Revisiting the Horseshoe
The Horseshoe narrative and picture by Mark Hayes (See below) was of much interest. Like Mark, I was involved in the Horseshoe that August 30, 1967. I was the 1st platoon leader of A co. one of those lifted into that God-forsaken piece of real estate by Hayes and the rest of the Black Widows. I can relate to much of what Hayes described although I;m not positive that his emergency ammunition run and dustoff involved A co. or D co. which was also engaged that day. The memories of that day are permanently etched in my mind and I will share some of them with Manchu website visitors.
First I must pass on some thanks to Mark. Thanks for submitting the picture. I never dreamed I would ever see the Horseshoe again. Thanks for the much-needed emergency ammo that day. Thanks for performing dustoff duty that day. You saved a few lives. You'll understand, I'm sure, that I can't thank you for dropping us into that mess. We infantry types had a love-hate relationship with you pilots. We loved you for getting us out of some tough spots, but hated you for putting us into places like the Horseshoe.
We went into that hot LZ fairly early in the morning. Upon the approach I remember thinking,"My God, we're not going in there are we"? because it was all water. Then the tracers zipped by and into some of the choppers and I realized there would be more to deal with than just mud and water. It seems that we jumped out of the slicks about ten feet off the ground (probably was more like four or five feet). Ankle deep in that sucking mud and knee deep in water, we desperately sought the cover of a rice paddy dike. Many men were hit during those first few seconds. Parts of the 1st and 2nd platoons plus the company command group were all in one rice paddy. I had no idea where the remainder of my platoon had landed and wasn't about to stand up and take a look around.
We were pinned down for hours by small arms fire coming from a tree line of thick bamboo growing along a canal which led to the Saigon River. One can see this in Haye's picture. Fire and maneuver were next to impossible in that mud. For a while anyone who wasn't behind that paddy dike was getting hit. To attend the wounded we crawled like alligators. We put one badly wounded man atop the dike to prevent him from drowning and he got hit again. It was a grim situation.
We were only 30 or 40 meters from the enemy positions and were not sure of the where abouts of some of our own people, so gunship and artillery support was hazardous. The artillery fire was "walked" in so close that we were catching bits of shrapnel. After the final artillery barrage Capt. Lewman radioed for me to take whoever was nearby and get to that treeline. I couldn't see much chance of getting across that open rice paddy alive so three or four of us crawled a few meters to our left where a dike ran off toward the tree line. We ran right down that dike. We were exposed but at least we could move. We lobbed a few grenades into a couple of fighting holes and were able to gain a section of that canal line. We found some bloody gear but no bodies. It was determined that the bad guys probably had used a small sampan to escape with their casualties.
Later on we began to receive fire from away off to our right front. It was probably from along the banks of the Saigon River about 200 meters distant. It was not nearly as effective as the earlier fire from that tree line, but nothing was spared dealing with it. Gunships made several passes, heavy artillery was called in, and finally the Air Force dropped their tons of hardware. The jets were so close that we waved to the pilots and did plenty of yelling. By this time it was late in the day and we had no further contact.
Sometime during the course of that day Capt. Lewrnan assigned me the task of consolidating the WlAs and KlAs to be medevaced. It was quite a job under the eircumstances.it meant half dragging, half floating. men through that water and mud to a central location. At least one dustoff was aborteao the intense enemy fire. I cannot think of the proper adjectives to describe the final dustoff. The KlAs and WlAs were piled up in that chopper in a heap. God bless that pilot(might have been Mark Hayes) who hovered long enough under fire so that we could get all of the casualties out. We cheered like hell when that dustoff was airborne. We cheered mostly because it meant some men would live who otherwise would have died and also because we hadn't had a whole helluva lot else to cheer about that day.
We were not extracted that day from the Horseshoe-much to our dismay. We spent the night trying to get some semblance of rest while balancing ourselves on a muddy, slippery dike. We couldn't really set up much of a perimeter, we had no food or water-the usual afternoon resupply ship didn't make it that day-we were low on ammo, many weapons were jammed due to the conditions, we had many leeches on our wrists and necks from crawling around in that filthy paddy water. Yet there wasn't a word of griping. We all felt very lucky to be alive.
There was concern that we could be attacked so the commanders kept the area lit up all night long using parachute flares. It was an eerie half-light, one that only the artists could describe but one that I'll never forget.
I must share some memories of my fellow Manchus who were there that day; Capt. Thomas Lewman-a tall lanky man. Carried an automatic 12 guage shotgm. God how I hoped he"d make it across that rice paddy. He did.The men of A co. greatly respected Capt. Lewman.
Peter (Rabbit) Gaviglia my radio operator. A New York City fellow somehow managed to stay with me that day. Sgt. Shultz of the 2d platoon- took over the platoon after Lt. Mcneal was wounded. Sgt. Shultz was known throughout the company as a fine soldier.
Daniel (Doc) Zogg 1st platoon medic. Wounded early in the day. When I found him he was regretful that he couldn't help us out. I remember his exact words to this day. "Guess I ain't gonna be much help to y'all today, Lt." He said in his wonderful Texas accent. I called Doc Zogg a few years back-on Aug. 30. He's doing well. When we loaded him onto that dustoff back in 67 I wouldn't have given him much of a chance. Fritz Wiese good friend and former 2nd platoon leader, was the battalion support platoon leader on August 30. He came in on one of the emergency ammo ships to kick out the boxes. His huge 6'4" frame seemed to fill that chopper. He later became CO of B co. and has since passed away after retiring from the Army.
