Tell Your Story

BATTLE OF AP TAU O, 8 June 1966

aka: Benchmark 69 or Battle of An Loc

by: Gary Warne, A Troop Maintanence, 65-66


The Troop moved out from Phu Loi our base camp at the time. We were moving North to Lai Kai but not by the main road (13) we were on a dirt road. I am not sure what it was or why we were going that way. We had two M113 hit mines. CPT Sturgis,A6, told the Xo in A50, my crew and I in A8, the VTR A9, the 34 tank and 2 other 113, not sure who they were, and an AVLB, To stay with the mined 113's and get them to Lai Kai. We got the Track back on one and it was back in service. The other I towed to Lai Kai. We dropped it off and moved up to join the main body of the troop. While on our way to join them, they were hit by the 722nd NVA regiment. We were within about 3 miles of them near an ARVIN camp. A6 told us to leave the AVLB at the ARVIN camp, and move up. There was a damaged tank that was alone and needed help. We found the tank hit but still fighting. The VTR with Ron Cooley driving hooked up to it we began taking some incoming. As we started to move up, the 34 tank took some hits in the turret killing all but the driver. He had been hit, I am not sure how bad but he went out the bottom escape hatch. We were pined down on the road. We could not get off and the brush on the roadside was right next to us. Charley could run right up to us. By this time we were taking a lot of small arms fire. A Vc ran up to A50 and lobed a grenade into her. SP4 Corbin in A50 lobed it back out. He received the Army commendation with "V" device. SP5 King, my TC, shot the VC with his M14. Our 50 would not fire. We could not move because we did not know the status of the 34 tank. Charley was right on top of us. I stood up in my drivers hatch and fired 40 magazines (30 rounds each) out of my Grease Gun. When I ran out of magazines for the Grease Gun I used my 45 and the M79. Everyone on my PC was firing every thing we had except the damn 50. Standing up in a drivers hatch is not what a driver should do, but when you think we could have been over run at anytime I just did it. I don't remember thinking a lot I just remembering doing. I took several small arms hits around my hatch ring and two AP rounds pierced the side of the PC in the driver's compartment and having no velocity and dropping harmlessly. By this time the XO decided to go around the 34 tank and link up with the main body. We had no idea what happened to the driver of 34 but he was on foot. By the time we joined the main body things had quieted down. Dust off's were starting to come in and choppers with ammo on them. It was awhile before we were able to get our dead out. I still see them lined up next to each other covered with ponchos it seemed there were so many. I remember asking about who we lost. who I asked, I don't remember. Then out of no where the 34-tank came roaring in. We weren't sure if it was our driver or the VC. But it was our driver. He had gotten back in the tank started it and drove it to us. Several years ago I got the Book "Armor Combat in Viet Nam". It tells about our unit at Ap Bau Bang and Ap Tau. According to that book Divison sent A troop in as bait at Ap Tau knowing two reinforced Regiments of the 722nd NVA were operating in the area. The plan was for A troop to draw them out and then B and C troop would close on them. GOOD PLAN! But B and C Troops had problems and were not able to get to us. This is what the book said. A troop will never forget the 722nd NVA and I am sure they will never forget A Troop. We lost a lot of good men that day and two stand out in my mind like SGT Claude (pop) Tharp. He was on his 3rd war (WWII, Korea and Viet Nam) and SP5 Oakey and his crew and a lot of WIA. A close friend of mine in the troop, James Dempsey - Driver of 66 the Old Mans Track, took a RPG round low in the track area going in the drivers compartment. I believe he lost his left foot. It's been 34 years. The memories are fading but not the pain. I still feel that when I remember. In June I visited the traveling wall. It was in Canton, Michigan not to far from me. I was at the closing. Just before it started I walked up to the wall and was just looking at the names. An old couple in their 80's came up and they looked a little lost. One of the VVA aids asked if he could help them. They were looking for their only son killed two years after I was in country. Seeing them hit me hard. 32 years later their grief was the same as if it had just happened. The man was about 5'7", real thin, and it looked as if he was not doing too well. The lady was very small. They looked just like my parents whom I had just lost in the last year. Then it hit me. I was an only child. By the grace of God my Mom and Dad were spared that. When my parents were old and ill I took care of them. Who will take care of this mans parents? I was compelled to go talk to them. I told them I did not know their son and said I was sorry for their loss. They both held my hand (by then I had big tears running down my face). They talked to me and I told them about Mom and Dad. It was like I was talking to my parents. It helped me a lot. And I think in some way I helped them a little. That was the first time I have seen a parents grieve over one of our brothers.

Army Times Article - Ap Tau O

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