Combat/Reconnaissance Patrol of the Recon 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav during
Operation Nathan Hale June 23, 1966
On July 19, 1966 the 2d Bn (ABN) 327th Inf, 101st Airborne Division
conducted air assaults northwest of Tuy Hoa in the vicinity of Trung
Luong Valley and encountered heavy resistance and casualties from
battles with the 66th, 95th and 18th Regiments of the North Vietnamese
Army 302d Division. B and C Companies of the 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav, 1st
Cav Division were inserted to reinforce the 2/327 Inf on June 20. B Co
1/8th Cav linked up with B Co 2/327 Inf in the morning on June 21 in
the vicinity of LZ Eagle. The two airborne battalions experienced
continuous attacks, including hand-to-hand combat, and inflicted heavy
losses on the two NVA attacking battalions. One wounded NVA company
commander was captured from the area in front of the rifle companies
and reported his unit had been annihilated and the other NVA units had
begun to withdraw on the evening of June 22d.
On June 22, Recon 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav (Chinese Bandits) were
extracted from reconnaissance operations being performed in Kontum
Province and airlifted to Tuy Hoa airport and placed under the
operational control of the 1st Bn 9th Cav, 1st Cav Division. At 0530,
23 June, the Chinese Bandits Recon Platoon and one Recon Platoon of
the 1/9th Cav were inserted into separate landing zones southwest of
LZ Eagle to regain contact with the one of the withdrawing NVA forces.
The sun was shining and the weather dry and combat engagement was
anticipated so the ranger patrol caps were stowed and helmets donned
as the Bandits approached and then exited the helicopters on the tree
lined hilltop LZ. Both landing zones were located adjacent to wide, ox
cart size, trails that led to the higher hilltops where several
hundred of the NVA 66th Regiment were believed to be occupying. The
Bandit LZ was located along the ridgeline approaching the expected
enemy position and the 1/9th Recon LZ was located further downhill in
a draw on the Bandit's left flank.
The Bandits moved along the ridgeline trail and at mid-morning, point
man PFC Raymond Carley observed a NVA size squad moving towards them
and away from the 1/9th Recon Platoon that was proceeding along the
lower trail towards the intersection of both trails. Carley and three
others moved into a position ahead in the vicinity of coordinates CQ
958626 where they were able to kill three of the fleeing NVA before
the remaining NVA, wearing khaki uniforms and some tan helmets,
retreated further uphill.
The Bandits continued up hill along the trail with Carley now opting
to carry the new AK47 that he had removed from one of the NVA and
having given his own M16 and ammunition to the medic assigned to
Recon. Anticipating a main NVA force to be occupying the intersection
of the trails being used by the Bandits and the 1/9th Recon Platoon,
the 25 man Chinese Bandit force advanced slowly along both sides of
the trail while listening to the voices and sounds of the NVA
preparing positions along the ridgeline ahead. Carley continued uphill
ahead of the other Bandits until he located the first enemy positions
and machinegun along the left side of the trail where the Bandits
began to move into combat positions amongst the small and sparsely
treed locations below the NVA. A second machinegun position was
located on the right side of the trail and moments later a third NVA
machinegun opened fire and the Bandits exchanged small arms fire
(rifle, machinegun, and grenades) for several minutes as they
attempted to advance and attack the NVA force.
Operating without orders, SP/4 Frank Spickler, team leader of the 3d
Scout Squad, immediately ran forward to assist Carley and those
engaging the most concentrated NVA force located in the vicinity of
coordinates CQ 962618 where he observed Carley laying along the trail
about 30 feet in front of the nearest NVA position. Carley had been
shot several times and although alive, he was unable to crawl clear of
the withering fire. Spickler moved closer and avoided detection by the
NVA until he attempted to cross the trail and pull Carley to safety.
Heavy enemy fire prevented Spickler from advancing and he withdrew a
short distance to obtain the assistance of other Bandits located near
him. Spickler positioned one of the scouts in a location where the
scout could provide suppressing fire during his effort to move Carley.
Leaving his rifle with the other Bandits, Spickler again moved into
position near Carley, he dashed towards him, dropping to a low craw
when the NVA fired on him and then rolling near Carley, he was able to
hoist Carley on his back and quickly dragged him towards the side of
the trail. During this attempt, Spickler felt the impact of bullets
entering Carley. Once clear of the most intense fire, Spickler carried
Carley to the medic who was already treating several, but less wounded
During his second attempt to retrieve Carley, Spickler had located SGT
James Lester lying less than ten feet from where Carley had been
laying. Again acting without orders, Spickler returned to the area in
front of the enemy's position where he low crawled under fire and
dragged the much heavier Lester clear of direct enemy fire.
