A Fraternity Was Born Out Of Pride And Endurance

By SGT. WILLIAM K. BOE,   Information Specialist

From an Article that appeared in "The Armored Sentinel, Fort Hood, Texas",
Friday, October 4, 1968.


In Bowler's Green, the service club, the EM and NCO clubs, groups of Old Ironsides soldiers sit and discuss experiences they shared in Vietnam.

Sp4 Robert Smith, Temple, Tex., and Sp4 Eddie Bolton, Memphis, Tenn., both now with Co. C, 2nd Bn., 46th Inf., remember a hill called
LZ Brillo Pad
and what was required to hold it.

They were both wounded defending it from North Vietnamese Regulars (NVA) in May 1968 and with a great feeling of pride recall what happened and how their units reacted to the situation.

"Incoming! incoming!-All stations, incoming!" sounded over the radio and the bearded occupants of the bunker crouched lower to the floor and waited for the explosions they knew were to come.

For a week the men of
Co.D, Ist Bn., 14th Inf., 4th Inf. Div.,  had lived in the flimsy bunkers during constant Communist bombardment of rockets, mortars, and recoilless rifle fire.

 They were on an important fire base near the Cambodian border named LZ Brillo Pad,  a fire base that blocked main infiltration routes into the rich Vietnam central highlands area and the provincial capital of Kontum City.

The North Vietnamese Army had tried to take Kontum during the Tet Offensive and had failed. Now Brillo Pad blocked another mass infiltration toward the city.

Each man grimaced as the expected enemy mortar rounds exploded across the face of the hill.  They listened, waited, their sleepless eyes staring at each other.   Then they heard the distinct, distant "Pluk -- pluk" from the valley and the surrounding ridge and knew somewhere hidden in the mountainous jungle, the Communists were dropping 82mm mortar rounds into their tubes.

The Americans counted the number of "Pluks" and waited.  After the expected number of enemy rounds hit, the men pushed out the sandbags protecting the bunker entrance and made quick repairs on their shelter, then dived back into the bunker when they heard more rounds dropped into the tubes.

Despite the heavy bombardment, Brillo Pad was not totally on the defensive.

The artillerymen still braved incoming rounds to fire counter battery fire with their artillery pieces.

Five-man reconnaissance squads would sneak through the trench lines and, in the concealment of the morning fog, would leave the perimeter and patrol the dense jungle around the hill.

Patience and courage led the squads as they crawled through the thickets trying to locate the enemy's positions.

Often they would lie still for an hour and listen to movement in the brush only a few feet away.

Sweat soaked their fatigues as they shot azimuths and plotted suspected mortar positions. They were outnumbered in an enemy infested area, determined to be a spur in the NVA's side.

They found trails and booby-trapped them, set trip flares for early warning devices, destroyed hidden enemy supplies and plotted where the Reds were concentrating their strength.

In the dimming light of day they returned to the perimeter.

Night brought a battle of nerves.

A trip flare glowed from within a clump of  bamboo down the side of the hill and two infantryman exchanged glances neither could see.

Both knew the "little man" was on his way.  There was a dull explosion from a thicket and a smile formed on the defender's lips.  The booby traps had been well placed.

In the cover and concealment of the nightly mortar attack,  bamboo TNT filled bangalore torpedoes were tossed into the barb wire,  blasting an opening into the perimeter.

Alert eyes peered through a rifle port and spotted movement illuminated by the fading glare of a trip flare.

Hands reached for claymore mine detonating devices,  fists tightened, and the explosions along the barb wire ended the enemy threat.

The rest of the night was quiet except for periodic artillery fire hitting around the perimeter from support fire bases and the occasional "blup" from an M79 grenade launcher.

Air strikes on surrounding hills became daily procedure, yet rocket and mortar rounds continued to slam into the hill. Several nights the NVA would rake the bunker line with devastating fire from Chicom .51 caliber machine guns and the infantrymen would fire back from the trenches.

Red tracers flashed back and forth between the bunker line and the jungle during the nightly fire fights.

Some nights mini-gun firing Air Force AC47 Dragonships lazily circled the hill,  sending a continuous red streak of  7.62mm fire down on the unseen enemy.

The greatest asset of the infantryman, a sense of humor, was plentiful during every mortar attack  --  every meal of C-rations.  The bearded men could always laugh at themselves, the situation or even death.

One night the B-52's came and the bombs walked across the valley and ridge lines and night became a red sunset.

The major threat to Brillo Pad was over and a fraternity had been born consisting of men like Bolton and Smith.

A fraternity of  pride and endurance was born among the hill's defenders and a satisfaction in knowing they had withstood the intensity of the enemy's attack and emerged the victor.