Our colleague, MG Tom Needham, was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade at Dak To, RVN, in November, 1967. I first sent this NY Times article to him for his comments and thought you might find both those comments and the article of interest. For those who have been in combat or been on law enforcement raids, this is one’s worst fear. I cannot imagine how badly the USAF pilot has felt on knowing his role in this all too common friendly-fire tragedy.
Thank you Tom for sharing your thoughts and insights.
UNFORTUNATELY, IT IS ALL TRUE. IT CAUSED 40 KIA. DURING THE ENTIRE BATTLE OF DAK TO THE BDE HAD 225 KIA AND ALMOST 800 MEDEVACED WIA. FATHER WATERS THE BN CHAPLAIN, GOT THE MOH FOR GIVING THE LAST RIGHTS OF THE Catholic Church BEFORE THE SECOND BOMB KILLED HIM.
BEFORE HE WAS KILLED HE WAS ASKED HOW HE KNEW WHO WAS CATHOLIC AND HE SAID : “IT DOES NOT MATTER AS THEY ARE ALL GOD’S CHILDREN”.
I WAS ABOUT TWO KLICKS AWAY. THE BN CDR WAS TRYING TO ADJUST THE AIRSTRIKE AND THE PILOT HIT THE WRONG TARGET. THE BN CDR WAS A USMA GRAD AND NOT RELIEVED. BY THE TIME THE CG GOT ON THE SCENE, HE ASKED TO SPEAK TO THE SENIOR PERSON PRESENT. AN E-6 OF 2-503 GOT ON THE RADIO, THE GENERAL CALMED HIM DOWN, AN TOLD HIM TO GET EVERYONE TOGETHER AND THEN STARTED TO FIRE ARTILLERY. HE TOLD THE SGT THAT HE WAS SENDING THE REST OF THE BDE, THREE UNDERSTRENGTH BNS, TO GET THE REMAINING SOLDIERS TOGETHER AND BE SURE TO TELL THE TROOPS WE WERE COMING IN THE NEXT MORNING WHICH WAS THANKSGIVING DAY. I CANNOT DESCRIBE THE SCENE. MG PEERS, CG 4TH ID WHO WE WERE OPCON TO, MOVED ONE OF HIS BDES TO BACK US IT UP. TEARS ARE RUNNING FROM MY EYES AS I TYPE THIS. THE CG WAS AWESOME, LANDED AT DAWN AND TOOK COMMAND ON THE GROUND. AS YOU KNOW, THAT DID NOT HAPPEN VERY OFTEN.
I CANNOT BELIEVE NOR FORGIVE OUR ARMY FOR WITHHOLDING THIS INFORMATION/STORY FOR ALMOST 50 YEARS.
The Air Strike at the Battle of Dak To