TAPE 1 Page 1
I am Captain Harold R. Winton, the S3 at Detachment B-32, 5th SFGP located in Tay Ninh Province. In addition to being the S3, I have an additional duty of Unit Historian for Detachment B32. I have been directed to conduct a taped Combat After Action Interview for the U.S.A SF personnel assigned to detachment A-324 Nui Ba Den. The purpose of this interview is to extract from these personnel their observations concerning the attack on the night of 13 May on Nui Ba Den.
I would like at this time to explain the scope of these interviews and also what my observations were concerning this attack as seen from the B team.
To start out I have an interview with SFC Peter T. Sherwin. Sgt Sherwin is presently the Radio operator ______ at Detachment A-321 Ben Soi. However Sgt. Sherwin was assigned the chief Radio operator at A324 Nui Ba Den for many months, and after the 25th Div took charge of the Defensive positions of Nui Ba Den, Sgt. Sherwin was then the ranking NCO in the SF Detachment on the hill. So Sgt. Sherwin has a long and intermittent aquaintenance with the setup at Nui Ba Den and will be able to shed a lot of light on this interview. Following my interview with SPC Sherwin Iím planning to interview the following personnel:
These last three personnel are the radio operators on Nui Ba Den at the time of the attack. After I conclude the interview of these four people who were on the scene at the time of the attack, I want to discuss the battle as I saw it as a member of the B Detachment Staff involved in obtaining Combat support for the people on the hill and for forwarding to people at higher headquarters. Finally Iíll interview two personnel who went to the hill the morning after the attack. These two personnel are SPC Benny E. Wigginton whoís a senior medic at Detachment B-32, and Major Miller whoís the XO at B-32. SPC Wigginton was the first outside man to set foot on the ground after the attack, and did much in stabilizing the situation in treating wounded and moving bodies. Major Miller went to Nui Ba Den later that morning to assist them and to supervise in the moving the equipment onto the mountain and further movement after it got onto the mountain, into a secure area
I would like to emphasize that this report is only related to the SF observation and the activities of the action on Nui Ba Den. Because the responsibility of the mountains is the responsibility of the 25th Inf. Div and because I have not received authority to conduct this interview with any one other than S.F. their side will be left out of it. However our people did see a good amount of the action and what is pieced together from what people on the ground saw and what I was able to monitor you should have a good idea what took that night and the following day. In addition we hope to paint a picture of the conditions that led up to the attack. My first interview will be with S7F Sherwin.
Sgt. Sherwin would you please give me your name, rank, SN, previous tours in R.V.N. an idea concerning the SF training you have.P>
SFC Peter T. Sherwin, RA112866375, 13 1/2 years in USA, 1 previous yr. RVN 63-64 assigned to II CTZ MAAG, 3 months in the Congo 1960, assigned 10th-2 years before coming to this current tour here, I'm now assigned to Detachment A-321 Ben Soi as Commo Supervisor, was assigned to Nui Ba Den from Jun 67-Mar 68, was Commo Supervisor then in Sep took over as team Sgt. Late Oct took over a Camp CO. I was on Nui Ba Den before and after the 25th Inf. Div took over operational control, they took over OPCON on 20 Nov 67, it was the 125 Sig. Battalion, Prov Co.P>
Q. Who was under whose control what responsibilities did you have before and after they took control?
A. During period I was Commo Supervisor. I went on various operations with CIDG Company under Direction of my team leader, when I took over as team Sgt., I assisted in area defenses etc., then late Sept team leader left, no more officers there and I was the ranking NCO so I took over as the Comm Commander with an LLDB counterpart. SGH Rie, also HSG Johnson came up to Comm to help close the Camp out, together we prepare a detailed area assessment, specifically to give this information to the 25th Inf. Div who was ______ as, particularly the 4th Commander CPT William Pauffrey of the 25th Div, he requested that I remain as his was Platoon Leader after they took over OPCON, which I did, and train recon teams up till Dec. when Cpt Pauftreyís Deros was up and Cpt George Coleman assumed command at Nui Ba Den.
My first interview will be with S7F Sherwin.
Sgt. Sherwin would you please give me your name, rank, SN, previous tours in R.V.N. anidea concerning the SF training you have.
SFC Peter T. Sherwin, RA112866375, 13 1/2 yr. in USA, 1 previous yr. RVN 63-64 assigned to II CTZ MAAG, 3 mo Congo 1960, asg 10th-2yr before coming to this current tour here, 1m now assigned to Detachment A-321 Ben Soi as Commo Supervisor, was assigned to Nui Ba Den from Jun 67-Mar 68, was Commo Supervisor then in Sep took over as team Sgt. late Oct took over a Camp CO I was on Nui Ba Den before and after the 25th Inf. Div took over operational control, they took over OPCON on 20 Nov 67, it was the 125 Sig. Battalion Prov Co.
[Page 3 End]
Q* Did Cpt Coleman Institute any changes In area Defense arrangements at Nui Ba Den and Administrative functioning of the Camp?
Qę Were there many staff visits
A. Yes the IIFPV were responsible for building the camp, they used to chopper up quite frequently and we would listen to their suggestions, a couple we pointed out Is that there was an ammo bunker In the primary wire at the point to the N.E. and we did finally change that and move It Inside, also we wanted to build an NCO barracks and a back chopper pad, and after separating all the other men from the NCOís we never changed that. Sgt. Johnson tried to get Cpt Coleman to stop building houses and put these bunkers at the military crest, which evidently was not taken and we ended up with the camp we had*
Q. Sgt. Sherwin if I were to put you in charge of Nui Ba Den, what would you do and what could be done to prevent recurrence of such an [Page 8 end]
A. I believe I would have done what we did on OPCON up here before, If you got to have alerts, and the camp Is to spread out and you canít put your men down there in the lower area where the mess hall was and have all crew served weapons up on top, because If you do get infiltrated which happened here they cut the men off from the weapons, they never did fire a mortar round or any illumination because they were completely cut off In isolated small pockets youíve got to have LPís though and much trip flares and if possible I could see a minefield, but I donít think higher headquarters would go along with that. I believe it could be reconsolidated along the military crest and the bunkers should be locked In a lot better, and should be dug in bunkers not houses, also they had all their commanders, the officers in one building and there NCOís in another billets, and your putting all your leadership In one area where one round can knock them out. Iím sure control was lost, and this could have been the reason why it was lost if you would lost your NCOís and your officers up there. Iíd like to see the main Commo bunker built into the military crest which we had suggested, also offensive patrolling as long as you patrol offensively you cannot get on your wire and strike power which I believe kept ________ of course but he did start fire and observe the break In the wire the Jungle edge before the attack was made. I donít personally believe they had enough personality in a man that had an extended bunker line they had and they should of had a company up there, in which we asked for was [Page 9 end ] a TONE Rifle company and what we got was an entirely different thing every unit that had one Commo man up there had to provide two for security, you had no unit in parity as such, and 1m sure there would be other things, it would depend on the immediate situation.
Thank you very much Sgt. Sherwin weíve sure appreciated your comments.
My next Interview will be with SFC Gilbert who Is the NCOIC Det A 324 Nui Ba Den.
Sgt. Gilbert would you please give us your name, SN, rank previous military experience and your special forces experience.
Iím SFC Harris G. Gilbert RA 19697632 I was previously assigned 10th SFGP and my present Duty assignment is NCOIC of Det A-324 Nui Ba Den. Iíve been In the service for 11 years went through training Group In 1965 upon completion I was assigned to 10th SFGP in Germany where I was assigned to a Communications _____ it was attached to the S3 of A Company of the 10th SF after completing 2 yr. with the 10th I was assigned to the 5th SFGP, after about a month in Country I was assigned to Det A-321 at Ben Sol after 5 months there I was assigned as the NCOIC of Det A-324 Nui Ba Den.
