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Dozer523
10-20-2009, 08:20
Washington Post
October 20, 2009
Pg. B1

For Heroes, Belated Honors

Army unit being recognized for valor during 1970 Vietnam rescue

By Michael E. Ruane, Washington Post Staff Writer

The North Vietnamese soldiers were so close that Pasqual Gutierrez could see their eyes and faces as they darted among the bunkers in front of him.

Bullets banged off the armor of his tank. Rocket-propelled grenades had just cut down Sgt. Foreman, and wounded Capt. Poindexter. The fighting was so fierce that machine gun barrels overheated, and one comrade stuck cigarette filters in his ears to keep out the noise.

It was March 26, 1970. Location: A few Godforsaken acres of jungle, pocked by B-52 bomb craters, and now a stage where American tanks fired blasts of sharpened buckshot at an enemy who fought back from subterranean bunkers and could not be dislodged.

Tuesday in the White House Rose Garden, almost 40 years later, President Obama is scheduled to pay tribute to Gutierrez and about 80 other Vietnam veterans who fought in the savage, unnamed battle, which resulted in the rescue of a company of trapped fellow soldiers.

Gutierrez's outfit -- Alpha Troop, First Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment -- has been awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for its "extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry" in the fight, and the soldiers have been summoned to be honored.

A truck driver from Harrisonburg, an architect from California, a businessman from Texas, they have come from across the country, many having only in the last few months reopened that harrowing chapter of their lives, when as scared, young soldiers they stood face-to-face with the enemy, as Gutierrez says, in a kind of deadly prizefight.

"The analogy for me has always been: These two heavyweights stepping into the center of the ring," he said. "And then just going toe-to-toe, and pounding on each other . . . The first guy that connects, wins."

A 'mad minute' of fire

The Presidential Unit Citation, which was awarded to Alpha Troop in April, is the highest honor given to a military unit, and has been issued since World War II.

It was delayed in part because the unit's old commander, Houston businessman John Poindexter, said he realized only recently that many of his men had gone unrecognized. He compiled a book about the battle and used it in 2005 to file for the honor.

The award stems from an action in which Alpha Troop, under the command of then-Capt. Poindexter, volunteered to rescue about 80 American soldiers who were pinned down by an enemy battalion, according to official accounts. The battle took place along the Cambodian border, northwest of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City.

Poindexter had about 100 men in Alpha Troop, along with six light Sheridan tanks and about 14 Armored Cavalry Assault Vehicles, or A-cavs, bristling with machine guns. He had an additional 100 infantrymen assigned to him.

Gutierrez, now a 60-year-old California architect, was then a 21-year-old welder's son from East Los Angeles, and the commander of one of the lead tanks. A platoon sergeant, he sat in the turret hatch manning both a .50 caliber machine gun, and the tank's 152mm cannon, which he said he operated with his feet.

The battle began when Charlie Company, a separate group of American infantrymen, stumbled on the enemy bunkers the morning of March 26, took heavy casualties and were quickly surrounded.

Based a few miles away, Poindexter, then 25, volunteered to take his outfit through the jungle to rescue the trapped "grunts." He did so, although his troop was exhausted from weeks in the field, and still in shock from an accidental mortar explosion the night before that had killed several men.

As Alpha Troop pushed through the jungle, its men could see in the distance helicopters swooping low over the battlefield, Poindexter and Gutierrez said, and soon they could smell the smoke from the fighting. "It was pretty slow going," recalled Floyd Clark, 60, of Harrisonburg, a machine gunner. "You had a lot of time to think."

They arrived on the scene with a suddenness that surprised both sides, Poindexter said last week.

Gutierrez recalls being stunned by the sight of dead American soldiers, their bodies wrapped in ponchos, with their boots sticking out. "That . . . instilled in me that we were going to get in some serious business here," he said.

Poindexter ordered everyone to open fire with all weapons for a "mad minute," Gutierrez said, "just to kind of turn the flame on the kettle and see what comes to a boil, see what comes back."

Jungle went 'dead silent'

Plenty came back, he said.

