Serving in Special Forces for twenty-five plus years was a real adventure for a country boy. I was raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and even attended a two room school. I enlisted in the Army straight out of high school. I graduated Special Forces Training Group in the summer of 1965. Dennis Thompson and I graduated in the same commo class and were both assigned to the 10th SFGA at Lenggries Germany.
In 1967 I took an early out and was off active duty for 7 months. When I returned to active duty in November 1967 I took a reduction in rank, and was assigned to the 5th SFGA, C Company, A-101.
Being assigned to A-101 at Lang Vei was like old times, in that along with me was Dennis Thompson, Emanual Phillips and James Holt, who had served with me in Germany. Emanual Phillips was the senior radio operator (28) and I was the junior radio operator (28A). As commo men we were busy improving the camps communications systems. We installed TA-312 phones in all the bunkers, living quarters, the Team House, and OP. We built several underground antenna systems and placed a 292 antenna on the TOC and Team House. The XO, LT. Wilkins and I manned the 4.2mm mortar and alternate commo bunker. In this bunker was an AR/GRC-109 and PRC-25.
Emanual Phillips and the team commander, Frank Willoughby lived in the TOC/main commo bunker. In the TOC was a switchboard for all the phones within the camp. Radios included a KWM-2, PRC-74B and a couple of PRC-25s. Additional residents of the TOC included the LLDP camp commander and Capt. Willoughby's Bru body guard Jessie.
On the night of February 6, 1968 I had left the TOC at around 2200 hrs and went straight to bed for much needed rest. Shortly after hitting the hay Lt. Wilkins and I received an incoming call from the TOC. The TOC was requesting us to fire illumination for the OP. Apparently the OP was receiving small arms fire. It was during this simple fire mission that things started to go to Hell in a hand basket. All of a sudden our perimeter opened fire and someone started screaming "TANKS" in the wire. At the same time I received an incoming phone message that Charlie Linderwald, who was located at the OP, was severely wounded. The TOC called again requesting that I call "Jacksonville", at KHE Sanh, for immediate illumination. Emanual Phillips was busy on the KWM-2 informing "Bolo Bobcat", at the C team, of the tank attack. Charley-1 (the C-Team) was in shock, knowing that their Commander, Col. Schungel, was in the "soup" with us. The Marines (Jacksonville) were more interested in collecting information about the tanks than they were in giving us needed illumination.
Things were happening real fast, with a wounded man on the OP, me trying to get illumination from the Marines, talking to the TOC, and assisting with the mortar firing. I did not recognize how serious our situation was. In this moment of total confusion I witnessed a tank destroy our generator, blow the machine gun and gunner off the bunker at the helo pad, and head towards our mortar pit.
Peter Tiroch and Arthur Brooks were shooting at him with a .50 cal machine gun but the tank continued straight toward us. We quickly realized the mortar pit/alternate commo bunker was about to be destroyed. At this it was "every man for himself.
Knowing that there were radios at the TOC, that's where I headed with "red tracers going and green tracers coming, and tanks tearing up the neighborhood..., it was a mess. When entering the TOC, Emanuel Phillips instructed me to get the classified material together for destruction. By this time we were using candles for light and batteries for commo. Within minutes of entering the bunker a tank blew the door down. During the ensuing 12 hour standoff the LLDB commander and 20 plus CIDG surrendered, leaving eight Americans to endure small arms fire, CS gas, thermite grenades, fragmentation grenades, and a very large explosive device placed in our air vents.
Thanks to the Air Force and our 3 men reaction team made up of Eugene Ashley, Richard Allen and Peter Tiroch, the NVA were kept busy. At 1500 hours on February 7, 1968 seven lucky souls escaped the "grave" of Lang Vei.
Without a lot of boring details, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Lessons learned by Frankie Dooms:
1. A-Teams should avoid tanks
2. When a guerilla losses his mobility he is no longer a guerilla
3. Never stop the flow of refugees, just change your dress and follow the masses
4. A-Teams are not designed to attack or defend, "A-Teams are force multipliers and don't forget it.
(NOTE: Rambo belongs in Hollywood, not on the battlefield)
5. If you don't have COMMO you don't have "SHIT".
With all that said, I am back in the Blue Ridge Mountains.