Ha Thanh under attack, August 1968 

There seems to be a bit of controversy as to what hit the Teamhouse on 30th of August 1968, 
a 75mm round from a RR versus a 122mm mortar round 

but thanks to Sgt Melvin Thornton we can give a true account of what happen that day, 
see bottom of the page


30 AUG 68 At 0730 Capt Jones, CWO Vick, and Sgt Beck from the Headquarters and Maintenance Squadron 17 Command  responded to an urgent request from Special Forces to render safe and recover a 122mm rocket which had impacted within the Special Forces Camp at Ha Thanh, located 25km west of Quang Ngai in Southern I Corps. Capt Jones, CWO Vick, and Sgt Beck arrived at the Special Forces Camp via chopper at 1035. They walked uphill to S-3 Operations, entered operations shack, and were receiving verbal instructions on the location of the dud round, when at 1040 an incoming 122mm made a direct hit on the shack resulting in six KIA, five US, one Vietnamese and five WIA from this single round


·        
H&MS-17, MWSG-17:
o        Capt James W. Jones, Hawthorne , CA
o        CWO3 William L. Vick, Paducah , KY
o        Sgt John R. Beck, Goshen , NY

·         DET A-104 (HA THANH):
o        MSG Tadeusz Sosniak, Burlington, ON, B Co, 5th SF Group
o       PFC Richard E. Traster, McMinnville, OR, C Co, 5th SF Group 

·               Civilian Interpret

"Above information thanks to the Virtual Wall"

Subject: SF Losses in SEA for the week of 24 - 30 August
Sorted by Month, then by Day, then by Year
There were no losses reported on 29 August.
Note that there was one additional death as a result of the 23 Aug attack on FOB4.  1LT John E. Miller died of wounds on the 24th bringing the total from attack to 17.

The complete listing is at:
http://www.sfahq.com/reg

1968 08 24 O-2 1LT John E. Miller 9305 KIA, DOW SVN; CCN, FOB4, Quang Ngai Prov., Attack on FOB4 (wounded the night before and DOW)

1968 08 30 E-8 MSG Tadeusz Sosniak 11F5S KIA SVN; A-104, Ha Thanh, Quang Ngai Prov., 75mm RR from Hill 223 hit the Teamhouse

1968 08 30 E-3 PFC Richard E. Traster 05B2S KIA SVN; A-104, Ha Thanh, Quang Ngai Prov., 75mm RR from Hill 223 hit the Teamhouse.

SF losses in SEA for the week of 31 August - 06 September

1968 09 2 O-2 1LT James D. Peoples 31542 KIA SVN; A-102, Tien Phuoc, at A-104, Ha Thanh, Quang Ngai Prov.

From: Reg Manning

 
According to official records, they appear to be two version on what hit the Teamhouse that day!

Fortunately , we have four team members who I believe were present during that attack:

XO -1st Lt Robert P Gilmartin 

Demo Sp4 Robert J Stepanian - 

Medic SGT Stafford J Landry Jr

Commo SGT Ivan D Davis

Medic SGT Melvin Thornton

No doubt the camp was being hit by 122mm that day, but would they be able to confirm 
what type of round did hit the Teamhouse that morning. 
(I will upload new information as soon as received)

Now, what follows are some e-mails already received regarding this event.


Photo taken the 30th of August 68

The last photo is showing smoke from an air strike on the presumed firing place of the round that hit the team house. At that time it was thought that a 122 rocket was fired at the team house.
All the photos were taken from the machinegun bunker just inside the gate as you enter the camp.

Lt Honold and a couple of other Sgts were assigned to us for the operation at Ha Thanh. 
The Mike Force was always under strength and we had to borrow men from the C Team from time to time. Our objective was to recon the area south of hill 113. The camp thought they were receiving 122 rounds from that location. That's where we first made contact with the NVA. 

15th Co  Mike Force stayed to the end of the trouble. It wound-up being just Lt Steve Ford and myself with the Company.  We did a few patrols and several ambushes. On one of the ambushes, the camp supplied me with a starlite scope and several LAWs. I'm sure glad the tanks never showed up. I remember the trouble that Lang Vei had with the LAWs and I wasn't warm and cozy about using them against Tanks.