Alpha troop answered with a burst of counter fire, Gutierrez said, and Poindexter ordered an advance. "Essentially, I don't ever remember not firing from that point on until the battle was over," Gutierrez said It was "punch for punch," he said. "Back and forth . . . Rockets are going everywhere . . . we're shooting at everything that's moving. They're shooting at everything that's moving."

He saw a rocket-propelled grenade strike and kill Robert Foreman Jr., 32, a fellow sergeant and tank commander who had a wife and three children back in California. Another blast wounded Poindexter.

Gutierrez, who was awarded the Silver Star for his actions in the battle, thought about his family back home, and wondered if he would survive.

He was not sure how long the fight went on. But it ended abruptly. "Just like that, the jungle had gone dead silent," he said. "It was over."

Alpha Troop loaded the survivors, and the dead and wounded, on its vehicles and headed back through the jungle to safety, and, for most, the rest of their lives.

"The men of Charlie Company who are alive today understand that we owe our lives" to Alpha Troop, said the company commander, then-Captain George Hobson, who planned to be present Tuesday.

Sgt. Foreman's widow, Gert, 75, who never remarried, will also be there with her daughter Bernadette, 43, who was 3 when her father died. Gert Foreman said the ceremony should not be about loss.

"It's a celebration," she said. "It's a celebration . . . for the people who are here. . . . My daughter doesn't know much about her father. And she can listen to these guys here, telling what a wonderful person he was."

Utah Bob
10-20-2009, 12:47
http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/10/20/vietnam.citation/

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Nearly 40 years after members of a U.S. cavalry unit put their lives in peril to save 100 fellow soldiers trapped under blistering enemy fire in Vietnam, they received the Presidential Unit Citation on Tuesday.
Veterans watch Tuesday's ceremony, which recognized members of a U.S. cavalry unit.

Veterans watch Tuesday's ceremony, which recognized members of a U.S. cavalry unit.

It's an honor their captain says is long overdue.

President Obama awarded the citation for extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry to 86 members of the Army's Troop A, First Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.

"These soldiers defined the meaning of bravery and heroism," Obama said at a White House reception honoring the group's heroics.

"It's never too late. You can never say it enough. ... We honor your service, and America is forever grateful."

On March 26, 1970, the 120-member Troop A volunteered to rescue an American infantry company surrounded by an overwhelming enemy force at a site on the Cambodian border called the Dog's Face. The enemy had survived hours of aerial and artillery bombardment and was expected to kill or capture the 100 American infantrymen in Company C within hours. The Americans were running out of ammunition and could not move because of heavy casualties. There were no available landing zones for medical and rescue helicopters to touch down.

Alpha Troop heard of their plight on a radio and rode in with an infantry company to rescue their comrades.

"Troop A skillfully penetrated four kilometers of nearly impassable jungle terrain and unhesitatingly mounted a fierce assault directly into the heavily fortified North Vietnamese army position," the presidential proclamation states.
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* Photos of fallen Vietnam veterans sought

When the battle was over, more than 70 Americans lay dead or wounded.

For retired Capt. John Poindexter, who led the rescue, the award is for all Vietnam veterans, many of whom came home to an unwelcome and sometimes hostile reception.

"The veterans of Alpha Troop feel very strongly that we stand in the stead of all veterans of the war of Vietnam," Poindexter told CNN before the ceremony. "The fact is that we're being singled out for a very distinct honor, a very rare one, but it is our conviction that on any day in any other jungle in Vietnam, nearly every Vietnam veteran would have been willing to assume the task that we assumed on March 26, 1970, when we earned the Presidential Unit Citation."

Poindexter had been trying to gain recognition for his men for the past seven years. Initially, he felt deep disappointment.

In 2003, he discovered that the men he had recommended for decorations for their valor had not received those citations. Eventually, 14 men received individual decorations.

That was not enough.

"My role in obtaining the PUC [Presidential Unit Citation] -- or in helping to obtain the PUC -- among the 200 persons who were involved in this matter over a seven-year period, was to be in the unhappy position of discovering that the men who I had recommended for decorations had not been recommended, had not been awarded those decorations," the retired captain said.

