QuarterHorse Stories

Battle of AP BAU BANG I, 11-12 NOV 1965


As experianced by Bill Baty, Julian Gonzalez, Kirby J. Hammond and others


A Troop lineing up to depart Lai Khe 10 Nov 65.

Bill Baty, SGT, Mortar Section NCOIC


Following is an account of the Battle of Ap Bau Bang as best I can recall it. On 11 Nov 65 we departed our base camp at Lai Khe and proceeded up Highway 13 to the village of Bau Bang. Once inside the village our Personnel Carriers, (PCís) provided security for medical personnel who tended to the sick of the village, mostly women and children. At about 5pm we pulled back just south of the village and set up a perimeter in a peanut patch. I was NCOIC of A troopís 3 mortar squads and we were set up near the tree line SW of the village. Just prior to the sun setting, an old man attempting to penetrate our perimeter with a herd of cows was ordered to stop several times. He either ignored or didnít understand the situation and guards at that site opened up on him with an M60 machine gun trying not really to hit him but to stop him or scare him off. Unfortunately one of the rounds grazed his leg and he was promptly patched up by our medics and sent on his way. (I have often wondered if we were attacked due to this action as retaliation). Most of the night was uneventful although there was a very noisy din from the village until late that night, Children crying, dogs barking constantly. I posted my guards and since all the space inside the PC was taken up, I let down the splash guard in front of my PC and slept there. Sometime during the night I was awakened by gunfire across the perimeter from us and roused the mortar crews and prepared our 4.2 mortars for action. The Battle of Ap Bau Bang had began. I almost immediately got a radio call from the 2nd Platoon sergeant for a fire mission into an open field near his position. He said there were men moving toward them and he asked for White Phosperious. We fired two rounds for adjustment and then I had all three mortars do a sweep. We had to rewrite the firing tables because the VC were within 100 yards of the perimeter but we did manage to do some effective firing. About this time, my vehicle was hit by recoilless rifle fire doing very little damage. I ordered the PC drivers to move their Vehicles forward 50 feet and reverse 50 ft every few minutes to try and throw off the recoilless rifle who was trying to zero in on us. I took a position in the command hatch on the 50 caliber machine gun and began firing along the nearby treeline hoping to find out where the recoiless rifle and/or mortars were located.

NOTE: I wasn't aware there was a PIO photographer along with us on this action and didn't find out that this series of Photos even existed until they were handed to me by a friend at the 2001 reunion in Nashville. These photos show my vehical, A29, shortly after she was hit and subsequently blew up. I have to admitt that it gave me a jolt when I first looked them. The photographer was obviously riding in the vehicle shown in this photo as he took the photo over the shoulder of the Vehicle TC.

A 1/4th Cav TC fireing at the Battle of Bau Bang

From our lofty position ontop the APC's we could see over the grass and foliage. The VC must have zeroed in on the fact that we had mortars on board because they dumped on us. We were getting shot at by small arms, RPG and Recoiless Rifle fire and suddenly I got hit in the rib cage by one of the bullets! I put Sp4 Walls in charge of my PC and went for medical aid. After my wound was dressed, I returned to my PC to find it had been hit again by recoilless rifle fire and this time it knocked my engine out. Machine gun fire was so heavy now that we couldnít expose ourselves. The bullets were hitting our hatch doors and falling inside the track. One of my men went to pick one up and it was so hot it burned him. When the firing subsided, I put two men up returning fire over the hatches and I returned to the 50 Caliber. We took another hit, I believe this one was a mortar round which landed on top of the PC fortunately not hurting anyone. We received another call for White Phosperious and when we went to drop the round down the tube of the mortar, we found shrapnel embedded in the mortar tube making it impossible to fire. I had the other two Mortar PCís zero in and deliver the WP and then my third platoon PC took a direct hit. One of the crewmen from that track called me and reported that the track commander had been wounded, so I sent Sp4 Walls from my track and Sp4 Elliott over to Track 19 to help out. (See narritive at end of this story) Soon after this, My PC took another hit from a recoilless rifle which didnít injure anyone but tore off one of my tracks. I returned to my 50 caliber finding it full of sand from the Mortar round which hit us and began cleaning it so I could put it in operation.

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A29 Hit (Normal)...........................................A29 Hit (Closeup)
Does anyone know what vehicle the PIO Photographer was riding on?

