Stars and Stripes
Patrol Finds Busy Supply Route
PLEI DJERENG, (4th INF-10) Š After a day and a half of searching for an enemy base camp, a recon patrol from the 4th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade moved off the trail for lunch under the cover of thick brush and the jungle's double canopy. Assistant team leader SP4 James E. Umberger heard noises on the trail and, accompanied by Sgt. John Sanderson, moved within five feet of the path for a closer look.
Three North Vietnamese Army (NVA) soldiers passed in front of them. "I don't know how they missed seeing us," the specialist said. "I guess they just didn't look." The pair moved back to better cover and watched the trail for the remainder of the afternoon. "We counted 20 more in groups of three or four," explained Sanderson. "Usually one man would be armed with an AK-47 or carbine and the others carried supplies." Artillery support was requested by the teamÕs radio-telephone operator, PFC Dan L. Harmon, and the patrol prepared for darkness. Traffic on the route was sparse throughout the night. "About 3 a.m. I heard dragging noises," said PFC Ronald E. Norton, "but it was too dark to make anything out."
Shortly after dawn the team continued its search for the base camp. Upon discovering an uncharted junction in the trail, security positions were established and Sanderson began to transmit their location to the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry fire base. "I was on a rear position behind the sarge," said Norton. "I heard them coming and flipped my weapon on automatic. The sergeant had earphones on so I knew he couldn't hear them, I threw a rock to warn him, but didn't have time to see if it hit its target."
"Two came over the rise right in my face. I emptied a magazine into them and they fell to the ground. It sure didnÕt take long for us to get out of there. We used artillery in an attempt to break contact."
The patrol moved north to be extracted. Throughout the 45-minute push, 105mm artillery support "walked" behind them to discourage NVA advances. Huey gunships were circling the landing zone when the patrol arrived. As the pick-up chopper hovered, it received two hits from enemy fire but the team managed to scramble aboard and make their exit. "The door-gunners were laying out a lot of ammo," chuckled Umberger, "but I had to let my '16' do a little talking of its own."
The members of the reconnaissance patrol were awarded the Bronze Star medal with V device for their actions during the encounter.