A. At approximately 0930 - 09í15 we heard an RPG round hit the east side of the perimeter.
Q. What did you do at this time?
A. Left one man on the radio one guy in the door and I took the one LLDD, CIDG and the other one SF to bunker number one laid directly to the rear of our building near the perimeter that was our defense position ē
Q. Which of the two members did you leave in Commo bunker and which did you bring with you?
A. SGT Holguin was operating the radio and Sgt. Hager was guarding the store and I took SP4 Kelly to the bunker with me.
Q. After you move into the bunker with Specialist Kelly what did you do then after the attack began?
A. Shortly after getting into the bunker we got the machine gun manned and immediately thereafter started receiving small arms fire from our rear to the top of the mountain. SP4 Kelly went back to guard the rear, and he saw some people without shirts, at first he [Page 12 end] thought they were Americans and after watching them one started passing an RPG we were quite certain they were not Americans, at the same time we to a 60 mm mortar round hit on top of the Bunker blowing a hole In the top and slightly wounding the CIDG. I ordered everyone out to the firing position out front, we took up firing position and returned fire into the rocks, the VC had fired several RPG Into our building and then moved out back up to the pagoda, After this I ordered the people to move down the mountain about 20 meters or so to positions up In the rocks. We finally made radio communications with the Katum and they in turn notified our B team, headquarters that they had Commo with us they give as the frequency of the only remaining station still operating, which was Red Horse Retrans. After making contact with Red house Retrans we got there location and began moving toward them. We received some fire from the rocks moving across, but I believe this was from friendly not from V.C. I believe they had already moved back up to the pagoda and down to the chopper pad. at the time the building exploded It was knocked out Sgt. Hager, and Sgt. Holguin were still In the building and I knew then they were either KIA or I listed them as missing Sgt. HoClure after reaching Redhorse Retrans attempted to find some people and we did find a pocket of about 20 in a cave Just north of our position. After going up there and getting some out of the rocks he found that there were only t or 5 weapons between the people hidden In the rocks, the 1st Sgt. of the location finally arrived and he had us go ahead and hold our positions where we were. We had a [Page 13 end] thin perimeter just around the north edge of the camp. We held fast there until they left.
Q. Could you describe what Combat Support you received In the way of spooks, fire teams flare ships, and bow effective there support was?
A. We received first of all a light fire team who was doing an excellent Job he fired every thing he had out around the perimeter and then the spooks were outstanding, they just kept dropping flares and circular perimeter firing, they did an outstanding job that night. We received 2 spookyís I believe at the time of the attack it was clear, but by the time the 2nd spooky arrived It began to cloud up and it rained continuously from 0200 to 0800 the next morning.
Q. Beginning at first light, could you explain what the condition was on top of the bill in terms of the organization of the people and also give us an Idea of the support that came In to you and If possible the support that came in from other units.
A. At the first light we organized 3 separate parties one was to secure the chopper pad one was to start moving the casualties that were wounded down to the chopper pad and the 3d was to check the area out, and secure it, check for booby traps, we found numerous booby traps the following morning the first ships to arrive were medvac from B32 Detachment (Na Taylen) and also two SF medics SFC Wigginton and SP4 Burns they arrived with blankets, medical supplies and they were the only medics capable of doing anything on the hill that [Page 14 end] morning. After we got all the wounded evacuated the first ship to arrive was from B32 detachment It contained among other things whisky, clothes, chow, and Just about anything imaginable also a ship right behind that contained all new communications gear, since we lost all of ours Lieutenant Ballentine flew it in from Bien Hoa, we had everything sitting on the pad and we couldnít find a place to set up since everything on the hill was Just about leveled except the pagoda there was quite a little confusion as to who was going to get into the pagoda and what not we waited on the pad until Just about 1230 hours to see if we were going to get reinforced by the 25th. We had requested reinforcements the night before but there seemed to be some confusion at higher level as to who was going to reinforce or what they were going to do the company of ___ had arrived came In at approximately 1300 I believe they moved in the positions around a company of about 95, commanded by Cpt Hart. After asking Lt Ballentine, he asked us and I imagine 10 of the people around here to move into the pagoda and set up our communication system again finally somebody I donít know who but they said go ahead, and at 1400 we were in and operational.
Q. Sgt. Gilbert can you tell us about what size the VC FORCE WAS I realize that it was very dark that night and very confusing and you was not able to see all that happened.
A. As I say I was defending the north perimeter, we received fire from the rear, I actually only saw 5, one 5 man squad they were armed [Page 15 end] with AK47*a and RPGís, there were other squads that were active on the hill at the same tine in the east and on the south side of the perimeter and on top I could not say what size the force was.
Q. Did this Force appear to you to be well organized and did they know Just about what they were doing?
A. It was a well timed and organized raid. they seemed exactly where everything was even to where the generators sat down on the side of the hill, which were concealed by some rocks, they had to know where they were, unless they Just stumbled over then which I donít think so. It seems that their main purpose was to blow up the huge YHF and UHF antennas at the top. they did not harm the pagoda but they had satchel charges and they blew the antennas almost immediately after they got to the top. During the night they booby trapped some bodies and left some booby traps along the chopper pad. and all around the trails on the hill.
Q. SGFC Gilbert what would you give as the reason for the unsuccessful defense of Nui Ba Den?
A. Mainly I would say because they had a provisional company up here there was so many people from so many different units assigned that discipline was lax, the CO up here did not enforce the people to stay in their bunkers at night after It was dark there was sometimes one man In a bunker, there was not enough wire out to stop the VC from infiltrating through the perimeter.[Page 16 end]
Q. Sgt. Gilbert what changes would you make If you were put In charge of the defense of Nui Ba Den?
A. First of all I would tear all those wooden bunkers down that would not stop anything, and Iíd build the bunkers in the side of the mountain and get a lot of wire out, so they could not run from one bunker to the other, I would section them off with concertina wire also get some booby traps on the wire and get some mine fields laid around this thing, the biggest thing I would say would be to get a complete ____ Company in here and a commander who had complete control over this company and have them responsible for security only.
[End side 1, tape2]
Q. My next interview is with Sergeant Holguin, who Is a Radio operator of Detachment A-324 Nui Ba Den.
Sgt. Holguin would you please give us your name, rank, SN and previous military experience and Special Forces training, and how long you have been In the service?
A. My name is Sergeant Holguin, Ellas RA 19840153 Iíve been in the army approximately 3 years, Iíve been in other A sites, Iíve been in (tra cu) A-352 been in operations up there and I worked as a 28A under Staff Sergeant McCoy. I came In country the 4th of October, I stayed at (Tra Cu) until the later part of February and after that I was assigned to Nui Ba Den, I didnít think much about the duty [Page 17 end] because there wasnít no _____ about the _____ but I guess it worked out OK because I got along OK, I guess I got use to them, the short time I was there.
Q. Would you explain to me your present duty assignment, and what your duties consist of as Radio operator up here at Nui Ba Den?
A. Most of your Radio operators up here In the mountain is mostly 28A under SFC Sherwin and after he rotated down to the bottom, SFC Gilbert became our supervisor up there. Our function up there In the mountain is mostly relay, we had our retrans set up here pretty outstanding compared to the other units I believe because our Commo always seemed to be a little better, it wasnít as good as It was when we were up in the pagoda but well you canít have everything.
Q. So basically what you did up here was pull shifts along with the other radio operators and function as a relay station between the B team and also between the operations in the field and the A teams Is that correct?
