Thanksgiving Day in 1970 was supposed to
be different from other days for the soldiers of the
1st Battalion 6th Infantry. Rather than having to eat another can of cold C-rations, they were to be
treated to a traditional feast of turkey and dressing. For the soldiers of C Company, 1st Battalion
6th Infantry, getting to eat hot chow meant a long hike from their patrol base to the small fire support
base at Nui Pho Tinh (BS 648 936) occupied by part of the Mortar Platoon, E Company 1st
Battalion 6th Infantry.
Just before first light on 26 November 1970, the
twenty or so infantrymen of C36 (the 3rd Platoon,
C Company, 1st Battaion 6th Infantry) left their night ambush position and headed toward Nui Pho
Tinh through the checkerboard of small clearings surrounded by hedgerows. Because of the
vegetation, visibility was limited to 25 meters or less. At 0650 hours as the C36 element moved
northward just to the east of a small ridge, they spotted four Viet Cong soldiers at BS 648 907 and
opened fire. A short, quick firefight ensued as the enemy fired 20 to 25 rounds of AK-47 fire in return.
[Unidentified member of the platoon firing at the VC positions. Photo provided by Rick Wade,
3rd Plt, Co C, 1st Bn 6th Inf 70-71. Rick took this photo "after most of the firing died down."
This is the real thing, not a posed photo like in the movies.]
At 0750 hours, a helicopter gunship, callsign
Musket 34, had arrived on station from the 176th
Assault Helicopter Company. The gunship fired into the wood line where the enemy had been
located and then orbited the area until 0830 when it had to depart to refuel. Minuteman 27
(Carl Zipperer), who brought in an emergency ammo resupply, was warned that the LZ might be
hot, but his aircraft drew no enemy fire.
The gunship, call sign Musket 34, pulls up from a target run just over 3rd Platoon. Rick Wade's
M-60 machine gun barrel is visible in this 1970 photo.]
The "Regulars" got on line and, firing their weapons
as they went, swept into the tree line on the ridge.
They observed enemy soldiers moving south along the ridge. As they moved through the hedgerows,
they found enough hot chow for twenty people, several camouflaged sleeping hooches, and a few
tunnels and bunkers. They had encountered a sizeable Viet Cong unit that was about to settle
down for their own feast.
The Viet Cong must have been waiting for the gunship to leave, for at 0834 hours, the C45 element
(4th Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion 6th Infantry) who had moved into a blocking position south
of the action, spotted seven Viet Cong soldiers with packs and weapons in the vicinity of BS 635 903,
approximately 1,500 meters from their location. Artillery was fired at the fleeing Viet Cong, but the
results were unknown. An hour later, the "HT 26" element on the high ground at BS 660 872 reported
twelve enemy soldiers with packs and weapons approximately 1,000 meters away at BS 672 872.
The Viet Cong apparently were trying to relocate to nearby areas with adequate cover and concealment,
as such brazen, reckless daylight moves by the enemy were comparatively rare. [Note: C36 enjoyed
turkey & dresing that same day at Nui Pho Tinh.
This account of the action was based on entries
in the 1st Bn 6th Inf S2/S3/S5 Staff Journal created
at the time of the firefight (now at the National Archives II), and the recollection of Rick Wade and
Carl Zipperer. While the action was "indecisive" from an official perspective, for those involved it
could be an intense experience.]
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