On 26 February 1971, a five ton military truck, bumper number
39 A 22, was ambushed
while on the way from Quang Ngai to Chu Lai, Vietnam. The driver, PFC Robert Macklan, and a
passenger, PFC Donald Tittle, had left Cramer Compound at1800 hours and headed north on
highway QL1. Because of the impending darkness, they should have remained in Quang Ngai.
Instead, they opted to head for Chu Lai to get back to their unit. Unfortunately, they were
ambushed by the Viet Cong at BS 586 948, approximately one mile north of the bridge over the
Song Tra Bong outside of Binh Son. The truck windshield was struck by three bullets, while the
truck body was perforated by numerous rounds. The truck ran off the road, hit a ditch, and then
At 2015 hours, the Binh Son District officer reported to the Tactical
Operations Center at
LZ Dottie that Poplar Force soldiers at Binh Son had heard the sounds of small arms fire and
what sounded like an exploding B40 rocket from the ambush. They sent a patrol to investigate.
At 2030 hours, the forces at Binh Son fired 81mm mortar illumination rounds for their relief
force. Fifteen minutes later, they reported that one U.S. soldier had been wounded in the ambush,
while the other soldier was missing in action! It turned out that the other soldier had escaped
from the vehicle before the Viet Cong arrived. He hid in the rice fields alongside the road. At
2050 hours he was discovered by the Popular Force soldiers and was no longer accounted for as
missing. The Popular Force soldiers from PF 03 remained in the area, secured the truck, and set
up an ambush for any remaining Viet Cong..
At 2055 hours, Sabre 40 arrived on station and checked out the
area. He reported that he
could not see where the truck had hit a mine. To him, it looked like the truck had run off the road
and then hit a ditch, tearing out the front axle. The truck was upside down, but did not appear to
have been damaged from explosives.
The driver of the vehicle had suffered major cuts and abrasions
in the crash and was given
morphine at the scene to ease his pain. The other soldier had only minor abrasions. Dustoff 53
completed the medical evacuation of the two soldiers at 2135 hours and took them to the 27th
Surgical Hospital in Chu Lai.
CPT Geoffrey Love, the Deputy District Advisor at Binh Son, later
notified the LZ Dottie
Tactical Operations Center that ten Viet Cong soldiers had ambushed the truck on QL1 from
several hundred meters away. Before they were able to leave their ambush positions to search the
vehicle, however, a Vietnamese man, woman, and child came along and dragged PFC Macklan
from the truck to their house. With total disregard for their personal safety, they hid him from the
Viet Cong. CPT Love reported that MACV was trying to get the names of the man and woman
in hopes that the Americal Division would reciprocate with some kind of reward. Any reward
would have to be presented covertly to protect the Vietnamese man and woman from reprisal by
the Viet Cong.
[This article was based on the S2/S3/S5 Daily Staff Journal prepared
in the 1st Battalion 6th
Infantry TOC at LZ Dottie on 26 Feb 71. The original is now located in the National Archives II,
College Park, MD. The author was the Duty Officer at the TOC when the incident occurred.]
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