Brief History of FB Veghel
by Steve Patterson/Roy Aguero/Hank Ortega
FB Veghel was a bit unique, it actually had strategic importance. The NVA built two roads through the Ashau Valley, 547 and 547a. These two roads were built in preparation for and for use in the 1968 Tet offensive. Specifically, these two roads were used to move men and materials in the attack against Hue. They were built prior to the1st Brigade of the 101st deployment to that AO.
Prior to the arrival of the 101st, the Marines had total responsibility for that portion of I Corp. The hill that would eventually be called Veghel stood at the intersection of 547 and 547a. Thus its strategic importance.
The attack to take the hill was initiated on April 16th 1968. The 1/327th was the attacking element. Atop the hill was a battalion of NVA. It took three days of almost constant fighting to seize control. Veghel was of two peaks with a saddle. On April 19th at about 5:00 pm a platoon from C Company captured one peak led by my friend Lt. Fred Raymond and I was the Platoon leader of the point Platoon for A Company that captured the other peak. Both peaks were taken within 30 minutes of one another.
The 1/327th suffered 60% casualties in that fight.
Above The Rest
My name is Roy Aguero and this is my 10 cents worth.
I was a plain Jane garden variety PFC, doing what my squad leader directed and following the man in front of me. If my memories differ from anyone else’s, remember that a few yards away make a world of difference and 32 years don’t help. My apologies to anyone I may offend.
I was with C 1/327 all of ’68. I remember in March or April, we got re-supplied somewhere around B’ham, and the Co received a large number of non airborne folks for the first time as we all recalled. Some of the guys figured that something large was in the air. Anyway, the following day we made a CA into the big grassy open area that is under the hill that would become Veghel. I remember that as we un-assed our birds that there was firing in many areas. As my bird came in, I saw a Huey on its side and one of the crew members (had his flight helmet on) walking around as if drunk. I thought to myself, “Oh shitzky~”. If memory serves me right, I believe I saw a second Huey, actually my hazy memory tells me it was a ‘Hook coming in with smoke coming out of its ass end. We got off that LZ and went somewhere, memory is hazy, but I remember a lot of MG firing and explosions that night.
The next day we started going up the hill with a lot of difficulty due to the big trees laying at all angles making travel slow. I recall as I sat (hurrying up and waiting) under a tree that a Huey showed up and hovered over where I sat. I looked up and saw several people in spanking brand new fatigues looking down at me, reinforcements I guessed. The door gunner/crew chief kicked out cases of ammo or grenades while the bird hovered right before the kick out. I remember moving from where I sat for no particular reason really, and bigger than doo-doo, one of those boxes landed where I had been sitting (I’m not making it up!). Right at dusk we reached the top of the hill and the bosses set us up in a half-ass perimeter. I can imagine that no one knew exactly where everyone else was. I recall that the person with me on the 2 man position and I didn’t sleep a wink at all. Every noise was someone sneaking up on us. Again, a lot of firing and explosions at intervals throughout the night.
The next morning one of the guys came by and said, “Man, I just saw the CO sitting on a rock crying cause we lost so many men.” I don’t know if he really saw it and I don’t recall who the CO was, but I can understand it and I can sympathize with our commander.
A little later, I was detailed with some other men to the CP to help take the bodies of our comrades down the hill to a LZ of sorts. Our friends were covered by ponchos but I remember seeing their faces and their wounds. I don’t know who they were or I don’t remember.
In his excellent stories Doc (Tiger Force) Ortega recalls that on the way down the detail got ambushed and we received more casualties, I cannot remember it. I guess I’m glad I cannot remember anything of the days immediately after Veghel was taken. My company was on Veghel several times after that until I left in Dec of ’68 and I saw how it changed.
In ’70 I was with A Co 1/327 for a short time and was on Veghel. I could not believe the incredible change in the year and a half and I was even more surprised that there were convoys moving on the road between the Firebases and Camp Eagle.
I am glad to see so many guys who were at the taking of Veghel getting back in touch. It is interesting to see things from another point of view, especially the flight crews.
I was with C Company 1/327 as a semi-cherry medic. After we made contact on Veghel, a company of ARVN’s passed through us. At the time, I was working furiously on wounded and dead and getting ready for the first Medivac. One of our men got shot right through the top lip, coming out the back of his neck. He was madder than hell. and kept spitting blood and teeth. The gook who shot him used a captured M-16. The trooper lived, the gook died.
