Deadly Sapper Attack on Fire Support Base Mary Ann During the Vietnam War | HistoryNet

Deadly Sapper Attack on Fire Support Base Mary Ann During the Vietnam War

6/12/2006 • Vietnam

Running down the hallway of the battalion tactical operations center (TOC), Captain Paul S. Spilberg charged into a cloud of tear gas just as he reached the commander’s quarters. Staggering blindly back the way he had come, Spilberg made it to the north exit, crawled up the stairs and out the door into the fresh but bullet-ridden air. Forcing his eyes to focus, the shaken captain was stunned to hear the fire of AK-47s and the crash of rocket-propelled grenades from inside the base’s perimeter. In amazement he watched as numerous small figures darted catlike among the spreading flames. Everywhere he looked he saw the scurrying silhouettes, who were enemy sappers feeding the chain of explosions devouring Fire Support Base Mary Ann on that afternoon in 1971.

Four days before the fatal attack, Spilberg had arrived at the FSB by helicopter. He was an old hand there, having previously served at Mary Ann as a company commander. Along with three assistants, he now had returned as a marksmanship instructor. His team had established a training course using targets on a crude rifle range set up on the FSB’s southwest slope. The hill was garrisoned by Company C, 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry (1-46), 196th Light Infantry Brigade, assigned to the 23rd ‘Americal’ Infantry Division.

The battalion commander, Lt. Col. William P. Doyle, was a serious professional. Along with the Company C commander, Captain Richard V. Knight, Doyle had molded this handful of reluctant draftees into one of the better combat units still in the field in 1971. Mary Ann was in a generally quiet sector, and the soldiers atop the hill had come to regard their outpost as something of a rear echelon area rather than what it actually was — the division’s most forward firebase.


A supply of North Vietnamese Army weapons, captured by the men of 1st Battalion, 46th Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, is displayed at FSB Mary Ann in February 1971. (National Archives)

On the afternoon of March 27, 1971, after the soldiers had completed their target practice, the three officers remained on the shooting range. They plinked with various weapons and talked awhile, and then Doyle and Knight headed for the mess tent. Spilberg remained behind to take a few more shots. He had only the base’s mascot dog for company. The mongrel suddenly bristled and began barking and growling at something downslope that Spilberg could not locate. He had never seen the amiable mutt behave like that, but try as he might he could not detect what was agitating the animal. Finally deciding the dog must have scented a tiger or cobra, Spilberg set out after the other officers. Much later he related: ‘I never said anything to Doyle about that dog being on alert, but I should have known. It bothered me for years and years. It was my second tour. I should have known.’

Three hours later the American firebase was rocked from within by a series of powerful explosions. Spilberg was asleep deep inside the TOC. The structure was a sturdily reinforced, half-buried bunker, and from its interior Spilberg initially had a hard time recognizing the muffled crashes. Thinking the base was taking mortar fire, he rolled off his cot and began pulling on his boots and shirt. Before leaving the bunker, he grabbed his .45-caliber pistol from under his pillow.

One of the sappers had thrown tear gas into the TOC officers’ quarters, and Colonel Doyle was trying desperately to escape his gas-filled room. As he struggled to unlatch the plywood door, a satchel charge detonated in the hallway, blowing the door from its hinges and flattening him. Picking himself up, he turned toward the door and faced a sapper wearing nothing but bush shorts, a gas mask and a full-body coating of camouflage. When the Communist drew back to hurl another satchel charge, Doyle raised his own .45 and shot him square in the chest. As the man fell backward the bomb went off, blowing him to bits and flattening Doyle a second time. Three more charges exploded in the hall before Doyle was able to dig through the rubble and leave the bunker. By then he was bleeding from fragmentation wounds in one leg and both arms. He was unable to hear through his blood-filled ears, and could barely see through gas-seared eyes.

For 45 minutes, the infiltrators sprinted throughout the firebase, expertly planting their charges among the frantic, befuddled Americans. As the assault concluded, the TOC was a towering pyre. Spilberg picked up a damaged M-16 he found on the ground. Wincing from three grenade fragments in his back, he made for Knight’s company command post to see if the captain had survived. The CP was a bonfire and beginning to collapse. As he reached the crumbling entrance, Spilberg could hear ammunition exploding in the flames. He peered inside but saw only a blazing vision of hell. Somewhere within that inferno, Knight lay dead.

The company CP and battalion TOC had been the primary targets for the brilliantly executed sapper assault, and Knight was one of 30 Americans killed. On the morning of March 28, Doyle and Spilberg were among the 82 wounded GIs evacuated.

The first indicator that something bad was afoot had come on the night of March 25-26. Lieutenant Scott Bell was on patrol, on what was supposed to be his last night on the hill. As he squinted into the surrounding silent, mist-cloaked jungle, he sensed an almost tangible uneasiness in the air, and felt a primordial sense of dread that motivated him to organize one last big rat kill before his departure. Maybe that would keep his men alert.

The soldiers knew the drill. They constructed ingenious rattraps from empty C-ration cans laced with cheese and blasting caps. All night the men counted miniature explosions as squirrel-sized Asian rats died in the competition between platoons. By dawn there were 130 dead rodents laid out in neat lines in front of the CP. These were the last fireworks here for Bell and Company A. The next morning they moved out and were replaced by Captain Knight and his Charlie Company, who were transferred in from Chu Lai.

Charlie Company settled into the new position and started policing the area in preparation for a visit from the brigade commander, Colonel William Hathaway, who had been unhappy with Company A on his last inspection. Knight hurriedly set his men to work disposing of dead rats, marijuana cigarette butts, empty whiskey bottles and other such junk left behind by their predecessors. When Hathaway, accompanied by Doyle and Knight, walked the perimeter that afternoon, he was delighted with the improvement over what he had seen a week earlier. Hathaway, however, did not inspect the tactical outer wire because, he later explained,’somewhere along the line you have to put the trust in the company commander.’


Lieutenant Colonel William P. Doyle (right)–whom some consider to have been unjustly blamed for the sapper infiltration of FSB Mary Ann in March 1971–shows a captured NVA weapon to Maj. Gen. James L. Baldwin. (National Archives)

But the outer defenses were not in order. As Lieutenant Jerry Sams, leader of C Company’s 2nd Platoon, later explained: ‘The sergeant major was on everybody’s ass about policing the area before the inspection, and they had my platoon out there picking paper off the wire. Those helicopters would come in and kick up all kinds of crap. I had to send the guys out two or three times, and it was one of those typical Army things where everybody’s bitching and raising hell. They were accidentally setting off trip flares in the wire — all our early warning devices that would have come in mighty handy later on that night.’

Additional trip flares were triggered by the prop blast of CH-47 helicopters as they landed at and took off from the FSB. The Americans did not replace the flares. In hindsight, Hathaway thought overconfidence might have been another factor contributing to the debacle. ‘Charlie Company, commanded by Captain Knight, was certainly the best company in that battalion, and probably one of the best companies in this division,’ Hathaway said later. ‘One of the problems was that they were so good they were a little contemptuous of the enemy. They were the hunters, not the hunted.’

Another cause for the false sense of security was that there had been no signs of an impending attack. Major Alva V. Hardin, the 196th Infantry Brigade’s intelligence officer, later testified, ‘We had no intelligence to indicate there would be an attack on Mary Ann.’

The lack of listening posts outside the wire was another critical mistake. When Hathaway learned Doyle had not deployed LPs beyond the outer perimeter, he concurred. ‘Listening posts were not a policy,’ explained Hathaway. ‘I considered listening posts outside the wire a hazard. I considered the danger of people getting wounded, either by defensive fires or somebody getting excited and firing on the perimeter, to be greater than the necessity for the listening post.’

Mary Ann had been constructed on the bulldozed summit of a ridge running northwest to southeast. In profile the elevation looked like the back of a camel, with the base stretching 500 meters across both humps. It was 75 meters wide between the humps, and 125 meters broad at each end. A continuous trench that was knee- to waist-deep and had 22 bunkers formed the perimeter. Inside the perimeter were 30 buildings of various styles, giving the appearance of a shantytown. The whole thing was surrounded by two belts of concertina wire.

Two dirt roads interrupted the trench and wire line of the perimeter. Doyle had tried unsuccessfully to have chain-link fencing flown in to close the openings, but higher headquarters, noting that the base was soon to be turned over to the ARVN, decided against providing construction materials for the soldiers of South Vietnam. The road openings remained.

With the 196th Infantry Brigade already scheduled for redeployment to Da Nang, Doyle had ceased all construction projects within and around Mary Ann and had started packing for the move. By March most of the base’s mortars and artillery had been airlifted to nearby LZ Mildred to fire on enemy positions in that sector. By March 27, all of Mary Ann’s starlight scopes and ground radars had been shipped to the rear for maintenance.

On the night of the attack, the infantry under Doyle at Mary Ann consisted of 231 Americans and 21 South Vietnamese, plus the battalion training team, battalion intelligence officer, the sergeant major, an interpreter and 22 transient soldiers from Companies A, B and D. The transient troops spending the night at the base were in no mood to remain on alert. Specialist 4 Harold Wise was one of those who had just arrived. ‘Thirty percent of the guys on the hill were heads,’ he said later. ‘Marijuana, heroin, whatever you wanted. The guys in the sensor hooch next to the tactical operations center were potheads, and a lot of people congregated there to buy stuff, but unless they knew you, you didn’t come in. They had locks on the door of their hooch. Nobody did it in the open. It wasn’t brazen. If an officer saw somebody doing it, he’d bust the guy. Some of the officers and sergeants knew what was going on, but as long as you did your job, they didn’t say anything.’

The drug problem on the base, although not as pronounced as in other areas, was still sufficient to benefit the enemy. Battery C, 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery (155mm), was aligned in battery formation atop the base’s highest elevation. The infiltrators quickly destroyed both of the unit’s howitzers. Staff Sergeant Easton Rowell, the chief of the firing battery, was wounded six times. He later groused, ‘We took a screwin’ because the grunts on that hill were a bunch of potheads!’


Lieutenant Colonel Henry G. Watson (left), commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade, greets Maj. Gen. Baldwin upon the general’s visit to the unit in February 1971. (National Archives)

At 0200 hours on March 28, an American searchlight crew conducted a cursory 20-minute illumination sweep of the slope outside the exit to the firing range. The hillside had been cleared of vegetation, but still was punctuated by boulders and tree stumps, all of which provided good hiding places for the small enemy. Seeing nothing unusual, the GIs shut down their light and headed for their bunker. The explosions started 10 minutes later.

The attackers were from the Main Force VC 409th Sapper Battalion. This unit was known for operating against the ARVN in Quang Nam province, and at that time was thought by out-of-date U.S. intelligence to be 15 to 20 kilometers east of Mary Ann, preparing for a major push against the South Vietnamese.

The 409th sappers were experts in their trade. With AK-47s strapped to their backs, grenades in their belts and satchel charges fastened to their chests, they wore nothing but khaki shorts and soot. They crawled silently, slowly and steadily through the jungle, using their fingertips as probes. When they detected trip flares, they used lengths of bamboo, carried in their teeth, to tie down the strikers. When they felt wires leading to Claymore mines, they used wire cutters to cut the lines. They were careful to cut only two-thirds of the way through the strands of concertina, then used their fingers to break the rest of the way through the wire silently and without shaking the large coils.