I do remember that a Company of Cambodians from the Na Trang Mike Force showed up for the party and I took one of their platoons out to set up an ambush one night.


 Info and photos thanks Sgt Jack Deleshaw, 
1st Plt Ldr, the 15th Co Mike Force ( Feb 68 - Jan 69)

001REC copy.jpg 002REC copy.jpg 004REC copy.jpg
005REC copy.jpg 007REC copy.jpg 006REC copy.jpg

 

I was in camp 25 days after the attack on the teamhouse.  Phil Lugo was CO, and I was briefed by Dean Kirkpatrick the outgoing XO/CO.   The teamhouse was not used much in September since we were mortared every day at lunch, (they liked to practice - and we had flak jacket time).
The team house had shrapnel damage and again, I was told and could see where the concrete was blown away on the third window sill where the round impacted.  There were no holes in the ceiling, or the floor,  so I can assure you folks that the damage was done with a direct fire weapon.  When I asked about who was killed in the teamhouse I never heard about the marines. 
If I were in charge and had a 122 round in a hot camp, I would have blown the sob in place,  we were not in prime real estate.  Could the marines have been involved in some district headquarters activity on that same date????
1st Lt Robert P Gilmartin,  Ha Thanh, 9/68 - 04/69 

I think we have the on site observation of fuza104 and it pretty clearly IDs a direct fire weapon.
Fuza104 did you receive any information on WIAs? US or Indigenous? If they were US then over half the team was either killed or wounded.
As to the dud round, it would probably depend on where it was. If next to an ammo bunker or something similar I just might defer to EOD.
I cut and pasted the entry from the Marine record as shown in the prior emails. It seemed to be very specific as to activity and timeline. Given a Capt. and a CWO were killed and they were not an infantry unit per se, I am inclined to think that they were careful and accurate in their written report (that is just my feeling and could be wrong).
 SSG Michael J Fairlie, Ha Thanh 9/69-9/70

The latest news are from one of A-104 radio operator SGT Ivan Davis

I was the radio operator during that time.  It was hectic and crazy for about a month as we were under constant attack and fear of about to get overrun.
Woke up one morning, the team gathered up outside and we were looking at the OP3 which was southwest of the camp.  The NVA had overrun it the night before and were setting up mortars to hit the camp.  I called C team to inform them of the situation.  I notified the Air Force to do whatever to the OP, as it was not in our hands.  Not very long, jets were pounding the stuffing out of the hill.  No sooner than the jets would leave, the NVA was back out hitting the camp with the mortars.  The little buggers had really dug in. 
We had Sean Flynn, a newspaper correspondent, staying with us for a while trying to get a story.  He got more than what he was looking for. Later on, it was reported that he was MIA in Cambodia or Laos.  
Never did hear the final outcome of his whereabouts.
At one time, I called in Naval bombardment from the battleship New Jersey which was sitting off shore of Quang Ngai.  They were hesitant to fire the coordinates given to them as it was on the west side of the camp and the Navy was afraid a round might hit the camp.  I instructed them to fire as we may not be here much longer.  Man, when one of those shells cross over, what an Erie sound.  The ground shook just like an Arc Light strike.
We were re-enforced by the Mike Force along with Lt. Peoples, who was from A-102,  While he was on patrol ,he took a direct hit by an RPG.  We recovered his body and had him transported to C team. 
During this time frame, we had an explosive team at camp.  There were 3-4 individuals on site discussing some major items concerning NVA ordinance.  I had just left the team house heading back for the commo bunker when the 122MM hit the team house.  I jumped in the mortar pit and we took a direct round.  After I woke up, I ran to the commo bunker to let C team know we were under serious assault.  It was then, Sgt. Dumas, medic, informed me of the casualties.  I notified C team on the status of the team.  Killed in that action was MSGT. Sosniak, Spec 4 Richard Traster, radio operator, and the 3-4 weapons team.  Spec 4 Traster was going to be my replacement when I was being transferred back to C team and eventually the Mike Force in Da Nang.
After the action slowed down, I received a call from the FAC flying overhead that he had a sorty flying around and wanted to know where we would like to have them drop their ordinance.  I informed him to hit the valley following the river between OP2 and OP3, which was on the west side of the camp.  We did not have any friendly people in the area.  A few of the team went outside to watch the planes fly over and drop the bombs.  It was a great sight to see.  Later, during the after action report, we discovered the NVA were bringing in tanks on that route.  Just by chance, we were able to knock them out.
I believe the assault on A-104 went on for close to 30 days.  We took a lot of casualties, killed or wounded.
Shortly after I redeployed to C team, another radio operator at A-104, who was on site a very short time, was killed while on a mission. 

