16 May, 1968
I Corps RVN
“A” Company, 2/12 Cav, 1st Cavalry Division Airmobile, left LZ Jane on foot on a patrol mission. We were not part of any Combat Assault (CA) that day. We usually CA’d everywhere we went, so this in itself was an unusual mission.
We traveled out the main gate and then circled around counterclockwise around the perimeter of the firebase. We soon approached the river that crossed Highway One and ran N.E. to S.W., tangent to the LZ. We were in single file formation and following a footpath through low scrub and bamboo.
We had planned to make a river crossing. My RTO and I were at the head of the CP group and behind a platoon of grunts who were on the point. When we encountered a trail leading down to the river, I suggested to Captain Parker, the CO, that I go down to check it out as a potential crossing site.
He agreed, so the company halted while I reconned with my Radio Telephone Operator (RTO), Sam Parker. Sam and I had only gone about thirty yards or so around some bamboo when there was a thunderous explosion. Sam and I froze thinking we may have hit a trip wire. We immediately got on the radio and alerted everyone that we were coming out of the bamboo, and not to shoot us.
Upon arriving at the scene, the entire CP had been hit. Sam and I were the only members of the CP group unscathed by the explosion. One RTO’s leg was blown off below the knee, (Janitsch?), Musselwhite (RTO) had minor wounds. Captain Parker’s flak vest saved his life but he was still injured. Gerry Pedicone was killed instantly with his entire midsection removed by the blast, even though he wore his vest.
I found Darrell De Priest lying on his back ahead of the CP group. He had a small, ¼” hole in his lower throat, and little or no blood. That was all I could see. I remember speaking to him and telling him he would be okay. I could tell he was still alive, but unresponsive.
I was shocked to learn later that he had died…wish I could have done more.
Being the highest ranking officer in the Company at that time (1Lt), I briefly, and informally took command of the company and gave orders to shoot any “civilians” in the immediate vicinity based on the possibility of the explosion having been remote detonated. We saw no one.
I don’t think we dug into the crater to see if there were any wires, but there was enough shrapnel lying around to determine it had been a 105mm howitzer round buried at the trail intersection.
Gerry’s loss impacted me deeply. Just the night before he had been teaching me to play cribbage…I haven’t played since. It took a long time to get the picture of his mangled body out of my dreams. He died quickly.
An hour or so later, the Infantry XO came out and took command and we continued our mission. We did not cross the river.
I have lost track of all the guys. I heard that Janitsch passed away a few years ago. I do wonder what happened to the others.
Birth Control 62…a strange call sign don’t you think?…but that’s another story.
USAAMOCS Class 1-67
RVN Oct ’67 – Dec ‘69
2/5 Cav; 2/12 Cav; 1/5 Cav LNO; CO A 1/77 Arty, 1 Cav Div (AM)