That night after we took the hill. I wrapped our dead in ponchos and stacked them like cordwood between two small trees. The blood dripped from poncho to poncho. It rained and washed the blood into a small rivulet that ran past my hooch. I sat, sipping my cocoa, looking at them, their boots sticking out into the rain. Their hair, wet and mussed, different colors…blond, brown, black, short, long, kinky. All different, all brothers in death.
The next day we were to lift out the wounded who were still with us at dark the night before. Something like 15-20 guys. Some were on litters made from ponchos and saplings, others were limping along by themselves, still others were aided by troops detailed to help them. A squad went in advance, a squad behind, and a few riflemen interspersed in the group of wounded. Partway down the hill there was a huge tree laying on it’s side, the trunk was at least 10 feet thick. When the team was spread out along the length of the tree, the enemy opened up. They had waited until the wounded and their helpers were the only ones in the kill zone. The E7, Sergeant Dion, and the senior aid man, Gary Laduha both died n the opening seconds. Dion led that particular section. Gary in the middle, another squad leader in the rear. Some of the wounded were re-wounded, some were killed. No one in the kill zone escaped without some injury. I had gone past this kill zone in advance of the group, about 5 minutes ahead. I had turned back to check on the lead element, when the firing broke out. By the time we finished the fighting, and could begin to render aid. the damage had been done.
I became the senior aid man that day. I transferred to Tiger Force shortly thereafter.
Dear Hank and Roy,
I’m sorry you had to see those dear men that way, their faces never leave you. The commander sitting on the rock was one of two officers. I believe Capt Westbrook was commanding C Company during the taking of Vogel. He was a fine officer and man. I heard years later that he had become a minister. It also could have been Ltd. Fred Raymond. Fred was an exceptional field officer.
Fred and myself joined the Bn. at the same time in January. Fred become Tiger Force commander later that year, I believe in August. He extended his tour, made captain and commanded A company during the early part of 1969. I saw Fred at a reunion eleven years ago and was a Lt. Col. in the reserves.
I reported back for duty two days prior to the CA on Veghel, three weeks earlier I had been the recipient of GSW in the neck. I was fortunate, the round just missed the big artery. When I reported back the Bn. S-1 offered me the command of Tiger Force. I declined, I wanted to go back to A Company.
As a Platoon Leader during those three days it is difficult to convey the terrible stress one is subjected to. I reported back to duty not fully recovered and because I was the most experienced Pit. Leader in the company my platoon had point all three days. I didn’t eat or sleep the entire time.
At any rate. the morning after both crests of Veghel had been taken, one by C Company the other by A Company, my CO directed me to link up with C Company. It was at that instant we heard AK fire. Those were the final casualties C Company suffered. They were also Fred Raymond’s men. We linked up with C Company 15 minutes later and that is when I saw Fred. He was sitting up with his head between his knees completely spent. I’ve often thought about that image of Fred.
A Company might have taken more casualties but not nearly as serious. Ours were, to a large degree, mortar wounds. We are at the very least, remembering them.
ABOVE THE REST
This is Roy Aguero,
I don’t mean to hog the net but I was thinking about something that has been in my mind for many years.
I remember that somewhere in (I think) the vicinity of Veghel but before the Veghel action, maybe close to or maybe far off, not sure which, our Company, C 1/327 was moving through the jungle in the regular column of ducks when we passed across a road (maybe a part or a branch of 547?), long since overgrown with heavy jungle, and we came across a convoy of vehicles, at least 3 maybe many more that by all indications had been ambushed and time stopped in its tracks. The vehicles were riddled with bullet holes, doors were open. and there was some large caliber ammunition laying around. By the growth of the jungle, the action had happened a long time ago. These were not the vehicles and artillery pieces that our battalion found buried later on, these were destroyed vehicles.
It was really eerie. It gave one the Twilight Zone impression that the convoy had stopped for a break and everyone had just walked away. The vehicles did not appear to be American manufactured but they appeared to be of ‘SO’s vintage. Just wondered if anyone else’s company had passed by the area. Always wondered who had ambushed who. Just one of those unanswered questions that hound us over the years.