A. Affirmative Sir.
Q. You were at an A site before you have a little bit an idea of what it took to defend a small fixed installation like a USSF A Del or like the camp up here, Nui Ba Den. Would you explain to us what you thought of the defenses at Nui Ba Den.?
A. Actually I didnít think much of the defenses, I didnít see any [Page 18 end] defenses at all except a couple strands of concertina wire. The people up here complained about it, but nobody really seemed like they wanted to do anything up In the higher ups. Down here us Special Forces people really donít have much to say, we are the kind of underdog of the mountain, the defenses, this place was built for beauty and not for camp defense, everybody knew that this was going to happen one day and It finally did, several times we went down in small patrols and checked out the area, you could tell there was people down there, because the trails were fairly fresh I could hear people talking, wood chopping and other things. You would find booby traps up there and coming through the wire it didnít take very long to bridge it in fact most of the time we could come through without being seen. People up here ran patrols but if you stood on top of the pagoda and looked around you could see them going around the wire so It wasnít much of a patrol We were thinking about bringing a couple of CIDG up here and running patrols of our own since we donít have the adequate personnel to run patrols with. Just the 4 men we have up here.
Q. Sgt. Holguin could you explain what you were doing the night of 13 May the night the attack started?
A. May the 13th, I was watching Jimmy Durante and I was getting pretty excited. I was on Commo check and got called by one of the A sites to relay a message, I was relaying the message at the time when I started hearing loud booms, I figured It was just the mortar crew, [Page 19 end] that usually would go up at night and once in a while whenever the old man up here would let them) would fire some illumination rounds or Hand I but then it started getting louder and dirt and shrapnel started falling on top of our roof and I knew something was wrong, I told SP4 Kelly to go out and see what he could see right after that he called _____ and 013 and tried to get artillery support at that time Sgt. Gilbert and SP4 Kelly went out to the forward bunker, they had a radio with them but apparently the battery was pretty weak, me and Sgt. Hager stayed in the Commo bunker till it was being burned down, we tried to keep up our Commo because we tried to get the other people on the hill, but nobody else would answer us so we figured we were the last ones to go about that time an RPG rocket hit our butane where our stove was located and the whole place started up in flames, we stayed in it Just a little bit longer after than then the radios went dead, I guess something must of hit the battery cables or one of the radios or the one we were working on so we decided to make it, we made it outside. We received fire, I donít know If it was friendly or Charlie but we decided to go into the rocks, there was a couple of holes there. We went into the rocks we could hear gooks talking but we couldnít hear no Americans so we figured that we were the only survivors. We saw the gooks walking around we wanted to fire at them, but it was Just not feasible because if we were the only two we were going to get blown out of that hole if we started firing at them, so we stayed there most of the night, until about 2:30 or 3:00. We heard Americans talking in the background so we joined with them [Page 20 end] and we found out there was actually more Americans there than we thought, there was approximately 15 In the rocks, about 15 or 20 meters away from us, the only trouble was that most of them had been caught sleeping or in the club and there was about 4 weapons to all these men most of them was still scared) crying, and well for most of these men It was the first battle experience I believe, I know Z was pretty shook up and I believe Charles was pretty shook up to.
Q. So you just remained there huddled in the rocks until the next morning approximately first light is this correct?
A. Affirmative we stayed In the rocks we formed up a little perimeter we had a couple of wounded personnel in there, and tried to help them out. They caught us at a bad time, we were all relaxed, most of us had our boots off and most of us were sleeping or else working, so we stayed in the rocks until morning, when the first medvac started coming in we secured the pad we took all the men we had and secured the pad. sent a couple of patrols out to check the bunkers for bodies, booby traps and other wounded people on one of these patrols there was a Lieutenant and another LMQ with us and it was me and SP4 Kelley that went out to check these bunkers we found bodies in the bunkers and a couple of satchel charges that were apparently duds, and didnít work there was rumors that there were booby traps but I myself didnít see any.
Q. Could you describe for me the weather conditions that existed on the hill during the night and also from where you could see, if you Page 21 end
A. The weather conditions as we went outside was clear as a bell, the stars were out, and it was a beautiful night. We got real good support almost instantaneous before we made it out of our hooch we got word that two spookyís were coming up to our location, and that made us really feel happy because we figured that it wasnít going to be a complete disaster the way It turned out to be. the spookyís fired around the perimeter real good fire-in-tight. I would say there was artillery called in from 013 was real outstanding even though we didnít adhere to much of it, it seemed like there was a lot more banging going around in the perimeter than there was on the outside.
Q. Sgt. Holguin would you explain to me what happen up here at Nui Ba Den after the first light In the morning of the 14th which sort of support you received what additional help came in from higher headquarters and exactly what the conditions were on top of the mountain at this time?
A. The support was outstanding we received blankets, water) a little bit of chow which we needed) definitely needed, but I feel that the most important thing- that came In was a medvac to get these wounded personnel out, we had two outstanding medics from down at our B detachment that came up here and they did most of the patching on these wounded since the medics out here we had, the doctor was killed and the 2 assistants were not to experienced, I wouldnít say [Page 22 End]inexperienced, the didnít have tine In the combat zone to know how to treat a person like these people were. We got all our Commo equipment up here, we could set up our relay station once again, we did not have the equipment we really wanted, but we definitely had some outstanding help out of our B team the other units, 1st INP, and the 125th, they didnít get the support that we got, the support, was mostly chow and goodies for them. these people didnít want to stay up there, nor did we want to stay up there but It was a good thing we did because once you get away from something like this your always shook up afterwards we stayed here overnight we set up our Commo we had effective Commo to all the A Detachments and Lady Beetle, Company A, so we really had outstanding support from Company A and B-32.
Q. Sgt. Holguin could you please give us what you feel are the reasons for the unsuccessful defense of Nui Ba Den?
A. I believe the reason for that was the perimeter was not what It should have been, the place was not built up for a combat attack, it was more like a R&B Resort Center, personnel we had out here were mostly new troops, most of them from down in the lowlands been in country only one or two months also we had a lot of old timers that were getting to lax, partying most of the time. It was Just not built up to where it would withstand anything, everybody had been up here for a couple of months and everybody started getting lax this place would never be hit its unimportant Charlie using our equipment using our antennas to pass his traffic the bunker was not up to what ~3 Page 23 endit should have been personnel In there set around raiding magazines, the whole place was just to relax, not enough security out no patrols run, every thing was just to lax.
Q. Sgt. Holguin what recommendations would you give for Improving the defensive posture of Nui Ba Den.?
A. First of all we would have to clear some of these rocks tunnels they claim there Is around here, we definitely would have to put out some perimeter trip flares, claymores, more wire, leave 20 feet of wire with some kind of warning device, also we would have to build these bunkers where they would withstand rockets and small arms, the ones we had out here wouldnít hold on MI 6 round, they were to high off the ground I believe if we put sandbags the perimeter, sandbag bunkers and cement them, and put barrels In front of them why it would withstand most of these high explosives that Charlie has, keep a company of the Infantry or else get us our CIDGís back on this hill, I believe we would have a lot better defense than we do now. The End Tape t2a - Page 24 end TAPE * _~> My next interview is with Sergeant Hager, Sgt. Hager would you please give us your name, rank, SN, time In Service and your Special Forces experience? My name is Charles E. Hager, 1m a Sergeant E5, RA 13986682, Iíve been in the Army about 3 Ĺ years, 1m Special Forces about 3 years, been in Vietnam for eight months Before I came to Vietnam I was in the 7th SFGP
Q. Where was your previous assignment in Vietnam before you came to Nui Ba Den?
A. I was ____ SF Camp north of Tay Ninh A-301.
Q. Sgt. Hager what is your present duty assignment?
A. 1m now stationed on Nui Ba Den S.F. A-site A-324, my job is Iím a radio operator a assistant radio operator.
Q. Sgt. Hager will you explain to us where Detachment A-324 fits into the overall organization of Nui Ba Den and what other units are up here?