Sgt Ivan Davis, Ha Thanh


The OP was overrun in August.
At that point it was used as a night location for operations vs being a permanently staffed OP. I believe that had a small contingency of Yards and one VNSF on the OP that night. There were either three or four KIA and the remainder of those that were there gradually trickled back to camp the next day.
Additional information from Bob Stepanian

Somewhere near the 24th of August it was decided that a Mobile Strike Force Company would be sent to help the Team at A-104.
We spent the next night on the perimeter in Camp, and while we were ducking incoming the OP on a hilltop northwest of the Camp radioed in that they were under ground attack. Even with TAC Air support they were overrun and chased off the hill. The next morning we mounted an operation to retake the OP. With the tactical situation as it was we could not let them hang onto that OP looking directly down on the Camp.
We started for the base of the hill the OP was located on with 2nd Platoon in the lead. I was always at, or near the front of the formation, so being point man of the point platoon moving to contact didn’t seem that strange to me. As I was sneaking along a trail in the dense cover right at the base of the hill I felt what seemed like a light nudge on the front of my right shoulder, and heard a shot from less than 15 yards away. I tried to aim my M-16 to return fire, but it wouldn’t work quite right. I looked down at my shoulder, and there was a hole through the strap of my indigenous ruck that was weeping a little bit of blood. I thought, hmmm you dumb shit, you just got shot. I dropped and rolled off the trail. A little firefight broke out, but after I saw that the platoon had deployed correctly I worked my way back to where the U.S. LT and SGT were located in what was laughingly termed the Company Headquarters. I dropped the ruck, and they took a look at the front and back of the wound (good thing I didn‘t get a look at the back), slapped on a couple of field dressings, and we called in a med-evac.
The Ha Thanh AO was hot, and at some point a Stars and Stripes Correspondent decided to come out to the Camp. That day he attached himself to us. I couldn’t get over how little impact I felt, and it still didn’t hurt very badly if I didn’t move it, so when the Stars and Stripes guy was hovering like a mother hen, and kept wanting to give me morphine injections I got a little hostile and told him exactly what I was going to do, and where I was going to put that morphine syrette if he didn’t get out of my face. He finally got the hint. The med-evac chopper showed up, and that was the end of the fighting for me.
 
 
* In addition to the Mobile Strike Force Company sent to Ha Thanh, several days later a company of CIDG with a U.S. lieutenant and sergeant from Minh Long (I believe) was sent out to reinforce A-104 also. The day after I was wounded, in another attempt to retake the OP by the company from Minh Long, the LT was killed, and the SGT wounded (I bumped into the SGT in the hospital in Japan) at the same spot on the ground where I was shot.
I learned that Team Sergeant Sosniak was killed about an hour after I was med-evaced when the NVA dumped a 122mm rocket into the Teamhouse.
After my second tour to Vietnam ending in early 1973 (with the 1st Air Cavalry near Bien Hoa, and SRAC in Pleiku) I requested reassignment to 5th Group, which by this time had rotated back to Fort Bragg. While there I ran into SFC Zickefoose, the Intel NCO at A-104. “Zick” told me that after I was evacuated every American at the Camp ended up being killed or wounded. I never confirmed that. I only know of the LT from Minh Long, MSG Sosniak, and a Team member I didn’t know listed as KIA in early September. I did notice that a number finished out their tours, so if wounded it must have been lightly.
I did hear that the Air Force knocked out 6 tanks that had by-passed A-104, and were east of the Camp when destroyed.

