Charlie Banner

The Military Order of the Purple Heart

Carl McClafferty

Lt. Lewis (left) and Carl (right) on LZ Liz

Carl and wife in Germany 2007

Charlie Company
October 11, 1970

At 1035hrs Charlie Company at BS675567, the 87 element has 1600 pound of unpolished rive in good condition inside a hootch wall, in baskets and at BS682581 3,800 pounds of corn, 10 pounds of tobacco, 50 pounds of potatoes will back haul all found in baskets. At 1210hrs Charlie Company the 34 element have 1 ton of rice for extraction at this time, at 1337hrs they now have 3,500 pounds for extraction, total 1,200 pounds of rice and 3800 pounds of corn ready for extraction. At 1400hrs Charlie Company 57 element at BS667605 detained 1 female, no ID, black top and blue bottoms, straw hat, she was evading to the west when detained, approximate age 30 years old, she will be back hauled on the resupply bird. At 1605hrs Charlie Company bird to extract rice on station at 1605hrs, extraction completed at 1630hrs extracted total 3800 pounds of corn, and 1200 pounds of rice. At 1725hrs Charlie Company at BS673593 Urgent Dust Off for 1 US gunshot wounds to the back and legs, 64 completed Dust Off at 1733hrs. Took round while making the Dust Off, the 57 element checking the area in which 25A saw 2 personnel observing the 54 element. The 25A checked out the personnel again, 1 was dressed in a green uniform, the other in a white shirt, and shorts. The 57 element moved out check the area and received heavy volume of fire vicinity BS675591. The 57 requests another Urgent Dust Off for 2 US one was hit from right shoulder to left side and in the right wrist. The other a gunshot wound. At 1745hrs Dust Off, Bird 81 completed at 1805hrs. Charlie Company they also have 4 additional WIA, the rest of the 54 element is moving to help the 57 element and they are still receiving sporadic fire from AK 47 and hand frag from BS673593. At 1820hrs 54 element receiving 2 unknown type of mortar rounds from BS665575. Shark 1 and Shark 6 on station sharks are engaging contact area, and the 57 element pulled back moving to bridge and the ARVN Compound at BS682609. At 1935hrs Charlie Company 54 element pulled back to the 57 element with unknown results. At 1953hrs Charlie Company 84, 04 and 12 elements in location at BS668574. At 2350hrs Charlie Company Wrap Up: the 54 element at BS681595 had contact with 12-14 enemies in green uniforms they were well-dug in, holes and bunkers. Had set up an ambush position with AK 47, Chi Com, RPG, Mortar and a possible 30 Caliber fire, there was extensive vegetation in the area. 25 A saw personnel who were there to draw US into an ambush, M-60 gunner believe he blew a RPG in half. Charlie Company reports that PFC ROGER DALE COLE is evac to the 91st Evac Hospital Gun Shot wound right shoulder and right side (See November 12, 1970), PVT Edward P. Philipkosky smite to 91 Evac with gun shot wound to chest, 1LT Thomas H. Lewis treated and released from 91 Evac with multiple frag wounds both legs, SGT Gary A. Leopold treated and released from 91 Evac frag wound left leg, PFC Michael D. Iverson medic from Headquarters and Headquarter Company treated and released from 91 Evac with frag wounds left shoulder and back, PFC Carl L. McClafferty was treated and released 91 Evac with frag wounds to back and right hand and PFC David L. Dilbeck at 1730hrs evac to 91 Evac with minor frag wounds to body.

In His Own Words

October 11th
The forgotten battle
1st Plt C Co 1/2oth

On October 10th my platoon was flown back into the Sung Ve River. We landed without incident. Due to illness, transfers etc there were only 15 or so of us combat ready to deploy (About two squads plus the Plt Sergeant and Lt). As we set up around an abandoned French house, two NVA step out of a wood line approximately 100 yards away and fire several shots at us and then they fled back into the wood line. We fire a few rounds in response and waited. Having been in Vietnam with numerous (almost weekly contact) we knew better than to chase after them. Nice thought on their part, but our Native Americans taught soldiers that lesson a century before! With thoughts of being targeted, we moved a little after dark to another abandoned French house on the side of the wood line that we had spotted on the initial helicopter assault. The night passed without incident.

We still had to examine the wood line so in the early morning I led a patrol parallel to the wood line until we got to an area covered with burial mounds about 100 yards from the wood line. Once we were hidden from view, we moved within several yards of the wood line. It was eerily completely silent in a land of numerous species of animals, birds and insects. With the sudden disappearance of farmers, kids and water buffalo in the fields, there was no doubt that the NVA were in the wood line. We radioed the Lt. about the situation and suggested that we” fire for effect” into the wood line to try and see if we got return fire. With our squad in a good position at the mounds and the rest of the platoon in position at the French house, we had the wood line in a perfect crossfire with our M-60s should it be necessary. The TOC at LZ Liz denied our request because there was a village within a thousand meters of our position.