It was at this time that my PC received a mortar round down the hatch (inside) which exploded and ignited the gunpowder charges used to propel our mortar rounds. This killed SP4 McMillion and wounded PFC Givens and myself. I was standing half in/out of the PC and my lower body, was severely riddled with shrapnel; my upper body , ams and hands received wounds from shrapnel and my left arm and the left side of my face were burned from the mortar charges igniting. I was litterally ejected from my vehical and landed on the screen motor cover. I then rolled off my PC landing on my back, and was knocked unconscious for a moment. When I woke up, I could see the smoke billowing out of my PC so I yelled at a nearby foxhole full of men to get my men out of the PC which they did. I began slowly pulling myself away from my PC using my elbows to propel myself. A couple soldiers from the 2/2nd Inf grabbed hold of me and dragged me about 100 feet toward the center of the perimeter. Soon, A Medic appeared, gave me a shot of morphine and began wrapping my wounds. He was crying and I probably was too. I told him to go look after my men and he left me laying there on my back. I didnít feel scared, in fact the Morphine gave me a sense of peace.

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This series of photos seemed to take forever but was probably only a few minutes considering what was burning in there.

I wasnít thinking about my PC on fire with all those mortar rounds until that baby blew. The battle field got real quite. It had blown so loud that I think Charlie must have thought we had dropped an A-bomb on him. I laid there on my back and watched parts of my PC go 500 ft into the air. It was really quite beautiful when it was going up. I remember thinking, Oh great, Iím going to be remembered as the first Section Chief who lost a 1/4th Cav APC, which quickly turned into, Lord help me, I'm going to be killed by falling debris from my own vehicle. Chunks of metal from bullet size to pieces weighing over 100 pounds began dropping all over the area. Iím sure everyone who could, took cover. There was a loud thud and when I focused in on it, I realized that almost the entire top of my PC had landed about 25 ft from where I was laying. My medic returned and told me about my crew. Then I did cry. What a waste. SP4 Mc Million and wife were newly wed and she was pregnant when we left the states. I heard later that she had their child the next day after this battle. Nearby, SGT Alton Tisino, Mortar Section leader, 1st platoon, was nearest the tree line. At the time the VC realized we were mortar tracks, they came after us with everything they had. Small arms and machine-gun fire was so intense at times that you couldn't expose any part of your body without getting hit. It was like being in the middle of a hive of mad hornets. Sgt Tisino was wounded early on receiving a small arms round in his head which blinded him in one eye and pierced his skull. During this period he continued to return fire using his .50 caliber and supervising his men during fire missions until all his men were wounded and unable to man the 4.2 mortar. During the 6 hour battle his APC was also hit numerious times by enemy mortar, recoilless rifle, and continiously by small arms fire. He remained at his .50 caliber machine-gun returning fire, refusing to leave his post and move to the center of the perimeter to be med-evac'd. When the firing finally stopped and the enemy withdrew he insisted that everyone of his men be taken care of before finally accepting medical aid for himself. He was ultimately air lifted to the USA for medical care. They loaded me on a dust off chopper and from there it was surgery at 93rd evac then air evac to Japan. MG Seaman, Division Commander gave me my first purple heart at Bein Hoa while I was waiting to be loaded on the C-147. In Japan I underwent numerous operations at Army and Air Force hospitals and learned how to walk again and was awarded my second Purple Heart. For their bravery Sp4 Wall, Elliot and McMillion were awarded the Bronze Star with "V" device for Valor. SGT Tinisno was awarded the Army Commendation Medal with "V" Device. There is presently an effort on-going to upgrade his award to the Silver Star. Iíve never been able to contact any of my crew members that survived. I often wonder where thy are and what happened to them. On another area of the battle field lLT Garcia, our acting commander, climbed onto a burning 2 1/2 ammo truck and extinguished the fire while under incoming enemy fire.


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The arrival of the Air Force was Welcome but Long overdue.


Battle of Ap Bau Bang as experienced by SP4 Gonzalez, Infantryman, of A Troop.

I was ducking your track shrapnel. I can't believe you survived that. Our men were getting wounded on our Infantry Track.