Approaching from the southwest, the infiltrators cut four big gaps through the concertina, two holes on each side of the road where it left the perimeter. They repeated the procedure 50 meters farther on, through the second barrier, although the wire there was in such a state of disrepair that many sappers simply walked across the rusty, breaking steel strands. Another 30 yards and they came to the final concertina barrier. Rather than risk having the snip of cutters heard by some alert sentry, the infiltrators simply spread a gap through the wire, tying it open with bamboo strips.

The sappers were well-rehearsed. Splitting up into three- and six-man squads in the zone between the inner wire barrier and the bunkers facing southwest, the assault teams waited until 0230 hours. Then their supporting mortars opened with accurate fire on the TOC and CP on the base’s southeast side, and on the remaining U.S. mortar and artillery positions in the northwest area.

A card game in the radio room was just breaking up when the first rounds hit. The explosion hurled Wise onto his back, knocked off his glasses, broke his left arm and sprayed the front of his body head-to-foot with fragments. Using his right arm to drag himself into his hooch, he shook awake his roommate, Pfc Peter Detlef, and then hid behind his reel-to-reel tape deck as he seated himself on the floor and tried to cover the door with his M-16. When Detlef, still half asleep, tried to go through the door, another explosion blasted the door off its frame and on top of him.

As the VC had anticipated, most defenders were immobilized by confusion. One radioman never bothered to crank up his radio to report the situation, but simply rolled off his cot onto his hut’s dirt floor and hid beneath his mattress until the shooting stopped.

Inside the TOC, Spc. 4 Stephen Gutosky grabbed his radio mike and reported: ‘Be advised, we are taking incoming at this time! Stand by and I’ll see if I can get a direction on it!’

When he realized with a start that he was still inside the TOC, he shouted into his microphone: ‘I can’t get outside to see where it’s coming from! Just fire all the countermortars and counterrockets you got ASAP!’

By that point the south end of the TOC was burning from the inside after a satchel charge set off a case of white phosphorus grenades. Yet Doyle still refused to abandon his position. After ordering Gutosky to radio for helicopter gunships and illumination, the wounded colonel said, ‘I’m going out to see what’s going on!’

Doyle did not realize how badly he was hurt. He was almost deaf and blind from tear gas, powder burns and explosion concussions. The shrapnel wounds in his arms and legs would take months to heal. Nonetheless he made it to the top of the exit steps, raised his M-16 and started to aim at a couple of infiltrators outside the bunker — but a third, unseen enemy soldier threw a grenade at him. It landed at his feet and exploded as he turned to head back inside, blowing him down the stairs.

The entire TOC was now burning. Lieutenant Edward McKay, the TOC night duty officer, started to panic in the ovenlike bunker. ‘We gotta get outta here!’ screamed McKay.

‘Not yet!’ hollered Doyle.

‘We’re all going to die!’ sobbed McKay.

Summoning his last element of strength, Doyle slapped the hysterical junior officer hard across the face and snarled, ‘Shut up, lieutenant!’

It was now 0251, and radio telephone operator (RTO) David Tarnay managed to raise LZ Mildred. When Spilberg heard Tarnay shouting into his microphone, he bounded back inside the blazing TOC. Grabbing a handset, he shouted to Lieutenant Thomas Schmitz at LZ Mildred: ‘I want artillery 50 meters out, 360 degrees around our position. On my command be prepared to fire on the firebase!’

Spilberg realized that calling down fire on his own position was likely the only way to save the surviving Americans there. Doyle next grabbed the mike and informed Schmitz they were being forced to evacuate the TOC and would temporarily lose radio contact. With Tarnay and Gutosky carrying all the radio equipment they could, and with the now-incoherent McKay slung over Tarnay’s shoulder, the handful of resolute GIs made their way to the firebase aid station, where Tarnay put McKay on a cot and then tried to get a radio working.

Doyle and Spilberg left the aid station and crossed the compound to the Charlie Company CP. When they arrived they found that it too was an inferno, its sandbagged entrance collapsed.

Throughout Mary Ann, unprepared Americans were shot and blown apart by the VC sappers, who seemed to know precisely where to concentrate their assault. Later, some survivors would accuse the South Vietnamese of cooperating with the attackers. Specialist 4 Steven Webb was the only U.S. soldier who was with the base’s ARVN contingent throughout the fight. Despite later rumors that ARVN troops had fired on Americans that night, Webb said he never saw it happen.

Nevertheless, suspicion and bitterness lingered. One of Knight’s NCOs, Staff Sgt. John Calhoun, later remarked, ‘It was an inside job.’

Specialist 4 Edward L. Newton concurred. ‘That morning before the attack, an ARVN officer came up to our bunker and asked how we got out of the perimeter,’ he recalled. ‘We asked him why he wanted to know. He said because he and his men wanted to go down there fishing. We thought it was kind of peculiar. We said we did not know for sure.’

The officer, who wore the insignia of a South Vietnamese first lieutenant, persisted in his questioning of the Americans until some of them told him the easiest way in and out was the south end and on the road running past the rifle range to the water point.

Specialist 5 Carl Cullers later claimed: ‘[I saw] an ARVN going behind the rifle range. It was more or less a joke at first. One of the cooks said, `Hey Cullers, there’s an NVA down there,’ and I said, `Quit joking,’ and he said, `Wait, and I’ll point him out to you.’ I knew he was an ARVN by his size. He had gone out beyond the rifle range, and down the slope for about 20 minutes. I took it for granted he had gone down to defecate.’

Sergeant Andrew Olints of Company D was next to the helipad at dusk on the 27th when ‘an ARVN chopper came out, and fifteen of those little suckers got on,’ as he later reported. ‘They were thrilled to death, jumping on, pushing each other. I didn’t think the thing would take off, it was so overloaded. We had no idea what was coming, but in retrospect it sure looked like they did.’

Specialist 4 Gary Noller, an RTO at LZ Mildred, later wrote: ‘I remember an incident where a GI came to the TOC and said that an ARVN was signaling with a flashlight to someone outside the wire.’ He said he went to check it out. ‘[I] did encounter an ARVN with a GI flashlight near the east perimeter wire,’ Noller remembered. ‘I told him not to use it, in English, which he probably didn’t understand, and then reported this to an officer. The incident was not treated seriously by the officers, but added credence as far as the GIs were concerned that some of the ARVN were not on our side.’

In one of the most dramatic events of the night, Lieutenant Barry McGee, who had been sleeping atop bunker No. 10 when the attack started, stumbled half asleep into his platoon CP with several of his men just as the enemy targeted the position. McGee was the leader of C Company’s 3rd Platoon, which manned bunkers Nos. 9 through 13. As he and his men grabbed their weapons and prepared to return outside, two mortar rounds hit the bunker, half demolishing it and dislodging a heavy ceiling beam that fell on the lieutenant, seriously injuring his head. A medic dressed the wound, and after about 15 minutes the men in the platoon CP noted that the explosions outside seemed to be ending.McGee had just lurched to his feet, turned to the door and said, ‘All right, let’s go!’ when a grenade sailed through the door, exploded and blew the medic, Spc. 5 Carl Patton, back into McGee. Realizing he had lost his weapon, McGee grabbed Patton’s M-16 and again headed for the door. Another satchel charge detonated on the roof, caving it in and killing 22-year-old Sergeant Warren Ritsema when a beam fell on him. The blast knocked down McGee, who again lost his weapon. He staggered to his feet and stumbled outside, incoherent with pain and frustration. When the short, stocky, powerfully built and unarmed lieutenant collided with a sapper outside the bunker, McGee wrestled him to the ground and strangled him with his bare hands. It was quite a feat for somebody already half-dead from a fractured skull. The lieutenant’s corpse was later found atop the VC he had choked lifeless. Another sapper had shot McGee in the back.

At 0320, Spilberg and Doyle were at the southern end of Mary Ann, believing the attack was almost over. But then, partly obscured by the billowing smoke, another team of sappers started back up the hill, throwing grenades in all directions. Apparently searching for their own dead and wounded, the VC broke contact and withdrew when the first helicopter gunship finally arrived overhead. It was commanded by Captain Norman Hayes, Troop D, 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry. Hayes radioed LZ Mildred that he had arrived at his objective and to lift and shift the artillery fire Spilberg had earlier ordered. Mildred ceased firing except for illumination rounds. When Hayes’ searchlight illuminated VC in the wire, they opened up on the gunship with small arms. As Hayes later put it, ‘We engaged, and I know that anything we fired on ceased firing on us.’

Hayes made repeated passes over the base, dropping grenades and strafing targets of opportunity, despite two of his guns becoming inoperative almost immediately after his arrival on station. He made repeated radio calls for additional gunships and medevacs, but by the time he ran low on fuel and had to return to Chu Lai, no additional aircraft had arrived. Because of the chaotic state of communications, the brigade and division were under the misconception that Mary Ann had been subjected to nothing more than mortaring. Hayes actually had time to return to Chu Lai, refuel, reload and repair his guns, and then fly all the way back to Mary Ann, before medical helicopters began arriving. Colonel Hathaway and Lt. Col. Richard Martin, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, arrived with the medevacs. Spilberg was almost amused at their reaction to the devastation, later remarking: ‘They were in a state of shock. They had just walked into Auschwitz.’

Despite having a gutful of fragments, Spilberg at first refused to leave the base. He wanted all his wounded men taken out before him, and when Doyle told him to board a chopper he simply climbed in one door and out the other side. Not until Hathaway gave him a direct order did Spilberg finally leave. He was later awarded the Silver Star.Spilberg also recommended Doyle for a Silver Star, but Hathaway refused to endorse the nomination. He later said he was tortured by the decision, explaining, ‘I just felt that although he had conducted himself with a certain amount of valor, the situation had occurred because of shortcomings on his part.’

At 1600 the next day, the enemy hit the ruins of Mary Ann with 12.7mm machine gun fire, sweeping the enclosure from a ridgeline to the north. One GI was wounded in the attack.Fifteen dead sappers were collected from within the base, although blood trails indicated several dead and wounded had been dragged back into the jungle. After the debacle, however, the South Vietnamese decided they did not want to garrison Mary Ann. The FSB was closed and abandoned on April 24, 1971.

General Creighton Abrams, commander of the U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, held 23rd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. James Baldwin responsible for the disaster, and relieved him of his command. The 23rd ID’s name had been eternally tarnished three years earlier because of the My Lai massacre. Many in the U.S. Army suspected that Baldwin would not have been fired had he been in any other division.

Both Hathaway and Doyle received career-ending formal reprimands. Being blamed for the Mary Ann tragedy was a crushing blow to Doyle. He and his wife divorced soon after his release from the hospital. He remarried in April 1972 — just two weeks before receiving his letter of reprimand from Army chief of staff General William Westmoreland. Doyle cut his honeymoon short in order to make a personal but futile appeal to Westmoreland. Doyle developed a severe drinking problem, and he died of a heart attack in March 1984. He was 52. Hathaway and Spilberg were among those following his caisson to the gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. While delivering the funeral oration, Spilberg spoke for many when he referred to Doyle as ‘the last casualty of Firebase Mary Ann.’


This article was written by Kelly Bell and originally published in the April 2006 issue of Vietnam Magazine.

