Roger (Koop) Koopman (68-69)
HQ & A Battery
I had previously been to
Hamburger area on a mission FO'ing with/for the ARVN infantry when we were
actually ambushed near the bottom of Hamburger while on a search in that area.
The Vietnamese spread out running through the woods (jungle brush there) which
was so thick and low that me and my recon SGT couldn't follow...we were too big
and the interpreter who was with us earlier got so sick and we had to Medivac
him out before this with no replacement...no one else spoke English and we
didn't speak Vietnamese...just pointed on the map a lot and nodded like we
understood each other.
Well, we didn't know where the pre-arranged (rally)
regrouping point was, which you always have planned in case of such...because we
hadn't been told before by our interpreter and we didn't understand now what was
being said so we had to just run as fast as we could down a trail to get away
fast as we could which is usually not what you should do because it would be the
logical place for them to booby-trap...but as we could hear them coming after
us, two Americans to kill...now alone/isolated/cutoff as the ARVN/Vietnamese ran
off somewhere else?.
We ran as fast as we could high stepping, hoping not to
step on mines or tripwire traps for probably 2 to 3 miles it seemed, before we
didn't hear them anymore (pure adrenalin)...Jonesy had the radio and if we could
find a clearing, we might be able to call for a chopper in the area to pick us
up and get out of danger...who knows where the ARVN went? Just as we were
running down the trail ending to where another joined in or coming into it...in
the thick/wooded brush around us, I saw a figure/shadow to my left and I turned
to shoot it with my 16 when the figure said loudly don't shoot in English. I
didn't and it was a marine gunnery (SSG) who had been out there in A Shau on his
own for past couple months with no radio after being cutoff/left alone in a
similar ambush on his unit on one of their patrols/searches in the area.
so glad to see us as we had a radio and we were all able to get a chopper to
pick us up about 5 hours later on a hill he knew was clear enough to land on
because we had a radio. We were some of the first to discover the extent of
enemy defensives around Hamburger which prompted the action later to destroy it.
They had control of the valley then and wanted to hold it. Just a side note, we
had a pack to not be captured alive as we heard other who were captured before
screaming from torture out in the jungle and we would do anything required to
prevent this occurring to us.
The Vietnamese/ARVN (another group later on) were going to position themselves
to prevent any escape/retreat if possible from the 101st assault on Hamburger on
the other side. It was still not known then how extensive the fortifications
there were and how dug in they were. Frankly the 105's and 155's were good for
exposed troops but not much good for those dig in or in bunkers BUT 8 inchers
So I recon'ed our side with heavy fire as much as I could in front of the
ARVN taking positions on/up the base of hill in our area...according to American
infantry advisors from MACV moving up, we (you..the guns) killed near 200 NVA
right away in the first 2 minutes of battle by actual body count as the ARVN
climbed to bottom positions on hill. Who knows how many after were killed as no
effort was made to count thereafter but just buried them in their bunkers and
caves forever...it is why a lot of ground bursts were ordered vs. VT to dig some
dirt/ ground up. I had friends with the 101st and they were pretty mad that the
hill was fought like it was because the generals wanted a final victory verses a
slower siege approach. Some of my OCS buddies, were with the 102's (airborne
105's) that provide the direct support for the poor American guys that had to
climb and take the hill. I am sure you shot for them at the bunkers also. We
(our country) should have taken the fight to their country (the north) to
achieve any form/kind of victory. We won the battles but gave away the war.
Playing all defense and making one tackle is not enough.
I am from Beloit, Wisconsin and hope we can meet sometime and visit...wishing
you the best brother!