This was my first trip on Route 9 east of Cam
Lo village. The grueling read 40-50 mile adventure to Dong Ha took
over five hours along the winding, rebuilt roads and makeshift pontoon
bridges. The devastation caused by the continual carpet-bombing was never
more evident than it was along the first five miles of winding roadway to
the Marine outpost at Ca Lu. The once dense foliage was burned out or
blown away for miles around the roadway, and the ground was pockmarked
with huge bomb craters for as far as the eye could see. Despite this
carnage, it was an exhilarating experience for my men and I, who were
ecstatic to finally be out of Khe Sanh and on our way back to Dong Ha.
On a recent Veteran's Day visit to Washington, DC, my friend and
squad leader at Khe Sanh, Sergeant James "Smitty" Smith, helped
me remember some of the names of the brave men who served with us during
the siege. Among the names were Alpha Battery, 1-44 Duster squad leader
Sergeant Manuel Floyd Martinez, who was killed in a subsequent action in
early June 1968; Sergeant Dewey Thornton; Sergeant Norman Shank, Private
First Class James Earl Pavey; Private First Class Arthur Mortman; Private
First Class Lloyd Washington; Private First Class James J. Smith,
Specialist 4 Hen and Private First Class Nelson.
First Lieutenant Lynn Grace also added a few names of men from the Quad
50 section of G Battery, 65th Artillery, who had served earlier at Khe
Sanh. These names included Sergeant Hollis Ray Hale, a section chief who
left the base prior to the siege only to be killed in an ambush in early
February 1968; Specialist 4 Bowman; and Specialist 4 Steven Allen Guthrie
Jr., who died as a result of a non-hostile weapons discharge at Khe Sanh
on January 31,1968 prior to my arrival.
Some soldier's names I no longer remember, but they are nevertheless deserving
of recognition for their courageous service during the siege of Khe Sahn.
My friend Sergeant Joseph Belardo and Charlie
Battery 1-44th Artillery, Duster/Quad section relieved us at Khe Sanh
after the siege was lifted. Belardo's Duster track led the Pegasus Relief
column onto the combat base. His Duster crew enjoyed an emotional reunion
along with his platoon leader in Washington, D.C. last November. I
apologize to the many other Duster and Quad 50 personnel whose names I
have been unable to remember, but who are no less deserving of recognition
for their courageous service at Khe Sanh.
Alpha Battery, 1st Battalion, 44th Artillery, in formation for an awards
ceremony. The heroism its soldiers displayed during the long struggle in
Vietnam made the battalion one of history's most decorated artillery unit.
(Click on photo to see larger image.)
1LT US Army (Ret.)
A Btry. 1/44 Arty.(AWSP) "Dusters"
"First To Fire"
"Last Of The Great Gunfighters"