A. This Is mainly a 25th Division Camp SF detachment up here is separate and there Is only 4 personnel that operate under B-32 its mainly a 25th Division Camp, the 1st Division is also up here which is mainly radio relay, they got some MPís up here for Bunker guards~ Page 25 end which is all they did and I donít think they were experienced enough to be up here.
Q. Sgt. Hager during the 3 months that you were here did you ever have any observations of your own of the defensive set up of Nui Ba Den?
A. OK the defense wasnít properly manned well if there was a man in the bunker it was Just about one person and he wasnít watching out the part to the front or anything he was either In there listening to a tape recorder or, sitting down, I canít confirm this but at one time I walked in a bunker and there wasnít anybody in there at all. also the had no camp defense as far as wire outside they had 2 strands of wire which can be penetrated just by strolling through It, also we never had any alerts, the whole time I was up here we had one alert and that was because there was some ricochets off the mountain from the base camp down at the bottom that was coming over our camp and thatís the only alert we had the whole time we were up here.
Q. Sgt. Hager what were you doing the evening of 13 May?
A. I was watching TV.
Q. What was the first indication you had that there was an attack on Nui Ba Den?
A. We got about 3 rounds in repetition close to our team house and we went out to check it and before we got to the door to check it I~ [Page 26 end] think 2 more rounds had hit, and that convinced us that we were getting mortared and we began to get our equipment and started preparing for defensive actions at first and then we called In artillery.
Q. After your initial reaction of getting your gear and trying to call In artillery would you explain to us what happened after this?
A. Sgt. Gilbert and SP4 Relly went out to Bunker number 1 me and Sgt. Holguin stayed In on the radios I was guarding the doors to make certain that no VC came in and tried to get a hold of Holguin, Holguin was on the radio trying to call in artillery, spooky and light fire teams, when and RPG hit a butane bottle and blew it up and caught the team house on fore, and we had about 2 seconds to get out of there cause the whole thing was on fire, the radios were knocked out we left the team house and right after we left the team house some mortars came through the roof we seen small arms fire when we were leaving the building we went down into the rocks behind the building and tried to get head cover because the mortar rounds were coming in all over the place in rapid concession, we picked up a board and put In front of us for cover from mortar rounds that were coming In, we stayed there about 30 minutes and we watched all the building burn and hoping that a round would not hit near us. After about 30 minutes we got a quick glimpse of a VC that was up on top of the hill by our pagoda and before we could recognize him as a VC we thought we couldnít fire at him we thought maybe it might be an American but Page 27 endthen after we thought about we knew that It was a VC we knew that we had probe Inside the camp so we stayed there in the time being there was explosions all around us boobs going off in the houches and stuff like that and we stayed there until about midnight and we wanted to move, and by this tine spooky came spooky was dropping flares, we heard some American forces behind us and we were going to go up with them, and rally with them and right after going up there move Holguin went to the right and I went to the left and somebody saw a machinegun out of the bunker that was right by a hooch I looked up there and there were 3 VC so I told Holguin to freeze and he his by a rock and I tried to hide. we werenít spotted and we didnít have any cover what so ever to fire back at I just got partly behind a rock couldnít get at him so we stayed there, I think that just about then Kelly dropped the M79 In the bunker I donít think it killed them I think it scarred them away and after that we moved up behind the rocks there and waited and about 130 every body started rallying together and that was about it. we started getting all the wounded together and check the area out.
Q. So after you got the wounded together the best you could and formed a perimeter basically around the reservoir you more or less stayed fast the rest of the night, Did you see Sgt. Gilbert or Spec Kelley any time before daybreak?
A. Thatís a negative. I saw before we left the hooch, I was getting Holquins web gear for him and after opening the door I saw a sixty~ [Page 28 end] or 62 mortar hit the bunker that he was in that Gilbert and spec Kelly were In then I assumed that they were either dead or wounded and later on we thought they were finished because the bunker line was overrun and we didnít see Sgt. Holguin until the next day we were In the rocks and we found out later that he was In bunker t20 and the next day when we started putting out medevacs and everything I ran Into him, and saw each other.
Q. Would you explain what happen the next day after day break. What sort of support you received and In general what the conditions were on the hill In reference to the morale of the troops and what was being done to give you assistance.
A. As far as support goes special forces we got a great amount of support on the first Medevac that came in, 2 medics from the B detachment came up and helped put the Medevacs out, a little on we started bring In very many supplies for setting up our Commo gear which we had set up by noon that next day, as far as morale goes It was quite low, for not to long as far as we go, because we stayed up here and a lot latter units got replacements. End 1st Ĺ tape *3 My next Interview Is with specialist Kelly. Specialist Kelly would you give me your full name, Rank, SN, time In service, and previous military experience in special forces. My name if Specialist Fourth Class Larry D. Kelly RA54759906, 2q Page 29 endIíve been In the Army since August 1966 Iíve been In Special Forces since March of 67 and I arrived In Vietnam 10 February of 68 and arrived here about 2 months A team at Tay Ninh from the tine I arrived In Vietnam until I arrived up here, My present duty assignment Is radio operator at Nui Ba Den we pull eight hour ships, working radio listening to monitor continuously.
Q. Your function up here is mostly radio relay to relay messages to the A and B detachments and also to units In the field when they canít make direct Commo. Is that correct?
A. Yes thatís correct,
Q You only been up here for about 2 months before the mountain was attacked did you ever have any cause to take note of the defenses here at Nui Ba Den?
A. Yes Sir I noted the bunkers were in pretty good position for a field of fire but some of them were to far apart and like the ones around the chopper pad they had about 30 meters field fire and some people I know didnít stay on duty to good because I heard some of them when they used to brag about sleeping on guard, and they used to be setting In there in the day time reading books Instead of watching out the front,
Q. What were you doing on the night of 13 Hay?
A. I was asleep I was supposed to go on at 1100 that night so I was [Page 30 end] getting some sleep, I had just watched one entertainer on the television show and then went to bed and I was going to wait until 11:00 for someone to wake me up so I could go on duty.
What was the 1st indication that you had that the mountain was being attacked?
A. The 1st indication that I got that we were being attacked was we were receiving incoming rounds at first we didnít know they were incoming, they didnít sound to loud but then the other ones started getting closer so we had all of our gear on the wall and we started figuring out what we were going to do.
