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

"Left Behind"  - Bob Schneider
August 19, 1968 Battle of Tay Ninh


     That tank left behind was mine.  It was Rick Avant’s tank but he was in base camp on orders as his tour of duty was over.  He was listening to all this happening on the radio while it was going on.

     Earlier in the day, the 2nd and 3rd platoons went up the road towards Tay Ninh and ran into an ambush that was 1-1/2 miles long on both sides of the road.  The Rome plows were in there (previously) and had knocked down all the trees.   They had NOT removed the trees yet so this afforded the enemy excellent cover.   The idea was to get rid of the trees near the roadside to alleviate the ambush problems.   When the 2nd and 3rd platoons were engaged, I was the lead tank of the last platoon (1st Plt) going in.   A helicopter landed in the middle of the road in front of me.   The pilot jumped out and told me “don’t go in, the ambush sight kill zone is 1-1/2 miles long.”   He asked for the radio frequency and I gave it to him.   He called on the radio, and that is why the 1st platoon did not go in after the 2nd and 3rd plts.  We sat and held up at that intersection until about 4 PM that I recall.   At that time, we heard the gunfire coming from (towards Dau Tieng) the 5th Mech who was heavily engaged in a perimeter off the road to the north side.   Our platoon went in and bailed them out.   They were not even returning fire!   The gooks were running around the perimeter and were picking off APC’s at their leisure with RPGs.   Our Plt Sgt (Sammy Jenkins) took over their unit.  They had about a 19 year old 2nd LT who was either in the state of shock, or was in his first battle.   He was totally dis-functional.   We put them on our frequency and got them organized into a convoy to get out of there.   It was getting dark.  We started towards Dau Tieng and there was an ambush along this road also that must have been about 1 mile long.  On both Sides of the road. 

     The APC immediately in front of us was knocked out.   We were on the radio trying to find out what was going on.   This was after we had got the 5th Mech organized and on the way out of there heading towards Dau Tieng.  On the tank were Roy Harbaugh (the driver who I only knew by the nickname of “Tate”), Cushirella or Kucherrella (spelling?) was the gunner loader, and I was the TC.

     I got on the intercom and told Tate to ram the APC and push it out of the way.   An RPG had hit immediately under the gun tube shield which killed Tate and knocked the main gun out of battery.   The 50 (M-2) was malfunctioning as I had put about 10,000 rounds through it and the receiver was warping.   We had the 2nd barrel in it also.   Kuch and I did not know Tate was dead.   After he did not respond I told Kuch to go down and tell him to ram the APC and push it out of the way.   It was on fire also.  Kuch came back up topside in the state of shock telling me that Tate was dead.   I told him to remove his body, lay it on the fender and to Ram / push the APC out of there.   The rest of the convoy was gone in front of us.

     He went down and removed his Tate's body.   He came back up to tell me the drivers compartment was on fire and that the steering was knocked out as well.   I told him to take a bamboo pole and mash it on the throttle and just get us the hell out of there.   This seemed to take forever.   All the while  I was up top cooking 5 rounds with the 50 then recharge the handle.  We finally got both vehicles off to the side of the road.   Kuch had only a .45 pistol and he had Tate in the firemans carry.   We were standing there alongside the road and watched EVERYBODY PASS US BY.   We were LEFT BEHIND!!!

     Kuch put Tates body back on the fender.   By the way, before we unassed the tank, I threw two incendiary grenades inside to make it so the dinks would not be able to get any ammo or anything.  Kuch and I jumped in the ditch along side the road.

     He had his .45 and 1 clip of ammo, I had my m-16 and one magazine.   We crawled, walked slowly as their were VC all around us and we did not want to engage them.   Nor did we want to fire and give away our position especially with the limited ammo we had.   It seemed to be forever….I have no idea how long it was, but we had moved about 300 yards from the tank towards Dau Tieng when Kuch said he heard an APC.   I thought he was losing it and I told him  was gonna kick his ass if he didn’t straighten up.   He said to me “get your ass up here and tell me if you don’t hear an apc”.   I crawled up to the side of the road and there was ONE APC (with James Hale on it) that had picked up all the stragglers and had about 15 guys in it and on it.   There was a guy down inside from the 5th mech (I think) who was gut shot.   His buddies were administering marijuana to him.  Normally I’d kick someones ass for using that around me, but under the circumstances I looked the other way.   Kuch wanted to go get Tates body!!   Hale said, no way, I’m leaving.   Just then an RPG went through the road wheels.  Luckily, that is all it did was put a hole in the road wheels and didn’t hurt the track.   We got out of there and dropped the guy off at the hospital.   Where we all unassed the APC.   Me and Kuch got a ride from the MP’s to where the rest of our troop was.   Everyone was ripping apart 50’s and mixing parts to make one work.   It was a very long night.   The next two days we went to try and get back.   The gun fire and RPG fire was so heavy that we retreated.   This was right outside the main gate of Dau Tieng.   Called in Arty and Air all day and night.

     Seems to me there was day in between leaving the vehicle and Tates body and coming back and getting his body.   It was still on the fender unmolested thankfully.   His wallet was still on him.   He had some pictures that the heat had fused to his other stuff in his wallet. 

     On one of those days going back, James Hale’s vehicle (19er I think) got hit by an RPG.   Hale got 3rd degree burns over 65 % of his body.   I took him to the hospital.   I was on an APC that day as I had lost my tank.  When I reached out to grab him, the skin and meat came off of him.   We had to open the ramp so he could walk in.   I could feel the heat radiating off his body from 5 feet away.

I got to quit writing now!!


Notes as of May 22, 2011.
     Many years later, at a Cavalry reunion I found out that Tait (my tank driver) on Aug 19th was Roy Harbaugh.   I never knew his real name.   For many years Richard Hawk used to ask me what ever happened to Roy and I'd tell him "I just don't know Richard, I can't recall his name or face". I found out who "Tate" was after Richard Hawk had committed suicide. About 2007 or thereabouts, I found out the Kuch or kucherella as we called him both names was actually Joe Kissella.  I called up and got a hold of his son.   Joe had died around 1996.  He apparently got ran over by an APC on the night of Aug 24th (according to his son).  He had a back infection his whole life time and the VA either could not or would not FIX IT!   He died from some kind of blood infection according to his son.


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