In between the fighting I ran our wounded back to the center of our perimeter. We couldnít break formation and assault because of that infantry unit, (2/2nd Inf), that was dug in with us. That was in my mind to do. When you make contact, ASSAULT!!..I called for our medic to take care of our wounded during the fighting. No medic. I found him on open ground covering his head with his hands. I said "Come on, we need you". He froze. I kicked him in the ass and got him moving then returned to the fighting. I didn't see that medic again until later. He was on the ground and looked dead. I turned him over and their was no wound I could spot. To this day I've always thought he died of shock covering his head and listening to the noise of battle. During that battle I started with an M14. I went through every weapon we had. Towards the end at one point I picked up someone's 45 that had been hit with shrapnel and wouldn't fire without manually pulling back on the receiver on each shot. Our Track took direct hits early on but nothing like yours. We fought in the open around our track. At one point I needed ammo .I went to the nearest Infantry fox hole looking for ammo and they were at the bottom. When they saw me I almost got blown away. I had my shirt off at the beginning of the battle and my skin was brown. They saw a flash of my skin before the saw the rest of me when I came up on their hole. I said, I need ammo. I took some of theirs and said "you can't fight with your heads down like that. What are you going to do if someone comes up and catches you down there like that?", and thats how I left them. At another point we were low on water. I gathered some canteens from the men and ran for that water tank we had. There was another man running for the water tank on the other side at the same time. We both slid on opposite sides and came within a hair of shooting each other. We laughed. Filled our canteens and went about our way. Theres more but thats enough for now. After the shooting slowed at the end of that day, I had time to THINK ABOUT WHAT WE HAD JUST SURVIVED...And I sat back quiet and started shaking so bad Icouldn't stop. Somehow, I stopped shaking. I said to myself...."censured"..... This Battle of Ap Bau Bang was my first battle. my initiation...........(footnote by Bill Baty: SP4 Gonzalez was awarded the Bronze Star with ďVĒ Device for action that day. He was wounded the next day and air evacíd to the USA.)

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A19, 29 and 39 -all mortar APCs- were battle losses....Along with A16, 36 and 23


Action at AP Bau Bang as experianced by Kirby J. Hammond, 33rd Arty

I went over to Viet Nam on the Troop Ship Daniel L. Sullivan and arrived in Vietnam on 7 October 1965. I was drafted and spent most of my tour at Ft. Riley: we knew we were going to Vietnam and we trained 9 months in preparation for the trip. We had Ranger training except for jumping and even spent 9 weeks in the swamps of Florida. I had spent more than a year and a half with the guys we lost that day.***I'm drawing you a map based upon what I remember and the photos I took that day. My dad had asked me to send pictures home but since I couldn't get them developed, I told him I would just send exposed film home and he could get them developed. I sent home 3 rolls of 36 exposures and he had them them developed. He picked them up and took them home.Mom was the first to see them since Dad thought they were the usual kids in Ben Cat, etc. Mom was so upset that Dad threw all but 12 pictures away. I also have some pictures I took later at Bau Bang showing the burned out village and the four foot high dirt dike in front of the village the Vietcong used to support their automatic cannons and machine guns with. The way I remember the battle was; I woke up hearing and seeing machine gun tracers going every where. I was sleeping on the back of a deuce and a half (I didn't like the crawling things on the ground) and my first thought was that our tracks (APC's) were cross firing. It took me a couple of minutes to figure out what was going on (really probably only 10 seconds ) A couple of rounds hit my truck. I had cover on three sides (sandbags on front and sides of truck bed). I could see incoming fire from the other side of Highway 13 but decided not to return fire because I had no protection from that side. Within a couple of minutes of the start, Mortar rounds started falling everywhere. My mind was made up - I had to get off the truck. I jumped off and made it to my foxhole. Someone else was already in it. A few minutes later I heard bugles blowing. The mortars stopped and we got hit with a lot of screaming Viet Cong on our front and right flanks. I was on our base piece # 3 gun and am glad I was since we lost #1 and #2 on that first pass and most of their crews were killed or wounded. We heard a lot of firing behind us ( south ) after the first assault. It was not quite light yet and I thought it was a fight between Vietcong and another unit in the field or a relief column coming up from Lai Khe. When the bugles started again, most of the firing stopped. I knew then that the Viet Cong were unable to find our flanks and had run into each other coming around and were shooting at each other. I figured we were in trouble. The VC made a big mistake at this point - they elected not to hit us again in full force until full light. Our mission originally was to support a vietnamese troop convoy with 105 fire along Highway 13 and Cav and Infantry was to support us in our field mission. The only reason I bring this up was that it put our Captain in Charge and I was close by the OP and could hear most of the radio traffic. By early light we had all sorts of aircraft overhead. If you remember, the aircraft kept very high for quite awhile. The reason for this was that Major Ross back at Lai Khe told Captain Reel to keep the Air Force out of it and that Lai Khe would support us with artillery fire. Either the Major didn't want to share the glory with the Air Force or didn't realize what kind of fix we were in.***By this time, we were into close combat, even hand to hand fighting with the second assault. I remember our Captain telling the Major to " Go to Hell " and that he was calling the Air Force. The first pass of a jet ( Voodoo I believe ) the Viet Cong got the 20mm cannon and we got the casings. We lost a couple of guys by being hit with those casings coming out of the sky. One casing even put a hole in the hood of the Captain's jeep. We fired our 105mm direct into the rushing VC. I got a round through my canteen and into my ammo pouch. It tore my web gear off. Also I had a 105 round shot out of my hands. We had one more direct attack from the east but by then the Air Force and our combined efforts had pretty well taken the fight out of the VC. There were bodies lying all over I remember a burning Apc behind us after the first attack. I went to help those trying to get out. I killed a VC coming around the APC when I got there. I shot him between the eyes with my M-14. One guy was crawling out of the burning APC and he had an M-60. HE was so screwed up he wasn't going to make it. I took the M-60 and went back to my gun. During the second attack the VC would come up behind the burning APC and then make a run and slide under our deuce and a half. My foxhole was just on the other side and I guess they kept seeing each other make the truck and they kept coming. After the second attack, I had 5 VC under the truck that would not be going home. Ive been trying to find out what really happened that day.You are the first I've heard from and I know that during battle you don't care about what is happening elsewhere; its just you and that SOB who is shooting at you. do you know of anyone else who was there? And do you recognize any of the KIA's? What got me started was that a group of Viet Vets wanted to bring the wall to Santa Rosa, California, and set it up on the JC lawn. The JC staff said they didn't it to ruin the grass and it got into the newspaper. I had been a closet vet and had finished college after Nam where being a vet was a dirty word. I had a lot of problems due to survival guilt, etc. I got married after Vietnam and although she didn't understand what was happening (neither did I), she hung in there.
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A Troop lost a total of 7 APC's at Bau Bang.....Many of the Infantry and Artillery rode back to Lai Khe with us. The look on these men's faces speaks louder than words.


