LTC John Stockton relieved due to poor decision making

Posted on June 17, 2020

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On 2Nov 65, the 1st Cav Division Assistant Commander, BG Knowles, LTC John Stockton and Major Bob Zion met to discuss the 1/9th’s ability to perform a night ambush at the edge of the Ia Drang Valley. LTC Stockton and Major Zion agreed they could do it but they would need an Infantry Company place in reserve to be used as needed. BG Knowles agreed to this and committed CaptainTed Danielson’s Alpha Company 1/8th Cav to be the reserve unit. A company 1/8th was then co-located with the 1/9th. BG Knowles said he did not have helicopters to move the infantry unit and LTC Stockton quickly said he did.

On 3Nov65, the ambush was put into place. Major Zion commanded the Blue platoons from A, B and C Troops and a small band of Montenyards. A Troop Blue’s secured the LZ and Bravo and Charlie Troop Blues set up ambush sites. Cpt Danielson’s mortar platoon was loaned out to Major Zion and placed with him.

Charlie Troop Blue Platoon Leader, Cpt Charles Knowlen states that a PAVN (Peoples Army of Viet Nam) unit stopped just short of his ambush site to eat dinner. When they were done they moved out and started to walk into the ambush kill zone. Cpt Knowlen counted the troops passing him and quickly realized that his troops were facing a far superior number of enemy troops. As soon as the enemy filled the killing zone with some already through it, Cpt Knowlen triggered his claymore to initiate the ambush. C Troop threw everything they had at these troops. C Troop broke contact with the enemy and moved back to the LZ base camp as did Bravo Troop.

The NVA made it’s first attack of the base camp at 2200 (10PM). The second wave came a little after 2300 b(1130). It became obvious the camp would be overrun shortly. Major Zion called back and requested the reserve unit be inserted as quick as possible telling LTC Stockton that no one would be left by morning if the reserve unit were not inserted.

LTC Stockton called BG Knowles seeking permission to insert A Co 1/8th Cav into the ambush site. While BG Knowles and LTC Stockton were arguing back and fort (BG Knowles did not want to insert the company), Major Billie Williams, C Troop Commander, having listened into the radio call from Major Zion made a decision. He called Cpt Danielson and told him to load up and prepare for insertion. Major Billie Williams The instructed them to “GO”. After he did this he told LTC Stockton to tell Division it was to late they were on their way. Major Billie Williams loved his Troopers and was not about to see them overrun.

LTC John Stockton was relieved of his command for the night insertion. BG Knowles said he did not approve it as it had never been done before. LTC Stockton never let on that it was Major Billie Williams who made that decision.

How do I know that Major Billie Williams made that decision? He told me just prior to his death. I have waited until a year has passed since Billie’s death before putting this out.

I have heard how LTC Moore loved his troopers and there is no doubt that he did. Major Billie Williams love his Troopers as well and was ready to take anything that came at him for his decision. He said there was no way his Troopers were going to die that night because someone at Division was wrong with thier decision.

LTC John B. Stockton so loved his commander’s that he never said a thing. In fact, when he was getting ready to retire he gave LTC Billie Williams his “Eagle’s” , full colonel rank insignia and told him when he got promoted to Colonel he would be there to pin these on him.

It is my opinion the BG Knowles should have been relieved of his duties instead of LTC Stockton for his (Knowles) decision that night.

One other point to support my opinion go to page 84 of “We Were Soldiers Once and Young” line 23. “At Knowles urging, the division commander, Major General Harry Kinnard, flew in from Headquarters at An Khe for a briefing. Says Knowles: :When General Kinnard arrived I showed him a situation map. He took one look and said, “What the Hell are you doing in that area”? In the end, General Kinnard may have agreed but there is no doubt that he thought Knowles was dead wrong.

BG Knowles said he had LTC Stockton relieved because a night insertion of troops had never been done before. With this kind of thinking, can you imagine what the 1/7, 2/7 and 2/5 Cavalries would have gone through without reinforcements and resupply of ammunition, food and water as well as medical necessities? Remember no one had ever preformed these actions either.

History will not be rewritten and the bad mark on LTC Stockton will remain. It is a shame. A great soldier was destroyed by an inept Assistant Division Commander.

Charlie Troop Blue Platoon Leader, Cpt Charles Knowlen, states that a PAVN unit stopped just short of his ambush site to eat dinner. When they were done they moved out and started to walk into the ambush kill zone. Cpt Knowlen counted the troops passing him and quickly realized the his troops were facing a far superior number of enemy troops. As soon as the enemy filled the killing zone with some already through it, Cpt Knowlen triggered his claymore to initiate the ambush. C Troop threw everything they had at these troops. C Troop broke contact with the enemy and moved back to the LZ base camp.

The NVA made it’s first attach of the base camp at 2200 (10PM). The second wave came a little after 2300 (1130pm). It became obvious the camp would be overrun shortly. Major Zion called back and requested the reserve unit be inserted as quick as possible telling LTC Stockton that no one would be left by morning if they were not inserted. LTC Stockton called BG Knowles seeking permission to insert A Co 1/8th Cav into the ambush site. While BG Knowles and LTC Stockton were arguing back and forth (BG Knowles did not want to insert the company), Major Billie Williams, C Troop Commander, having listened into the radio call from Major Zion made a decision. He called Cpt Danielson and told him to load up and prepare for insertion. Major Billie Williams then instructed them to “GO”. After he did this he told LTC Stockton to tell Division it was to late they were on their way. Major Billie Williams loved his Troopers and was not about to see them overrun and slaughtered.

LTC John Stockton was relieved of his command for the night insertion. BG Knowles said he did not approve it as it had never been done before. LTC Stockton never let on that it was Major Billie Williams who made that decision.

How do I know that Major Billie Williams made that decision? He told me just prior to his death. I have waited until a year has passed since Billie’s death before putting this out.

I have heard how LTC Moore loved his troopers and there is no doubt that he did. Major Billie Williams love his Troopers as well and was ready to take anything that came at him for his decision. He said there was no way his Troopers were going to die because someone at Division was making the wrong decision.

LTC John B. Stockton so loved his commander’s that he never said a thing. In fact, when he was getting ready to retire he gave LTC Billie Williams his Eagle’s and told him when he got promoted to Colonel he would be there to pin these on you.

It is my opinion the BG Knowles should have been relieved of his duties instead of LTC Stockton for his (Knowles) decision that night.

One other point to support my opinion go to page 84 of ” We Were Soldiers Once and Young” line 23. “At BG Knowles urging, the division commander, Major General Harry Kinnard, flew in from Headquarters at An Khe for a briefing. Says Knowles: “When General Kinnard arrived I showed him a situation map. He took one look and said, “What the Hell are you doing in that area?” In the end, General Kinnard may have agreed but there is no doubt that he thought Knowles was dead wrong.

BG Knowles said he had LTC Stockton relieved because a night insertion of troops had never been done before. With this kind of thinking, can you imagine what the 1/7th, 2/7th and 2/5th cavalries would have gone through without reinforcements and resupply of ammunition, food and water as well as medical necessities at night? Remember no one had ever perform these actions either.

LTC John  B. Stockton’s career was destroyed because one man (BG Knowles) inability to make a correct decision.