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137 Responses to Deadly Sapper Attack on Fire Support Base Mary Ann During the Vietnam War

  1. Jim says:

    To be clear, I was in Delta Company and NOT on Mary Ann that
    night. We were out in the bush and flew in the next morning.

    A couple points:
    Combat is OFTEN confusing – things happen real fast. You don’t
    know what’s actually happening, just the few meters around
    where you are – in the direction that you’re looking.

    Combat 101 (I think that this is intuitive)
    Odds favor the defenders as long as the attackers haven’t
    breached the perimeter. Firing from fortified positions is an
    advantage. Duh?!

    However, once the perimter is breached (and it’s dark like it was
    at Mary Ann), the odds shift to favor the attackers. I’ve spoken to
    and read accounts from people on “the Hill” that night. The GIs
    were REACTING and it was confusing. When they encountered
    someone, they held their fire to determine if it was a friendlie. On
    the other hand, the sappers were working from a PLAN. They
    had assignments and a place to be, if they encountered anyone
    who wasn’t where an attacker was supposed to be, they opened
    fire. Of course, if they were challenged by a GI, they answered
    with an AK-47.

    I didn’t remember anyone being wounded the next day. We DID
    take small arms fire every time a chopper came in. Strange in
    view of the accurate mortar fire during the attack, the NVA were
    also also dropping mortars on us – except that all the rounds fell
    short of Mary Ann. The closest round fell in the garbage dump.
    Then a round went all the way over the firebase to the other end.
    That was frightening because it appeared that that they had a
    bracket (one long and one short) and could walk the rounds back
    and forth over the firebase. That didn’t happen. Later it
    appeared that the long round came from a different weapon a
    recoiless rifle at the bottom of the hill.

    We went out on patrol a day or two after the attack and dug up a
    dead sapper in a shallow grave. Strange to me at the time, but
    there were two other empty graves there. Did they dig the
    graves BEFORE the attack? If it was AFTER, why would there be
    extra ones? Not exactly a morale booster to dig graves before
    going on a mission.

    And to the guys who were up on the hill that night, you’re not

    • Robert Parmelee says:

      Jim, Don’t know your last name, but do you remember Sgt. Robert Parmelee? I was in D 1/46. I was taken to Maryann March 27 w/ cellulitis in my ankle from a foot wound. I got stuck on Maryann that night because the bird was full. I figured oh well, just another night out of the fbush. Instead it was a night of hell. I was stuck there after you guys came up. What a sight. When I got back to the rear, TOP gave me hell for comming back & put me on detail. Remember him. It took me almost 40 years to deal & talk about Maryann. Went on to do 12 years in the Army & then retired as a Police Officer. I always think of you guys. PEACE!

      • Darrell Osborne says:

        To Robert Parmelee, were you a Detroit Police Officer? I was with the DPD until a drunk driver ran into my squad car, I am now on a duty disability. I seem to recall a Parmelee on the department.
        I was with A Company 26th Eng, but I left country in November 1970 but some of my friends were there that night from A Company, including a LT that was hurt pretty bad. I have talked to one friend Jerry Dickerson, and he said if it wasn’t hell that night, it would do until hell got there.
        Welcome Home

      • Robert Parmelee says:

        Darrell, Thank you for writing. Never in Detroit. I was in New YorK. Retired 5 yeats ago & moved to Vegas. Going back Sept 10 for 9/11 Memorial. 10 years & 40 years for Maryann. Time flies.

    • jim says:

      Hi Jim. About the pre-dug graves you were wondering about. Sappers would lay in them so they could blend in with the terain when the search lights were in use.I was with D trp 1/1 Cav the nighthawk ships. The article stated that the flares were comming from Mildred. That is not correct. When Cpt Hayes nighthawk ship arrived on station, there was another helicopter above him dropping flares, I Know, I was one of the doorgunners pushing them out. We also could see what looked liked M-16 carring ARVN’s, running from the perimeter, firing back into the compund.

    • Vfraley says:

      All of you are a hero to me.

      I was about 5 miles SE with ARVN Infantry Company on that horrible night. I could see the flares and knew from MACV radio traffic that something terrible was happening.

      I was an Advisor to an ARVN infantry company and was assigned to
      MA from just before Thanksgiving, 70 until late Feb. 71. We defended sector NW of supply helipad past trash dump to point NE parallel with river. Enemy activity was low and I do believe both American & ARVN
      were not as alert as we should have been. I did not, however, think that drug & alcohol use was out of control. NVA sympathizers may have been on MA that night as part of the ARVN defense. But I doubt there could have been any advance communication between sympathizers & Sappers.

    • timothy doyle says:

      My father was ltCol Doyle.
      he was the soldier amoung soldiers, the leader when all was lost, he is a hero. A man who I only knew as a soldier among soldiers. He served his country with those who followed, without a hesitation to give his life for his country. I miss him so much. It has taken me so many years to acknowledge what he has done and meant to me and my brothers and sister. Today I received his purple heart from his sister Regina. I am so sorry I have waited so long to tell the world how proud I am and how much he meant to me. I was with the 82nd abn 504th unit, the only son to be able to know what it means to be a Vet. I am honered to be his younest son and would give my life to my country if asked again. I am 50 yrs old but thanks to my father I live as if i were 23. God Bless the US!!!

      • Greg Baron says:

        Mr Doyle

        I commanded the clearing company on Hawk Hill 23 Med Bn 196th until late February 1971. I transferred to the 91st Evacuation Hospital in Chu Lai. I was involved in the care of your father. He was a brave and capable officer. You can be very proud of him. He was a gentleman.

        J Gregory Baron MD FACS

    • Sgt Robert Parmelee says:


  2. John Saxty says:

    I have to admit that I was suprised to see my name in print “Sappers in the Wire” when I was just looking to see info about that awful night. I remember playing cards in our bunker and going out about 2:15 am to take a leak. And at 2:30 all hell broke loose, I went out into the trench and they were already there, tried to fire at one but had no ammo. Went back into the bunker trying to find my full mags and we were hit with concussion grenades. We could hear them talking outside our door. We got hit several times and how we made it out alive I will never know. I ended with perferated ear drums both ears. My squad Sgt was not as lucky, he was in the buker next to ours. He had learned that day that his wife had given birth and he was a proud daddy only to never see his child. He and the many others of that night will never be forgotten.

    • Tom Schneider says:

      Saxty, It’s been 40 years. I’m happy to hear that you’re still out there. Still putting out fires? I often think of you, Bobby Booth, and Shorty Rivero. And bunker 11. I read “Sappers” every year about this time. 1/46th reunion this year is at Ft. Benning, GA , March 27-28. My wife and I are thinking about going. How about you? I’ve went 3 other times, Haven’t been to a reunion in 10 years though. I’m retired now so have plenty time. Hope to hear from you. Tom

    • John Nauta says:


      Forgive me for intruding into these posts but I was researching the name of my neighbor when I was a kid, Warren Ritsema, and came across this battle account. He was killed that night on MaryAnn. He was a Sgt. and was in Bunker #10 when he was killed. He’s mentioned in the article above: “Another satchel charge detonated on the roof, caving it in and killing 22-year-old Sergeant Warren Ritsema when a beam fell on him”. I was wondering if this was your Squad Sgt. that you mention as bing killed. I remember my Mom starting to cry when another neighbor lady came over and told her/us that Warren was killed. The Ritsema family lived right next door to us. The whole neighborhood collected money for flowers for the family. I can vaguely remember hearing about Warren’s wife just having a baby, so, I was wondering if this was your Sgt. that you are talking about. I want to thank you men for serving our Country and sacrificing so much for us. When Warren died it really brought what was happening right to our doorstep. I know Warren’s mom was never the same after he was killed. But our family has never forgotten him and his ultimate sacrifice. Again, thank you for your service to our Country.

      • Tom Schneider says:

        Mr. John Nauta: It was good to hear that someone still remembers and respects Sgt. Warren Ritsema. I was at bunker 11 and sometime during the confussion and scrambling to save myself, I remember seeing an explosion at bunker 10 (50 yards down the trenchline). In the flash of the explosion, I saw a human body flipping through the air. I don’t know who that was but I’m quite sure it wasn’t Warren.
        I know your question was directed to John Saxty, one of my bunker mates, but in case he doesn’t get back to you, I’ll try to answer your question. Our squad leader that Saxty is refering to is I believe Vick Bennet, who had just taken and passed he’s sargent review board. If I remember right, Sgt Ritsema had done the same thing, getting promoted to staff sargent. And Bennet was the new father. I know Warren was married but I don’t recall a child being born to Warren and his wife.
        Warren was our platoon sargent and was a super guy. It’s too bad that he didn’t get a chance at life. I feel bad for his family. If you needed something, Warren probably had a spare in his rucksack. He carried the heaviest darn ruck…. I served as his radioman on several occassions.
        I was looking at the Virtual Wall site (Vietnam Memorial) and looked up Sgt. Ritsema. I wish someone would post a photo of Warren under his name. Too many of the Mary Ann casualties are not listed on the Virtual Wall.

  3. Roger Burge says:

    I was on the hill that night in the interior, I stayed in a small building close to the generator/ mail room and mess hall with 3 other guys. The door had a replica of the American flag painted on it with a Peace Symbol in place of the Stars.

    Steve from Boston, another guy from Ohio, The mailman from Queens, me from Louisville,KY where are you guys at?

  4. rick rokosz says:

    2 March, 2009

    (The following account is edited from a letter I wrote to the father of a grunt who was on the hill when this event took place).

    I was the NCOIC (Non-Commissioned Officer In Charge) of the FDC (Fire Direction Control) center at battalion artillery (3rd. of the 82nd.) known as “Red Horse Control”. MaryAnn was one of the firebases along with firebases West, Center and East that we were responsible for overseeing within our AO (Area of Operations). MaryAnn was the farthest west firebase, nearest the Cambodian boarder and the Ho Chi Minn trail.

    I was on shift the night MaryAnn was attacked. Here is my recollection of what happened.

    Evidently the attack had been planned for some time. A Viet Cong soldier was captured and taken prisoner 6 months before the event. On his person was detailed information about the attack but eventually the threat was dismissed since the intel was so old. This attack took place during the “Vietnamization” of the war. Firebases like Mary Ann were split between the American and South Vietnamese forces. Literally everything was replicated from the artillery pieces to the ammo stores, communications bunkers, etc.

    The weather that night was awful. We not only had rain but very heavy fog, very unusual but perfect for Charlie. We were on dinner break chowing down on a pizza we made with fixing my folks sent from the states. The next thing we knew our radio communications specialist who supported MaryAnn came running in and said MaryAnn was taking incoming. We immediately cranked up the 105 howitzers on West and had rounds in the air in less than two minutes. MaryAnn’s own arty was firing self illumination so the grunts on the hill could get a visual as to what was going on. Unfortunately, Charlie was well prepared. He was lobbing mortars into the firebase forcing the grunts on the hill to stay under cover. This made it vary difficult to return fire. Charlie used this opportunity to send sappers through the wire and plant satchel charges within the compound.