"The result of that was that we got 14 men decorated for their valor, but 14 men out of more than 120 who were engaged in the battle on that fateful day were only a pittance, only a minority, of those who might have been honored. Only a unit citation could honor all equally and impartially, and it was that task we set ourselves on nearly seven years ago. "

He believes lack of popular support for the war had much to do with it taking so long for Alpha Troop to be recognized.

"There's little question in our minds that the unpopularity of the war in Vietnam is a major contributing factor to the reception these men received when they returned to the United States and a major factor, in my opinion, in the silence that most of them have assumed since then," Poindexter said.

"Why talk about something that most people don't have a very high opinion of in all likelihood? And if that isn't true, nevertheless, it's what most of these men think. They were engaged in an unpopular venture that has bedeviled them for much of their adult lives."

Now, the circle has been closed.

"It's a very elevating experience to see the men that I have not seen for 40 years since War Zone C in Vietnam," the former captain said. "These are persons who have had success in life, and some have not had a lot of success in life, and to see how they've turned out, how they look these days, and to know I'll be with them in the White House [Tuesday] is a very fulfilling sensation for me.

"For me, the sensation of being honored is one of having closed an important chapter on my life in a very fruitful and rewarding way."

The Presidential Unit Citation is awarded to armed forces units of the United States and allies for extraordinary heroism against an armed enemy on or after December 7, 1941. The unit must display such gallantry, determination and esprit de corps under extremely difficult and hazardous conditions so as to set it apart from and above other units participating in the same campaign.

LarryW
10-20-2009, 13:00
Well deserved and about time!

Dozer523
10-20-2009, 13:06
Great minds think alike, Bob:)
Here is the article that was posted on the Early bird news on AKO.
http://www.professionalsoldiers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=25584

Bill Harsey
10-20-2009, 13:52
Outstanding news and all the best to those who served in this group.
Thank you for posting this.

Utah Bob
10-20-2009, 17:58
The Presidential Unit Citation, which was awarded to Alpha Troop in April, is the highest honor given to a military unit, and has been issued since World War II.
Do they mean ..has not been issued since WWII?

Does anybody know if the rescued company was also 11th ACR or another unit?
We (1st Cav) worked with them some in Cambodia.

And you couldn't pay me enough to ride in one of those bullet magnets.

Stras
10-20-2009, 17:59
Well Done!!

Welcome Home !!!!

Rumblyguts
10-20-2009, 19:46
Do they mean ..has not been issued since WWII?

Does anybody know if the rescued company was also 11th ACR or another unit?
We (1st Cav) worked with them some in Cambodia.

And you couldn't pay me enough to ride in one of those bullet magnets.

it looks like it was the 8th ACR... (edit: in case of searches leading here, read plato's post two below for more information)

From the citation:

...the troop volunteered to rescue Company C, 2d Battalion, 8th Cavalry, a 1st Cavalry Division unit surrounded by an overwhelming enemy force near the Cambodian border, in The Dog's Face, War Zone C, in Tay Ninh Province in the Republic of Vietnam. Company C was decisively engaged by a battalion of the 272d North Vietnamese Army Regiment

plato
10-20-2009, 19:48
Do they mean ..has not been issued since WWII?

Does anybody know if the rescued company was also 11th ACR or another unit?
We (1st Cav) worked with them some in Cambodia.

And you couldn't pay me enough to ride in one of those bullet magnets.

The rescued company was pure foot soldier. I suspect it was 1st Cav, since we were operating in the Tay Ninh area.

Amen on the bullet magnets. Well, except when they are on the way out of the firefight and stop to pick you up ;)

plato
10-20-2009, 20:10
There is no doubt of the courage of the 1/11 th on that day. One minor correction needs to be made. I'll pursue it. However, if anyone here has an idea of how to do so, I'll gladly take advice.

The unit rescued was not C Co. 2/8 Cav. C Co. had taken up a joint position with the 1/11 the day before since both units were operating in the same area and the 1/11 offered hot chow and a visit with some old friends. Neither unit needed orders to move out when it was learned how bad the situation was for the unit that had wandered into a regimental HQ and whose commander lacked the sense to back out.

