By SPEC. 5 JACK HURST
Article from the Pacific Stars and Stripes
Vol. 24, No. 82 *****EDITION Sunday, March 24, 1968
Bill Perry (A Co, 1st BN, 506th, 1967-1968) submitted this Pacific Stars and Stripes article about his experiences in a March 5, 1968 battle on the east side of the Song Be River, near the village of Song Be, about 60 miles north of Bien Hoa, near the Cambodian border.
Bill is dedicating the article to the four A/1-506th Currahees who were killed in that battle:
Juan J. DeMara
Jazeal L. "Jazz" Haywood (Platoon SGT)
Thomas W. "Tommy" Pryor
Charles "Chic" Sanders (Squad Leader)
and to the four Rakkasans who were also killed when C Co, 3rd BN, 187th came to the aid of the Currahees.
SONG BE, Vietnam (IO) -- A Vietnamese mother recently ran out of her house near here to warn a 101st Airborne Div. paratrooper of nearby enemy soldiers and died beside him in the five-hour firefight that ensued.
"She saved my life," said Pfc. William E. Perry, Philadelphia, Pa., a point man for the fourth platoon of A Co., 1st Bn. (Abn.), 506th Inf., in the division's 3rd Brigade.
Perry said he was coming out of a valley alongside a row of houses in the village near here when the woman ran out of a house and grabbed his arm.
"She pointed to several houses and across the valley to our left and said, 'Beaucoup VC -- maybe 90 or 100 go back, you die,' " Perry said.
He said he saw another woman and a little girl in the entrance of a tunnel beside the woman's house. He pushed her back toward the tunnel, telling her to get into it, and kicked open the door of the house.
There were no enemy inside, but a hail of automatic rifle fire burst from the house next door.
"They kept wanting to come out of the hole and get up there with me," Perry said, "and I kept telling them to go back."
He was armed with 24 magazines of ammunition. After he had fired more than a half-dozen of them and was removing an empty one from his M-16 rifle, an enemy round struck the magazine and knocked it against his face.
"I put a new one in and was firing it when I felt her holding onto my shirtsleeve, and I knew she'd gotten out of the hole again," he said.
"I didn't even have time to look around right then. Lead was flying everywhere, and I was mad because she had come out. I was firing, and then suddenly I didn't feel her holding my sleeve any more. I heard the little girl start screaming and crying."
Perry said he heard, rather than saw, the little girl run back the eight yards from the house to the tunnel.
"When I was changing magazines again, I looked around and saw the woman was dying. She had caught five rounds from an AK-47."
The 22-year-old paratrooper said the shots that killed the woman had come from a house across the street. Within minutes, the U.S. troops had set the house afire with grenades.
During mopping-up and pursuit operations late in the afternoon, Perry remained near the home of the dead woman.
"Some of the houses still occupied by the Viet Cong were being destroyed and I was afraid they might get this one by mistake," he said.
He was sure the little girl was still in the tunnel. He did not know whether she had been hurt. He took off his gear and entered the hole carrying a candle.
"When I came around the last corner -- there were three of them -- I saw her sitting against the back wall crying and in shock," Perry said. "She recognized me immediately and ran over and threw her arms around my neck."
He took the child back into the middle of the tunnel where there were a few belongings -- a small transistor radio, three bowls and 15 packs of cigarettes. He called to the men outside the tunnel to cover up the bodies of her mother and the other woman, who also died in the fighting.
Then he took several minutes putting the radio, the bowls and the cigarettes into a bag so the girl could carry them. Holding her in one arm and the sack in the other, Perry came out of the tunnel.
"All the guys started pulling chewing gum and C-ration candy out of their packs and gave it all to her," he said.
Finding a jeep, Perry and an officer from the 3rd Brigade's 3rd Bn. (Abn.), 187th Inf. took her to an orphanage in the village. She never saw the bodies of her mother and the other woman.
Postscript from Bill Perry: the above Pacific Stars and Stripes article mentioned neither the 8 Currahees and Rakkasans KIA, nor the 56 Viet Cong bodies, 20 blood trails, and 2 POW's recorded in 506th and 3rd Brigade "After Action" reports. May the ULTIMATE SACRIFICES of our BROTHERS never be forgotten.