Tommy Spain, Ed Simolin, Shorty Jones, Denny Morelock, Tony Shurmond, and others in 1st platoon l've probably forgotten some names and I'm not sure just who was there in the Horseshoe and who wasn't but I haven't forgotten one thing, that I was privileged to serve with such fine men.
Dennis Gabbert, Charles Wilkerson, and Vaughn Morgan all KlA's on Aug. 30. I believe they were all in 2nd platoon. Gabbert and Wilkerson I really didn't know but I did know Morgan a little as he was a fellow-Mainer.
I became a high school history teacher after the war. One of my favorite quotations from the pages of history is "These are the times that try men's souls". It was part of a message written by Thomas Paine and read as an inspiration to Washington's troops at Valley Forge during the American Revolution. I do not claim to have experienced the hardships endured by those patriots at that freezing outpost in Pennsylvania, but on August 30, 1967, in the Horseshoe, by the Saigon River, as I reflect upon that day, I have some understanding of the "trying of one's soul".
Manchu Alpha 16
Ronald B. Beedy
August 30, 1967 and the events that happened that day will never be forgotten by me. Mine was not a singular experience but was repeated many hundreds of times by the slick pilots who flew in Viet Nam. I know from reading others stories, those of us who are still alive are damn lucky to have had God by our side. The lift that morning involved 4 lift companies for a total of 40 slicks and all the gunnies we could muster in the air or on ready standby. The LZ appeared to have been prepped with everything short of an arc light, maybe that would have helped.
The final approach was for all crews to provide covering fire until the last possible minute before the troops left the aircraft. After deployment of the troops, we departed the LZ in formation and about 300 feet up I noticed the engine oil pressure drop to zero. The engine was maintaining full power during our climb out so I figured it was probably just a gauge failure. We maintained position in formation not knowing we had indeed been hit by ground fire. The single armor piercing round had cut both oil lines to and from the oil cooler, completely draining the engine oil reservoir. The bullet continued on, hitting a bolt holding the fuel control unit, glancing aft, it hit and cut a f'inal line going into the diffuser of the engine which started spraying JP4 all over the engine. En route back to Cu Chi, about midpoint in the 25 minute flight, the pilot directly across the formation called to inform me I was "smoking pretty bad". I thanked him and requested he keep an eye on us in case we needed to be picked up. We landed long at Cu Chi to assess the damage, if any, and found all the makings of a nice fireball. Thank God we never got to see it! WO Chuck Restivo, had been hit in the leg during the assault and that aircraft was without a full crew so WO J.J. Spearman and myself were transferred to that aircraft, crewed by Spec.4 William Sondey and Spec.4 Alfred J. Smith " Smitty".
Shortly thereafter, we were asked to make an ammo run back out to the Horseshoe. All members of the crew agreed to go, so we loaded up and took off for there. When we arrived on station, Dust off was requesting artillery fire be brought closer in for covering fire. The request was denied because shells were already hitting within 500 meters and there was no room to safely move the shells closer. We called Dust off and informed them we had ammo to go in and had to go in anyway, and requested they continue to circle until we cleared the LZ and if we were shot down to come pick us up. Dust off quite readily agreed to that arrangement.
To lessen our exposure time to ground Fire, I approached downwind over heavy covering fire from our troops, kicked a hard left peddle turn landing adjacent to a tree line where most of the men were. Sondey and Smitty threw out the ammo as quickly as possible. The wounded were all on Sondey's side so he helped them aboard. The last one from that location in the LZ was gut shot and had to be loaded in laying on a poncho. Apparently Sondey was hit while bent over pulling the man on the poncho into the aircraft. That left only 3 more wounded to pick up about 100 meters away across the open rice paddy with no tree line for protection. Someone came over the intercom and said," Sir, I'm hit." Glancing back at Smitty, I saw him hunched over in the seat clutching his shoulder. I asked him " Smitty, are you going to be alright?" He answered, " I think they broke my shoulder, but I think I'll be all right." I replied, "OK, we'll go get the rest." We picked up the aircraft, turned and hovered out to pick up the rest of the wounded. Smitty was hit again.
As soon as the wounded were on board, we pulled maximum pitch and then a little more in our haste to get the hell out of there. WO Spearrnan was at the controls on the way back to Cu Chi, while I tried to raise the 12th Evacuation Hospital on the radio.( I left the 12th Evac. To go to flight school.) I made many tries but there was no response, later I found out they could hear us but we couldn't receive them. While tuning the radio for the twentieth time, I noticed a strange sound and vibration to the aircraft and glanced up to see the airspeed indicator on 135 knots and climbing for 140. 1 screamed at Spearman to " Slow this son-o-f-a-bitch down!" which he did. Apparently we were approaching retreating blade stall speed. We made a straight in shot to the 12th Evac. pad and landed just as a major rain storm hit. I counted a total of 43 hits to the aircraft..
Black widow 14 ... Mark 0. Hayes