Other moments from those two days include:

A Conscientious Objector medic, new to C 2/8 who had been in the field for less than a week, not terribly trusted by the others in the company because of his CO status. When the 4.2 mortar that was firing H&I fire had a round barely leave the tube before falling back into the track and detonating, said CO medic took off at a dead run. He ran from one position to another, covering the entire perimeter, putting gut on ground just long enough to make sure everyone was OK, before getting up to regain his run and dive even with ammo from the track cooking off. There were no questions about him after that night.

The M113's seemingly managing to knock down every damned red ants nest while enroute from the overnight position to the location of the unit that actually was rescued. Accompanying personnel were *not* amused.:D

The 1/11 tree-felling exercise upon arrival at the NVA HQ, as the Sheridans and APC's went on line. Using grape shot and some jacked-up M60's they turned a light forest into a fallen log-jam.

A hand coming out the drivers hatch on a Sheridan, opening a mermite can, and said hand going back down into the hatch with a can of coke. At the time, funny as hell. The 8 track tapes blaring a la "Apocalypse Now", added to the atmosphere.

With armored cav unit and infantry on line, the mass confusion (but quick reaction) as the NVA went through well-developed tunnels and came up behind the US line. RPGs everywhere and shrapnel flying like mosquitoes in the everglades at night.

The orderly withdrawal after the unit originally in contact was safely brought out of their positions. That troop of the 1/11 was tight, well led and well organized. The orderly nature was remarkable because it seemed each member of the 1/11 had memorized the faces of their "grunts", the foot soldiers riding on their particular track. Each TC checked names, faces, and numbers before breaking formation. A great fear, I think, of leaving someone behind, much appreciated by the ground-pounders.

And, finally, the separation of the dead and wounded in a clearing as helicopters came into the clearing that the three units occupied, a click or so away from the contact area.

Incoming medivacs that looked llke they could have been a simultaneous lift for an entire company, except for the red crosses.

I don't know the total number of dead and wounded, between the three units. Wounded included at least half of the rescuing 1st Cav troups who rode into battle in the 1/11 tracks. I do recall that, with each unit having nearly a full complement of officers, one LT was left after the medivacs, essentially a battalion commander for the night. Doing the math, there was probably a total of company left out of three that were engaged.

Damn, if I had a bottle of scotch about now......

Stras
10-20-2009, 20:54
Plato,

Thank you for sharing this.

Welcome Home !!! them damn protestors should have been tarred and feathered for what they did to you guys.

rltipton
10-20-2009, 23:17
They should get a lot more than a PUC imho. Welcome home, gents. Thank you!

Dozer523
10-21-2009, 02:22
Damn, if I had a bottle of scotch about now...... I keep a bottle of Balenie (doublewood; 12 YO) just in case I run into heroes like you, Plato. Thank you for the post; Thank you for your service, then and now. Ever in the St Louis area you'll be welcome to it.

Utah Bob
10-21-2009, 17:27
I'd sure like to see the AA report and find out who the rescuees were. Hard to believe they'd get it wrong in the citation but stranger things have happened.

EDIT: Well, I see on page 38 of Into Cambodia it identifies the rescued unit a C co 2/8 cav who were operating out of FB Illingsworth. I remember when Illingsworth got hit a while later we fired support from our 2/7 base, Hannas, a couple of klicks away. That was a bad night for them when their 8 inch ammo dump went up.

But the book says that Capt Hobson took over Co C at Illingsworth in April when their Capt was wounded which was after the Alpha Troop action in March. So I'm assuming, as Plato says, it wasn't C co who was rescued but Hodges' previous company before he took over C co in April.
??

Ahh the fog of war....

plato
10-21-2009, 23:21
[QUOTE=

But the book says that Capt Hobson took over Co C at Illingsworth in April when their Capt was wounded which was after the Alpha Troop action in March. So I'm assuming, as Plato says, it wasn't C co who was rescued but Hodges' previous company before he took over C co in April.
??

