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The Battle of Ong Thanh - 17 Oct. 67

The Battle of Ong Thanh - 17 Oct. '67

A photo taken in the NDP (Night Defensive Position, or perimeter) of the 2/28th Inf. prior to the Battle of Ong Thanh. The officer 2nd from the left was the Battalion Commander, LTC Terry Allen Jr. Next to him (center) was Major Don Holleder. The officer on the far right gesturing was 1LT Clark Welch, Delta Co. Commander. The other two officers were the Brigade Commander, COL Newman, and Brigadier General Coleman, Assistant Division Commander, who were being briefed.

In the battle to follow, LTC Allen and the HQ contingent he took out with him were all killed. Major Holleder was killed while trying to rescue wounded soldiers. LT Welch was wounded in three extremities and the chest. The combat photographer who took this photo, SP4 Verland Gilbertson, was also killed in the battle.

Unfortunately, the First Division politics of the time kept LT Welch fom receiving the Medal of Honor. He was awarded a Silver Star Medal. Many years later Brigadier General Jim Shelton gathered eyewitnesses and put together a Medal of Honor recommendation. After years of review he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. You can read more information about his actions here: http://www3.ausa.org/webpub/DeptAUSANews.nsf/byid/CCRN-6CGM95

Besides the Distinguished Service Cross, during his distinguished career LTC (retired) Welch was awarded 3 Silver Star Medals, 5 Bronze Star Medals and 5 Purple Heart Medals, in additon to many other awards. He was an outstanding combat leader and is one of America's heroes.


