June 3, 1967
11th Cavalry Platoon Hit By VC
TAN SON NHUT, (USARV-IO) - An armored
platoon from the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment was hit hard recently by a reinforced
battalion of Viet Cong. The fight occurred along Highway 1, 30 miles east of Saigon.
As the platoon swept the highway for mines,
the enemy force cut loose from the 10 foot high elephant grass on the roadside, hitting
the cavalrymen with antitank fire, rockets and automatic weapons. The armored unit
was composed of Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicles (ACAV), a tank, mess truck and a gun
jeep. Every vehicle was hit at least once by antitank rounds or rockets.
During the firefight, which lasted 10
minutes, 16 Americans and 20 Viet Cong were killed.
Artillery from the 54th Artillery group
combined with regiment gunships and U.S. Air Force strikes to force the enemy to break
Enemy weapons used in the attack included
75mm and 57mm recoilless rifles, rockets, .50 caliber machineguns and small arms.
Only one soldier, SFC Home L. Pittman,
escaped the enemy attach uninjured. Pittman, the unit platoon sergeant, was riding
the lead ACAV when the close range crossfire began. Though his armored vehicle was
hit by rockets and on fire, Pittman stuck to the "track" and drove it through
the kill zone before it was completely disabled.
Leaping from the burning ACAV, the sergeant
lobbed grenades at the enemy as he darted back to the next armored vehicle. As
bullets bounded off the vehicle, Pittman climbed aboard and headed back down the route,
spraying machinegun fire at the enemy.
As he reached the rear of the column, he lost
his second ACAV and immediately sped to another, carrying on the fight until help arrived.
Specialist Four Richard Friend was operating
in the front seat of a gun jeep. In the first burst of fire, the hood was shot off.
He was almost clear of the kill zone when an enemy rocket blew the jeep of the
road. Friend was thrown clear.
As he crawled back onto the road, without
weapon or helmet, he saw one Viet Cong with a bag of explosives moving away from him
toward an ACAV. Searching for a weapon, Friend remembered his small hunting knife.
He plunged it into the VC as he was placing the charge against the vehicle.
The platoon's tank was his 14 times.
Three of its four-man crew were injured when the first round hit.