    We gave them all the artillery support we could trying to help but the conditions were against us. Cobra gunships were called in, but they had a very tough time trying to get to the hill due to the dense fog. I was monitoring their frequency and trying to coordinate fire until they arrived on station. Their radio transmissions to MaryAnn said that they were having to go in low and slow, below the level of the surrounding hilltops, trying to navigate by the glow in the distance set off by the illumination rounds in the fog clouds.

    As they approached Mary Ann, we were asked to stand down our artillery support out of firebase West so as to not hit the Cobra’s while they did their thing. Normally we would put a “light ship” (chopper with a huge bright spot light) on station. They would illuminate the hill by narrowing the beam of light to just inside the perimeter and anything outside the light would be a free fire zone for the gun ships. Unfortunately, the fog prevented the use of the light ship.

    The results of the events of that night were devastating to both U.S. forces in the number of lives lost, but also the South Vietnamese military from a morale stand point.

    Vietnamization was our way of trying to extricate ourselves from this war and have the South Vietnamese forces take over after we were gone. At MaryAnn that night, Charlie destroyed all of the American equipment guns, ammo, communications bunker, first aid station, etc. and didn’t touch anything belonging to the South Vietnamese forces. It took a couple of days to stabilize the situation and return things to normal but for us and everyone on Mary Ann, the war from that point on was never the same.

    I hope the information sheds some additional light on what happened that night.

    I remember often, especially every Memorial Day, all those lost that night and during that tragic time in our history.


    Former Specialist E5
    Richard E. Rokosz
    H.H.B. 3rd. / 82nd. Arty. FDC
    23rd. Infantry Division
    Hawk Hill – Chu Lai, Vietnam

    • jim says:

      Hi Rick. I was Sabre 27 that night. I was in contact with you. There were no Cobras on station that night. Just Nighthawk and his flairship, me. Nighthawk had a spot light, minigun, 50 cal and a free M-60

  5. Hunter deButts says:

    In the Spiring and early Summer of 1970 I was stationed with the A Co. 26 Engineers on Hawk Hill. We had a platoon or two of engineers on LZ Mary Ann. They were building that base to provide covering fire for the Parrot Beak Invasion.
    Mary Ann was over run then as well, possibly twice while I was there and the AVRNs were blamed then too for allowing Sappers into the base without firing a shot.
    Hunter deButts
    Former Spcialist E-4
    A/26th Btn.
    Hawk Hill – Chu Lai, Vietnam

    • Jim Becker (Phred) says:

      Hello Hunter;
      I was a squad leader with Delta, 1/46 in the Spring and Summer of ’70. In fact, it was Delta that was CA’d to that hill to start construction of LZ Maryann. The first time we went we were there long enough to get overhead cover on our bunkers but got beat up and sent home to LZ Professional. We took incoming mortars on Maryann back then but we were never over-run.

  6. alfredo esqueda says:

    I was not at firebase maryann until one or two days later. But on the last day at firebasr maryann, I was with a team that that pulled security
    outside the perimeter.

  7. Ralph Bowling says:

    Just wandering if Alfredo Esqueda was with the 1/46th Charley Co.

  8. mark meinen says:

    my fatherinlaw Frank Smyth from Indiana was at mary ann. He would never talk about it. He passed away Nov. 12, 2009. I found the book about the sappers and am very interested in learning about what he experienced. If any one knew him or could tell me more please contact me. thanks,

  9. gene says:

    Hathaway retired as a BG don’t think that ended his career

    • Michie Hathaway Schrock says:

      Col. Hathaway retired as a Col. he WAS NOT A BG!! He later died of throat cancer. (From asian orange). He did a tour in Nam was then assigned to the Pentagon and rather send someone else he served a second tour. It did end his career! But with 3 silver stars, 2 bronzes AND a Legion of Merit. He was a true HERO IN MY EYES. He was my uncle. After his 1st purple heart in Korea as an Army brat myself and 5 or 6 at the time I asked him how he got it……… he told me he CUT HIS FINGER PEELING POTATOES!! That’s how true heros respond!!!!!!!!!

  10. Edward Avila says:

    I was the battlion RTO at Mary Ann. I had worked in the TOC. I left Viet Nam and was separated from the service on an “early out” and was home for four days when Mary Ann was over run.

    I guess I was on the hill the last time around ten days or so before the attack. It’s funny how my memory is so fuzzy. It’s difficult to remember hardly anything – chronology, names, dates, etc. What I do remember is that the firebase was probed quite a few times in the weeks or maybe it was months before the attack.

    I vaguely remember there being movement in the wires quite a few times and firing from the trench line, illums and mortars and alerts in the middle of the night complete with sirens. Very alarming, yet I don’t remember any sense of urgency or heightened alertness.

    Another thing I remember is how routine and relaxed life on the hill had become which in hindsight might have appeared in stark contrast to the warnings received.

    All of this was so long ago, I was so young. We all were. I was shocked to read that Lt. Col. Doyle was 39 at the time. He seemed so old to me then. It all seems so unreal now. It’s almost as if all of this happened to someone else in some other lifetime, even though a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about my 13 months in Viet Nam. sometimes I smell something that puts me right back there.

    • timothy doyle says:

      Sir I would be honered if I could speak with you.

      My name is timothy patrick doyle, my father was Col doyle. please call me at 480 427 9218 any time. I miss my old man he was the best comander a man could ask for.

  11. Francis Burton M.D> says:

    I am the Surgeon from the 91st Evac Hospital who was up at 2AM finishing some surgery when a call came in that LZ Mary Ann had been over run and both medics were killed. (one was killed and the other wounded), I volunteered to go with the Medevac chopper to the site. We landed prior to the gunships at TOC because the pad was visible due to the burning building. The first to be evacuated were close to the demolished aid station. They left and I began a triage process to determine priority for evacuation. LTC Doyle was sitting by the burning TOC.
    My first priority was a soldier with both legs missing, He was alert enough to place tourniquets on both legs. There were no other ships coming in until the gunships came in and blanketed the hillside with their gatling guns. Shortly after they arrived the quad fifty opened up and then the gunships arrived and were the first choppers to evac wounded to the 91st or the 27th.
    I visited this young man (amputee) later at the 91st and discovered his home was in Southern Utah. I have thought of him often and even inquired of him in Southern Utah. If anyone knows of him I would like to contact him.
    I thought I only evacuated 76 out that morning but the article related 80. Many in the trenches had legs blown of by the charges cast into the trench, and they died. Training now with major leg injuries is immediate turniquet.
    Francis C. Burton Maj. M.C. (in 1971)

    • Tom Sklaney says:


      I was next to David ( Dave) Thompson when he lost both his legs.

      Just to let you know, The author of the first book about our hill tried
      to talk to Dave about what happened and Dave would not talk.
      He may want to talk to you tho.

      I wrote a long story about what happened that morning but lost it when i forgot to list my e-mail address. I cried the whole time i was typing …not sure if i will try again.

      Thank you for taking care of Dave

      Tom Sklaney

    • Jake Huntsman says:

      Dear Dr. Burton and Mr. Sklaney,

      I went to high school years later with relatives of Dave Thompson. I’m pretty sure he still lives in Junction, Utah. As a kid I remember Mr. Thompson being very active. He never used any prosthetic limbs that I remember, he walked on his stumps. He was a farmer and drove tractors and 4-wheelers that the VA had outfitted for him. I want to think he married and had children too. I was just a kid back then and that was 30+ years ago. He didn’t know me too well but I think my Dad knew him from the VFW. The last I saw him was probably 4-5 years ago at the local Walmart. I happened to glance down an aisle and saw him walk by, it was unmistakably him. Didn’t get a chance to say anything to him. He was still not using any prosthetics. As active as he was I think a lot of us didn’t consciously consider him disabled. I hope this offers some additional information.
      Jake Huntsman

      • Tom Sklaney says:

        Mr Huntsman

        Thank you for the update on Dave. I think about that night or early morning and Dave alot. In the past , i have thought about trying to track Dave down and send him a note but after i talked with the author of the book about our hill, i decided it was not a good idea.
        What bothers me the most about what happened after the grenade went off is that SSgt Lopez ordered me to go for help so ran to the 4.2 mortar HQ and told our new C.O. ( a capt ) what happened and i turning to go back to help with Dave. The Capt asked where i was going and i said to help with Dave. The Capt. said ” no your not” and pointed his M16 right at me. He had every right to shoot me if i dis-obeyed….so i stayed and protected the HQ. The next time i saw Dave was in the hospital but i dont think i told him this, i cant remember.
        This will bother me until i die.
        Tom Sklaney

    • timothy doyle says:

      dear sir,
      I am Col Doyle’s son. His men regareded him as almost a saint.To me I know he is and more. I just never knew him.

      Timothy Patrick Doyle

    • Jake Huntsman says:

      Dear Mr. Sklaney,

      I pray that your mind will be at peace. I served in the USMC from 83-87 and I have nothing but respect for Vietnam Veterans. Most of our senior NCO’s and Officers at the time had served in Vietnam and we young bucks benefited from their experience and wisdom.

      I never had to face combat during my service but I have dealt with difficult situations in life. I lost my youngest son when he was 15. Some things in life we just can’t see coming.

      Your compassion and concern for your friend David Thompson indicates to all of us here that you have a good heart. My prayers go out to you and to all of the veterans and their family members who have posted here.


      • Tom Sklaney says:

        Mr Huntsman

        Thank you for your kind words.

        I’m so sorry to hear about the loss of your son.

        Thank you for your service and i wish you the best.


  12. Dan Blevins says:

    I was on Mary Ann from July to November 1970. Fortunately I left a few months before the attack. I was the ncoic of the liason section linking artillery with the infantry and worked in the battalion toc. Responding to a former poster, Rick Rokosz, if you were firing artillery from LZ West you must have had long range missiles. 105’s only fire about 11 kilometers. You had to be on LZ Mildred to reach Mary Ann. Also to the west is Laos, not Cambodia. I know things get fuzzy over the years. Former Sgt. Dan Blevins HHB, 3/82 Artillery

    • Johnny Coleman says:

      I watched the Mary Ann event from Hau Duc (I think). Do you still have the map coordinates of Mary Ann and Hau Duc? I was with B 3/16FA. I worked in FDC at the time. I’m curious how far it was from Hau Duc to Mary Ann.

      The next day (I think) my Battery Commander trained me to provide self illum with a Russian 82mm and American 81 mm illum ammo. I listened very carefully to his instructions. I remember to use charge zero even 40 years later. He would have made a good Sergeant.

    • Bob Cherry says:

      12.1 See my note below (#50). I tried to put it below Rick’s note, but I failed.

  13. Steve Williams says:

    I, Hornet 31, flew choppers with the 116th AHC out of Chu Lai and along with 4 other helicopter crews were on 24 hour standby the night FSB Mary Ann was overran. We were scrambled in the early hours of the morning and took off at sunrise to assist with evacuation of Mary Ann. I will never forget the scene that early morning as I made my approach to the helipad and saw all the body bags lined up waiting to be flown back to Chu Lai. To the best of my recollection, I made two sorties to Mary Ann along our four other ships. I cant remember for sure but I’m thinking all I carried was body bags and maybe a few wounded.
    From what I remember of the situation as I was told at the time was that the ARVN were on the north end of the hill and that was the direction from which the NVA entered the wire. And secondly, the ranking American still able to function was a Sgt E-5. Of my 10 1/2 months in Viet Nam – that morning at FSB Mary Ann had more effect on me emotionally than any other event of my tour.