Q. About Incoming rounds was this mortars small arms or what?
A. This was incoming mortar rounds at first.
Q. After you decided that these were incoming rounds what was your reaction then?
A. At this time after we realized we were under attack we knew we were going to have to call some artillery and this man on Radio watch, Sgt. Holguin started calling various people trying to get some Dep Cons fired, We hadnít yet figured out which way every thing was coming from and we didnít know until later on that night he was trying to call artillery and trying to cleared the artillery through a couple of people and they had already received a couple hits and there building so they couldnít help any and they couldnt get Page 31 endanything cleared so we didnít get any artillery for a pretty good while the mortar rounds, I donít know exactly how many cane In, and I didnít hear anybody say how many we got even, but we did receive about 30 to 1C aortar rounds during the whole affair I guess from 15 to 20 minutes we were receiving mortar rounds and we located the antenna of our 25 PBC 25 radio I went out Into bunker *1 with SFC Gilbert, the bunker had already taken 2 mortar rounds when I got to it so I figured we wouldnít get hit again on that bunker but we wee in the bunker and as Gilbert was trying to call comeone on the 25 and wer were down on the back of the mountain with the short antenna and no one could hear it. We were on the wrong side of the mountain to be talking to the B team. When we were not able to make communications with anyone there was still mortar rounds going off all over the place, and small arms, we set up a defense Inside the bunker but we didnít know if any other bunkers were still around. I was guarding the door and I noticed some small arms fire coming from a bunker that no one was suppose to be In, I wasnít sure there wasnít any Americans in it so I didnít fire, I waited awhile and then in about 1 minute 2 figures came out from around the back of this bunker, and I still didnít know if they were any of our friendly CIDG or if they wre VC, I didnít really think the VC had time to get on the mountain yet so I didnít shoot then one of them shot our hooch with a RPG rocket and I shot him but the other one I didnít see where he went he left just before the 1st one fired the RPG after that I fired one M79 round into the bunker they were In and went back ?-2- Page 32 end to the front of the bunker to get some M 79 rounds when they shot the front of our hoooh with either another mortar or an RPG at this time we all crawled out the front and stayed in front Just In case some one came and threw some sachel charges Inside the bunker we stayed at the front of the bunker for 30 to 115 minutes and everything started to seem kind of quiet we could hear small arms and the flames from a hooch was going on all around there and the smoke we could see all the way across the big pond and Sgt. Gilbert could see all the way around the other side, we were guarding both sides to see that no one came up and we stayed there awhile and then we could still hear a bunch of small arms and stuff so we moved in on the side about 40 to 50 meters and stayed there on the side to get out of the smoke from our hooch burning up there were only 2 of us Sgt. GiIívert and myself one E6 that was in the bunker when we got in there and 2 CIDG that were with us in the Commo room they had a radio relay up there also. We moved down the side of the mountain and we were trying to call different stations with different frequencies on our radio. We were unsuccessful at first and finally about 20 to 30 minutes after we got down there we got in touch with Katum and they told us to go to 6800 on our radio where everyone else was, when we went up there we started calling people and Red horse Retrans told as he was in bunker 20 so we immediately started navigating toward this bunker. We moved up the side of the mountain toward the bottom dyke of this water resolvoir we have once across the bottom to keep from being seen by anone we got to the bunker, enough to go up over the top, and Sgt. 33 Page 33 end Gilbert started up over the top and when he got to the top he received some fire, some people were hollering lease fire as they thought it was friendly but other people Iíve talked to since this has happened, I didnít know at this time that this was not friendly fire and everyone that was In the bunker yelled for someone to cease fire and then we dove down we all thought It was friendly fire, but we later found out that It wasnít coming from this same bunker on the other side of our hooch where I seen the first two before and I suppose these were there were still a couple of VC up there with some automatic weapons it wasnít AK47, It was a grease gun or something else similar after we got to the bunker Sgt. Gilbert and this E6 that was in the bunker 1st went on up to the bunker, myself and the 2 CIDGís stayed down behind the big rock and worked our way around the bottom to keep them going over the top from drawing fire if they came under fire again, we got up to the bunker and I was went down and laid down behind the rock this big rock to the left above the 20 because we needed to a diversionary to keep some one from coming up the side and give that shot at the bunker, It was the only bunker that we new that was in operation and we wanted to get some kind of security around it. I stayed there by the rock and the flares were coming in and the spooky, and the gunships were firing all around the mountain, the spooky stayed there about 30-40 minutes, droping flares and flying all around the mountain, continuously for 30"40 min the gunships were also firing up and down the side of the mountain I presume the low valleys that had up to the bothsldes of the chopper 3 L Page 34 end pad where It looked like they were firing. I know once they got kind of close I donít think they knew I was down by the rocks which wouldnít nake much difference I was still inside the perineter, they were getting kind of close sometimes and the spookyís were slow in firing so ouch that we would have to hold radio communications until after they were through firing until we could talk. I donít really remember the time but after the spooky left he flew around and dropped a couple flares and the clouds started coming in and it rained from that time on till the next morning at about 4:00. When the rain started all I had on was my Jungle boots cut off pants and my wet gear, so I made it up to the bunker and stayed inside the bunker while it was raining. Some people had already checked the mountain out once for being secured. While at night they located a bunch of wunded people and I got a pretty good picture of how everything was. I was so cold when I got to bunker and I stayed in there and I just got all this from the people who came back from the patrols. The next morning at first light, one group went down to take care of the chopper pads to see if we could get Dust offs out and a couple more of us went around and started checking the bunker line out to see If we left any people In and to see If there was anyone else on the mountain, we made the check, and had gotten to the Pagoda, by the tine we got to the pagoda they were already making Dust offs moving the wounded out on the 1st Dust off Chopper 32 and 32A from the 3 team the medic and his assistant came up and they started patching some people up that were on the pad and they got the [Page 35 end] most urgent people, some guys were just barely hurt, they were on litters there were ones hurt pretty bad and these people that were down here were leaving the ones that were hurt pretty bad until last, they didnít have any organization as to urgency of certain patients they just put someone on there If they were on a stretcher first, and if they could walk, they got on by their selfs, the stretchers did go on first however, but some of the stretchers wree not as urgent as others. I feel they should have put the most urgent first, well by the time the 2 medics from the B team had looked at all the patients they found one guy his leg was shot up pretty bad and he was already turning pale, he felt alright, but he had veen left until last, then they got him on as soon as they could. The 32A SP4 Burns and I checked around the bunker line one more time to see if we could find any more wounded people. We located some mor KZA. We started moving them down to the chopper pad because most of the wounded had already come out and had already been taken back to base camp. We stayed here the following morning with the 32 and 32A. They stayed at about 9:30-10:00 we got some more communications equipment and about 3 or 4 people came up to help us carry this communications equipment we had set up communications temporarily in the pagoda a big concrete building thatís up ere on the mountain I donít know how long but its pretty secure and solid we set up Communications here and started working on putting out communications back together and figure out Ď > where we were finish our building defenses and bunkers, the supplies they brought up Included one rectifier to keep power to the batteries Page 36 end a PRC 47 radio, a 2 PRC 25 radios, and one 25, an A PBC 25 Radio we received about 10 gallons of water, some food, clothing, blankets, and aiDBunItlon, for H-16 and Carbines we worked most of the day carrying this stuff up to the pagoda where we stayed. End of Interview SPEC Kelly TAPE tU lín Harold R. Ninton Introduced Byself on the first tape 1m the S3 of Detachment B-32 and now that you have heard from the personnel that were actually on the mountain Id like to give you an Idea of the Battle of Nui Ba Den the night of 13 May lookd like and also sounded like from the B detachment here as we were monitoring the progress. Before you can make any sense of this at all any of my conversation you will need to know the call signs, Alien 06, was the forward Air Controller that went air borne that night, Sabeone 3 is your artilery unit 2nd Battallion, 32nd artilery which files artillery support for tan yein province. In Feild