I am not sure if Lt Lewis made the decision to enter the wood line where we had the first contact or if it came from the TOC, but that is what happened in the afternoon of October 11, 1970. I was at the French house and was not comfortable with it and mentioned that I had led the previous patrol along the long side of the wood line because it was tactically sound, but I was ignored. As we waited at the French house and watched the patrol enter what we knew was a danger area all hell broke loose. If you have never heard the sound of AKs, PKMs and NSVs from a battalion size group it would be impossible to explain. What did the 8 of us do? Call the TOC, call the Company, duck and hide? No we grab our weapons and ran the hundred yards with a war cry and busted into the wood line from the side. We immediately encountered the NVA at point blank range, running through them without stopping. I believe this immediate savage response saved the other squad from being destroyed. The NVA were trained to fire in disciplined areas, usually marked by shooting sticks which marked their area of fire. Our assault from the side had completely confused the enemy.

From my memory as we thrust through the enemy, the fight came to a stop. Many of my friends were wounded, only two of them seriously. Our medic Doc Mike Iversion was standing up in the sporadic fire, working on the wounded and moving them to a depression in the ground. I went from soldier to soldier, helping Doc Iverson. The machine fire started increasing substantially, but Doc continued to move to the wounded, one soldier (Ed Philipkosky) had been shot numerous times in the upper chest, as we moved to him a chicom grenade landed near us. The explosion took down both of us temporarily. What saved us is that Ed covered the grenade with his leg, it torn his leg off. We went to work on him and he is still alive today with a family. We had just got the M203 combined M-16/grenade launcher. Ed had been issued one and so had I. Ed relayed that after he was hit an NVA had crawled up to him had taken his vest and weapon while he played dead. I still had my M-203, so when the NVA opened up on us from about fifteen yards I pumped 40mm grenades at head level into trees around them. While all this was going on a Soldier from San Diego named Bob Owens crawled up to us and asked for some of our hand grenades. We gave him one each and I noticed he didn’t have his M-16. While Doc worked on the wounded Soldier, Bob crawled out to middle where the NVA were sending reinforcements and dropped a dozen grenades on them, this broke their will and they retreated. I covered Bob as he returned Along with Ed this was a case of “saving my brothers” and probably the bravest things I could ever imagine one man doing for another. As Doc took the wounded Ed back to his triage depression, I spotted a private, who eventually be removed from our unit, lying behind his M-60 just staring in the direction of the NVA. For some reasons (he was an idiot in my opinion) he had been assigned an M-60 belt fed machine gun. Earlier he decided to take apart the M-60 to clean it, but never tried it. He had put the recoil spring in wrong and the gun was down. I took the weapon from him and emergency field stripped it, replaced the recoil spring and got the weapon back into action with a new soldier behind it. A friend of mine Steve Sexton was down with his M-16 in the shape of a “U”. He had taken numerous PKM rounds chest high, but they had all hit his M-16 deflecting away from him, one round actually cut a gold ring on his wrist and never touched him. I handed him a stray M-16 I had picked up.

The RTO had been trying to get a MEDIVAC to land for our seriously wounded, which included our Lt. The problem was that we were not able to suppress enemy fire and the NVA was targeting any MEDIVAC that attempted to land. Finally a Marine MEDIVAC came disregarding the heavy NVA fire. Doc had us pick up our wounded and move to the designated LZ. I remember looking up at the MEDIVAC as it started to land and saw the pilot get hit with a slew of Heavy Machinegun rounds. I expected the C0-pilot to leave, but I watch him concentrate on landing disregarding everything else. Lt Lewis had been hit hard, but he refused help and actually argued about getting on the MEDIVAC. We finally forced him onto the helicopter and it took off skimming the rice paddies, keeping low against the skyline.

As the NVA massed again at about 20 yards, we retreated out of the wood line to the first rice paddy. We used the paddy dike to sit up our effort to blunt to the attack. Somehow I ended up behind an M-60 just as the assault began. The NVA poured heavy machinegun and RPG into our ranks. As they attempted to overrun us, we were able to cause enough casualties to keep them at the very edge of the wood line. As the their fire continued we started to run out of ammo, I look down the line and watched several soldiers pulling out their knives as their weapons ran dry. The M-60 had run dry and I had switched to M-203 trying to place the few remaining 40mm to slow the machinegun and RPG fire. As I shared my remaining few M-16 magazines, the NVA massed again in the wood line for an all-out assault across the 25 yards that separated the few remaining of us from them. It was then that I heard the greatest sound that still stirs my heart today, the thump, thump of a UH-1 slick. The gunship painted as a shark hit the NVA with 40mm and machinegun fire just as they charged into the open field killing dozens of them. As the helicopter swept by, dozens more emerged from the wood line to shoot at his departing tail rotor. What they did not see was the wingman bearing down on them. Once again dozens fell. This is hard to understand but we just stood up with our wounded and made our way 75 yards to the abandoned French house. I was one of the few that had ammo, so I walked backwards, shooting anyone who seemed to be focusing on us and not the helicopters. At about 50 yards in our retreat, the Helicopters destroyed the wood line with rockets.