    I do remember flying numerous re-supply missions to Mary Ann previous to the night in question and remembered it to be a most secure base and was surprised when told that morning that Mary Ann had been attacked.

  14. DON SHAFFER says:


  15. Steven Jones says:

    I was with Co E 1/46th I left the hill at around 5:30 that fateful day. I had a boil on my shoulder from a rucksack killing me.. When I left I was the very last person and the last chopper out. Strange but the long range radio was on that chopper. I said something to the pilot but he shrugged it off.

    When the attack happened my Sgt major Rodriquez told me to get my weapons and gear and go to the chopper pad back in Chu lai. We got there early in the morning around 6:30. I was told to assist with the bodies and their bags. I was horrified at the amount of men I had known who were now dead. I will never ever forget that smell of death. And to think i was saved by a boil on my shoulder.

    All these years later I still relive that experience of cleaning up bodies and trying to identify them.The fellas I bunked with the night before the attack were killed and somehow I feel guilty.

    I was the company armorer and had tried to offer to fix the quad 50 about 2 weeks before the attack for the artillery but they refused my help. Those guns were old and I swear to this day only 2 of 4 guns worked. The barrel locking spring clips were missing on some of the barrels. I also remember taking pot shots at the bottom of the western side many times.

    I remember vividly taking incoming shots near the 2000 gallon bladder tank at the bottom of that hill. I always thought as well as some of the snipers that that place was being watched.

    The body parts maimed bodies blank stares and young faces haunt me today everyday.

    PS I wish this comment did not sound so gruesome. I also wish I could have stayed and fought back.

    Steven Jones
    Co E 1/46th 10/70 – 9/70 – 9/71

    • Robert Parmelee says:

      Were you w/ Jack Farmer> Only saw him at Ft Dix as a 1976. Lost contact w/ him. He had really changed.

  16. Robert Parmelee says:

    I came onto Maryann March 27,1971 because of a wound in my foot. I was from D 1/46. who was out in the field. I could not get onto that last chopper because it was full & remember the last guy getting on & watching it take off. Little did I know.

  17. Tom Brogan says:

    Thank you for such an enlightening article on Mary Ann plus all the follow-up comments that make the story richer. I was the Chu Lai DivArty chaplain’s assistant to Capt (Fr) Nick Waytowich, DivArty Catholic chaplain. I arrived at DivArty chapel March 10,1971, so it was all new to me.

    On the morning of March 28, I was awakened by an ashen-faced Fr Nick, “One of the firebases has been attacked, get the truck.” It was Sunday, Nick had Masses scheduled all through the day at various Chu Lai locations. The day was a blur of chapel services and visits to 91st Evac, 27th Surgical, and the morgue.

    Bodybags were stacked up outside the morgue. Nick, as he had at the hospitals. told me to wait in the truck. A light rain fell. I sat looking at the bags. Wishing for movement I was struck at how still they were. After a while Nick emerged into the drizzle. Driving a silent priest/soldier down the Chu Lai road in the dark, I wondered how does he tend the walking, the wounded, and the dead. This is way beyond anything I’d known.

    Four rocket attacks would fall on Chu Lai over the next 36 hours. Minor damage, no injuries. My diary notes, “U.S. artillery fired all day” on the 29th.

    I had a long tour to go and every minute I would be thankful for the luck that landed me here and not there.

    My heart again breaks for those in that horrific March 28th attack. Thank you.

    Tom Brogan
    Chu Lai

  18. Ralph Bowling says:

    I was on maryann when it was hit. I wish that I could remember all the names of my friends that were there with me. Saxtons comment refreshes my memory some. We were playing cards in the same bunker. From what I remember, I was crawling in the trench when I spotted two enemies at the next bunker. My rifle was gone so Saxton went after them. Unfortunately, his rifle was empty. I was wounded shortly after that point. I believe a friend named Booth was also there and was wounded inside the bunker. I would love to here from anyone who would remember me. Most people called me by the nickname of Butch

    • Ralph Bowling says:

      I am sorry but in my last post I should have said Shorty Rivero instead of Saxton.

  19. Jeremy Best says:

    I am the incoming XO for A/2-46 at Fort Benning. I have been tasked to do a terrain analysis of FSB Mary Ann which led me to this article. After reading through some of these comments, I wonder if any of you would mind helping me with your first hand accounts? I am looking for an overview of the terrain, and perhaps the terrain related factors that contributed to the attack on Mary Ann. I truly appreciate your service and am terribly sorry for what occurred on that fateful night. I would be more than happy to discuss over the phone or email, what you have to say on this topic. My number is 407-455-3233 and my email is Anyone that can help would be appreciated. Once again, thank you for all you have already done. I hope to see you here.

    2LT Jeremy Best

  20. Don McLane says:

    The same type of attacks were going on in Khe Sanh and west of there on Highway 9 during LAM SON- DEWEY CANYON II. I took likes the NVA were attacking Americans interfering with their supplies.The Saigon ARVN were massacred in LAOS

  21. Robert Parmelee says:

    March 28, 2011 40 YEARS Never Forget. GOD BLESS!

  22. David G. Batton,Jr. says:

    Wanted to touch base with anyone from G-Btry 55th Arty. 23rd Inf.Div. On Quad 50 that night!

    • Don Chandler says:

      Hope you are doing well Hi Pockets. Have you heard from any of the guys like Driggers,Pop,Willy Horn ar any of those Guys?Send an E-mail if you have time. Wonder what happened to Lt. O’malley? Boy it’s been a long time!

      • David G. Batton,Jr. says:

        have to type large eyes failing me! as you know quad 50 bunker took A direct hit from mortar a Lz Center Al Driggers lost leg and Reed came in to replace me that same night Reed was killed in same spot I would have been if I had not been dusted off that day with Malaria! I Guess The Lord was watching out for me That Night! I Will Never Forget The Convoy Ride That was a Bad Experience As Well! It Has Been A Long Time But Seems Like Only Yesterday! I Guess it is because Many of us Relive it most days! Take Good Care My Friend! I Will Never Forget You and All Our Brothers In G-Btry 55th Arty!

    • Ronald Foster says:

      Mr. Button,
      I was a member of the quad 50 crew that night. I had been on Mary Ann for about a week, if memory serves right. I was transferred from LZ Dottie.
      I remember very little, and do not even recall the names of my crew. A lot of the terror that night seems to be blocked from my memory.
      I recall that I was asleep when the attack began, and I awoke to the kaos and screaming wounded. Our squad leaders bunk was located in an adjoining smaller hootch to ours, and it was on level ground with an entrance into our under ground quarters. Charlie threw a grenade through that entrance into our quarters. I received minor injuries, and was deafened, burned and disoriented. As I was shaking that off, another explosion inside our quarters occurred. As I was shaking that off, I remembered my weapon was disassembled in a 50cal. Ammo can full of mo-gas, as I was just one week from going home after an 18 month tour.
      We were all afraid to leave the bunker – somehow it felt more secure than facing the hell going on outside. Someone yelled, we’re in a death trap. That made me snap out of my spell and I made my way outside where I found a weapon and dived into the trenches next to the quad. I spent the rest of the battle in the trench defending myself, and at one point, in hand-to-hand.
      This is where my memory lapses. All I remember after that was the next morning while trying to cleanup the mess, I was approached by my section chief, (from the rear area). As I was giving him my version of the events, I was informed to get my gear. My mother was near death back in the states, and I was going home. I pointed to our smoldering hootch, and explained my inability to present my issued weapon, or personal belongings, and away I went on a chopper that was waiting on me.
      It’s been 41 years of very few days gone by that I don’t think about that night, and what happened to the guys in my crew. If you’re one of them I’d be more than appreciative to hear from you.

  23. bob west says:

    i would like to inquire about sp4 don stotts if anyone knew him the story goes his body was found outside the wire the chopper pilot in the hemingway vfw story says he saw americans being ushered thru by nva he was a friend we had gone thru a tour in the 2/27 inf at cuchi.
    when 25th left i was sent to 1st cav don to americal i had trained him to be rto when i gave up job (shorttimer) with the wolfhounds he was known as the ‘rich kid’ any info appreciated

    • john hudson says:

      wow! i went to don stotts funeral in fenton michigan when i was a kid when they brought him back from vietnam,i was a friend of his younger brother ron.dons name is on the war memorial stone in the park downtown fenton michigan.

  24. joe thompson says:

    Joe Thompson better known as rpj with delta co. spent a lot of time on maryanne lost a good friend Steve Plath, We were sent back there I beleave the next day or day after. My prayers still go out to the families of my losts comrads.

    • Russel Wright says:

      Mr. Joe Thompson, just read your posting about Firebase Maryanne, dated 9/8/2011. Your good friend was killed, Steve Plath. Both names sound familiar. Did You and Steve train in AIT at Fort Polk, from Aug 1970 to Oct 1970 and was in A 3/5? If so I was in that training unit also, I have a group picture taken and I believe you and Steve were in it. I also was in the Americal, with C 2/1 196th and learned of the massacre the next day as we were leaving the DMZ. I would like to hear from you about this.

    • Robert Parmelee says:

      Was the rpj for Rice Paddy Joe?. Remember a nick name for some one in D co.

  25. Michie Hathaway Schrock says:

    I would love to hear from anyone who served with my uncle. To this day I have no clue as to what his medals were for. I do know that for years as a dumb little army brat I believed the story of him cutting his finger peeling potatoes. He will ALWAYS BE A HERO TO ME. Was he even there when the attack occured?

  26. Gerald Sims Cutts says:

    I arrived at the Americal in the summer of 1971. I was a pilot for the Warlords B/123rd I was in the Cobra platoon.
    All we heard in our in-country orientation was FB Mary Ann. The SFC who gave some of the classes stated there was strong evidence that drugs were the root cause of the over-running of the FB.

    From the men who lived thru this, it appears this was a contributing factor. But there are other factors this web site has opened my eyes too. That is the true story and the sacrifices the men went thru..Welcome Home Men.

    G.S.”Gerry” Cutts
    Warlord 15

    • Ralph Bowling says:

      To Gerald Cutts, sure some of the guys there smoked some weed or maybe did something a little worse but I was there that night and was awake when it started. We were playing cards and had stepped outside to take a leak. It was a little foggy and I think that aided the attackers. I really am getting tired of all the comments about the drugs being the cause of so much destruction. Drugs were not as rampant in our Company as you might think. C co. 1/46 196th LIB. I thing everyone on Maryann that night, living or deceased, deserve a little more respect. Thank You

      • Jim on Tien Phouc says:

        Howdy Ralph, I was at Tien Phouc the night Mary Ann got hit. I worked with the 26th eng, and all I could tell anyone was that in the early morning darkness the long toms and Iam pretty sure the 8in opened up over the top of us , almost all at once & ran hot for 30-45 min…Our whold damm tent contracted &expanded like something Ive never been in before. it literly sucked & blasted 1/2 of us right out of our bunks….that ones been with me for quite a long time…we heard what was going on and just wondered if we might not be next..yea there were more than a few heads around..but truthfully most of the guys worked pretty well with the juicers….not a lot of a**holes really…we know Ralph we know…….sorry We couldnt have been air dropped in there, might have saved a few…thanx brother.