sinker Is a call sign is the A Detachment 324 Nui Ba Den flexable and spcifically flexiable 33 is the S3 section at the 3rd Brigade 25 Div located at Da trang which had over all responsibility of the area. Red horse retrans was the retrans - mission station for 3rd squadron 17th Cavalry which Is headquarters Tay Ninh west base camp which has units through out the 3 CTZ area its call sign is Red horse and we transmission station on top of Nui Ba Den as Red horse Retrans Roxy trays Is Katum, a camp located some 30 kilometers north of Nui Ba Den 3> Page 37 end indicated 58 is your artillery unit located at Katum 2US 105 artillery pieces. Unjust Ringer is Detachoent B 32 here at tanyen east, I was first notified of the contact at Nui Ba Den at roughly 2145 - 2200 all I heard that the mountain was taking inconing, and I didnít attach a hole lot of importance to this at first, but since I had to always go over to radio rooms as they progressed I went over into conmo to find out what was going on at this time. I monitored several transmissions, from Infield sinker 013 asking for artillery concentration to be fired on them. He held several transmissions between himself and 713 who is Sgt. Hager excuse me Sgt. Holguin on the radio and finally at 2220 I heard the last transmission of the day from an excited voice saying get some artillery in here fast. and then the radios went dead. I imagine this is about the time the RPG hit the butane tanks which caused the radios to go dead. I talked to Sgt. Holguin later and he said his last transmission was, "weíre going off the air out," I never heard him say this, the last I heard him say was "get some artillery in here fast. So I imagine the radios went out before he stopped transmitting. I talked with the artillery battalion later and infield sinker _____ 224 was the only unit on the air that was calling for artillery at the time. there was other unit on the hill calling for artillery. I imagine the primary reason this is, is that the artillery battalion continue monitors Nui Ba Denís frequencys since they support our operation and many of our operations span Nui Ba Dens frequency, so we can relay back to the A detachments, and I donít believe any other units on the hill have 3Y Page 38 end contact with the artillery. I canít verify that but thatís the Impression I got since nobody else was calling for It. As soon as we lost contact with Nui Ba Den. I waited about 5 ainutes to verify that we had lost contact then I notified Colonel Ray, I had notified him previously that they had been under attack, we notified him at roughly 2230 that we had lost contact with them, we then began trying other units. He tried Batman control which is the provisional company In administrative operation control for the hill, we tried to contact 25th Div to see if they had anybody in contact nobody could raise them, finally 2300 I got a call from SiIíver 13 that one station was operating on the hill, this was Red Horse Retrans, on 68.00 FN so we Immediately switched over there and I came on to 6800. I heard a conversation beween Red horse Retrans and Flexible 33 and Flexible 3 the S3 of the 25th 1st Brigade was telling him that he had a light fire team on the way at this time, these light fire teams come from Tain lien west from the _____ of the 17th and about 2310 they were on station and spoolcy was on call. We were very concerned about the status of Special Forces personnel and exactly what was going on with them because we hadnít heard anything on them since 2230 when they went off the air. So I called Red horse retrans about 2320 he was trying to get hold of a PRC 25 radio so he could get some additional control up there and I said, why donít you try Infield sinkers people, they may have a PRC 25. and he told me to forget it and I believe at this time he told me they were burning the building to the ground so we were all pretty dispondent, and at this time didnít ~ Page 39 end think that any of our people were still alive but still held out some hope, they could be out hiding in the rocks somewhere. At roughly 2330 Maj Pueple the senior Fac In taen yen province, his call sign is 06 went up with HSG Johnson the B 32 operations Sgt., in the back seat, Sgt. Johnson was the Detachment Sgt. of A-324 for several months and was very familiar with the defense posture of Nui Ba Den and also where _____ was located. It was thought that he might be some assistance to the people on the ground up there. Also the man on the mountain that was talking on Red horse Retranc had been assigned up there for 16 months and when we got these two talking together they wre able to have a commonce of a reference, one problem we did have was we tried to get everyone on a compatable frequency. The Alen Fac could not go to 6800 on his FN Radios so we put a PRC 25 in the back seat with Johnson and he was changeing off and on from 6600 talking to people on the ground back to 4930 which was our frequency then we thought since the FN was no good that we could go to UHF and have the light fire team shich was on station at this time couple with 7AC on UHF and we tried this and couldnít get a compatable frequency here, we finally got a compatable on UHG and Alien could transmitt to the light fire team, the light fire team could hear them and talk back but Alien couldnít receive so we were sort of In a mess trying to get everybody talking to everyone else on the same frequency, this situation continued for a while, at 140010 we heard from Foxy trays thatís Katum that infield senker 28, thatís Sgt. GiIívert and one other man were OK they were located 50 meters north of the perimeter 4LO Page 40 end apparently they had relayed this word to Vindicator 58 the Artillery Unit there and Foxy trays told infield 28 Sgt. Gilbert logo to 68.00 and contact Red horse Tetranse. Shortly after that Sgt. Gilbert did change frequency on his radios, and contacted Red horse retranse and they linked up at this time to the best of our knowledge. Sgt. Hager and Holguin were still missing and had last been seen in the team house which was burning down. During theis time the 1st light fire team that expended around the perimeter we of course warned them that we had people 50 meters north of it which we learned this about Sgt. Gilbert, During this period spookey had come up on station about this time it was the last straw, spooky couldnít get on 6800 either, it was absolutely spooky talk with the people on the hill so for this reason I put out a call to all stations that were operating as that frequency and told them to switch to our primary operational frequency 39.30 which alien was on at the time and which spooky was on at the time so we finally got everybody down to 39.30 and from that time on had little if any communications problems, we switched all our A Camps over to infield sinkers frequency of U7.20 and so didnít present any problems for us at about 0130 the mountain got fagged in very badly and the spooky was flying around and dropping its flares and keep missing and flying off to the north and off to the east although I will say he did an outstanding job of providing continuous Illumination through the night and they did have illumination most of the night. Finally got spooky reoriented. during this time the light fire team was expended spooky was Lti Page 40 end expending they were receiving from medium to heavy antiaircraft fire from around the base of the mountain and on the sides of the mountain the light fire team and spooky shot up these areas pretty well. A large pagoda was the sorce of a lot of this and we wee going to shoot it up with artillery but the _____ was to high and spooky would been indangered so we pretty much let it gok this pagoda has long been known as a vc dominated area but its a prominent religious shrine in tarn yen province and so far we haveínt been able to shoot it up, we were actually suppose to get artillery from tain yen west base camp. Some of the troops on the hill had organized a sinbulance of a perimeter around the reservoir, they were patched up as many were wounded a large number possibly killed, they were small pockets of resistance scattered around the mountain however they were afraid to move because they was still a possibility the VC were still in the perimeter and that everybody that moved would be shot at either by friendlies or VCís so there wasnít a whole lot more that could be done Red Horse Retrans reported that all buildings but one had been destroyed and that most of the bunkers had been destroyed also. this was about the situation at this time they said they needed ammunition, food, water, clothing, and medical supplies up there as soon as there could get them but since the mountain was fogged in It would be at first light before anything could get in. So at about 0230 that the situation stabilized like this I sent the 1st formal message into Company A as exactly what was the status of the Mountain Ever since the contact started we kept A Company informed with a few cf-a. Page 42 end on the spot reports, as soon as we had something significant developed ove the FN for instance when radio contact was lost and when radio contact was restablished with Red Horse Retrans with Sgt. Gilbert and SP 4 Kelly were still alive and that Sgt. Hager and Sgt. Holguin were missing at the time the status of the mountain we informed Company A of this using the singal Side Bond and they inturn relayed it on to II Field Force I thought at the time that the only reports going into Field Force were from Company A since I received several calls from 25th Din at Khu Che aksing me what was happening, the 3rd Brigade 25th Div Detachment 23 was monoriting the same thing I was but evidently they were not passing it to the 25th Div very rapidly and I found out later that the 25th Div never relayed anything at all during the night into II Field Force Headquarters so first that happen from B 32 and relay into II Field Force were the only reports that went in that night. After I submitted this report Maj Barren called over a couple of the medics ans Sgt. miller ups sgt of the detachment and