By Sp/4 William Hutchison
Chu Lai (23rd Inf. Div IO) - An element of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion,
198th Light Infantry Brigade, while on a patrol in the mountains west of Chu Lai, encountered
a large enemy ambush of ten to 12 NVA soldiers using a B-40 rocket and AK-47 rifles. The
"Dealers of Death were able to deal the enemy a loaded deck when they drove off the enemy
without sustaining any injuries.
Specialist Four Kenneth Holley (Logansport, Ind.) was leading the 12
man-patrol up a ridge
line when he and the cover man, Private First Class Gerald B. Goodman ( Douglas, Ga.),
entered a small clearing and spotted some well concealed hootches. They signaled back for
the M-60 machinegun to be brought up to recon the area by fire.
As the signal was being silently passed back, Holley spotted a NVA soldier
who was preparing
to fire a B-40 rocket at the patrol. As he dove to the ground, Holley pressed off a quick burst
of automatic fire knocking the NVA soldier off balance and causing the rocket to go off course.
The rocket passed two feet over the pointman's head and exploded harmlessly in the trees.
With the explosion of the rocket the patrol found themselves engulfed
in fire from numerous enemy
positions to their front, left and right. Every man hit the ground and began to return a heavy volume
Within three minutes of the initial contact, the FO (forward observer),
First Lieutenant Ron Noce
(Brooklyn, N.Y.), had artillery zeroed in on the area. The artillery, fired by Charlie, Battery,
1st Battalion, 14th Artillery, was worked in toward the patrol's position, the enemy fire ceased
and the artillery stopped.
Captain Ward Odom (Martinsburg, W. Va.), Alpha Company commander, sent
parts of his
element to the left and to the right to sweep the area. One group stayed put to "keep the back
door open, in case the NVA soldiers decided to try and close it," remarked Odom.
The element to the right was led by Noce who stated: "When we
first got hit, I hit the ground so
hard I must have lost my mind for I went charging up that stupid hill. I took fire 15 feet from the
first hootch and I hit the ground. The M-60 gunner was covering me all the way up, putting out
beaucoup rounds and I guess that's what saved me. Someone threw a hand grenade and the
The men swept the hootch before they entered. The enemy had pulled
out and left nothing.
"They took everything; they were just sitting there waiting for us;" remarked Holley.
The patrol had uncovered an enemy basecamp capable of easily servicing
40 or 50 men. Each
hootch had bunkers built into the floor. The concealed camp was impossible to see from the air
and almost as hard to find from the ground. Its only give-away was a complex series of well-used
trails leading in and out of the base, which Alpha Company had been searching for the past few days.
"What can you say about an ambush? We walked into one. They
were set up waiting on us. Sure
they outnumbered us, but we turned around an walked out. Why? Because the men were doing
what they were supposed to do, when we were coming in, when we got hit, and when we were
leaving. They did it silently, quickly, and efficiently," stated Odom, who had nothing but praise for
his "Dealers of Death." [End of Newspaper article]
Award ceremony at Chu Lai, 1971. CPT Ward Odom (2nd from left) received an Air Medal for
his prior participation in air operations, while the unidentified medic to his left received an Army
Commendation Medal with "V" device. Standing at attention on the right is SP4 Kenneth Holley,
who received an Army Commendation Medal with "V" device for valor. As the pointman
mentioned in the story, his alert and aggressive actions saved the soldiers who were caught in a
"U" shaped ambush.
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