2 June, 1968
Somewhere in Tay Ningh Province
The Republic of South Vietnam
Blackfoot Company of the 5th Battalion, 12th Infantry, 199th Light Infantry Brigade, was conducting a Search and Destroy mission based upon information furnished by Brigade intelligence. The weather was clear and sunny, and the temperature was above a hundred degrees. Second Platoon was on point, First and Third Platoon were on respective flanks with the Fourth Platoon in reserve with the Company Commander, Captain Kent F. Miller. It was late afternoon and Blackfoot had been humping the jungle since early that morning. The Intel was suppose to be accurate, and everyone was edgy and on full alert.
Blackfoot Company had been in country nearly 60 days and had yet to be tested by fire. There had been ambush patrols and a number of close calls, but true contact with the enemy had yet to happen. The men in Blackfoot Company had trained for six months in Ft. Lewis, Washington, with the rest of the 5th of the 12th and were a highly trained, and cohesive unit.
A sudden burst of 50-caliber machine gun fire from nowhere, and Blackfoot Company was in the middle of what was to be a 10 hour firefight. They would later discover they had walked in to a Regimental size bunker complex of North Vietnamese Regular Army (NVA) troops. The second platoon had causalities immediately, and was pinned down by interlocking machine gun fire coming from well-camouflaged NVA bunkers. It was a nightmare, and no one could move without getting hit. Screaming was coming from the wounded, as well as pinned down men desperately seeking help.
Captain Miller assessed the situation, but could not call in a fire mission because of the intense triple canopy jungle. He ordered Lt. Comstock, the Fourth Platoon Leader to take a few men and try and work their way around to the rear of the bunker complex, and try and stop the carnage of the NVA 50 calibers.
Lt. Comstock picked the only men near him who were not pinned down, which were PFC's JJ Johnson, Larry Holder, Ray Bombugar, Lee Steely, and Sgt. Thompson. They worked their way around to the rear. Upon taking a position, flat on their bellies, they could see the interlocking fires from the NVA raining havoc on the rest of Blackfoot Company.
Lt. Comstock and PFC Holder started crawling towards the bunker that had the Second Platoon pinned down, when a Chinese Communist hand grenade was tossed out of one of the bunkers, and landed between Lt. Comstock and PFC Holder. The explosion was deafening, and PFC's Johnson, Holder, and Bombugar were wounded as well as Lt. Comstock, who was blown off the ground and rendered unconscious. He would later say he saw the pin pop on the Chi-com grenade, and thought he was dead.
When he came to, all hell was exploding around him as 50-caliber machine gun fire was tearing up the ground around him. He was pinned down, and called for PFC Johnson, to roll him a hand grenade. He then got up and charged the bunker, while his men laid down covering fire and tossed the grenade into the bunker, killing three NVA, and taking out the bunker. This enabled the Second Platoon to move for the first time in hours.
Blackfoot then took the initiative and started inflicting heavy causalities on the NVA, and the battle ended by nightfall. The Company had to carry its wounded, and dead, nearly two clicks, to an area open enough to blow a landing zone, and call in the Medivac Choppers.
Blackfoot Company, and particularly the Fourth Platoon or Mortar Platoon as it was officially trained, distinguished themselves and were now battle hardened and had survived a Regimental size NVA ambush, and defeated them in the midst of jungle hell. Purple Hearts, Bronze Stars for Valor, and a Silver Star were ultimately awarded for action that day as the men of Blackfoot Company continued their mission, and fought bravely the rest of the tour.