The Recon Platoon of the 1/9th Cav had quickly advanced along the wide
trail located in the draw and came alongside the left flank of the
Chinese Bandits, where both Recon Platoons unsuccessfully attempted a
coordinated attack in an effort to over run the NVA positions located
near the intersection of both trails.
MSG Johnson, acting platoon leader of the Chinese Bandits, directed
Spickler to move forward to a position between the lead scouts and the
NVA and mark the position with smoke grenades. All available indirect
fire mortars and artillery were positioned to support the other
elements of the 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav and the 2d Bn (ABN) 327th Inf and
only ARA equipped gunships were able to provide supporting fires.
Spickler remained in position, marking the enemy lines while the
gunships continually attacked the NVA located in front of the two
Recon Platoons and on the higher hilltops for about thirty minutes.
One gunship pass was made 'danger close' resulting in a 2.75-inch FF
aerial rocket exploding and injury several Bandits, including SSG
Robert Grimes, the 1st Scout Squad Leader and acting Platoon Sergeant.
The NVA withdrew further uphill allowing the two Recon Platoons to
carry their killed and wounded scouts along the side of the lower
trail that had been used by the Recon Platoon of the 1/9th Cav.
However, as darkness fell, another large NVA force resumed the attack
and pursued the wounded men of both Recon Platoons as they made their
way towards the LZ designated for extraction. Small firefights
occurred throughout the night resulting in further Bandits being
wounded. Approaching the LZ that was secured by other troops from the
3d Brigade, 1st Cav Division, in the early morning light, medivac
helicopters arrived and both Recon Platoons were airlifted to a field
medical station that had been located along Highway One. The bodies of
Chinese Bandits PFC Raymond Carley and Sergeants James Lester and
Honorio Ramirez and the other many wounded Bandits were left with the
medics, doctors and nurses. The remaining Chinese Bandits rejoined the
1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav and commenced patrolling in the area SW of LZ
Eagle on June 26, 1966.
This description of the actions taken by Carley and Spickler is only
one of the many efforts made by the scouts of both Recon Platoons and
warrant being written in recognition of those that fought that day on
June 23, 1966. Efforts are underway to post the other detailed
descriptions of those engagements on the Chinese Bandit LRRP Team
Recon 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav homepage.
Raymond Carley [ http://thewall-usa.com/guest.asp?recid=7869 ], our
youngest Chinese Bandit, is buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery
in San Diego County, California; Frank Spickler was awarded the Bronze
Star with V Device (something that remains a source of irritation
after forty years...it was initially discussed that he was to be given
the Distinguished Service Cross); and Recon 1st Bn (ABN) 8th Cav was
awarded its SECOND Presidential Unit Citation for valor. 101st Recondo
Spickler was later shot in the lung while serving as the Platoon
Sergeant of the 3d Platoon, C Company, 2d Bn (ABN) 501st Infantry,
101st Airborne Division and unable to remain on jump status and left
the military in 1970.
The 1965-66 Chinese Bandits were to remain a fighting airborne Recon
Platoon with its LRRP Team performing extended long range
reconnaissance operations along the borders of Laos and Cambodia until
November 1966 when they were disbanded having lost most of its
original NCOs and scouts.
Extracted from written statement made by Duke Barrett and interviews
with Frank Spickler and others serving with the Recon 1st Bn (ABN) 8th
Cav on June 23, 1966; and the official after action reports of the 1st
Bn (ABN) 8th Cav, and 2d Bn (ABN) 327th Infantry.
Historical footnote: Nathan Hale (June 6, 1755 - September 22, 1776)
was a captain in the Continental Army during the American
Revolutionary War. Hale is best remembered for his "I only regret
that I have but one life to lose for my country" speech before being
hung following the Battle of Long Island. An account of his capture
was written by Consider Tiffany, a British Loyalist, and obtained by
the Library of Congress. In Tiffany's account, Major Robert Rogers of
the Queens Rangers ("Rogers Rangers") was the individual responsible
for his capture and personally apprehended him. More information can
be obtained reference Nathan Hale's capture in the Library of Congress
Information Bulletin-July-August 2003 on line at http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/0307-8/hale.html