Mission Number 5 – The Horse Shoe Ambush

Posted on February 1, 2010


February 19, 1969

We had a MACV photographer with us for four days and nothing happened. The day he was due to leave, we (the Blues) were called out on a mission. As we approached the area, we were told that an undetermined enemy force had been spotted moving around heading towards a firebase up ahead. We were to meet up with a company from 2nd Battalion, 7th Cavalry.

We circled for a few moments as the artillery was still pounding the area.  Once on the ground, we married up with Alpha Company 2/7 Cav. The helicopters were still firing their mini-guns as we approached the area. We were told that a few NVA were still moving around. As we moved forward, Sgt Blankenship saw an NVA soldier trying to crawl over a log. He fired at him and hit a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) that was strapped to his back. I was hit in the leg with a small piece of shrapnel. Doc (a fond name for our medic) Hipple came up to bandage my leg. The Platoon Leader, Charles M. Downs  from 2/7th came up to see how bad it was.

While this was going on, an NVA soldier was about 25 meters out in front of us shaking a small tree. Word came down from the Colonel above us to get him to Chu Hoi (surrender). I asked the Colonel to keep an eye out for any enemy movement. He said there wasn’t any. About five minutes later the enemy soldier who had been shaking the tree yelled out (I take liberty with my spelling) “Do Mammy Chu Hoi”  (which means you can do something with my mother but I’m not giving up) and with that all hell broke loose. It seems that while we were trying to get him to give up his friends were setting up a Horse Shoe Ambush around us. That means they had trapped us on three sides.

They were firing at us fast and furious. They used their RPG’s as anti-personnel weapons by firing them into the tree thereby showering us with shrapnel. One RPG round landed just out in front of me and it blew Doc Hipple and me backwards into a tree. I had a piece of shrapnel going through my left ear and into the back of my neck.

Doc Hipple had been shot in the head. Luckily for him it was more of a glancing blow that a direct hit. It cracked his skull but did not enter. Doc was loosing a lot of blood and was going into shock. Blue Mike  had tried to play John Wayne  and sneak up on our tree shaker and was shot many times up and down the left side of his body.  LT Downs from 2/7 Cav was killed instantly.

Everyone started to move back to the Pick up Zone (LZ). Sergeants Singletary and McCann grabbed Blue Mike and carried him back to the PZ.  LT Guthrie grabbed the LT from 2/7 Cav and slung him over his shoulder and ran back to the PZ. That left Doc Hipple and me. I had been cussing out the Colonel in that small chopper above us because when all hell broke loose I could hardly hear him. I looked up and he was probably 1000 ft or higher. I pulled the handset away from my ear and seen that it was covered in blood. I switched it to the other ear. Just about then, Cavalier Red who was the leader of our Cobra Platoon came on and told me to shut up and listen to him. He said he would get us out of there. I was to start moving towards the PZ and pop a smoke grenade every so often and he would have the Red Platoon light up the area behind us with rockets and mini gun fire. Doc and I were the last two to leave the area.

1LT Guthrie was treated for injuries and returned to duty. Blue Mike was sent to Camp Zama, Japan because he was in such bad shape. Doc and I went to the Evac hospital at Long Bien. While there, I went to see an ear doctor about the shrapnel wound to my left ear. He looked inside the ear canal and said I had two pieces of shrapnel inside. He took the first one out without any trouble. When he tried to used the vacuum apparatus to remove the last piece, I came up out of the chair. After he looked back inside he saw that what he thought was a piece of shrapnel was really just a piece of skin that the first piece had cut and pushed back and he was trying to rip it out. After a week or so we were sent to Vung Tau rehab hospital. I left after a week and went back to Charlie Troop. Doc was sent to Cam Rahn Bay to another rehab hospital where he almost got killed by a sapper attack. A sapper is a man who carries satchel charges and blows things up. He threw one into the building where Doc was sleeping.

The Platoon leader from 2/7 Cav  had a daughter born the day before he died. He was told he didn’t have to go out that day but he said if his men were going out he was going with them. His men abandoned him on the field. Lt Guthrie made sure he got home.

I saw Blue Mike (SFC Guzman) 8 years later. He was a First Sergeant then and getting ready to retire in six months. I caught up with Doc 38 years later and with LT Guthrie the year after that.

In 1979 I had shrapnel removed from both of my eyes. I have one small piece of shrapnel floating in my left hand somewhere. Every once in a while it shows up.

I have a photograph that the MACV photographer took that day. It is a reminder of the battle but it is also a reminder that we all made it home.

Posted in: Missions