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

Memories of Vietnam

By Stephane Moutin-Luyat

Did you realize at the individual level the precarious situation that 1/7 in was during Xray? and the fact that the LZ was attacked by at least 3 NVA battalions and that you were fighting in overwhelming numerical inferiority? Also, talking about the book by Moore and Galloway (We Were Soldiers Once…And Young), what do you think about the motion picture based on it made a few years ago? do you think it did a good job at portraying the battle?

I think we all knew we were in for the fight of our lives. But no one told me what we were up against. It was simply a matter of getting through the next minute, the next hour, the next day. I know that when I came out I felt good about my performance as a soldier. I think we all did.

The movie was an accurate depiction of the fight at XRay with the exception of the closing "attack". It did not end for us that way. The enemy simply stopped coming. They quit the battlefield and when that happened we knew we had won. It was exhilarating in an exhausted sort of way. But I don’t know how you can convey that in a movie. I’m not sure I can really explain it to anyone myself.

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I am somewhat surprised that Joe Marm’s Medal Of Honor exploits were not documented in the film.

Moore-Galloway01.jpg
LTC Moore (left) and CSM Basil Plumley at the 1/7 Cav CP on LZ Xray
(photo courtesy of Joe Galloway)

Do you recall what happened right after the battle at Xray ended? did you guys go back directly to An Khe? did you hear at the time about the ambush at LZ Albany on November 17th in which 2/7 Cav was badly mauled?

All of 1/7 Cav and B 2/7 Cav were extracted from XRay on the third day. We initially flew to LZ Falcon where our artillery and trains (organic support troops) were located in UH-1s. From Falcon we flew in CH-47s to Camp Holloway.

Camp Holloway was one of the first US military installations set up in Viet Nam. It was just outside Pleiku, a provincial capital. It primarily housed a 1st Aviation Brigade helicopter company. It had all of the conveniences including NCO and officer clubs. We simply bivouacked inside the wire. Our battalion cooks had a hot meal waiting for us. For most it was the first food we had eaten since the start of the fight three days earlier. Some of us got drunk.

The afternoon of our second day at Holloway we got word about the fighting at Albany but nothing definitive. Just that it was bad. Shortly after, B 1/7 was called out and air lifted back into the valley. I recall watching them and being so glad it was not us.

After our short R&R we were ordered to the Catecka Tea Plantation. Our job was to secure the 3rd Brigade command post which was located there.

We went to Viet Nam with many short time soldiers. A good number of these had enlists that expired in November and December. In addition to the losses at XRay soldiers were being called out every day to return to the base camp at An Khe. The mission at Catecka was really appropriate for a company and that was what the remnants of our battalion added up to. Three platoon sized companies.

We returned to An Khe by truck. Not many trucks. Certainly not the number you would associate with a battalion move. At the gate to the camp we were met by the Division Band. I recall seeing one of the bystanders looking up the road as if he expected more trucks. There were none. We passed by the Band in a couple of minutes and soon found ourselves at our tents. Mission completed.

XRay-Galloway02.jpg
LZ Xray at the end of the battle
(photo courtesy of Joe Galloway)

Was LTC Moore promoted to Brigade command at that time? What can you tell us about LCT Raymond Kampe who took over 1/7? Also, I guess the battalion received quite a lot of replacements after the Pleiku Campaign, did their integration go smoothly? how did you veterans welcome them?

Hal Moore was on the full Colonel promotion list and he told us, before we departed for the Pleiku campaign, that this would be his last operation with us as battalion commander. When we returned he was promoted and given a temporary job – to write a detailed after action report of the battles at LZ XRay and, I think, Albany to. Colonel Brown, the 3rd Brigade commander had been in his job for some time and coincidentally his departure coincided with Hal Moore’s promotion. Junior colonels do not usually command brigades. So, while his promotion to full colonel was decided by a promotion board some time before XRay I am inclined to think his performance there earned him an immediate brigade command.

Lieutenant Colonel Raymond Kampe had big shoes to fill and his feet were to small.

We began receiving replacements upon our return to An Khe. And we also started a series of operations in the Happy Valley and Highway 19 corridor to toughen them up and integrate them into our battalion and acquaint them with air mobile techniques.

At one point A 1/7 was relieving A 2/7 at a strong point on Highway 19. Buzzo Alvarez , a friend from my days in Bamberg, Germany was assigned to A 1/7. I had only seen him once since then, on the Rose. I asked about him and was told he was killed a XRay. Most likely a few yards from where I was. I think about him all the time.

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3 Comments

  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.
    Thanks!

  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.

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