On 15 May 1969, I was commanding Company G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines Regiment. After numerous probes and night attacks on my night defensive position located north of My Le, a hamlet 3 miles west of An Hoa, Republic of Vietnam, I was certain the source of these NVA attacks was located in the hamlets of My Le and An Bang. After extensive air and artillery preparation of the area, I took two platoons and swept through My Le.
As I was returning to my company's defensive position, I was taken under fire by a company of well entrenched NVA soldiers blocking my path to the remainder of my company. In the assault that followed, we suffered 8 KIAs and 22 WIAs of which 5 were emergencies.
Unable to carry my assault through the enemy position and unable to utilize artillery due to the close proximity of friendly units, I was forced to pull back and establish a 360o defensive perimeter. At this time a UH-1, piloted by 1stLt. Trent, appeared on station and was utilized to great effect on the enemy positions. He was relieved by "Hostage Uncle" (Major Miller) in in a Huey Cobra. "Hostage Uncle" then proceeded to put on one of the finest displays of airmanship I have ever witnessed.
Controlling three OV-10 Broncos, he repeatedly rolled in at treetop level to mark targets for the Broncos, often directed by only the most cursory verbal directions. On each run he received a heavy volume of ground fire, but his rockets were always on target. At one point during this engagement, the NVA had pushed to within 30 meters of our position and were throwing grenades into our perimeter. I marked the enemy's position with smoke and "Hostage Uncle" rolled in and fired his machine guns into them just as they were beginning to assault, completely breaking up their assault and sending the rest running back to their positions.
During this contact, one of my squads was separated from the rest of our force and was some 50 meters away from us across an open garden. Two snipers in a burned pagoda located almost directly between the cut off squad and my position had already killed two of the squad and wounded two others when they tried to run back to our perimeter. It was beginning to get dark by now and the entire area was clouded with smoke and night fog, and I told "Hostage Uncle" that I would probably lose that entire squad if they didn't get back before dark.
Major Miller then fired two smoke rockets between the pagoda and the cut off squad, and although he had only verbal directions, he put both of them exactly where they were meant to go. The distance between the pagoda and the squad was 30 meters. He then had the OV-10s make runs on the pagoda and he also used 40MMs on it. On each run I could see the tracers from two NVA heavy machine guns arch up at the planes and I could hear several other automatic weapons as well.
I have seen and directed many air strikes during my two tours in Vietnam, but never have I seen such precise strafing and rocket attacks under such extreme conditions. As a result of the smoke rockets and the precision strafing, the two snipers were killed and the cut off squad was able to get back to friendly lines with their killed and wounded.
"Hostage Uncle" continued to direct rocket and machine gun attacks on the enemy positions until well after dark. There was one friendly unit 300 meters to our north and another 300 meters to our east, but neither of these units at any time was in danger of friendly fire due to "Hostage Uncle's" and the OV-10 pilots' superior airmanship.
At approximately 2000 hours that night, Swift 6 (Lieutenant Colonel Brady) brought his helicopter into our small LZ to effect the medevac of our wounded. At this time we were still under fire and some enemy positions within 30 meters of the zone. I informed Swift 6 of this and the high probability of his helicopter being hit if he came in. I also told him that five of my wounded men would not last till morning, and that I had too few men left able to launch a night assault to widen our perimeter. Even though it was quite dark, and fog and smoke drifted over the LZ, Lieutenant Colonel Brady (I didn't really think he should risk coming in) said he was coming in anyhow,, and that he would get my wounded out. As he made his approach, tracers arched up at him, but he kept right on coming.
He landed in our small zone and we began to put our wounded aboard. Two B-40 rockets landed within 30 feet of the helicopter, but Lieutenant Colonel Brady stayed in the zone until all the seriously wounded were aboard before he took off. "Hostage Uncle" destroyed the B-40 site with rockets immediately after the second rocket was fired.
It is my opinion as the ground commander that had it not been for the magnificent courage and superb airmanship of all the pilots involved tn this action I would have suffered far greater casualties than I did and perhaps even been annihilated (my people had two magazines and no hand grenades left at the time of the medevac).
Although all the pilots involved did a magnificent job, I must single out Lieutenant Colonel Brady and Major Miller above all for their heroism and presence of mind. Never have I witnessed such superior flying skill and such calm heroism in the face of such odds.
The final results of this encounter from my perspective
on the ground was:
USMC KIA 8
USMC WIA 31
NVA KIA 13 (confirmed)
/s/ A.R. Finlayson
LtCol. Eugerne R. Brady's Squadron History Index
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