Ahh the fog of war....[/QUOTE]

And the FOG of war;).

The bit about CPT Hobson is the part that makes me try hard to rethink this.

I'm only assuming that I have the unit right. I was one of the 2/8 platoons riding in on the M113s to pull the mangled company out of the complex. And I mean just that. I'm assuming. :confused:

I met my theoretical CO, Ray.... (don't even recall his last name) once, months before, and after three days platoons split off to operate independently until we rejoined at Tay Ninh, as a company, with the 1/11 troop. We weren't "assigned" to them, by the way. We were simply co-resident.

Again, we're talking hot chow and actual showers, water trailers sling-loaded in.

It's possible that my platoon could have actually been part of a company designated A or B, or whatever. I know that sounds flaky, but when you're the Plato platoon and don't operate as a company, it doesn't stick in the memory well.

Still, I'm close to sure that we were part of C Co. I *know* we were part of 2/8 because the plaque downstairs says so. :D

If the Co. we pulled out was also 2/8 that may explain the confusion. My platoon had only been out of the field once, for a three day in country R&R, (Bien Hoa, steam baths, beer and great massages) so I wouldn't recognize anyone from the Battalion, except for my CO and that from only a few days together.

On the date of the contact, I was a week from inheriting the company, because Ray was due to DEROS. I know he was up and walking afterward, and don't remember any sign of wounds. So, if someone inherited a command from a wounded CO, it wouldn't have been from us. I left the battlefield in the supine position, however, and never made it back to my "almost" command.

I don't recall meeting the CPT who commanded the 1/11 troop either. I knew their XO, and it seemed to me that he was the one giving the directions. That doesn't mean that I was right. There may have been a stray ACav CPT in the AO. :) And, if the CPT remembered a company of the 2/8 in the action, he was certainly correct. There was at least one (mine), and possibly two.

I know that the CPT who had walked his company into the obvious Regt. HQ had no serious wounds. He had a couple of small pieces of shrapnel in the cheek and jaw, and was moving the well, the last I saw of him, about 15 minutes before we withdrew.

And, I don't think my company from the 2/8 ever went to Illingsworth, when I got back from Bien Hoa, they had been assigned to being Palace Guard for the 1Cav HQ. Not back to 100%, I wound up at Division G-3, so I got to see them there.

Does the book mention any other 2/8 units around that time? Now I'm really wondering.

And, thanks for the words from those here to the Vietnam vets. I sometimes wonder, though, if we would have felt so close to each other if the opposition hadn't pushed us into closing ranks.

mojaveman
10-22-2009, 00:06
Great story.

There was a big article in my local newspaper the other day because I guess a local judge who is a Viet Nam veteran was involved in the operation and went to DC for the ceremonies. I've always been impressed with the 11th ACR. If I'm not mistaken they're still stationed out at Irwin.

The Reaper
10-22-2009, 11:00
Great story.

There was a big article in my local newspaper the other day because I guess a local judge who is a Viet Nam veteran was involved in the operation and went to DC for the ceremonies. I've always been impressed with the 11th ACR. If I'm not mistaken they're still stationed out at Irwin.

They are now.

They used to be in Germany as the "die in place" screening unit.

TR

Richard
10-22-2009, 12:14
Our ODA spent some time along the IGB with their 2nd Reconnaisssance Squadron providing some FOB support out of Bad Hersfeld for our JCS directed tasking - they made a good 'smokescreen' and we affectionately referred to them as the 11th Armored Carnival Regiment. I still do. :p

Got a neato border service certificate from them, though. ;)

Richard's $.02 :munchin

bushmaster11
06-10-2013, 22:00
Has anyone had trouble getting PUC put on DD 214? St Louis said to go through Board of Corrections. I filed their forms and submitted the packet last year. I just got their decision and they have denied including the PUC on DD 214 because my records reflect assignment to SOACCN. My records show no affiliation with MACV-SOG. I had sent them all orders to and from CCN. I also included the GO for the PUC. How did others get the PUC into their official file. I am retired, no pressing reason, other than the pride of being recognized by any future ancestors.

J R sends
De Oppresso Liber