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Posted on Jul 18, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Memories of Vietnam

By Stephane Moutin-Luyat

On the morning of the 14th of November, 1/7 air-assaulted LZ X-Ray. Co. B went in first, followed by Co. C and then CPT Tony Nadal’s Co.A. Can you tell us your own recollection of the landing? the LZ was already quite hot when your company arrived, then LTC Moore sent it to defend the famous "creekbed". It was the first battle of the battalion in Vietnam and your own first experience of major combat, what can you tell us about that first day? I guess its something you can never forget. Also, could you tell us a bit more about Tony Nadal? he had a previous tour in the Special Forces behind him if I remember correctly.

The B 1/7 was first company into LZ XRay. A 1/7 came next followed by C 1/7, and D 1/7 in that order. B 2/7 came in later on the first day.


I have always believed I landed on XRay in the second lift. At the recent reunion we discussed the number of lifts that it would have taken to get all of B 1/7 and A 1/7 into XRay and the number of lifts was three. Then I went back to the "book" and did a little figuring of my own and I am now convinced that I came in on the third lift which was composed of the rest of A 1/7.

In any case, the LZ was quiet when we arrived. I was sub-attached to the 3rd platoon with Lt Taft and Platoon Sergeant Nathan. We moved into a small clump of woods near the termite mound that would become the Battalion Command Post. I opened a can of C ration beans and started to eat. To me, it was the same old dry hole we had been encountering for the past ten days. I was not aware of the prisoner that B Company took after the initial landing. All of the sudden firing started to the East. Almost immediately Lt Taft received an order from Cpt Nadal to move to the left flank.

When infantrymen are ordered to move fast the usually go into a sort of double time that balances speed with endurance. This time we did not shuffle, we ran, as hard as we could. I don’t know if it was dumb luck or tactical brilliance, but Lt Taft brought us to the exact spot on the battlefield where we were needed most.

At XRay there were only two physical features that could be described as "key terrain"; the LZ itself and the creaked. The creaked was really a "rut" carved into the floor of the valley. As it passed just East of XRay it was about six feet wide and three feet deep. It reminded me of a World War I "trench" but not quite as deep. It was an inherently strong position. Whoever held the creek bed controlled XRay.

Descending from the Chu Pong massif the creaked ran West and then, where it just touched the edge of the opening we called XRay it turned sharply North. I call this abrupt turn the "dog leg". From the massif to the do leg the creaked offered the NVA a covered route to our left flank. Who ever controlled the dog leg controlled the creek bed.

Lt Taft led us to the dog leg. And we got there seconds before the NVA. It was running that made the difference. I am convinced that if the NVA had gotten there first they would have rolled up the creaked and wiped out the leading elements of the Battalion.

In every battle the are seemingly small actions that prove critical to the final outcome. At Gettysburg, during the Civil war, two very large Armies fought for several days. But historians generally agree that it was a relatively small fight at Little Round Top that determined the out come of the battle. There, the 20th Maine moved to the exact spot on the battlefield where it was needed most, an undefended flank. And it was there that they stopped a Confederate attack that would have ultimately turned the Union flank and changed the outcome of the battle and perhaps the war itself. Joshua Chamberlain commanded the 20th Maine that day and forever since he has been an American hero. For those of us who served at XRay Lt Robert Taft is our Joshua Chamberlain. But unlike Chamberlain he fell at the onset of the battle and he never received the acclaim he deserved.

The 3rd Platoon would defend the dog leg throughout the battle.

We landed well ahead of D 1/7 and the mortars, the guns that I was supposed to call fire for were not available. So I switched to the Artillery net and attempted to call a mission to our front. But I was run off. In the book they describe how the B Company artillery FO dominated the net and I can agree to that.

During the first assault to relieve the "lost platoon" Sgt Jack Gell, Cpt Nadal’s communications chief and one of his RTOs was killed and his radio was put out of commission. A company commander has two RTOs. One carries the radio used to communicate with the platoons and the other is used to communicate with battalion. So Cpt Nadal need both a radio and an RTO. He took Ray Tanner.

A Forward Observer fights with a radio, a map, a compass and a pair of binoculars. He can loose his map, his compass. and his binoculars and still call fire. But if he loses his radio he is just another rifleman. In the book Hal Moore says I was out of mortar ammunition when I started evacuating wounded to the aid station. In reality I was out of mortars and out of radio. When the wounded from our first contact were evacuated I returned to the 3rd Platoon and stayed with them until we departed XRay.

Tony Nadal. My first real contact with Cpt Nadal came in the bogs along the creek that ran below Kelly Hill. We were running ambush drills. Cpt Nadal was an assistant Battalion S3 (Operations Officer) at the time and the ambush training was his responsibility. I was leading a group of mortar platoon soldiers and we had just finished a series of drills and started a break. Cpt Nadal thought we should have been working harder and let me know in no uncertain way.

When we arrived in Viet Nam I started working with A Company and Cpt Nadal and whatever my first reaction, I came to respect and admire him completely. He is an articulate man and he can speak in length on most topics. But his command style was short and sweet. Simple sentences no one could misunderstand. He was brave and cool under fire. And most importantly, he knew what he was doing. In my years in the Army I had my share of company commanders. And I can truthfully say he was the best man I ever served under at that level. Period.

I see Tony at reunions almost every year. We are friends now. But when we are all together he is our Captain and that is the way we want it.

CPT Tony Nadal, CO A-1/7 Cav, pictured here during the Bong Son operations, 1966
(Photo courtesy of Ronnie Guyer)

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  1. Armchair General staff cannot respond here. Please read
    disclaimer just above this text box before posting.
    i was with the 1/7 hhc still don’t know where i was . my job was
    bring amo on an army mule , i wes every where i was there
    68/69 i was discharg on dec 2 /1969 i had return to states in nov
    69 i brought many wonded & dead back i hated my job gil

  2. I’m searching for more info on my dad, Gaston P. Ruiz. He was a LRP in E
    company, 20th infantry. In country between 65/66-69.

  3. looking for info on my uncle pfc charles e frederick, 1/7 . k.i.a. 1/31/66 during operation masher. he recieved a bronze star posthumosly and was originaly listed as m. i. a.