  27. Jase says:

    Does anyone remember Ken gates from the 1st battalion 46 infantry, He is a very good friend of mine. his son and I are best friends and kenny is like a father to me. I though it would be intresting if anyone knew him or remembered the name. He was on Mary ann when it was over run. He recieved 2 silver stars for his efforts and attends the 46th infantry reunion every year at Ft. Benning. The reunion used to be held at Ft. Knox but was move to Ft. benning a few years ago since the 1st. battalion had moved there. any info would be appreciated!

    • Marcua says:

      Hey. This is ken gates nephew. He’s doing good. Healthy. He has two sons. I was always afraid to ask him about the war I’m glad I for to read this. Thanks. He currently lives in warren Illinois if you’re looking to contact him.

  28. Brad Shelbourn says:

    I am the son of a soldier wounded in the attack on FSB Marry Ann. His name is Sgt. Earl Shelbourn (Company C, I believe). Understandably, he has never really been inclined to talk about those events.

    First, I want to thank the author of the article and those who have commented, for keeping the story alive and shedding light on it for many of us. But also, I’d like to hear from any of you who were there or are family of someone who was there. Your thoughts and stories would go a long way in informing me and my family as to what happened that night. I look forward to hearing from any of you…and thank you all for your service.

  29. Ralph Bowling says:

    Thanks, Jim on Tien Phouc. I didn’t mean to come off the wrong way, but I was wounded that night and I lost a lot of good friends including Capt. Richard Knight who happened to be the best Capt. to work for. I also think the families of the ones there that night deserve some respect. Again I thank you.

  30. kyle bynum says:

    my father told me he was at firebase mary ann. He would never talk to me about it that much. His names was James Wade Byunm does any body remember him. He died of cancer in 2000. please email if you do thank you to all for serving your country

  31. rob bancroft says:

    hello, I want to thank all fo you for your service. I am researching
    information on all the veterans from my home town of fenton michigan
    who died in vietnam. One of those young men was named donald stotts. I have read sappers in the wire and many blogs, but anyone who has a recollection of don or could share any stories about him would be of much assistance to me. Thank you again. rob bancroft

  32. Roger Burge says:

    Anyone know or how to get ahold of Ricky D Howerton? Denton, TX and North Texas State Univ.,I believe He was the Sgt that was in charge of the ammo bunker on FSB Mary Ann that fateful night.

  33. John Barrera says:

    I was a crewchief with the 116th ahc and was on flare standby in Duc Pho that night. Sometime early that morning we were scrambled along with two shark gunships to a firebase being overrun.

    We realized on arrival that it was Mary Ann. We began to drop flares but had to stop because the flares were drifting into the gunships orbits. We went out farther but still they were comming to close to the gunships so we stopped.

    I saw the tracers from the nva traveling up the perimiter from the bottom and then point blank against the friendly fire across the top of Mary Ann along with some explosions.

    The person that was on the radio in contact with us and the guns made it clear not to open fire because of the close contact of the enemy and american troops. We felt really helpless.

    I had a camera with me and took pictures from overhead, but never developed the film and was confiscated when I tried to take it home. I don’t know if they would have come out anyway it was so dark.

    We were released after returning to Duc Pho and were added to the first lift of evacuation aircraft to Mary Ann from Duc Pho. We were loaded with the kia’s and wounded then released shortly back to Chu Lai. It was a very sad day for all of us.

  34. Luis Rios says:

    I worked the radio teletype rig that sat next to the Mary Ann TOC until January 1971. I wonder if anyone knows of the fate of the crew. Those guys were attached from C/523d Signal Bn.

  35. malasangre says:

    if i hadn’t been busted with some weed at the Chu Lai station (Feb 15, ’71) i was headed for FSBMA. can’t actually remember the LZ i spent the most time on though

  36. timothy doyle says:

    It has taken so long to realize just how many heros were there with my father God bless all of you. I need to know because I knew so little about what my dad did and I really miss him so so much.

    Timothy Patrick Doyle

  37. timothy doyle says:

    I want to join the fight to straighten out the misinformation the bs and the government oops on this. An event of this magnitude can only be corrected with what is left over of the valiant soldiers who gave everything and then some just to come home to a mess. Do not mistake what I say, I, like my father believes we are the greatest Nation in history and want to keep it that way. I want to join the effort to make sure the journals are correct, to a T. My life has a meaning and to see this through is a part of that if there is something I can now do I want to do it to the best of my ability. I again thank you all for being a cut above all to have given all you have to give I want it to mean something more, Please help me.

  38. Charles Bartlett (Chuck) says:

    As I read these postings, tears come to my eyes and a great pain remains in my heart.
    I was in Delta co. 1/46th working off of LZ Professional Aug 69 to Aug 70. We where sent to Mary Ann after the first time it was over ran. In all the years I have never told my family of the horrific things which became a part of my life in-country.
    Its hard to put the memories away. The reception I got on comming back home has harden my heart and made me a bitter man. I only hope God will forgive me

    • Ronald Foster says:

      Mr. Bartlett,
      I was at LZ Mary Ann that night,and I composed a posting earlier to another gentlemen’s comments. However, after reading your post I am compelled to welcome you home, and remind you that God forgives us all. It’s up to us to forgive ourselves and others.
      I also wanted to share with you that I was at LZ Proffesional from Oct 69 to Mar 70. I was the gunner on the quad 50 – in the bunker located next to the 90 recoiless.

  39. timothy doyle says:

    I cannot know how it was first hand. I do know that my father was proud of all the soldiers he served with and I mean all of them. It was at his funeral I learned why after 15 years there were so many unfamiliar faces there. I was also proud to wear the uniform, asking these men who are you and why are you here? I learned about my father, my hands tremble as I type these words and tears roll down my face. I never heard the words I love you but knew he loved me. I have battled alcoholism, drug addiction most of my adult life but I am now realizing that you all gave your all ……………………………………. for your country, and your families. I will never be the man my father was but I will be ok with who I am. You all did the best you could do considering the politics involved. Your all heros in my book and I am a better man having been exposed to military service and I am facing life now with a new outlook, it aint perfect but it is real and I live in the best place on this planet …. free thanks to you all. I must say one of the strange things I remember is a gift givin to my dad by some marines, it read “when you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow” !!.

  40. timothy doyle says:

    I have been in constant pain for almost a year, with severe spinal stenosis. I take no drugs for the constant pain. I am living life on lifes terms and waiting until the government will accept my pleads of just giving me the operation that will almost cure me, allowing me to be a tax paying citizen again. is there anyone who can relate t this? It is now we need to become united again. to do what is as many say is impossible is there anyone who has heard of this? My father would say drive on son and I will ,you all are why we are free. We need to become united again who can hear what I say I am not a idiot I am in s hool despite the pain I go through and know there is a way . Please reply to what i propose.

    • louis p green says:

      Sure would like to here from you guys to see who still here and who not!

      • Roger Burge says:

        I’m one still here and get email alerts when new posts are added.

        I spend alot of my internet time on a Facebook site ‘Americal Division Veterans Association. Come join us, its a great group od 23rd Inf Vets just BS ing about anything and everything.

  41. Ronald Foster says:

    Anyone from the Quad 50 crew out there..? Reference post number 22.2
    Also reference post number 38.1. Is there anyone out there that was on LZ Professional between 10/69 and early 1970. I was a Quad 50 crew member. A lot of the infantry guys used to hang-around our hootch with us. One in particular was nicknamed Smokey – don’t recall his real name. And another named Acosta.
    Our squad leader was nicknamed Doc, but I don’t recall his real name either. However, I do remember some of the other crew members, Jim (Smith, I believe it was), Charles Tatum from Houston, (cousin to Archie Bell – and the Drells), and a big guy nicknamed Lurch, whose real name was John (Bordwin, I think it was).
    Doc rotated back to the world around December, and a new squad leader transferred in. I cannot remember his name, but I remember him being from Kentucky. There is a photo of him firing the quad on a 1/46th website. I don’t see myself in the picture – hell, I think I might have taken that photo.
    Don’t remember exactly when it was, but sometime around February of 70, we were all,(Quad and all ammo) airlifted out to a place called LZ Hustler. It was a hot LZ when we landed. The choppers were taking small arms fire as we entered the LZ. One of the slicks bringing us in lost a pilot who took a round through his seat. We dug-in and I spent another couple of months there before I got malaria. I spent a couple of weeks in the 91st Evac, and rear area, and was later transferred to a few other LZ’s within the following 12 month period, before finally ending up on Mary Ann that fateful night in March 71.
    The men I encountered in the 18 month period I spent in that place were all good friends, during difficult times. If any of you are out there, and might remember me, I’d like to here from you.

  42. Mike says:

    Forgive me for intruding here. I feel like this is hallowed ground.
    I just randomly came across this, and started to read. Aside from the amazing story and tragedy of this event, what amazed me more was the comments from some of you who were there, or the children of some of the fallen soldiers, or those of you who had been there before or after.

    Those of you who have shared your stories, you have made this incredibly real, and brought this story home in a way I can’t quite explain.
    Not only was this a powerful story, but reading these comments was much like watching Dick Winters and the men of Easy Company
    share their experiences in the commentary of Band of Brothers.
    I am humbled.

    None of you will ever know me, in all likelihood, we will never meet.
    But you all should know there is someone out there, who is astounded by the brotherhood, sacrifice, and courage of all who were a part of this and those who shared their parts in the comments.

    Thank you.

    • tim doyle says:

      Thanks for support, I am Lt Col Doyle’s youngest son Tim. My brother Daniel has just died from a failing liver. He is now with his father Bill Doyle. I wanted to put this out there.

      • Ralph Bowling says:

        Sorry for your loss. May God Bless.

      • timothy doyle says:

        to ralph bowling,
        I want to say thank you, My brother never served, actually neither one did and maybe they had just chosen another path. I am so glad I was able to serve in the 82nd airborne. It defined me for I was a medic and now I look to being a hospital administrator some day. I have cried a thousand tears for what have read and was told to me by my father. He kept so much to himself, but what he allowed me to know was priceless in the way that if my heart beats I am a soldier, I will defend this nation by whatever means I can. What I hope is to maybe be a part of a consorted effort to clear the names of those wrongly accused in this incident. I remember getting the manuscript of “sappers in the wire”. This is where I learned just how much you All Sacrificed and put on the line. I have nothing but steadfast respect for you all and little by little by the perseverance of those who fought here good will come of it. Time goes by so fast I hope I can keep up. I wonder if any one knows of Mgr Dan Mckinney spc forces 7th group who was a true inspiration of being a soldier.

  43. jimmy morrison says:

    i was in co, c 1/46 196-198 americal sept – 1969 -sept 70 we help build mary ann we dug the trenches were the sappers can up . we left mary ann the morning after fragging july 30 or 31 1970. we got hit bad august 5 & 8th managed to get lz judy possily sept 30 ? i left lz judy to mary ann to chuli and went back to the world. any qestions call 7047827716 jimmy morrison concord, n.c.. thanks i was in 1st platoon.

    • timothy doyle says:

      Thanks for your contribution here, the truth I hope will clear the names of soldiers wrongly accused. You fought and lived to tell I think there might be someithg you could expound on if you can recall/

  44. timothy doyle says: Please read this and I am trying to get this sorted out some how. I thank you all for you all have given me the strength to strive harder and not give up. I am proud to be my fathers son. Never give in and never stop moving forward, head low and ready.

