June 18, 1967 IVY Leaf
Brigade LRRP Observes Enemy Mortar Crew In Action
By Capt. Ed Ciliberti
VUNG DAT AM - The 2nd Brigade's Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols often get into some pretty tight situations. Few are tighter than sitting in bushes 15 feet from members of an enemy mortar section blissfully chattering away as they set up their "tubes."
"They were all talking, blowing noses, sneezing, wheezing - I think everyone of them had a cold," said Staff Sergeant Charles Britt (Ferndale, Md.), leader of the small group that listened to the chatter for more than two hours. The LRRP had left the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry fire base in the darkness the night before. It was heading for an area where a LRRP several days earlier had spotted several enemy platoons carrying mortars. Artillery and infantry had broken up that threat to the fire base. Walking towards the contact area, the men found brushy, open terrain. In the location planned by the enemy as a mortar site, the Ivymen found tall trees and a single-canopy jungle. "We found two recently used trails and a water point around there," said the LRRP leader. With enemy signs that good, the LRRP decided to get off the trail and watch for a while. "This was just before noon," said Sergeant Britt. "A group of three or four came along, then a few more.
Just after noon, a large party came by clanking metal and talking." About a half-hour later, the LRRP members found they were sitting cheek-by-jowl with the mortar section. "We wanted to draw back and bring in artillery. It was a beautiful target," said the non-commissioned officer. But there was traffic on the trail and any movement in the weeds would have given away their position. The Ivymen waited and prayed for rain. "For two hours we laid there in the hot sun. When you want it to rain it never does," said the team leader. Finally the rains came. Under the cover of the noisy downpour, the patrol pulled out. When the Ivymen were far enough back, they called in 155mm artillery. But the contact with the enemy was not yet finished. Moving to a new location near the mortar site, the patrol set up for some trail watching. "At about 6:30 p.m., I heard a branch swish, as though swinging back into position," said Sergeant Britt. "I looked in that direction and there was an enemy poncho with the enemy inside it looking straight at me, not more than 12 feet away."
Sergeant Britt slid behind his equipment and readied a grenade, signaling the others of the patrol to do the same. Two more enemy soldiers appeared and the team leader lobbed his grenade at them. Specialist 4 Male Hatchett (Detroit), a member of the patrol, heard crawling on his side of the perimeter and lobbed another grenade. The crawling ceased. "We figured by then it was time to head for home," said Sergeant Britt. But before they got all the way home, they Ivymen left a few more calling cards on their last position, a flurry of 4.2 inch mortar rounds.