|April 9th, 1968|
I was there the night of April 9 th, 1968, the night of the sapper attack on 526th CC&S.
Now back to April 9th. What I remember the night of the Sapper Attack is this: My bunk was in the middle of the barrack on the 2nd floor of the barrack that burned down. I woke up when the shit hit the fan. I do not remember what was first the explosions, or the automatic weapons fire. All I know is I jumped into my pants, put on my steel pot and grabbed my M-14. I forgot the mag with the bullets, and my boots. I ran down the steps facing the E.M. Club and junkyard. I was trying to get to my assigned bunker which was over by the showers, but I never made it.
I started to run across the compound. In front of me was Pedro Valenzula. There was a VC raking the barrack with automatic weapon fire. Pedro was a big guy. As I said he was running in front of me. I saw him get hit. He ran a little, and fell to the ground. I think he was shot in the stomach or chest. If it was the other way it might have been me.
There was an explosion, and the next thing I know is I am on the ground. I get up and start running to the Ammo Bunker which was behind some huge boulders. My luck, you guessed it, first one there, and there it is locked. Now they are blowing everything up. I am thinking this is next. I had one bullet in the back of my helmet. I locked and loaded and cried. I cried a lot that night. Someone came running to the Ammo Bunker. I could see he was an American. Looking back, was he lucky, he also had no weapon. They did come and get it opened. The rest of the night I was in a ditch by the side of the N.C.O. Barracks watching my barrack burn to the ground. I do remember the choppers firing on that mountain for a long time. Did they get anybody? We will never know.
The guy that was running to the generator I was told was Larry Jenkins. He was one the guys who were in charge of it. John Babyak who had a bunk at the end of the barracks was firing at them before he was killed by a satchel charge.
Remembering the next day. I was never so glad to see the sun rise. I had no boots so I was told to hang around my bunker. Somebody did gave me some flip flops, but I didn't get boots till later in the afternoon.
I walked around the compound looking at all the damage that was done. Almost every structure was hit, plus trucks. I remember guys were taking pictures of everything including the dead VC. I don’t think I ate anything that day. I know the Mess Hall was damaged. I do remember the Infantry coming in, and going up the mountain. They could have been from 173rd out of An Khe. Some of our guys wanted to go with them. You know that was not going to happen. The Infantry told us the VC were there for a good while. They had everything well planned.
The story going around about Vietnamese Hooch Maid is correct. One saw the pictures of the dead VC and broke down crying. I was told he might have been her brother or husband. There was another story around, remember they washed our clothes, and put then over the wire to dry. We were always finding Ammo (Bullets, Grenades, M-79 Rounds) in the trucks, jeeps, tanks, APCs that were brought to the junkyard. We think that Mama sans were stealing the Ammo and throwing them over the wire then hanging the clothes over the wire. Plus the night of the attack someone said there were clothes on the wire where they came in, and the bottom wire was cut.
I did go to the service for the 7 who died that night. I did have the card they gave us, but I lost mine. I would love to have a copy of it.
One last thing. I too wondered why was this camp built at the base of a mountain? What the hell were they thinking. Every time I watch reruns of M.A.S.H. on TV I think of the 526th. They too had their company at the base of a mountain, but that is TV. We were real!
Do I ever think about Vietnam? Almost everyday. I have been a member of Liberty Bell Chapter 266 of Vietnam Veterans of America for Twenty years. I was their President for eight of them. So I see Vietnam Veterans every week when I go to my post. I have made some great friendships by being part of that organization. I have the tracing of the Seven men that died that night in April of 1968 from the Wall in Washington D.C. In closing, I guess Vietnam will always be a part of my life. God Bless America.
| Stephen C. Uchniat
4747 Shelmire Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19136