a few people from the S4 section and they started getting a bunch of field clothing ammunition, water packetts, pancho medical supplies, etc. Ready to go in as soon as it was possible, we tried to think of some ways we could drop some PRC 25 batteries into the detachment because the PRC 46 that Red horse retrans was using at the moment were on batteries since their power went out these batteries were about dead and these batteries were about dead and these transmissions were coming in very weak and the batteries on the PRC 25 that Sgt. Gilbert had were out so we figured ~ Page 43 end if we could them some more batteries we could establish better Commo but we were never able to get this accomplished safe supplies were pushed out, we made arrangements with tein yen Dust off mod evac helicopter pilots who were sure to be flying in the next morning at first light, they were to come by here first to pick up 2 medics Sgt. Wiggington and Spec Byrne along with all our supplies we had pushed out, we talked also with 3rd Brigade 25th Div Detachment 23 about stocking up supplies and radio equipment for then to send in from Dak Keing since we thought that some Dak Keing Choppers would be going in. and they said they would do something about it but as it turned out they never did, and the only supplies went in the next morning other than one unit of PRC 25 radios, ours sent in B-32 and the special forces people ended up giving a lot of the coths sea rations and everything else, panchos, blankets and stuff that came in to the other conventional units they didnít receive any other supplies at about 0700 hours the 1st Medevac went in with Sgt. Wiggengton and SPec Byrne, there were no other medical personnel, doctors, nurses, aidmen, corpsmen non of the other units sent up to nui Ba Den there had been 3 medics of the 25th Div at he time on the hill one was an E6 or E7 who was killed the other two were a SP4 and PFC who really didnít have enough experience to accomplish anything so the both of the infact the total amount almost of the medical treatment fell on Sgt. Wiggengton and spec Byrne. who established priorities and started moving Medivacs backdown the hill after all this time I talked to Maj Kelly the Chief of operations office 25th Division, who asked me for ~ Page 44 end an assessment of the situation, I wanted to ask him whether or not he planned to stay up on the hill, our plans were to get Commo equipment up there and since we new well Iím getting ahead of myself. I went to bed for about 2 Ĺ hours and woke up and found out that Holguin an Hager were alright, and immediately notified Company A. and by this time it was about 7:00 when the first Med evac went in, a little after that I talked to the 21st Div and told them our plans were to as soon as possible reestablish communicaions on the mountain, the night before we had called A Company and told them all the equipment were totally destroyed that morning they had a slick come out with Lt Ballentine the signal officer from company A. Lt Ballentine had a host of Commo equipment with, rectifier, Batteries and everything else that would be needed to reestablish Communications upon the hill. the only thing he didnít have was a power supply and we got a 125KW generator, AC from Trang Sut and sent it up to the mountain for the power supply, then when Lt. Ballentine came with the radios we spent most of the morning shutteling up tent sand bags, clothing paunchos, the generator I had mentioned cot, more food and clothing, a couple cases of sea rations, shuttled up a big cardboard box of PX supplies, shaving equipment writing paper, pens cigarettes soap, everything we could think of took out of the PX and threw it in a box and sent it up there, plus Sgt. Johnson the operations sgt got a case of whiskey for them and sent that up sent up a case of cold beer and a case of cold soda for them, and so our people were pretty well squared away by noon that day. by about 1400 that day they were back Page 45 end in operation, we had several people down here Sgt. Sherwin, Sgt. Bayne volunteered to go up to the hill Sgt. Bayne we let go Sgt. Sherwin we wanted to keep out of Ben Soi for a while, and he wanted to go back up there and help them get set up again, Sgt. Moore volunteered to go back up, every body it seemed like down here wanted to go back up. Sgt. _____ was corn chief then went up along with Lt Ballentine and the Radio equipment to help get set back up again we finally got a determination from the 25th Din that yes they would reinforce the hill, yes they were going to keep their communication equipmet up there and Lt. Ballentine finally got permission to move into the pagoda so he started setting up the radios on about the, after the 1st load we sent up, the Commo equipment, th ship came back to Taen Yen East he had 2 Americans who had been killed on it and he also had about 4-5 able bodied Americans left along with the wall, the chopper set down at Taen Yen east by mistake instead of Taen Yen west but I was really amazed at what appeared to be the exodus from the mountain from people trying to get off any way they could and contrary to this the special forces people were trying to get up there anyway they could I think, and this is purely conjecture on my part, based on what happened I think that one of the problems was that all the units sent their people up their they had a provisional company of HPís, and other types to secure the place, and basically what these people did was send their people up to secure the place and, basically what these units did was sent them up to Nui Ba Den and forgot about them or say their under the control of the 25th Div and there was no unit Page 46 end identity no cohesiveness no sense of sticking together, and getting the job done or getting reestablished or anything else except for 324 we have kept close watch on them I donít say that people from the B team get up there every day or even though the day we had the work chopper but at least theres somebody that goes up there once a week, checks on them make sure they get plenty of food beer soda, and these sort of things all the time, and the men really had a unit cohesiveness and even though they were separated, when they got back together the next morning they were able to stick together and get on with the job as I said I wasnít an the mountain at the time but this will give you an idea of what took place as seen from the B detachment by monitoring the radio and by observing what went on here. Iíve got negative further Sgt. Wigginton would you please give me your name, Rank, SN, and previous military experience and an idea of how much special forces experience you have. My name is SFC Benny E. Wigginton RA 52428030 I have 12 years of military service I came in special forces in 1961, I served in Olinawa with the 1st SFGp, I had a mission to Laos for 4 months I had one previous 6 month mission to Viet Nam I was on the Gemini Recovery team to Rhodesia,
Q. Sgt. Wigginton where is your present duty assignment?
A. 1m the medical supervisor of B32 Page 47 end
Q. On the night of 13 May what knowledge did you have of the contact at Nui Ba Den?
A. The 1st knowledge of contact at Nui Ba Den was we noted fires at the top I went In to check with Commo and found out they were under Contact we immediately started getting medical supplies together to send up to them as soon as possible.
Q. So you heard about the contact went into the Commo bunker and you found out they would be needing medical supplies clothing food, and things like this, and I believe you made arrangements with Tay Ninh to go in and the 1st medical Dustoff Chopper, is that correct?
A. That is correct. SP4 Byrne and myself planned on going in on the 1st boat
Q. And you did for fact go in on the 1st medical chopper on the morning of the 14th at 06:45 is that correct?
A. Yes that is correct.
Q. Would you explain in your own words if you will what the conditions were that morning of the 14th when you went to Nui Ba Den?
A. When we arrived it was raining. People were standing around in small groups no one seemed to be doing anything, the maountain was still taking a few rounds periodically, the majority of the buildings were burned down or blown down there seemed to be no organization people were standing around in the rain with just their shorts or~F [Page 48 end] maybe a pair of shoes on, there was approximately 10 to 15 ambulatory patients standing down by the chopper pad, no one had made any arrangements to bring the litter cases down as yet. the dead bodies was still lying where they had been killed.
Q. What actions did you take at this time?
A. SP4 Bryne and myself immediatelyl started getting these litter patients down to the chopper pad so we could get them out on the next Medevac and we ashed the 1st Sgt. for a detail to start moving the bodies down It took him approcimately 1 Ĺ hours to get the people organized to bring the bodies down, we got all the litter patients down to the pad and both dust offs were coming and one of them was shot up and they couldnít get back for approximately an hour however we had 2 slicks come in and they sent the last 2 letter patients out on these ships, I went in one and SP4 Bryne went in the other.
Q. Are there any additional comments you would like to make?
A. I think that the special forces that were on the mountain were in much better spirits than any of the other troops. Also they were functioning more, they were the 1st to give us a hand in getting these bodies down the hill and the litter patients.Thank you very much Sgt. Wigginton. Your welcome sir. Maj Miller would you give us your name, Rank, SN, time in service and ~ Page 49 end special forces experience. My name is Richard S. Miller, Major NS 0F10576í1 my previous military experience is primarily infantry at Company, Battle Group and Brigade level, with one higher level staff assignment, graduate of the basic course, airborne course, the Career Course, Special Forces Officer Course, this is my first Special Forces assignment other than my assignment at Fort Bragg at the Special Forces Officer Course.