  45. Meg Baldwin says:

    Dear friends,

    I just found this website as I try to gather my thoughts to respond to Mr. Thomas Ricks new book, The Generals. My father was MG Jim Baldwin. He cared very deeply about all who were affected by FB Mary Ann, the many soldiers killed and wounded, and those who gave their all to rescue and defend. My father passed away in 1979, always concerned about the well-being of his soldiers. Thank you so much for the gift of your comments and reflections.


    Meg Baldwin

    • timothy doyle says:

      Hello Meg,

      My name is timothy Doyle, I am the youngest son of LTC Bill Doyle, It is a pleasure to make your aquaintance. I am sure you have heard of my father, he too loved his men and they loved him as I discovered at his funeral. I hope to speak with you again, though at this time I am suffering from sever spinal stenosis. I am in a bit of pain, I am trying to set things right for those who lost their lives at Fire base maryanne. you will have to excuse my writing i am in a lot of pain dispite the moriphine and oxycottin the va gives me. I am tryn to set things right and get the men recognized for what they did that day. I am at my limit i am in excruciating pain now but please reach me asap I am an extended arm of my father who loved serving this country. As I know your father did Pleas reach soon I have to sighn outnow.

  46. James Lavender says:

    I was a gunner and mortar man on a track with F Troop 17th Cav armored vehicles searching for trouble in the Que Son Valley and Pineapple Forrest the night LZ Maryann was hit. I was in the valley an estimated 20 to 30 miles from the Maryann location in a night logger position in a rice paddy. I saw a horrendous light fill the sky up to the hills to my southwest that evening and I thought it was a B-52 strike at first but quickly thought it was unlikely they were in this vicinity and that it must be one hell of a battle. I could not hear the sound of a battle but the night flashes came and came and I knew it was some fight going on. We did not know what it was until we returned to Hawk Hill and learned about what we saw that night. I will never forget my reaction when I heard what had happened and I wanted to return to that area for revenge but the suits would not allow. God bless you fellows that were there and the bravery you exhibited in one the most violent engagements of the Vietnam War.

  47. Ken Russell says:

    Dan: Didn’t you attend the TOC briefings ever evening?? I think I can verify your existence.

  48. Ken Russell says:

    Tim: I knew you father. On LZ Maryanne. I see you learned to spell it correctly. Please contact me, if you can. Your email does not work.

  49. PhilAldridge says:

    I served as a medic with Ftrp/8th Cav. from July 70′ thru March 71. I was on Mary Ann once or twice. I remember a G.I.offering us ammo or frags if we needed it. I also remember thinking the narrow perimeter and the dense cover along it would be tough to defend even if you were alert. Ftrp went up north to Quang Tri, Khe San area to support the ARVN incursion into Laos. Bad place.

    I was went back to Chu Lai to DEROS about a week before Mary Ann was over run. Made my blood run cold when I heard about it. You guys did good. Anybody who went to that shit hole and fought did good. I’ll admit I don’t have a good attitude about America sometimes. But you guys are the best.

  50. Bob Cherry says:

    Just a few minor corrections to Rick’s recollections: I was FO attached to Co C, 4/31 Inf, which was pulling perimiter guard on FSB Siberia, C Btry, 3/82 Arty. So I was night OIC of the FDC and listened to the radio traffic that night. My battery was 105mm and was closer to Maryann than was LZ West. Maryann was beyond our range but not that of West because West had 155mm. So West was supporting with 155 arty. I could hear the fire from West and see the flares at Maryann, but we could not help.

  51. Daniel Craig says:

    I was first assigned to the division hq company in Sep 1970, and transferred to HHB, DivArty in Feb 1971. I was the acting PSNCO at the time of the FSB MaryAnn attack. Incidentally, I caught a chopper flight to MaryAnn and returned to Chu Lai the day prior. I DEROS’ed from DivArty Sept 1971.
    I would be interested in hearing from anyone assigned to either unit during Sep 1970-Sep1971.

    Daniel Craig, SP5

    • Stephen Pike says:

      Wondering if you knew my father Robert Pike AKA Bob or, as he told me “Battle axe”. he was 3bn 16th arty C btry and served in country Jul 69- Sept 71.
      I’ve been trying to find guys he served with but can’t. We were trying to look but, sadly, dad passed away in Feb 2009 from cancer. now I have to look on my own.
      I think he might be one of those potheads up on the hill (haha). It would be nice to hear if anyone remembers him.

  52. Tim Day says:

    I was in a 81mm mortar squad with Cotton, Rex and Cowboy Bob. Had been in country over 8 months, in the field the whole time. R&R orders came in and I decided to save my money and not go since I was now sleeping dry and eating 3 hots a day and could shower anytime I felt like it. Last chopper left that day and everyone said \Man, you should have gone and had a good time!\ So we hear a slick coming in right at dusk. I run down to the pad and ask LT Rivera if I can get a ride. They let me ride back to Chu Lai with them. Next morning I’m on a plane to Bangkok. Did not know about the attack until I saw it in the American edition newspapers 2 days later. When I got back to MaryAnn I was now squad leader. Everyone else had been hit. Satchel charge had gone off right under my cot. I know it was just fate but deep down I have always wondered how I might have acted, or if I would have even survived that attack. And, before coming to the hill I carried the battalion freq radio for my company. I distinctly remember sitting on the Company TOC bunker and watching two ARVNs walk, holding hands, up and down the road that led back toward the arty and mortars. Realized later they were counting their steps! Base was definitely infiltrated before the attack. No doubt at all in my mind.

    • Dale Krimmer says:

      Tim, I was in D Co., and we were brought in the next morning. Being the Company Radio operator, I immediately was pressed into service calling helicopters for resupply & medevacs. My memory is that I medevaced considerably MORE men than the official number listed here, but I could be wrong. I went by the name of “chickenman” at that time. The reason I am writing this is that both I and my partner RTO had a good friend on a mortar crew on Mary Ann that night. He had very light blond hair, almost white, and we all called him “snowflake.” I recently talked to my partner, Stan, and we both wondered together what happened to “snowflake.” Do you know anything about him?

  53. Stu Steinberg says:

    I am a service office for Vietnam Veterans of America and am working on a claim for a survivor of FSB Mary Ann. Is there anyone out there who remembers SGT Jess Sain who was in E Company (Recon)? If you knew him, could you please email me.

    • Rachelle Merrill says:

      I know that this is a long shot Mr. Steinberg but I have to try. My father was with echo recon at the Mary Ann battle but unfortunately that’s all I know. I am trying to find anybody that can tell me more about him (I lost him at a young age) I was wondering if you could please give your client my e-mail in hopes that he knew my father. His name was Lawrence(Larry) Merrill. And my e-mail is Thank you very much.

  54. Roger Burge says:

    Dale Krimmer, There is a book “Sappers In The Wire” It tells about Snowflake in the book. I’m pressed for time right now but I recommend the book. You should be able to find it on Ebay if nowhere else.

  55. Ronald Foster says:

    Mr. Batton,
    I responded to your April 2011 inquiry regarding Quad 50 members. Never received a response.

    Thought I’d try one last time.

  56. Rachelle Merrill says:

    Hello everyone, My name is Rachelle Merrill and I am in search of information about my father. He was taken from me at a young age and I never got to hear about his heroic time spent in the service. All I know is that he was at FSB Mary Ann during the sapper attack. His name is Lawrence(Larry) Merrill. And that he was with echo recon. Still can’t figure out which battalion or company of echo recon he was with so if anyone even knows which echo recon company was there during that time it would be great. Thank you! -Rachelle Merrill.

  57. Jim Becker (Phred) says:

    Tim, just want to let you know that I met up with our old friend, Cowboy Bob (Stainton) earlier this year up in Pulaski, NY, his hometown. I was a grunt in Delta, 1/46 at the beginning of Cowboys tour. He arrived in June, ’70. I ETS’d in Sept. ’70. We bumped into each other around the summer of ’71 when I was living in Sydney and he was on R&R. That’s when I first heard about Maryann. I’ve got pics of MA the morning after, and of Cowboy on one of my recent visits. (jaybker at

  58. Larry Klein says:

    I was on leave on during the Marryann battle assigned to 46th C Co.
    3rd plt. Have pictures of Capt. Knight and possibly Col Doyle. Would like to give them and thanks to family. I’m new on computers. Also looking for larry Sims from NE. and Tim(Doc) to say hi. MY wife threw
    away all my letters years ago so don’t have names. Some Sgt Edds . Sgt Carney KIA in ambush before Maryann.

  59. Jay Clymer says:

    I am wanting to see if anyone remembers, or could tell me anything about Sergent Cliff Corr. He is my wife’s uncle and unfortunately he is one of the 30 men that didn’t make it home. There are a lot of questions but no real answers. Thank you for any help!

  60. Ed Thacher says:

    I was in Vietnam 67-68 as an RTO for a MACV advisor team in Quang Ngai. I returned to Vietnam in April of 2013 with a group of vets. One of them was Gary Nolan, who was with 196th, but at the Division TOC the night of the attack on FB Mary Ann. Gary gave me a great history of the event. We traveled to the old site of Mary Ann and walked up the hill through the elephant grass. It was very hot and humid. Like of all of Vietnam now, nothing looks the same. Near the top we stopped under a tree and the group, which included our translater/guide, a former Kit Carson Scout and an interpretor who worked with the 196th, participated in a Buddhist ceremony to honor the men who died there. It was very moving and I wanted to post this to let those who were there that they have not been forgotten. I have some pictures if anyone would like to see them, I can email them. Ed Thacher

    • Sgt Robert Parmelee says:

      Did you come up the trail from the waterpoint? How did you get that far out? Never forget the view. I have photos before & after. I was from D 1/46 but got stuck there that night. Almost got the last bird out. FATE! Hope you post your pics. Would love to see them.

    • Michael Young says:

      Ed my name is Michael Young and I am publishing a book authored by Leonard Clapes , who was a helicopter door gunner and crew chief. He was on a bird that resupplied Mary Ann the day after the attack. I would like to show illustrations of Mary Ann before and after the attack and what you are taking about would be great for his book. Please contact me at if you could email me pictures of Mary Ann. I will contact Mr. Clapes and share your info. Any photo you might provide for use in the book would would be credited to you. If you respond to this email and it is ok to use your photos please indicate how you would like your photo credit to read. Thank you for your consideration. Michael Young.

  61. Ralph Bowling says:

    Ed, I was on the hill when it was hit. I was in C co. 1/46. We had a Kit Carson scout by the name of Trong Hu Tong [it has been a while so I hope that is correct. I would love to go back and visit. I would be interested in the pictures if you wouldn’t mind sending them. Thank You in advance.

  62. Brad Shelbourn says:

    My dad, Earl Shelbourn, was wounded in the attack on Mary Ann.

    I’d love to see any photos you have of the area and of your gathering. Very intriguing and encouraging to hear that some of you went back.


  63. Tom Sklaney says:

    I was with Echo company on Mary ann that night.
    Don’t talk to my kids about it that much
    I forward all of your comments to them…thank you for that.

    To the person who just came back from Mary ann
    with photo’s …I’d like to see them.