As we reached the French House we started digging in while Doc Iverson moved the more seriously wounded into the house and then went among the rest treating our wounds. The firefight had started about 3:30PM and as I check the time it was nearly 7PM and the sun was setting. We were all exhausted and out of ammunition. The TOC was still trying to figure out what to do (I’ll explain that later) while we bled and waited. The Hueys radioed that they were returning to base but other Helicopters were coming. Not exactly what you want to hear when you’re out of Ammo and only a hundred or so yards from an enemy that just tried to destroy you. As the sun set and night fell we could hear the NVA moving their forces. Just when we thought that we were about to be attacked we heard a helicopter fly over us blacked out. Suddenly a huge spotlight lit up the area around the wood line we could see a large group of NVA that were just leaving the wood line headed in our directions. What looked like a laser shot from the helicopter towards the enemy. A loud racket joined the laser as the ground around the enemy erupted. This was my first sight of a minigun and a helicopter called night hawk. We heard another helicopter come in over top of us and boxes started raining down on us from fifty feet. The boxes burst opened as they hit dumping thousands of rounds around the French house. We were happy to have the ammo, but wished they had not almost killed us re-supplying us. Luckily there were so few us that were still battle effective that they probably would have had to deliberately aim to hit one of us with a box. The fight between the night hawks and NVA went on throughout the night with us shooting when we spotted someone getting passed them. During the night I was standing in a hole we had dug next to a friend named Carl Long(also known as preached for his bible study) suddenly I felt a small tug on my sleeve and realized I had fallen asleep standing up. As I young macho male who prided himself on his abilities I was completely decimated. I apologized, but preacher just smiled and said “If you fall asleep standing in a fox hole with a rifle in your shoulder, I guess God thought you needed it”. I stayed awake the rest of the night. As morning broke, the helicopter attacks continued on the wood line. Helicopters came in to airlift us; Doc and I boarded the last MEDIVAC and headed to the hospital in Chu Lai.

While we were in the hospital a large group of Delta Company was brought in with many dead and even more wounded. They told us that after we were airlifted, the battalion air assaulted Delta Company in the same rice paddy field we had fought in outside the wood line. They said it was quiet as they were inbound, but as the helicopters flared nose up to land all hell broke loose. The soldiers said that 13 helicopters had been destroyed and that Delta Company had been effectively destroyed. We had been relaying a SALUTE report throughout the day and night, and so had the numerous helicopter crews. We all knew we were fighting a very large unit. But because TOC Intelligence didn’t agree with us, our reports seemed to fall on deaf ears or maybe the TOC just didn’t believe our small unit could survive what was being reported. I saw our Company Commander (James Donovan and asked what the TOC was thinking. He just looked at me and shook his head in disbelief. TOC eventually mobilized the entire battalion for an all-out assault and airlifted a Vietnamese Battalion as a blocking force on the only route to the safety of the mountains. A Sergeant at TOC eventually said that the unit we had fought was a NVA Sapper Battalion. As our Battalion entered the wood line to kill anyone left there, there was a path leading to the mountains that everyone believe at first was red clay, but as they followed it they realized it was a huge trail of blood. As they raced to catch the enemy, they were notified that the Vietnamese battalion had went home and there was no blocking force. The enemy escaped into the mountains to fight another day.

The helicopter gunships that arrived to save us were headed somewhere else but diverted on their own when they heard our radio traffic, a resupply helicopter that was circling over top of us had contacted them. They broke off their planned mission to come to the fight. It should be noted that the resupply helicopter pilots wrote in their reports that it was bravest thing they had ever seen and suggested that several of the soldiers be submitted for the Medal of Honor. I think I was one of the few people to receive anything (Bronze Star with V device). The citation reads like we had a fought a company size unit for a short time and had done well. I know from the reports it was a battalion, plus we killed a company in several minutes. Politics are a pain for the soldier on the ground, especially for the heroics I observed that day. When I read CMH statements Ed, Doc Iverson and Bob Owens fit all those requirements. Sad that they were never recognized. I was promoted during the battle to corporal and given Sergeant Stripes as an acting Sergeant when I left the hospital. Around 30 days later I went before an officer board and was promoted to Sergeant.

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