Q. What is your present Duty position?
A. Iím currently the executive officer for Detachment B32 Company A 5th SFGP
Q. What knowledge did you have of the attack on Nui Ba Den on the night of 13 May?
A. On the evening of the 13th of May I was walking around the B32 Compound I noticed a number of explosions taking place on top of Nui Ba Den mountain I went into the communications bunker and I found out we was in contact with the radio sight on top of the hill and they were receiving mortar fire and that we had lost communications with the special forces relay site on the hill, from that time on which was approximately 2300 hours, until approximately 0200 hours the next morning I was in the Communications bunker monoriting all these Radio Transmissions between Red horse Retrans and B-32 communications bunker. It became apparent during the evening that the sporatic Communications had a was strictly between the Bet B-32 and itsS~Q Page 50 end elements on the hill and that the situation up there was mixed matched by the confusion, that there were a large number of casualties and a large amount of damage had been done and that the Special Forces Facility had completely been destroyed and that in general confusion was running Supervisoreme, it was most difficult to get the status of any special forces personnel, all this stands to the fact that the team house had been destroyed at about 0030 hours it became obvious that 2 of the special forces personnel Sgt. Gilbert and SP4 Kelly were alright and at this time we determined a little bit more of the information which indicated there was going to be an urgent requirement for resupply of building materials, personal items and radio equipment in order to get the facility operational the next day at approximately 0200 hours I departed the Commo bunker and headed back to my billets.
Q. Maj Miller why did you go up to Nui Ba Den the next morning, 14 May?
A. I went up on the mountain the morning of 14 May in order to a first hand information concerning the action that had taken place up there, and the extent of damages and extent of injuries, so lís be better able to advise the Commander of Detachment B-32 what the requirements would be In order to get that facility operational as soon as possible. In addition I wanted to make sure that what supplies that did get up there did get to the special forces personnel in addition I wanted to find out what exactly was the 25th [Page 51 end] Inf. Div intentions were of reoccupation or reinforcement were of that installation.
Q. What were your observations and actions when you arrived at the top of the hill.
A. When I arrived on top of the hill that morning at approximately 0900 I found I was met by small groups of Infantry personnel standing around talking to one another, obviously confused and some of them was still in somewhat in shock or daze it took me about 10 minutes to locate an officer on the hill who was apparently in charge of the situation the majority of wounded personel had been evacuated by the 2 special forces medics who were sent in at 1st daylight the bodies of the KIA from the previous night were still littering the hilltop a few approximately 15 had been brought down to the helipad but no apparent had been made to evacuate them, I thought that the presence of these bodies, were uncovered, and quite mutilated were having a detrimental effect on the young enlisted men in the area so I immediately organized a carrying party to get the bodies from the side of the hill over to the helipad. and start loading choppers as they came in for Despatch to Taen Yen West. for each registration facility after I got the initial bodies that were by the helipad out loaded to Taen Yen West we organized in teams and started bringing the bodies down off the top of the hill for further evacuation, this seemed to be going rather slowly, after looking for the special forces personnel to find out just what the situation was as far as~"~ Page 52 end they were concerned, I met Lt Vellentine the Signal officer from Company A who was there to determine what the requirements were in order to get the radio relay site operational again, he gave me a briefing of what his findings were, I received a quick rundown from Sgt. Gilbert the NCOIC after I talked to these people I then went over to find the officer in charge and find out what the 25th Inf. Div intentions were concerning the hill. I was introduced to a LTC from the 25th Div who stated he was the senior officer on the hill and had been given the mission of assessing the hill he was the XO from the 3rd Brigade 25th Div at that particular time he had not received any information concerning what the Div intentions were he felt the Div would reinforce but he was not sure. after I received this information from his. I then went back down to the special forces location and informed Detachment B-32 communications bunker of what the situation was, and what the immediate requirements were of the personnel on the hill. I also informed them of the indubeous intentions of the 25th Inf. Div and made my recommendations that if there was no attempt to reinforce that the 4 special forces personnel be pulled off the hill. and if there was a reinforcement that the facility stay up there, from the time that I started talking to the LTC from the 25th Div until I had finished ____ Det B-32 Communications bunker, there weref no aircraft arriving or departing the hill due to the cloud cover that had moved in about this time the cloud cover lifted and a number helicopters escorted by gunships came in and started off loading supplies to the various units that were ~3 Page 53 end represented throughout this resupply exercise there was a continual problem of junior enlisted men attempting to get on the helicopter In order to get off the hill as a matter of fact when I finally departed the hill to return to B-32 I had to pull 3 young men off those copters and explain that I had no authority to remove them from the hill and that any authority to do so would have to come from their parent organizations, there seemed to be no attempt being made and to find out what units they belonged to and who was missing and who was available for duty. after I had completed my survey of the situation of the hill I called for AB 32 work helicopter and was brought back down to the Detachment location.
Q. Sir you mentioned the situation was one of demoralization and lack of organization did you notice any difference In the I special forces people left on the hill?
A. Yes I noticed a definite deferance in the attitude of the special forces people on the hill from the remainder of the group there, and after much thought on this particular subject I think that it can probably be contributed to a couple of things one the special forces people on the hill were all together, they were working as a group they seemed to have a feeling of belonging to one another and belonging to a group, they Identified themseIíves with one another. rather than breaking up In small groups and brooding over their problems, in regard to this business of brooding over their problems It seemed that the primary Interest of the 4 special forces personnel~ Page 54 end on the hill was directed toward getting their facility operational and getting back on the air. not In getting themselfa off the hill. as a matter of fact, I discussed the problem earlier that I was having with some of the enlisted personel up their from the other units trying to get on the helicopter to get off and with the special forces, it was just the oposite, I had 2 NCOís up there who I had to order off the hill they were not ineabers of the organization up there but had volunteered to go up to assist. I think that the 4 special forces personnel up there realized that there was a unit nearly and who was genuinely interested in their well being. I think this is evidenced by the fact that the 1st 2 americans from without that arrived on the scene were the 2 special Forces Medics, that arrived up there and they were shortly followed up there the Communications personnel from Company A and Detachment B-32 All arriving with personnel supplies and clothing and so forth, and food in order to assist these people so I think Its a combination of a feeling of belonging to a organization a feeling that they were being supported and that they were being appreciated and that the idea of having a definite goal effective goal that they were directing there efforts to of course kept their Bind off the more tragic and more undesirable conditions that consisted up there at the time.
Q. Do you have any additional comments you would like to make at this time Sir?
A. I think thereís probably one additional comment I would like to [Page 55 end] make that I think has been a thought or a comment ever since the incident took place and this concerns the local security that was in effect the night of 13 May, and possibly even before that. I feel that from a walk through the area and assessing the damage that was done to the buildings, from the location the buildings was hit and so forth that I think the local security measures on the hill that evening were less than desirable and I feel that this is one of the primary reasons for the rapid success that the VC enjoyed that evening, and a chance to a great delay for the easiness with which they were able to splinter or fragment the U.S. personnel up there and then to clean them up by individual groups rather than an organized and a well directed defensive effort I think that looking back with much respect situation I think that the facilities that were made available to the personnel up there were not the best type of facilities for that type of situation the wooden pictures that appear In the photographs that the investigating officer has, Iím sure indicate a lack of defensive ability where as possibly fighting bunkers would have allowed them a better chance, would have allowed them to better defend their positions. I think thatís all I have to add. Thank you very much Sir. Page 56 end EndEnd