Another piece of the Battle Action at Bau Bang I - SP4 Burnett's DSC Narrative

The copy I have of SP4 Burnettís DSC General Order was made on the older type of Xerox paper (onion skin) and has turned brown with age. The following is copied exactly from the original GO.

DA General Order 21 dated 1 Jun 1966

1. DISTINGUISHED SERVICE CROSS. By direction of the President, under the provisions of the act of Congress approved, July 1963, has awarded the Distinguished Service Cross to: Specialist Five (then Specialist four) William D. Burnett, RA19651003, United States Army, who distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism on 12 Nov 1965, while engaged in military operations in the Republic of Vietnam as a driver of an armored personnel carrier. Specialist Brunett demonstrated dauntless courage when a hostile regiment launched a fierce attack on his unit at Ap Bau Bang. At the start of the battle, when the .50 caliber machinegun mounted on his carrier malfunctioned, he swiftly moved from the cover of the drivers seat to the top of the vehicle, quickly cleared the weapon, and used it on approaching insurgents, annihilating fourteen of them. During this action, the carrier took three hits from mortar fire, disabling it and wounding the vehicle commander. Assuming command of the situation, Specialist Burnett ordered the crew out of the vehicle, covered their withdrawal, then personally carried the wounded commander, and succeeded in reaching a protective cover moments before a mortar round landed directly on the vehicle. During the withdrawal, he also saved the life of another wounded man by using his hand weapon to eliminate two insurgents who were about to kill his beleaguered companion. After administering first aid to the wounded soldier, Specialist Burnett again exposed himself to a heavy volume of gun fire, going from vehicle to vehicle in search of a medical aidman for his critically injured commander. Upon finding an aidman, he led him back and then picked up his commander and carried him across 250 meters of terrain through intense hostile fire to the helicopter evacuation pad. Through his bravery, determination, and profound concern for others, he saved the lives of many fellow soldiers and contributed to his unitís success in repulsing a well-armed and numerically overwhelming insurgent force. Specialist Burnettís extraordinary heroism while serving on the battlefield is in the highest traditions of the United States army and reflects great credit upon himself and the military service. (This award supersedes the Silver Star awarded to Specialist Burnett for gallantry in action on 12 November 1965 as announced in General Orders Number 142, Headquarters United States Army, Vietnam, APO San Francisco 96307, dated 12 January 1966)


Ap Bau Bang, From the VC Commander's prespective

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