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Guest 09-Apr-2014 22:22
Such a sad event.
Randy G. Baker MSgt USMC (Ret) 05-Aug-2013 06:59
It was during this same engagement that my cousin, Army SSgt Luther A. Smith, of Delta Company, also lost his life. He left behind a wife and three daughters, the youngest of whom he never got to see as his wife was pregnant with her when he was killed. I never met my cousin because we grew up in New York. I will never have the opportunity to get to know him now, but I will carry his memory and that of the ultimate sacrifice he made in service to his country with me as long as I am blessed to live. God bless him.
treadhead6829-May-2013 23:20
Hey Doc Reynolds. Door gunner Cofield here. Don't know if you remember me, You left shortly after I arrived the last of May-68. Welcome Home BRO!
Bob Dembro 18-May-2013 18:11
I sen back to home base on 16 June 16, 1967 to get ready to DEROS. On the 17th the company arrive back at Lai Khe and I was told then that The company been involved in a skirmish and
some members of Company C died. One was my best friend Michael Morrow. R.I.P. Bother. It took a lot out of me as I didn't couldn't fall asleep on the 14 hrs back to the states. I arrived at Chicago O'Hare and had a layover of four hours. I was approach by a Colonel and
a Sargent and asked if I wanted to go and have a bite to eat. Needless to say I got sloshed and missed my flight back to the states. I was woken up the next morning by the MP's and told to fix my dress. I got home a day late. I went right to bed and didn't wake up until two days later. I was under the bed. I wouldn't leave my house for another three months.... God Bless all my friends who never made it back... Trying to forget...
Dave Berry21-Mar-2013 03:38
Burton,
Thank you for what you did. The aviators who flew in to get our wounded were heroes and saved many lives. It was a miracle that we didn't lose any of your aircraft. I heard them being fired on and I know some were hit. I have shared your comments with some of my Black Lion friends and you will probably hear from some of them.
Dave Berry.
Burton W. Bucher 20-Mar-2013 22:04
W2 Burton W. Bucher (Nighthawkbravo) I flew in support of the Black Lions that day and remember it like it was yesterday. We flew as the 3rd Bde Aviation section of the First Infantry division out of Lai Khe--had 6 H-13s and had as memory serves used 2-3 that day.. We got the call they needed medivac ships and had no idea what we were going into--and really what was going on---came onto the site and talked on the radio-between ships-we had 6 on station when I was there. The troops had cut down a few trees to make a hole big enough to get a H13 into --- Huey wouldn't fit--too big --- we shot a approach to a hover then a vertical descent of 100-120 feet and rested our skids on a cut down tree---Loaded the wounded one at a time --then a vertical climb of 120 feet out of that hole with everything the ship had to give 3200 rpm overspeed to 3300rpm as we pulled power --riding right pedal looking for a hollow in the trees to help build rotor rpm---right on the jagged edge ---we flew to a rice paddy open area not 1-2 klics away--we landed and transferred to the Huey medivacs--then back to the hole and do it again--I got six out that day-- the other 13 pilots about the same --we only took the wounded--not the dead--I read the book "They marched into sunlight" and remember that they said the pilots didn't seem to care or were disconnected---I can tell you we did care!!!! it's just we were right on the edge of what that ship could do and pushed them beyond their limits---The Pucker factor was very high and that "moments of fear" thing was all the same between the pilots as we talked later--we were totally focused on the job at hand --we didn't lose a ship that day and got out 35-40 guys that wouldn't of had a chance-----Proud to have served----Nighthawkbravo 3rd Bde 1st Inf Div.
Guest 26-Mar-2012 22:11
I JUST FOUND OUT A FRIEND OF MINE DIED IN THIS BATTLE. I WILL HOPEFULLY FIND THE BOOK BY GEN.SHELTON AND READ IT.
Dave Otto 04-Mar-2011 20:07
I arrived in RVN 17 Oct 67, and was immediately sent to the 2/28th as a replacement. I will never forget drawing my web gear from the supply hut, with all of the recovered web gear and steel pots stacked outside. I don't pretend to know how you who lived through that day feel, but I have spent 40+ years asking myself why?
You've got a great site here.
Don "Doc"Reynolds 05-Sep-2009 17:29
I meant the CH-47 Chinook helicopter. The helicopter we all lovingly referred to as the "Shithook"
Don "Doc"Reynolds 05-Sep-2009 15:56
Dave,
I was a medic/doorgunner with the 173rd AHC Robinhoods at Lai Khe from July 67 to July 68.I was not flying that day.Late in the afternoon we were told to take our ambulance to the west side of the runway where we usually loaded troops for combat assaults. We were informed that there was a mass casualty situation and that every available medic and medical transport available on the base camp was to report there. We took our ambulance, and waited for at least an hour. Shortly before dark two C-47 Chinook helicopters landed. We had been excited that we would have an opportunity to utilize our medical skills to treat the wounded, but instead of applying our medical skills to treat wounded troops, we spent the rest of the evening and far into the night transporting about 63 KIA from the battle to Graves Registration at Lai Khe where we assisted the Graves Registration folks in sorting and identifying the soldiers who died. It was one of the most frustrating and sad days that I ever spent in Vietnam, and I have remembered those fine men on a regular basis, usually in my nightmares, for the past 42 years.
A few years back, I found out that the battle had a name (Ong Thanh) and read both books. I had a difficult time with the fiction book "They Marched into Sunlight" which compared the battle with contemporary events in the US at the time, But I bought the book "The Beast Was out There" by General Shelton, which answered many questions I had about the circumstances of that tragic day and night. Thank you for your memories and excellent documentation.
Don "Doc" Reynolds
173rd AHC Robinhood
Michael Hill15-Aug-2009 02:24
Dave this is what a hero is,,,, thank you for these photos and memories
Dave Berry07-Nov-2007 05:24
Jim Shelton is a true hero and a good friend to many of us. David Mariniss' book "They Marched Into Sunlight" and Rob Kenner's PBS documentary based on it ("Two Days in October) also discuss what happened in the jungle and what was happening on the home front at the same time. The Battle of Ong Thanh was a tragedy that cost the lives of many brave soldiers and marked everyone who was there.
Leonard Martinez 07-Nov-2007 04:08
The definitive book on this tragically mismanaged battle is "The Beast Was Out There" by Brig. Gen. James E. Shelton, USA (Ret.) published by Catigny (2002)
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