1st Lt, Gary J. Honold, also visit Ha Thanh tales for more on Gary's experience in Ha Thanh

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
1st
MOBILE STRIKE FORCE COMMAND, COMPANY “C”
5TH SPECIAL FORCES GROUP (AIRBORNE), 1ST SPECIAL FORCES
APO US FORCES 96337
CAMP Da Nang East
4 September 1968
SUBJECT: Monthly Operational Summary for 1–31 August 68
THRU: Commanding Officer
Company C, 5th SFGA, 1st SF
APO 96337
TO: Commanding Officer
5th SFGA, 1st SF
ATTN: AVGB-C
APO US FORCES 96240

At A-104 Ha Thanh, 15th MSF Co has
been in constant patrolling activity from 25 August to date and has confirmed 21 NVA/VC KIA. Of particular note was a night ambush at 10 meters, which resulted in 15 NVA KIA weapons and webbed gear were captured with numerous satchel charges which were carried by “sappers” to be used against the camp that night. Negative friendly casualties were taken.

s/Gonzalo Quesada, Jr.
QUESADA, GONZALO, JR
CAPT, Infantry
S-3

This is an extract from the After Action Report from the I CTZ Mike Force CD available from Radix Press, see link below.

10 March 2009 

When I was first notified that something had hit the team house, my first reaction was a sapper and a satchel charge planted by the window.  We always had the "little" people standing by the windows looking in. Later I was informed it was either an 75MM or 122MM which had been targeting the camp.  This is what I reported to C team.
Ivan  Davis

 

from Sgt M Thornton 
should put an end to the 
75mm recoilless versus the 122mm mortar attack theory. 
Sgt Melvin Thornton took a patrol the following day to locate the firing sites 
and got a visual on what hit the Teamhouse.

Follow is relevant part of his e-mail received on the 09/06/09

 I would like to add a little to what you already know about what happened to PFC Trastner and MSG Sosniak. While serving as the teams Sr. medic at Ha Thanh from Sept 67 toSept 68,  I was in a trench line near my bunker when the 122mm rocket hit the teamhouse. I grabbed my aid bag and ran for the teamhouse, as I  entered I immediately came across PFC Traster who was still alive, but had received a massive head wound to the back of his head. I bandaged his head , then left him there (still alive). I then responded to other team members yelling for help, they had removed MSG Sosniak, Capt. Gesreagan and another man (who I thought was a Sea-bee) from the teamhouse. Capt. Gesreagan had a very serious  shrapnel wound to the knee.  MSG Sosniak had 10 to 15 serious shrapnel wounds to the chest and abdomen. He was still alive with a faint a heartbeat, but had problem breathing due to his wounds. I continued with his resuscitation for about 30 min. until the med-evac chopper arrived, he was still alive when put aboard, as was PFC  Traster.
      I have little knowledge of the other casualties, as MSG Sosniak had my full attention before the evacuation.
     It might be of some interest to some readers that the reason so many people were in the team house at the time was the result of a caribou pilot having scrounged up a pallet of ice cold milk and was dropping a few cases at each A-site in I corps. MSG Sosniak had just returned from the airstrip with them. 
      I can clear up some of the questions raised about the missiles and their locations. The missile in the wire was about 20 to 30 feet from the inter perimeter wire. It was lined between the teamhouse and the latrine. One had a perfect view of it, right in front of them, if one was dumb enough to use the piss tube.
    As for the doubts about what it was that hit the teamhouse, the next morning I took a small patrol out the front gate and toward the general direction we though the missiles were coming from. Less than one click from the camp, tucked in behind the edge the little village of GO VI (1) and between the base of OP 3 and the river, we found 3 missile launching sites. these sites consisted of a long trench with a bream at one end and a long split tube of bamboo which had been hollowed and smoothed out, running along the top of the bream. You could visually get down and see that were aligned with the LLDB and the US teamhouse.  I took some photos and then destroyed the launchers with hand grenades. We immediately returned to camp and I discussed the matter with the temporary CO Lt. Kilpatrick , who was new to the camp, and only became the CO after LT. Eagle had been relieved of command . At my urging he called for air strikes on the missile launch site and on one end of  village of GO VI (we gave our strikers 30 min. to get their families out of the village). I have no doubt that they were 122mm tubes and 2 had been used, and to this day I believe everyone in the village had to know they were there.
     At this time the command of the camp was in complete disarray.

Melvin Thornton  

Area map showing Go Vi (1) and (2) and some of Ha Thanh OP's, 
click on it  to see larger version

go vi1.jpg

Short film thanks to Wally174th AHC

 

 

 

 

 

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