    Strange….several years after I got home, I married a lady
    named …Maryann. We’re divorced now for 10 years.

    The best to all of you.

    Tom Sklaney

  64. Stu Steinberg says:

    Tom–Do you remember SGT Jess Sain? He was also in E Company. I am a service officer for Vietnam Veterans of America and am handling Jess’ VA claims. Please let me know if you remember him. He was wounded, as were many others, and refused to be med-evacked. As a result, he never got a Purple Heart and never asked to get it. I would like to have his records corrected to show he got this award, but need an eye-witness. Let me know if you can help. If you are in touch with any other E Company people, please send me their contact information.

  65. Tom Sklaney says:


    I’m sorry, I don’t remember Mr Sain.

    There were two parts to Echo company, one was the 4.2
    mortars and the other was the recon team.

    I was attached the mortars portion , radio repair and part-time supply
    person. If he was recon, the only person I knew was Jack Farmer
    but do not have any contact with him.

    I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help


  66. Stu Steinberg says:

    He was recon.

  67. Ron Foster says:

    Mr. Becker,
    I am trying to quantify facts in my own head regarding where I was during part of my early tenure in Nam. Maybe you can assist me.
    I arrived in RVN in Oct 69 and was assigned to LZ Professional – G/55 Quad 50.
    Sometime around Feb/Mar 70, I think it was, we were quickly moved to a place about an hour’s flight west. When I say we, I mean some artillery pieces, a portion of the 1/46th, and our quad.
    We were dropped in on a hot LZ and made it home. I do not recall the name of that LZ, but I thought it was called Hustler. Within a few days there, I was sent to the 91st Evac with malaria. Upon my return to the field, I was sent to another location all together.
    Rolling the clock forward – In March 71 I was sent to Mary Ann. The rest is history.
    However, based on comments from your post and others, I’m thinking that our relocation from Professional in early 70 was Mary Ann and not Hustler.
    Sound familiar?

  68. Debby says:

    Dear Mr. Jones,

    One of those bodies was that of Cpt. Knight. I want to thank you for taking care of him. I know it was a horrendous task, and I am sure you did your job with respect. Cpt Knight was my friend and to this day, I think of him.

    • Tim Doyle says:

      Hi Debby,

      I want to let you know that my father was Capt, Knights boss, Lt Col Bill Doyle. He did not talk much about the attack but when we went to Bellows beach once in a while and he would tell me about his experiences at Mary Ann. I remember him mentioning Capt Knight and I know he really liked him, respected him. I was very young but I remember him talking about raising hell in the rear with him, they were friends. I hope this comforts your memory and wish you the best.

  69. Tim Doyle says:

    I wanted to reach out to those who were able to attend my dads funeral at Arlington. It was through you all that I learned what my dad was all about. Thank you all. I am alive, hanging in there as it was. Now with someone to talk with. Rick, thank you for reaching out to me.

  70. Tom Schmitz says:

    Hi, \Chickenman\! I was your CO in Delta Co on Dec 7th. \Snowflake\ (Don Rice) was shot and very nearly taken prisoner on Mary Ann. See Keith Nolan’s book \Sappers in the Wire\ pp. 165-6 for more details. I saw him at a Delta 2 (2d Platoon) reunion at Tim Seeloover’s cabin in Wisconsin in April 2013. Snowflake lost the sight in one eye and has serious physical effects from his wounds. But he was in great spirits and spends much of his spare time helping other veterans. Dec 7 is covered in Chapter 3 of Nolan’s book. Pete Detlef is also mentioned in Nolan’s book at pp. 126-7. I hope life has treated you well, Chickenman, certainly far better than those months in Vietnam. Tomorrow is 43d anniversary of Mary Ann. \LT\ Tom Schmitz,
    Oneida, NY .

  71. Tom Schmitz says:

    Tim, your dad was one of the finest officers I ever served with. He was like a Big Brother to many of us, his junior officers. I was S3Air for 1/46 then. I was on LZ Mildred that night 43 years ago tomorrow night. My name, 1LT Tom Schmitz, is mentioned in this article, which in my opinion contains a considerable amount of misinformation. And it fails to mention that we were within three days of closing Mary Ann and were being transferred to Danang to replace the Marines who were standing down. (I too am a \Friend of BIll’s\ one day at at a time for past 20+ years.) One of my deepest regrets is that I did not learn of your dad’s death until many years later, and therefore did not get to attend his funeral. I have however visited his grave at Arlington several times. God bless. Tom Schmitz, Oneida, NY

  72. Tim Doyle says:

    Hello Sir,

    No matter how much time has passed, I am very pleased to meet exceptional people who served with my father. I never knew the facts about Lt Col Doyle until his funeral. I was in the 82nd ABN at the time and was puzzled by the men who attended having served with my dad, enlisted men who after so many years after the war attended the funeral. They shared with me their feelings and explained so much, I simply had no idea who my dad was aside from a hard ass with high expectations and demanding 110%. I understand how much he loved his job, I remember him saying that he served with exceptional soldiers and there was nothing he would rather do. I am the youngest of 4 kids, I’m now 52. I know I have met some of the finest people I could hope to meet because of my dad’s service. Tom, I am nothing like my dad, he was a professional I know so much more because of good men like yourself who have reached out to me and opend my eyes and heart. I appreciate your caring words and know he served with professionals like yourself. Thank you so much Tom. My daughters know very little of my dad and would like to learn about him and what he did in this world. I will give you my number and contact info in hopes we can talk. I thank you for reaching out to me. is my email.
    Thank you!

  73. Tim Doyle says:

    I was contacted about a month ago by Rick Dominy who was a chopper pilot, flying Col Hathaway and supporting the 1/46. He was the pilot who flew my dad to Chu lai after the attack so he could get patched up. My dad liked Rick and honestly did not want to leave the base, I believe Hathaway insisted it was for the best. Rick took me out to lunch yesterday and we talked about the circumstances like you mentioned, they were pulling out in a few days.So many circumstances favored the enemy, it was like the perfect storm.I feel so fortunate that we met and I have a new friend. He actually took the time to voice record his efforts involving the sapper attack and has made a CD I will get once he gets settled back in his home state of Washington. I know my father mentioned some of his junior officers such as Capt Knight whom I know he liked a lot. I encourage anyone who has questions contact me. I suspect I will get a copy of Ricks recordings within a month or so.I will make copies if anyone is interested. I have not had the opportunity to listen to it yet.Too many good men died that early morning. My father went to Washington DC and had his rank stalemated as Lt Col.for the rest of his time in the Army. We lived in Hawaii from 1968 to 1977, he worked at Camp Smith. We moved to Ft Meade and he retired in 1982 or so. After a weekend of socializing with some Army buddies, he suffered a stroke. I remember visiting him at the hospital where he insisted, \we have to E and E,(escape and evade)! He was out of it and a few weeks later he died and cause of death listed was (Life style)! He loved the Army and he loved the soldiers who served with him there in Viet Nam. I was the only son to serve and I loved it too. God Bless all of you.

  74. Tim Doyle says:

    Hello Sir,

    Yes, it has taken a very long time to do this. I did not see your post and I wanted to follow up with you, I hope life is as well as I may be for you at this time.You may contact me either at Or hell call me 480 347-6804. That is my cell and I usually answer it. I would appreciate you giveing me a bit of your time and we can talk. etc.


  75. Jim Ferguson says:

    Hey Chickenman, how are you doing?
    I linked up with Snowflake (Don Rice) about 10 years back. I never knew his real name until the Sappers book came out. He was in Cincinnati at that time & I’d suppose he still is. In the scheme of things, he survived 1005 disabled and puttering in a small wood shop. And, the good news, he is still a ‘smart ass,’ which told me that beyond surviving his wounds – the Snowflake inside also survived. At that time (’95 if I remember), he was the head of his local Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter.
    I was in Delta 1st Platoon with nicknames, Fergie and, for a time, One Shot. I walked rear security with a thump gun.

  76. Tim Doyle says:

    I want to do something positive for the honor to be bestowed to all who served here/ I want to enlist the help of a “professional” who I believe will help serve the purpose and honor of this fine unit. I will be in touch. God Bless you all./

  77. bob ogus says:

    I served with your Dad…he was a true gentleman and a fine soldier

    • Tim Doyle says:

      Hello Bob, I appreciate the comment. I know he wanted to stay with his men despite his wounds. I had lunch with the chopper pilot that flew him back to the rear about 4 or 5 months back. Interesting conversation. He did not say too much about that morning but once in a while he let a little out. I had no idea the extent of it all until his funeral at Arlington. I was in 82nd ABN and about 5 or 6 civi dressed gentlemen told me why they were still alive, I was speechless. God bless all of you that served at Mary Anne it was a shitty deal.

      Tim Doyle
      If you like you can reach me at

  78. D. Oliver says:

    Very awesome site. It was interesting to hear the stories of all of the people that were on Maryanne. I always got to hear a different story. That of my father LTC(ret) Edward Oliver. At that time I was about 1 year old and my father was CPT Oliver. He was scheduled to take over CPT Knights Cco and was sent out, with either Aco or Bco to \shadow\ and learn TTPs, by LTC Doyle. He was out in the bush when the FB was overrun. He was brought in that next day to take over Cco and help pick up the pieces.

    He always talked fondly of the men of Cco and commanded the company for his 2nd tour. As others have said, I also have pictures of MA (somewhere around here). I would assume after the attack. There are pics of the Quad .50s, the LZ, and the river. And of course pics of the men.

    • Ronald Foster says:

      D. Oliver, I was a member of the Quad 50 crew on Maryanne during the siege. I was taken out the following morning, never to return. Everything I owned, including my personal weapon was destroyed that night.
      Any photos that you might share of Maryanne and it’s soldiers, would be appreciated.

      • D. Oliver says:

        I will have to search my lap top but the wifi on it is broken and I will have to figure a way to move them. That was my comment on “somewhere”. To be exact I’m not sure at what point the pics were taken. Be it right after the attack or later than that. Unfortunately my Dad passed away a few years ago, so I’m not certain. I’ll see what I can find!

  79. Sgt. Robert Parmelee says:

    MARCH 28th ; 44 years ago. GOD BLESS & REMEMBER>

  80. Sgt Robert Parmelee says:

    March 28,1971. 44 YEARS ago. GOD BLESS!

  81. Tien Phouc Jim says:

    same old reminders, the endings always the same & we all know it just doesn,t go away , we do, keep these younger guys in your hearts, God only knows how this last bunch will turn out. & if these young vet,s are treated as poorly as we were , heaven help us! Words can never say what a lot of us left over there, We know it wont be comming back, Its Easter this Sunday.. We,ve got a lot to be thankful for. Ill carry my share of the cross just like the rest of you.

  82. victor w. j. bobbitt says:

    i was with recon on bunker #9 that night. i was in a hooch 20 feet away from that bunker with John Crawford(claymore) was the name we called him. I was the tattoed Canadian.

  83. Bob West says:

    in rememberence of a friend Donald m Stotts Lt’s rto kia in this raid a former infantryman with 27th infantry wolfhounds

  84. Marcus Burchyett says:

    There used to be hundreds of comments on this post. Any way I could get my hands on those. My uncle, Ken Gates, was at Mary Ann during the attack and had wanted to see all of them.

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