The Proud Americans, 2 of the 32nd Artillery (2/32), arrived in Vietnam on November 3, 1965 but close combat operations didn't start for most of us until January 8, 1966 with operation Crimp (check Vietnam 1963 -71 on the History page for more details). Before January 8, 1966, the 2/32, with the exception of B Battery, was held in staging areas near Saigon and Bien Hoa, firing support missions for various Infantry and Special Forces units. On January 8, 1966 the Proud Americans joined a large convoy of 1st Infantry Division combat vehicles and troops and proceeded to secure Cu Chi. When we arrived at Cu Chi the land was occupied by locals grazing cattle. Perhaps 20 locals and a widely dispersed herd of 80 to 100 head of cattle and water-buffalo. Within 15 minutes of our arrival in Cu Chi the Proud Americans executed a fire mission and the locals and their cattle left Cu Chi for the duration of the war. Our fire mission lasted a couple of hours and we moved on with some of the 1st Infantry Division to Trung Lap, about 8 miles down the road.
Trung Lap was a Ranger camp for the ARVN and a berm was constructed around most of the perimeter. The compound overlooked rice paddys and wooded areas and was slightly higher than the surrounding ground. If you look closely at the picture below you will see it is 52 feet above sea level. Shortly after our arrival the mortars and snipers started to work the compound. The attacks got more frequent and intense with each day. Everyday Service Battery convoyed out to resupply ammunition for the batteries and each day those convoys were hit by ground fire. On January 13, Captain Jay Franz, Commander of the 1st Engineer, 1st Infantry Division, C Company was shot and his Platoon Sergeant Baxter Carrol was killed on a patrol to clear a suspected mined road leading into our perimeter. The remaining men with him were pinned down by VC troops and needed help. Several members of the Proud Americans went to their rescue, at great risk to there own lives, and rescued the patrol. For their heroism, three received Bronze Stars and all were rewarded with saving the Commander's life. He was medivaced out and for him the war was over. The details of this event can be read on the War Stories page under Rescue Mission by Bill Van Eck.
As I said, the level of attacks escalated daily and on the night of January 14th the VC put a mortar on a Napalm mixing truck and trailer and the fire burned for hours. The fire was in the center of the compound and silhouetted the perimeter, providing great backlit targets for the VC to shoot at. The truck was hit around 9:30 PM and before long they decided to try and storm the camp. Within a short perod of time all available men were on the perimeter but we were too late to stop them from over running us. We took casualties that night, the 2/32 had at least 4 WIA and many Proud Americans drew their first blood in combat. We remained at Trung Lap for a few more days and then moved back to Cu Chi and joined the 25th Infantry Division at their new base camp.
Visits since December 10. 2004
ARVN Rangers office with unscheduled airline flights to SFO and NYC.
Trung Lap perimeter fortifications
Proud Americans ready for a nighs work. From left to right Lt Miller, SP 4 Van Eck
and PFC Perez.
1st Infantry Division armor going on patrol.
ARVN tree house fully equipted with 50 caliber machine gun and communications.
Napalm mixing truck hit by mortar on January 14, 1966. 1st Engineers Battalion, 1st
Infantry Division C Company commanded by Captain J Franz.
Proud Americans awarded the
Bronze Star at Trung Lap
SSG Gosnell w/V
SP4 Bogan w/V
SP4 Bill Van Eck
Proud Americans awarded the
Purple Heart at Trung Lap
PFC Patrick Lynch
SGT August Klesel
SP4 Roy Bryant
Picture of Lenny Salvo taken in tree house at Trung Lap. Lenny contributed most of the pictures of Trung Lap.