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Summary December 1968

Comanche began the month with 98 men in the field, working in the general area of  Phouc Vinh.  By the middle of the month, C 2/5 Cav moved into the rubber plantation area around Quan Loi, working out of LZ Odessa and LZ Jane.  After heavy contact, the company spent Christmas Day out in the weeds.

December 5

Comanche was working the area around Phouc Vinh. At dusk the 2nd platoon moved out from the company perimeter to go on an ambush. "Two Eight" the artillery forward observer was calling in artillery marking rounds to lay in coordinates for reference in case artillery would be needed during the night, a routine procedure. His last instructions were to "drop 50 meters" and "left 50 meters". The 105mm round dropped approximately 500 meters instead, landing in a tree next to the path that 2-6 was following. SP4 Guenter Thonues was killed instantly (panel 37w-row 048). Several members of the 2nd platoon were wounded, 2 seriously. As the medic,  "Doc" Robert Brothers worked on the wounded, a rescue party was mounted to go down the trail to assist and protect the platoon. Medevac was called and the most seriously wounded were taken out by jungle penetrator in the dark a risky procedure for both pilots and ground personnel but all went well. Everyone else returned to the perimeter to spend the night.  (Source: Richard Bovie)


December 18 - 22

In a joint operation with Ridgerunner (B 2/5 Cav) on December 18, Comanche CA'd into an LZ  north of  LZ Sue (which was under control of 2/7 Cav).  Immediately after landing, Ridgerunner was in contact and one man is wounded.  A large bag of medical supplies was found, and one NVA KIA.   There is no more contact for the rest of the day or night.

During the morning of the 19th, Comanche moved out with Ridgerunner and made light contact in the morning.  There were no WIA, and both companies brought  in log birds.

Both companies broke out of the night defensive position at 0730 and moved together all day.  At 1150 in the morning, at grid 940060, Comanche came under heavy sniper fire from an unknown size enemy force in trees and bunkers.  By 1300, Comanche reported SP4 Larry Fox and PFC James King  killed by hostile gunfire.  Dellinger was Medevac'd out with a gun shot wound to the forearm, requiring a jungle penetrator  to extract him.

The bodies of Fox and King were forward of Comanche's position when the company pulled back and called in artillery, aerial rocket artillery (Cobra gunships) and air strikes.  After the strikes, two attempts were made to recover the bodies, but enemy fire was still too heavy.  At 1440, more contact was made with an estimated company sized enemy force.  This time PFC Douglas Haan Jr. was mortally wounded and six other troopers are wounded.  Night fell with the enemy still in place, but the bodies of Fox, Haan, and King were still not recovered.

On the morning of December 21st, Comanche was  joined by Company C, 1st Battalion 12th Cavalry - Bold Warrior - and another sweep was made, resulting in two more wounded in Comanche, and another in C 1/12 Cav.  One of the Comanche wounded was Pancho Pagon of 2/6. (Source: James Machin)  This time Haan's body was recovered.  Again, Comanche was in the night defensive position without recovering the bodies of all their comrades.

Finally, on the morning of  December 22nd, C 2/5 Cav moved back through the contact area.  At 1145, Fox's body was recovered, and at 1200, King's body was found.  After the dead were flown out by helicopter, the entire company  CA'd back to LZ Odessa.

Comanche lost three fine men in this action, and seven more were wounded.  Larry Fox was 20 years old when he died.  James King was 25.   Douglas Haan Jr. was 21 and left behind a widow.  If you have pictures of any of these three, please send them to the Webmaster.  If you know the names of the wounded, please forward those as well.

This from an email from Mel Wilkison:

A member of the first platoon by the name of Ron Bees (sp?) from Iowa was WIA with a gun shot to the head. I know Ron loaned his steel pot to a Platoon Sergeant  (I believe it was Sgt. Peoples from 2nd Platoon). This Sgt had lost his pot in the fire fight earlier. His platoon was preparing to move up and attempt to recover our dead. Ron unselfishly loaned the Sgt his steel pot without hesitating. Well the platoon soon came under fire and the 1st Platoon was ordered to move up in a flanking position. That is when Ron took a round through the head, just under the brim of his boonie hat, left to right. Ron never lost complete consciousness as I can still hear him weakly calling for 1/6 Band-Aid. He wrote a letter to me about 30 days later, from back in the world, reporting complete recovery except for frequent headaches. I wish I had taken action to recognize Ron for his unselfish act, which nearly cost him his life.

