A Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry 25th ID - Vietnam

Personal Experience Narratives (War Stories)

"Remembering August 19, 1968"
by Gene Yonke - 1968

     Today is the 42 year anniversary of the beginning of the ferocious battles that began on August 19th, 1968 and lasted virtually non-stop for the next several days, through the 24th of August. At that point, A-Troop, with most of it troopers either dead or wounded virtually ceased to exist as a cohesive and effective fighting unit, although our fighting spirit still lived on.

     As I write this, 42 years ago at this moment, A-Troop, was caught in a devastating cross-fire of small arms, automatic weapons and RPG fire that lasted nearly 7 hours, being attacked relentlessly from both sides of highway 26 on its way toward its destination, Tay Ninh. Over the course of the next few days, many good men would be killed, many others wounded. Within just a very few short minutes after the battle began, 8 Track (communications track) lost three of its 5 crew members, including 1st Sgt. John Veara, medic Al Langford and Harry, our TC. The two of us on 8 Track that were left physically unscathed that day were left in shock and were nonetheless wounded for life as well. The lives of everyone present during those battles would be forever changed, whether they were physically wounded or not.

     I can still close my eyes and see the entire scene as if I were right there.  I remember speaking to John Veara, telling him he'd best get back into the track or he was going to get hit.  Once the fighting started he got up on top of the track and was on one knee behind the cupola firing his M-16.  When I spoke to him, he looked down at me inside the track and immediately took a burst of AK fire to the chest that threw him off the track.  We dropped the back hatch and Al Langford went out to check on John.  Bullets were bouncing around the inside of the track like hornets, but we left the hatch open so Al could get back inside, hopefully with John, but John was dead.  As soon as Al got to the back of the track the 2nd platoon leader ran up to him and asked Al to treat an arm wound that he had received.  I was standing there watching them, probably about three feet away from me and a round hit Al in the right side, went through his right arm, through the Lt's arm, then through Al's chest and out the other side.  He was dead before he hit the ground.  The fire was so intense that even as close as I was, it was impossible to get to Al.  When he got hit I began to run out to him and at the same time the Lt. was running into the track and pushed me back in, knocking me over and ordered the rear gate be lifted.  I was pissed at him for years, but in reality, he probably saved my life.  It’s so vivid....I'll never forget it. (view photo of ambush site 5 minutes prior to ambush)

     Of all the firefights I was involved in, and there were many, these next 5 days represented the very worst of the worst. After kicking butt day after day, month after month, today was our Waterloo. Those that lived through it still bear the scars of battle. Most of us have the physical scars to show for it, others, the mental scars, but none walked away unchanged. From this time forward, life as we knew it would forever be different.

     I just wanted to take some time to pay tribute to all my A-Troop brothers who shared the heavy burden of today’s battles and those of the ensuing days, to thank those who rescued their fellow troopers’, our brothers, at their own peril; who endured and shared the pain of loss at the risk of their own lives. I also want to acknowledge the efforts of the 1/5 Mechanized Infantry for pulling our asses out of the fire that day. Your help saved many of our lives and unfortunately, it cost many of yours. Thank You! You are our brothers!

    To those of you who read this, take a silent moment to remember our fallen brothers from the past. Today I mourn for all of us, but especially for those who made the ultimate sacrifice 42 years ago. Time has passed and we’ve become old men, but we haven’t forgotten. We will never forget. Today is our day to remember the battles we shared, but more importantly, it is the day to remember the brothers we lost.
Gene Yonke
Saber Alpha 65
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