B CO, 15TH CBT ENGRS, 9 INF DIV
Army of the United States
17 February 1948 - 25 February 1968
Panel 41E Line 018
FIRE SUPPORT BASE JAEGER
near Cai Lay
Stars and Stripes
Feb 27th 1968
Fighting from behind a wagon train circle made of armored vehicles, U.S. infantrymen of the 5th Bn (Mech) 60th Inf stood off an attack by 500 hundred Viet Cong who tried to overrun their patrol base and seize heavy artillery, thus blocking the rice life line between Saigon and the Mekong Delta. The pre-dawn battle at Fire Support Base Jaeger took place 42 miles southwest of Saigon, lasting 4 and a half hours.
The enemy attack wilted under counterattacks from infantry reinforcements, helicopter gun ships and outside artillery. But U.S. losses were heavy and damage to the base was extensive.
American losses were 20 killed and 70 wounded. Among the dead was the patrol base commander.
The U.S. command reported 100 Viet Cong killed in the assault on the 200 man patrol base of the 9th Infantry Division, the unit charged with keeping open Highway 4 which carries rice and other essential goods to the capitol of Saigon.
About 60 of the Viet Cong penetrated the base's western perimeter and managed for a while to take over a 155mm artillery piece. Heavy American counter fire drove the enemy away before they could turn it on the defenders or haul it away.
In the enemy's covering mortar and rocket fire 11 armored vehicles were destroyed.
The attack began shortly after midnight with a Communist feint from the east. Then the main attack came from the west.
Field dispatches said the 16 armored vehicles drew into a circle around the 4 artillery pieces to stand off a human wave attack by the Viet Cong, when they had blasted their way through barbed wire on the western perimeter with Bangalore torpedoes.
Spec 4 Ralph Hirshler of Lamar, Colorado manned a .50 caliber machine gun on an armored vehicle. "They just kept coming over the rice paddy dikes and I kept heaving lead at them," he said. "I must have fired 1000 rounds in 10 minutes."
One of the attackers killed the company commander and Lt. Stanley Nowach, of St. Louis, a Forward Observer, took command.
The fight was touched off when the U.S. company spotted 12 Viet Cong moving toward the perimeter from the east shortly after midnight. The American troops opened up with machine gun fire and sent out four armored personnel carriers to sweep the area. The lead carrier was hit by rocket fire. Then the Viet Cong opened up from the southwest and northwest, then sent the bulk of its force storming into the western perimeter. Recon Platoon tried to break through to the encircled company but was attacked en route. Four of the armored personnel carriers of Recon Platoon finally drove through along with another infantry company.
"It was obviously coordinated to overrun the four artillery guns," an officer said.
The battle actually cost 22 American lives:
B Co, 15th Eng Bn:
SGT Robert L. Simmons, Ridgeway, SC
SP4 Joe H. Brown, Jackson, MS
CPL Ronnie L. Clark, Hugoton, KS
CPL Larry A. De La Rosa, Baldwin Park, CA
CPL Dennis E. Lane, Wilton, CA
PFC William L. Newsome, New Rochelle, NY
A Btry, 1st Bn, 11th Arty Rgt:
SP4 Stanley O. Johnson, Cincinnati, OH
B Co, 5th Bn, 60th Inf Rgt:
CPT Daniel R. Schueren, Arlington Heights, IL
SP4 James C. Blount, Columbus, GA
SP4 Edward Singleton, Baltimore, MD
PFC Richard B. Mc Daniel, San Mateo, CA
C Co, 5th Bn, 60th Inf Rgt:
CPL Maxie E. Ackerman, Saginaw, MI
CPL Manuelito L. Herrera, Manassa, CO
CPL Richard M. Scala, New York, NY
CPL George D. Whitelaw, East Detroit, MI
PFC Leslie R. Lewis, Chicago, IL
PFC Gearwin P. Tousey, Green Bay, WI
PFC Frederick T. Williams, New York, NY
HHC, 5th Bn, 60th Inf Rgt:
2LT Gordon K. Hughes, Upper Sandusky, OH
SP4 Michael C. Zeller, Wamego, KS
PFC Michael D. Sheahan, Tujunga, CA
B Btry, 1st Bn, 84th Arty Rgt:
PFC Earl E. Parker, Portsmouth, VA