring troops down in vans and turning west into a big area. They might unload the troops after which return to get extra. We fired mortars, 105’s, and 155’s on their place for about an hour. I believed we had wiped them out. We laughed and mentioned they’d have the remainder of the night time to pull their lifeless out of the realm. I laid down in FDC and Lt. Russell did additionally. At about 2:30 am all hell broke free. Mike and I ran out right into a cloud of mud. There have been gooks standing on the berm firing RPG’s at TOC. They had been in all places. I went to all three gun pits and directed the squad leaders to fireside cost zeros randomly to the west and to maintain it going as quick as doable. Mike and I each ended up in Blue Three which was led by Juan Romero. Juan and the remainder of his squad labored to drag down expenses to cost zero and Mike and I dealt with the gun. I used to be aiming the gun and Mike was hanging rounds. At one time I informed Mike that I used to be afraid I used to be going to ship one straight up and it might come again down on us. Mike mentioned, “At this level, I actually do not suppose it is going to make a shit.” Blue One was worn out with a satchel cost. Fortunately, all of them obtained out of the pit. Blue Two was worn out by a fuel range from our kitchen tent. The range blew up and sailed via the air leaving a path of burning fuel and landed in Blue Two. As with Blue One, the fellows all obtained out and went to the berm. I noticed Bobby working for FDC. I yelled at Bobby to not go to FDC. He yelled out that he didn’t have a rifle. Bobby disappeared within the mud.

We noticed gooks on the 8 inch weapons attempting to show them round. The 8 inchers had been about 50 yards from us. A barrage of small arms hearth erupted towards the 8 inchers.

Sooner or later through the battle, I attempted to name FDC on the land line. It was lifeless. It had been working earlier after I talked to them. That they had tried to name a fireplace mission to us. I had answered the horn. They began calling out the hearth mission. I mentioned, “we do not want a path, cost, or elevation, we will see them.” Wanting again now I notice I ought to have informed them to get their butts on the market to assist us.

A while after the battle had been happening for what appeared like endlessly, the eight inch ammo blew up. All of us left the bottom. I believed we had been all going to die proper then. We seemed up and noticed issues within the air that aren’t speculated to be there. Issues like PSP, tree trunks, ammo, and plenty of dust. The issue was that we knew that it was going to have to come back again down and it seemed prefer it was headed our method. I’ll admit that I nearly misplaced it at that time. I had a spouse and a two yr outdated son at house that I figured simply misplaced their husband and father. Although we had been a brief distance from the 8 inch ammo, we didn’t take the direct blast. The 8 inch artillery guys had left a monitor mounted ammo provider and a 5 ton truck parked between us and their ammo. The subsequent morning, the 5 ton was demolished and the ammo provider was on its aspect wanting actually unhealthy.

We continued to struggle off the gooks for a while. At a while round 4:30 am we seen that every little thing had immediately gotten very quiet. For some time we felt alone on the firebase although nobody talked about it. Then we heard somebody screaming, “Richards, are you guys nonetheless over there?” I had a foul feeling. I screamed, “Sure.” The individual then yelled out that the gooks had that half of the LZ and we wanted to get the hell out of there. All of us went over the blast wall like snakes. In fundamental coaching I had been in regards to the quickest low crawler at Sand Hill. I began out crawling together with the opposite guys after which thought that I ought to go to FDC to make certain everybody obtained out of there. I turned left and headed for FDC. As I approached FDC, I noticed Bobby Barker laying on a stretcher. He had dust throughout him. I crawled up and tried to get Bobby to rise up. I then realized that Bobby was lifeless. Rattling! I mentioned my fast farewell to Bobby and began plowing via the mud to the path the place I had final heard that voice of hope. Thanks to the drill sgts. at Sand Hill that made low crawl for miles. That crawl was simple.

We grouped close to the berm. I seemed for my guys however couldn’t discover them. We had Blue Max choppers spraying their mini weapons throughout the west aspect of the berm. They had been a phenomenal web site and sound. Issues quieted down and we waited for dawn. Because the solar rose and we might see the LZ, I spotted that we had been worn out, however we survived. I walked round on the lookout for my guys. I walked alongside the road of wounded guys. I virtually walked by Sgt. Huggins. Huggins and I got here to the mortar platoon the identical night at LZ Ike. We obtained hit exhausting that night time too. That is one other story. Huggins reached out and grabbed my leg. I knelt down to speak to him. He mentioned, “I am the fortunate one, I am going house.” He had gotten a foul wound on his calf. I wanted him the perfect and walked on on the lookout for extra of my guys. We had choppers coming in to haul out the wounded. I helped load the choppers.

These birds had been being piloted by true heroes. At one level there was a lot blood within the ground of one of many choppers that we threw dust in on the blood so individuals might stand on the ground. One pilot insisted that we preserve placing individuals on his chopper as a result of it was going to be some time earlier than one other one obtained again to our location. The pilot informed us to select up on his skids and run with the chopper. He picked up velocity after which transformed to altitude simply earlier than the wooden line. I’d like to know that man’s identify. I will always remember him. He’s a real hero. I suppose I helped load Pete Lemon on one of many choppers that morning. Pete was a member of the Recon Platoon in our firm. The faces had been all soiled, bloody, and contorted with ache so I do not bear in mind any of them specifically. Pete later received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions that night time.

After all of the wounded had been loaded, I walked over to the lifeless. I began to assist transfer the luggage. On the primary one I made the error of getting within the center. Anybody who has ever taken on that place is aware of the issue I had. I knew Bobby was in a kind of baggage. I actually didn’t need to know which one. Bobby wasn’t even speculated to be there.

I discovered Mike, Hutch, Juan, and Terry. All of us went again to the mortar space to see what was left. We had been amazed that we had gotten out of there alive. At Blue three there was a unexploded rocket buried within the floor two ft from the place I had been contained in the gun pit. Ammo was blown all around the whole space. There have been very giant items of schrapnal from the 8 inch ammo. There was paper in all places. We seemed on the 5 ton and the ammo provider. It was then that we realized what had saved our lives. It was simply by probability that that they had left the items parked the place they did. That they had a lot 17 wsm Ammo for sale of their space that I believe they might not get any nearer to their space.

Some little jerk Captain got here in with a bunch that was to alleviate us. The little jerk informed us to begin policing up the realm. Lt. Russell walked over to the jerk and informed him that he would have him know that his males had been in a battle all night time and so they weren’t about to police up a rattling factor. The jerk requested him if he realized who he was speaking to. Mike mentioned, “Sir, I do not give a shit who you’re or what your rattling rank is. My males is not going to clear up this mess. They will hardly rise up.” You gotta love Mike Russell. He is nonetheless obtained that very same edge. No crap, no method, no the place!

Juan Romero and I went down within the crater created when the 8 inch ammo blew up. It was enormous. I imagine Hutch made our image within the gap. We then went out to have a look at a number of the lifeless gooks. I checked out one which had his left arm blown off. You can see the socket the place the ball joint had been. Surprisingly, the man had about three rounds of gauze wrapped round his shoulder. He had been wounded after we fired on them for an hour. They put a bandage on him and despatched him on the assault. I by no means knew any of our guys who would have finished that.

I bear in mind going out to the touchdown pad to get on a chopper. I seemed again on the firebase with complete disbelief. The chopper lifted off and all of us seemed again on the firebase in complete silence. I do not bear in mind something being mentioned till a while after we obtained to a rear space that we had been taken to.

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