Please note that I'm unsure of the spelling of the last name and would appreciate any help in getting the correct spelling, address, email address or phone number for Ron.  Also noted that a Sgt. Peoples attended a reunion. If anyone has contact with him he might verify the above info.

Thanks, Mel Wilkison

More information in an email from Don Conrad, who was the Commanding Officer of C 2/5 Cav at the time:

My memory of events such as it is generally agrees with the description of the fight found in Doc Bovie and Bob Hutton's remembrances in The Hill.   I would like to add some thoughts about the roles of 2 key soldiers, 1LT Mike Thompson, our Arty FO and coordinator of air support, and 1SG Dick Soloway, our legendary first sergeant.

As this deal began to unfold it became apparent to me that we had stepped into some deep do-do. I initially estimated the NVA to be of company strength and I believe later the official estimate was a battalion. Anyway the jungle canopy was very thick and aerial observation of the relative friendly/enemy positions was impossible. Not only that, but the 2 forces were very close to one another, 50-100 meters at most. We desperately needed CAS (Webmaster note: Combat Air Support) but without a positive enemy location, the possibility of fratricide was quite high. I ordered Mike Thompson to mark our forward most locations with smoke, the typical practice at that time. Under intense fire and at considerable risk Mike courageously moved forward and did this. Upon his safe return we decided to add 50 meters to the location of the smoke. We also asked for napalm since it was our experience in that kind of terrain that iron bombs, artillery, and gunships did little except make a lot of noise. Some time later the first flight of F105s began their runs. We repeated these procedures several times over the next day and a half at which time the NVA withdrew.

Meanwhile Dick Soloway was all over the battlefield cajoling, consoling, reassuring, kicking butt, and lending adult supervision. He repeated exposed himself to danger by moving to locations where he could be of assistance.

As a final note the actions of Doc Bovie and his team of medics were most noteworthy. They typically had little regard for their own well being and selflessly concentrated on treating our numerous wounded. They literally saved lives.

I look back with great pride when I think of all the brave men of C2/5. It was a privilege and an honor to be one of them.

Don Conrad


Additional information is contained in the article The Hill in the Stories section.

Mel Wilkison, a machine gunner with 1/6, and his assistant gunner,  Jim Cable compare AK-47 creases and holes after the firefight.

Comanche_Wilkison_Cable_Dec_1968.jpg (31314 bytes)
Click on Photo to See Larger Version

Courtesy Mel Wilkison

(Sources:  Tactical Journal of 1SG Richard Soloway,  Daily Journal and Situation Report of the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division dated 20 December 1968, personal recollections of Richard Bovie, Bob Hutton, Don Conrad, and The Wall on the Web.)

December 24

CPT Phillip Boatner assumed command of Tall Comanche.  (Source: Tactical Journal of 1SG Richard Soloway)

December 30

Taken on LZ Odessa - members of 2nd Squad, 2nd Platoon - Jim Menicucci, Emory Trull,  James (Tree) Machin, Luke Morgan, and Gaylord Russell


Comanche_Jim_Machin_and_2nd_Squad_Dec_68.jpg (10128 bytes)
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Courtesy James Machin

Jim "Tree" Machin at LZ Odessa - anyone care to guess what was burning in the background?

Comanche_Jim_Machin_LZ_Odessa_Dec_68.jpg (20551 bytes)
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Courtesy James Machin


Whoever cracked open the case of C-Rations got the pork and beans.  Last one there got the ham and lima beans.  Ummm - love those pork and beans, Tree!!

Comanche_Machin_Eating_Pork_and_Beans_LZ_Odessa_Dec_1968.jpg (17454 bytes)
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Courtesy James Machin

December - Exact Date Unknown

1SG William "Top" Soloway, humpin' down the the red clay road near Quan Loi.

Hey Top - where the  #&*@  is your damned  helmet?

Comanche_1SG_Richard_Soloway_1969.jpg (9734 bytes)
Click on Photo to see larger version

Courtesy James Machin

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