K Troop 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment

The Blackhorse In Vietnam 1966 - 1972

hosted by Bob Hersey


May 21, 1967

16 Americans in Convoy Die in Vietcong Ambush

Suoicat, South Vietnam (AP) - Rolling along a dusty highway past feels teeming with women and children at work, an American armored column was enveloped in a classical Communist ambush, Sunday and was destroyed amidst burning and exploding vehicles and dying men.

For the US 11th Armored Regiment, parent of the unit attacked 40 miles East of Saigon, the bloody ambush was a bitter reversal of a similar action last December in almost the same area when 100 Communist attackers were killed with the loss of one American.

In the holocaust of rocket and recoilless-rifle fire that stabbed at the column Sunday from a distance as close as 15 feet, 16 Americans were killed and 29 wounded.  Only three men in the eight vehicle convoy escaped injury and they staggered with shock long afterward.

The battalion-strong Vietcong that lay in ambush along both side of the highway for 1100 yards destroyed three armored personnel carriers and one jeep, put a score of holes in a 52-ton M-48 tank and smashed a truck with recoilless-rifle fire.  The two remaining personnel carriers were hit repeatedly but could move.

Twenty-one Vietcong dead were counted, after the battle which lasted 15 minutes.  At least two civilians were hit.

The ambush occurred only a few miles from the headquarters of the Vietnamese 18th Infantry at Xuanloc.  The attackers were believed part of the Vietcong 5th Division based in the Maitau secret zone East of Xuanloc.

Ironically, the Vietcong were believed to have been waiting for a Vietnamese convoy scheduled to pass along the highway.  The American vehicles were on the road a little earlier and took the ambush instead.

One of the armored personnel carriers that survived five hits and managed to weave in and out of the ambush carrying wounded was driven by 2nd. Lt. Ted Hendrickson, 24 our Rock Island, Illinois, an engineer attached to the 595th Engineer Company.

He was the controls for only the third time in his life.  The regular driver had let him take over during what was expected to be a routine run into the 11th Armored base camp near Xuanloc.

Hendrickson said his vehicle took a direct hit in its nose when the ambush was sprung just after 9:00 am.  "We halted and a cloud of blue smoke billowed up in front of me, Hendrickson recalled.  "Then, as it cleared I saw just in front of us on the highway, about 15 feet away, two Vietcong gunners setting us a 57-mm recoilless rifle".

Hendrickson jerked his 13 ton carrier and charged at the men.  "One was just about to slam a shell into the breach when he saw me coming," the lieutenant said.  "The other one holding the barrel tried to jump aside.  I ground over him first.  Then I crunched the weapon.   Finally, I ran over the gunner himself."  He said he saw a wounded Vietcong attempting to cross the road and I rolled over him also.

Hendrickson's carrier sustained four more hits.  A piece of metal sliced through his lower lip and and most of the men with him were wounded.

He drove through the ambush and then returned and pulled wounded Americans on board as bullets smacked his vehicle.

Eventually, six wounded men were clinging to the top of the carrier and four inside.  The Vietcong melted away from the ambush as armed helicopters zeroed in.

Article by Peter Arnett writing for the Associated Press (AP)


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